What was a bluestocking❓And did they wear blue stockings❓
Book 3 of Inconvenient Brides, My Fair Bluestocking, was just. released last month so it is a great time to discuss the subject of Bluestockings. Who were they? Why were they called bluestockings? And did they wear blue stockings?
And Thomas Rowlandson will (once again) wade in with a drawing on this Georgian and Regency era topic. Boy, that Rowlandson got around!
Until the late 1700s, bluestocking referred to learned people of both genders,
By the time of the Regency era, bluestocking had come to mean an educated, intellectual woman. Many considered it a derogatory term by the 1800s.
Originally, it was simply a literary and intellectual meeting of the Blue Stockings Society, organized by rich widow Elizabeth Montagu, the original "Queen of the Blues".
Members included great minds, including:
Samuel Johnson ("arguably the distinguished man of letters in English history" per The Oxford Dictionary of Natural Biography).
Sarah Fielding (thought to have written the first English novel intended for children, The Governess, or The Little Female Academy)
Thomas Moore (poet, writer and lyricist celebrated for his Irish Melodies)
According to reports, when the highly educated author, Benjamin Stillingfleet, attended, he did not own fashionable black silk stockings.
One of the organizers, an Elizabeth Vesey, was told off for inviting him to which she responded, "Don't mind dress! Come in your blue stockings," referring to Benjamin Stillingfleet's blue woolen, worsted stockings.
It would seem these meetings could grow very heated. One member was Harriet Bowdler, an English religious author and expurgator of Shakespeare's works. This diversity of thinkers, and their conflicting views, made for intellectual debate that perhaps spawned many new ideas in the literary field.
Thomas Rowlandson drew "Dr. Syntax With a Blue Stocking Beauty," in 1820, the year in which the upcoming novel is set. I freely admit I am envious of the library he has depicted.
"This print depicts Dr. Syntax with his hostess, the beautiful bluestocking, Mrs. Omicron. She sits half reclined on a couch in a pose, suggesting the famous portraits of Madame Recamier. Syntax reads a poem aloud while sitting on a chair in front of her. He raises his right arm and gesticulates with his hand. In this fit of passion, Syntax presses his left foot against Omicron’s leg. Apparently shocked by this outburst, she raises her left hand to her brow. Her other arm rests against the nearby table, and in her right hand she holds a quill-pen to paper as though she has been interrupted in the act of writing."
- Image and description quoted from the website romantic-circles.org
The newest Inconvenient Bride, Emma Davis, is not ashamed to be considered a bluestocking. She revels in knowledge and book learning, having little time for fashion.
When she encounters Peregrine Balfour, a young buck from London, the sparks fly in this meeting of country meets Town, intellectual means idleness, and values meet etiquette.
My Fair Bluestocking is an enemies to lovers romance. Buckle up for a fun ride when Perry and Emma debate and argue their way through social issues of their time while fighting their mutual attraction.