Victorians were fortunate in the respect that
they abided in somewhat more radical times than
our 17th-century ancestors. For in 1647, the
Puritans - in the form of the Long Parliament of
Cromwell - banned Christmas revelry altogether.
Only after the Restoration thirteen years later
were celebrations brought, once more, to the
fore, and even in King Henry VIII's day, games
were restricted to Christmas time alone.
nostalgic Victorians were responsible for
resurrecting Christmas as we now know it, and
they celebrated the festive season with much
gusto. That great British institution, the
pantomime, was an exciting Christmas ritual for
all, and from Boxing Day onwards all the major
theatres around Britain were packed to capacity
with patrons eager to see a lavishly-staged
play. Home entertainment was especially popular
at Christmas time, except for servants, post
office and railway employees for whom it was
work as usual. Inside the typical Victorian
house, fireworks burned and 'exploding bon-bons'
(known as crackers from the 1920's onwards) were
pulled to the delight of all when small toys and
trinkets poured out. There were after-dinner
singing sessions around the piano; ghostly
story-telling hours by the fireside; conjurors;
dancing and Punch and Judy, theatrical or magic
lantern shows. An intrinsic part of the
entertainment program was the parlor game.
Victorians were particularly fond of parlor games, a number of which have since been
forgotten, though a select few have been passed
down to successive generations and remain firm favorites
Victorian families were
among the first ever to be blessed with abundant free
time, and among the last to pass that time without
television. They enjoyed numerous interactive parlor
activities, ranging from cards (euchre, bridge,
seven-up) and board games (dominoes, checkers, chess) to
20 Questions and charades. Young ladies and their mothers spent their
leisure time learning needlecrafts, creating ornaments,
and reading novels. Popular titles of the age include Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle's ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and
L. Frank Baum's THE WIZARD OF OZ. Male and female family
members alike frequently gathered around a parlor organ,
a piano, or a player piano to have "a sing."
New entertainment technologies of the year included the
phonograph, a stand-alone console for playing back
recorded audio programs, and the stereograph, a handheld
device for viewing 3-D-like images.
AMUSEMENTS. - I.
IT is related of one of England's greatest
statesmen, that some one calling to see him unexpectedly on grave
political affairs, found him, not absorbed in state papers and official
documents, but on all fours in his nursery, with his children romping
upon and around him. And of another eminent man, the late Earl of Derby,
it has been recorded, in a graceful tribute paid to his memory, that
while at times he would seek recreation from political labours in the
translation of Homer, at others he loved to find it in "Making some
wonder for a happy child."
Many other instances might be quoted to prove that
the busiest and greatest men, as well as the humblest, have often found
delight and solace in participation in the amusements of youth in their
own households. Not, therefore, the young only, but also those in more
advanced life, the best among us feel that it is desirable to cultivate
the recreations of home, and to be ready at times for frolic and the
innocent enjoyment of household pastimes. We shall try, in a series of
papers, to guide all who may read this work in the choice of such
recreations, by giving a description of many which are familiar, and of
others less generally known ; sometimes choosing the simplest in-door
games, and at others, commenting on pastimes of a more intricate
character, and thus enabling all to select the amusement which is most
suited to the tastes and circumstances both of themselves and those
The dark evenings of winter and early spring call
into request games for round parties, and we shall devote the present
paper to some of these. To commence with a very simple one, we will
describe a game of German origin, known as:
The Ball of
The party are seated round a table, from which the cloth must be drawn.
A little wool is rolled up into the form of a ball, and placed in the
middle of the table. The company then commence to blow upon it, each one
trying to drive it away from his own direction, and the object of all
being to blow it off; so that the person by whose right side it falls
may pay a forfeit. The longer the ball is kept on the table by the
opposing puffs of the surrounding party, the more amusing the game
becomes, as the distended cheeks and zealous exertions of the players
afford mirth to lookers-on as well as to themselves.
Similar to this is a game called "Blowing
the Feather," in which a small
feather set floating in the air answers the same purpose as the ball
upon the table. The forfeit falls to the individual whose puff is
ineffectual in keeping the feather afloat, or who suffers it to drop
when it reaches him.
