The Rat in the Muff: 1891

How a Shrewd Though Youthful Shoplifter Utilized a Tame Rat.

“There have been many extraordinary stories told of the ingenuity of thieves in the pursuit of their nefarious calling, but a case which occurred while I was at Chatham recently beats anything I ever heard,” remarked a newly arrived Englishman to a Philadelphia Inquirer man.

“A girl was brought before the police court on the charge of robbing milliners’ shops. She was only fourteen years of age and of very innocent appearance. What puzzled the magistrate was that none of the witnesses ever saw her take anything, or at least they would not swear to it, although after she had left a shop where she had been making a purchase articles of value were missed.”

When arrested nothing was found upon her. The magistrate said he could not convict the girl on mere suspicion, and then began to cross-examine her himself in a kind, fatherly way which touched her heart, and she broke down and confessed that she was guilty, and explained her methods to the astonishment and amusement of the Court and spectators.

“It seems that she had a tame white rat which she carried about with her in a muff. She would enter a shop full of girls and women and ask the price of some article. and while looking at it contrive to drop the rodent on the floor.

“Any one can imagine the result. Those near the door dashed into the street, while the employees jumped on the counters and chairs, wrapping their petticoats tight round their ankles and ‘screamed like mad.’ as the prisoner expressed it, amid the laughter of the court, in spite of the assurances that the rat was quite tame.

“In the scrimmage she would quietly help herself to what she wanted, catch the rat, put it in her muff, apologize and walk off. The magistrate said that on account of her youth, and as she had voluntarily confessed to the thefts, he would give her one more chance and bound her over In the sum of  £50—$250 of your money—to come up for judgment when called upon.

“Of course her friends soon entered the required bonds and Mary Barton will have to find some other place to practise on the weakness of her sex. The tame rat dodge won’t work in Chatham any more.”

The Evening World [New York NY] 27 June 1891: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One hopes that the ingenious Mary fashioned a handsome collar from some of her spoils for her amiable pet. The poor creature is lucky there was not a mouser on the premises of the millinery and that Mary did not try loosing her pet in a bakery full of rodent-hardened men with peels.

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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Parson Patten and the Ghost: 1750s

LAYING A GHOST.

The following story of Parson Patten laying a ghost was told to Captain Grose, by the reverend gentleman himself.

A substantial farmer, married to a second wife, and who had a son grown up to man’s estate, frequently promised to take him as a partner in his farm, or, at least, to leave it to him at his decease; but having neglected to do either, on his death, his widow took possession of the lease and carried on the business, the son in vain urging the father’s promise, and requesting she should at least take him as a partner. In order to terrify his step-mother into compliance, he used to rise at midnight, and, with hideous groans, to drag the waggon chain about the yard and outhouses, circulating a report that this noise was occasioned by his father’s ghost, and that the dead man would not rest quietly in his grave till his promise to his son was fulfilled.

This was carried on for some time, till at length the widow, who had no relish for giving up any part of the farm, applied to Mr Patten (in whose parish the farm lay) for his advice, saying she would have the ghost laid in the Red Sea, if he could do it. Patten, though no believer in ghosts, resolved to turn this matter to his own advantage, and putting on a grave countenance, told her, that what she required was no small matter; that besides a good stock of courage, much learning was required to lay a ghost, as the whole form must necessarily be pronounced in Latin; wherefore he could not afford to do it under a guinea. The widow hereupon demurred for some time, but at length tired out with the freaks of the supposed ghost, who every night became more and more outrageous, agreed to pay the money. Patten, moreover, required a fire in the best parlour, two candles, and a large bowl of punch. These being all prepared, he took his post, expecting the nocturnal visitor.

The farmer’s son, who did not know the sort of man he had to deal with, thought he could frighten the parson, and accordingly at twelve began his perambulation. No sooner did Patten hear the chain and the groans, than he sallied forth, and, without any further ceremony, seized the supposed ghost by the collar, and commenced belabouring him heartily with a good oak sapling. Finding himself by no means a match for his opponent, the young farmer fell down on his knees, and confessed the contrivance; beseeching the parson, at the same time, not to expose him, nor to reveal it to his step-mother, who would have been glad of the pretence to turn him out of the house. The parson, on the young man’s promise never to disturb the house again, let him go, and undertook to settle matters with his step-mother.

Early next morning she came down, anxious to know what had passed the preceding night, when the parson, with a well-counterfeited terror in his countenance, told her he had been engaged in a terrible conflict, the deceased being one of the most obstinate and fierce spirits he had ever met with ; but that he had at length, with great difficulty and expense of Latin, laid him. “Poor wicked soul,” says he, “I forgive him; though great part of his disquiet is owing to thirty shillings of tithes of which he defrauded me, but which he desired, nay, commanded, you should pay; and on that condition only he has agreed to trouble the house no more. He does not insist on your completing his promise to his son, but wishes you would, at least, let him have a share in the farm.” To all this the woman assented, and Patten received the thirty shillings over and above the stipulated guinea.

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 146-7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Rev. Mr Thomas Patten, as another portion of the book above informs us, had been “chaplain to a man-of-war, and had contracted a kind of marine roughness from his voyages. He was of an athletic make, and had a considerable share of wit and humour, not restrained by any strict ideas of professional propriety…He had such an esteem for punch, that when his sermons were too long, someone showing him a lemon, could at any time cause him to bring his discourse to an abrupt conclusion, that he might be at liberty to adjourn to the public-house.”

