California Girls vs. the Venus de Medici: The Ideal Beauty: 1893

The silver statue for which Ada Rehan posed.

The silver statue for which Ada Rehan posed. From, which also has other images of the statue.

The suggestion made in the Argonaut that, as Miss Ada Rehan is to typify female beauty from the Montana standpoint, California ought to contribute to the fair a statue presenting the ideal beauty of this State, has led to discussion as to what is the ideal of feminine beauty in California. The standard of beauty is not immutable, like the standard of virtue. In some Oriental countries, obesity is the mark of loveliness; the fairest belle is she who tips the scale at the greatest number of pounds avoirdupois. In New York, at the present time, the prize of beauty is won by her whose slim, lithe figure most closely resembles a reed shaken by the wind. And as in Circassia, the maiden who is destined for a pasha’s harem is fed upon such viands as will fatten her, so the Paris modiste constructs for her New York customer a corset which shall, so far as possible, dissemble hips and bust, and distribute the concealed organs through the rest of the trunk. Thus the standard of beauty, like that of modesty, changes with meridians. It varies, also, with the ebb and flow of fashion. A few years ago, a belle was condemned if her shoulders were not sloping; then fashion required them to be square, like a man’s; and in both cases the milliner’s art was called into play to distort nature into the prescribed shape.

A sculptor’s ideal of beauty is evolved on mathematical principles. A perfect woman is seven, or seven and a half, or eight heads tall ; her shoulders are two heads wide; her legs are three and a half to three and three-quarter heads long ; her waist is three heads in circumference. But the size of heads varies in women who are equally perfect in shape; the head of the Venus of Medici is nearly one-eighth less in proportion than that of the Venus of Milo, or the Cnidian Venus of Praxiteles, which was esteemed by the ancients the most perfect statue in existence. The Medici Venus is a slim, slender girl, whose proportions resemble the statues of Psyche. Living reproductions of her are more frequently seen in New York than here.

The Cnidus Venus (restored)

The Cnidus Venus (restored)

There fell into the Argonauts possession a list of measurements of the proportions of a young lady of San Francisco, who is looked upon as being beautiful and having a fine figure — in short, a typical Californian girl. With these we have compared a similar ground plan of a New York girl which we secured at the time Professor Sargent was collecting statistics concerning the young women in Eastern seminaries; likewise the measurements of Ballow’s well-known ideal beauty. They compare as follows:

Californian Girl     New York Girl      Ballow’s Ideal

Height 5 feet 6 12 inches  5 feet 5 1/2 inches  5 feet 6 inches


of head 8 ¾ inches              8 inches                   8 1/2 inches


of bust  35″                          30 1/2″                      32″


of hips.  35″                         30″                            32″


of waist   24″                        19 1/2″                      26″


of neck    12 1/2″                  12 1/2″                      13″

Width of

shoulders 17 1/2″                 15 1/2″                      16 1/2″

The weight of the first and the last are between 130 and 135 pounds, while the New York girl weighs about 126…

Referring to the above table, it will be observed that the waist of the New Yorker is much smaller than that of the other two. The fashion of small waists is the rage in the East, and the desired result is attained by tight lacing, which is carried to such an extent that the physiognomist is lost in amazement as to where the lady has bestowed her vital organs. No statue in existence exhibits such a disproportion between the waist and those portions of the trunk which lie above and below it. The compression of the girth is a mere fashionable fad which good taste must condemn. Our Californian girl wears a twenty-four-inch corset, which might easily be reduced to twenty-three inches if the wearer saw fit to sacrifice comfort to Eastern fashion. There are belles in New York who are not satisfied till they have squeezed themselves into a seventeen-inch corset. Such persons, it would seem, would have enjoyed the Scottish boot.