Of a different character, and still more comic in its
results, is a game called
game, sometimes called "Shadow Buff," is productive of much
amusement in a round party. It consists in the detection of the
individuals who compose the company by their shadows; but these they are
at liberty to disguise as much as possible. The following is the method
A white tablecloth or a sheet is suspended on one
side of the apartment, and, at a short distance before this sheet, one
of the party, chosen for the purpose, is seated upon either the ground
or a low stool, with his face directed towards the cloth. Behind him, on
the farther side of the apartment, the table is placed, and upon it a
lamp or taper, all other lights in the apartment being extinguished.
Each of the company in turn passes before the lamp and behind the person
who is gazing upon the cloth, which thus receives a strong shadow, If
the individual seated can name the person whose shadow is thus thrown,
the latter has to pay a forfeit, or to take the place of the guesser, as
may be agreed upon. It would be easy, in playing this game, to detect
particular individuals if they passed in their natural attitude ; but
they arc free to change this as much as lies in their power, by
stooping, standing more erect than usual, bending the limbs, or using
the arms in any way calculated to obscure the outline of the shadow and
render it difficult of detection. An alteration in costume, such as
turning up the collar or changing the coat, if a gentleman, and
enveloping the head in a hood, in the case of a lady, is also allowable.
The game gives rise to a good deal of ingenuity in this fashion, and may
often proceed for some time before many forfeits have resulted.
Messenger.- The party are
seated in line, or round the sides of the room, and some one previously
appointed enters with the message, "My master sends me to you,
madam," or "sir," as the case may be, directed to any
individual he may select at his option. " What for?" is the
natural inquiry. "To do as I do;" and with this the messenger
commences to perform some antic, which the lady or gentleman must
imitate - say he wags his head from side to side, or taps with one foot
incessantly on the floor. The person whose duty it is to obey commands
his neighbor to the right or to the left to "Do as I do," also
and so on until the whole company are in motion, when the messenger
leaves the room, re-entering it with fresh injunctions. While the
messenger is in the room he must see his master's will obeyed, and no
one must stop from the movement without suffering a forfeit. The
messenger should be some one ingenious in making the antics ludicrous,
and yet kept within moderate bounds, and the game will not fail to
produce shouts of laughter.
Among the other tricks which may be commended are
such as rocking the body to and fro, wiping the eyes with a
pocket-handkerchief yawning, whistling, stroking the chin or the beard,
and making any grimace.
Another game, of much the same character, is known by
the Grand Seignior." The chief
difference is that the first player is stationed in the center of the
room, and prefaces his movements, which the others must all follow, by
the above words. If he varies his command by framing it, "So says
the Grand Seignior," the party must remain still, and decline to
follow his example. Any one who moves when he begins with
"So," or does not follow him when he commences with
"Thus," has to pay a forfeit.
Magic Music.- In
this game a player is seated at the piano, and one of the others
leaves the room, while the company decides what the last-mentioned is to
do on his return. When called in, he is given a hint, but only a hint,
of what he is expected to do. We will suppose that he is told that he is
to "make an offering to a certain lady." He is left to himself
as to what the offering may be, but [-128-] he must guess the lady to
whom it is to be offered, and offer to each in succession until he
discovers the individual selected. The musical part of the performance
is this: When he re-enters the room, the person at the piano commences
to play some piece, with a moderate degree of vigour. As the guesser
approaches the right lady, or the right thing to be done, whatever its
nature, the music becomes louder or quicker; but if he appears to be
going farther and farther from his appointed task, the music becomes
softer and softer, until it is scarcely heard. This gives him a clue as
to whether he is on the right scent, or otherwise. If there is no piano
in the room, the "magic music" may be of another character, It
may consist in the tinkling or clashing together of any articles that
wil1 emit either a harmonious or a discordant sound, according to the
degree of hilarity or boisterousness to which the age and other
circumstances of the company dispose them. But, played with a little
tact, the game in any of its forms will be found amusing.
