Lady Tomlinson Takes up Art: 1893

A Lady at her Easel, French School, mid-19th century. The Bowes Museum

A Lady at her Easel, French School, mid-19th century. The Bowes Museum

PARGITER, THE GHOST.

How Lady Tomlinson Developed her Individuality.

When I first knew Gwendoline Gilbert I very nearly fell in love with her. At that time I had a penchant for healthy – looking girls; and, being young, I was an ardent admirer of the British blonde. Gwendoline Gilbert was Hygeia herself; Emma, Lady Hamilton, when she was in the service of Dr. Graham, the quack, could not have looked the part more thoroughly than did Gwendoline.

How I adored that girl! At that time, you know, Mr. Burne-Jones hadn’t invented the young lady with the tously hair, the ungainly altitudes, the green complexion, and the prehensile toes; so it was quite permissible to admire a girl who looked like the Goddess of Health. She was a parson’s daughter ; she hadn’t a penny in the world, Sir John Tomlinson was the member for Ratcliff Highway, and had made pots of money by the adulteration of the poor man’s beer — I beg his pardon, I take that back — I mean by his improvements in the art of producing malt liquor of a superior description. He came, he saw, he conquered; of course he did. They were married, they started on their honeymoon ; and I went to Heme Bay for a fort-night in a huff, and wrote my celebrated monograph on “Sour Grapes.”

Lady Tomlinson was nice, beautiful, and, as we all know, as good as gold. She was by no means inclined to encourage society philanderers; and from what those gentlemen called her “stand-off” way, and from a certain disinclination toward gossip and scandal and small talk, and private theatricals and music-halls, she got the reputation of being rather stupid. At any rate, in spite of her beauty and her husband’s millions, Gwendoline was not altogether a social success. Now, husbands, as we all know, are brutal persons ; they have a nasty trick of not mincing matters with their wives, and of calling a spade a spade.

“Look here. Lady Tomlinson,” said Sir John (he always called her Lady Tomlinson), “you don’t shine in society ; you’re not a dancing woman, nor a talking woman, nor a political woman, and you ain’t littery. I wish to heaven you’d develop some sort of individuality of your own, Lady Tomlinson.”

Lady Tomlinson retired instantly to her boudoir and had a good cry. For three whole days did Lady Tomlinson brood and meditate, and then she sent for Mr. Pargiter, the painter.

Mr. Pargiter hastened to present himself at Palatial Crescent, W.

“Mr. Pargiter,” said Lady Tomlinson, “I want to paint — I want to paint in oils.”

“Oh, certainly, Lady Tomlinson,” said Mr. Pargiter; and he smiled, and rolled his eyes, and rubbed his hands, and bowed. Mr. Pargiter was too much of a gentleman ever to contradict a lady, besides being a popular art teacher, with a highly-aristocratic connection. Therefore, he would have said “Oh, certainly,” if Lady Tomlinson had wanted to learn to dance on the slack wire.

“I want you to give me lessons, Mr. Pargiter,” said Lady Tomlinson. “I mean to exhibit at the Royal Academy,” said Lady Tomlinson ; “I mean to be a distinguished amateur, and I want you to show me how, and give me lessons, Mr. Pargiter.”

“Oh, certainly,” said Mr. Pargiter.

“Pray name your own terms,” said Lady Tomlinson ; “expense is no object, but I want the whole thing to be a secret from my husband and my friends. Can we begin to-morrow?”

“Oh, certainly,” said Mr. Pargiter once more.

And then Lady Tomlinson handed Mr. Pargiter a check for a substantial sum, and requested him to attend at ten o’clock the next morning with what she called the necessary outfit.

Next day, at ten precisely, a four-wheeled cab containing Mr. Pargiter, a large easel, several canvases, numerous brown-paper parcels, and a lay figure, drew up at the Tomlinsons’ house in Palatial Crescent. Mr. Pargiter was shown at once into her ladyship’s boudoir.

“Now, Mr. Pargiter,” said Lady Tomlinson, when she had welcomed the artist, “I should like you to paint me an ideal head.”

Mr. Pargiter stared at Lady Tomlinson and suggested that the usual way was to begin by drawing from what he called “the round ” in charcoal.

“Mr. Pargiter,” said Lady Tomlinson, “you wouldn’t refuse to oblige a lady. I’m sure I shall learn much more easily by seeing you work. My idea, you know, was that you should paint and I should look on— just at first, you know, till I get my hand in.”

So Mr. Pargiter began to paint the head of what he called a two-guinea rustic. Mr. Pargiter was accustomed to dispose of heads of this description to Wuggles, the frame-maker and picture-dealer, for forty-two shillings. It would be labeled: Original Oil-painting, by Pargiter . £4, 4s.

“I want you to leave the background till the very last,” said Lady Tomlinson.

“Oh, certainly,” replied the artist.

“I believe you artists,” said Lady Tomlinson, “often smoke while you paint. Are you a smoker, Mr. Pargiter?”

“I work twice as well when I smoke,” said that gentleman ; and there was a knowing twinkle in his eye as he said the words.

Lady Tomlinson left the room ; she returned with a box of Cabinet Partagas.

“These are what Sir John smokes,” she said; “pray make yourself at home, Mr. Pargiter.”

That gentleman took her at her word; he worked away for four hours at his rustic head, and he smoked no less than seven choice cigars. Then he received permission to depart ; and as he walked home he wondered considerably, for Lady Tomlinson had been engaged upon a three-volume novel from Mudie’s during the whole of the — well, lesson.

“However, it’s none of my business,” thought Mr. Pargiter, who was a philosopher; “and besides she makes it worth my while.”

It took Mr. Pargiter four “sittings” to finish that rustic head. When it was quite done, he remarked to Lady Tomlinson that there was nothing more to do than to smudge in a background of burnt sienna.

“That’s where I come in,” said Lady Tomlinson. “If you’ll do the edge of the background in all the little in-and-out places round the head, I’ll finish it.”

They carried out that simple programme.

“Now there’s nothing left but to sign it, I suppose?” said her ladyship.

“Exactly so,” said Mr. Pargiter; and he took a little squeeze of ivory black on the point of a small brush and was about to affix the magic name of Pargiter.

“Let me try.” said her ladyship. She took the brush from Mr. Pargiter’s hand, and in great sprawling letters she wrote in the right-hand corner of the picture, “Gwen. Tomlinson.”

