In the United States in 2017, laws against kissing in public places seem ridiculous. We’ve all seen more than “just a kiss” in today’s Public Displays of Affection (PDA). People have no problem kissing in public. Believe it or not, kissing wasn’t just frowned upon (and often ended up in the papers, voicing public outcry against improper behavior) during the Victorian and Edwardian eras (in the United States AND Europe), it was often punishable by law.
NOT ALL THOUGHT KISSING WAS ABHORRENT…
The Rev. Sydney Smith once said, in writing of kissing. “We are in favor of a certain degree of shyness when a kiss is proposed, but it should not be continued too long; and when the fair one gives it, let it be administered with warmth and energy. Let there be soul in it. If she closes her eyes and sighs deeply immediately after it, the effect is greater. She should be careful not to slobber a kiss, but give it as a humming bird runs his bill into a honeysuckle–deep but delicate. There is much virtue in a kiss when well delivered. We have had the memory of one we received in our youth, which has lasted us for forty years, and we believe it will be one of the last things we will think of when we die.”
~ Transcribed from Gettysburg Compiler of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on January 23, 1860.
It would be well if every person in society should register a solemn resolution never to kiss anybody unless prompted to do so by the irresistible impulse of affection. (1893)
…BUT PLENTY ARGUED VEHEMENTLY AGAINST PUBLIC KISSING (OR SIGNS OF AFFECTION)
Never join in rude play, as this will subject you to being kissed or handled by gentlemen. Do not suffer your hand to be held or squeezed, but showing that it displeases you by instantly withdrawing it. Be not lifted in or out of carriages, or on or off a horse. (1838)
THE LURE OF KISSING
Girls, it is in bad taste for you to be given to kissing boys or men…a kiss is nothing more or less than a physical sounding of a woman’s social, mental, or moral strength (1889)
Young girls should wear white as much as possible. It is not proper for you to receive calls from young men, and it is extremely improper to allow them to kiss you. (The Peoples Home Journal, January, 1907)
A Night in Jail…after a trial by jury?
KISSING THE BRIDE
The practice of kissing the bride is not so common as formerly. (1864)
THE WEDDING KISS
The kiss in the wedding ceremony is being done away with, especially at church weddings. (1904)
Kissing the bride at weddings had apparently been out of vogue as early as 1887:
If young people would meet each other at the marriage altar with unkissed lips, there would be few blighted lives and wrecked homes. (1916)
TOO MUCH KISSING
We kiss too much. The principles of both hygiene and honesty are constantly violated in the practice. We might well dispense with the perfunctory little peck on the cheek that means nothing, and reserve the kiss for the real embrace of affection. It ought not to be necessary–but it is–to say that kissing in public is extremely bad form. (1907)
The following article made me laugh! We all know “sex sells”–advertisers use the concept of sexiness, sex-appeal, attractiveness to sell everything from perfume to cars to intangibles. The following article–apparently about kissing–was used to sell Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription.
WHERE DANGERS LURK
Kissing, embracing, sitting on a lover’s lap, leaning on his breast, long periods of secluded companionship are dangerous conditions. Thoughtful parents should have a profound fear at the dangers surrounding such a state of affairs. It is a marvel that so many ladies arrive safely at the wedding day. If our young women realized the danger of arousing the sexuality even of the best men, they would shudder at the risk they run. Don’t do it, ladies! (1916)
WHAT DO THESE AMERICAN VICTORIAN ATTITUDES ABOUT KISSING HAVE TO DO WITH The Gunsmith’s Bride?
As the book description (blurb) mentions, the law on the books of Mountain Home becomes a huge inconvenience to Morgan and Elizabeth.
Morgan Hudson can’t begrudge his widowed father a second chance at happiness. So when Dad’s mail-order bride arrives in Mountain Home with a beautiful daughter, Morgan’s life flips upside down. The lovesick fifty-year-olds need a chaperone, and Morgan can’t remember to treat Lizzy like a sister. Will their emergent love survive their parents’ romance, threats from the past, and a law forbidding kissing on the streets of Mountain Home?
Morgan’s no stranger to hardship, but is he ready to welcome the same difficult woman as stepmother and mother-in-law?
