The Pets’ Christmas: 1901-1915

PETS HAVE HIGH JINKS

Lamb Chops, Carrots, and Bottle Flies hang on Christmas Tree.

Chicago. On the Christmas tree hung four luscious lamb chops.

Near the top were eight fine, big blue bottle flies, each impaled deftly on a pin thrust through red tissue paper.

Two luscious carrots dangled by red ribbons, knotted into holly, from a lower branch.

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Crane fluttered about like flustered mamma and excited dad at a daughter’s coming-out party.

The tree was lighted; Mrs. Crane’s four chameleons executed deep courtesies; Dick, who was the guest of honor, barked a tiny squeak of appreciation, and the pets’ Christmas tree party was on.

Dick, be it known, is the Belgian griffon owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Grossmith. Vernon Castle, a brother of Mrs. Grossmith, solemnly baptized the dog a year ago, and has been Dick’s patron, so that these social affairs are somewhat boresome to him.

But Mrs. Crane’s chameleons’ party was not boresome. The chameleons feasted off the flies caught by café busboys at $1 per catch. Dick engaged the lamb chops in deadly encounter, and two mere rabbits, called in at the last minute by the resourceful Mrs. Crane when she received the regrets of George Arliss’ English bulldog, served their turn as “social fillers,” and munched the carrots. The Washington [DC] Post 29 December 1915: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously written on entertainments for favoured felines. With the approach of the winter festivals, naturally every dog must have his holiday.  Recently at the shops, Mrs Daffodil observed a department lavishly furnished with toys and gifts for pets, as well as special wrapping papers, decorations, costumes, and greeting cards designed with Our Furry Friends in mind.  One would imagine that our households were stocked with nothing but royal Corgis.

Mrs Daffodil is in favour of kindness to our animal companions, but draws the line at purchasing blue-bottle flies at premium prices. A saucer of sugar-water in the stables would produce as many choice specimens as desired. But perhaps these were pedigreed chameleons requiring a special diet.

Some other examples of celebrating with pets:

CHRISTMAS TREE FOR PET DOGS.

It was Laden With All Possible Canine Delicacies.

Baltimore, Dec. 26. A Christmas tree laden with sausages, ham bones, juicy chicken and other delicacies that would appeal to the taste of a dog was the novel holiday feature for the benefit of pet dogs on the estate of Miss Nannie Sloan, a well-known member of society. Miss Sloan has a beautiful country residence at Fairlee, near Lutherville, with O.B. Magrader, the manager of the place.

The tree was decorated with the usual trimmings, and the three pets, a greyhound, a fox terrier, and a pug, were taken to the room where the tree had been prepared and in a little while they were having the time of their lives. The dogs jumped after the various delicacies, much to the amusement of the spectators, and the event was voted a success. Wilkes-Barre [PA] Times 26 December 1906: p. 5

One imagines the tree did not long remain upright. The Queen of Servia’s dogs were more disciplined;

CHRISTMAS FOR DOGS

The Queen of Servia has a Christmas tree for her dogs. On it are placed those delicacies dearest to the canine heart. The animals are trained to take off these dainty morsels in an orderly manner, and at the Christmas ceremony itself the Queen and her friends attend to witness the proceedings. The Enquirer [Cincinnati OH] 22 December 1901: p. 2

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 Sybaritic Sentries: 1870s

happy-santa-claus-1915

THE SYBARITIC SENTRIES.

Raymond P. Sanford, a robust and healthy undergraduate of Cornell, lives for scientific purposes on 85 cents a week, his food, including buttermilk, lentils, peanuts, raisins, cabbage, peppers, oatmeal and apples.

“I thrive on this fare,” Mr. Sanford said the other day in Ithaca. “I admit, however, that to stick to it takes will power. I have to govern my sybaritic propensities. I must not imitate the young sentries.

“There was once a Christmas masquerade ball, you know, and a squad of young sentries stood guard out in the snow.

“Well, as the ball progressed, the conduct of a certain guest, disguised as a Santa Claus, astonished and perplexed everybody. This Santa Claus would dance with the prettiest women for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then, hurrying to the buffet, he would drink a bottle of champagne, and eat lobster salad, ices, caviar sandwiches, truffled turkey—everything in sight.

The host, after several hours of such gluttonous and intemperate conduct on the part of the Santa Claus guest, conferred with his butler, and to his amazement learned that the offender had, by actual computation, devoured forty sandwiches, sixty ices and eight quarts of lobster salad, while he had drunk thirty-one bottles of champagne and ninety glasses of punch.

“It seemed incredible! Yet there he was, as vigorous and fresh and sober as ever, now whispering compliments in a pretty matron’s ear, now rushing to the buffet for more wine and more lobster.

Puzzled and vexed, the host took Santa Claus by the arm and led him into a recess.

“’Show me your invitation card,’ he said.

But Santa Claus had none.

“Then unmask.”

“Dolefully the spurious guest obeyed.

“’Why, you’re one of the sentries!’

“’Yes, sir.’

“He was, indeed, one of the sentries—one of the squad of sentries stationed outside in the snow.

“These young men had hired a cheap Santa Claus make-up, and, donning it one by one, had each enjoyed a brief but delightful share of the Christmas festivities—the dancing and lobster and champagne in the ballroom.”

Idaho Statesman [Boise, ID] 31 December 1912: . 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil knows a great many mauve-faced Colonels who have grown old and sportive on a diet of lobster salad and champagne. Were Mrs Daffodil to serve lentils and buttermilk here at the Hall, there would be mutiny, if not outright murder. And what is Christmas without its Groaning Festal Board, its smoking roast beef and flaming plum pudding?