“Madam,” said Mr. Pargiter, with a low bow, when she had finished, “you’re a genius.”

And then she placed an envelope in the artist’s hand. “I can trust you, Mr. Pargiter?” she said, in those soft, purring tones of hers.

Mr. Pargiter laid his hand upon his heart, gave Lady Tomlinson what looked very like a wink, and assured her, in solemn accents, that she could.

Two days afterward Lady Tomlinson was “At Home.” I was there; I am an art-critic by profession, you know. On a green plush easel, draped by a heavy curtain of green plush, stood the rustic head in an eight-inch gilt frame. I don’t know what the head was worth, but the frame was cheap at a five-pound note.

“What do you think of it, Mr. Scorcher ? ” bleated that innocent lamb, Lady Tomlinson, to me; “I’ve just got it home from my frame-maker’s, and it’s the first of my efforts that I’ve had the hardihood to show to my friends.”

I compared it to Greuze. I said it reminded me of Mme. Vigée le Brun, and various other artists.

Next spring they hung it at Burlington House; they hung that two-guinea Pargiter, and we all went into ecstasies at the private view.

But the measure of Lady Tomlinson’s iniquity was not yet full. She pulled down the wall-papers from her boudoir, and she decorated the walls of that apartment with an extraordinary composition of trees, flowers, sunsets, wheat-sheaves, and good-looking children and girls, under the superintendence of the villain Pargiter. Half London went to see it.

Sir John Tomlinson is justly proud of his wife. She is an artistic light now. She has only got to take a young artist by the hand and his fortune’s made.

“I’m very fond of Lady Tomlinson,” said Mr. Pargiter to me, the other day; “she throws a good deal of work in my way. C. J. WlLLS.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 14 August 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One does so like a happy ending and it is pleasant to hear of the rich taking an interest in the arts. Mrs Daffodil hopes that Lady Tomlinson’s brute of a husband either gradually succumbed to lead poisoning from the white-lead added to his thin bread-and-butter or turned a blind eye when Lady Tomlinson took by the hand that promising young sculptor who stripped so very nicely for the live modelling sessions. Good as gold only lasts as long as it is not tested by the acid of marital assay.

A Mourning Envelope and Paper Discuss a New Widow’s Grief: 1880

Black-bordered mourning stationery.

Black-bordered mourning stationery.

MOURNING STATIONERY.

“Dear me,” said the Paper, “I feel awfully queer—so stiff round the edges. What is this black band for?”

“Hush!” said the Envelope; “don’t you know? Her husband is dead.”

“Well?” said the Paper.

“Well,” said the Envelope, “how stupid you are. The black is mourning for him, that’s all.”

“Good gracious!” said the Paper; “does she do it like this? Do you suppose it comforts her to see a black edge on her stationery? How very funny!”

“It’s the proper thing to do, at any rate,” said the Envelope, sharply. “You haven’t seen the world, evidently.”

“But it is not my idea of grief,” persisted the Paper. “If I were sad I would go away from everybody and keep quiet.”

“You are very simple-minded,” said the Envelope. “Who would see you if you mourned like that? I knew a widow once who was very angry because she found a card with a wider black edge than her own. She said she had told Tiffany to send the widest that was made, and here was one wider. She almost cried, and measured the edges to make sure. That was grief, now.”

“Was it, indeed?” said the Paper. “Well, times have changed, I suppose. Once when a woman lost her husband her eyes were so full of tears that she could not see how to measure black edges. This is the age of reason, I am told. All feeling is treated as weakness and soothed away by ignatia.”

“Oh, people feel, I suppose,” said the Envelope, a little ashamed; “but, really, there are so many things expected of one now when one’s friends pass away, that there isn’t as much time for grief. Just look at our poor lady to-day. At nine the undertaker came upon a matter most painful. It was—well, the mountings on the casket. She was going to have hysterics, but couldn’t, because he was waiting for her decision. Then the florist came to know about the decorations for the house. Then Madam Lameau with boxes upon boxes of dresses, wraps, bonnets, etc., and although our lady did sigh when she saw the deep black—tears spoil crepe, you know, and madam quickly diverted her mind by showing Lizette how to drape the long veil becomingly. Then came the jeweler with the latest design in jet, and her diamonds have to be reset now, you know, in black claws. After this the mourning stationery was sent with the crest in black, and all sorts of cards and letters had to be written. Then the servants’ new mourning liveries and carriage-hangings were selected. When dinner was served, our lady was so exhausted by all this that she felt faint, and ate a really good dinner to sustain life. Now I should like to know what time she has had for grief, poor thing!”

“Don’t say no time for grief!” said the Paper, rustling with indignation; “say no soul for it, and you will be nearer the truth. When a woman can choose bonnets and jewelry, her husband lying dead in the house, there is not much sadness in her heart. I see that she needs the black-edged paper to express herself. She might as well give up all this miserable farce and enjoy herself at once. Let her give a ball instead of a funeral, and show her diamonds in their new claws.”

“Oh, dear me, do hush!” said the Envelope.  “A ball in crepe and jet jewelry; you are not even decent; you don’t seem to understand things at all.”

“I don’t, that’s true,” said the Paper, “and I hope I never will; when women have got to mourning by sending out black edges and wearing the latest thing in jet, I give them up. I never shall understand.”

“Emotional people always make difficulties for themselves,” said the Envelope, coldly. “I accept things as they are, and adapt myself—Hush! she is coming, and crying, too, I declare, after all.”

“Well, really, Lizette,” said a voice broken with sobs, “you are very thoughtless. How should I remember, in my distracted state, to say twelve-buttoned gloves? and here they are only six-buttoned; it is too bad. But every one takes advantage of me now. I am alone—forlorn—desolate,” and the sobs redoubled.

“Poor thing,” said the Envelope.

“What hopeless grief” said the Paper. “I pity her.”

Arthur’s Home Magazine, Volume 48, 1880

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Such surprisingly scathing social commentary from stationery! Mrs Daffodil trusts that the Hall stationery will keep its opinions to itself, but one had no notion that stationery could be so censorious.

