Mrs Daffodil Takes a Holiday


Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Materialising Flower Apports

Corsets and Beer Wagons: Floral Vulgarities

Animal Likenesses in Flowers

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with opulent picnic hampers and minimal insect accompaniment.

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.


Decoration Day: 1870

Orphans Decorating Their Fathers' Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, on Decoration Day, 1876 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Orphans Decorating Their Fathers’ Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, on Decoration Day, 1876 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

A little Indiana girl on Decoration Day strewed flowers on the grave of a Confederate. A little friend reminding her that it was a rebel’s grave, she replied: “Yes, I know it; but my pa was a soldier and died in Libby prison and is buried down South. I so much hope some little girl there will strew flowers on his grave, I thought I would bring these and put them on the rebels’ graves. Maybe some of them have little girls at home, you know.”

New Philadelphia Ohio Democrat July 8, 1870: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Before the American holiday became “Memorial Day,” it was called “Decoration Day,” and was a day for decking the graves of those who died in the service of their country. In some parts of the United States Union and Confederate sympathisers each had separate Decoration Days.

Of course, to-day in the States, it marks the beginning of summer holidays and is celebrated with parades, barbeques, and a motor-car race held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mrs Daffodil rather wistfully hopes that there will be a moment of silence to remember the honoured dead.

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.


Volunteer Nurses in the Great War: 1914

nurses uniforms

The fashionable women of England are very anxious to help. At least they say they are, and never would we doubt a lady’s word. But their good intentions are thwarted on every side. Lord Kitchener does not want them as nurses. He says he prefers nuns, presumably because they have no matrimonial ambitions, and it is said that he went himself to a nunnery — fancy Lord Kitchener in a nunnery — in order to arrange matters. Doubtless Lord Kitchener has painful memories of the Boer War, where the lady helpers proved such a nuisance that he classed them with the flies as among the unbearable plagues of camp life.

But the ladies who stayed at home were nearly as bad. They, too, felt the enthusiasm of action, and so they made presents for the troops at the front. All kinds of presents, such as ladies make for each other at Christmas time and such as they give to their long-suffering male friends, who say things and throw the gifts away. They made candy boxes for them embroidered with pretty sentiments. They made night-shirt covers and pillow-cases and cigarette cases. They made collar-boxes and brush bags. Heaven only knows what became of all this truck. Presumably it was burned, but it was all innocent enough in comparison with the activities of the ladies who went to the front as nurses under the conviction that nursing meant bathing the brows of handsome young officers and writing letters for them to their mothers.

It is said that a good many of the volunteer nurses in the present war have expressed a preference for the nursing of officers and were thereupon requested to go home and stay there.

The French army allows no nurses at the front except nuns, who can be relied upon for the absolute and unswerving performance of duty and for an absence of the hysterias that so often afflict their more worldly sisters.

These nuns go to the firing line and show themselves as indifferent to bullets as the soldiers themselves. But the aristocratic French ladies are allowed to meet the wounded on their arrival in Paris and to offer their ministrations under the strict supervision of medical officers. And they show themselves as willing enough to do whatever is necessary, whether it be washing, scrubbing, or cooking.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 5 December 1914

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While there were many unsung heroines among volunteer nurses, those who had spent much time at the Front reported encountering too many “heroines” who sang their own praises:

My own latest experience was with an American woman of awful vulgarity. I asked her if she was busy, like everyone else in this place, and she said: “No. I was suffering from a nervous breakdown, so I came out here. What is your war is my peace, and I now sleep like a baby.” I want adjectives! How is one to describe the people who come for one brief visit to the station or hospital with an intense conviction that they and they only feel the suffering or even notice the wants of the men. Some are good workers. Others I call “This-poor-fellow-has-had-none.” Nurses may have been up all night, doctors may be worked off their feet, seven hundred men may have passed through the station, all wounded and all fed, but when our visitors arrive they discover that “This poor fellow has had none,” and firmly, and with a high sense of duty and of their own efficiency, they make the thing known.