A copy of the Venus de Medici

A copy of the Venus de Medici

The bust and hips should, in a perfectly formed woman, be exactly the same in circumference. They are so in Ballow’s ideal, in the Venus of Milo, in the Cnidian Venus, and in the Californian girl. In the New Yorker, the circumference of the bust is half an inch greater than that of the hips, which is probably the work of art, not nature. The prevailing rage for svelte, lithe forms induces the Eastern belles to dissimulate their attractions.

Ballow does not give the dimensions of his ideal’s feet or hands. He merely says that they are “in proportion,” which is rather vague. The rule among sculptors is that the foot should measure one head, which is unsatisfactory, as some large women have small heads, and some small women large heads. The female foot is probably smaller in New York society than here, for the simple reason that it has less to carry. Shoemakers say here that they sell more four and four and a half shoes than any others, but many ladies in society buy three and a half, three, and even two and a half shoes. They — the Knights of St. Crispin — do not believe in the sculptors’ rule about feet; they say that small feet, like large wits, are a gift from heaven and may be found attached to persons of any dimensions. Everybody has observed that there is no necessary connection between the hands and the figure; that some slim girls have large hands, and some girls with opulent figures small dainty hands and fingers.


The Venus Kallipygos


Take all the measurements together, and the conclusion is forced that the Californian girl more closely resembles the Cnidian Venus than the Venus of Medici, and that the representative Californian statue should be cast after a study of that masterpiece as well as the Venus of Milo and the Venus Callipyge. It is probable that the exigencies of art would require liberties to be taken with the extremities. As a rule, the heads of our girls are too large in proportion to their bodies, and so are the hands and feet. Small, shapely hands and feet are rare in San Francisco, as the glovemakers and shoemakers can testify. Here and there, a beautiful foot or a taper hand may be seen; but the average foot was made for use, not ornament, and the hand which is clasped in the german very comfortably fills the masculine palm. This is not altogether a subject for lamentation. A woman who has a disproportionately small foot, like a man who has a small nose, is likely to be endowed with an intellect to match — it is odds that Sir John Suckling’s young lady, whose  “feet beneath her petticoat like little mice crept in and out,” did not know enough to repeat the multiplication table.

The Argonaut [San Francisco CA] 2 January 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Miss Ada Rehan [1859-1916] was an American actress noted for her “perfect” figure. She posed as the model for a solid silver statue of Justice that was part of the state of Montana’s exhibition on mining at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893.

A medal depicting the silver statue for which Ada Rehan posed.

A medal depicting the silver statue for which Ada Rehan posed.

How curious that the ideal female beauty is always nude and made of some hard substance such as silver or marble. It is always a matter of amusement to Mrs Daffodil to watch learned gentlemen run on about “ideal beauty.”  One of Mrs Daffodil’s loveliest mistresses had every physical perfection, yet she had no more conscience than a wax doll.  Beauty is as beauty does. One might wish to query the former Consuelo Vanderbilt on how much her ideal beauty contributed to a happy marriage to the Duke of Marlborough.

Lady Golfers: Fashionable and Mannish: 1899-1900

Miss Sibyl Whigham, champion lady golfer, c. 1907

Miss Sibyl Whigham, champion lady golfer, c. 1907

To-day is the final round of the Ryder Cup golf championship, pitting the United States against Europe’s finest, in an effort to see which team can design the most appalling golf jumpers. Let us see how well the costumes of the lady golfers of the past stood up to critical scrutiny.


We once had the pleasure of seeing a woman champion play golf. She wore a simple pink shirt waist and a plain brown skirt that fell to her ankles. To these add unattractive black stockings and low-cut tan shoes—and there you have her.

This picture is particularly interesting when you compare it with that of the fashion-plate golfer. The correctly dressed player, we see, must wear one of three hats. The first is “in rough straw and of helmet shape bound on the edge with velvet and trimmed with a soft scarf of silk twisted carefully around the crown. Then there are hats of stitched pique to wear with white golf suits. The bamboo hat is the lightest and coolest variety, and very pretty in its light cream tints. One point of fashion which must be observed is the absence of the stiff, long quill, so prominent last season.” Again, we learn, “Some striking color seems to be necessary to a picturesque effect upon the golf links, and while there is an attempt to introduce green, red, and golf pink are the favorites, the green forming no contrast in the landscape picture.”

Thus we see that the woman golfer should always consider herself as a part of the landscape. She may play skillfully in green—she may even lead the field; but as she has been forgetful of the landscape she must be described as a failure. According to this idea, the best player on the links must be the woman dressed entirely in scarlet, and topped with a black Gainsborough hat that throws a shadow like a tree. Is this ridiculous? No, not at all. The oracle is at work: “Athletic women who love the sport for itself alone are inclined to be very careless in their dress, thinking, no doubt, that their skill offsets any deficiency in their appearance, which is a huge mistake.”

We ourselves are passionately, inveterately, fond of fashionable clothes. It is for this reason alone that we take the Providence Journal. Yet we must say that at a woman’s championship golf tournament which we attended a few years ago the most fashionably dressed players were the worst. Nor have we yet seen a woman champion attired as if bound for a fireman’s ball. The Boston [MA] Journal 5 June 1900: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The notion that the fashionable woman golfer should be ever mindful of her place in the landscape is very like one we have previously considered in a post entitled “Woman Decorative in Her Motor Car.” The author, one Emily Burbank, firmly believed that women should consider themselves as decorative accessories. In an outdoors setting, following this train of thought to its logical conclusion would require lady golfers to assume the guise of classical statuary. One conjures up mental pictures of foursomes of ladies posing like the Three Graces before the water hazards or in bathing costume in the bunkers. Enough to put anyone off their game.

Similar advice comes from a book winsomely entitled: Our Lady of the Green, A Book of Ladies’ Golf, which is dedicated to “To All Sporting and Plucky Golfers of Our Sex.”

Let us now consider the question of dress! Any great woman worthy of the name must always wish to present as neat and pleasing a dress appearance as possible. And that it is possible for women to do this and yet play golf well is clearly proved by the smart and yet business-like “turn-outs” seen at many an inter-club match, and on many a medal day.

Yet I grieve to say there are some women golfers who bring our sex into ridicule by wearing as “mannish ” clothes as possible. They are to be seen with soft hunting ties, loose red shapeless coats, and the shortest and narrowest of bicycling skirts. Why bicycling skirts for golf? the reader may be moved to ask. Why indeed! After giving the subject much thought, the only obvious explanation is, that bicycling skirts are made to open at the sides, and are thus very adaptable for side pockets. To show the use of these pockets I must endeavour to draw a thumb-nail sketch of a golfer of this description, attired in complete armour. Her hair is dragged up into a knot on the top of  her head, on to which a man’s cap is fixed “mannish” (how is not apparent); underneath is a woman, face tan-coloured from constant exposure to the elements, without any of the protection which an ordinary sailor-hat affords. A soft white hunting tie, fastened with a pin (an emblem of the game in some form or other), a loose red coat, and a narrow bicycling skirt, into the aforesaid pockets of which the wearer rams both hands when they are not required for golfing purposes; then, as a fitting climax, a pair of thick, clumsily-made boots. It is needless to add that the attitudes and manners are quite as “mannish ” as the clothes.

Now as no picture of this kind can be thoroughly appreciated without its antithesis, let me draw another. A neat sailor-hat, surmounting a head beautifully coiffured, every hair of which is in its place at the end of the round. A smart red coat, a spotless linen collar and tie, an ordinary tailor-made skirt, and a pair of well-made walking-boots with nails or Scafe’s patent soles. Our Lady of the Green, A Book of Ladies’ Golf, edited by Louie Mackern and M. Boys, (London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1899)

Mrs Daffodil grieves to find that, even today, women athletes are more often criticised for their sporting costumes (or lack thereof) than lauded for their skill.





