Category Archives: Aristocracy

The Missouri Peer-Importing Company: 1903

COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE IN U.S.A.

[“The following Resolution has been passed by the Senate of the State of Missouri. Resolved—That the Committee of Criminal Jurisprudence be instructed to take into consideration the necessity and importance of the passage of a law providing for the taxation, branding, and licensing of foreign lords and noblemen, both real and genuine, bogus and fraudulent, found running at large in the State of Missouri, and proving severe penalties for the violation of the said law, to the end that the young women of Missouri may be protected and fully warned against engaging in speculation of so risky and dangerous a character.” –New York World.]

In the following handbill, left at the door of a fair correspondent in Missouri, we seem to trace the culminating cause of the above scare:

THE MISSOURI PEER-IMPORTING COMPANY.

This Company was formed to meet the ever-increasing demand for lords and noblemen in the State of Missouri and U.S.A. generally.

Absolutely no risk run by our customers!

Ladies dealing with us are assured of fair treatment and prompt delivery.

Without fear of contradiction we affirm that our Peers are superior in rank and pedigree and in position in their own countries, to any noblemen now on the market.

Every lord supplied to our customers is branded with the State Stamp, and no goods that are not up to the Government standard are retailed at our stores.

Our stock of British Dukes is the finest in the world, and at the Missouri Exhibition we were awarded the Gold Medal for this rare and beautiful type of goods.

A choice selection of belted Earls is always on view in our showrooms.

We highly recommend our “B.B.B.” or British Baron Brand. These may be had in three styles—English, Irish, or Scotch. We do a large business in these goods with people who like a good article but cannot afford the more costly brands. As, however, the supply is limited, customers are advised to purchase early.

We have a very cheap line in French Counts, which we are offering at prices to suit the smallest purse. Such of these goods as we sell bear the Government imprint, though personally we do not care to recommend them, having had frequent complaint regarding their quality.

We beg leave to observe that the lowest-priced Peers—such for instance as Polish Counts—we do not stock, as in very few cases have they been found satisfactory. We venture to urge upon our clients the advisability of paying a somewhat higher price and ensuring quality.

Peers delivered to any address in U.S.A. free of duty and carriage paid.

The following are samples of the testimonials which we are receiving daily:

The Marchioness of Fitz-Portcullis (nee Miss Polly Porker) writers; “Your Marquis is simply lovely—and so intelligent. Please send two more, as I want them for birthday presents for my sisters. Am going to England shortly.

“Yours sincerely,

Polly Fitz-Portcullis.”

A Countess (who desires to be anonymous) writes: “Earl recently received and gives every satisfaction. Have shown him to friend who bought Russian Prince last year, and she says she wished she had heard of your Firm then, for she certainly would have tried one of your Earls.

“P.S.—Please send me French Count suitable for presentation to elderly maiden aunt. Was delighted with Irish Baron.”

Punch 8 April 1903: p. 240-241

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a noble, but impoverished Peer,  must be in want of a wife in possession of a good fortune. The daughters of Colorado mining magnates, Chicago pork packers, and New York rail millionaires, often known as “Dollar Princesses,” were sent to elite finishing schools, were presented at Court, and made lavish debuts during the London Season, all in the quest for a Title. Like Consuelo Vanderbilt, the young ladies longed for love and the glamour and the gold of the aristocratic life, but many found only a false glitter.

To Mrs Daffodil’s unsophisticated mind, it all rather savours of the parade of young persons for the patrons’ delectation in the parlour at Madame Zoe’s discreet establishment in Curzon Street. One gathers that, in many cases, the interest of the titled gentlemen in their amply-dowered brides did not last much longer than such encounters.

 

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.

 

The Ghost of the Count: 1897

the ghost of the count illustration

THE GHOST OF THE COUNT.

Thrilling Story of an Experience of a Woman in a Mexican Banking House with a Phantom.

Not far from the Alameda, in the City of Mexico, there is a great old stone building, in which once lived a very wealthy and wicked Spanish count. The house has about four floors, and ninety rooms, more or less. The entire fourth floor is rented and occupied by a big American firm, and their bookkeeper, an American girl, has given us the following true account of the ghost that for years haunted the building. The second floor is unoccupied, as no one cares to live there for obvious reasons. And the bottom floor is also unoccupied, save for lumber rooms, empty boxes and crates and barrels. And last of all is the great patio with its tiled floor, where secretly in the night a duel was fought to the death by the wicked count and a famous Austrian prince, who was one of Maximilian’s men. The count was killed.

