A MOURNING BOUDOIR
The Latest Alleged Absurdity in Grief for Lamenting Widow
“Come upstairs until I show you my room. It has all been done over in the neatest fashion, and is too sweet for anything,” said a fashionable widow to our sweet girl reporter.
The handsome leader of fashion, who had been widowed for a year or so, led the way to a large room on the second floor.
The door was thrown open and the reporter took one glimpse and then started back. The place at first sight looked like the inside of a hearse.
“It’s the latest English don’t you know, and so in keeping with my crape gown. I did not like it at first, but I do not believe I could sleep in colors again.” The room was furnished with a handsome suite of white enamel and the bedspread and the pillowshams were of black satin merveilleux, embroidered in black velvet applique with silver thread, the monogram of the widow being worked in silver on the centre of both spread and shams. The toilet table and little escritoire were draped in the same manner, and at the windows were thin curtains of black liberty silk against white lace.
“Look here,” said the pretty widow, and she threw back the bed covers, displaying sheets of black silk hemstitched in white, and black silk slips on the pillows.
“I dress in black from top to toe,” she continued. “I wear black silk underclothes, black satin corsets, and a black silk petticoat, and I even have my gowns lined with black. My friends tell me they would sleep as comfortable in a coffin as in my bed, but I find it a delightful resting place.
“And do you know” she continued, “a friend, who has just been made a widow, is having a room fitted like mine, only with black jet monograms. A great many English women who are not in mourning have black rooms, and that is where I got my idea.”
Then she led the way into the boudoir all furnished in vivid yellow, even to the two canaries that piped in their golden cages.
“Yellow is the next color to black you know,” she explained. “And then my husband was a Baltimorean, and I have the oriole colors, black and yellow, too, you see.” The Upholsterer
St Paul [MN] Daily Globe 14 May 1889: p. 6
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was an old French custom that a widowed Queen must be isolated for 40 days in a black-draped chambre de deuil. This was to ensure the paternity of any heirs-to-be, a notion which Mrs Daffodil finds laughably optimistic considering the notoriously lax morals of the French court. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the lady in the account above—whose emphasis seems to lie on the “departed” portion of “The Dearly Departed”—was thinking more of how the black silk sheets and black satin corsets enhanced her milky complexion than of her loss.
This article about the “mourning boudoir,” along with a myriad of other items on the oddities of Victorian mourning will be found in The Victorian Book of the Dead, by Chris Woodyard, which is now available. The book is a look at the popular manifestations and ephemera of Victorian death culture. In addition to mourning novelties, burial alive, strange funerals, ghost stories, bizarre deaths and petrified corpses may be taken as read.
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.