The book of clerical anecdotes, Jacob Larwood, 1881: p. 61

This ingenious ornament to the C of E also lived openly with his mistress and was a terror to smugglers, especially if they did not pay tithes on their profits. He died in 1764, aged 80, to the relief of Church authorities.  He was obviously well-suited for his role as “ghost-layer.” Parsons were frequently called upon to “lay” (“exorcism” smacked too much of Papist rituals) troublesome spirits. A popular tactic was to coax, command, or conjure the spirit into a bottle, seal it, and throw it into a local pond, although it was claimed that some spirits were banished to the Red Sea. Another way to deal with a restless spirit was to put the ghost to making ropes of sand because, after all, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Irish-American Dressmaker: 1899-1909

dunlevy blue gown

A gown by Cincinnati dressmaker Anna Dunlevy, c. 1905-6 http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/collection/collections/?u=11692921

The Irish-American Dressmaker.

“The Irish-American woman dressmaker is the equal of the French man dressmaker,” said a Parisienne at a tea in New York. “Her skill amazes me. It is no wonder she gets on.

“I have traveled all over the east and in every city I have found the finest dressmaking custom quite monopolized by Irish-American women. All the really fashionable shops are conducted by Kate O’Reilly, or Madge Muldoon, or Mme. Rafferty, or a person of some such Hibernian name.

Why the Irish-American should develop in the United States such a talent for dressmaking is a thing I can’t explain. But there the thing is—you can see it plainly for yourself—and the American woman who pays Mme. Rafferty or Madge Muldoon $100 for a gown is more likely to get her money’s worth than if she bought an imported costume at twice the cost.

Miltonian [Milton PA] 26 March 1909: p. 3

IRISH DRESSMAKERS.

Skill and Taste of Women from the Green Isle.

New York women may in time go to Dublin for their fashions. as they do now to Paris and Vienna. though that time may not be in the near future. There seems to be a general feeling that for really good taste in gowns one must go to a woman who is by birth or ancestry from Erin’s sunny isle.

“There is no one who can make a gown like an Irish woman.” said a woman who knows good gowns. speaking about their making the other day. “They have perfect taste, and they seem to have a special talent for putting things together. Take some of the best modistes in New York, and you will find they are Irish. There is O’Brien– pronounced with an emphasis on the ‘O’ and none on the ‘Bri’–in Philadelphia; she is Irish. When I want a satisfactory gown made I always go to an Irish woman, if I can.”

“Come to think of it,” said another woman, “I think my dressmaker is an Irishwoman, and she certainly has a most wonderful knack. She never measures and puts down a whole lot of figures, as some dressmakers do, but she slashes out something, puts it on me, and some way it always comes out all right.

“For instance, I went to her one day and wanted something in a great hurry; could she oblige me? Yes, she would. So she got a piece of lining, looked at me, slashed away at the cloth, and in a minute or two had something that looked like the lining of a waist. These pieces she did not haste together, but pinned them on me. ‘You may come for a fitting of the bodice and skirt tomorrow,’ she said. I don’t know how she does it, but when I went the next day the bodice looked as if it was half done, and it fitted too.”–(New York Times.

The Boston [MA] Globe 4 February 1899: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil cannot explain the magical talent of the Irish-American dressmaker, especially when the newspapers were so full of condescending Irish dialect stories and jokes, as well as bitter complaints about the unreliability of Irish servant girls, invariably called “Bridget.”  Perhaps “Bridget” preferred the relative independence of dressmaking to the drudgery of the scullery.  And, had one previously been in domestic service, it must have been gratifying to have an otherwise imperious mistress quailing before the censorious eye of the dressmaker, who, after all, knew her most intimate secrets.

red velvet and lace gown

Red velvet and lace gown, c. 1906, by Cincinnati designer/maker Anna Dunlevy http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/collection/collections/?u=11692370

The gown above and the one pictured at the head of this post was by Irish-American dressmaker Anna Dunlevy, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who is described as “a highly respected and sought-after dressmaker, who employed 500 women at her peak of popularity, embraced this initiative and engaged many Irish women to create lace for some of her most sumptuous gowns.”

“By mid-1910, Irish crocheted lace from Cincinnati was considered as fine as the lace coming straight from Ireland. To this day Cincinnati is renowned for its fashion and lace made during its Golden Age from the 1870’s to the early 1920’s.” https://mgnsw.org.au/articles/nature-fashion/

Mrs Daffodil, alas, has not been able to identify the Philadelphia modiste named “O’Brien.”

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Nero’s Ghost: 1885-1905

tomb of nero Piranesi c 1745

The Tomb of Nero, Giovanni Battista Piranesi c. 1745 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-tomb-of-nero/GAE_RpRhWJ-twQ

For the Ides of March, a Roman ghost story about the notorious Emperor Nero.

The early history of [Santa Maria del Popolo] is a strange one. After the suicide of Nero in A.D. 68, the Senate expressed its loathing of his character by a decree of Memoriae damnatio, and by prohibiting his interment in the Mausoleum of Augustus, the burial-place of the Caesars. His body was therefore interred by his mistress Acte and two faithful servants in the Tomb of the Domitii on the Collis Hortulorum, or Pincian Hill. But even here the unquiet spirit of Nero found no rest. Many centuries after, the people of Rome were affrighted by shrieks as of tortured souls and ghostly apparitions, which were seen at nightfall in the woods and thickets of the Pincian slopes, so that, as the Monkish chronicler says, “No man dared pass that way for fear of what he might hap to see and hear.” In their trouble the people appealed at last to the Pope Paschal II., who was Pontiff at the time when these ghostly visitations reached their climax ; and he, advised in a dream by the Virgin herself, went in procession with all the Cardinals and Arch-priests of Rome to the haunted spot, and there, with his own hands, sawed down a certain walnut-tree, which had been the centre of the ghostly sights and sounds; this he did regardless of the demons, who with roarings like that of lions strove to terrify the holy Father. Under this tree the body of Nero was found– cause of all the hellish riot—and on this very spot Paschal II. laid the foundation of the high altar of a church dedicated to the Virgin, under the name of Santa Maria ad Portam Flaminiam.

This happened in the year 1099….