No one knows why the duel was fought; some say it was because of a beautiful Spanish woman: some say that it was because of treasure that the two jointly “conveyed,” and which the count refused to divide with his princely “socio,” and more people—Mexicans—shrug their shoulders if you ask about it, and say, “Quien sabe?”

“I saw a ghost here last night, Miss James,” announces our cashier with much éclat and evident pride.

So great is the shock that I gasp, and my pen drops, spattering red ink on my nice fresh cuffs, and (worse luck!) on the ledger page that I had just totted up. It is ruined, and I will have to erase it, or—something! Wretched man!

“I wish to goodness it had taken you off,” I cry, wrathfully, as I look at the bespattered work. “Now will you just look here and see what you have done? I wish you and your ghosts were in…”

“Gehenna?” he inquires, sweetly; “I’ll fix that—it won’t take half a minute. And don’t look so stern, else I won’t tell you about the ‘espanto.’ And you will be sorry if you don’t hear about it-—it would make such a good story.” (Insinuatingly. )

“Then go ahead with it.” (Ungraciously.)

“Well, last night I was waiting for West. He was to meet me here, after which it was our intention to hit the—that is, I mean we were going out together. (I nod scornfully.) And it seems that while I was patiently waiting here, in my usual sweet-tempered way, the blank idiot had his supper and then lay down to rest himself for a while. You know how delicate he is? (Another contemptuous nod.) Unfortunately he forgot the engagement, and slept on. He says he never awoke until three o’clock, and so didn’t come, thinking I wouldn’t be there. Meantime I also went to sleep, and might have snoozed on until three, likewise, but for the fact that the ghost woke me——”

“Well? Do go on,” I urge.

“The ghost woke me, as I said,” proceeds the simpleton, slowly. “It was passing its cold fingers over my face and groaning. Really, it was most extraordinary. At first I didn’t know what it was; then, as I felt the icy fingers stroking my face and heard blood-curdling groans issuing from the darkness, I knew what it was. And I remembered the story of the prince and his little duel down in the patio, and knew it was the ghost of the prince’s victim. By the way, you don’t know what a funny sensation it is to have a ghost pat your face, Miss James.”

“Pat nothing,” I retort, indignantly. “I wonder you are not ashamed to tell me such fibs. Such a ta-ra-diddle! And as for the man that the prince killed downstairs, you know as well as I do that he was taken home to Spain and buried, there. Why, then, should he come back here, into our offices, and pat your face?”

“Ah, that I can’t say,” with a supercilious drawl. “I can only account for it by thinking that the ghost has good taste—better than that of some people I know,” meaningly. “But honestly, I swear that I am telling you the truth—cross my heart and hope to die if I am not! And you don’t know how brave I was—I never screamed; in fact, I never made a sound; oh, I was brave!”

“Then what did you do?” sternly.

“I ran. Por Dios, how I ran! You remember with what alacrity we got down the stairs during the November earthquake? (I remember only too distinctly.) Well, last night’s run wasn’t a run, in comparison—it was a disappearance, a flight, a sprint! I went down the four flights of stairs like a streak of blue lightning, and the ghost flew with me. I heard the pattering of its steps and its groans clean down to the patio door, and I assure you I quite thought I had made such an impression that it was actually going on home with me. And the thought made me feel so weak that I felt perforce obliged to take a—have a— that is, strengthen myself with a cocktail. After which I felt stronger and went home quite peacefully. But it was an uncanny experience, wasn’t it?”

“Was it before or after taking that cocktail,” I ask, incredulously. “And did you take one only or eleven?”

I am hard on the man, but he really deserves it. Ghosts! Spirits, perhaps, but not ghosts. Whereat his feelings are quite “hurted”—so much so that he vows he will never tell me anything again; I had better read about Doubting Thomas; he never has seen such an unbelieving woman in all his life, and if I were only a man he would be tempted to pray that I might see the ghost; it would serve me right. Then, wrathfully departs, to notice me no more that day.

Not believing the least bit in ghosts I gave the matter no more thought. In fact, when you fall heir to a set of books that haven’t been posted for nineteen days, and you have to do it all, and get up your trial balance, too, or else give up your Christmas holidays, you haven’t much time to think about ghosts, or anything else, except entries. And though I had been working fourteen hours per day, the 24th of December, noon hour, found me with a difference of $13.89. The which I, of course, must locate and straighten out before departing next morning on my week’s holiday. Por supuesto, it meant night work. Nothing else would do; and besides, our plans had all been made to leave on the eight o’clock train next morning. So I would just sit up all night, if need be, and find the wretched balance and be done with it.