No one else has heard a man shouting for water; no one else knows that a man wants soup. The man may have appendicitis, or colitis, or pancreatitis, or he may have been shot through the lungs or the abdomen. It doesn’t matter. The casual visitor knows he has been neglected, and she says so, and quite indiscriminately she fills everyone up with soup. Only she is tender-hearted. Only she could never really be hardened by being a nurse. She seizes a little cup, stoops over a man gracefully, and raises his head. Then she wants things passed to her, and someone must help her, and someone must listen to what she has to say. She feeds one man in half an hour, and goes away horrified at the way things are done. Fortunately these people never stay for long.

My War Experiences in Two Continents, Sarah Macnaughtan, 1919

In pre-Revolutionary Russia, too, Society Nurses were a problem. Grand Duke Nicholai had a solution.

In Russia, as in other countries, there were many women who, not appreciating the character of the services required, and merely from a shallow emotionalism, volunteered as nurses, more for the purpose of wearing the uniform and talking of what they were doing than because they sincerely wanted to help. They volunteered without knowing what they were expected to do, without any knowledge of nursing save that the Russian nurse’s headdress is becoming to almost any type of beauty.

A bevy of these women offered their services to the Grand Duke. He needed nurses, and he needed many nurses, but he wanted nurses, not society women who thought it would be interesting and romantic to hold the hand of a suffering soldier but had no idea of scrubbing floors or of sanitation or of all the hundreds of things nurses, and especially a war nurse, must know. So the Grand Duke told one detachment of them to come to a certain place where he would meet them and assign them to their duties.

They came, a fluttering lot of amateur ministering angels, and presented themselves as directed. The Grand Duke looked them over. There were about a hundred in the lot. He lined them up and made a speech to them.

“Ladies,” he said, “I appreciate, and so do my soldiers, and so does our country, the patriotic and heroic impulse that has caused you to offer yourselves as nurses. We need nurses. This war is very terrible and there is much suffering to be alleviated. I shall be glad of your services.”

The ladies all fluttered and were so glad and so interested and so anxious to go right into the hospital and make things easier for the poor, dear soldiers.

“But,” continued the Grand Duke, “in nursing, as in every other line of service, there are several divisions of labor. For example, we have officers to nurse and we have private soldiers to nurse. Now, of course, you ladies will have a preference. So I shall allow you to make your choice. All those of you who would prefer to nurse officers will please step over to this side, and those of you who are willing to nurse the private soldier will please step over to this side. I leave the choice to you. Of course it will be pleasanter, perhaps, to nurse the officers than the common soldiers but the common soldiers must be nursed too, you understand. Those who prefer to nurse officers on this side, if you please, and those on this side who are willing to go into the wards where the private soldiers are placed.”

The ladies divided themselves. All but about twenty of them thought that it would be much nicer and more interesting to serve their country by nursing handsome officers rather than peasants who were privates. But twenty said that they were willing to nurse the private soldiers, the peasants who had been wounded.

Whereupon the Grand Duke bundled back to Petrograd the ladies who wanted to nurse officers, and kept the twenty who really had a sincere desire to do something more for their country than wear a becoming headdress and sit about the cafes in it. That is a sample of the way the Grand Duke does things.

History of the World War, Frank H. Simonds, 1918

Despite the plague of titled lady nurses, there were a good many stately homes opened as hospitals and convalescent homes for the troops. See this delightful post, with its anecdote of the Duchess of Westminster and her way of “doing her bit” for the men in uniform.

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 Undertaker’s Story: A Gothic Narrative: 1886


Artwork by Jessica Wiesel

Mrs Daffodil was interested to read that 22 May was denominated “World Goth Day,” celebrating “Goth Music and Culture. It was pleasing to think that these plucky opponents of the Roman Empire were at last going to get their own gala day. Alas! On further investigation, Mrs Daffodil’s hopes were dashed to find not Visigoths, but vampires celebrating a festival of kohl, black tulle,  and misery. Not quite the sacking of Rome for which one had longed… But never mind. It furnishes Mrs Daffodil an excuse to share this gripping Gothic tale of terror.