This is an excerpt from The Victorian Book of the Dead, now at the printer’s.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

 

 

The Rag Trade: 1859

Rag sorters at a Springfield, Massachusetts shoddy mill. http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2013/06/walkabout-troys-fortress-of-shoddy-part-1/

Rag sorters at a Springfield, Massachusetts shoddy mill. http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2013/06/walkabout-troys-fortress-of-shoddy-part-1/

A RAG-BAG OPENED.

Wednesday being a leisure day with Mr. Tibbit, I presented myself, according to appointment, at two o’clock in the afternoon, at his warehouse,Tooley Street, Southwark. A solitary country cart stood at Mr. Tibbit’s door, being, as the legend on the shaft informed me, a native of Swillmead, Bucks. Groping my way through a grove of corpulent sacks, that reached from the floor to the ceiling, I came on Mr. Tibbit’s scalesman in altercation with the man of Bucks, concerning a bag of rags, still on the scale, and the bowels of which the weigher had ruthlessly ripped up, preferring, as he significantly remarked, “to trust his own eye-sight before the bare word of any general dealer going.”

“As good whites, them is, as iver you seed in your loife,” asseverated the Bucks. “Outshots, I tell you, nothing better!” persisted the scalesman. “You don’t catch me lettin’ you hev ‘em as sich.” The door of the counting-house at the end of the grove opened fiercely at this moment, and, glaring through his spectacles, little Mr. Tibbit skipped up to the bag of contention. Plunging his hand into the gash in the side thereof, he withdrew a few fragments of rag, and then catching up a piece of chalk, rapidly figured the weight and value of the whole on a large slate that hung against the wall.

“One and a quarter outshots!” shouted he to the young man at the desk, “at twenty-one! One—six—three! How de do, Mr. G.? Pungshall to time! Nothing like it, sir. Dick, bring me my hat. Come this way, sir.”

The big man in the leathern gaiters said not another word, but quietly walked up for his “one—sis—three;” while Mr. Tibbit, glancing over his shoulder to see that I was following, dived into a maze of gloomy, queer-smelling passages, dimly lighted with gas. Tiers of squat bags, through whose interstices the sheen of metals was visible; pyramids of lead, in sheet, in snaky coils, and in “pig ;” monstrous bales of horse-hair, some labelled “raw,” and others “curled.” Then came a bit of open, where stood a stack of old iron, as tall, and altogether as large, as an eight-roomed house! Surely every iron thing manufactured since the demise of that celebrated artisan, Tubal Cain, was represented here. The frame of a pair of spectacles, half a sword blade, a noseless anvil, a great ancient Key, and a rusty, drunken-looking old corkscrew, caught my eye at one glance as I passed. Good heavens! if every broken, rusty, battered thing that went to make that iron mountain could have related its experiences!

My loitering steps had enabled the agile Tibbit to get some distance in advance, and I presently saw him on the summit of a mound of merchandise beckoning me forward. I leapt up the mound, formed of great bags like hop-pockets : they emitted a strange crackling sound.

“Old pawn-tickets, they are,” remarked Mr. Tibbit, answering my surprised glance of interrogation; “there’s a ton and a half of ‘em altogether!”

“A ton and a half ofpawnbrokers’ tickets! Mr. Tibbit, what food for reflection is here! How many stories of poverty, and recklessness, and hunger, and extravagance do these eloquent little scraps of pasteboard bear witness to?”

“Can’t say—never counted ‘em; ’tain’t part of my business,” replied Mr. Titbit, curtly: “I’ll tell you what it is, my friend, if you want to know the history and mystery of everything you may happen to stumble over on my premises, you had better defer your inspection till that remote period when I shall have nothing else to do than to be your guide and interpreter. The object of your visit, if I properly understand it, is to see a rag-bag opened for sorting, and to hear an account of the various purposes to which its contents would be applied. If that is still your intention, come on up these stairs—time is money, you know, young fellow!” I could only plead in excuse the interesting nature of the subject. “Well, if you feel any interest in a lot of old pawn-tickets,” replied he,” you are welcome to a handful—kind of sample, you know. Seven and a half I’ll allow you if you bring a customer for the lot. What are they good for? Why they are worked up again, made into common brown card-board, and then veneered with fine paper for railway-tickets, and all that sort of thing.”

Pocketing the proffered handful of tickets, I followed Mr. Tibbit up the steep ladder, with its greasy cable hand-rail, and into the sorting house. This was a dreary uncomfortable place, about sixty feet long and thirty wide. It was lighted partly by a few grimy windows, and partly by gaps cut in the walls for the sake of ventilation. The cold wind played in and out of these apertures, which were, moreover, fantastically barred with rails, rendering the rag-house anything but a cheerful place that dull December afternoon. Across the beams and joists overhead, humid rags of the heavy drugget and carpet order were hung to dry —and, O! the effluvia they emitted! A fire in these places, Mr. Tibbit informed me, was not allowed by the fire insurance offices. How wretched, then, alas, must be the life of a “sorter” in the winter—and how much worse in the summer! Why, the rag-house must be in a continual fog—a horrid steam—from these heaps of sweating rags!

I venture to make this observation to Mr. Tibbit, who triumphantly asserts, and turns to his work-people for confirmation, that among some eight or nine hundred persons employed in the London rag trade, only six fatal cholera cases occurred during the three months in 1849, when the epidemic was at its height.

Of the labourers in Mr. Tibbit’s sorting-house, the majority were females, mostly Irish females; and attired more in obedience to the inclemency of the work-room than to the prevailing fashion. Five old women and eight or nine girls, varying in age from fifteen to twenty, were seated in a circle on the ground. In their midst was an immense heap of dilapidated cloth garments — coats, cloaks, trousers, mantles, &c, &c. Each operator being furnished with a bushel basket, and a pair of long sharp scissors, helped herself from the heap, and cut away every seam, button-hole, or morsel of lining from the scrap in course of dissection. If a finishing touch was required to complete the desolation of the rag-house, it certainly was supplied in the cold, monotonous clashing of the dozen pairs of scissors. For every hundredweight of “clean cloth” snipped: into the basket, the cutter receives three shillings. To cut seventy pounds of cloth is considered a good day’s work, a circumstance that rather surprised me after I had seen how fast it was possible to work a pair of scissors. Over against the wall stood an old woman making and repairing bags. Elegance not being so requisite as strength for this kind of needlework, the appearance of the old dame was as unlike the ideal seamstress as possible. She was attired in a coat that had once been a cabman’s, evidently. She had great leather gloves on her hands; her needle excelled in size a considerable skewer; while for thread she used ordinary “lay cord.”