We have had occasion to mention forfeits; and as
those form an important element in many in-door games, we shall have
something to say about them in our next paper, in which we hope, at the
same time, to introduce to the notice of our younger readers several
novel amusements, which in the long evenings they may find especially
- The players are drawn up in line
along one side of the apartment, and are supposed to represent a
regiment. On the extreme right of the party a corporal is stationed, and
the captain, selected for his knowledge of the game, takes his place in
front, It is his duty to give the word of command for the movements of
the line, and he must do this with mock solemnity, however absurd the
antics which he orders to be performed. Thus, he commences with the
ordinary "Attention Eyes right!" at which all are bound to
look straight at the commander ; and he then gives such orders as his
own will and experience may dictate. "Fold arms;" "Extend
arms!" "Slap cheeks!" "Tweak noses!"
"Ground knees!" and similar evolutions, are all to be
performed at the same instant by the whole company, under penalty of a
forfeit; and the corporal on the right, who has had a previous
consultation with the captain, sets the example for the guidance of the
rest, where the meaning of the order is not clear. At the word
"March!" the party must move one foot after the other, as in
walking, but without changing position ; at "Right march !"
they move the right leg only, backwards and forwards "Left March
!" they do the same with the left. "Ground knees !" may
be varied by "Ground right knee!" or "left," and in
this case the regiment sinks with that knee to the ground. This is a
favourable position for bringing the amusement to a climax, as follows:-
When the party are on one or both knees, the order is given,
"Present arms!" which they do by stretching them straight out
in front. The next command is "Fire!" and the corporal who is
in the secret, then gives his next neighbour a nudge with the shoulder.
This causes him, as he is already kneeling, to lose his equilibrium; and
falling sidewise, he brings down the next person to him, and so on along
the whole line, which is thus "floored" in a moment. When
young ladies and gentlemen are playing together, and it is thought
desirable to wind up the exercises in more polite fashion, the word may
be given to "Salute!" The players having been stationed
alternately according to sex, each gentleman then salutes his neighbour
to the right, to the left, or on both sides, as the captain may order.
the company is selected to be king or queen, and occupies a chair in the
centre of the room, the rest being seated round the sides of the
apartment. Whatever movement may be made by the monarch must be imitated
by the courtiers ; and it is the gist of the game that this should be
done without any one losing that assumption of decorous gravity which
becomes the scene. The monarch may yawn, sneeze, blow his nose, or wipe
his eye, and the courtiers must all do the same ; but if any one of them
is so deficient in self-control or so presumptive as to grin or to
laugh, he or she must pay the penalty of a forfeit. It is rarely,
however, that penalties are few or far between.
is a very amusing performance, enacted by two persons for the
benefit of the rest of the company. One of the two recites a speech, or
any popular piece of declamation- My name is Norval," or the like -
keeping all the while perfectly motionless, and without a quiver upon
his countenance, while the other, standing silent by his side,
gesticulates furiously, according to the emotions called up by the
passage recited. Of course, the more closely he follows and burlesques
the action natural to the words throughout, the greater the amusement
created. There is another way of performing the same oratorical show,
namely, by the two players enveloping themselves in the same cloak or
wrapper, and the arms of the one - which are all the company are allowed
to see of him - keeping up an action suited to the narrative of the
other; but this is more awkward in the performance, and less effective
than the method first described.
At this game, the eyes of one of the players are bandaged, as in
"blind man," and he is seated in the centre of the room, the
party then taking their places. "Buff" holds a wand or stick
in one hand, and, when all are seated, he points with this to one side
of the room, or touches one of the players, at the same time
uttering three words according to his fancy. The person towards whom he
points must then repeat these words; and if "Buff" can
discover his or her identity by the tones of the voice, he is released
from his position, and the person detected takes his place.