The young Mr Sanford received much coverage in the press for his scientific experiment in domestic economy. One suspects that he did not understand the difference between a moral recommendation and an amusing anecdote told over port and cigars. Mrs Daffodil observes that the freshman-ascetic (who, frankly, one cannot imagine having any sybaritic propensities whatsoever) later became a minister and was zealous in the cause of social justice. He had originally enrolled in Cornell as a student of agriculture; perhaps the fasting inspired him to a higher calling, although someone has to grow those lentils and cabbages.

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 Will and the Ghost: 1876

Death and the Lawyer

Death and the Lawyer

STORY OF A WILL.

I recently asked an old lawyer’s opinion of ghosts. The result was as follows:

“Do I believe in spirits? Well, yes, when they are contained in bottles and come from a well-known firm. But ghosts! Why! Do you think I am a Spiritualist? Nonsense!”

“So you don’t believe in ghosts and spooks? You have never had any remarkable experience?”
“Hold on there! Now that you seem determined that I shall commit myself, and probably having heard that I have a ghost story to tell, I will satisfy you; but let me remark before commencing that the story I am about to tell is God’s truth and as such must be received. Scoff at it but once, and I shall stop in the middle of my story.

“Yes, I do believe in ghosts, or, at least, in some strange natural phenomena that the world has called ghostly for the last eighteen hundred years or more. Now, listen:

“It was in the latter part of 1876 that I undertook a case for a young woman. It was for a divorce.

“She was the daughter of my aged client, Dr. Baxter, a man who could have raised $500,000 in hard cash inside of twenty-four hours.

“The case was somewhat remarkable. Annie Baxter had married a stockbroker, named Thomas Thorne, against her father’s wishes.

“Her husband, she soon discovered, had married her chiefly for what he could get out of her father, who, he hoped, would soon get over his displeasure and forgive his daughter’s disobedience; but the old doctor was stubborn and did not relent. He refused to see Annie and forbade the mention of her name by any of his household.

“Thorne, on finding that he could not get hold of any of the doctor’s money, soon tired of Annie; and Annie, who had been a spoiled and petted child, brought up in the lap of luxury, became miserable and in want. But she stood her sorrows with heroism, and not a complaint escaped her till Thorne began to drink and gamble, at times not returning for weeks to his home, and then under the influence of liquor.

“She was obliged to earn her own living, and when her child was born she had to go to one of our large free hospitals for care and attention. It is doubtful if her father would have let her go had he known her condition, for he still loved his daughter; but she did not let him know, and one day while making his rounds in the maternity ward of the B. Hospital, to which he was a physician, his attention was called to a woman who had fainted. He went to her bedside. It was Annie, his daughter, who, not expecting to see him, had been greatly shocked. She did not know of his connection with the hospital.

“The doctor’s kind heart was softened at once. He was greatly moved. He had her carried in an ambulance to her old home under his roof. He had forgiven her.

“Just about this time Thorne was arrested in a bad house, where he was raising a row, and sent to prison for six weeks. Annie then placed her petition for divorce in my hands, and my connection with the case commenced.

“The divorce was obtained with ease, as Thorne made no answer to the complaint and the case was perfectly clear in our favor.

“Now begins the ghostly part. Dr. Baxter owned a small yacht, in which he was accustomed to make short excursions about New York Bay and Long Island Sound. On the last excursion of any kind he ever made the yacht capsized in a squall, and the doctor was drowned, everyone else being rescued alive.

“After the funeral the doctor’s will was looked for. It was known that he had made a will at the time of Annie’s marriage, leaving all his property to his sister on the condition that Annie could have $600 a year from the estate during her life.

“After father and daughter became reconciled he told me he intended to make a new will and leave his property chiefly to her, but the only will that could be found after his death was the former, and his sister, Mrs. J., refused to waive her rights under the will in the least. By my advice, Annie asked her to make her a proper compromise, but she refused to do anything more than stand by the will.

“Almost a year passed away, when one day I received a note from Annie asking me to call on her at the Gilsey House, where she was staying a few days, on business of the utmost importance. On going there she told me a strange story, so strange that I feared she had lost her mental balance, but I saw she was perfectly earnest about it.

“’A few nights ago,’ said she, ‘while I was sitting with my little boy by the fire in my room, at about 10 o’clock in the evening, there being no other light than that of the fire in the room, I heard a strange noise. Then the door opened—and closed. I looked around, much surprised at receiving such a late visitor, especially as he came without knocking. But my first surprise was lost in the terror and dismay that came over me as I saw enter and approach my chair—who do you think? My father! Or his ghost!

“’As I knew he had been dead over a year, you may imagine my feelings. He came direct towards me, casting his ulster overcoat off on a chair, as he used to do when he came home late.

“ ‘”Annie,” said he, putting his hand on my head and stroking my hair, “I have come to see you righted. You are suffering from a most unnatural fraud and crime. You aunt stole my last will. As I had promised you, I made you my heir—and my only heir—and the will was drawn by my own hand, and executed three months before I died.

“'”Your aunt, in whom I firmly believed, was one of the witnesses. Dr. R., who went to China before my death, and is there still, was another. I am determined to see you have your rights, though I am no longer in the flesh, and be assured that I can see you through.

“'”The lost will is in your aunt’s bureau drawer in her bedroom, on the second floor of our old house. The ebony bureau. You will find the will under the paper on the bottom of the drawer. And this is the way for you to obtain it.

“'”Go to your lawyer and tell him what I have told you. Ask him to go with you to call on your aunt. As usual she will receive you kindly. She will be in the library. Go at about dusk on Wednesday evening, the 10th, and while she is talking to you I will appear and carry out the rest of the plan.”

