But when she heard these ill conceits
And speeches that they made,
Hony soyt qui mal y pens,
the noble Princes said.
Ill hap to them that evill thinke,
In English it is thus
Which words so wise (quoth Englands King)shall surely goe with us …
This reminds me of those stupid scenes in Mickey Mouse-vintage cartoons, where a simpering female character would drop her lace handkerchief in front of a male she wanted to attract. He is supposed, gallantly, to return it, and thus start a conversation.
My question is this: what's the oldest known reference to this kind of behaviour? I did a quick google search and found an allusion, but it was a website selling a C19 French lace handkerchief. http://www.rubylane.com/shops/nicole-la-bay/item/1208LAC:
At a time when women were not allowed to talk to a stranger, handkerchiefs were literally a means of communication, as ladies would drop these precious pieces of lace on the sidewalk, whenever they wanted to attract the attention of a gentleman.I've no idea if this is just made up or refers to a "real" C19 practice. So, dear readers, from your wide reading in history, fiction, poetry, textile history, etc., can you think of any examples? I guess Johnson's poem suggests an early suspicion of feminine wiles, but it's the handkerchief that has become the iconic object here. But since when?
Gentlemen were of course extremely flattered to pick them up and give them back to their owners.