Review By Cheryl Bolen
Victorian Parlour Games
Books, 1974, 140 pages
published by Peter Davis Ltd.)
Not long after I sold my first Regency-set book in
1997 I purchased this glossy, hardback book. I seem to recall that I may
have learned of its existence in the Quizzing Glass. While it's
not a book a take to read in bed (where I tend to do most of my pleasure
reading), this book has come in handy many times over the years as a
reference for various works-in-progress. It is especially helpful for
explaining how various children's games were played.
Forget that Victorian is in the title. Remember
that parlor (American spelling) games enjoyed during Victorian times
were probably also enjoyed in the Regency a few years earlier. Readers
may wish to make allowances for some differences, though.
It also is helpful that this is a British book.
While many of the games are familiar to Americans, many may not be.
Beaver has divided his book into these sections:
party games, word games, table games, card games, marbles, and forfeits.
Party games include blind man games, games with
chairs, hunting games, guessing games, talking games, action and
movement games, acting games, kissing games, and romp games. Yes, they
did have musical chairs, and hunting games we American's might refer to
more as "hiding." The chasing and catching games have such charming
names as Hare and Hound and Wolf and the Lambs. In addition to
explaining how the games were played, Beaver also gives examples. For
example, in the guessing games, he gives a prepared list of subjects and
clues: muddy cloak for Sir Walter Scott, burning bush for Moses, or a
parrot for Long John Silver.
Another familiar "action" game was Putting the Tail
on the Donkey. (Americans use "Pinning" instead of Putting.) The game
Americans call Simon Says is called O' Grady Says. Another charming name
is Spinning the Trencher.
I'd always heard the rhyme about St. Clements, and
this text explains the game in which it is recited, Oranges and Lemons.
In addition, the entire rhyme – all 14 lines – is given.
I found one of the many illustrations amusing. It's
a depiction of a lady and girl playing drawing-room tennis with
Japanese fans and balloons!
Charades was also played but appear to have been
quite different from the game that is played a hundred years later. The
kissing game of Postman was also played but was called Postman's Knock.
Another game that's been around a couple of hundred
centuries is Hangman, also referred to as Gallows. Tit, Tat Toe was also
played in nineteenth century England, as were dominoes, chess, and
Their game of Solitaire was played with marbles and
a special game board.
Being an Anglophile, I'd seen the game of draughts
referred to in books but had no idea what it was or how it was played.
This book thoroughly explains this two-person board game.
The card game Old Maid was played with regular
cards, with a queen being the try-not-get-stuck-with card.
Some of the card games explained here were
definitely around in Regency times. These include, German Whist,
Three-Card Loo and Five-Card Loo, and Lansquenet.
Beaver explains hundreds of games in this book.
Would I recommend this book to an author of books set in the Regency?