“’Then the doctor put on his coat again and kissed my baby and myself in the most affectionate manner—quite as though he were alive—and started to go, but before he had reached the door his form melted into air and shadow. He had disappeared.’

“On hearing this strange ghost story I sat still for a few moments and reflected; then I resolved to see it through.

“Accordingly, on Wednesday, at the time indicated I found myself sitting with Annie Thorne in her aunt’s library. Her aunt was very kind and genial, but did not offer to have the gas lighted—perhaps she thought we would stay longer. We talked about having the $600 annuity cashed; such we pretended was the object of our visit. At last the old lady said:

“’We may as well have a light; don’t you think so?’

“’No, I don’t!’ said a solemn and familiar voice, and a dusky form crossed the room and stood before the grate fire; remarkable to say, the firelight shone sheer through his legs. I felt my hair raise. I was greatly frightened.

“As to the old lady, she gave a wild shriek and sank back in her chair. ‘Della,’ said the ghost, for such it surely was, ‘stop your nonsense! Are you not ashamed to treat my child as you have done? Here you have disturbed my rest in my grave by your dishonesty.’

“By this time the ghost had walked out into the middle of the room, where he could be seen pretty well by the firelight. The form and face were perfect. It was Dr. Baxter, beyond doubt.

“’Woman,’ said he, continuing his speech, and now, pointing his long, bony finger at the old lady, ‘had you not gold enough without taking Annie’s birthright? Get up and come with us!’

“So saying, he motioned me to open the door, which I did. Then leading, he made us all follow him upstairs; or, rather, he drew us along by some strange, magnetic force until we reached the door of the chamber occupied by the old lady.

“Here he stopped and, addressing her, said:

“’Della, open that door!’  She obeyed at once. We all entered.

“’Now, get that lost will of mine out of your drawer at once and give it to the lawyer, Mr. C.’

“Strange to say, she went at once to her bureau drawer, and, after raising things about a little, brought out the will and handed it to me.

“’Now, Mr. C.’ said the ghost, ‘make out an affidavit that this will, having been mislaid, has just by chance been found.’

“I did so as best I could in the semi-darkness.

“’Della, sign that paper,’ said the ghost, ‘and to-morrow you will swear before a notary that it is true, or I will go there with you and make you do so later on. That is all for the present,’ said the ghost, and we all returned to the library.

“When we reached there the ghost was gone, no one knew where. The old lady was so much horrified that she fainted, and we left her in the care of her servants. We had recovered the lost will.

“To establish the validity of the will was not difficult, and Mrs. Thorne was soon in possession of her rights.

“Such is my story and I again affirm that it is true. The names are changed to avoid offense to the persons who figured in the story, which is the only change made.

Evansville [IN] Courier and Press 25 December 1889: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so enjoy a happy ending. Where there is a will, there is a way.  And we are all grateful to the author for sharing this  salutary example of the fundamental errors made by an amateur for whom the kindliest descriptor would be “bungling.”  The will should have been destroyed without delay; preferably burnt without a trace and the ashes beaten to pieces with the poker. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. One really cannot fathom what Mrs J. was thinking to leave the will at the bottom of the drawer—and just beneath the lining paper where a child could have discovered it.  Most discreditable. Mrs J. should carefully reconsider her ambitions for a criminal career.

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 Snake Garter: 1897

This was sold as a bracelet, but one wonders if it was a garter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397161260861916692/

This was sold as a bracelet, but one wonders if it was a garter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397161260861916692/

THE SNAKE GARTER

Strange Fad Adopted by the Society Girls of New York

Snake-lovers are becoming constantly more numerous among women who are at leisure to have fads. The newest manifestation of the strange fancy for serpents is the snake garter, which recently made its first appearance in Paris, and which was sketched for the New York World immediately upon its arrival in this country. A counterpart of this not altogether attractive ornament was first made to gratify the whim of a well-known society woman in Paris. Accident disclosed its possession to one of her friends, who was so delighted with it that the secret of the caprice was soon an open one.

Snake garters were many in Paris the next week. The garter is usually made of gold fibers, cleverly knit together so that the whole is made perfectly flexible. It is long enough to coil twice around the leg just below the knee, and is sufficiently elastic to retain its position.

The snake garter is freed from much of the horror naturally attached to it by the elaborate decorations which accompany it. The head is a knob of jewels of various colors, and a line of tiny diamonds runs from the head to the extreme tip of the tail.

Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 14 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil really does not understand the appeal of reptilian fashion. The average lady would scream or faint in horror and dismay if a genuine snake were to be found writhing about her leg.  Yet we are expected to believe that a bit of plaited gold tinsel and some tawdry gemstones will cause sensibly snake-averse persons to disregard the revulsion they naturally feel for the species and eagerly embrace ophidian accessories more suited to a lady snake-charmer.

Mrs Daffodil has written before about the garter-mounted pocket-book and garter-flask. There were an infinite number of novelties among these nether necessities.

The latest fashionable extravagance among silly city society ladies are garter buckles. A pair was sold in New York the other day that were valued at eight hundred dollars. The Reading [PA] Times 24 January 1889: p. 2

“HONI SOIT” GARTER

London September 30.