I had a little too much fun with that statute cropping up in the book at the most inconvenient time possible. After all, the lovesick fifty-year-olds might need a chaperone, but once Morgan realizes he has no hope of sustaining brotherly affection for his soon-to-be stepsister, he wants to kiss her. But not in front of their parents….which leaves the city streets. I enjoyed writing sheriff Liam Talmadge [Mountain Home is still Talmadge’s town in 1884. Gus takes over the office 15 years later in the year 1899.]. The old coot responds just like a lawman (if a little dense) to catching the young couple “sparking” and though alone–they thought–in a flagrant public display of affection.
The following snippet is from the middle of a scene (no beginning and no ending)…wherein the sheriff informs the two he caught kissing they can’t be kissing like that on the streets of Mountain Home. We’re in Morgan’s point of view (the hero). Morgan is alone with Lizzy, hurrying down the darkened streets of Mountain Home, toward the Sheriff’s office. It’s after dark on Independence Day night.
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC
He ought to keep a look out. It wouldn’t do to be so wrapped up in this lady that any one of their supposed enemies could come out of a shadowed alleyway between buildings and finish the job they’d started. Dad and Zee were counting on them to bring the law in on their troubles.
But nothing was half as important as Lizzy.
In that moment, he couldn’t remember his manners. He hadn’t the patience to woo her gently.
He kissed her.
Hard. Quick. Desperate to convince his soul the woman he loved yet lived.
She must’ve been in shock. She stood, stiff in his arms while he kissed her like a brute.
A second passed and his conscience nearly convinced him he’d gone about this all wrong.
But then, all of a sudden, she kissed him back. Her arm looped around his neck as she pulled his head down and leveraged herself up higher to meet him. He nearly laughed aloud as she used his boots for a step-stool.
His heart sang with arresting joy and he lost himself in the eagerness of her kiss.
Her kiss claimed his mouth again, in two short bursts. “I’m mad at you.”
He’d been downright mad at her—about something. Serious, too.
Fireworks in the distance erupted in close succession. Muted whistles and applause filtered on the cooling breeze.
A gunshot whistled through the air. Nearby.
Ten feet away. Twenty, at most. Close! Much too close.
Terror sank poisonous fangs deep.
He shoved Lizzy down, threw himself in front of her, a shield.
Morgan’s hand closed over the butt of his pistol.
Another shot—in warning? Fired into the air?
The Peacemaker cleared leather, and he zeroed in on target.
“Drop your weapon.” Sheriff Liam Talmadge. Morgan’s pistol aimed straight at the sheriff’s heart.
Sheriff. Smoking six-gun in his grip.
Morgan’s heart pounded, way too fast. If the law had turned bad, they were all dead.
“Drop it, Morgan.” The sheriff’s aim was true. Better than most.
No respectable gunsmith threw his weapon in the dust. He stuffed the pistol in its holster and raised his hands.
Lizzy squirmed beneath him on the boardwalk. “Get off me.”
He ignored her. No sense dropping the only shield she had until he knew which way the wind blew. “Sheriff Talmadge.” Morgan squinted in the slowly darkening street. “That you shooting at us?”
Might as well find out. “Yessir.”
“Boy, if I’d shot at you, you’d be bleeding all over Mrs. Whipple’s Bakery boardwalk.”
“You’re holding the smoking gun.”
“Don’t sass me, Morgan Hudson. I fired a warning shot at the moon, in fair warning.”
“Warning?” Another quick look up and down the street—nothing. Everybody who was out was at the fireworks, six blocks down, near the town green.
“Law’s on the books, son. You’re in clear violation, kissing like that on Mountain Home’s city streets.”
Lizzy shoved harder, and satisfied she wasn’t in imminent danger, he pushed to his feet and pulled her up against him.
“We were headed to the jail, Sheriff.” Lizzy cut to the reason for their outing. “To report a crime. We need your help.”
“Later, Miss Speare. You two are under arrest.” Liam Talmadge wasn’t one to joke. The old man hadn’t pulled a prank…ever.
“Since when,” Morgan asked, “is kissing illegal?”
“Since the day this fair city was incorporated. The law clearly states kissing—like that—on city streets is punishable by two days in jail.”
“Two days!” Lizzy whirled from Sheriff to Morgan. “That’s ridiculous. Why, it’s—”
“Unless, of course, the kissin’ is done by married folk. Who could blame you, then?”
“—preposterous!” Lizzy sputtered. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“I’m gonna have to take you two in. Might as well start your sentence tonight.”
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC