The Lace-Smuggler’s Narrative: 1858

A SMUGGLER’S NARRATIVE.

“We shall be, my dear madam,” said I to a fellow passenger in the Dieppe boat, taking out my watch, but keeping my eye steadily upon her, “we shall be in less than ten minutes at the custom house.” A spasm—a flicker from the guilt within—glanced over her countenance.

“You look very good-natured, sir,” stammered she.

I bowed, and looked considerably more so, in order to invite her confidence.

“If I was to tell you a secret, which I find is too much to keep to myself, oh, would you keep it inviolable?”

“I know it, my dear madam—I know it already,” said I, smiling; it is lace, is it not?”

She uttered a little shriek, and, yes, she had got it there among the crinoline. She thought it had been sticking out, you see, unknown to her.

“Oh, sir,” cried she, “it is only ten pounds’ worth; please to forgive me, and I’ll never do it again. As it is I think I shall expire.”

“My dear madam,” replied I, sternly but kindly, “here is the pier, and the officer has fixed his eye upon us. I must do my duty.” I rushed up the ladder like a lamplighter; I pointed that woman out to a legitimate authority; I accompanied her upon her way, in custody, to the searching house. I did not see her searched, but I saw what was found upon her, and I saw her fined and dismissed with ignominy. Then, having generously given up my emoluments as informer to the subordinate officials, I hurried off in search of the betrayed woman to her hotel.

I gave her lace twice the value of that she had lost. I paid her fine, and then I explained. “You, madam, had ten pounds’ worth of smuggled goods about your person; I had nearly 50 times that amount. I turned informer, madam, let me convince you, for the sake of us both. You have too expressive a countenance, believe me, and the officer would have found you out at all events, even as I did myself. Are you satisfied, my dear madam? If you still feel aggrieved or injured by me in any manner, pray take more lace; here is lots of it.”

We parted the best of friends.

Liverpool [Merseyside, England] Mercury 28 September 1858: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a very thoughtful gentleman-smuggler!  Too many in this world think only of themselves. The narrator restores our faith in humanity!

The smuggling of lace and other luxury goods was not only a highly-lucrative profession, it was something of a sport for young ladies, as we have seen in a previous post where the unrepentant culprits told their father, “But every woman on the ship is smuggling, and it is such fun.’.

Some smugglers felt that ladies had a better chance of evading detection, such as the youth who impersonated a widow, complete with a sham infant built on a bottle of dutiable brandy and stuffed with laces.

And fashionable garments provided many useful hiding places. Crinoline, for example:

The Dutch custom-house officers at Rosendael, a few days, seized a quantity of lace to the value of 1200 florins, which a lady coming by the railway from Antwerp had concealed under her crinoline. The anxiety depicted on her countenance is said to have betrayed her.

Liverpool [Merseyside England] Mercury 30 March 1858: p. 7

or the bustle:

A novel method of smuggling has been devised. A woman was discovered in Florida, coming into the United States with a large tin bustle filled with fine Cuban rum.

Lawrence [KS] Daily Journal 21 December 1886: p. 3

This lady’s maid must have been quite a strapping young woman to carry this contraband:

The Customers-officers at Haumont (Nord) last week arrested a lady’s maid who was attempting to cross the frontier with no less than twenty-nine kilogs. [63.9 lbs!] of Belgian tobacco concealed in her crinoline.

The Exeter [Devon England] Flying Post 23 September 1863: p. 6

This lady, who cleverly took advantage of the normal cycles of life to bypass the customs officers, did not know when to stop:

A very common Method of Smuggling practised by the Fair Sex, is by assuming the Appearance of far advanced Pregnancy; although the Bantling proves generally to be Silks and Laces. A Lady well known in the Circles of Fashion, practised this Trick with great Success for many Years, until being big with Child five Times in one Year, the Custom-House Officers began to be staggered by such prolific Powers, and kindly lent a Hand to deliver her of her Burthen.

The Derby [England] Mercury 15 July 1784: 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.

 

He Promised to Raise the Dead: 14th Century

shrouded ghost

A WORKER OF MIRACLES.

The Man Who Promised to Raise the Dead.

Toward the middle of the fourteenth century there suddenly appeared in Florence, Italy, a personage calling himself Dr. Attrapeccini. Whence he came, no one knew. His name indicated an Italian origin; but, from his accent in speaking, one would have supposed him to be a German, while his long beard, grave expression, and majestic bearing seemed suggestive of the Orient. Certain manuscripts, indeed, declare him to have been a native of Gascony; but the authenticity of these manuscripts has not been proved.