Perhaps I am more sensitive to the horrible than most of my fellow-men—am, in fact, more easily wrought upon. At all events, I have fancied that at times, when I have been telling this experience of mine, I could detect certain indications that some of my hearers were of that opinion; but I have not yet so far failed in charity as to wish any of these scoffers put to a similar test.

I had run over to Paris, had spent a couple of weeks in that bright city, and was on my way home again. I took a night train from Dover to London, and in the compartment which I occupied there was but one other passenger—a sharp, intelligent-looking man, with a very grave face. We got into conversation after traveling more than half the distance in that silence which is invariably adopted by Englishmen when they meet. After discussing general subjects, a remark of my companion’s led me to say that he seemed to have had a very wide experience and among nearly all classes of society.

“Yes,” he answered, slowly, and with a marked hesitation. “Yes, I am an undertaker. I have had a good deal of experience, and I have had my share, I think, of remarkable adventures. I never take this ride from Dover to London without a very painful recollection of one such.”

We had still nearly a half-hour’s ride before us, and his manner, as much as his words, roused my interest. “Do you care to tell it?” I asked. A quick, involuntary shudder gave to his voice a slight tremor, as he answered:

“I wish I could keep from thinking of it, but I might as well tell it as sit here quaking in silence over the awful memory of it.” He paused a moment, drew a long, shuddering breath, and then he commenced:

“A little over a year ago what I am about to relate happened to me. I had established a very good business, chiefly among the upper class of tradespeople—though, of course, I did not decline any call upon me that promised a reasonable profit. I received one day a telegraphic dispatch from Paris, asking me to take charge of a dead body that was to be sent from Paris to London for burial. I was to meet it at Dover on the arrival of the night-boat from Calais, and make all the arrangements for its further transportation by rail, and I was referred to a well-known banker as security for my expenses.

“This looked like good business, so I lost no time in getting the necessary permits, and went to Dover in the evening. I had some details to attend to there, in order that everything might be in readiness and no time lost after the boat arrived. Then I had nothing to do but wait. I sat up reading to keep myself awake.

“It was a beautiful, still night in the late fall, with an almost full moon, I remember; and the boat got in to time. I received the box containing the body, and saw it placed in one of the luggage-vans of the train, and in due course arrived with it at Victoria Station. One of my wagons was there, waiting to take the body to my place, where I was instructed to keep it until the next morning, when the proper parties would call to make arrangements about the burial.

“So far, of course, there was nothing specially remarkable about the affair. It is a little unusual in such cases not to find some one connected with the deceased accompanying the body; but I hardly gave that matter a second thought. I had no doubt but that the right persons would appear later in the day.

“When I got to my shop it still lacked about two hours of daylight, and, as I felt no slight responsibility, I didn’t think of going home, but made myself as comfortable as possible in my office for the rest of the night. You must bear in mind that all the sleep I had secured was a broken, uneasy slumber on the journey from Dover to London, and when I went to sleep in my chair, after stirring the fire into a blaze, I slept very soundly—very soundly, that is, for awhile, for it was still dark when I woke up in a sudden and startling way.

“Have you ever wondered,” the undertaker asked, turning his eyes full upon mine for the first time since he had begun his story, “what mysterious influence that is which makes you feel another presence in the same room as yourself, though you hear no one and see no one? It’s a queer feeling at any time, but I don’t know of any occasion when it can seem more queer and awful than when it comes to a man locked up in the dead of night, with nothing but black plumes and grave-clothes and palls and coffins about him.”

He turned his eyes to the floor again, and a cold tremor crept through my own flesh in the brief and ominous pause he made before he went on, in a lower voice:

“That was the feeling I had when I suddenly woke from sound sleep to full consciousness with a chilling shudder of horror. I was sitting before the fireplace, with my back to the door that led from the office to the shop. I had purposely left the door ajar. The fire had died down to a dull glow, and it seemed to me that a breath from the Arctic Zone had penetrated the room. I cannot describe the kind of cold it was. My very bones seemed to be ice. And then I felt that presence!”

