Charades: A Parlour Game with a History +GIVEAWAY!

Charades: A Parlour Game with a History +GIVEAWAY!

Today is my regular blog date here on Austen Authors, but since I am still in major celebrating mode for my latest release Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future, I am considering this stop as part of the major BLOG TOUR. With that in mind, the following post pertains to a scene within Volume #2 of the Prequel Duo AND includes a special surprise. Say What?! Read on to the end, my sweeties! First up, a historical blog post — As y’all know I love!


Regency Era Charades

Whether one has ever played charades, the game of mime and acting skill is well-known. We can all envision a person standing silent before his/her fellow players as the mystery word or phrase is conveyed with dramatic performance. Not an easy game to be sure and the biggest challenge is to remain close-lipped. Speaking would make guessing a breeze, right? Don’t answer with a YES too fast!

Literary riddles were a common entertainment in England, France, and other European countries. Charades, as invented by the French somewhere in the early 18th century, fell into this category. As with all variations of word games—riddles, conundrums, enigmas, rebuses, forfeits—charades involved speaking aloud. That is a big surprise, isn’t it?

Unlike modern charades, rather than cleverly acting out the word or short phrase answer, it was separated into syllables or portions which were described verbally and enigmatically. The challenge was not in assessing gestures and facial contortions, but in deciphering tricky language and comprehending vocabulary. Adding to the difficulty, the verse had to rhyme.

Word games were an important part of Jane Austen’s family life. The image below is a book on display at the Austen House Museum in Chawton. In a letter to Cassandra dated September 8, 1816, Jane Austen wrote:

Our day in Alton was very well pleasant-Venison quite right-Children well-behaved-& Mr. and Mrs. Digweed taking kindly to our Charades & other Games.

Games of all sorts were written into Austen’s novels. Charades featured prominently in Emma, including the following. Try to guess it before reading on for the answer.

“My first doth affliction denote,
Which my second is destin’d to feel
And my whole is the best antidote
That affliction to soften and heal.”

Image from the Jane Austen’s House Museum blog.


The answer to Emma Charade: The first word is WOE and the second is MAN, meaning the whole word answer is: woe + man = WOMAN. See how that works?

One point to remember in solving a charade is to look for the clues “my first – second – third” to indicate the sections, and “the whole” or “united” or other similar terms for the complete word. Additionally, when attempting charades (or any riddle games of the era) set your mind back 200 years. Words had different meanings, for instance, and the charades included frequent references to contemporary people, literature, places, and so on.

Charades as a parlor game were extremely popular during the Regency. Intelligent, witty players wrote their own charades, but they regularly appeared in magazines and in published books of compiled brain teasers. At the end of this post, I include links to five publications on Google Books.

Dramatic performances gradually crept into playing charades, the gestures augmenting the fun of the game and spoken verses, but acting was not a universal tactic for most of the 19th century. Not until well past the first decades of the 20th century would the silent version of charades supplant the verbal, and in time the original rules of play were forgotten.

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In my latest novel—Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future—Lizzy, Jane, and Mr. Bingley secretly plan a celebration for Mr. Darcy’s twenty-ninth birthday. Along with blindman’s bluff and twenty questions, the quartet plays charades. As I have written the character of Mr. Darcy, he possesses a hidden talent for drama. So hidden, in fact, that when he chooses to unleash his skill by added vocal intonations, facial expressions, and gestures to his charade, the others are astounded!

I’ll keep that enticing visual as an inducement to buy my novel, and for the same reason, I am not revealing Mr. Darcy’s cheeky charade amongst the Regency era samples in this post. To begin, below are three trial charades to test your skill. The first is short and super easy, number two is medium level, and the third is a longer, complicated charade. Give them a try before peeking at the answers just below. GO!

My first is yours.
My second was made for you.
My whole is used by you.   

My first of mother earth’s a part;
Whose bosom often contains my second.
My whole is a keen and subtle art,
Yet fair in war is ever reckoned.   

My first runs black as fabled Stygian lake,
And oft its streams in plaintive murmurs flow.
Firm in the truth my second ever take,
Lest some rude bolt should lay presumption low.
My whole’s a cavern, dismal, dark, and drear,
Where prompt a magic operator stands,
Whose wondrous arts can make your thoughts appear,
And give to distant friends your best commands.     

Example Charade Answers




How did you do? Ready to really test your skills when the cheat answer isn’t readily available? The following eight charades aren’t too tough for those brave souls who excel at solving word games. Leave the answers in the comment section, and I will reveal the correct answer this Sunday with the giveaway winners. Oh, did I say GIVEAWAY? Yeah, I did! Because I am still in celebrating mode for the release of my novel, I have to share my happiness with more prizes!

*click for Sharon’s Zazzle Store


  1. Two (2) ebook copies (2 winners) of Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future
  2. A trio of romantic painting greeting cards (blank inside) for 1 winner
  3. A set of Jane Austen address labels and linked-heart envelope sealing stickers for 1 winner


  1. Leave a comment, any comment, to be entered for 1 point
  2. Guess the charades: 1 point for each guess; 2 points if guess is correct
  3. Share this post on any social media for 1 point (note the share in the comments)

Deadline to guess the charades for the giveaway is this Friday, September 8 before midnight. Winners will be contacted by me, and announced on the blog on Sunday, along with the answers to the charades. Now, give it a whirl, and for even more fun click the image at the end of the post for information and links to my ongoing DARCY & ELIZABETH: HOPE FOR THE FUTURE BLOG TOUR where I have even more prizes up for grabs and fun posts to enjoy.