Whatever might be his nationality, however, the doctor had no sooner arrived in Florence than he caused to be announced, with a grand flourish of trumpets, cornet, and drum, that on Tuesday, the first of May, at precisely six o’clock in the morning, he would repair to the city’s cemetery, and there restore to life five persons of his own choosing.

At last the excitement grew so intense that the podestat, or chief magistrate of Florence, resolved to send for Dr. Attrapeccini and demand an explanation. A  man who was able to restore five dead persons to life could have no difficulty in guessing what was passing in the mind of a podestat, and, accordingly, the magistrate was just about to strike his gong to summon an usher, when the doctor himself was announced.

“You come just in time, doctor,” said the magistrate; “I was about to send for you.”

“I knew it, my lord, and wish to anticipate your orders,” was the reply, uttered in a calm tone that filled the podestat with amazement.

He recovered himself, however, and was going to interrogate the newcomer, when the latter exclaimed:

“I understand, my lord, that some of your people here have doubts of my science and even my honest–in short, that I am suspected of coming to Florence for the purpose of making dupes.”

“Something of that kind has been intimated,” replied the magistrate.

“They say, moreover,” continued Dr. Attrapeccini, “that I intend to decamp a day or two before the first of May.”

“That also has been said,” assented the podestat.

“You can understand,” said the stranger, slowly, “that I owe it to myself to put an end to these reports. I have come to request of you that a guard of ten, twenty, thirty, or more men be stationed round my house, so as to make it impossible for me to leave Florence before releasing from their tombs five persons, as I have promised. You can not say that my request is an unreasonable one, since you had determined before seeing me to have me watched.”

“Your request is granted,” he said. “I shall have your house guarded night and day by twenty men, until the time comes for you to fulfill your promise, or until you change your mind, and acknowledge you were not in earnest. It would, perhaps, be wiser for you to leave the city at once; believe me, it is not safe to put a whole town in commotion. I know the Florentines, and I believe them to be capable of falling upon you in fury, perhaps of hanging you, when they find they have been mocked at and tricked. The least serious mishap that could be befall you would be a sojourn of several months in prison while you waited for the public indignation to subside.”

“I should deserve even more severe treatment if I failed to carry out my programme,” said the doctor.

The doctor’s interview with the magistrate was soon known all over Florence, and the news of it served to increase the popular interest and confidence in the stranger.

A week before the first of May a man about forty years old, and dressed completely in black, entered the doctor’s study. He was the Senator Arozzo, celebrated for the violent grief he had displayed on the death of his wife six months before.

“Signor Attrapeccini,” said he, briskly, “I do not wish to waste words. Although what you promise is generally considered impossible, I admit that it may be possible, and I have come here to beg you to leave my wife at rest in the cemetery.”

“What!” exclaimed the man of science, with a laugh; and the widower repeated his own words earnestly.

“I beg of you!” he cried; ” I am about to marry again — the banns will be published next month. You would not like to put a man in such a predicament, would you?” As he spoke he placed a purse full of gold on the table.

“Set your mind at rest,” said the doctor, “and continue the preparation for your wedding.”

The next day he received a visit from Philippini, the most famous physician of Florence, and indeed, of all Tuscany; out of every hundred Florentines at least eighty were at one time or another in his care.

“Learned and honored brother,” said he to Attrapeccini. “I trust that you would not do me the injury of bringing back to the light of day any of the unfortunate people who have chanced to pass away while in my hands.”

“Certainly not,” replied the other; “just give me the names of the persons you mean.”

“That would be a very difficult matter,” said Philippini; “would it not be more simple for you to exclude from your ceremony all my former patients?” and with these words he laid on the table a heap of gold coins.

“It shall certainly be as you wish, my dear brother,” said the foreign physician.

The door had hardly closed upon Philippini when it was opened again to admit two brothers, named Gavazza. The Duke Pierre Gavazza and his brother, the Marquess Paul, had risen, partly by their own merits and partly by good luck, to the first rank of the Italian nobility; but their journey had been long and difficult, as their father had been a miller. It was this miller whom they did not wish to see restored to life.

