August 29th, 2009

Down the rabbit hole?

setting now, US, though I'm interested in answers from other countries and such. No idea how to google this. It's for a roleplaying character, and I just want to make sure I don't have my personal blinders on.

If I refer to someone/something/a situation "going down the rabbit hole", do you 1. immediately know what I mean, 2. know what I mean after you think about it for a bit, or 3. have no idea what I'm talking about? If 2 or 3, what's your approximate age/cultural background?

(I mean the Alice in Wonderland reference, btw, not anything more esoteric)
memoire | portraits of our family

male/female social conduct in 1912

Setting: alternate history 1912-1913 London, minimal magic is commonplace (not like Harry Potter where everyone can learn to do big shiny stuff, but anyone has the propensity for various household charms to keep food fresh and whatnot; coats and shoes generally have spells sewn into them to make them waterproof/tear-resistant; in the library, books are kept organised by a network of spells; a few people have major magical abilities but that's really like having major scientific abilities, you just know how to manipulate everything). There's some foreshadowing/building towards the Great War. Also there are vampires. Not sure how much of this is relevant to my question, but better too much than too little!

Right, so I have two primary characters: Evangeline, an assistant librarian with latent magical/vampire slaying talent (from a middle-class, well-educated background), and Mr Caruthers, the head librarian (upper-middle class background, also well-educated, though at the moment he does not have a great deal of money), with a Sordid Past, though currently he is very reclusive, quiet, and librarian-like, partially as penance for Terrible Things He Did As An Irresponsible Youth, and partially because Something Might Explode If He Doesn't Keep His Head Down. Pretty much no-one else knows about this, however. They work in a small London library with one other librarian, and they are all quite friendly and comfortable with each other, though Mr Caruthers has been in love with Evangeline for quite some time. (She has no idea, and he thinks it ought to stay that way, for Lo, He Is Far Too Dangerous And It Would Be Wrong.) Then a great deal of Plot happens, Evangeline has to learn to fight vampires, and Mr Caruthers is dragged in by the government to be her Watcher generally guide her and teach her how to do things, largely because his Sordid Past also involves vampires and the government recruiting him to make them go away.

But I'm a bit stuck on social mores and what would be considered appropriate at the time. Evangeline is about twenty-two; Mr Caruthers is about ten years her senior. They cannot avoid a lot of un-chaperoned time together (at night!!), but though I know eyebrows would be raised, I don't know how much people would talk about that. Evangeline and her family (she has two sisters, very close, and her reclusive rare book dealer father, also very close) are considered somewhat eccentric, but they would be aware of social mores even if they don't necessarily follow them. How much would they casually come into physical contact? If she has gone through something traumatic, would he embrace her to comfort her? If she is injured, how appropriate would it be for him to take her to his flat to tend to her? If his landlady witnessed this, what would she think? Evangeline's family all know Mr Caruthers; he buys a good deal of books from Evangeline's father, and her sisters are frequently at the library. Would they have him over for dinner? Any general good resources for how unmarried men and women conducted themselves around each other then? Or novels taking place in that general era/place? I'm particularly unsure about this time period because it is such a transition time. Plus it's the UK, which I only know from books. ;)

And then after they have become something of an Item -- what sort of conduct would be appropriate? They certainly wouldn't kiss in public, but would he kiss her chastely in front of her family? How much, er, physical contact, would be considered appropriate at all? Be discussed? Would they hold hands in public, or under the table? Would any cuddling at all be appropriate -- say, sitting close together on the sofa while socialising with Evangeline's family, perhaps putting their arms around each other?

I've Googled variations on male/female / gender / cross-gender / relationships / etiquette / customs / traditions / 1912 / 1900s / Edwardian / turn-of-the-century, and haven't really got much useful -- a lot of articles on feminism, how to conduct oneself at a dance, basic etiquette for both men and women (but if it touched on relationships/conduct towards each other, it was mostly between strangers or at dances), stuff about marriage being practically ownership... not much I can use there. Any help at all would be very, very appreciated and welcomed with delicious pies.