is a good game to exercise a knowledge of the various productions of
nature. Each person in the company represents a shopkeeper or merchant,
who has some goods on hand which he wishes to dispose of; but no two
persons may choose the same trade. Any one may start the game - say, for
instance, the draper - and he commences, we will suppose, by observing
to his next neighbour, "I have some silk for sale; is it
animal, vegetable, or mineral ?" To this the reply would be,
"Animal, for it is the production of the silk-worm." The
correct answer having been given - we will assume by the chemist - the
latter turns to the person next him, with an inquiry suited to his
trade; say, "I have some glycerine for sale; is it animal,
vegetable, or mineral?" The rejoinder would be, "Either animal
or vegetable, for it may be obtained from either vegetable or animal
fat." The merchant, in his turn, may say, "I have some shell-lac
for sale; is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?" and should
receive the reply, "Animal, for it is obtained from an
insect." So the game goes on, the ingenuity of each, as it
proceeds, being taxed to mention some article of his stock, the origin
of which may not be within the knowledge of the person addressed. A
round or two of the game will rarely proceed without some of the company
finding that they have added to their store of general knowledge, as
well as derived amusement. Any such information as that contained in the
series of papers on The Natural History of Commerce," which appears
in the "Popular Educator," may be turned to account in sport,.
as well as in matters of graver moment. The game may be played, either
with forfeits as the penalty of an incorrect reply, or by simply
restricting the person who does not answer correctly from disposing of
any of his own articles - that is, from putting any question in his turn
- during that round.
is a brisk game, requiring activity without ingenuity. A circle is
formed in the room, and a good space is left clear in the midst. A
trencher or round wooden platter is obtained, or, if such a thing is not
available, a small round tray or waiter will best answer the purpose.
When all the party are seated, one of the company stands up in the
centre and twirls the tray round upon the floor, at the same time
calling out the name of any other person present, who must rise and
pick up the trencher before it falls to the ground, otherwise he or she
pays a forfeit. The person who twirls the trencher returns to his own
seat immediately, and the one who picks it up, or has been called upon
to do so, has the privilege of making a call afterwards.
is a game of a more intellectual
character. In this, one person volunteers, or is chosen by the company,
to leave the room, and in his or her absence a proverb is fixed upon by
the remaining party. The person outside is then called in, and the first
person whom he addresses with any remark or inquiry, is bound to reply
to him with an answer in which the first word of the proverb is
introduced. The second person to whom he goes must reply in such a way
as to bring in the second word; and so on, until the proverb has
been repeated. He is then informed that he need not proceed further, and
is left to guess the proverb chosen. If he fails in three attempts, he
must again retire, and his ingenuity is tried by the selection and
repetition of another proverb. Any one making an answer in which the
right word in turn is not introduced, pays the penalty of a forfeit, and
the company are, therefore, on the watch to see that each person
addressed duly performs the part. The great art of the game is in so
wrapping up the word in the course of the reply as to make it difficult
to the guesser to discover the proverb which was chosen. Some proverbs
are far, more easy of detection than others, from the forcible or
peculiar words comprised in them, or the difficulty which the answerers
find in concealing the words which fall to them in rotation. "Still
waters run deep" may be taken as an example of the class difficult
of concealment, for "waters" and " deep" are awkward
words to introduce, and will easily connect themselves in the mind of
the guesser, who is on the watch for his clue. "Where there's a
will there's a way" is more capable of disguise, but
"will" and "way" will reveal themselves to a person
quick of apprehension. None of the proverbs chosen should consist of
very many words, or the guessing may become tedious. When the proverb is
detected, the guesser is entitled to claim that some one else shall take
his place, and may, if he pleases, select for that purpose the person
whose insufficient disguise of the allotted word gave him his first
clue. Or he may name any one else in the company for the purpose. If the
guesser tries his skill two or three times without success, he may claim
relief from his office, and some one else may be appointed. In this, as
in all other games, it must be remembered that when weariness on any
side commences, amusement is at an end; and where there are symptoms of
a game reaching that point, it should be relinquished for another.
IT will have been observed that many of the
games already described lead up to the payment of forfeits, and that
some appear to be designed for the express purpose of extracting as many
as possible from the various members of the company. This is really the
case, for "crying the forfeits," as it is called, often forms
the most amusing part of an evening's entertainment, and is, therefore,
usually reserved until the last. It is conducted in the following
Each player who has to pay a forfeit deposits some
small article, or trinket, in the hands of one of the company appointed
as collector - say a handkerchief, a knife, a pencil-case, or anything
which can be readily identified. One article is given for every forfeit
incurred, and it is redeemed when the particular task assigned to the
owner has been duly performed. It is not desirable that very many
forfeits should accumulate before they are "cried," as
this often takes up a considerable time ; but when an average of one to
each member of the party has been reached, if the number is between a
dozen and twenty, it is time to stop the collection.