Dr. Attrapeccini was shocked, and exclaimed angrily that he could not believe it possible that two persons could be so unnatural as to oppose the resuscitation of their own father. It was nothing less than parricide, and he would not connive at such baseness! He had not had any intention of reviving the miller, but now he would take good care to do so, and unless he changed his mind, the old Gavazza would be the first person resuscitated in the cemetery.

The dismay of the duke and the marquess may be imagined. They offered money, but, although they had brought a large sum with them, it was not sufficient to allay the scruples of Attrapeccini, and each of the brothers was obliged to sign a note.

The eve of the first of May arrived, and the guards around his house were doubled, and received the strictest orders, for the chief magistrate knew that the people would blame him if the invoker of the dead were allowed to escape. It was estimated that fifty thousand persons were assembled in the cemetery or its vicinity on the first of May, at six in the morning, and, as the doctor did not appear at the first stroke of the hour as he had promised, fifty thousand voices cried out:

“Attrapeccini! Attrapeccini!”

At the same time the chief magistrate presented himself at the stranger’s house, and found the interior of it just as empty as the exterior was well guarded.

The restorer of the dead had departed by way of the cellar, where there was an opening into the next house, and the chronicle reports that he took with him a sum equivalent to fifty thousand florins, which had been paid to him on consideration of his not performing a miracle, and of leaving the dead in their graves.

Translated from the Italian.

The Argonaut  [San Francisco CA] 13 February 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The earliest version of this amusing tale that Mrs Daffodil has located is from 1801–it had a long and popular run and one can well imagine an origin in some earlier set of saucy tales such as the Decameron. One newspaper, which gave it the byline, “from the French of Jean Grange,” added a further scathing paragraph:

What wicked people the Florentines must be! It would be very different in Paris if someone were to come and to propose to resuscitate the bodies in Père Lachaise cemetery, for we should then see widowers, physicians, and millers’ sons turned dukes and marquises, throwing themselves at the feet of the magician, embracing his knees, and not rising until he had promised to restore to them their wives, patients and fathers. So true it is that mankind is improving, and that cupidity, pride and ingratitude have given place to self-sacrifice, modesty, gratitude and all the sweetest and most generous sentiments.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of several tales of rich and disagreeable people believed to have been buried alive by their undutiful sons so that they could inherit. Plus ça change…

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.

Violets the Fad This Winter: 1893

hand painted violet fan

VIOLETS THE FAD THIS WINTER.

They Will Appear in Every Sort of Shape That Fashion Can Suggest.

The violet is the flower of the coming winter.

All the new things of every sort are covered with violets. The new embroidery patterns are in violets. The new candleshades have paper violets stuck upon them. Even the candles are of a novel tint–purple.

The newest ribbons in the shops are violet, the color running through a surprising number of shades. The latest fancy soaps are wrapped in violet-colored paper. Note paper in pale violet is to be a fashionable fad, and my lady will scent her dainty mouchoir with violet perfume.

Some of the swellest Washington women are going to give violet teas during the coming season. On these occasions of modish festivity many gowns will be worn of white silk with violets brocaded upon them, the corsage bouquets being great bunches of the same flowers. One dress already designed will have a low cut bodice entirely surrounded by a deep wreath of violets. At tea tables violet ribbons will be stretched from the candles to the chandeliers above, forming a sort of May pole effect.

A Violet Room.

One Washington house already has a whole room done in pale violet–the wall paper, hangings, furniture coverings, everything. A pretty effect is produced by making violet the color-motive for a lady’s bedchamber. The counterpane and pillow shams may be of white muslin over violet, and the dressing table in the same materials, tied with great violet bows in several shades. If nothing else is done in recognition of this new fad, one should have at least one sofa pillow of violet.

Violet has even become the proper color for babies, replacing the old-fashioned blue and pink. The violet tea gown will be very much the thing. It Is noticed that all the newest and most dainty porcelains are ornamented with violets, either scattered about or in solid bunches. The latest designs in jewelry are in these flowers, and fancy pins and such trifles in violets will be popular as gifts for the approaching Christmas.

Of course, this rage for violets will add greatly to the price of those blossoms during the coming winter. Many women win mix imitation ones with the real for economy’s sake, and their bouquets will not be less beautiful for that reason. Violets are perhaps more successfully imitated than any other flowers.

A Clerk in the Business.