The name S. Maria del Popolo, by which this church is usually known, was given to it from the fact that it was founded to relieve the terrors of the people, and built, partly at least, by a public subscription. That the story about its origin is not a mere popular legend, but a solemnly accredited tradition of the church, is borne witness to by a large inscribed slab in the pavement of the retrochoir.

The Portfolio: An Artistic Periodical, Vol. 16, Philip Gilbert Hamerton, editor, 1885: pp. 118.

Those roaring “demons,” seem to have been an infestation of crows roosting in the walnut tree.

There, at the northern gate of the city, where the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo now stands, was once the tomb of Nero. Over it grew a great walnut-tree, and in its branches multitudes of crows were wont to caw and chatter, unmindful of the travellers who passed in and out through the gate below. In the closing days of the eleventh century, Pope Paschal the Second had a dream, which told him that these evil-omened birds were demons, waiting upon the detested spirit of the Roman emperor, who came out at night and wandered on the Pincian, attended by the unclean brood. To lay Nero’s uneasy ghost, the Pope tore down the remnants of the tomb, scattered his ashes, and built upon the spot a church to the Blessed Virgin, with money collected from the common people, hence ” del Popolo,” — of the people, — a name which has since been given to the piazza and the gate as well. But the demon crows, driven from Nero’s walnut-tree, moved higher up the Pincian, and it is supposed that Nero’s ghost still wanders here, for the crows are yet in evidence, and why should they remain if their master spirit has departed?

Rome, Vol. 1, Walter Taylor Field, 1905 : p. 27

Ms Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is, of course, the Ides of March, a day of several religious rituals for the ancient Romans and best-known for being the fateful day of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC. There is no record of Caesar haunting the site of his death or appearing to his assassins, but somehow the phrase “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” entered the lexicon as an expression of frustration.

“Great Nero’s Ghost!” might have been a more accurate catch-phrase.  The wicked Emperor Nero, whose name is a byword for the decadence and excess of the Roman Emperors, did not rest easily in his tomb. There were legends persisting for centuries that he did not, in fact commit suicide, but had fled to a far country and (like our King Arthur) return in the Empire’s time of need. He also seems to have been—and rightly so—concerned about his post-mortem reputation:

The spirits of the worst of the Roman Emperors were, as we should expect, especially restless. Pliny tells us how Fannius, who was engaged upon a Life of Nero, was warned by him of his approaching death. He was lying on his couch at dead of night with a writing-desk in front of him, when Nero came and sat down by his side, took up the first book he had written on his evil deeds, and read it through to the end; and so on with the second and the third. Then he vanished. Fannius was terrified, for he thought the vision implied that he would never get beyond the third book of his work, and this actually proved to be the case.

Greek and Roman Ghost Stories, Lacy Collison-Morley, 1912

Nero was known for his sensitivity to criticism. He had an army commander executed for imprudent remarks about the Emperor at a private party and exiled a politician who wrote a book critical of the government. And he thought highly of his own talents to the bitter end. It is said that Nero’s last words were “What an artist dies in me!”

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Madame Nordica’s Homesick Pearl: 1914

Lillian Nordica with pearls and tiara

Mme. Lillian Nordica with some of her famous pearls, and a charmingly simple tiara. http://www.lilliannordica.com/lillian-nordica

HOW NORDICA’S “RESTLESS PEARL” WON ITS WAY HOME

The Strange Story of the Famous Singer’s “Homesick” Gem, Its Curious Influence on Her Career, and the Tragedy That at Last Ended Its Wanderings.

While the body of Mme. Lillian Nordica, the greatest American prima donna, is making its way to her native country for burial a strange story precedes it. Since her lonely death at Batavia, Java, the story became current in the Dutch town in the South Seas and, passing from lip to lip, has arrived in New York. It is a tale of mystery and its chief figure is a restless yellow pearl.

The prima donna loved jewels. When she died it was found that she had collected a round million dollars’ worth of them. In her collection pearls were her favorites. The costliest and most beautiful object in her jewel box was a three-strand necklace of creamy pearls whose value is $105,000. Another and smaller necklace was of pearls, but held in the light they flung out-blueish rays. The greatest Brunhilde preferred the rich shades of the larger and more valuable necklace. It was her wont to hold these favorites of hers in the sunlight or in the strong light and exclaim: “Look at the yellow beauties!”

The singer, like Calve, loved yellow. It was the color of sunshine. It seemed to her to hold charm of life, to hold and reflect it And that was why, according to the strange story, she bought the pearl in which, this story centres.

It was a yellow pearl and was her first great jewel. She bought It in the early jewelless days while she was studying in Paris and while the world of music was waiting to be conquered by her.

It lay in a jeweler’s window In the Latin quarter, displayed at an absurdly low price. Passing the shop with another music student she saw it, lingered and admired it. Against her will it lured her within the shop. She asked to see it, and the jeweler placed it in her hand.

“Look,” she said, “it is like a great yellow eye! How can you sell anything so beautiful at that ridiculous price?”

The French shopkeeper shrugged his expressive shoulders. “It is the absurd, the ignorant superstition, mademoiselle. It has it that this pearl brings to its owner success, but with it many tears and much unrest. But of those La Belle American need not be afraid.”

“Will it bring failure?” Lillian Norton–for that was Nordica’s name–laid the pearl upon the counter and gazed at it with mingled admiration and misgivings.

“But no, mademoiselle! On the contrary, I have it from the man who sold it to me that the person who owns it will have the great success. He will grow rich and famous, but the tears and the unrest–he said he was not happy in the home. He was marrying, he said, his third wife. The others he said have parted from him in the life. He was about to marry the third and he would not have in the home a disturber. He sold me the pearl for a little less than I offer it to you, a very little less, Mademoiselle.”

“It’s like Balzac’s ‘Peau de Chagrin,’ isn’t it? But I’m not superstitious,” said the young American. “I have no husband. I have only my ambition, and if this does disturb them I shall not care.”