Emperor Franz Josef and His Pleasures: 1850s


The Emperor as a preposessing young man.

The Emperor as a prepossessing young man.

In 1852, four years after his accession to the throne, the emperor was out with his gun on the outskirts of Muerzzuschlag, near Vienna, where he owned some shooting in the middle of the preserves. As was his wont, he was alone, having sent away even his bearer, to get the full egotistical enjoyment out of his favorite pursuit. In his excitement he failed to notice that he had crossed the boundaries of the imperial property. Suddenly, a few paces ahead of him, a magnificent pheasant got up. Francis Joseph took aim and was about to fire, when a loud voice broke upon his ears, “If you shoot that pheasant, I will put a charge of lead through you.”

Lowering his gun and scarlet with anger Francis Joseph asked who it was that dared to speak to him thus. “I do, my young fellow,” said a big man in shooting costume, as he emerged from the wood. Francis Joseph was on the point of revealing that he was the emperor, but restrained himself in rueful amusement at the unforeseen incident. But it was with his customary haughtiness that he replied, “What have I done wrong, my fine fellow?”

“Don’t take the trouble to be humorous, or you will tire yourself. You are shooting on my property, that is all, and you are well aware of the fact. Come now, follow me to the house, where I will write out my statement of complaint. And meanwhile give me your gun.”

“Suppose I decline?”

“If you decline, all is quite simple. You come from the imperial preserves and I shall complain to the emperor.”

Francis Joseph could not check a smile as he asked, “Are you acquainted with the emperor?”

“No, I am not, but you need not look clever. His majesty is fond of shooting and he cannot refuse to be just. He will understand my position.”

“Very well, you are right and I admit that I am to blame.” The emperor handed over his gun and followed the surly sportsman without further talk to the house, or rather the farm. Now, this country gentleman was Baron N., and in the hall they met the baroness, a sweet and gracious young lady, who, for all her fragile appearance, seemed to dominate her big, burly husband. The baron told her what had happened and led the way to his room. The young emperor assumed his most winning air, while he constrained his handsome features to wear a submissive, pleading and sorrowful look. The lady of the house was not proof against these wiles and, when Francis Joseph had extenuated his mistake saying that he had sinned through ignorance and devotion to sport, she intervened to ask that he might be forgiven. The baron held out until she begged him in a soft, musical voice not to refuse her request. Then he caught her in his arms, and in spite of her embarrassed struggles planted a sounding kiss upon her neck, and, turning to his prisoner, said with a loud, clumsy laugh, “You ought to thank heaven, young man, that the baroness presented me with a son only three weeks ago. But for that you wouldn’t get off. Shake hands now.” Francis Joseph put his hand into the baron’s great, horny fist and peace was declared. The baron proposing a drink, to show that no ill feeling remained, a move was made to the dining room. As the glasses chinked, tongues became looser, and after a long talk the emperor (who had made himself out to be an officer in the imperial guard) learning that the baptism of the son and heir was to take place in fifteen days’ time, offered to be the godfather. The offer was accepted with good will and as soon as the young sportsman had taken his departure the little house rang with praises of his genteel manners and unaffected affability. This estimate was doomed to be soon upset.

On the day of the baptism there was a gathering at the farmhouse of all of N.’s family and friends. They were waiting for the promised godfather, when, preceded by the imperial outriders, a state coach drew up at the door. The young sportsman got out in full general’s uniform, followed by two aides-de-camp, while a footman announced, “His majesty, the emperor.” The confusion of the baron and baroness can be imagined.