There were six rag-sorters. Each man stood before a large sieve, such as is used by builders, being about six feet long and three wide, and was surrounded by a dozen baskets, into which were pitched the various “sorts.” Above the sieve was slung a big bag on which the sorter operated. A new and virgin bag was slung in my honour; and, stationing myself with Mr. Tibbit at a handy distance, the business began. Out tumbled, first of all, a tattered merino mantle, trimmed with crape. Very brown and threadbare, and much darned was the mantle, and I innocently looked for the accompanying widow’s cap. The sorter ruthlessly seized the poor old garment, and, rending the crape therefrom, tossed the merino into a basket, and, rolling up the sombre trimming, threw it up on a shelf.

“That stuff is not of much use, I suppose, Mr. Tibbit?” remarked I, wishing to display my sagacity.

“Ain’t it,” replied the rag-merchant: “I wish I had a ton of it! Why, that’s one of the most valuable articles that passes through my hands, sir. The Jews hunt it up as though it was old gold. Look here,” said he, taking down a huge bundle of dismal, copper-coloured rubbish, “this is the kind of material used by half the mourning milliners and artificial-flower makers in London. The dirt is steamed out of it, and it is dyed and stiffened to look ‘equal to new.’ It would be quite,” continued Mr. Tibbit pleasantly, “only that it’s rather tender, and won’t bear much handling.”

So it comes about that the crape worn, and worn out, in Poverty Rents by widow Jenkins, is presently transformed into flowers, amidst which Lady Bangman mourns her departed lord in a fashionable and becoming manner.

“This is another valuable sort of rag,” said Mr. Tibbit, fishing from the sieve a few new white linen cuttings: “this kind is used in the manufacture of the most superior kind of paper—paper in which extreme fineness and great strength are the chief requisites. This sort of paper is used for bank-notes, cheques, &c. That goes for writing paper,” continued the rag dealer, pointing to a grimy calico shirt sleeve which now turned up. “All unprintcd calicos go for the same purpose. This (a little frock of coloured calico) goes to make printing papers. All coloured rags are made into printing papers, and are valuable according to the depth of their colours; this (a scrap of lavender-lined rag) is a very good sort; this (the skirt of a ‘half-mourning’ cotton gown) is the worst kind of rag for paper making, because an alkali of sufficient strength to remove the dye will not fail to render the fabric rotten, and only fit to be used with better sorts.”

” What sort of paper does that make?” I inquired, smiling, as a huge coal sack came down into the sorting arena.

“Very good paper, sir,” replied Mr. Tibbit, gravely, and with a reproving glance, which instantly checked my levity. “Brown paper, sir! The tar will be boiled out of that old coal-sack until it is as clean as your handkerchief. Why, sir, in these days, this sort of material is considered too precious for brown paper making! Ten to one but by the time it is worked into pulp it will make the acquaintance of a few hop-roots, if nothing more disrespectable even than that! Here comes some sugar-paper material,” continued he, as some brown sacking similar to that in which coffee and rice is imported was disgorged from the big bag! “All flax, sir, and a great pity it is that it can’t be put to a better purpose. But, you see, it is undressed flax—not so much as even stripped of the knots” (he held the bag up, and pointed out some short straws that were blended with the flax); “and the worst of it is, there is no removing it. As you see the short straws here, so they will appear in the manufactured sugar-paper.”

As the business of sorting proceeded, I plainly saw that the thriftless servant and the slatternly housewife were the best friends and patrons of the rag-merchant. Really, a full fourth of the material that passed through the hands of the sorter were not rags at all. Perhaps I should rather say they were not rags in tatters. Many were the stockings thrown among the “dirty whites” that a careful woman would speedily have rendered sound and wearable with a very little darning-cotton and a liberal quantity of soap! Many were the little frocks and pinafores prematurely consigned to the “coloured” bin for want of the saving “stitch in time.” The honest bona fide rags, the rags of the industrious poor, were distinguishable by their invariable cleanliness. If the cast-off garments were clean, they were sure to be threadbare and patched to death. One other thing was especially observable amongst this merchandise: it was mostly made up of children’s clothing. Explainable, I suppose, from the fact that mother’s gown is so often transformed into a frock for little Polly, while father’s coat is metamorphosed into a jacket for young Dick, who “goes out to work.”

Helter-skelter, out they tumble! Year-old baby’s worsted boots, and four-score baby’s worsted slippers! The cotton “bird’s-eye” neckerchief of the navvey, and the satin lace-edged “garter-tie” of Mr. Highbury Barn! These are the remnants of the collars first mounted by young Gill, excoriating his tender neck, and covering him with confusion, consequent upon the inquiries they elicited from his youthful companions! There is the ghost of that splendid, though ugly, shawl that Tom Brown the blacksmith presented to his bride. Many a sick little Brown has that shawl comforted since, and now it will go to nurture potatoes on farmer Wiggins’s lands.

“What is that used for, Mr. Tibbit?” I inquired, as a threadbare piece of Brussels carpet turned up.

“That has done its work, sir,” replied the rag-dealer. “That’s about the hardest worked article of any manufactured. People ain’t half as hard on Kidderminster! but poor Brussels goes from the drawing-room to the bed-room, and from the bed-room to the kitchen, till at last it comes to us, worn out and bald—all its wool worn off, you know, and only fit to be buried.”

“And suppose,” said I, “that all the wool is not worn off when it comes into your hands?”

“Well,” replied he, “I can only answer your question by explaining the treatment generally of rags composed of a mixture of wool and cotton. By a lately-discovered process it is possible, by the aid of chemicals, to destroy every particle of cotton or other vegetable substance in woven fabrics, leaving the wool intact. However, it is an expensive operation, and is only applied to such rags as are made up of at least half-wool. Bags in which wool exists in a smaller proportion, can be used for nothing but the land, and are not worth more than about three shillings the hundred weight. So that you see the existence of a little wool in cotton rags, by rendering them unfit for paper-making, depreciates their value at least two hundred per cent.!”

“There’s a nugget, Mr. Tibbit!” said I, as a lady’s amber-coloured silk-jacket was hustled into the sorting-sieve in company of a dismembered pair of corduroy trousers.