A young Washington lady employed in the Treasury Department is likely to find this a profitable season for a pleasant business which she devotes her leisure moments to conducting. She raises violets on a small farm of her own near Anacostia. The work is very easy. She has more than 30 glass sashes, under which the flowers bloom all winter long. In May each year she has some fresh ground plowed, and in it she plants all of her violets, taken from beneath the sashes for that purpose. Then she simply takes up the sashes, covers the newly planted violets with them, and the work Is done.

In October they begin to bloom, and continue all through the winter, so that the young lady can pick them every day and send them to market. All of her violet plants came from one little pot which she bought at the Center market five years ago. They are made to multiply by dividing the roots, so that a single plant taken up in the spring will supply a score or more. She sells her violets to florists in Washington or New York. Prices are higher in the metropolis, so that it pays to express them on. They never bring less than a cent apiece, and sometimes two cents.

There is always a market for violets, and there is never any difficulty in disposing of them. Any florist is glad to buy them, if they are good ones and in prime condition. They must be picked always in the afternoon, because otherwise they lose their perfume. To ship them, they must be placed in bunches in pasteboard boxes, with waxed paper folded loosely around them. They must not be touched with water, because to do so will take away their sweetness.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 11 November 1893: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously written about how to give a “violet luncheon.” Should her readers require the details of a “violet tea,” albeit of a more lavish variety than usually seen in suburban households, this article gives some helpful suggestions.

Extravagant Hospitality

The afternoon teas of the coming season will be more elaborate than ever before. One leader in society will give one in a few weeks which will eclipse anything of the kind ever seen. It is to be a violet tea. The table will be laid for twelve. The cloth used upon this occasion will be one of six which the hostess had made abroad by special order. They all are of a heavy white satin, each embroidered in different designs. The one to be used upon this occasion is embroidered in violets. They lie in clusters, all over the shining white surface and the work is so admirably done that one would think they had been plucked and dropped there. The tea service is of Royal Worcester, also made by special order, with a design of violets upon a rich cream ground. There are 188 pieces in this tea service, and the average cost is $30 for each, piece. The napkins are of satin, with a design of violets embroidered in one corner. The favors will be painted upon porcelain, and although all different each will be a design of violets.

Under the table will be a large Wilton rug of cream with violets scattered over it The valance dependent from the mantel will be of creamy plush, with a border of embroidered violets and a lining of violet satin. The portieres will be of heavy white felt with a border of violets. The lamps will all have violet shades, so that the light will be like an Indian summer haze.

Arkansas City [KS] Daily Traveler 9 January 1890: 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.

A Lady’s Social Diplomacy: 1895

Romney, George, 1734-1802; A Hand Holding a Letter

Social Diplomacy.

New York Tribune.

Diplomacy ranks next to tact in social ethics, and to be a successful hostess with limited means nowadays In New York requires almost the brains of a Machiavelli. How little Mrs. Z.–who lives in a bandbox of a house, with only a parlor maid to serve at her dainty table–manages to get the smartest people to dine with her en petit comité, whenever she will, apparently is a constant source of amusement and irritation to her rich neighbor, Mrs. Midas. The latter, despite her chef and her millions, sometimes finds it hard work to collect enough guests for her heavy entertainments twice or thrice during the season, and her own invitations are few and far between, whereas Mrs. Z. drives out whenever she is not entertaining at home.

“What do you suppose is the secret of her success?” exclaimed one of her friends. “Certainly she seems to have very few substantial advantages. She is comparatively poor, she is hardly even pretty, though It must be admitted she is very chic, but no more so than many others, She is certainly ‘sympatica,’ but so are a score of people I could name. Her house is a dear, but as a man said the other day, there is ‘hardly room in it to swing a cat,’ while her dinners, which are, of course, perfect in their way, are simplicity itself. What is her especial attraction is absolutely inexplicable, and yet it is there. or she could not pick and choose among the most exclusive people as she undoubtedly does.”

“My dear,” answered her companion, “it is tact combined with diplomacy and I will give you an instance of the latter quality, which is, of course, only one out of many. She told me this herself, so I need not hesitate to repeat it. Wishing to secure, for a special occasion, Mr.—, the celebrated author, who is a somewhat surly lion, and seldom condescends to roar at any one’s table except at that of Mrs. B., the pretty widow he wants to marry, Mrs. Z. cast about in her mind how she could engage him, by letting him know, before he had time to write a refusal, that Mrs. B. was invited, without directly saying so, which would, of course, be impossible. Suddenly an inspiration seized her: she wrote an invitation to Mrs. B. and put it into the wrong envelope, which, by an odd coincidence, happened to be addressed to Mr.—. Of course, as soon as the letters had gone to the post, she discovered her mistake, and wrote another note of explanation. Needless to say that both guests came and her dinner went off as her dinners always are sure to do, with the most perfect success.”