Fashion’s latest fad is in the form of garters with a tiny pocket at the back of the knee for a handkerchief or powder-puff. The garters are made of gold or silver tinsel woven in elastic bands. Auckland Star, 10 October 1924: p. 7

The bicycle girl’s garter-buckle is in keeping with her favorite sport; it is of gold, etched with a figure of a girl in knickers on a wheel. Godey’s Lady’s Book July 1897

And, most stunningly, seen at the New York Horse Show of 1912:

The wonderful diamond garter—or what Mr. John R. Townsend called a “leg bracelet,” worn by a very prominent matron, was the sensation of the hour at the Horse Show. It was a broad band of diamonds clasped on the left leg just below the knee. From it hung a two-inch fringe of smaller diamonds. The matron’s skirt was slit up on the side so as to show the garter.

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.

 

Frivolous Gaby and her Jewels: 1920

gaby-deslys-1910

Why Frivolous Gaby Left Her $1,000,000 Gems to the Poor

The Strange Fear That Made Her Recklessly Extravagant, Penurious, Caused Her Untimely Death, and Forced Her to Give Her Most Precious Possessions to the Destitute.

The sale of poor Gaby Deslys’s jewels for the benefit of the poor of Marseilles is one of the strangest, most puzzling freaks of human behavior of our day.

That a woman who was universally noted for her frivolity, her extravagance, her worldliness in short, should perform the utterly unworldly act of selling all her jewels for the unknown poor seems inexplicable. These jewels were the greatest pride, the greatest joy of her life of insensate extravagance, and yet she willed away the magnificent collection to help a lot of wretched, squalid, hopeless paupers. The act is entirely contrary to what one would expect In a person of her spectacular career.

The explanation of Gaby’s strange will has been furnished to your correspondent by one of her intimate friends. Her action can only be understood when one knows the peculiar state of mind, almost a pathological condition, which had dominated her for years.

“Gaby had an almost insane fear of poverty,” said your correspondent’s informant. “Poverty was to her like a personal devil, always watching her and waiting to grasp her in his cruel clutches. Her most extravagant acts were committed as a form of defiance to this demon–poverty. The final act of her life, willing her jewels to the poor, was intended to be her supreme blow at the demon.”

This revelation of the famous dancer’s state of mind also clears up some of the mystery surrounding the last romance of her life, her affair with the young Duke de Crussol, member of France’s most ancient noble family. The Duke, who accompanied the dancer to New York about a year ago, was so profoundly devoted to her that his family came to the conclusion he was planning to marry her and was dreadfully worried at the prospect.

The truth was that the pretty dancer had confided to the young Duke her dream of leaving all her wealth to the poor and that with the enthusiasm of youth he was completely carried away by her idealism. That is why he treated her with a reverence not usually paid by young dukes to frivolous dancers. That also explains his profound emotion at her death, why he I broke into tears, wrung his hands in anguish, and could scarcely control himself:

“She had such a beautiful soul.” said the Duke, evidently under the influence of knowledge that was not within the reach of ordinary persons. “She was good, she was noble, she lived for others. Nobody can understand yet how good she was.”

The Duke, it should be recalled, distinguished himself as an aviator during the War, and threw away his chance of the Legion of Honor in order to visit Gaby Deslys when she was ill.

The value of the jewels left by Gaby to the poor is enormous, and is not fully indicated by the sale at auction already held. The market is a bad one at present, and the prices obtained were disappointing in view of the remarkable beauty and rarity of the pieces, and besides that there are many that have not yet been sold. Few stage-favorites have ever accumulated so great an aggregation of wealth.

Her entire collection was conservatively estimated at 5,300,000 francs, which at a normal rate of exchange would be about $1,060,000.

It would require a volume to catalogue all her jewels. Among those sold for the benefit of the poor of Marseilles may be signalled:

The necklace of forty-nine graduated pearls given to Gaby by Manuel II of Portugal, $105,000

Gaby’s famous necklace of fifty-seven pearls, with three great pearls pendant,

the central pearl black, $100,000.

A string of sixty-nine pearls, $47,600.

A string of one hundred and fifty pearls, $56,000.

Two platinum and diamond necklaces, $51,000

A splendid diamond pendant, $11,300.

An emerald pendant, set in diamonds, $19,440.

The gems were of many kinds, but pearls predominated. All the stones were of an extraordinary degree of beauty and purity–there was nothing second rate in the collection. A superb gold and platinum handbag, an antique Chinese ivory bracelet, and a beautiful sapphire and diamond armlet were among the curiosities of the display.

To her dancing partner, Harry Pilcer, she left $50,000, and income of $3,600 a year and many other gifts, while she made other benefactions to the poor besides the one mentioned.

Gaby’s fear and hatred of poverty was a sentiment which had arisen in early youth in an extraordinary ambition, vital and luxury loving temperament, and grew there until it had become a devouring passion, almost a mania. At one time, when she was at the height of her success, her concentration upon this idea became so great that her reason was endangered and she was forced to consult an eminent neurologist—Dr. Henri Mesurier, of the Salpetriere Hospital.

He gave her a long course of treatment with the object of reducing the frantic torrent of her ideas to a normal channel. Fully recognizing that it would be useless and foolish to uproot the deepest sentiment of her nature, the doctor contented himself with directing it toward a goal that would not bring ruin or madness upon her. Thus it came to be agreed between them that she should find a life-long satisfaction of her passion by accumulating treasures and leaving her accumulated wealth after death to strike the hardest possible blow against poverty. In this way she was protected to some extent from the danger of ruining herself by her extravagances in her lifetime.

The existence of Gaby Deslys was one long triumph over the demon Poverty, a fantastic deriding of his powers and terrors, a battle which she always won, but a battle so furious that her reason was often endangered.