“Yes, my friend, a draper’s nugget—not a rag-dealer’s,” responded Mr. Tibbit, contemptuously. “This is well enough,” continued he (pointing to the white-linen lining); “even this is of some use (tearing a rent in the lining, diving his experienced hand between the inner and outer material, and producing a quantity of wadding—oh ! the mystery of dress-making!); it can be rolled again into sheets and dyed black; but as to this rubbish (the amber silk) I’d sell a ton of it for a hundredweight of good old ropes! No, sir, of all useless material, worn-out silk is certainly the most useless! It is absolutely good for nothing!”

“Except as land-rags,” interposed I.

“Absolutely good for nothing, I said,” replied the dogmatic Tibbit. “It certainly is used as land-rag, but I’d be glad to know of what use it is. Rags are put into the ground for two purposes: Firstly, that by their absorbent nature they may store up superabundant moisture, to be yielded up on demand to the thirsty earth; and secondly, that the soil may be fertilised by their decomposition. Now, where will you find a more unlikely material than silk to perform either of these offices? Nothing that I know of—with the exception of Macintosh— is less absorbent; and of all woven fabrics buried in the earth, silk is among the last to decay. Precious aristocratic stuff silk is, I can tell you, from first to last!” And with a scornful gesture, Mr. Tibbit pitched the dainty jacket upon the old carpet.

So depressing an influence did the unfortunate jacket appear to have on the rag-merchant, that for full two minutes he said not a word. However, a lively shower of new scarlet cloth cuttings fortunately occurring, he again took up the thread of his discourse.

“Ah! that’s something better, sir,” said he. “The man who first discovered how to treat that article made a pretty fortune, I can tell you!”

I inquired of what nature was the discovery.

“Extracting the scarlet dye,” replied Mr. Tibbit, complacently stroking a shred of the famous cloth. ” He kept the secret well, too! Made forty thousand pounds by it before it leaked out. The oddest part of the business is, that the dye extracted is better and of greater value than that newly manufactured! Everybody knows how it’s done now. But it’s a good article to deal in still—a very good article. Reach me that bit of drab, Joe,” said Mr. Tibbit to the sorter.

The “bit of drab” appeared to be part of the skirt of a watchman’s coat.

“That’s rather uncommon stuff, sir,” said he, snapping the drab cloth between his finger and thumb heartily; “that’s wool, sir, that is; every grain of it!

“So is all cloth, isn’t it?” I replied, innocently.

“I wish it was, my friend,” said Mr. Tibbit, with a look that denoted his compassion for my simplicity. “No, sir. Cloth, as a rule, left off being cloth during the latter part of the French war, when commerce was crippled, and people debarred from honest materials were at their wits’ end for shifts and substitutes. It has been degenerating ever since, till it has become nothing better than cotton faced with devil’s-dust.'”

Without knowing its meaning, I had repeatedly heard this latter expression used in connection with tailoring, especially tailoring according to the Hebrew persuasion. This I thought would be a good opportunity to obtain information on the subject.

“What is devil’s-dust, Mr. Tibbit.'”

“This sort of thing,” replied he, coolly taking up the skirt of my outer garment (Registered Albert—thirty-nine and sixpence—Moses and Aaron, Minories.)

“That is absurd, Mr. Tibbit,” I replied. “This is wool, sir, and warranted shrunk.”

“Oh, I’ll warrant you it’s well shrunk,” answered the rag-dealer, with a malicious chuckle. “One more shrinking will about do the business for all the wool there is in that article. However, that isn’t answering your question, ‘What is devil’s-dust?’ Since it was discovered that woollen goods might be re-manufactured, it seems to have been the mistaken opinion of many cloth-makers that wool, like lead, had only to be re-cast to be again new, and that this operation might be repeated any number of times. So they went on, making and remaking, till every spark of vitality was ground out of the wool—till it lay a dead heap, refusing to be woven any more. That was the original devil’s-dust; and this is the ingenious process invented for making it a means of adulterating cloth. First of all is laid a thin stratum of good live wool, then a liberal sprinkling of devil’s-dust, then a topping of good wool again. Then the mixture is rolled into hanks, and spun into fine thread for weaving; the genuine wool that was placed top and bottom forming a secure sheathing to the devil’s-dust, let the thread be drawn out ever so finely. In fact, if you understand how a little cube of copper is electro-plated before it is drawn out as gold or silver wire, you have an exact notion of the devil’s-dust process. Cloth made entirely from this adulterated material would not be so bad, but the ingenuity of a certain class of cloth manufacturers goes yet a step farther! Observe this piece I hold in my hand. When I tear it this way, it parts without any noise; but this way, you perceive it sounds precisely as though I was tearing a piece of calico. This kind of cloth is made by first laying a woof of thread, and then crossing it with a warp either of devil’s-dust alone, or a mixture of that popular material with a little good wool.”

The big bag was by this time emptied, so with a severe hand I buttoned up the wretched registered Albert, whose hypocrisy Mr. Tibbit had unmasked, thanked the good gentleman for his courtesy, and departed from his premises. J. W. G.

The Welcome Guest, 1859

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Tibbit seems to have been an early proponent of what to-day is called “recycling.”  This piece is a revealing look at some of the tricks of the textile manufactories. Devil’s dust, also known as “flock,” was old cloth, either wool or cotton, ground into powder and used to adulterate newly woven fabric. Such fabric was sometimes known as “shoddy.” It was said that some mills did not scruple about using “diseased” rags and that the calico trade of Huddersfield was nearly ruined by the practice.  Out-shots refers to a second-class grade of hemp. The job of rag-sorter was an unpleasant one: the rags might be filthy, infested with lice, fleas, or other vermin, and hospital rags might contain smallpox or other contagion.

Mr Tibbit’s remarks on the value of crape are revealing. It was a popular superstition (fostered, one suspects, by the crape merchants of the Norwich crape mills) that it was unlucky to keep crape in the house after mourning was concluded. Its scarcity in the rag market suggests that this was not the case or that it was sold to the old-clothes merchants instead of ending in the rag-bag.