The undertaker seemed terribly affected even now by his recollections of that night. It was impossible to resist the infection, and my own flesh was creeping in a very uncomfortable way. He made a strong effort to recover himself and to steady his voice, but, in spite of all, it trembled with an ever-deepening terror as he went on, curdling my very blood in sympathy.

“I had turned the gas out when I sat down in my chair to sleep, so that the only light in the room came from the dying fire. I became aware of that presence the very instant I awoke. Mind, sir, this is not a dream. I was as fully awake as I am at this moment. The thing was there! It was at the back of me. It was between me and the door. I had got to turn my head to see it. But I knew it was there! Who it was, or what it was, I didn’t know; but I was sure that some living thing was standing behind me motionless in the dim, ghostly light, and was looking at me. My God, sir! it was awful to sit still and feel this thing, and try to make up my mind to turn my head toward it! I am pretty well accustomed to corpses, but I can tell you that I did not feel just then that the corpse out in the other room was any company for me.

“Well, there I sat—feeling that horrible gaze fixed upon me in the utter silence, and the deathlike cold creeping through my veins—striving, struggling to nerve myself to look around and to face the thing, whatever it was.

“Were you ever locked up in a tomb at night?” the undertaker suddenly asked me. I could only shake my head in response; I could not speak.

“I have been,” he said, ” but it was nothing— nothing to those few minutes, while I sat palsied with terror, with that thing behind me! At last, in a kind of nervous spasm, I sprang to my feet, and turned toward the door. The sight froze me! There is no other word for it—I was rigid. I could no more stir than I could arrest the motion of this train now and instantly. My very heart stopped its beating. I wonder I didn’t drop dead myself, for there—not six feet from me—with the livid pallor of death on its face, and its glassy eyes glued to mine, stood the corpse!

“Then it began to approach me. It did not seem to walk—it glided, and not till it reached me did it make a single apparent movement.

“Then—just stand up, will you? I can illustrate better what occurred.”

I did so, and he arose at the same time, and we stood facing each other in the compartment. I was dimly conscious at the moment that we were crossing Battersea Bridge. The undertaker, as he went on, repeated upon me the actions he described.

“Then this dead thing,” he said to me. “slowly lifted its arms and laid its icy lingers on my cheeks and moved them gently downward to my shoulders, pressing hard against me all the time on either side, as I do now on you, and wherever the hands lay they seemed to draw the very life out of the flesh beneath them. Slowly—oh! how slowly—they glided on downward from my shoulders to my breast, beneath my coat, like this. Try to conceive it —try, if you can. Wherever they touched they drew something away from me—some virtue seemed to go out of me. And then the frightful thought came to me that I was dying by piecemeal!—that I was parting with something dear to me as life—bit by bit I could feel it ebbing— ebbing, and at last the horror grew to a conviction. This ghoul was drawing my life’s blood into his own veins! was sucking my substance! What I lost he gained! He enriched himself by making me poor, and it would end—”

“Victoria!” shouted a guard, opening the carriage-door.

“Bless my soul!” exclaimed the undertaker, “are we in? I must hurry to catch my train out.” He seized his satchel, and was on the step before I could get my breath to say, “But the story! I want to hear the end of it.”

He was on the platform now. “Oh! there isn’t much more,” he called back. “The ghoul succeeded—that’s all!”—and he was gone before I could say another word.

As I followed a porter to a cab, and all the way home, I tried to conceive what the undertaker could mean. How could the dead man have succeeded? Here the undertaker was alive and well, and telling me the story. It was very annoying and disappointing to be so baulked, after being so wrought upon. The undertaker had left me no address, so that I was, apparently, doomed never to know the solution.

Only “apparently,” however. When I got out of the cab at my own door I could find no loose change to pay the driver—yet I had some when I took that train at Dover; my well-furnished pocket-book—though that, too, I had at Dover—was gone as well; and my watch and chain had followed suit.

It is painful to lose confidence in human nature in this way.

