Eighteenth century ladies have always been icons of erotica to me.
Self-portrait of 18th century artist Marie-Gabrielle Capet
My parents took me to see the blockbuster historical comedy Tom Jones when I was twelve in ’63 or ’64. That might’ve started this fetish for me, I guess! But it’s not a major fetish, I want to emphasize; just pleasant daydreams of decorous ladies or feisty wenches in frilly finery…
I had an adolescent yen for the movie’s “bad girl” Diane Cilento and “nice girl” Susannah York
Or maybe when I was eight years old I saw some foxy doxy on an episode of The Swamp Fox, the 1959 Disney tv series starring the pre-comedic Leslie Nielsen as the Revolutionary War Hero Francis Marion. I remember I had a 45 rpm yellow vinyl record of the theme song which is here on YouTube, a ditty which I just heard for the first time in maybe 58 years while writing this post! 😉
Way back before The Naked Gun series, Leslie Nielsen was a standard leading man type
Currently I’m in a state of “withdrawal” from a fantastic novel I picked up around Christmas that took three months to read. It was Eagle in the Sky by F. Van Wyck Mason, a story of the last year of the American Revolution from the viewpoint of three young doctors. Reading this skillfully written historical fiction was like taking a trip into 1780-1781. It was 500 pages long of small type, and I read slowly both to savor the story and to study the writer’s techniques and take notes. When I was done the other night, I really felt a pang of withdrawal, like: “You mean, there’s no more?”
The aged dust jacket is a bit tattered, but I kind of liked that…had a certain charm like that of beautiful ruins…
Among the many entertaining, informative, and enlightening aspects of the book, besides its depiction of 18th century medical methods, sea and land battles, morals and etiquette, clothing, and living quarters, were the romantic entanglements of its characters. And to my delight, one of the doctors gets entangled with a femme fatale wealthy young widow named Emma who is clearly out to entrance him and nab him for her own:
She totally manipulates Lucius into doing exactly what she wants, against his usual survival instincts which are the result of his rough, low-born upbringing.
Now, finding femdom images and writing on the Internet or especially Twitter these days is of course commonplace, but finding the same kind of “hypnodomme” concepts in the context of a novel published in 1948 about the War of Independence is especially pleasurable! Did you note in the excerpt above how she entrances him with her eyes? And the vivid description of her hair, lips, and clothing is quite sensual.
Mason is unjustly forgotten today, but he had an amazing life and the three novels of his I’ve read were all exciting combinations of history, romance, and action. His characters tended to be stereotypes in the central casting mold (for example, when I read Eagle in the Sky I imagined young versions of Randolph Scott, Henry Fonda, and Zachary Scott as the three male protagonists) but nonetheless Mason’s people come vividly and intimately to life through their passions and adventures. Here are his two other books I read:
Both were set in the ancient world, and the sexy Tom Dunn covers well portray what’s actually inside the stories
When I was reading Eagle in the Sky I kept picturing who might play the female characters in a film of the 1940s. And Linda Darnell, a superb cinema temptress in that era, would have been perfect as Emma. Here she is in the 17th century drama Forever Amber.
One of the greatest femmes fatale of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
In my own writing, I’ve only done a handful of historical stories, one being my ebook The Sins of Dr. Jekyll (available here on Amazon), but it’s something I’d like to do again, so that’s why I read these books carefully to pick up tips from a master about how to evoke bygone eras. And when I read F. Van Wyck Mason I feel like I’m in a different century. He puts you in the scene but doesn’t explain all the historical references about the physical world or the culture–which makes a reader feel either like a contemporary of the characters, one who is assumed to understand all the details of life in those days; or like a time traveler gazing in mute wonder at how things were so different in the past…not necessarily understanding all the references and customs, but happy to observe and go along for the ride.
So do check out F. Van Wyck Mason’s books if you enjoy historical fiction!
I will have to admit my version of Victorian London owes more to Hammer Films than any in-depth historical research! 😉