Two persons, chosen from the rest of the company for
their knowledge of a good number of suitable and amusing forfeits, and
generally ladies, cry the forfeits thus:- One is seated, and the various
articles collected are placed in her lap. The other is blindfolded, and
kneels down before her companion. The object of the blindfolding is to
prevent the recognition of any of the articles as belonging to
particular members of the company, and thus to assure something like
impartiality in the allotment of the various tasks.
The person seated takes one of the articles from the
collection before her, and, holding it up so that the company may
recognise the owner, usually cries, "Here is a thing, and a very
pretty thing; what shall be done by the owner of this very pretty
thing?" This established form of words, which dates farther back
than the memory of man, may, however, be reduced to the latter clause
alone, if that plan is preferred. The blindfolded lady asks, "Is it
fine, or superfine?" or "Is it a lady's or a gentleman's
?" for this much she is allowed to know, that she may name a
suitable forfeit. Having received an answer, she declares the task which
the owner must perform. The following are examples of the forfeits which
may be allotted.
For a Gentleman.-. To kiss every lady in
the room Spanish fashion. The person to whom this forfeit is assigned
usually imagines that an agreeable task is before him; but he is thus
enlightened. A lady rises from her seat to conduct him round the room,
and she proceeds to each lady in turn, kisses her, and then wipes the
gentleman's mouth with her pocket handkerchief.
2. To make a Grecian Statue. To do this the gentleman
must stand upon a chair, and take his pose according to the
pleasure of the company. One person may stick his arm out, or bend it
into an awkward position; another may do the same by a leg; a third may
incline his head backward, with the chin elevated in the air ; and so
they may proceed, until his figure is sufficiently removed from the
"Grecian" to satisfy the party. He is bound to be as plastic
as possible while the statue is moulded.
3. To perform the Dumb Orator. How to do this was
described in our last paper. The forfeit may either be allotted to one
person, who is to go through the action while either a lady or a
gentleman volunteer recites, or two forfeits may be coupled, and both
reciter and actor may take their parts as a penalty.
4. Say Half-a-dozen Flattering Things to a Lady,
without using the Letter l. This may be done by such phrases as
"You are pretty," "You are entertaining, &c.,"
but such words as graceful, beautiful, and charitable are, of course,
5. To try the Cold Water Cure, the gentleman is first
blindfolded, and then a tumbler filled with cold water, and a teaspoon,
are produced. Not to be too hard upon him, he is allowed to take a seat.
Each member of the company is then privileged to give him a spoonful;
but if he can guess at any time the name of the person who is
"curing" him, he is at once released from a further infliction
of the remedy.
6. To play the Learned Pig. To do this, the gentleman
must first put himself as nearly as possible in the attitude of one. He
must go on all fours, and he is then to answer questions that may be put
to him either by the company or by somebody who may volunteer as his
master, to show his attainments. The questions asked are something like
the following: "Show us the most agreeable person in the
company," or, "the most charming," "the greatest flirt,"
&c. After each question, the victim is to proceed to any one
whom he may select and signify his choice by a grunt. The learning as
well as the docility of a pig has its limits, and the game must,
therefore, not be prolonged too far.
For a Lady.- To Choose Partners for a
Quadrille - In this the lady, after making her choice, is informed that
the quadrille must be performed blindfold. The gentlemen selected
must be satisfied with that honour, and go through the performance which
devolves upon them; but the second lady may be allowed to reclaim her
forfeiture, if she has one, as compensation. All stand up, blindfolded
as we have said, and go through the first figure of a set, as best they
2. To repeat a Proverb Backwards. Any proverb may be
chosen by the lady for the purpose.
3. To stand in the Middle of the Room, and spell
Opportunity. If, after the lady has spelt the word, a gentleman can
reach her before she regains her seat, he may avail himself of the
"opportunity" offered, under the mistletoe.