Gaby was brought up by parents who suffered the lowest depth of poverty in the famous old city of Marseilles, on the Mediterranean. In no city of the civilized world perhaps is poverty so prevalent and so appalling as in Marseilles. Its slums have been accumulating misery since the days of the ancient Phoenicians, who founded the city and for more than two thousand years they have put their blight upon unnumbered victims.

At thirteen years of age Gaby understood to the full what poverty meant in its worst and most degrading sense. She determined to conquer it and never fall under its power again. This determination became the dominant passion of her life and the cause of her early death.

The rapidity of her success as a public artist was amazing. She chose to be a dancer and quickly became a star performer without any training, but that which she gave herself while dancing to an organ in a Marseilles slum or doing a turn in a third class café.

Her beauty, her vitality, her daring poses, her astonishing way of wearing astonishing clothes captivated the public but her skill as a dancer was even by her own admission not equal to that of many other performers.

Always she wanted money, but it was not merely for the sake of money but for the purpose of celebrating her triumph over her childhood enemy—poverty. Her skill in business transactions was amazing, and she was able by her audacity and cleverness to obtain $100,000 for a tour where a woman of greater artistic accomplishments would not, perhaps , have received $5,000.

In the course of a few years Gaby was able to accumulate a great fortune in money and other possessions the most valuable collection of jewels, bibelots and art treasures owned by any actress in Paris, a palace in London and an estate in America which has not yet been appraised.

Nobody, perhaps, will ever know the true story of her relations with ex-King Manuel of Portugal. People will always believe that Manuel’s infatuation for her, the gifts which he showered upon her, brought about the revolution that cost him his throne. According to this view the gorgeous pearl necklace which Manuel gave the fair dancer, was the last act of recklessness that goaded his infuriated people to expel him.

Whatever the historical facts may be concerning Gaby’s relations with the King, it is certain that following the revelation of this romance, she enjoyed an unusual increase of wealth and valuable jewels. And on this as on all other occasions she displayed the faculty of turning whatever happened to her Into money. But she did not seek money for the miserly purpose of hoarding, but simply to jest at the monster poverty.

Gaby frankly set out to make all the money she possibly could, and she did not conceal this purpose from anyone—not even from romantic young kings and noblemen who paid then court to her. She made no pretence of following art for art’s sake–she followed art for money’s sake.

There was hardly anything she would not do for money. For several seasons she demanded $500 from everyone who enjoyed the privilege of taking supper with her. She had noticed that many nouveaux riches and would-be sports were eager to be seen supping or dining with her or with any of the popular actresses of the moment.

She knew that such men had no real regard for her. They sought her society mainly for the glory or notoriety which it reflected on them. Why should they not pay for that which they so selfishly sought? Why should they enjoy it merely by paying for a meal? Therefore Gaby took all the money she could obtain from such persons in the most baldly commercial spirit. But with all who were poor, all who had been her true friends in any way she was generous to an extreme degree.

She frankly recognized that her beautiful body was her capital. It was through that alone that she was able to earn her great fortune. Anything that injured her body diminished her capital and her wealth and the mere idea of such a diminution, such a submission to the monster poverty, filled her with horror and she was ready to die rather than yield an inch to the arch enemy. It was indeed this sentiment that eventually brought about Gaby s untimely death.

She had suffered from an attack of influenza and pleurisy. As an after effect they left several abscesses in the respiratory tract which prostrated her after she had struggled valiantly to carry on her work for several weeks.

The surgeons informed her that the abscesses could be emptied safely and quickly through one or more incisions in her neck and that she would make a rapid recovery from her illness. But the incisions would have made a permanent scar on her neck, would have injured that beauty on which her income depended, would, in short, have seriously diminished her capital and wealth. She absolutely refused to permit them to operate.

The surgeons brought their tools and endeavored to overcome her opposition. Even in her weakened condition her will proved absolutely insurmountable. The method of treating the abscesses through the mouth proved ineffective to relieve the system of the poison and she died from the septic poisoning at the height of her fame and beauty.

“I will die laughing at poverty,” she gasped In her last moments as she lay in her luxurious apartment surrounded by every comfort that wealth could procure to lessen her sufferings.

This singular, passionate fear of poverty gives the answer to the great enigma of her life–her mingled sordidness, generosity, charity, avarice and recklessness.

A few months ago, as she sat robed in glorious pearls and costly fabrics, surrounded by the art treasures of the ages, she exclaimed to a group of intimate friends: “Ah! j’ai tellement peur de la misere!” “Ah! I have such fear of poverty!”

She then described her conception of the monster, her early struggles with him, her triumph over him with a dramatic force that far exceeded anything she had ever displayed on the stage and that held her hearers thrilled.

On her beautiful body she then wore jewels that were worth not less than $300,000. In an adjoining room was the exquisite bed that had belonged to the celebrated Duchess de Fontanges—one of several beds of equal historical value which Gaby used in rotation.

In cabinets about her were Limoges enamels that had been the joy of the great King Francis I. On the walls were paintings by Botticelli and other early Italian masters. On the book shelves were priceless volumes printed by Elzevir and Aldus Manutius.

“And I, the little poverty-stricken brat of Marseilles, enjoy all this and more,” shrieked Gaby. “I laugh at poverty! I fear Him no more! I defy him!”

Her house on Kensington Gore, London, near the old palace where Queen Victoria was born, was described by Englishmen as so stately, so luxurious that it was fit only for royalty. Her lingerie and her silk-stockings which were the most costly that the manufacturers of the world could produce, were discarded after she had worn them two or three times at the most.

Her motor cars were the most luxurious and costly obtainable, and she abandoned them after using them for a few months. One of her recent purchases was an eighty-horsepower touring car, containing an exquisite boudoir where she could dress and make up in comfort. This she sold after three months use, because she did not like the exact tone of the upholstery.