Arthur’s Home Magazine, 1886

For “The Countess Elga,” an authenticated vampire story, see this link over at the Haunted Ohio books 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.


His Personal Tailor: 1891

Robert de Montesquiou, by Boldini

Robert de Montesquiou, by Boldini

The Peculiar and Novel Fad Indulged in by a Young New Yorker.

New York, Aug. 18. Probably no British prince ever yet had a private tailor; therefore, the distinction of being the first gentleman of fashion to indulge in the luxury falls upon a young member of the Fifth Avenue Club. There is no doubt that the youth is quite the best dressed man in New York. He has that reputation among his friends, all of whom give more attention to their clothes than to any other factor of life. It is well known, for the young man himself has confessed it, that he designs his own garments in water colors after the fashion of theatrical costumes. It is his method to take the latest styles from London and modify or accentuate them to satisfy his better taste. It has always been, so he states, a very harassing thing to have tailors disappoint him in carrying out his painted designs, and he was extremely melancholy over it until, a few months ago while in London, he was introduced for the first time to a young cutter who made for him the very best suit he ever had on.

So delighted was he that he tested the young man on several of his most elaborate designs, and so successful was the workman in each instance that the New Yorker resolved to possess him for his personal use. He found that the young cutter received about $20 a week. He offered nearly double that amount to him to go to New York, and the Englishman jumped at the chance. Now the cutter is luxuriously situated in a fashionable youth’s house, a privileged employe, who does nothing but carrying out the designs of his master. It is the latter’s intention to send his tailor to Europe twice a year in order to be thoroughly in touch with the modes of the passing seasons, and though his friends offer fabulous sums to secure the services of the private artisan, the latter may not enrapture them with his faultless workmanship, for it is in the contract with his master that he shall under no consideration wield the shears for the aggrandizement of any outsider.

Boston [MA] Daily Advertiser 19 August 1891: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a pity that the Boston newspaper was so discreet. One longs to know the name of this water-colouring fashion adept as well as the subsequent career of the young tailor. The nineteenth century was rife with dueling dandies, whose sartorial excesses and numbers of trunks upon arriving at a hotel were widely reported. In Europe, Robert de Montesquiou (seen at the head of this post) was the exquisite, par excellence. In the States Waldere Kirk and E. Berry Wall (“The Human Fashion-plate”) vied for the title of “The King of the Dudes.”  Wall was known to wear corsets so that he might present a flawlessly tailored silhouette.

As for no British Prince having his own private tailor, the Prince Regent, later King George IV, would have found the notion risible. Here is a fascinating blog about Louis Bazalgette, “Prinny’s tailor” for over three decades, written by M. Bazalgette’s great-great-great-great-grandson.

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 Hired Boy’s Ghost: 1830s

ghostly head at foot of the bed


[The following true and interesting account of a ghostly manifestation reaches us from a lady correspondent who says: ‘The person who saw the ghost is closely related to me. He is bedridden now but often speaks of the occurrence. —Ed.  Light.]

I am an old man now, but never while I have my senses shall I forget what happened while I lived, when a boy, with a farmer at Little Steeping, a village about three miles from Spilsby. The house was old and rambling, with latticed windows, so green with age and scratched that one could hardly see through them. My bedroom was over the kitchen and nowhere but the kitchen could I get to from it. I generally went to bed at half-past eight; but one night, when the farmer and his wife had gone to a meeting at the chapel, I sat up longer than usual to prevent the girl from feeling lonely during their absence, and as soon as they returned I hurried off to bed, and after locking and bolting the doors they too retired. Generally I was asleep almost as soon as my head was on the pillow, but this night I was still wide awake after I had been in bed about an hour.

The moon shone full on the window, rendering my little box and the few articles of furniture in the room quite visible. Suddenly I heard footsteps on the causeway and expected to hear a knock at the door. However, to my astonishment, the door, which I knew had been locked and bolted, opened, and someone entered the kitchen. After a few seconds I heard sounds as though the new-comer was washing at the sink; then I heard sounds as of steps going across the kitchen floor, a chair being dragged to the table, and someone partaking of supper. After some minutes the chair was moved to the fireside, followed by noises as if shoes were being kicked off against a fender. Then there was silence, during which I sat up in bed listening and staring, and expecting I knew not what.