Here is an article about a “shoddy” factory in the United States.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

 

 

 

The Revolutionary Pantaloons: 1776

Spinning at the Colonial WIlliamsburg Weave Room. http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter07/weaving.cfm

Spinning at the Colonial WIlliamsburg Weave Room. http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter07/weaving.cfm

REVOLUTIONARY ANECDOTE

An old lady used to relate the following anecdote of her Revolutionary remembrance: The afternoon of one of the last days of 1776 when I was a few months short of 8 years old, notice came to Townsend, Massachusetts, where my father used to live, that fifteen soldiers were wanted.

The training band was instantly called out, and my brother that was the next older than I, was one that was selected. He did not return till late at night, when all were in bed. When I rose in the morning I found my mother in tears, who informed me that my brother John was to march next day after to-morrow morning at sunrise. My father was at Boston, in the Massachusetts Assembly. Mother said that though John was supplied with summer clothes, he must be absent seven or eight months, and would suffer from want of winter garments. There were at this time no stores, and no articles to be had except such as each family could make itself. The sight of my mother’s tears always brought all the hidden strength of the body and mind to action. I immediately asked what garments were needful. She replied “Pantaloons.”

“Oh, is that all?  We will spin and weave him a pair before he goes.”

“Tut,” said my mother, “the wool is on the sheep’s back, and the sheep are in pasture.”

I immediately turned to a younger brother and bade him take a salt-dish and call them to the yard.

Mother replied, “Poor child, there are no sheep-shears within three miles.”

“I have some small shears at the loom.”

“But we can’t spin and weave it in so short a time.”

“I am certain we can, mother.”

“How can you weave it? There is a long web of linen in the loom.”

“No matter, I can find an empty loom.”

By this time the sound of the sheep made me quicken my steps toward the yard. I requested my sister to bring me the wheel and cards while I went for the wool. I went into the yard with my brother and secured a white sheep, from which I sheared, enough for a web; we then let her go with the rest of her fleece. I went the wool in by my sister. Luther ran for a black sheep, and held her while I cut off wool for my filling and half the warp, and then we allowed her to go with the remaining part of her fleece.

The good old lady further observed that the wool thus obtained was duly carded and spun, washed, sized, and dried; a loom was found a few doors off, the web got in, wove and prepared, cut and made two or three hours before the brother’s departure—that is to say, in forty hours from the commencement, without help from any modern improvement.

The good old lady closed by saying, “I felt no weariness, I wept not, I was serving my country, I was relieving mother, I was preparing a garment for my darling brother. The garment being finished, I retired and wept till my overcharged and bursting heart was relieved.”

This brother was, perhaps, one of General Stark’s soldiers, and with such a spirit to cope with, need we wonder that Burgoyne did not execute his threat of marching into the heart of America?

The Bloomfield Times [New Bloomfield, PA] 23 August 1870: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Leaving aside the question of the Colonies’ treasonous and iniquitous rebellion against King and Country, this charming anecdote points out how quickly eighteenth-century clothing could be manufactured, when necessary. Mrs Daffodil has seen advertisements for modern “Sheep to Shawl” events where one starts with the raw wool and ends with a finished garment. In a similar vein, the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop at Colonial Williamsburg, while not weaving the fabric, holds popular “Gown in a Day” events where a complete gown is draped and hand-sewn in a miraculously short time.  Janea Whitacre, Mistress of the Shop, says that if a lady ordered a gown for a ball that evening, it could be completed in time by laying on many extra hands to make the work light. A video of a lilac silk gown being made in a day may be seen here, as well as an article about Mistress Whitacre and eighteenth-century millinery work.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

 

How to Entertain With Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

fruit 4

FRUIT SCULPTURE

How to Interest Feeble Minds at Dessert

From Black and White

The man or woman who can best interest and amuse his or her neighbors at the dinner table is the most likely to win the good graces of host and hostess and consequently receives most invitations. So greatly, indeed, are tact and wit appreciated that it is no secret that many clever persons live excellently and at no cost to themselves by the simple practice of these talents.

The wise man who goes in for fruit sculpture with the deliberate intention of capturing the approval of his hostess (always grateful for a fresh diversion) will prepare himself beforehand for the task and in his pocket will lurk black and white headed pins, some matches, and a sharp penknife to cut what the fruit knife cannot. Christmas crackers will furnish all kinds of odds and ends for decoration, and with even ordinary fruit an endless range of subjects may be present.

If you desire to present to the admiring gaze of the other diners an orange pig, you must peel your orange entirely in one piece, slipping your knife in a sharp cut, through which the whole fruit may be coaxed. The four legs are then shaped, the rind slightly rolled, paper ears and a paper tail added, and your pig is finished. For a plumper pig a plum is chosen, the tail for which his furnished by its own stem. The stump of a cigar is added for a snout, the ends of matches for feet, and with paper ears a very presentable prize porker is made.

The “boarding house baron” is another example of what can be done with an orange, or rather with two, for the lower one stands in a wine glass, to which the upper is skewered by a sharp match or toothpick. These have been turned into a very fair similitude of the elderly made-up foreigner by means of paper hair and mustaches, bread pill eyeballs fastened in with pins, and a bread nose. His collar is of paper and a handkerchief or cracker paper furnishes a very good coat. The great object in making these little figures should be to vary the expression as much as possible, and advantage may be taken of anything on the dinner table to secure the desired amusing results.

For instance the pig nose of the boxer is produced by fixing a chrysanthemum bud, the same flower furnishing a shock of hair. The head is an apple, and the body a pear. Bananas serve as arms and lefts, the former being amusingly finished off by chestnuts, which give the idea of boxing gloves.

For “Admiral Nelson” two oranges are used, the second resting in a wine glass, cunningly concealed by a white handkerchief. To the upper orange is given a face, bread pill eyes and a carefully shaped nose, chrysanthemum locks and a paper cocked hat. A stiff collar encircles the neck, and paper epaulets hide where the banana arms are joined on. To make the empty sleeve of the great hero part of the interior of the fruit is removed. The watch and chain come from a Christmas cracker. His trousered legs are made of two rolls of paper and his feet are scraps of shaped peel.

