I had to kill someone last week (fictionally) and it had to look accidental. And it had to be Victorian. As a writer, I do this a lot, and it requires research. Of course, it also often requires brainstorming with other writers. One good writer suggested a Pheasant and/or Quail hunt. Cool! A hunting accident would definitely work. Except. . . I discovered that Pheasant weren’t introduced to the U.S. until 1880 or so. Apparently there were some attempts before then to bring the Pheasant to the U.S. but not with great success. Bummer. I could do Quail, but they appear to be mostly in the south and marshy areas.
Next up–a fox hunt. Oh yeah! These are aristocratic Philadelphia-types, so they would go on fox hunts, right? And I have always wanted to write one of those. Upon first check, fox hunts were absolutely part of the Victorian period. So far so good! And then. . .well it turns out no one actually carries a rifle on a fox hunt. If they do, it’s not to shoot the fox. What a fox hunt appears to be is a group of people on horseback chasing after dogs chasing after a fox. And what those dogs do to that poor fox? Well lets just say I’ve given up the fox hunt.
Next up, poison. Poison is always good, but I’ve already used the Victorian Poison of Choice, arsenic, in the book. But wait. . .maybe that’s useful. Once a poisoner-always-a-poisoner, right (yes, you can quote me on that)? I can definitely use poison. Which one, though? It has to look like an accident. . . what about the age-old heart attack? That’s it, foxglove! I’ve heard foxglove is highly poisonous. And what is more, come to find out what I had suspected, digitalis is made from foxglove AND used in the Victorian period! No, not for heart disease (that would come later) but for something called dropsy. I have heard of dropsy, but no clue as to what it is. More googling. . .
Apparently dropsy was an accumulation of fluid in the body, and quite often killed people. Yikes, what a lousy way to die. Basically it’s edema, and today is often a complication of congestive heart failure, which would explain why digitalis was so useful in curing it. Of course they didn’t know that at the time, so I’ll have to use dropsy somewhere in the book. I’ll need more info, lots more, before I’m comfortable using it. Of course, as a historical writer, that’s half the fun.