In the floor of my bedroom, about a yard from the bed, was a small knot hole, by peeping through which I could see all that was going on below. I crept to the place and was pulling aside the carpet that was over the hole, when suddenly it occurred to me that whoever was in the kitchen he was doing exactly as I had done that night, and all other nights since I had lived there, and somehow the thought made me feel sick and faint. I let the carpet fall over the aperture and crept away to bed again. No sooner had I done so, however, than I again heard movements below, and, to my horror, a creeping, creaking sound on the stairs.

The unknown visitor was coming up to my room. On he came until he was by the side of the bed, and seemed to be tearing off his clothes. That finished, he walked to the window and stood for a few minutes looking out. I could see him quite plainly outlined against the window, and he appeared to be a lad about my own height, only thinner. I was extra strong and big for my age. I felt as if I should choke and could neither move nor cry out, my terror was so great, for, young and inexperienced as I was, I felt he was no being of flesh and blood.

After he had stood a little while he turned and made his way to the bed again, and seemed to jump in and place himself by my side. That was too much for me and I fainted. When I came to I lifted myself on my elbows in the bed, half expecting I should see him by my side, or somewhere in the room, but he had gone without leaving any trace behind him to show that he had ever been; while I, too terrified to go downstairs or to close my eyes in sleep, lay trembling until morning dawned.

At breakfast time I told the farmer and his wife what I had seen and how terrified I had been, but they were a hard, unfeeling pair, and only made game of me, saying that I had either had the nightmare or had seen a white owl fly past the window; but I knew different, and I believe they did also before the day was over, though they never, either then or afterwards, owned that they did.

Just as we were sitting down to dinner a neighbour came rushing in with the intelligence that he had just heard that the lad who had lived at the farm the year before, whose place I then filled, had been delivering coals the day before, and when nearing home late in the evening his horses had bolted, and while endeavouring to stop them he had been knocked down and killed on the spot. I could eat no dinner that day, for besides feeling sorry for the poor boy, I felt that it was his spirit that had so terrified me in the silent night.

I did not tell the farmer all that was in my mind respecting the occurrence, as I did not relish being made game of twice in one day, but I told him that I would not sleep over the kitchen any more. As he did not want me to leave him, it was arranged that either he or the mistress should remain in the kitchen and keep watch. This they did for several nights, and as nothing occurred to disturb either me or them, I soon became my old fearless self, going to bed after a hard day’s work and falling asleep as soon as my head rested on the pillow—but I did not forget, I could not.

Light 14 May 1910: p. 229

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: From conversations with that ghostly expert over at Haunted Ohio Books, Mrs Daffodil gathers that it is not unusual for the spirit of someone newly dead to return to a familiar place, as if they are lost and seeking their bearings before they can “move on.” In this case, it seemed as though the new hired boy was invisible to the ghost, who was merely going about his business as he had formerly done. But why did the unfortunate young man, so recently deceased, not seek his new home? Perhaps sudden death is so disorienting that one clutches at any familiar straw.

Still, if the dead can appear anywhere—and Mrs Daffodil has read accounts of persons in India and other remote localities, appearing to their relations in England, as if to prepare them for the fatal black-bordered letter—why do they not go somewhere pleasanter—the Lake District or the South of France, for example?

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 Bar-Maid Show: 1871

The Bar Maid

The Bar Maid


The Great National Exhibition at Woolwich.

Women on Show—Tapsters Selecting Their Help—How it is Done

[Correspondence of the New York Herald.]

London, September 20. John Bull is never truly, absolutely and irredeemably ridiculous and beastly save when he sets about enjoying himself. Just now he is enjoying himself near London on the occasion given by the shrewd keeper of a gin-mill, who gathers grist to the said mill by a “barmaid show,” which is greater than the dog show or the cat show, or even all the baby shows together.