A very valiant youth, no doubt, but at the same time impetuous and sensual. In fact, he admired fresh, handsome women. Why not? He was young and handsome. Besides, he was the emperor. But the noble damsels resorted to all sorts of devices to escape him. Here is an example. At that time there was a very fashionable dance. First the men, that is, the emperor and the noblest lords, took their places in the chief hall with their partners, all the prettiest Contesseln, or little countesses, as they were called with an affectionate diminutive. The old dignitaries, the honest pot-bellied fathers of families, the mothers who hid their elderly bodies in vast crinolines, were all banished to adjacent rooms. Only the young people were admitted to the chief hall. Now the men grouped themselves on one side, the ladies on the other. There was a big empty space in the middle, so that the servants could draw a curtain that hung on a rope from one wall to the other at a little more than a man’s height above the floor. It was of rich red velvet, with long, gilded fringes that shivered and glittered in the splendor of the illuminations. These fringes, unlike most things in this world, were there for an object. All the girls were drawn up in a row behind the curtain and each had to show a little foot under the fringe, and one hand—I forget whether it was the right or left—had to be stretched above the rope. It was a fancy pair of feet and hands, where the men had to choose partners from those graceful indications. When all the choices had been made, the curtain fell, each claimed his partner and the dance began. Unless a foreign sovereign was among the guests, the emperor had the privilege of the first choice, and he was very keen about it, for he had to stand in the middle of the hall with his partner, while the other couples gathered around him slowly one by one. And in order that his choice might not be left entirely to blind chance, he used, if rumor may be believed, to have recourse to all sorts of strange stratagems in collusion with the venal shoemakers of Vienna. The shape or color of the shoes, some cunning innovation, an eccentric buckle, served to betray the little countesses. But they were quick enough to tumble to the game and, much craftier than he, would change their little shoes behind a door or screen, under the very nose of some fat excellency.

One evening, when the aide-de-camp came up to my young mother to command her to dance with the emperor, her father, the Count of Strachwitz, an old and very great noble, replied with firmness and dignity, “I forbid it.” And his courage was secretly admired.

Herbert Vivian, Francis Joseph and His Court, from the Memoirs of Count Roger de Resseguier, 1917

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: His Imperial Majesty was well-known for his enthusiasm for the chase. He is said to have shot more than 55,000 game animals in his 86 years. The Empreror was, of course, married to the exquisitely beautiful Elisabeth, known as Sisi. She did not care for the Emperor’s attentions, leaving him to seek solace elsewhere. Since the Emperor did not keep a game book listing his feminine conquests, we have no statistics on that point. Count Roger de Resseguier, whose mother was a lady-in-waiting at the Austrian court, waxes deeply insinuating on the topic.

The Death Bell: 1866

The Munich Leichenhaus or Waiting Mortuary, meant to prevent burial alive.

The Munich Leichenhaus or Waiting Mortuary, meant to prevent burial alive.

In some parts of Germany, such is the general dread of being buried alive that a system of precaution against this premature act is in vogue, by which more than one person has been restored to life and friends after being mourned for dead. The plan is, for the corpse to be placed in a comfortable apartment, with face uncovered, and with a cord or wire attached to the hands in such a manner that the slightest movement will cause the tinkling of a little bell in an adjoining apartment where some one is always on the watch till there are either signs of life or decomposition, to give the assurance of hopeless death. This custom has led to some striking scenes and curious revelations; and one of the most remarkable of these we are now about to put on record, as we received it, not long since, from the lips of the narrator:

“I had two bosom companions, and we three were nearly always together when our circumstances would permit. We were not alike in scarcely any particular, and for this reason, perhaps, we liked each other all the better. We differed on nearly every point in science, art, literature, philosophy, and religion, and argued every point we differed on.

“On one thing, however, we did agree, and that was, the possibility of being buried alive and the unutterable horror which must attend the subsequent consciousness of the fact. So, in health, we solemnly pledged ourselves, that if within reach of one another at the time of the supposed decease of either, the living should faithfully watch by the senseless form till the return of life or the certainty of death.

“My young friend, Adolph Hofer, was the first to go. He was a believer in the immortality of the soul, and the identity of the spirit with that occupying the mortal tenement. Of course we made our arrangements for watching the corpse according to our compact, but without the slightest hope of ever seeing another spark of life in that loved form.

