HISTORY, ROMANCE AND...CATS!
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a vet by day and author of intelligent historical fiction by night. Grace is an avid reader and believes that smart people need to read romance - as an antidote to the modern world!
Grace is also obsessed by all things feline.
a delightfully old-fashioned word that sums up images of wholesome milk-maids
blushing coyly when the handsome squire glances in her direction (or is that
just me?) In the 15th century the change from girl to woman started
at around 12 years of age, and represented a ‘perfect age’ in a romantic way.
However, did you know there is a collective term for a group of maidens, and it
is – a rage of maidens.
in this context ‘rage’ is a derivative of a 15th century word which
means to romp –or play wantonly. (There goes the image of coy blushes!) Whether
this is a reflection on the social attitude of our maidens is anybody’s guess,
however, the 15th century was perhaps more realistic about a woman’s
nature urges than society was just a couple of centuries later.
An aristocratic lady
So what of
more mature ladies? The collective term for them is perhaps more familiar to us
– as a ‘bevy of ladies’ – (a bevy of beauties?) This term can be traced back to
1702 and John Kersey’s New English
Dictionary. The term ‘bevy’ was also appropriate for groups of roe (deer),
quails, or larks. Along with these other delicate creatures, our bevy of ladies
was upper class and refined.
It is oddly
appropriate to group ladies with livestock, because in the 18th
century a woman was indeed the property of her husband and used mainly for
breeding – her role being to produce heirs.
There was a
less poetic term for her less salubrious sisters in arms, those who were paid
for providing pleasure for men, and it is ‘a herd of harlots’. In medieval
times prostitution was rife but widely accepted. St Thomas Aquinas wrote:
prostitution were to be suppressed, careless lusts would overthrow society.’
A detail from Hogarth's 'The Harlot's Progress'
its own way of dealing with prostitutes, preventing their company from sullying
respectable women, by confining them to certain areas. However, it was natural
for the prostitutes to seek out trade where it was most likely to be found. Therefore
they congregated around taverns, universities, and popular bathing houses, and
calling them a herd is perhaps another way of marking them as livestock.