Lest any one should imagine that an orange is the easiest fruit to deal with, a banana bird can be made, whose skin engraved with a fork suggests feathers. Toothpick legs, a paper tail and pin eyes complete the effect. The female bird of this interesting pair of fowls, unknown as yet to the Ornithological Society, is made, sitting on her nest, with outspread motherly wings. The nest, by the way, is a scooped out dinner roll, and is lined with flowers. The banana serves also for a little boat, which with masts and canvas set, with oars a-pull and flags flying, sails smoothly over an ocean of tablecloth. It might be called the Plantain, for it certainly belongs to the West Indian trade.

fruit romeo

Perhaps the prettiest of all is the little “Romeo,” twanging his light guitar. His body is an apple, and his head a chestnut. He has rather thin toothpick limbs decorously clothed in the Christmas cracker ends. Two matches make the neck of his musical instrument and a little cotton stretched across the chestnut completes the illusion.

The Sunday Star [Washington DC] 25 March 1906: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is personally acquainted with this after-dinner diversion. One evening at the Hall, after the ladies withdrew, some high-spirited young gentlemen guests, encouraged by a touch too much port, remodelled the innocuous figures into something a bit more fruity.  When the footmen cleared the table, they bore the assemblages intact on trays down to the servants’ hall, where the Tweeny–an complete innocent, although brought up in the country–promptly had a choking fit until she was sent to bed with sal volatile and a book of devotion. The fruit was enjoyed by the rest of the staff.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

The Little Stranger: 1868

The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger

THE LITTLE STRANGER.

Though a man of very strict principles, no man ever enjoyed a joke more than Dr. Byron; he had a vast fund of humor, and very ready wit, and with children, particularly, he loved to chat familiarly, and draw them out. As he was one day passing into the house, he was accosted by a very little boy, who asked him if he wanted any sauce, meaning vegetables. The doctor asked if such a tiny thing was a marketman. No, sir; my father is,” was the prompt answer.

The doctor said, “Bring me in some squashes,” and passed into the house, sending out the change. In a few moments the child returned, bringing back part of the change. The doctor told him he was welcome to it; but the child would not take it back, saying his father would blame him. Such strange manners in a child attracted his attention, and he began to examine the boy attentively; he was evidently poor, his jacket was pieced and patched with every kind of cloth, and his trowsers darned with so many colors, that it was difficult to tell the original fabric, but scrupulously neat and clean withal. The boy very quietly endured the scrutiny of the doctor, while holding him at arm’s length, and examining his face. At last he said:—”You seem a nice little boy; won’t you come and live with me, and be a doctor?”

“Yes, sir,” said the child.

“Spoken like a man,” said the doctor, patting his head as he dismissed him.

A few weeks passed on, when one day Jim came to say there was a little boy with a bundle downstairs, waiting to see the doctor, and would not tell his business to any one else.

“Send him up,” was the answer; and, in a few moments, he recognized the boy of the squashes,—but no squash himself, as we shall see; he was dressed in a new though coarse suit of clothes, and his hair very nicely combed, his shoes brushed up, and a little bundle in a homespun checked handkerchief, on his arm. Deliberately taking off his hat, and laying it down with his bundle, he walked up to the doctor, saying: “I have come, sir.”

“Come for what, my child?”

“To live with you, and be a doctor,” said the child, with the utmost naivete.

The first impulse of the doctor was to laugh immoderately; but the imperturbable gravity of the little thing rather sobered him, as he recalled, too, his former conversation, and he said he never felt so perplexed in his life. At the time, he felt he needed no addition to his family.

“Did your father consent to your coming?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“What did he say?”

“I told him that you wanted me to come and live with you, and be a doctor; and he said you were a very good man, and I might come as soon as my clothes were ready.”

“And your mother, what said she?”

“She said Dr. Byron would do just what he said he would, and God had provided for me. And,” said he, ” I have on a new suit of clothes,” surveying himself, “here is another in the bundle,” undoing the handkerchief and displaying them, with two shirts white as snow, and a couple of neat checked aprons, so carefully folded it was plain none but a mother would have done it. The sensibilities of the doctor were awakened to see the fearless, the undoubting trust with which the poor couple had bestowed their child upon him, and such a child! His cogitations were not long; he thought of Moses in the bulrushes, abandoned to Providence; and above all, he thought of the child that was carried into Egypt, and that the Divine Saviour had said, “Blessed be little children;” and he called for the wife of his bosom, saying, “Susan, dear, I think we pray in church that God will have mercy upon all young children.”

“To be sure we do,” said the wondering wife, “and what then?”

“And the Saviour said, ‘Whosoever receiveth one such little child in my name, receiveth me;’ take this child in His name, and take care of him;” and from that hour this good couple received him to their hearts and home. It did not then occur to them that one of the most eminent physicians and best men of the age stood before them in the person of that child; it did not occur to them that this little creature, thus thrown upon their charity, was destined to be their staff and stay in declining age,—a protector and more than son to themselves; all this was then unrevealed; but they cheerfully received the child they believed Providence had committed to their care; and if ever beneficence was rewarded, it was in this instance.—Family Circle.

Daily Iowa State Register [Des Moines, IA] 2 July 1868: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil hesitates to think what the social service agencies of to-day would have to say about such a transaction. One also wishes to know if “Dr Byron” was a real individual or if this is merely a touching story for Papa to read aloud to the family.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

 

Was He Buried Alive? An Undertaker’s Obsession: 1907

A safety coffin to prevent burial alive.

A safety coffin to prevent burial alive.

Had Grewsome Experience

Stories Lead Undertaker to Believe He Has Buried Men Alive and He Investigates

[Glasgow (Ky.) Cor. Nashville American]

Recently a lady living here died, and the body was prepared for burial. Several hours after the lady moved and otherwise showed signs of life. She rallied and lived several days, but again died and was buried. The occurrence created much comment, and is still the subject of discussion at times, it being the second case of the kind in this county within a few years, the other happening at a village known as Hiseville.

One night recently a crowd of business men were discussing matters in general and the strange death of the woman was commented on. A well-known business man, whom we will call Clark, his real name being withheld, and who had had a considerable experience as an undertaker, related the following incident, he claimed for the benefit of his undertaker friends, there being present several who had been or were interested in such matters:

“While I was in business at M___, a small village in this county, I was called on to make a burial. When I reached the home of the decedent, I found the corpse still warm and the muscles relaxed, though death was supposed to have occurred several hours before. After the burial I returned home and after a few days forgot the incident.

