How Spoopendyke Missed the Masquerade: 1885

(c) Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


“Say, my dear,” said Mr. Spoopendyke, as he hurried in, hot and breathless, late from his business, “did you get me a fancy dress for the masquerade to-night?”

“It’s all ready,” replied Mrs. Spoopendyke, beaming. “You go as—let me see as—let me see–. I go as a Spanish guitar-girl, and you go as—as—it’s either Louis XIV., or Oliver Cromwell, or Sir Robert Burns, I’ve fogotten which the man called it.”

“I do, do I?” said Mr. Spoopendyke, glaring around. “I go as one of ’em, do I? As they are all dead, and as I will do for all three, p’raps you got a coffin. Show me the coffin. Fetch out the interconvertible catafalque and help me on with it. Has it got sleeves?”

“It isn’t a coffin,” explained Mrs. Spoopendyke. “It is a doublet and __”

“It’s a doublet, is it? Well, that relieves me of one of ’em. I thought from the way you spoke. Mrs. Spoopendyke; it was a triplet. Is there a trousers with it? Got a shirt? I told you to get me a bandit suit, didn’t I? Fetch out this Cromwell business! Show me this man Burns! Any sword go with it?”

Mrs. Spoopendyke brought forth a worn red velvet jacket, trimmed with tarnished braid, and a pair of yellow velvet knee-breeches, slashed up the side. This she supplemented with a felt hat, and a pair of jack-boots armed with spurs.

“Maybe it is a bandit’s suit, after all,” she suggested.

“Which is the Louis XIV. end of this thing?” demanded Mr. Spoopendyke. “Where does the Olivier Cromwell part begin? Show me the Burns element on this schedule! If I’m going to get into this thing chronologically I must begin with the king and wind off with the poet; which is the king part?” and Mr. Spoopendyke shot out of his business suit and drew on the velvet trousers. “Where’s the rest of ’em?” he demanded, surveying an expanse of unclothed limb. “This whole thing is only one leg. Where’s the pair for the other leg? Give me some more trousers;” and Mr. Spoopendyke scowled about him.

“Don’t the boots come up to meet them?” asked Mrs. Spoopendyke, in some trepidation.

Mr. Spoopendyke pulled on the boots, but still there was an exposed space of nearly a foot.

“I s’pose this bare-legged arrangement is the Burns part,” grinned Mr. Spoopendyke. “He was a Highlander, and this much of me is Burns. Show me the Cromwell part now. Is that hat it?” and Mr. Spoopendyke put on the hat and breathed hard. “Where’s the rest of me? My head and legs are all right; bring out my back and stomach!”

Mrs. Spoopendyke handed him the jacket, and he plunged into it with a jerk.

“That what you wanted?” he howled. “Couldn’t you make more’n three epochs of me? Didn’t the man have but three historical dates? Pull that jacket down a couple of centuries, can’t ye? Don’t you see the bottom of the thing is two hundred years from reaching the waistband of the Burns breeches?” and Mr. Spoopendyke tugged at the abbreviated coat and snorted with wrath.

“Maybe that was the way it was meant to go,” argued Mrs. Spoopendyke. “I, saw__”

‘You sawed off the coat and pants, now s’pose you saw off a rod of this hat and patch ’em out again! When did Cromwell wear that hat? What kind of a bet did he win that on? Say, where’s the scaffold that goes with these politicians? Fetch out the headsman!” and Mr. Spoopendyke danced into the closet and out again. “Bring me some Charles I. to hide my legs!” shrieked Mr. Spoopendyke, combining the historical ideas he represented in one grand yell. “Fetch me three suppers for one old idiot that trusted his wife to find a suit for him!” and Mr. Spoopendyke thrust his arm to the shoulder through the Covenanter’s hat, and split the coat of the lamented Louis from tail to collar-band. “Look out for some Scotch romance!” and he ripped off the pants and fired them into the grate. “Here comes another page in the annals of crime!” and the boots went out the window.

“And we—can’t go—go to the mas—masquerade at all.” sobbed Mrs. Spoopendyke.

“Write an epitaph on the back of my neck, and I’ll go as a tombstone!” yawped Mr. Spoopendyke. “Put three beds in my side and a torn stair-carpet at my back, and I’ll go as a French flat! Discharge the hired girl and get up a cold dinner, and I’ll go as a boarding-house! But if you think I’m going to any masquerade in bare legs like a baby, and bare-backed like a circus, just to advertise a hymn-book, a gin-mill, and a broadaxe factory, you’re left, Mrs. Spoopendyke. You hear me? You’re left!” and Mr. Spoopendyke drew on his night-shirt.

“It’s too awfully mean for anything,” mused Mrs. Spoopendyke, as she laid away the Spanish guitar-girl’s costume, and warmed up her crimping pins. “I tried to get something that would suit him, and he don’t appear pleased with it. Another time I’ll get him a sheet and a pair of socks, so he can be a Roman senator, and if he is disappointed and tears ’em up it won’t cost so much.” With which profound reflection Mrs. Spoopendyke said her prayers, and, planting her cold feet in Mr.Spoopendyke’s stomach, sank gently to rest.

The Australian Journal September 1885: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil feels compelled to explain that part of the joke is that Mr S’s costume is so generically “antique” that it could represent Louis XIV, Oliver Cromwell, or Robert Burns. This is suggestive of certain elaborate gowns Mrs Daffodil has seen listed on auction sites such as “Ebay,” described as “Renaissance/Tudor/Marie Antoinette/Civil War/Victorian,” under the quaint notion that anything with a big skirt might pass for a garment from any one (or several) of those eras.

Mrs Daffodil suggests that Mrs S., in acquiescing to her disagreeable husband, missed an unprecendented opportunity to go to the masquerade as a Spanish guitar-girl and meet a gentleman (in all senses of the word) who might prove a much better mate than the current model. “Disgraceful” is the only word for Mr S’s conduct. Mrs Daffodil wonders that he has not been poisoned by the hired girl.


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.


3 thoughts on “How Spoopendyke Missed the Masquerade: 1885

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      It is, indeed, a felicitous name! He seems to have been a recurring character in the newspapers. Mrs Daffodil has read another piece where he is exceedingly ill-tempered about his new baby. It is most anxiety-inducing.
      Best Wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Spoopendyke and the Bathing Suit: 1880 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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