In ACD’s original Sherlock Holmes stories, Watson constantly describes Holmes as languid- his “languid, dreamy eyes”, how he talks “in his languid fashion,” and how he “lean[s] languidly against the mantlepiece.”
I know that reading homosexual subtext into the original Holmes stories is like shooting fish in a barrel and I’m not really a girl for ‘evidence lists’ anymore. I don’t think Doyle meant them to be gay but that said I sincerely think that Doyle wasn’t as consistent in his characterisation of his detective as we give him credit for, nor one to really care.
Anyway, shooting fish in a barrel is extremely enjoyable.
Now, I must go and see if Hornung used languid at any point in the Raffles stories. That was a man who knew exactly what he was doing when it came to subtext.
^^^^ Agreed. Also, just to add:
J.A. Symonds notes that a homosexual stereotype emerged by the late nineteenth century, namely “pale, languid, scented, effeminate, oblique in expression.” x
the word homosexual never appeared in literary criticism of the time but according to robert sawyer people like algernon charles swinburne (remember him?) used a homosexual discourse in his criticism of shakespeare’s works—he basically used codewords like “androgyny,” “languid,” and “Greek.” the LGBTQ community would understand what he meant, while other readers would not. x
I’m writing a story where a character is cursed and is immortal, and they were born in the victorian era and now it’s modern times. Anyway, do you have any tips on old fashioned language? -Anonymous
Well, that depends on your character’s background. For example, if they were born into the British upper classes, they’ll speak differently to if they were in the lower classes in America. See where I’m coming from?
Generally, for upper classes, go for long words and long sentences. Semi-colons are your friend. And for the lower classes, slang slang slang.
This is a gross generalisation, but hopefully it gives you the basic idea.
Also don’t forget that if the character’s immortal, they’re probably likely to have assimilated somewhat, so don’t be afraid to mix Victorian and modern language and speech patterns. It could add a whole other layer =]
Here are some awesome resources that explain things way better than I ever could:
- Victorian Language, a brief summary
- Criminal Slang, doesn’t have everything but does have it in context, which is helpful
- Victorian Slang Glossary, more comprehensive than the above
- The Etiquette of Conversation, more about how you should say things politely than what you should say, but you might find it useful =]
- Victorian Vernacular, a forum thread on Steampunk Empire with some cool links and tips
- And here’s a really cool collection of obscure English words
Apart from that, I suggest you just google the type of thing you want and/or read some Victorian books - start with Oliver Twist and go from there =]
I hope this was helpful!