All these extravagances, these insensate luxuries, were a gratification of her peculiar mental bias and a way of hurling defiance at old poverty. She wanted to feel that she could command every luxury that misery denied to its slaves. She wanted to feel that she had such command of these luxuries that she could throw them away if she pleased—could flaunt them or flout them as she saw fit.

But such was her passion for luxuries that she Instinctively sought those that were rarest and so, unconsciously perhaps, she accumulated things that had great intrinsic value. Very often they increased in value and so she grow richer and richer. When she bought absolutely flawless pearls, the largest and finest in the market, she picked the only kind that would sell again for as much or more than their purchase price.

All the time that she was hilariously and triumphantly defying poverty she was hugging to herself and a very few intimates the secret of the supreme blow she meant to aim at the monster. She thought with deep joy of her great plan of leaving her choicest treasures to fight poverty in that squalid old city where he held his most hopeless victims. This was the course in which she had been encouraged by the great neurologist in order to maintain her mental balance and keep her from ruining herself by her extravagances.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 18 July 1920: p. 77

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Gaby was, by all accounts, a fascinating personality, captivating, as mentioned above, aristocrats and a King. While one cannot fault a person born into poverty for wishing to make as much money as possible, this article suggests that the entertainer was a trifle unbalanced on the subject. The overwrought tone of the article implies to Mrs Daffodil’s mind that the author is  not altogether impartial in his assessment of Mlle Deslys.

It was widely remarked at the time that the fabled jewel collection “under-performed,” as auction aficionados say:

It is said that a certain gloom pervaded the atmosphere when the jewels of Gaby Deslys were sold by auction in a public gallery in Paris. Perhaps it was only the fancy of an impressionable correspondent, but the Parisians are a sentimental people, and the gulf between anything so personal as jewelry and a public auction room is wide and obvious. Every glittering trinket there must have had its history in emotion, in the joy of purchase or gift, in the ecstasy of possession. Every one must have been fragrant with romance and with a voiceless eloquence of boudoir and footlights. If only they could tell their stories, but perhaps it is as well that they can not. There is hardly an antique jewel in the world, without its record of blood and crime as well as of love, hardly one without its guilt of greed and murder.

But what an astonishing mass of jewelry was owned by Gaby Deslys. One wonders where it all came from, but that is one of the things that we are never likely to be told. No matter how large her earnings as a dancer she could hardly have bought a half of it. The most wonderful thing there was a platinum collar carrying an enormous diamond and four splendid pearls. In the centre was a great black pearl weighing 140 grammes flanked by two white pearls nearly as large. It had been valued at 500,000 francs, but the auctioneer was unable to raise the bids above 402,000 francs, and it went to some unknown person who was supposed to be acting for a wealthy client. Doubtless we shall hear more about this resplendent collar, and it is fairly safe to assume that the news will come from somewhere in America.

Gaby Deslys was a lover of pearls and there was much curiosity to see her collection. A chain of 154 pearls was sold for 280,000 francs, and three pearl necklaces brought a total of 1,054,000 francs. A platinum net bag studded with diamonds and pearls were sold for 39,000 francs, which was said to be much less than its value. But the most curious of all the articles offered for sale was a belt made of American gold coins, including seventeen twenty-dollar pieces. This brought 4100 francs, a curiously low price, seeing that the coins alone were worth more than that amount. Presumably the belt was the gift of some American admirer, and it may be that the donors themselves were in some cases among the bidders. It would be strange if it were not so, for who would wish to see his gift to a lady fall into strange hands and amid the prosaic associations of an auction room?

The Argonaut 10 July 1920: p. 28

Here is a link to some images of the lovely Mlle Deslys, accompanied by a recording of her singing several songs, c. 1910.

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.

“It was the season of sales:” 1914

Blanche, Jacques-Emile; Knightsbridge from Sloane Street, London (Fine December Morning); York Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/knightsbridge-from-sloane-street-london-fine-december-morning-8057

Blanche, Jacques-Emile; Knightsbridge from Sloane Street, London (Fine December Morning); York Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/knightsbridge-from-sloane-street-london-fine-december-morning-8057

The Dreamer

by Saki (H. H. Munro)

It was the season of sales. The august establishment of Walpurgis and Nettlepink had lowered its prices for an entire week as a concession to trade observances, much as an Arch-duchess might protestingly contract an attack of influenza for the unsatisfactory reason that influenza was locally prevalent. Adela Chemping, who considered herself in some measure superior to the allurements of an ordinary bargain sale, made a point of attending the reduction week at Walpurgis and Nettlepink’s.

“I’m not a bargain hunter,” she said, “but I like to go where bargains are.”

Which showed that beneath her surface strength of character there flowed a gracious undercurrent of human weakness.

With a view to providing herself with a male escort Mrs. Chemping had invited her youngest nephew to accompany her on the first day of the shopping expedition, throwing in the additional allurement of a cinematograph theatre and the prospect of light refreshment. As Cyprian was not yet eighteen she hoped he might not have reached that stage in masculine development when parcel-carrying is looked on as a thing abhorrent.

“Meet me just outside the floral department,” she wrote to him, “and don’t be a moment later than eleven.”

Cyprian was a boy who carried with him through early life the wondering look of a dreamer, the eyes of one who sees things that are not visible to ordinary mortals, and invests the commonplace things of this world with qualities unsuspected by plainer folk – the eyes of a poet or a house agent. He was quietly dressed – that sartorial quietude which frequently accompanies early adolescence, and is usually attributed by novel-writers to the influence of a widowed mother. His hair was brushed back in a smoothness as of ribbon seaweed and seamed with a narrow furrow that scarcely aimed at being a parting. His aunt particularly noted this item of his toilet when they met at the appointed rendezvous, because he was standing waiting for her bare-headed.