“It was on the second night after the death of Hofer that Carl and I were sitting in an adjoining apartment conversing about the deceased and his religious belief. We had attached a small cord to the fingers of the corpse, and connected it to a little bell close to us, so that we could be warned of any movement, without being obliged to remain beside the body, which, for various reasons, would not have been agreeable to us.

“If Adolphe’s ideas in regard to the future state are correct,’ observed Carl, in the course of his remarks, ‘there is no certainty that he may now be with us, even in this room.’

“Yes,” returned I, “ if they are correct, Which I do not believe. When a man dies, he is dead, at least so far as this world is concerned.”

“That is your opinion, Jules,” said Carl; “but opinions don’t make facts.”

“It may fairly be presumed they are based on facts, when they cannot be reasonably controverted. If man exists after death as a roving spirit, give me some evidence of it, and then ask me to believe.”

“And what about ghosts?” said Carl, who was both skeptical and superstitious—and he glanced furtively and timidly around the room as he spoke, as if he expected to encounter some fearful apparition.

“Bah!” exclaimed I, contemptuously, “you know my opinion of ghosts and hobgoblins— that they have no existence except in the brains of timid fools.”

“At this moment we heard, or rather fancied we heard, a strange noise in the adjoining apartment.

“What is it?” inquired Carl, in a timid whisper.

“Nothing,” replied I, rousing myself, with a full determination to shake off what I conceived to be foolish fancy. “Are we men or children, to get frightened at the noise of a rat?”

“Hush! hark! I hear something still,” whispered Carl, now fairly trembling with fear.

“Then, if there is anything, we must know what it is!” said I, as I rose and took up the light for the purpose of going to look at the corpse. “Will you accompany me, or shall I go alone?”

“Carl Heilsten slowly and silently arose, as one who felt called upon to perform a fearful duty; but scarcely had he got on his feet, when the little bell connected with the dead was rung violently.

“My nervous system never received such a shock before or since. It seemed for the moment as if I was paralyzed. The light dropped from my hand and was extinguished, and great beads of perspiration stood all over me.

“But I remained inactive only for the time it would take one to count ten. Reasoning that my friend had come to life, and needed immediate assistance, I hastily procured another light; and merely glancing at Carl, who had fallen back upon his seat, white and helpless from his sudden fright, I rushed into the apartment of the corpse, expecting to find Andolphe living, if not actually sitting up or standing.

“To my utter astonishment, however, I found only the dead form of my friend— cold, rigid, motionless. There was such an inflexible look of death on his features, that I could not believe there was a single spark of life in the body, and a close examination of lips and heart proved there was none in reality. And yet the hands had been moved, and were drawn to one side, but rather as if jerked there by the bed-cord, which was hanging somewhat loose, than as if stirred by any internal power.

“But what had moved the hands and rung the bell? This was the startling mystery. The room was not large, and contained no great amount of furniture, and was easily searched. I had just passed the light under the bed and around and behind everything, when Carl, appeared at the door, pale, trembling, and covered with a cold, clammy perspiration.

“Is he alive?” he rather gasped than said.

“No,” I replied, “nor has there been any life in him since his breath went out.”

“Merciful God!” he ejaculatd, nervously grasping a chair for support—”what rung the bell, then.”

“That is the mystery I am trying to solve,” said I “It is possible there may be some person concealed here.”

“I cautiously opened the door of a long, deep closet as I spoke, in which hung the clothes of the deceased, and went in and examined it thoroughly. No other human being was there, and nothing had been disturbed. There was no outlet to the room except the door communicating with the apartment in which we had been watching, and two windows looking out upon a lawn, and the sashes were closed and the curtains drawn. showing no signs of recent disturbance. I then re-examined the room, and particularly the bed, but without making any new discovery.

“This is all very strange!” said I, half musingly, and looking inquiringly at Carl— “very strange indeed!”