4. To say "Yes" or "No" to Three
Questions by the Company. The lady must go out of the room, while the
company agree as to each of the questions to be asked. To each of these
the lady must give one or other of the plain monosyllables. Ladies of
experience say the safe answer is always "no;" but this hint
must be reserved to readers of these papers.
FORFEITS are in such general demand during the
season when round and merry games are in vogue, that we add a few more
to the list given in a previous paper. Before doing so, however, we may
be allowed to remind our readers that the spirit in which forfeit games
should be conducted is to extract as much harmless fun from them as
possible, avoiding everything rough and unseemly, or in which a mind
exceptionally sensitive can find a cause of offence. With those which
are simply boisterous in character, or have any element calculated to
cause a feeling of annoyance or pain, we have nothing to do. But at the
same time, all who enter on games of this kind should be prepared to
give as well as to receive amusement.
We will continue first our list of forfeits suited to
1. To go round the Room Blindfolded, and kiss
all the Ladies- The company, of course, are seated, but as
soon as the gentleman is blindfolded they change positions, with as
little commotion as possible. He consequently finds, in his progress,
that he as often attempts to kiss one of his own as one of the opposite
sex; or a lady may reverse the position of her chair, so that the
gentleman kisses the back of her head.
2. To choose One of Three Signs.- To do
this, he is to stand with his face to the wall, while any lady present
makes three signs behind him - of a kiss, of a pinch, and of a box on
the ear. He is then asked whether he chooses the first, the second, or
the third, not knowing the order in which they have been made, and
receives the corresponding action.
3. To imitate any Animal that may be named. If
the company call upon him to imitate a goat, a donkey &c he must do
it ; but if the forfeit happens to fall upon any one who, from age or
other reasons, may be excused from such performance, "a man"
is named as the animal and a bow will suffice.
4. To kiss a Lady through the Back of a Chair He
must wait, with his visage inserted in the chair-back until some lady
comes to his rescue ; but if the chair be of a fancy pattern, she may
dodge him through the framework before giving him his release.
5. To blow the Candle out.-He is blindfolded
and the candle held near his face, until he happens to give a puff in
the right direction.
6. To perform the Clown's Pantomime - This
consists [-203-] in rubbing the forehead with one hand while you strike
the breast with the other, standing up in the room for the performance.
If correct time is not kept, in the judgment of the company, another
forfeit is to be paid.
To the forfeits for a lady given in the previous
paper may be added:-
1. To kiss a Gentleman "Rabbit Fashion."
- This is usually a source of great amusement to the rest of
the party. The lady has the privilege of choosing any gentleman present.
A piece is broken off a reel of cotton, and the lady takes one end of
the piece in her mouth while the gentleman takes the other in the same
way. They then both nibble the cotton until the kiss ensues, as a matter
of course. If the gentleman is sufficiently gallant, he will perform the
chief part of the "nibbling" process. The company may exercise
their discretion as to the length of the cotton.
2. To sing a Song, or play a Piece of Music.-This
is given either to elicit the musical capabilities of a lady who may be
shy, or to make an agreeable interlude in the round of other forfeits.
If the lady called upon can really do neither, another forfeit is
allotted to her.
3. Ask a Question to which Yes must be the Answer.
- This is a great puzzle to any one who is not in the secret. The
unfortunate forfeiter may ask all kinds of questions, without eliciting
the answer required for her release. But if she simply inquires,
"What does y-e-s spell?" there cannot be any other reply.
4. To kiss the Gentleman you love best in the
Company, without any one knowing it.-There is only one way of paying
this penalty, and that is, to kiss every gentleman in the room, leaving
them to settle the question as to "loving best" amongst them.
5. To put yourself through the Keyhole.- This
is one of those quibbles upon words, for which persons called upon to
pay forfeits should watch, as they are often in use. We give this as an
example. The forfeit is paid by writing "yourself" upon a
piece of paper, and passing that through the keyhole.
6. To kiss each Corner of the Room.- When this
forfeit is declared, a gentleman stations himself in each corner, and
the lady has to pay an unexpected penalty.
