History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

26 August 2009

Research Karma

My post is a wee bit late today. That's because I've been chugging away on a new book, which needs to be done... well, we won't talk about that.

Every now and again, though, the great gods of research smile upon harried, desperate authors. As part of one of today's scenes, it became imperative that my characters play a game of Blind Man's Buff. As I was writing the scene, I had one of those panic attacks impossible to explain to anyone but another writer of historical fiction: the horrible fear that Blind Man's Buff might be one of those insidious Victorian additions that we blindly believe has been around longer. There are lots of those. They're sneaky little devils, those Victorian additions. My book is set in 1803. That would not have been good.

I hastily looked up Blind Man's Buff (I confess, such was the extent of my deadline-driven anxiety that I did exactly what I always told my history students not to do and googled it, instead of hauling myself out of my desk chair to walk the big ten feet to the research books on my shelf), prepared, if necessary, to grit my teeth and find another party game. The first thing to come up? This picture, from 1803:

Pretty neat, no? Not 1802 shall you count, or 1804, but exactly the year I needed. Although my book is set in winter, so my heroine won't be quite so diaphanously garbed....

Have you had any major research miracles recently?


Blogger Laura Vivanco said...

The Encylopaedia Britannica calls the game "blindman's buff." It also says that it's a "children’s game played as early as 2,000 years ago in Greece." The short, free, online version of the OED describes it as:

blind man's buff

(US also blind man’s bluff)

• noun a game in which a blindfold player tries to catch others while being pushed about by them.

— ORIGIN from buff "a blow", from Old French.

I'd never heard of it being called "bluff" rather than "buff."

1:35 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Best research karma lately is my discovery about the actual dentist who straightened Marie Antoinette's teeth (and the type of orthodontics used ... which prevented me from blithlely assuming that the biographer who called the device the "pelican" was correct; in fact, he or she wasn't). All the info can be found a mere few inches south at the post titled "Marie Antoinette's Makeover."

I've heard the game you refer to as "blindman's buff" and as "blindman's bluff" but I never knew which was correct.

4:43 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Have not had any miracles with my WIP but would be delighted if some came my way.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Lauren Willig said...

Interesting to know that "bluff" is an Americanism.... So "buff" was right!

6:26 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

We called it "bluff" when I was a kid in Brooklyn. I confess that "buff" always sounds a bit off, even a bit wimpy, to my ear.

It seems to me I had research miracles all the time during my earlier books. Now, not so much.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Victoria Janssen said...

That is most excellent luck!

1:28 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

What a serendipitous Google !! I love it when something like that happens.

I was researching the correct route a funeral might take to a church in Bermondsey from Curzon Street. I needed my hero to leave the house in a huff and retrace that route on foot in a rainstorm and I needed him to be followed. I wanted him to cross at Waterloo Bridge. My story takes place in late April of 1817. Found a great site on the bridges of London and it told me that the construction would have been just finishing up for the opening of the bridge on the anniversary of Waterloo in June. A bridge that is closed to most traffic and cluttered with construction workers and detris is a great place for a man to realized he's being followed. Perfect!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I know just what you mean about worrying it would be a "Victorian addition", Lauren! So cool that you found the picture. I had a research miracle I posted about a bit go in response to Amanda's Marie Antoinette post. While research Tsarina Elisabeth in an attempt to create a fictional scandal in her past for my current wip, I discovered a real scandal that fits perfectly into the plot (or at least potential evidence of a scandal that falls into place nicely).

8:56 PM  

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