The Indianapolis [IN] Journal 6 December 1895: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Tact and diplomacy, indeed!  Mrs Daffodil must make a note of the hostess’s mixed-envelope scheme; she can think of several occasions on which it might be useful. Indeed, it has often been used as a plot device for stage, screen, and fiction. Comic valentines are particularly susceptible to being placed in the wrong envelopes, often with disastrous consequences.

The situation gave rise to much mirth in the joke columns of newspapers.

REMEDY FOR MEASLES.

A lady who had two children sick with the measles wrote to a friend for the best remedy. The friend had just received a note from another lady, inquiring her method of making pickles. In reply the lady unfortunately placed the notes in the wrong envelopes, so that the person who inquired about the pickles received the remedy for the measles, and the anxious mother of the sick children read with horror the following: “Scald them three or four times in hot vinegar, and sprinkle them with salt, and in a few days they will be cured.”

The Osage City [KS] Free Press 3 May 1878: p. 3

AMUSING MISTAKE—A MINISTER ASKED TO LOAN A HOOP SKIRT.

A well-known minister in Chelsea, Mass., was greatly surprised, some time since at receiving an epistle from a lady friend at Cape Ann, containing sundry and divers female confidences relative to her approaching marriage, and an urgent request to send immediately a “hoop skirt.”

The minister was completely dumbfounded. It was a strange epistle for him to receive, but there was the superscription, Rev. ___, as plain as could be. In the course of the day, however, the mystery was cleared up, and it appeared that the fair correspondent had indicted two letters, one to the reverend gent requesting his presence to tie the marriage knot, and the other to a female friend, enlarging on the anticipated occasion, and requesting her services in procuring that highly useful article a hoop skirt. By some hocus-pocus the letters were placed in the wrong envelopes, but luckily the rightful owners exchanged letters, and the minister and hoop skirt were both there! Bangor (Me.) Times.

The States and Union [ Ashland OH] 16 May 1860: p. 4

The lady of rank in this last anecdote was singularly lacking in tact and diplomacy. She was also fortunate that she did not live in the days when Royalty could say “Off with her head,” with impunity:

A NOTE IN THE WRONG ENVELOPE.

A lady of rank had received the honor of an invitation to dinner from the Princess Mary of Teck, [Mother of Queen Mary, the present Queen’s grandmother.] for a day when she was engaged to dine with an old friend. She wrote two letters—one to the Princess in her sweetest manner, acknowledging the honor, &c.; another to her friend, beginning: “Such a bore, dear! Fat Mary has invited me to dinner on our day ,and of course I must go.” To her horror, she learned by the next post that her friend had got the letter for the Princess in her friend’s envelope. The mischief was done, and she went prepared to throw herself at the feet of her royal hostess, when the Princess met her with open hands and smiling face as she said: “Fat Mary is very much pleased to see you, and hopes you won’t find her a bore.”

London Truth.

The Press Herald [Pine Grove PA] 22 October 1880: 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.

 

 

“I have never known a Red Room yet that was not haunted.”: 1903

a visit to the haunted chamber William Frederick Yeames 1869

A Visit to the Haunted Chamber, William Frederick Yeames, 1869

Mr. Punch’s Spectral Analyses.

AN OFFICIAL MUDDLE.

It is always my custom when I go to stop at a country house to ask my host to put me in the haunted room. I like ghosts. In my earlier literary days I was often a ghost myself, and even now I occasionally do “Cheery Chatter for the Chicks” in Baby’s Own lckle Magazine for my friend Bamstead Barker when he wants a holiday. I use a spirit lamp, too, and in a great many other ways exhibit a marked partiality for the spectre world.

When, therefore, I went to stay at Strathpuffer Castle last autumn, I put my usual request, and my host sent for the butler.

“Keggs,” he said, “Mr. Wuddus wishes to sleep in a haunted room. What ghosts have we?”

“Well, your lordship,” said Keggs thoughtfully, “there’s Bad Lord ‘erbert and Dark Lord Despard and the man in armour wot moans and ‘er late ladyship as ain’t got no ‘ead and exhibits of warious gaping wounds, but all the bedrooms wot they ‘aunts is took at present. They do say, though, your lordship, as ‘ow remarkable sounds ‘ave bin ‘eard recent from the Red Room.”