“It must have been something supernatural!” he replied, in a hollow whisper, and moving over to the chest in the corner, he sank down upon it.

“As he did so, the sharp click of the spring lock caused him to bound up as if shot. For a moment or two he stood trembling, and then said with more nerve:

“I believe I am a cowardly fool, to be scared at everything! I do not fear anything human, though,” he added, “but this unearthly business unmans me.”

“I now re-examined the corpse, to be sure there were no sign of life in it, and found not only death there, but the beginning of decomposition. Perfectly assured of this, we went into the other apartment, and sat down, to watch through the remainder of the night and ponder the mystery. Scarcely were we seated before we fancied we heard dull, muffled sounds in the dead room, followed by something like a smothered human groan. Carl’s teeth now fairly chartered with terror, and I confess I never felt less courageous in my life. These strange noises only continued for a short time, then gradually died away into silence, after which we were disturbed no more.

“In the course of time our friend was buried, and some time after the funeral we proceeded to open his strong box or chest, according to his direction. Then it was that our supernatural mystery had a natural but horrible explanation:

In that chest was the black and decaying corpse of one whom we had known in life !

“The following is our conjecture:

“Cognizant of Adolphe Hofer’s money and jewels, of their place of deposit, and of our mode of watching the dead, he had, on that eventful night, entered the dead-room through a window, at an early hour, and concealed himself in the closet till midnight; and then set about his work of robbery. Some accidental noise having alarmed us, as he could tell from our conversation, he had either in his haste to secrete himself, or intentionally to frighten us still more, rung the bell in the manner stated, and then got into the chest, which had a powerful spring-lock. My friend Carl, by accidentally sitting down on this, had sealed his doom; and his subsequent groans, and terrible efforts to burst from his narrow prison, were the strange noises which had so disturbed us the second time. The man’s death was a fearful retribution, and the discovery of his dead body spoiled an otherwise wonderful ghost story.

The Vincennes [IN] Weekly Western Sun 3 November 1866

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While deploring their corseted officers and their penchant for invading Belgium and France, Mrs Daffodil must express guarded admiration for Germany’s zeal to ensure that no mistakes–such as burial alive–occur to deplete the ranks of the Fatherland’s citizenry. The London-based Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial was equally complimentary, saying that Germany and Austria were the only countries to take the peril of premature interment seriously. In point of fact, there seem to be no records of corpses actually reviving in the so-called “Waiting Mortuaries,” or “Totenhaus,” although the gases of decomposition stirred many a false alarm, but it is the thought that counts.

For more tales of the grim and grewsome, see The Victorian Book of the Dead, arriving next week. 

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 Awful Horseless-Carriage Face: 1897

The dreaded "motor-car" or "horseless-carriage" face.

The dreaded “motor-car” or “horseless-carriage” face.


Awful Visage That Will Surpass the Bicycle Face.

The “bicycle face” will now yield the palm to that awful visage known as the “horseless-carriage face.” That expression known as the “bicycle face’ is caused by anxiety, apprehension and actual dread lest the owner run over somebody.

It is brought about by anxiety lest some bad accident occur, apprehension that the rider may be the victim, and positive, downright dread that some one else may be injured. These varying and powerful emotions constantly playing upon a sympathetic soul are reflected through ocular and nervous lines in the countenance technically known as “bicycle face.” This cast of countenance, brought about by the most humane emotions of a sympathetic soul and reflected through the mirror of eyes and expression, is the opposite of that glare, soon to become known as the “horseless-carriage face.” It is as the dimpled smile of the puling infant is to the maniac’s stare.

