There exists a tiny book of lessons – pages of delicate instructions that could be held in your hand. They are filled with drawings so light, that the lines seem to whisper with words that have been pulled from the air: like an atmospheric embroidery. They barely have shape; each one sighs with a pretty thought and then is gone.
The book is called “Whimlets” and was published in 1902.
Directed chiefly at women, it teaches them to behave, just as their clothing – pulled from the ribs of whales – taught their bodies how to behave:
The ladies are pretty, exasperating, shallow and charming. And they need a good talking down. They are tall and willowy; trapped in Edwardian curves and overcome with eyelashes and dark, unraveling hair that dripped onto delicate shoulders.
The ladies are foolish, of course, but the men are content that they stay so and are willing to only scold them with a dainty rhyme.
This book is a light tap on feminine fingers, a loving frown, when the ladies are being too delightful. Pouting and frivolous, silken and stupid – they must not wander outside their fairy circle of rules and destinies.
This book has survived many decades, many changes – but inside its pages, the delicate little laws remain. They still live, condescending to this world from one that has long vanished.