“Then let the Red Room be my bedroom,” I said, dropping into poetry with all the aplomb of a Silas Wegg” I have never known a Red Room yet that was not haunted.” And to the Red Room accordingly I went.

It was past twelve when I went to bed. Scarcely had I got inside the room when a sepulchral voice on my right said “Boo!” and almost at the same instant a chain rattled on my left. I sat down on the bed, and spoke with firmness and decision.

“This won’t do at all,” I said. “No haunted room is ever allowed two ghosts. One of you must go, or I lodge a formal complaint. Which is it to be?”

“I got here first,” said a sulky voice.

“Well, you’d no business here,” said the second ghost snappishly. “I was definitely and officially appointed, and I give up my rights to no one.”

“I’ve told you a thousand times that I was appointed.”

“Nonsense. I was.”

“Meaning that I lie, Sir?”

“Come, come, come,” I interrupted impatiently. “I won’t have this unseemly wrangling. Settle it peaceably, my friends, peaceably.”

“Tell you what,” said the ghost with the chain, eagerly; “we’ll have a haunting competition, if this gentleman will be good enough to act as referee; and the loser quits.”

“But, my good Sir,” I said, “you forget that I want to go to sleep some time to-night. And besides, if you’ll forgive the criticism, a haunting competition between you two would be poor sport. You are neither of you what I should describe as fliers at the game. You lack finesse. You, Sir, remarked ‘Boo!” when I came in, and your colleague rattled a chain. Now, I ask you, what is the good of that kind of thing?”

“Ah,” said the groaning ghost, “but I can do a deal more than that. I can imitate all sorts of things. Thunderstorms and bagpipes, for instance. And I can turn myself into a hearse-and-four and drive up to the front door. And I can–”

“Well,” broke in the other, “and can’t I turn myself into a luminous boy and a hideous old woman, and a variety of jumpy and ingenious shapes? And can’t I produce raps from the furniture and fill a room with a weird, unearthly glow? And can’t I–”

“Stop,” I said, “stop. I see it all. A bright idea has struck me. You are respectively outdoor and indoor ghosts. What has happened, I take it, is this. Your muddling officials down below have made out your papers for Strathpuffer Castle and forgotten to give details. I have no doubt that, if you make enquiries, you will find that one of you has been appointed to haunt this room, the other the Castle grounds. You follow me?”

“My preserver!” gasped both spectres simultaneously, and vanished together to make enquiries at headquarters.

That my surmise proved correct was shown on the occasion of my next visit to the Castle. As the carriage passed through the grounds I heard the sound of bagpipes mingled with thunderclaps from behind an adjacent tree, and the first sight that met my eyes as I entered the Red Room was a hideous old woman who, even as I gazed, changed into a luminous boy.

Punch 2 September 1903: p. 153

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Once again, Punch unerringly hits the satirical mark in listing some of the most popular spectres of Britain:

  • The Luminous (or Radiant) Boy, found at Corby Castle and other stately homes
  • The hideous old woman, practically de rigueur in any ghost story written by Mr Elliott O’Donnell. An example not by that lurid gentleman is this chilling anecdote, either from Streatlam Castle or Glamis Castle:

My daughter-in-law has a ghost story of an old woman who appears in a haunted room at Lord Strathmore’s. His lordship’s house was so full of visitors on one occasion that the only spare bedroom was the haunted chamber, into which two of his lordship’s guests, the Misses Davidson, were ushered without being told of its ghostly reputation. After midnight one of the young ladies was wakened by some noise, and shrieked at seeing a hideous old woman in an antiquated dress leaning over her, grinning fiendishly, and bringing her loathly visage into close conformity to that of Miss D. Recovering her courage, and suspecting that the ghost was flesh and blood, the girl sprang out of bed to repulse the intruder. The phantom retreated and disappeared at a door, to the astonishment of both ladies, who still thought it might be a living human being. Next morning they related their nocturnal adventure to the company at breakfast, on which the Earl’s family exchanged significant glances, but gave no explanation.

  • The hearse-and-four, often lit by skull-lamps with flaming eyes and pulled by headless horses, is a favourite omen of death among noble families. That  peripatetic person over at Haunted Ohio has written several times about phantom coaches and hearses.
  • The phantom piper, who was sent to explore a tunnel (for example, at Keilor at Edinburgh Castle) and who never emerged, leaving behind only the sound of his pipes beneath the ground.

