Souvenirs for All Souls Eve: 1894

A Brownie, by Joseph Jacobs

A Brownie, by Joseph Jacobs

Souvenirs for All Souls Eve

New York, Oct. 27, 1894

Fashionable people are doing their frivoling less and less in the town and more and more at their country seats. Halloween, which, as all the world knows, comes on the last day of October, and in the heart of the Indian summer, is an ideal fete for the jolly house parties that are making merry in Lenox and Tuxedo and all along the line of the autumn stamping grounds of the smart set.

To make a short story of several detached chapters, culled from other books, Halloween is to be given over this year to feasting and dancing, and midnight trick revels that are to be robbed of their grewsomeness out of consideration for the timidity of the timorous and divested of the more boisterous bumpkin antics out of regard for elegant Belindas and Bobbies who do not like to ruin their togs bobbing for apples in a tub and doing similar feats of the peasantry.

There are to be any number of dinner parties on Halloween, with dancing for the aftermath; and for the cotillion, without which a dance nowadays is like a bird without a song, all the favors are being ordered with especially reference to the manifold folk tales of the Scottish country folk, from whom most of the Halloween tricks and trumperies have been handed down.

Foremost are the Brownies.

Good fairies, good luck. The Brownies done in gold and enamel, some of them of special magnificence, by private order, into precious stones, are harbingers of fair fortune, and as such are the star Halloween gifts of the season.

The “nits,” as the peasantry of Scotland call nuts, will be named and toasted in the big hall fireplaces of many a fine country house, but the modern maid does not like to avow her flirtatious propensities by openly naming the nuts, and for her especially delectation there are Halloween nuts this year in gold and silver that open when a tiny spring is pressed, disclosing a trinket case in which a bauble of elegant workmanship reclines, mayhap a ring, perhaps a thimble for mademoiselle’s embroidery or charity sewing.

A stick pin that has been designed for a Halloween gift gets it cue from the line of Burns’ Halloween “Pou the stocks,” or rather from the superstition that the poet there refers to. Pulling the stalk of a Kale plant is the first of the old ceremonies of the evening, and the silversmiths and goldsmiths, have made all their tiny stalks straight and fair, to show that the omen is a good one.

Of candlesticks there is an infinite variety, with one or two especially made for the eve of All Saints mysteries. One that has a mischievous sprite for a holder is quaint and bound to supply at least one extra face in the looking-glass. Another odd little holder is the stem of an apple, the fruit forming the base.

One of the most elegant gifts for a faire ladye on Halloween will be a triple mirror with candelabra attachment, a desideratum of the dressing-room that comes high, but is so useful the year round it is one of the best of tokens for the season.

Besides the costlier gifts, there are any number of comparatively inexpensive trinkets that answer for German favors, among them being many times “twa red cheekit apples” made in natural hues of silk and crepe paper, and also some trick apples that open to disclose bonbons.

The fad of ever hostess is to have unique favors and this presupposes a specially designed supply. For a house party in the Berkshires there are being made some witch caps and brooms, and for the man some fantastic “jumpers,” all of which are to be donned just before midnight in which to work some spells that are to take place in a huge new barn on the estate.

In the Halloween supper that is to follow, the place of honor is to be given to a dish of “butter’d so’ns, wi’ fragrant lunt,” prepared by the Scotch recipe, sowens with butter in place of milk, forming the chief article of diet on a properly observed Halloween.

Uniqueness rules. It also costs. The novelties of the season are largely prepared to fill private orders, but the dealers report a growing demand for trinkets symbolizing special fetes and for this general trade that has not arrived at the munificence of having special designs made to their order, nothing is in greater demand than the Brownies, who in their several “Shapes upon their several pins will go off careenin’ fu’ blythe that night.”

Dinah Sturgis.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 28 October 1894: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: So amusing to see the upper-classes trying to ape their inferiors by playing the games of the “peasantry,” and by giving folklore-themed favours at their cotillions.

A traditional Hallowe’en ritual is to name nuts for various lovers then put them on a grate in the fire. If a nut burns nicely, that love is true. If it pops, the lover will prove false. Maidens gazing in mirrors were said to see the face of their future husband on All Souls Eve. One wonders if the mirror described above would produce a single loving apparition in triplicate or if the vision would give a selection of three different potential husbands? “Sowens” is a kind of sour oat porridge. “fragrant lunt” refers to steam rising from the dish. “Pulling the kale” was yet another marriage divination ritual where the length and straightness of the stalk indicated one’s future spouse. See this instructive article for more detail and much Scots dialect.

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.



One thought on “Souvenirs for All Souls Eve: 1894

  1. Pingback: The Feast of All Souls in Tyrol: 1874 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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