7. To spell "Constantinople." - This
must be done an the old schoolmistress's fashion- "C-o-n, Con, with
a Con, s-t-a-n, stan, with a stan," &c.; but, after the third
syllable, the company attempt to embarrass the speller by crying out,
"No! No!" as if a mistake had been made. To this, the proper
reply is, "Thank you;" the fourth syllable is then spelt, and
the fifth completes the task.
8. To form a Rifle Corps.- The lady
goes to one end of the room, and calls up a gentleman, who stands
opposite to her. The gentleman then calls a lady, who stands at his
side; and she in turn names a gentleman, who places himself opposite to
her. So the calling goes on, until all present are included. If the
number of ladies and of gentlemen present is unequal, the more mirth is
created by the last persons called standing opposite one of their own
sex. When all are called, the word is given by the first gentleman in
the rank, "Present arms." All then join hands with the persons
opposite; and the next command is "Salute," which is done in
osculatory fashion. We conclude our list of forfeits with a few
contrived to include more than one member of the company.
1. Either a lady or a gentleman may be called upon to
"sit on the Stool of Repentance." He or she must then sit in
the centre of the room, while one of the party goes round to inquire, in
a whisper, of each person present, what the repentant individual
"looks like." The reply may be "wise,"
"silly," "pitiable," "beautiful," &c.,
according to circumstances. The answers are repeated openly to the
forfeiter, with the question after each, "Who said that ?" If
the right name is guessed, as is often the case, the person
who made the particular observation must then sit on the
"stool" in turn, and so on until the company are satisfied
with the round.
2. A lady is required to "be Postman." She
is to go outside the room, and rap on the door, when one of the company
inquires, "Who's there?" The answer is, "The postman,
with a letter for -," any gentleman she likes to name. "How
many seals?" Whatever the answer may be, the gentleman may exact so
many kisses; and he in turn remains outside, and declares he has a
letter for a lady. So the forfeit proceeds, a lady calling a gentleman,
and a gentleman a lady, until the company have all been called, but no
person present is bound to answer twice.
3. When the calling of forfeits has been continued
long enough, and several remain, which it is desired to clear off
together, the forfeiters may be called upon to perform a "Musical
Medley." Each one must then sing some verse or stanza of a song, no
two choosing the same melody, but all commencing and singing together.
The effect is generally so grotesque as to produce shouts of laughter.
One member of the company was blindfolded and counted to twenty
whilst the rest scattered about the room. The blindfolded person
had to chase and catch somebody and identify him or her
correctly, by touch alone. Once identified, that person donned
the blindfold and the game began again. A popular children's
One variation on the game was known as 'Queen of Sheba', which
involved the prettiest girl in the company being seated on a
chair, after which the blindfolded player had to make his way
over to steal a kiss from her. The girl was replaced by an
elderly relation at the last moment, to the intense delight of
The players sat in a circle with one person in the middle, their
eyes closed. A slipper was then passed round the players' backs.
When the middle person opened his or her eyes, the players
continued to pass the slipper surreptitiously between them, and
the person was required to guess who had the slipper at any one
moment. If he or she guessed correctly, the person named then
took center stage.
This game was one of the favorites. Each person had to pick
currants (known as plums) out of a shallow bowl of burning
spirit using their mouth, thereby extinguishing the flame. Not
one to recommend today!
This was perhaps the most popular of all Victorian parlor games. The company divided into teams of up to six. For a simple
game of charades, the first team was given a two- or
three-syllable word to act out in total silence, which the
others had to guess. The more complicated game could involve the
acting out of a scene from a complicated staged production.
Members of the opposite team were required to guess the required
word or scenario before it was their turn to act.
In this second variation of blind man's buff, the company sat in
a circle and the blindfolded person stood in the center and was
spun around. The 'blind man' then placed a cushion on someone's
lap and sat down on it (without touching that person), saying
"Squeak, piggy, squeak!" The chosen person had to
squeak and the blindfolded person was required to identify them.
If the person was correctly-identified, he or she then became
the 'blind man'.