“Some three months after this I happened to pick up a daily paper, and in scanning the headlines I read, ‘Almost Buried Alive.’ Carefully reading the article, I found a parallel case to the one I had three months before, and as I slowly read how the man had gone into a trance and the burial was about to take place, the corpse was found to be not only warm but perspiring freely, the fact dawned upon me that I had actually buried a man alive. Dropping the paper I sprang up and started for a pick and shovel. The impression seemed to linger with me that the man was still alive, and was at that moment crying for aid. After securing the necessary tools, I began to reason with myself that if I had buried the man alive it was purely an accident, and that if such was the case he had long since died from suffocation, lack of food, &c., so I put the tools back in their place and went about my duties. Try as I would I could not throw off the feeling that I had committed an awful crime and one that I would have to answer for at the judgment day. In my mind’s eye I could see his widow and orphans at judgment, as I had seen them hover about the casket just before consigning it to its last resting place, each with an accusing finger pointing at me. At times I would go for several days without the matter giving me much worry, my duties so completely occupying all of my time, until a chance meeting of relatives of the deceased, or some remark by some one would bring the whole panorama before my mind, becoming more vivid each time.

“Several weeks elapsed and matters were in no better shape than at first. I had grown thin, nervous, irritable, and friends remarked on the change and advised me to seek medical advice, which I steadfastly refused to do, knowing that all the drugs in the world would not reach my case.

“What I wanted most was to share the secret with some one, yet I dared not do so, even to my wife, who was much concerned about me.

“One blustery night while I lay tossing on my bed unable to sleep and going over the horrible details for the ten thousandth time and wondering how long the whole thing would last, like a flash it occurred to me that I might forever settle whether the man had really been dead or not by opening the grave. I wondered why I had not thought of this before. The thought made me sit up in bed. It seemed to me the only way I could at last settle the question as to whether I was really a murderer or not.

“Outside the wind was howling with an occasional dash of rain, and an inky darkness prevailed—just the kind of a night for ghosts to be out. The thought set the cold chills chasing down my spine.

“After an hour spent in weighing the matter, I finally yielded to the strange influence which I could not shake off, and arising and dressing, I got a shovel and started for the graveyard, a mile away, determined to settle all doubts. I reasoned that on such a night no one was likely to be out after midnight and as there were no houses close by, I had very little chance of being detected.

“After trudging the distance I reached the graveyard, where a new problem presented itself. How was I to locate the grave without a light? And I dared not produce a light. The work must be done in the dark until the coffin was reached, when I expected to light a candle and view the body.

“For an hour I walked about among the graves, locating a grave and then deciding it was not the right one, realizing that if my plans were carried out. I must find the grave and begin work. I decided to take chances on lighting a candle until I could be certain of the spot I sought. So with the light I went from grave to grave until I came to the one sought, and after I had got “the lay of the land,” so to speak, I began. When I had been working something like half an hour as noiseless as possible, when I heard some one, not very far away, say in a distinct voice, Do you suppose we could have been mistaken about that light?’

“My heart ceased beating, for to be caught in this act not only meant disgrace to me and my family, but a term in the penitentiary. How could I explain my presence there? Who would believe my story? All this flashed through my mind in an instant and I was completely at my wits’ end. To run meant the abandoning of my purpose and to stay meant detection. What must I do? The nights of torture that I had spent arose before me and rather than a repetition I decided the State Prison preferable, so getting down in the place I had dug out, I waited.

“The men who had been attracted to the cemetery by the light flitting from grave to grave, walked past me discussing what might have caused it. When near me they paused and said, ‘Here is where W___ is buried. I don’t suppose any of his family would be out on such a night, do you?’ The answer was lost as they moved on and to my supreme joy departed.

“After a short time I resumed my work, and my efforts were rewarded. After carefully scraping the dirt off the box, with a small bit I bored a hole and with a keyhole saw soon cut a large section of the box ready to move. After this it was only necessary to remove two screws and the object of my search was in view.

“Then the question of how I would find it arose in my mind. Would the features be distorted and fearful as if from intense suffering, a conviction of my error, or would they be as they were when last I gazed on them, calm and serene? For one short moment I faltered, but summoning all my fast shrinking courage I struck a match and attempted to light the candle, but the anxiety and strain which I had undergone, made me extremely nervous and the first attempt was a failure.

“The next effort was more successful and glancing down I experienced the first genuine pleasure I had felt in months. There calm, peacefully and beautifully to me, at least, lay my friend, and no one can imagine the joy and pleasure of the moment unless they have had a similar experience.

“I replaced the covers, climbed out of the grave and soon had it filled and went on my way home. I simply walked on air, all of my imaginary troubles which had come so near wrecking my health had vanished. I reached home at 3 o’clock in the morning, and, throwing myself on the bed, experienced the first refreshing sleep that had visited me in weeks.

“Shortly after opening my place of business the next day two of my closest neighbors came in and after a while one of them said:

“Tom and myself sat up with old Brother C__ last night until 1 o’clock and as we came home we had to cross the graveyard. Just before we reached the place we thought we saw a light going from grave to grave. We came through the graveyard, but did not see anything, and we concluded that we were mistaken.’ How I could have ever overlooked the fact that Mr. __, who lived near the cemetery, was seriously ill and that neighbors were continually going to and from the house, is more than I have ever been able to explain, except that in my trouble and intense suffering I forgot it.

“However the matter was settled, and I was not even suspected, and I determined never to tell the secret to anyone, but the matter was brought to my mind so forcibly to-night, that I decided to tell it that some of you young undertakers may not make the same mistake I did, which came so near causing the loss of my life, or, worse, my reason.”

The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 1 June 1907: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written before of premature burial. It was a subject that obsessed many people of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. There was no simple way to tell if someone was actually dead. Physicians might use the mirror; they might prick, burn, or whip the skin, or apply a galvanic battery, yet the only certain test was to wait several days for signs of decomposition. Hygienic concerns often encouraged hasty burials, yet there are also stories of corpses left unburied for weeks because they showed no signs of bodily dissolution, even when unembalmed. Some persons made death-bed requests or wrote in their wills that they wished to have their throats cut or hearts pierced, just to make sure they were really, truly dead. Mrs Daffodil will undoubtedly have a story or two on this subject in the near future.

One appreciates that this undertaker was conscientious about whether he had buried a living man or a corpse, but three months is rather a long time period over which to develop scruples.

There will be many stories about death, funerals, mourning, and other grewsome subjects in The Victorian Book of the Dead, which is nearly ready for distribution.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.