“He is only restless, Mademoiselle,” reiterated the shopkeeper. “He have come from the waters of Java, The natives say the deep yellow pearl is ever homesick for its native waters. It will never let its owner rest until it is back at home.”

“Some day,” said the singer, “I may restore him to his native waters.”

Laughing, she departed with the yellow, eye-like pearl.

But before she left she asked another question:

“Just where did the pearl come from?”

“From one of the atolls in the Gulf of Borneo, madame. We have traced its history. I warn madame that it is superstition but it is not happy.”

The singer laughed.

Hitherto Lillian Norton’s life had been one of poverty, of hard work, of grim determination and unflagging resolve. But she overflowed with Yankee grit Born on a farm in Maine, the granddaughter of Camp meeting John, a revivalist whose resonant notes shook woods or shores where he camped and sang of a Summer; a shopgirl in Boston until she was discovered by a vocal teacher who heard her singing as she re-arranged the goods on the counter; too poor to rent a piano, practicing with the aid of a pitch pipe for two years; three years of barnstorming, concert work, these had been her experience when she came to Paris to study and fell in with the restless pearl. But her face was turned to the East. In her soul was an unconquerable resolve.

Yet from the moment of her purchase of “the restless pearl” troubles beset her. She made her debut in a village in northern Italy and the Italians groaned at her. Bruised but not beaten she returned to Boston. Boston refrained from hisses, but not from severe criticism. To New York she went and sang in the Academy of Music. New Yorkers were a shade kinder, but they, too, lacked enthusiasm. It was far from a triumphal entry into her own country.

To Europe she returned, taking a new name to hide the old defeats. No longer was she Lillie Norton. She had become Lillian Nordica.

To Paris came Fred Gower.  Gower was a young American whom Professor Bell had sent to France to introduce his telephones A countryman told him of the struggles of a beautiful and talented young American and her mother to keep their brave heads above the waters of debt and penury while the daughter strove for grudging recognition from the arbiters of musical destinies in Europe. Fred Gower met the Widow Norton and her daughter and with the daughter he fell in love in the rash, headstrong way of his temperament.

They were married. Soon they discovered themselves to be unhappy. Friends of both diagnosed the case as one of hopeless incompatibility. The artistic temperament and the bent of the inventor and promoter formed a clashing discord.  [Gower did not want his wife on the stage and went so far as to burn some of her music and destroy some of her clothing.] The discord rent the nerves of the singer. It set the temper of the inventor and promoter out of tune. There was a rumor of continued differences, of a possible separation. But chance or fate strangely intervened.

Fred Gower was an amateur balloonist He had made several successful journeys in the upper airs. In one of these he had crossed the English Channel. Yet from the tour of the upper currents conceived and carried out at this time he never returned. The collapsed balloon was found floating in the channel.

But, as though the oracle of the restless pearl had spoken truly, triumph came soon after for the singer. She was permitted to sing at Bayreuth. She was the first of the American prima donnas to be permitted the honor. The Germans applauded her. With the stamp of German recognition upon her she went to England and sang at Covent Garden. Again success! She went to St. Petersburg and sang for the royal family. Among the million dollars worth of jewels is a bracelet presented her by the Czar. In New York, where she had been coldly received, a furore greeted her. In Boston fortune turned a full-faced smile upon her.

Still, according to the story of the restless pearl, homesick for its South Sea waters, there must be tears. They came. They followed closely upon her marriage to Zoltan Doehme, an Hungarian tenor, whom the critics appraised as “a man of moderate vocal ability, but of undoubted grace of person.” Again discord. Alienation, silence, the invocation of the law. By successive steps the pair descended from the heights of happiness.

Zoltan Doehme was a teacher as well as a singer. Geraldine Farrar was one of these who benefited by his instruction and criticism. When separation came she aligned herself with her friend, Mme. Nordica, rather than her master. Divorce followed upon eight years of the prima donna’s second marriage.

During this time of slow severance of the bonds that had been forged in love, Mme. Nordica gave her confidence to Frau Wagner’s shoulder. The widow of the German composer patted the proud head bowed upon her shoulder. “Tears.” said the widow of Wagner. “Lieber Himmel. Es ist immer dos selbe. You are like Wagner. You are a genius. He was a genius. And genius is always lonely, always dissatisfied. Their souls never rest”

There followed a period in which Mme. Nordica’s energies were focussed solely upon her art Fame followed her glorious voice, and artistic appreciation, but not always–indeed not often–peace.

Twice she severed her connection with the Metropolitan Opera House management She appeared under the direction of various managers in opera. She made long concert tours.

Five years ago she took a third husband. He was George W. Young, a banker, who had a short time previously been divorced. Nor had the courtship been a calm one. Again there were tears and unrest. The former Mrs. Young lent the element of turbulence.

After her third marriage the prima donna became interested in a method of reduction that was in vogue in France. She introduced it in America. Her own figure became girlish through the treatment. And perhaps her power of resistance was lessened.

Her last marriage would have seemed to be a haven from the turbulence of the great singer’s life. Her home crowned a hill at Ardsley on the Hudson, overlooking a wide valley and almost within sight of Harmon, where her dream, a Bayreuth of America, was beginning to become a realization. Often, standing on the veranda, her splendid eyes sweeping the soothing scene, she said: “I have come to the Peaceful Valley of my life.” It is pleasant to think of the diva at this time, to linger upon this tender phase of her turbulent existence.

Her assets were a husband to whom she was devoted and of whom she was intensely proud, a home that was a place of peace, fame that had spread round the civilized world, and the glittering mass of her million dollars worth of jewels.

Mme. Nordica’s jewels, according to careful appraisement of their value were:

1 three-strand pearl necklace of cream-colored pearls…. $150,000.

1 three-strand necklace of blueish pearls…. $100,000

1 long necklace of graduated emeralds, alternating with diamonds, with pear-shaped solitaire diamond pendant… $500,000

1 diamond necklace of graduated stones… $125.000

Earrings to match each necklace…$10,000

Bracelets and rings, chiefly set with diamonds, pearls and emeralds. $110,000

Odd pieces and uncut stones, including a curious deeply yellow pearl… $5,000.

But behold, according to the story that comes from far away Batavia, the influence of the “restless pearl.” Restless itself, it begot restlessness in its possessor. Not content with her triumphs, Mme. Nordica conceived the plan of a round-the-world tour. She would girdle the world with song, she said, then spend the remainder of her years in her peaceful valley.

Seven months ago she began her world tour. Christmas she spent aboard the vessel Tasman. Three days later in a terrific storm the vessel went ashore in the Gulf of Papua– near an atoll where pearl fishers dived! When the prima donna was rescued her nerves of steel were broken. She wept as a babe that would not be comforted. Weakened by fright and exposure to the elements, she yielded first to nervous prostration, then to pneumonia, A Dutch physician combatted her desire to continue her journey.

“But I shall go mad if I wait here,” she cried, and against his protest sailed for Batavia. There, during three weeks she seemed to regain her lost strength. Her nerves of steel were returning. But a relapse occurred. On May tenth she died on a stormy night far from her peaceful valley.

When an inventory of her belongings was taken before the body started its long homeward journey. May 17, most of the million dollars worth of jewels were found. But the yellow pearl was missing.

Those who accompanied her and who had been, at her bedside at Thursday Island, remembered seeing it. It had lain on the stand beside her bed. Its rich color she said comforted and cheered her. It had been among her effects when she sailed for Batavia. But when the life force passed from the majestic Brunhilde, the yellow pearl vanished. Was it stolen by a pilfering servant? Had some unguessed power replaced it in its native waters?

Whatever it may be according to the Batavian legend the restless pearl is at last, like its owner, at rest.  Homesick, it had found its home.

The Austin [TX] American 14 June 1914: p. 24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is a pity that Madame could not have simply dropped the petulant pearl overboard, recovered her health, and finished her world tour in peace.  Let this be a cautionary tale for those who would disregard knowledgeable jewellers’ warnings about unhappy pearls….

Despite the idyllic “peaceful valley” picture painted above, her marriage with her third husband, Mr George Young, seems to have been as unhappy as those with her first two spouses.  She pointedly mentioned a sum of $400,000 she had already given Young in the will disinheriting him, which she made shortly before her death.

Despite her lack of marital success, Mme. Nordica attracted jewels from admirers all over the globe, such as this diamond tiara, the gift of New York opera-goers.

madame nordica's american tiara 1896

Madame Nordica’s American Tiara

The diamond tiara that is to be presented to Madame Nordica on the opening of the brief spring season of opera is now on exhibition at Tiffany’s.

Although it is a particularly beautiful jewel, of exquisite workmanship, I fancy Madame Nordica will value it less than the roll of parchment that accompanies it, on which are inscribed the names of the people who have chosen this way of showing their appreciation and pride of the American woman who, through indomitable pluck and courage and the hardest kind of study, has made herself the greatest lyric artist on the stage of the world to-day.

As each subscription was limited to ten dollars, several hundred names appear on the artistically-illumined roll of parchment.

Mrs Astor’s name heads the list and is followed by the names of Mrs. Vanderbilt, Mrs. George Henry Warren, Mrs. Ogden Goelet, Mrs. Belmont, Mrs. Henry Sloane, Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, Mrs. George De Forrest, Mrs. Elisha Dyer, Mrs. Gambril, Mrs. Kernochan, Mrs.Havemeyer, James Otis, Mrs, Cooper Hewitt, Peter Marie, Mrs. Townsend Burden, Mrs. Orme Wilson, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Buchanan Winthop–in short, everybody who is known in the social and artistic world seemed so delighted to send their subscriptions that the office of treasurer of the fund, held by Mr. Otis, made that gentleman a very busy man.

The Illustrated American, Vol. 19 4 April 1896: p. 481

Given Mme. Nordica’s initial cool reception in New York, this little diamond tribute must have been most gratifying to the prima donna.

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Shoe Clock: 1925

shoe clock 1922 Washington Times 23 July p 25

Seven o’clock is breakfast hour and means mules fashioned from soft, red leather.

Eight o’clock is hiking time and time to wear high-laced cordovan boots.

Nine o’clock and the morning’s canter to show the English riding boots.

Ten o’clock marks the beginning of golf, best played in gray and white leather sport shoes.

Eleven o’clock brought a hurried trip up town and the white linen, black leather-trimmed oxfords just matched a black voile frock.

Twelve o’clock is luncheon time, so white embroidered slippers were chosen to accompany a maize linen dress.

One o’clock on a cool day suggested a dark crepe dress and black patent slippers with a pleasing cut pattern on the toe and instep.

Two o’clock and afternoon bridge. Pink chiffon frock and dainty white kid slippers with the popular instep strap.

Three o’clock is reception hour. White kid slipper with unusual trimming in patent black leather made quite a hit.

Four o’clock is the hour for garden parties and white kid French shoes with cuff of green leather and bow of white ribbon were as cool as the garden.

Five o’clock–tea at the hotel–drooping black hat–lace gown and snappiest of footwear in black patent slippers with rosettes of ribbon and beads.

Six o’clock–time to dress for dinner and theater and dance–time to don brocaded slippers of silver brocade.

The Washington [DC] Times 23 July 1922: p. 25

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Frankly, Mrs Daffodil does not know even quick-change artistes who wear this many outfits in a day.

Mrs Daffodil would add just a few more to the list of essential footwear:

1 a.m.–feet slipped from silver brocade evening slippers under the night-club or supper-room table–swollen from a riotous evening of dancing.

2 a.m.–gum-shoes for lady cat-burglars or those hoping to avoid awkward questions from waiting parents or spouses.

3 a.m.–comfy woolen bed-socks to send one quickly off to slumberland, so one can rise for a hearty breakfast around noon. The red leather mules will then be deployed, while the hiking boots and riding boots are shoved under the bed or to the back of the wardrobe. Eight o’clock “hiking time?” One thinks not.

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Inconsolable French Widow: 1890

1890 mourning fashion plate

THE INCONSOLABLE WIDOW *

IN THE MONCEAU PARK DISTRICT.

Time, 2 P.M. Place, a small room next to madame’s bedroom. Madame’s husband has died during the night, and early in the morning madame summoned, by numerous telegrams, the various persons who appear. She has not obtained her mourning, and wears an old evening dress of black satin embroidered with jet, with a waist improvised out of a black lace scarf. Everything is indifferent to her. She is cast down. She speaks in sighs, replies in onomatopes; but she was so much attached to her husband and their married life was so exemplary that she wishes to give him a splendid funeral. She undertakes the whole business herself. In spite of her grief she accepts the services of nobody, but decides to attend to the whole affair.

The Widow [stretched upon a long chair supported by numerous cushions, to the dressmaker. She is hardly audible; her voice is like one long wail]—Whatever you wish and anything you wish. You know better than I do what I want. Only I would like to have one of the dresses as soon as possible; say to-morrow morning. I can’t bear to see myself in this one. The last time that I wore it [she sobs] it was at the bal de l’Opera with my poor husband. [She takes her pocket handkerchief and wipes her eyes.] We had dined with the Lalgarades, and we decided to go to the bal de l’Opera. I even had on this mantilla. Now, won’t you let me have the dress to-morrow morning?

The Young Person from the Dressmaker—Certainly, madame. We can try on the corsage this evening.

The Widow—I don’t feel strong enough for that. It will fit well enough.

The Person from the Dressmaker [after a few moments’ hesitation]—How about the sleeves? Shall they be tight-fitting or wide? [Seeing that she does [not reply.] The sleeves ?

The Widow—Ah, yes, the sleeves. [She sighs.] He couldn’t bear to see me with leg-of-mutton sleeves. Everything you do will be well done, provided I haven’t got to trouble myself with it.

The Person from the Dressmaker—We might be able to follow the last measurements in the dress vieux paon that fitted so well.

The Widow [with a far-off look in her eyes]—The-dress vieux paon. ’ [old peacock]

[Enter the waitingmaid. The Young Person from the dressmaker retires]

The Waitingmaid—They have sent from the liveryman. The messenger wishes to know if madame can receive him.

The Widow—Let all the persons to whom I have sent telegrams this morning come in. It isn’t M. Mulhtropcher?

The Waitingmaid—No, madame, it is one of the employees of his house.

The Widow—Let him come in. I am glad it is not Mulhtropcher. I prefer to speak to people who have not known my poor husband. .

[Enter the employee of Mulhtropcher.]

The Person from the Liveryman—Madame—

The Widow—Are the carriages at your place?

The Person from the Liveryman—They have just arrived. We will drape the coupé for the day after to-morrow.

The Widow—I know nothing of what is done, and I must depend entirely upon you. You prefer the coupé to the landau? He liked the landau so much; it was after his design.

The Person from the Liveryman—The coupé should follow. It is the vehicle that is used.

The Widow—He never went into it. He detested to be shut up. Nothing but the most abominable weather could induce him to return with me from the opera. He only liked his phaeton. You will have very thick crape upon the lanterns, will you not, so that the lights can scarcely be visible?

The Person from the Liveryman—Can we not also put crape inside on the windows? That is very much the fashion in England now.

The Widow—Crape inside on the windows? Oh, certainly, then we won’t have to meddle with the blinds. I like that better. I must say that I have always been shocked at seeing a carriage with the blinds lowered following a hearse.

The Person from the Liveryman—We can also drape the inside of the carriages with black satin.

The Widow—Can you have it finished day after to-morrow?

The Person from the Liveryman—Certainly, madame. We will only attend to the draping. Plain black satin. The interior of the carriage seen through the crape on the windows makes an extraordinary effect.

[The employee salutes profoundly and retires. The waitingmaid brings in another person who looks more like an attaché of the English Embassy than the clerk of a great livery-tailor’s establishment.]

The Widow—Monsieur—

The Person from Mr. Sutton—Madame, I have come from Mr. Sutton.

The Widow—I want to ask what I ought to do for the liveries during my mourning, and for the funeral of my husband.

The Person from Mr. Sutton—For the coachman, a black overcoat and black trousers. For the others, the coat, waistcoat, trousers black, white cravats.

The Widow—But during the first year?

The Person from Mr. Sutton—Trousers black and cravat white. Aiglets in black linen. Powder can only be resumed at the end of the year, when they put on white gloves.

The Widow—Then for the ceremony black gloves of course? Glossed or plain?

The Person from Mr. Sutton—Glossed. The family only wear black suede.

The Widow—Please be good enough to arrange with the coachman and my steward.

[The person from Mr. Sutton retires. The waitingmaid ushers in another gentleman, completely dressed in black with a great overcoat, eminently appropriate.]

The Widow [recognizing her picture framer]—It is you, yourself! You have learned of the misfortune that has fallen upon me, and I requested you to come to me. It will be necessary to wrap the large portrait of my husband by Bonnat in a veil of crape, quite simple, as simple as possible.

Picture Framer—With a few bouquets of immortelles?

The Widow—Oh, no! No immortelles; there would be too much of Victor Hugo about that. I will have at the foot of the portrait a large cushion, the full length of the frame, and a phoenix at the right and left. It will also be necessary to remove the two or three water-colors, you know; the large one which is over the piano especially. They are a little too cheerful. I was at a funeral lately, and in the house everybody was looking at the picture of a little woman, completely naked, getting carried up into the clouds by a big, savage butterfly. You will put the water-colors in the little room, which will be closed after to-morrow. I will only keep open the drawing-room salon and the gallery.

