Believe it or not, I didn’t invent the erotic automaton watch in The Pleasures of Passion. They were popular throughout the late Regency and Victorian periods. Some even had two faces—the one that showed on the front with a sedate animated scene and the hidden one that was more erotic. This one, for example, has a much naughtier inside panel, but you could just enjoy the outside panel where the boat rocks, the servant rows the boat, and the gentleman plays the mandolin. Very clever. Can’t you just imagine certain young men carrying these sorts of watches, if only to provoke their relations?
I admit it. I invented the widow’s auction that is the basis for my reissued novella, The Widow’s Auction. To my knowledge, no such auction ever occurred in a gentlemen’s club. But other similarly scandalous events took place. Like the Cyprian’s Ball held in the Argyll Rooms annually during the period. There’s even a famous print from the period depicting it.
A Cyprian was a courtesan, and the ball enabled women who couldn’t attend balls and society events normally to have their own where they could scope out potential protectors and vice-versa. So my auction is a bit of a variation on that, with masked respectable widows auctioning off their favors to gentlemen for one night. After all, why should courtesans have all the fun?
Regency and Georgian men and women could be quite randy. The Duke of Queensbury had an illegitimate daughter, Mary, by an Italian marchesa (the equivalent of an English marchioness) and easily convinced an earl to marry his darling daughter. The founder of the Smithsonian Museum started life as the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland and a wealthy Bath widow. He was born abroad (discreetly) in Paris, and eventually brought back to England to be educated. William IV, Prinny’s youngest brother, had ten illegitimate children with an actress, all of whom were given titles or married off to lords. The higher in rank you were, the more your indiscretions were overlooked or swept under the table. But lower-ranking women could have a rough time. Many was the story of a fallen woman on the stage or in the brothels who’d been a gentlewoman before she was seduced. Which is why my club members are trying to keep the rogues at bay!