#1 —

My first is in harvest rarely known,
Nor would it welcome be.
My next in country or in town,
Each miss delights to see.
And when drear winter’s dress is shown,
In joyous play my whole is thrown.

#2 —

My first dispels the darksome gloom;
You love my next wherever you roam.
My whole with cheering ray from far,
Gives comfort to the wandering tar.

#3 —

My first a blessing sent to earth,
Of plants and flowers to aid the birth.
My second surely was designed
To hurl destruction on mankind.
My whole a pledge from pardoned Heaven,
Of wrath appeased and crimes forgiven.

#4 —

My first, all sabled over with gloom,
Shuns the effulgent light of day;
My second, formed on fashion’s loom,
Gives female dress a neat display;
And in the embraces of my whole I’m blest,
While through my first I seek oblivion’s rest.

#5 —

A mischievous urchin may soon do my first,
If he meets with a teapot or ewer.
My second bring on us both hunger and thirst.
My whole thirst and hunger will cure.

#6 —

My first’s a word comedians dread to hear;
My next gives charms to the revolving year.
My whole’s the joy of many a happy pair,
Yet ofttimes brings them misery and care.

#7 —

My first is an animal’s coat;
Many trees in my next you may place.
My whole, to your grief, will denote
That time has made work with your face.

#8 —

Hail! Glorious first, whose beams resplendent rise!
Thou, with my next, art welcome to the skies.
My hallowed whole calm consolation brings,
And relaxation from all earthly things.

Follow me on my blog tour! Some dates and giveaway deadlines are past, but the blog posts are worth a read and include excerpts from Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future.
In the month ahead are many more upcoming guest appearances with excerpts, interesting and fun posts, and giveaways galore.
Click the image below for full information on my blog. See ya around the blog-o-sphere.

*Click for all the information on my blog.




The Temple of Fancy: Or, Choice Riddles, Enigmas, Charades, and Conundrums: Calculated to Amuse the Minds of Youth (1815)

A New Collection of Enigmas, Charades, Transpositions  (1791)

Amusing Recreations: Or a Collection of Charades and Riddles on Political Characters, and Various Subjects (1798)

The Frolics of the Sphynx; Or, An Entirely Original Collection of Charades, Riddles, and Conundrums (1812)

Riddles, charades, and conundrums. (1822)

26 Responses to Charades: A Parlour Game with a History +GIVEAWAY!

  1. Good luck to those who play. I don’t do charades… never have been good at guessing games. However. I look forward to reading this book. Blessings on the launch.

  2. I’m not good at guessing so I leave it to others that are more clever than I am. I just want to say the subject is interesting. Thanks for sharing this historical tidbit, Sharon.

    Anyway, I shared your post

  3. OK, now I get how these are formed. Anyway, I will give these answers:


    • The widget must not like traditional numbering–it cut the numbers off! (I did number, dot, space, space.)

      I’ll try this:


  4. 1) snowball
    3) rainbow
    5)saw the answer for this one before I solved it (breakfast)
    6) lifetime (?)
    8) moonlight

    • Awesome solving, Dianna! I am so impressed. Not all are correct, but darned close! People who can solved these types of riddles are amazing to me. I don’t have the gift, I’m afraid. 🙂

  5. I’m not too good with word games, but I’m a way too competitive person to give up on the prizes LOL

    #1: snow-ball
    #2: candle-light
    #3: rain-bow
    (no idea what #4 is..)
    #5: break-fast
    #6: LOL All I can think of is cry baby which is probably wrong…
    (I saw Linda A’s answer for #7! I’d never have guessed it on my own but it makes a lot of sense)
    #8: Sun-day

    • I am very impressed, Priscilla!

      A hint for #4 is to set your mind into the past. 😉

      As for #2, the answer in the books is different, BUT your guess is SO close and works with the riddle. Well done!

      #6 is on the right track…. *hint

  6. I’m terrible at these, too, but I think I got a few of them.
    #1 snowball
    #5 breakfast
    #7 furrows
    I’m still on vacation and you are making me think! 🙂 Thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book.

    • Linda, if this is being “terrible at these” then we have a different definition of the word “terrible”! I am super impressed! You can do more, I know it! Rah! Rah!

      • I had some more time to think about these, I’m going to try:
        #2 – light house
        #4 – night gown
        #6 – off spring

  7. Your giveaway is wonderful and the game very daunting. I will try to think about it. I do well with scrabble and word games. Thanks for your lovely feature and best wishes.

    • No problemo, Janis! As I noted to Summer below, I am terrible at riddles. I would NEVER play charades or Pictionary! I don’t expect too many takers with the charades, but am curious to discover who has the talent!

  8. How fun! I’m afraid I’m terrible with riddles, and poetry. I’m much too literal 🙂 I love the idea, though, and I really enjoy your historical blog posts. I always learn so much 🙂

    • I am terrible with these sorts of riddles too. Like you, I am too literal. I LOVE word puzzles like crosswords and Scrabble, though. Go figure! But guessing games like this are not my forte. Good thing it was Bilbo in the cave matching wits with Gollum and not me. LOL!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Summer. 🙂

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