Picture Framer—Madame also spoke about a frame.

The Widow—In a few days. You will go to Mr. X. [She dries her eyes.] He is making a sketch of my poor husband. You can arrange with him.

[The picture framer retires. The waitingmaid brings in one of the workmen from madame’s shoemaker.]

The Widow [to the waitingmaid]—-Bring down two pairs of shoes; the last that they made for me. [To the shoemaker.] I must have a pair of shoes immediately. I have no mourning shoes. Dark kid, eh?

The Person from the Shoemaker—Oh, no, madame. For heavy mourning we only employ dark suede.

The Widow—Very well, dark suede. You will also please blacken the soles. I know nothing so ugly or so shocking as to see yellow soles when one is in heavy mourning with one’s feet on the cushions. [The waitingmaid comes back with two little pairs of shoes in her hand.] You will perform the same operation for- these two pairs. [The shoemaker goes out. Enter the corset maker.]

The Person from the Corset Maker—I beg a thousand pardons, madame, for being late, but at the present moment Madame Leoty is absent, and I have to take her place. I have come to say to madame how much we feel—I telegraphed immediately to madame—madame needs something.

The Widow—I want one corset immediately. You can make the others at leisure. I haven’t one suitable at present. Of course, it must be black. I would wish to have a plain, dull stuff, and above all things no satin, nothing that is loud. It is so troublesome to hear the noise of the new corset when one is weeping.

The Person from the Corset Maker—Yes, madame, I understand perfectly, and I will put in it, as we always do, little pieces of elastic for sobs.

[She retires and the maid comes back.]

The Widow—What is it now?

The Waitingmaid—Madame, it is the photographer. He is here with his apparatus. Shall I show him into monsieur’s room?

The Widow—Tell him to come and speak to me. I have not the courage to go into the room of my poor husband. I would be afraid to trouble Mr. X., who has been kind enough to let me have a last souvenir

[Enter the photographer.]

The Widow—Monsieur, they will conduct you into the room of my husband. You will find Mr. X. there at his bedside. I want you to catch the last impression of his features for me. I am very much obliged to Mr. Nadar. I know that this is altogether outside of the usage of his house.

The Person from Mr. Nadar—He places himself entirely at your disposal.

The Widow—I would wish a few proofs. The bust, natural size, for the family, and then the others smaller, and the bed complete. When the drawing of Mr. X. is finished, I will want you to photograph that also, very pale.

The Person from Mr. Nadar—A proof upon ivory?

The Widow—Just so. My maid will now show you the room while there is still light.

[The photographer retires.]

The Widow—I’m completely exhausted! One could not imagine all that there is to do! [She uses her little flask of lavender salts. There is a knock.] Who is there?

The Waitingmaid—Madame, it is the rector’s assistant. He says that madame wrote to the rector.

The Widow—I wrote to the rector? Do you remember that I sent a dispatch to the rector? Ask him to come up. My poor husband often said to me, “If I die before you, neither the march of Chopin nor the air of Stradella.”

[Enter the assistant minister.]

The Person from the Rector—Madame.

The Widow—Monsieur, be good enough to sit down. I am so sorry for having troubled you. It was to the organist, rather, that I had to speak.

The Person from the Rector—Madame, if I could…

The Widow—You will see him before the ceremony?

The Person from the Rector—I will see him at once. He is at this moment in the church, where the artists of the opera who are to sing at the service are rehearsing.

The Widow—I will be extremely obliged to you if you will tell him not to play Chopin’s funeral march nor to have the air of Stradella sung. My poor husband could not bear them. He made me promise

The Person from the Rector—Nothing easier. We can replace the march of Chopin by that of Beethoven.

The Widow—Neither could he bear that. He was an officer, and every time that one of his comrades was buried…

The Person from the Rector—Generally these marches…

The Widow—That’s just the reason.

The Person from the Rector—We have a religious march of Ambrose Thomas, less known, but which pleases generally.

The Widow—Ambrose Thomas was his bête noir. He only came in time for the ballet of “Hamlet,” and, indeed, very often we gave up our box at the opera. [After a moment’s reflection.] There was one thing that he adored, and that is the march which is found in the “Wanderer” of Schubert.

The Person from the Rector—? ? ? ? ?

The Widow—You don’t know it! It is magnificent. I have it here in the volume of Peters. [She rises and goes over to the music case.] Here it is. You will show it to the organist. As it is very short, he can, by seeing it beforehand, make a paraphrase. [She hunts through the volume, turns down a leaf, and hands the book to the abbé.]

The Person from the Rector—As for Pie Jesu, to replace the air of Stradella, which is certainly a little known, we have some from Faure.

The Widow—From Faure! My dear sir, what did my poor husband ever do to you? That would be a posthumous penance, and altogether too severe. [She considers for a moment.] What he adored above all things was the Danse Macabre, the Adieux de l’ hȏtesse Arabe, by Bizet. He was never tired of hearing it. Every time that I went to the piano the hȏtesse Arabe and Carmen were his two passions. Of course, I know that for a Pie Jesu—say to your organist that I will depend upon him. But nothing from Thomas or Faure. In old music let him search through Mozart or Berlioz, Schuman or Wagner. Of course, you understand, Monsieur l’Abbé, that at such a moment as this…

The Person from the Rector [rising and carrying off the volume of Peters]—Madame, I will communicate your instructions.

The Widow—Accept all my apologies for the trouble I have put you to. [He retires] That is an inspiration from heaven. Just fancy if they had played the march from Chopin and sung the air of Stradella!

[The Waitingmaid enters.]

The Widow—What is it now?

[The waitingmaid, seeing madame in tears, does not dare to speak.]

