“You can tell by their opera glasses that they mean trouble:” 1888


From the Detroit Tribune

Two men and a woman visited Gorman’s Minstrels at Detroit last week, entering the theatre when the programme was about half over. The trio was very flashily dressed. The older man wore a sealskin coat and the other a magnificent Inverness. They stood up and removed them with great ostentation. Finally they became settled down and stared through big opera glasses at the performance.

The persistence with which they levelled their glasses at the stage excited comment. The glasses were almost as large as those used for field purposes. The woman, with an insipid smile, sat idly sucking the handle of her lorgnette. The elder man became uneasy. He began talking in a monotone and applauded uproariously every situation on the stage. Finally he joined in with E.M. Hall on a banjo solo. The younger man tried to suppress his companion’s exuberance, with partial success. Then the woman commenced to whistle. The party were undeniably intoxicated. Manager Wright finally silenced their hilariousness by threatening to remove them.

“I was afraid of those people the moment they entered,” he said.

“Why so?”

“Well, you can tell by their opera glasses that they meant trouble. Those are the latest fad. No more going out between acts. You see, there are three cylinders. The centre one and the outer part of the two others are false. Four whiskey glasses of liquor can be placed in this glass. A little tin tube extends into the centre cylinder. When drawn partly out it opens the valve at its inner end. As many persons hold an opera glass with both hands the deception in perfect, and the contents of the cylinder can be drunk to the last drop. An inventive genius in Washington got up the idea only this fall, and he is making a good thing out of it, although lorgnette handles that will hold liquor or perfume are by no means a new thing.”

The Sun [New York, NY] 4 January 1888: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil applauds Manager Wright for ejecting the offenders and suggests that opera glasses and lorgnettes be inspected—and perhaps confiscated—at the door.  His theatre’s refreshment stand would stand to lose a good deal of revenue should such practices be allowed to go unchecked. And whistling, indeed! “A whistling woman and a crowing hen always come to the same bad end,” as the proverb goes. “Air-banjo” is scarcely better.

Mrs Daffodil feels that there has been a general loss of moral fibre in modern society. The theatre-goers of to-day seem to have lost all pluck and enterprise. Whatever happened to the quiet nip from the flask in one’s coat pocket or reticule? “Loaded” opera-glasses are an affront to discretion.

If one cannot sit through several acts and an encore of an entertainment featuring chorus girls in silk stockings and singers of comic songs without sucking on one’s opera glasses, Mrs Daffodil suggests that it would be far better if such persons would subscribe to one of those multi-channel television services and stay home where they can freely nip and graze.

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 ““You can tell by their opera glasses that they mean trouble:” 1888

  1. Pingback: All About Lorgnettes: 1886-7, 1923 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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