Some years ago I came across a wonderful collection of advertisements in ‘The Times’ from the 1870s. It’s been a source of inspiration ever since.
Stuck for plot? How about:
C.C.C.C. Do not despair, my Marguerite. Only have patience. I hope we shall meet on the 3rd at P. Be cautious and attend to all the advice I gave you. Do write to the London address if you possibly can, and tell me what has happened that prevents your writing. If I wrote in l.j. it would betray us. Thine for ever, B.B.B.B.
Want an unusual setting for hero and heroine to meet? Try:
CAPTAIN CHIOSSO’S LONDON GYMNASIUM and FENCING SCHOOL, 123, Oxford Street, Regent-circus. Open from 9 am to 10 pm. Single lessons and classes every hour of the day. Ladies’ classes for drilling and deportment at 12, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, superintended by Mme Chiosso. (Hero, flushed from fencing, bumps into heroine with a pile of books on her head?)
Heroine desperate for a (dodgy) job? What about:
CLAIRVOYANCE, Somnambule, Extralucide, - Mme Fontenelle, 41 Baker Street. Séances tous les jours de 2h. à 4h. Prix, une guinée; luncheon and evening parties, 20 guineas. (I love the sudden switch from elegant French to prosaic English.)
There’s also a section on books – with reviews:
DEBENHAM’S VOW. By AMELIA B. EDWARDS, 3 volumes at all libraries. ‘A clever book. The story is fresh and interesting, and most of the characters are natural, while some of them are charming.’ – Saturday Review. Hurst and Blackett, publishers. (Talk about damning with faint praise!)
However, some of the book titles are terrific. For example: ‘False Hearts and True’ by Mrs Alex Ander Fraser, author of ‘A Fatal Passion’. But if I wanted to pinch a title, it would have to be ‘Vixen’, by Mrs Braddon. I can see the cover now!