“Where is your hat?” she asked.

“I didn’t bring one with me,” he replied.

Adela Chemping was slightly scandalised.

“You are not going to be what they call a Nut, are you?” she inquired with some anxiety, partly with the idea that a Nut would be an extravagance which her sister’s small household would scarcely be justified in incurring, partly, perhaps, with the instinctive apprehension that a Nut, even in its embryo stage, would refuse to carry parcels.

Cyprian looked at her with his wondering, dreamy eyes.

“I didn’t bring a hat,” he said, “because it is such a nuisance when one is shopping; I mean it is so awkward if one meets anyone one knows and has to take one’s hat off when one’s hands are full of parcels. If one hasn’t got a hat on one can’t take it off.”

Mrs. Chemping sighed with great relief; her worst fear had been laid at rest.

“It is more orthodox to wear a hat,” she observed, and then turned her attention briskly to the business in hand.

“We will go first to the table-linen counter,” she said, leading the way in that direction; “I should like to look at some napkins.”

The wondering look deepened in Cyprian’s eyes as he followed his aunt; he belonged to a generation that is supposed to be over-fond of the role of mere spectator, but looking at napkins that one did not mean to buy was a pleasure beyond his comprehension. Mrs. Chemping held one or two napkins up to the light and stared fixedly at them, as though she half expected to find some revolutionary cypher written on them in scarcely visible ink; then she suddenly broke away in the direction of the glassware department.

“Millicent asked me to get her a couple of decanters if there were any going really cheap,” she explained on the way, “and I really do want a salad bowl. I can come back to the napkins later on.”

She handled and scrutinised a large number of decanters and a long series of salad bowls, and finally bought seven chrysanthemum vases.

“No one uses that kind of vase nowadays,” she informed Cyprian, “but they will do for presents next Christmas.”

Two sunshades that were marked down to a price that Mrs. Chemping considered absurdly cheap were added to her purchases.

“One of them will do for Ruth Colson; she is going out to the Malay States, and a sunshade will always be useful there. And I must get her some thin writing paper. It takes up no room in one’s baggage.”

Mrs. Chemping bought stacks of writing paper; it was so cheap, and it went so flat in a trunk or portmanteau. She also bought a few envelopes – envelopes somehow seemed rather an extragavance compared with notepaper.

“Do you think Ruth will like blue or grey paper?” she asked Cyprian.

“Grey,” said Cyprian, who had never met the lady in question.

“Have you any mauve notepaper of this quality?” Adela asked the assistant.

“We haven’t any mauve,” said the assistant, “but we’ve two shades of green and a darker shade of grey.”

Mrs. Chemping inspected the greens and the darker grey, and chose the blue.

“Now we can have some lunch,” she said.

Cyprian behaved in an exemplary fashion in the refreshment department, and cheerfully accepted a fish cake and a mince pie and a small cup of coffee as adequate restoratives after two hours of concentrated shopping. He was adamant, however, in resisting his aunt’s suggestion that a hat should be bought for him at the counter where men’s headwear was being disposed of at temptingly reduced prices.

“I’ve got as many hats as I want at home,” he said, “and besides, it rumples one’s hair so, trying them on.”

Perhaps he was going to develop into a Nut after all. It was a disquieting symptom that he left all the parcels in charge of the cloak-room attendant.

“We shall be getting more parcels presently,” he said, “so we need not collect these till we have finished our shopping.”

His aunt was doubtfully appeased; some of the pleasure and excitement of a shopping expedition seemed to evaporate when one was deprived of immediate personal contact with one’s purchases.

“I’m going to look at those napkins again,” she said, as they descended the stairs to the ground floor. “You need not come,” she added, as the dreaming look in the boy’s eyes changed for a moment into one of mute protest, “you can meet me afterwards in the cutlery department; I’ve just remembered that I haven’t a corkscrew in the house that can be depended on.”

Cyprian was not to be found in the cutlery department when his aunt in due course arrived there, but in the crush and bustle of anxious shoppers and busy attendants it was an easy matter to miss anyone. It was in the leather goods department some quarter of an hour later that Adela Chemping caught sight of her nephew, separated from her by a rampart of suit-cases and portmanteaux and hemmed in by the jostling crush of human beings that now invaded every corner of the great shopping emporium. She was just in time to witness a pardonable but rather embarrassing mistake on the part of a lady who had wriggled her way with unstayable determination towards the bareheaded Cyprian, and was now breathlessly demanding the sale price of a handbag which had taken her fancy.

“There now,” exclaimed Adela to herself, “she takes him for one of the shop assistants because he hasn’t got a hat on. I wonder it hasn’t happened before.”

Perhaps it had. Cyprian, at any rate, seemed neither startled nor embarrassed by the error into which the good lady had fallen. Examining the ticket on the bag, he announced in a clear, dispassionate voice:

“Black seal, thirty-four shillings, marked down to twenty-eight. As a matter of fact, we are clearing them out at a special reduction price of twenty-six shillings. They are going off rather fast.”

“I’ll take it,” said the lady, eagerly digging some coins out of her purse.

“Will you take it as it is?” asked Cyprian; “it will be a matter of a few minutes to get it wrapped up, there is such a crush.”

“Never mind, I’ll take it as it is,” said the purchaser, clutching her treasure and counting the money into Cyprian’s palm.

Several kind strangers helped Adela into the open air.

