So I’ve got this scene in SPRINGTIME PLEASURES where a character mentions travels in Egypt. Here is the relevant dialogue:
“And to Egypt?” Charlie asked.
“Indeed, I have.”
“Then have you seen the Sphinx? Is it as elegant as it appears in the prints?”
XY smiled. “I must confess I considered its head to be somewhat small. Indeed, there are those who believe that it once had a different head. A lion’s head, perhaps, to go with the rest of the body.”
“Surely, a lion is rather imposing, too,” Charlie said cautiously, “but a Sphinx is an altogether different matter!”
Innocent enough, right?
But it was only after I had written this that I vaguely remembered to have read an article on Egypt during the early 19th century. I also remembered that the Regency prints accompanying this article showed a Sphinx that was largely buried underneath the sand.
AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!!!!! (The print on the cover of this issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World dates from 1804.)
This nicely illustrates the dangers of an innocent throw-away line in a historical romance, and the amount of research you might be obliged to do when you are determined to use such throw-away lines. Did people even know what was underneath the sand? Did they really suspect that she might have had a lion’s head once upon a time????
In the same scene I also happen to mention a zebra. *head desk* Since I wrote that scene, I have learnt about the menagerie in the upper rooms of the Exeter Exchange on the Strand and about the royal menagerie in the Tower of London, both of which operated long before the London Zoological Gardens opened. How I have to figure out whether one of them housed a zebra. *head desk, head desk, head desk*