A Serious Temptation

So – I established the practice of wearing late Victorian or Edwardian-style outfit when out doing a book event; everything from a WWI-era grey nurses’ dress with a white apron and kerchief, to a black taffeta bustle skirt and jacket with a blue ribbon sash hung with orders and jewels and a white widow’s bonnet (a la Queen Victoria). It’s an attention-getter in a room full of other authors and readers, and a wonderful social icebreaker/conversation starter: Hi, my name is Celia, I write historical fiction, so I like to dress the part!

I am also helping to raise my grandson, Wee Jamie – and fully intend, when he is just old enough to be a help – to draft him as my assistant, teaching him well the craft of direct sales. We have already carted him along to several market events this last fall, and he was angelically good, quiet and very charming to all – so I have every reason to expect that he will continue in that vein. He will be dressed appropriately, in proper Victorian/Edwardian small boy’s outfit, and I tease my daughter by insisting that I will fit out Wee Jamie in a dark velveteen Little Lord Fauntleroy suit – jacket, knickerbocker trousers, and shirt with a lace collar. We’ll skip the long, curly golden locks. His own hair is light brown and stick straight. I also tease her by telling her that it should be cut in a military high-and tight. (You know – that haircut where it looks like the guy has shaved his head entirely and parked a small furry rodent on top.)

In any case, the black velvet Buster Brown suit was all the rage for little boy’s best outfits in the wake of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s best-selling 1885 novel, subsequently turned into a popular stage play version, and to generations of movies and television series. She based her title character, Cedric Errol, on the charming personality of her younger son, Vivian – who as a small child, was bold, amiable, socially at ease and given to making endearing remarks to all whom he met. The character Cedric proved to be just as endearing – a sympathetic, well-spoken, and egalitarian lad, who was inclined to use his considerable wealth and rank for innocently charitable purposes; the very beau ideal of the Victorian age. (His metaphorical descendants died in droves on the Western Front.) He served as the model for the illustrations to the book when it was published – and proved to be as popular as the Harry Potter series, more than a century later. Vivian, as one might surmise, did have some trouble in living down the embarrassment of this as he grew up … went to college, and married in his turn. He turned out to be a stout guardian of the wealth that his mother had earned through her own work as a writer. Fittingly, he died of a heart attack on his yacht in his sixties in 1937, through over-exerting himself in the rescue of passengers on a foundered boat.

Well … maybe just a knickerbocker or a sailor suit. Something that doesn’t embarrass Wee Jamie in coming years.

13 thoughts on “A Serious Temptation”

  1. Christopher Robin Milne hated Winnie the Pooh, he felt Pooh had stolen his childhood. Nowhere could he be just Chris Milne, he would only be Christopher Robin.

  2. Actually, Sarge, based on the subject of your fiction, shouldn’t Jamie be dressed Tom Sawyerish, with perhaps a Colt pocket model being as hailing from settlement era Texas?
    Not everyone in the Victorian era lived in London.

  3. Yeah, he probably will be dressed more Tom-Sawyerish – or in knickerbocker trousers, shirt and vest with a Peaky Blinders soft cap.

  4. Short breeches? Not until he’s 4 or 5. Before that he should be dressed like a girl if you want the Full Vicky.

  5. Oh, I knew that little boys wore dresses until they were reliably potty-trained. It was one of the things that I mentioned during my last book event, when I talked about what Miss Matilda the Doll wore under her crinoline dress – shift, corset, etc – and how women didn’t wear panties under their long skirts until the popularity of the crinoline and high winds meant the possibility of flashing passerbys.
    I know it would be authentic to dress Wee Jamie in a dress … but it would confuse him and the customers horribly.

  6. Put him in a sailor suit

    Bell-bottom trousers, coat’s a Navy blue,
    Let him climb the rigging like his daddy used to do

  7. Something that doesn’t embarrass Wee Jamie in coming years.
    Pfft. That’s what parents and grandparents are for! You’re not doing him any favors by protecting him. ;)

  8. My mother had the classic bare on bear (bare-assed on a bearskin rug, really -about a 400# black bear taken by uncle) picture of me taken when I was about a year old. She used to delight in bringing it out at any possibly embarrassing moment, especially new dates. For logistical ease, we had my prom date’s family to our house for the traditional “off to the prom” pictures. Of course, she waved the damn thing around to her parents AND grandparents.

    I see you are of the same sadistic ilk.

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