Mr Blomgren’s New Year’s Call: 1880s

Christmas and New Year's Greeting fan 1880

Before the custom of making calls on New Year’s day had quite come to an end in New York, we were directing envelopes for our cards, during Christmas week, when some one noticed that we had forgotten our friend, Mr. Blomgren. We hastened to correct our omission, and fell to speaking of Mr. Blomgren as one we liked particularly. He was amiable and unassuming, and had the most winning manners. In fact, he was a very fine specimen of the Swedish gentleman, and each of us had something pleasant to say of him, and we rejoiced that we had discovered our mistake in time for him to get his card, which we directed to his boarding place.

New Year’s day came, and, during the afternoon, Mr. Blomgren did not present himself. However, we had rather thought that he would come in the evening and were not surprised.

It was about eight o’clock, I think, when one of us went up-stairs to put two little nieces, who were visiting us, to bed.

The children were sound asleep, and their aunt was growing drowsy, when she became aware of a tall figure standing in the door-way, and, starting up, saw that it was Mr. Blomgren, and fancied that, as the room was sometimes used as a dressing-room at our receptions, he had supposed that this would be the case to-night.

She arose and advanced toward him, saying words to the effect that every one was down stairs. He answered, without a smile—”I came because you sent me a card.”

“We are delighted to see you, Mr. Blomgren,” she replied ; “shall we go down?” But he was already gone, and she followed.

As he was not to be found in any of the lower rooms, and none of us had seen him, we decided that the mistake he had made had mortified him and that he had gone away at once, and we were all very sorry. Yet, it was not like him to be so sensitive, he was too much a man of the world, and not by any means a boy— thirty years of age, probably.

A few days after, a lady friend called, and one of us spoke of Mr. Blomgren. She had got so far as to say —”of course, we sent him cards “—when the visitor cried out:

“Sent him cards?—why, he had been dead a week or more on New Year’s day.”

He died of pneumonia, after a brief illness, and, having no relatives here, he was taken to a hospital.

I know that many people who knew him had no knowledge of his death until weeks after it occurred.

It is only fair to say that the lady who saw him afterwards decided that she must have been asleep and dreamed it all—though, she declared, it resembled no other dream that she had ever had, and she was not conscious of any waking. 

The Freed Spirit: Or Glimpses Beyond the Border, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We think of the notion of a round of New Year’s Day calls as a stream of decorous visitors wishing the householders the joys of the season and leaving their cards in the tray.  In reality, the addresses of prominent persons holding “open houses” on New Year’s were printed in the newspapers and droves of young males went about from house to house, just long enough to greet the party and swill the alcoholic refreshments that etiquette demanded be offered. Their social depredations were planned with military precision to see how many houses they could “hit.” By the end of the day, most of the revelers were so intoxicated they could not stand up. They could not be left to litter the streets so most of them were swept up by the officers of the law and hauled off to court. These distasteful celebrations spelt an end to formal New Year’s Day calls.

 

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.

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