“It’s the crush and the heat,” said one sympathiser to another; “it’s enough to turn anyone giddy.”

When she next came across Cyprian he was standing in the crowd that pushed and jostled around the counters of the book department. The dream look was deeper than ever in his eyes. He had just sold two books of devotion to an elderly Canon.

From Beasts and Super-Beasts

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a consolation it must have been to Aunt Adela to find that Cyprian was not a Nut.  Or “Knut,” if you prefer the orthodox spelling from “Gilbert the Filbert,” for the idle, if decorative young Man About Town.

Mrs Daffodil trusts that all of her readers who had the strength to venture out on the so-called “Black Friday” found bargains enough to please and that no one got injured.  Mrs Daffodil counts herself fortunate that she has Staff to do most of the Hall shopping; she spent a pleasant afternoon with a cup of cocoa and an improving book.

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 Deadly and Demoralising Thanksgiving Pie: 1905

yankee-pumpkin-pie

THANKSGIVING PIE.

Thanksgiving Day is the one national festival which is peculiarly and thoroughly American. Other nations undergo annual sufferings from noise and gunpowder which are analogous to those which are associated in our minds with Fourth of July. Christmas is the common property of the Christian world, although Russia celebrates her Christmas some weeks later than other nations, in order that Russians residing in foreign countries may obtain a double supply of Christmas presents. Thanksgiving Day, however, was the invention of the New England colonists, and though it has since been universally adopted by the American people, no other nation has imitated it. We alone express our annual gratitude by the sacrifice of turkeys, and it is, hence, greatly to be desired that the one exclusively American festival should be in all respects perfect and beyond reproach.

It is impossible to deny that in active practice our method of celebrating the day is open to one serious objection. In spite of the progress which we have made towards a higher morality than that of the last century, we still adhere, on Thanksgiving Day, to one barbarous and demoralizing ceremony. To a great extent the hot New-England rum of our forefathers is banished from our dinner-tables, but the no less deadly and demoralizing pie forms part of every Thanksgiving dinner, no matter how moral and intelligent its consumers may believe themselves to be.

The Thanksgiving array of pie is usually of so varied, as well as lavish a nature, that it seems cunningly devised to entrap even the most innocent palate. If mince-pie alone were set before a virtuous family, it is quite probable that many of its members would have the courage to turn in loathing from the deadly compound, but the Thanksgiving mince-pie is always accompanied or preceded by lighter pies, in which weak-minded persons think they can indulge without injury. The thoughtless matron—for thoughtlessness, and not deliberate wickedness, is indicated by the presence of Thanksgiving pie—urges her guests to take a little chicken-pie, assuring them that it cannot injure a child. The guest who tampers with the chicken-pie is inevitably lost. The chicken-pie crust awakens an unholy hunger for fiercer viands, and when the meats are removed, he is ready and anxious for undiluted apple or pumpkin pie. From that to mince-pie the transition is swift and easy, and in nine cases out of ten the man who attends a Thanksgiving dinner and is lured into touching chicken-pie abandons all self-restraint and delivers himself up to the thraldom of a fierce longing for strong and undisguised mince-pie. Hundreds of men and women who had emancipated themselves by a tremendous effort of the will from the dominion of pie, have backslidden at the Thanksgiving dinner, and have returned to their former degradation with a fiercer appetite than ever, and with little hope that they can find sufficient strength for a second effort towards reformation.

The chief evil of the Thanksgiving display of pie is, however, its terrible influence upon the young. It is a well-known fact, however revolting it may seem when rehearsed in cold blood, that on Thanksgiving Day many a foolish mother has herself pressed pie to the lips of her innocent offspring. To the taste thus created thousands of victims of the pie habit ascribe their ruin. It is a common spectacle on Thanksgiving evening to see scores of children, mere babes in years, writhing under the influence of pie, and making the night hideous with their outcries. Physicians can testify to the appalling results of the pie orgies in which children are thus openly encouraged to take part. The amount of drugs which is consumed by the unhappy little victims on the day following Thanksgiving Day would fill the public with horror were the exact figures to be published. How can we wonder that children who are thus tempted to acquire the taste for pie by their own parents grow up to be shameless and habitual consumers of pie! The good matron who sees a haggard and emaciated man slink into a public pie shop, and presently emerge brushing the tell-tale crumbs from his beard, shudders to think that the unhappy wretch was once as young and innocent as her own darling children. And yet that very matron will sit at the foot of a Thanksgiving table groaning with pie, and will deal out the deadly compound to her children without a thought that she is awakening in them a depraved hunger that will ultimately lead them straight to the pie shop.

All the efforts of good men and women to stay the torrent of pie which threatens to engulf our beloved country will be in vain, unless the reform is begun at the Thanksgiving dinner-table. Pie must be banished from that otherwise innocent board, or it is in vain that we try to banish it from shops, restaurants, and hotels. May we not hope for a great moral crusade which will sweep pie from every virtuous table, and unite all the friends of morality in a vigorous and persistent attack upon the great evil of the land.

The Banker and the Typewriter, 1905: pp. 154-155

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A shocking indictment of the American Thanksgiving pie, hitherto thought to be an innocent holiday indulgence!  In England, of course, one of the footmen would read this aloud at tea-time to the accompaniment of hearty laughter.  The Temperance-tract language of the parody is quite spot-on. There are, of course, food reformists who rail against pie as the fons et origo of spots and dyspepsia, but those of us who enjoy a nice, flakey lard-based crust consider them cranks. Heaven knows what horrors they would conjure up about Christmas puddings and hard sauce.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her American readers the happiest of Thanksgivings with as much pie as they like.

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.