Is an institution in London. Boniface discovered it, reared it tenderly and now regards it with the warmest affection. The barmaid of the nineteenth century, as seen in London, is, in one sense, the most attractive of women. Gay, affable, well-looking, dressed like a lady and bejeweled like a Duchess, she listens to the silliest stuff with the sweetest grace and prattles suggestive nonsense to every man in her dominion. In the bygone days when sand glistened on the floor and men ate furtively in gloomy boxes, when the waiter was a bully and the landlord eyed every visitor with suspicion, there was still some comfort in the thought that freedom might be regained on the threshold. Far otherwise is it now. You may be able to withstand the works of art that fill the awkward corners of the room; you may not care to gaze on the pictorial ferocities that glare on you from every side; you may resist the agile suavity of the flames, but there is no escape form the lady at the bar. Here young Rusticus is spellbound. Here the cosmopolitan lingers in easy satisfaction. Here the swift-going city man can spare five minutes. And when departure is made of all the glories of the place, the one feature not soon forgotten is that pretty, saucy, civil, bedizened designer who made every man think himself the favorite. Like most attractions in this world, one little maid must not be looked at too closely.


Is a smile less pleasing because it has a professional universality? You must remember that it does not pretend to be other than it is. You see half a hundred men enjoying the same favor, and if you don’t like it the fact argues your own susceptibility and proves the potency of the charm; and this is the very result for which mine host has bargained.


He sought out this little lady from a hundred others who sent him their “Cartes de visite,” a hundred letters of recommendation and a hundred hymns of self-praise, couched in very bad English and lamentably deficient in orthography. I have heard of landlords who submitted a score of portraits to their best customers, and their verdict decided the competition. I have head of customers who sought ingratiation into favor by pleading that they voted for the lady and won her the appointment after a most exciting contest. Doubtless something of this kind will be rife in London the next week or two. Of course you have heard of the fourteen-day contest which we have had at Woolwich.


It has been of far more national import than the sanguinary contest at Aldershot, and has not cost a millionth part of the money. The attendance of the public has been greater and their satisfaction far more intense. You can always calculate on English happiness wherever you give physical delights. Give them plenty to eat and drink and dance and sing, and when all is over feed them again and you must succeed. This is just what the originator of the great barmaid contest proposed to himself to do, and in some sort he has done it. He advertised for fifty barmaids who had been twelve months engaged in smiling; who could show their aptitude for business by receipts of custom; who were prepared to be stared at by whatever man might find eighteen pence for railway fare and as much else as they liked to spend; who by attire, courtesy and all the other harmless blandishments might succeed in filling the money-box, and go home contented with a £20 watch and the chance of a three weeks ovation. I don’t know


When there is no barmaid contest, and even with it I don’t think anybody was ever there twice. It is distressingly dreary and ugly beyond description. In such a place the gardens must be the universal resort. There is a feeble attempt at beauty all over those two acres. At night the trees are illuminated with tawdry-colored little pots, which dimly reflect the asthmatic light afforded by murky lamps. There are strange appliances for testing the biceps; there are swings in which you find the London girl whirling irrespective of effect; there are little lakes with sham ships which are set on fire every night, and a sham city in the background which is stormed on special occasions and taken with great eclat. But there are three places to which all comers invariably betake themselves: The dance board, the ballroom and the maze…I betook myself to


I saw a young lady at every bar, looking as beautiful as paint and powder could make her. Now smiling, now looking sad, suggesting to you how neglected you were. The tall ones walking up and down, the short ones sitting on high chairs—all intent on making you captive and snatching the voting paper which you carried in your hand. I have often observed how sheepishly men look when they find a hundred female eyes upon them. Here, in this room, the men all hung about the door. They had paid sixpence to come in, and yet could get no further. One gentleman I noticed—tall, self-possessed, wholly unconcerned. He stayed not a moment at the door, swept the room at a glance and sauntered on. Everybody envied his nonchalance and wondered admiringly as he looked from one competitor to the other, took all their invitations as matters of course and smoked with gentle benignity. Whether the honor of the English nation was deemed to be endangered by the stranger I cannot say, but very soon a small band of half a dozen ventured on a march. I glided in the rear.


