Billet-Doux…Or Billet-Don’t?

"Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-Doux."
                                – The Rape Of The Lock

'Billet-Doux' is a phrase born in the squalid masquerade of the 17th century:  a time of pretty falsehoods and flattering hypocrisies.  Ballrooms reeked.  The wealthy were protected and cosseted, yet could die from the complications of a pin prick.  Women dressed for society and were abused for domesticity.

Yet from this swirl of powder and sweat came the 'sweet note'.  Originally, 'billette' referred to a sealed document; serious, formal, its parchment coils wound tight with a dollop of hot wax and a buried initial.  The Latin world 'dulcis' sweetened many languages:  Spanish (dulce), Italian (dulce) and Franch (doux).  Then – no one knows how:  can anyone tell the exact moment of conception? – the two words married into a phrase, to mean a private letter, filled with secret words – perfumed and delectable – the 'billet-doux'.

It was the birth of the love letter.

What a serene and decadent way to enjoy another's whispered written words!  Scented and perfect, she is wrapped in robes of embroidered muslin and tinted quilts.  Her hair enjoys a final breath before being braided, pulled and piled into the strained style of 1909.  The tousled locks need battle only a barrette or two – no proper dam to hold back such a gleaming river.

Her supine figure is round and lovely.  A light touch to her arm would leave a shallow dimple.  Her back, her shoulders aren't sullied by any allusion to a skeleton, except for the slight well dividing her shoulder blades.

The note in her smooth hand has clearly raised a question.  The finger pressed against her lips, red like a blush and not a warlike streak; the smoky eyes raised – focused, yet distant; arched, shadowy brows – all indicate a pretty inquiry.

Was the letter brought in with the flowers?  Did a suitor tip her maid a few coins to hide the note amidst the white and colored sprays?  Is the gentlemen known to her? Or is she wondering where they met – at a ball (will whe have to consult her dance cards?), riding – he might have been one of the men observing the 'seats' of the ladies as they rode by; did their eyes ever meet…did he tip his hat?

Or is she just wondering:  do I, or don't I?

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5 responses to “Billet-Doux…Or Billet-Don’t?

  1. I imagine the letter being slipped into her purse as she glides elegantly by.

  2. Billet-Doux, Billet-Doux!

  3. Good point. Any one of these dears would house perfectly a pot of rouge, a mirror and a tiny, private note.

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