When the modern moloch is in full operation the face of the rider undergoes an awful change. The lines of the mouth become set, rigid, immovable, and stonily grim—just the opposite of the sympathetic bicycle face, in that it reflects a determination that if anybody is killed it won’t be the owner of the ‘horseless-carriage face.” There is also a look of fear—not fear that he may run down somebody, but fear that he won’t. The eyes have a fixed and steely glare, while over the whole saturnine face is the impress of horror, a faint but ever-present shadow that shows the modern moloch is impelled to pursue his work of devastation by some potent hellish power. Once seated on this powerful engine of destruction, with a firm grip on the lever, even the fairest countenance takes on some attributes of this “horseless-carriage face.” And all else in Gotham flee for their lives. Pittsburgh Dispatch

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 14 April 1897: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: That memorable phrase, “bicycle-face,” was coined by a Dr Shadwell of London, who wrote alarmingly about the perils for lady cyclists including appendicitis, internal inflammation, heart-trouble, and—not least—the expression of anxiety and nervous tension he calls “bicycle-face.”

The condition was also termed “motor-car face” and “automobile face,” and is described vividly by French racing driver, Henri Fournier.


Henri Fournier

The most careful chauffeur cannot avoid being shocked every time he takes a spin. I do not think that any other sport known to man affords so much excitement. One needs a stout heart and a strong nervous system as well as keen eyes to indulge in this most modern pastime, for I do not believe that navigating a flying machine brings a man into contact with more perils.

The automobile face is no joke. It is the startling presentation in the human physiognomy of the record of thousands of dangers passed, or, rather, close escapes from danger. I have never been in but one accident that was really serious, and in that case we were wrecked and bruised almost before my mind had time to form a picture of what threatened us. I refer, of course, to the time when my machine was run down by a locomotive on the Long Island Railroad. \Ve were caught like animals in a trap by reason of the lack of protection at a blind grade crossing. I had barely time to whirl the steering wheel in an effort to get off the track when the engine was upon us and tossed us and the heavy machine into the adjoining field like so much chaff.

Serious as this accident was—for three of my companions were so badly mangled that they narrowly escaped death-—I still think that it did not leave so much impress on my mind and nervous system as the thousands of hairbreadth escapes through which I have been. It is the constant flirting with death that gives the automobilist his characteristic face. Strangely enough, it is not the fear of death for himself that shocks him, but the dread lest he may be the cause of death or injury to others.

When a man begins to run an automobile he is timid—that is, assuming that he is a man of sound and normal mind. Only fools do not know the meaning of the word fear. But every ride the chauffeur takes adds to his confidence in his machine as a good yachtsman is of his yacht or a cavalryman of his horse. He goes flying along the road, exhilarated with the sense of swift motion, feeling like a greyhound or a swallow in full flight. The idea that he may be hurt never occurs to him any more than it does to the greyhound or to the swallow.

Only one fear haunts him—that he may possibly run down some other vehicle or run over a pedestrian. The greatest source of danger lies in small boys at play, especially in suburban cities and the outlying districts of this city, where boys play at will about the streets with no thought of being run down.

I know of no other shock in automobiling that is equal to this. One’s heart becomes constricted by fear until it feels no bigger than a marble. Every nerve in the body seems tied in a knot. The eyes protrude and the chauffeur in his mind contemplates the awful spectacle of the mangled and bleeding little body on the dusty roadside. The chauffeur’s hand flies to cut off power, to apply the brake, to swing the reverse lever. As if by a miracle the boy escapes. The rush of air with the machine perhaps blows off his hat. He has been within one-fiftieth of a second of a horrible death.

This is the sort of experience that produces the automobile face, which the doctors are beginning to write learnedly about. Of course the constant attention one has to pay while automobiling to the road, to the machine, and all its parts, and to the distances which separate the machine from dangers of collision, must tend to produce a tension of the muscles about the eyes, the mouth and even the ears, which, upon becoming fixed, produces the characteristic automobile face. But it is the horror one feels that he may be the innocent cause of destruction to others that is the most potent factor in evolving the automobile face.

The Automotive Manufacturer Review, Vol. 43, 1901

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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


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.


“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.