Hideous old women are all very well, but Mrs Daffodil wonders that the Punch satirist neglected to include those pillars of the British paranormal scene, The Grey Lady, The White Lady, The Green Lady, The Woman in Black, and The Pink Lady  It is a curious and perhaps telling omission. Mrs Daffodil would advise the legal representatives of those colourful entities to file grievances with the proper office. There is no excuse for not remembering the lady ghosts who must haunt twice as hard as the gentlemen, backwards, and in high heels.

 

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 Lightning Adaptors of Fashion: 1910

billie burke 1916

Actress Billie Burke c. 1916

On Trail of Latest Fashions.

Helene Melville

There are a large number of fashion devotees who, although unable to spend much on their attire or to be in the secret of the “couturiers,” manage to be dressed strictly according to the dictates of fashion almost as soon as those dictates have been promulgated, and before they appear in the shape of special articles and sketches or photograph in newspapers and periodicals.

Needless to say. It is among the Parisiennes that these clever and enterprising fashion hunters, fashion detectors, and fashion ” lightning adaptors,” as some one has called them, are mostly to be found.

Which are their hunting territories? Mainly the leading theaters of Paris (on first nights), the race courses near the French metropolis, and the ” afternoon teas.” “Afternoon teas” is the more vague term for the old fashioned “5 o’clock tea,” which now is partaken of in Paris from any time between 5 and 7 p.m.!

The first night at the Théâtre-Français, the Vaudeville, the Gymnase, and the Variétés are the recognised indicators of fashion. Sensational gowns are worn on those “select” stages by the  leading Parisian actresses. Some of those dresses are suggestions. They are offered to the actress by well known firms anxious to make their new “creations” known to the elite.

It were difficult to conceive keener excitement and anxiety, a readier sense of assimilation than that which permeates the minds of certain feminine spectators at those “premieres.”

They hold the best seats, the seats from which a woman can see the exact nature of a material and whether a gown closes at the back, in front, or on the side, how that “unique drapery” is arranged, and the exact details of the color scheme.

How clever those fair fashion pirates are! How subtle and rapid in their perceptions. They miss nothing and their astounding memory–for, needless to say, they make no use of paper or pencil–retains even the slightest details of the new gowns they admire end envy.

All the time her mind is at work. Her eyes take snapshots of all that is new in fashion and which passes before her. The next morning she sets to work alone or with the assistance of a little dressmaker or milliner, and, behold, the same day or the next she appears triumphantly in the drawing room of her best friend wearing the latest!

Of course she does not remember much of the play; she has hardly grasped the plot or appreciated, the acting. But what matters? A new hat surely is more important than a new play, and “her” success is a more momentous affair than that of writer’s dramatic effort.

The methods of the fashion hunters are used by them on many fields of activity. But the fashionable Paris theaters on first nights are favorites with them. Can one blame them? After all they only seek to enhance their appearance, and if vanity is at the foundation of their craving for “new” elegance and, as it were, copyright “fashionableness” let us remember that they expose themselves to much criticism and run the dreaded risk of not being absolutely fashionable in spite of their efforts, at imitation and assimilation.

Chicago [IL] Tribune 20 February 1910: p. 48

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Actresses of stage and screen reported much pressure over procuring and wearing the latest fashions. They knew very well that they were role models:  the theatrical equivalent of to-day’s cat-walk mannequins, exhibiting the most up-to-date costumes to audiences who, although they could not patronise the great couture houses, still wished to wear the newest styles.

One actress, who designed many of her own costumes, felt that the piracy of theatrical audiences had gone far enough.

COPYRIGHTED DRESSES.

Miss Billie Burke originated the scheme of copyrighting her stage dresses that so many other actresses have since adopted.

“I just had to do it,” says the actress, who comes to the Grand Theatre March 19, in “Jerry,” her latest success in which she wears an unusually large number of fetching gowns.

“I used to be proud of the fact that the dressmakers copied my clothes for their customers, but I found it made it very expensive for me. I had to be getting new frocks all the time to keep ahead of my audiences. So I have seen my lawyers in New York and they tell me It can be done and that after my dresses are copyrighted I can prosecute anyone who copies them.”

