But why would I use a set of questions from a Victorian book for a novel set in 1819?
To answer that, we have to look just a little bit at the history of a publishing trend: the Querist book. The most notable querist book is probably George Berkeley's 1735 The Querist. As the Bishop of Coloyne, Berkeley posed moral questions like these: "whether some way might not be found for making criminals useful in public works, instead of sending them either to American, or to the other world?" (Question 53).
But not content with only addressing politics or religion, Berkeley extended his questions into fashion and gender. Question 102 asks "how far the vanity of our ladies in dressing, and of our gentlemen in drinking, contributes to the general misery of the people?" and Question 140 considers "whether we are not undone by fashions made for other people? and whether it be not madness in a poor nation to imitate a rich one?"
Berkeley's book and its questioning format spawned others. Thomas Bradley Chandler's 1774 American Querist quoted Berkeley on the title-page and questioned the nature of the 'present disputes between great Britain and her American Colonies."
But how did the moral and political questions of these early 'querists' become the frivolous questions in Bryce's Querist's Album?
By the end of the 18thC,, Querist columns in periodicals indicated games (questions to be answered for a prize) as in the 1791 Astrologer's Magazine and Philosophical Miscellany and the 1819 Fireside Magazine. We also see the Querist become the title of a sort of advice column, like those in the 1830 Female's Encyclopedia. Though the first installment of the Female Encyclopedia's Querist asks questions like *"what is happiness?" and "What is anger?," by the middle of the series, we find a focus on romantic love.
Query 3: Is absence best for love?
Query 4: Is it better to live single or to marry?
Query 12: is it reasonable or prudent for a young lady to keep by her, after she is married, any letters or pictures from any of her former admirers?
Query 14: Can a tender friendship between two persons of different sexes be innocent?
Query 17: Whether or not a woman, being in love, may make it known without any breach of modesty? if she were not rather to be commended for speaking her mind, than dying like a fool?"
Query 18: Are all marriages made in Heaven?
Periodically a question is surprising, like this one:
Query 28: Whether two women can affectionately love one another, as a man and woman may?
The querist became a stereotype of a particular kind of inquisitive know-it-all, as we see in the July 1831 American Monthly Magazine. There the Querist is a figure of ridicule: "No matter on what subject you may be employed, whether speculative or actual, if the Querist is present, you must either join issue with him on the positiveness of your assertion, or be compelled to an awkward and mortifying silence" (227).
So, though the specific questions I quote in Chasing the Heiress come from a book published in the 1860s, those kinds of questions were already being asked in the popular press well before.
Here's a question for you...from Bryce's book: "briefly describe your ideal man or woman."
Answer in the comments at my Goodreads blog page if you wish...