The Widow—What do you want?

The Waitingmaid [still embarrassed]—They have sent from the undertaker. The employee says that madame wrote this morning to come without delay.

The Widow—Oh, yes. Let him come up. Haven’t they also sent from the florist’s?

The Waitingmaid—Yes, madame; the messenger is below, and is also waiting.

The Widow—There is not enough light. Bring the lamps, and let them come up.

The Waitingmaid—Both together?

The Widow—Yes, I have to speak to them together. I wonder why I did not receive a reply to the dispatches which I sent to Cannes and to Trouville. [Enter the florist and a young man sent from the undertaker.]

The Widow [to the waitingmaid]—Are there no dispatches?

The Waitingmaid—There are so many that I didn’t dare…

The Widow—Bring them to me. I am expecting two. [To the florist.] Have you received my dispatch? You will have time enough. It is for the day after to-morrow.

The Person from the Florist [taking a dispatch from his pocket-book]—Seventeen crowns.

The Widow—Yes, each servant must send a crown. They will charge them to me, but each servant and the porters must send crowns. Of course they must not all be alike.

The Florist—Tea roses and marguerites. Marguerites among the tea roses. [The waitingmaid brings in the dispatches to her mistress, who reads them with emotion.]

The Widow—Ah! here is the reply from Cannes. The gardener of my villa telegraphs to me that the mimosas are in blossom. Therefore you need not put in any mimosas. I will have an enormous crown of them sent by my people, and on a ribbon, printed in silver, the words: “To Our Excellent Master.” [She reads another dispatch] This is from my villa at Trouville. They will also send me a crown of hortensias and gloires de Dijon. That will make nineteen crowns, two of them of extraordinary size sent by Cannes and Trouville. How will you manage to carry them?

The Person from the Undertaker—We must have wagons. We generally count six crowns for a wagon, but as those from Cannes and Trouville will be enormous we can put them in two little separate wagons.

The Widow-—And the wagons, how are they to be?

The Person from the Undertaker——Quite simple, draped in black; upon the hearse one cross, from you, about as long as [The widow weeps.] All in mauve orchids.

[The waitingmaid brings in another dispatch. The widow reads it and bursts into tears.]

The Widow—The stearine factories send me their condolences and announce the coming on the day after to-morrow of two deputations from the establishments and two immense crowns, to be carried by twelve of the oldest employees [she weeps], and the other by twenty-four [she sobs]—little orphans. The engineers will also send their private crowns. I think about a dozen wagons—don’t you think so, sir?

The Person from the Undertaker—There will be time enough if madame…

The Widow [to the florist]—Won’t you be kind enough to look into the glass house and see if there are two phoenixes fine enough to place before the portrait of my husband, on each side of the cushion of violets? If not, you can send me two to-morrow, and as high as possible; won’t you, please? [The two gentlemen go out. The widow again takes the dispatch sent from the factory, and again reads it attentively. It is 7 o’clock.]

The Chambermaid [entering] — Madame, Miss Camilla wishes to know if she can present her respects to madame. It was impossible for her to come sooner.

The Widow—Let her come in. I can’t understand why I’m not dead. [The young person enters.]

The Young Person from the fancy linen store—Desiring to come myself and personally tell you how much my mistress is concerned for the trouble which has come upon you

The Widow—It is dreadful. Nobody could have foreseen such a catastrophe. I haven’t energy enough for anything. You have received my note? You will send what I will need for to-morrow; you know what I want better than I do.

The Young Person—Precisely, but I wish to ask…

The Widow—To ask me anything! Everything that you do will be done well. I have absolutely nothing to put on in the matter of mourning linen.

The Young Person—It is already ordered. Everything will be in black cambric, with a little Chantilly lace, very simple and no higher than that.

The Widow—But the ribbons—Bear in mind that I must not have anything loud.

The Young Person—All the ribbons for heavy mourning are in peau de soie. [After a moment’s hesitation.] Now for the linen for half-mourning? Madame would do well to look out for that beforehand.

The Widow—The half-mourning! How can you speak to me of half-mourning? Can I ever quit the deep mourning of misfortune? [She weeps.]

The Young Person—I know it, madame; I never had a doubt of it; but I have not succeeded in making myself understood. I mean the linen for half-mourning that is worn after the first six months. It is in white cambric with a Chantilly border. If I spoke of it to madame it was because the work is so delicate, and in order to have it done as I would wish to have it done for madame it would take at least six months. I hope you will pardon me.

The Widow—I can count upon a dozen or two of pocket handkerchiefs for to-morrow?

The Young Person—Certainly, madame, you will have a dozen to-morrow morning; we will work all night. [She salutes and retires.]

The Widow [alone]—Who next? I’m dead! It seems to me that I have something else. Oh! my goodness, what was I going to do? [She gets up and runs to the writing table.] I forgot to notify the Grandmenils of the death of my husband. I gave them my box for this evening, and now they might easily suppose that I only gave it to them because my husband was dead. Seven o’clock! Well, a messenger must carry it. [She writes.]

The Footman enters—Madame, dinner is now ready.

The Widow [without turning round and continuing her writing]—I will be down in a moment. I’m writing a letter. Tell monsieur to commence without me.

[The footman remains nailed to the floor. Madame, becoming aware of her absent-mindedness, falls back on her chair, bursts into tears, then takes the photograph of her husband, before her in a little frame, and covers it with kisses.]

[* La Vie Parisienne: N. Y. Sun Translation.]

The Sun [New York NY] 16 November 1890: p. 26

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil would not dare to add anything to this exhaustive look at French mourning customs. Whenever she is asked about Queen Victoria’s responsibility for excesses in Victorian mourning minutiae, Mrs Daffodil simply directs the questioner across the Channel.

For more on the popular and material culture of Victorian mourning, see The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available in a Kindle edition  and The Victorian Book of the Dead blog.

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.