Miss Burke, it is well known, is one of the best dressed women on the American stage. She designs most of her costumes herself and so they have a distinctive touch that differentiates them from the prevailing fashions. Dressmakers In New York especially–but in other cities, too– were quick to observe this and whenever Miss Burke appeared in a new play in New York there were always a lot of the fashionable costumers of the city in the audience and it wasn’t long before a lot of Imitation Billie Burkes were to be seen on Fifth Avenue.

The Montgomery [AL] Advertiser 13 March 1915: p. 3

Miss Billie Burke had such a distinctive face, figure, and voice that one could scarcely countenance an Imitation.  In addition to designing her own clothes, she was often dressed by Lucile. Some of Mrs Daffodil’s readers will remember her in a fluffy pink frock as “Glinda, the Good Witch” in the motion picture: The Wizard of Oz. 

Mrs Daffodil has written before on early fashion piracy, and on the trials of motion-picture actresses and their fashionable gowns.

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 Misfit Christmas Present Exchange: 1894

lavender men's slippers lily of the valley remember scrolls 1860s

MISFIT CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.

What this country needs more than anything else, just once a year, is a Misfit Christmas Present Exchange.

An enterprising gentleman has already started an establishment where one can dispose of duplicate wedding presents, but a person gets married once only in his life, whereas he or she, as the case or sex may be, endures many Christmases.

How sweet and pleasant would it be, for instance, if a young and pretty clergyman who has been remembered by seventeen or two dozen of the ewe lambs of his congregation with a pair of slippers from each, could trade off most of them for, say, a meerschaum pipe or some perpendicular linen collars! Until such an exchange begins to fill a long felt want, the daily papers could help on the good work by permitting their patrons to insert free such advertisements as the following, at holiday time:

“A boy of twelve wishes to exchange a new copy of ‘Josephus,’ handsomely bound, for a second hand copy of ‘Beelzebub Dick, the Terror of Gory Gulch’; or ‘ Deadhead Dan, the Young Detective of Mulberry Avenue.'”

“Young lady would part with seven (7) Christmas cards (four of them hand painted) in return for a diamond engagement ring.”

“Married man desires to exchange a pair of ice cream colored wristers for a glass of beer.”

“Young clergyman will dispose of an assorted lot of slippers, some of which are embroidered with blue dogs with scarlet eyes, for a serviceable pair of winter gloves, fur lined preferred. Must be mates.”

“Boston young lady, temporarily residing in New York, would like to exchange eight copies of Browning’s complete works, all new and unused, for a pair of gold rimmed spectacles, No. 5, near sighted.”

“Young married man will trade a box of cigars (handsome work of art on inside of lid) for a ten cent plug of chewing tobacco.”

“Gentleman desires to part with a pair of large red mittens. Will accept a two ply ham sandwich or three Frankfurter sausages in exchange.”

“Youth will give a copy of Lamb’s Poems of Childhood (leaves uncut), for a baseball bat or a cheap pistol with a box of cartridges.”

“A musically inclined girl will exchange her brother’s irresponsible cornet for an upright piano.”

“A young gentleman of eleven, in long pantaloons, will give a fancy cap, labeled ‘For a Good Boy,’ for a ticket to any accessible dime museum.”

“Young lady of fourteen wishes to exchange a wax doll, with real hair, for a copy of ‘The Quick or the Dead’; also a rubber cry doll for twenty five cents’ worth of chewing gum, vanilla or strawberry.”

“The father of a seven year old boy wishes to dispose of a new bass drum, warranted sound (too sound, in fact). No reasonable offer refused.”

Munsey’s Magazine, Volume 10, 1894: pp. 318-319

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a brilliant idea!  Still, Mrs Daffodil fears that consumers would fight shy of those cigars, which young brides were proverbially dreadful at choosing, not to mention uncut volumes of Browning and Lamb. The Quick or the Dead, which readers may examine for themselves here, is a sensational novel about a woman torn between her love for her dead husband and a living suitor. It was notorious in its day and has been described as “morbid,” “hysterical,” and “immature.” The author was particularly fond of adjectives:  “A rich purple-blue dusk had sunk down over the land, and the gleam of the frozen ice-pond in the far field shone desolately forth from tangled patches of orange-colored wild grass.” “She threw herself into a drift of crimson pillows … brooding upon the broken fire, whose lilac flames palpitated over a bed of gold-veined coals.” Obviously the perfect gift for a young lady of fourteen.

Mrs Daffodil hopes that all of you had a Happy Christmas and did not receive any of the presents above, especially that irresponsible cornet.

 

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.