Very soon a maiden nodded to me with a gayety that nothing but acquaintance could justify. I felt certain I did not know a woman in England, but there was no mistake about this business. She hailed me and held out her hand, and now I saw one of my graces of the maze. Here was I entrapped at the very start. How could I refuse my vote? And yet I didn’t care for painted women. Retreat I felt would be mean, and unconditional surrender the veriest cowardice. I looked furtively around and spied the other creation of the toilet table, and responded boldly to the challenge. I then found that the room was getting to be crowded and I was getting to be courageous. I kept my vote until I saw every maid in the room, and I kept I even after that. I listened to the braying of the band, and saw the mob getting into sling. How they danced and whirled, and jumped and fell, and jostled, was astonishing enough until I saw how they consumed meat and drink.


Was engaged in when they were free from the uproarious hurly-burly which they call callisthenic exercise. And then it was that I discovered the commercial cunning of the gentlemen who contrived the rout. For six hours there was nothing other thought of but drinking and dancing. The receipts must have been enormous. Everybody was too happy to be critical, and votes were given with the most reckless profusion. But all must catch the 12 o’clock train, and such a bundle of


I never saw in my life. Here were all the barmaids, in all their paint and silks and satins and jewels, jumbled up with noisy tipsters and over-fed young blades and girls of the period, and waiters and fiddlers, and dandies, and city clerks, and tourists and what not. And in this chaos of community they come to London and get home somehow; and for the majority the thing is done, not to be repeated. But for the maids they go on for fourteen days, seeing this, always and nothing other ever, and, of course, preserving womanly feeling and cherishing womanly honor, and looking for homage and getting it from every addle-pated fool with half a crown in his pocket. I don’t know that among the signs of the times a great proof of national degradation is to be found than such a show of women as I beheld at Woolwich.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 12 November 1871: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This was not, as one might suppose, from the tut-tutting, the only bar-maid contest held, either at Woolwich or elsewhere. (They were frequently advertised in connection with Beautiful Baby Contests.) The latest example one can find was held in 1889.

Mrs Daffodil is uncertain as to whether the fastidious narrator above was more appalled by the painted and powdered bar-maids or by their oglers. Such a “contest” seemed to arouse not only the voyeur—journalists seemed to emphasise that point—but also the moralists’ ire.



In his last London letter to the New York Mail, Justin McCarthy has the following paragraphs:

You have baby shows in the States, I believe? Did we borrow the idea from you? But did you ever have a bar-maid show? We have one here just now, at the North Woolwich Gardens, a sort of lower-class Cremorne. There is an exhibition of bar-maids—a competition of bar-maids—and the award of prizes to the best and the prettiest. I don’t know who the judges are, by whom this modern British version of the judgment of Paris is to be carried out, and I should not care to make their acquaintance.

The whole thing is disgraceful to us. It is a vulgar and brutal piece of business, with a flavor of lewdness under the vulgarity. The British bar-maid is a peculiar sort of person. She is plump, pretty, pert and supercilious, and rude to the general public, but full of smiles and smirks and winks for the Champagne Charleys who flirt with her, call her by her Christian name, address her as my dear, pay her coarse compliments on her good looks, and chuck her under the chin when opportunity offers. One can easily imagine what a Bar-maid Show will be, and what class of man will be there to see, and what kind of criticism he will indulge in.

I think the British snob who flirts with bar-maids is the very vulgarest human creature in existence. I think the British bar-maid is often perhaps a much better, purer girl than she seems or than her admirers appear to consider her.

But a show of bar-maids to a mob of grinning Champagne Charleys is an exhibition which does little credit to London civilization. I only know of one other species of feminine show which can follow this without proving an anticlimax, and that I suppose will come next.

The Urbana [OH] Union 6 December 1871: p. 1

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.