Behold me settled for work that night at seven o’clock in my own office, with three lamps burning to keep it from looking dismal and lonely, and books and ledgers and journals piled up two feet high around me. If hard work would locate that nasty, hateful $13.89 it would surely be found. I had told the portero downstairs on the ground floor to try and keep awake for a time, but if I didn’t soon finish the work I would come down and call him when I was ready to go home.

He lived in a little room, all shut off from the rest of the building, so that it was rather difficult to get at him. Besides, he was the very laziest and sleepiest fellow possible, and though he was supposed to take care of the big building at night, patrolling it so as to keep off ladrones, he in reality slept so soundly that the last trumpet, much less Mexican robbers, would not have roused him.

And for this very reason, before settling to my work I was careful to go around and look to locks and bolts myself; everything was secure, and the doors safely fastened. So that if ladrones did break through they would have to be in shape to pass through keyholes or possess false keys.

With never a thought of spirits or porteros, or anything else, beyond the thirteen dollars and eighty-nine cents, I worked and added and readded and footed up. And at eleven o’clock, grazia a Dios, I had the thirteen dollars all safe, and would have whooped for joy, had I the time. However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet, the sum of eighty-nine dollars being often more easy of location than eighty-nine cents. The latter must be found, also, before I could have the pleasure of shouting in celebration thereof.

At it I went again. After brain cudgeling and more adding and prayerful thought I at last had under my thumb that abominable eighty cents. Eureka! Only nine cents out. I could get it all straight and have some sleep, after all! Inspired by which thought I smothered my yawns and again began to add. I looked at my watch— ten minutes to twelve. Perhaps I could get it fixed before one.

I suppose I had worked at the nine cents for about twenty minutes. One of the cash entries looked to me to be in error. I compared it with the voucher—yes, that was just where the trouble lay! Eleven cents—ten—nine—

S-t-t!  Out went the lights in the twinkling of an eye—as I sat, gaping in my astonishment, from out of the pitchy darkness of the room came the most dreary, horrible, blood-curdling groan imaginable. As I sat paralyzed, not daring to breathe, doubting my senses for a moment, and then thinking indignantly that it was some trick of that wretched cashier, I felt long, thin, icy fingers passing gently over my face. Malgame Dios! what a sensation! At first I was afraid to move. Then I nervously tried to brush the icy, bony things away. As fast as I brushed, with my heart beating like a steam-hammer, and gasping with deadly fear, the fingers would come back again; a cold wind was blowing over me. Again came that dreadful groan, and too frightened to move or scream, I tumbled in a heap on the floor, among the books and ledgers. Then I suppose I fainted.

When I regained my senses I was still in a heap with the ledgers; still it was dark and still I felt the cold fingers caressing my face. At which I became thoroughly desperate. No ghost should own me! I had laughed at the poor cashier and hinted darkly at cocktails. Pray, what better was I?

I scrambled to my feet, the fingers still stroking my face. I must address them—what language—did they understand English or Spanish, I wondered? Spanish would doubtless be most suitable, if indeed, it was the ghost of the murdered count.

“Will you do me the favor, Senor Ghost,” I started out bravely, in my best Spanish, but with a very trembling voice, “to inform me what it is that you desire? Is there anything I can do for you? Because, if not, I would like very much to be allowed to finish my work, which I cannot do (if you will pardon my abruptness) if I am not alone.”

(Being the ghost of a gentleman and a diplomat, surely he would take the hint and vanish. Ojala!)

Perhaps the ghost did not understand my Spanish; at any rate there was no articulate reply; there was another groan—again the fingers touched me, and then there was such a mournful sigh that I felt sorry for the poor thing—what could be the matter with it? With my pity, all fear was lost for a moment, and I said to the darkness all about me:

“What is it that you wish, pobre senor? Can I not aid you? I am not afraid—let me help you!”

The fingers moved uncertainly for a moment; then the ledgers all fell down, with a loud bang; a cold hand caught mine, very gently—I tried not to feel frightened, but it was difficult—and I was led off blindly, through the offices. I could not see a thing—not a glimmer of light showed; not a sound was heard except my own footsteps, and the faint sound of the invisible something that was leading me along—there were no more groans, thank goodness, else I should have shrieked and fainted, without a doubt. Only the pattering footsteps and the cold hand that led me on and on.

We—the fingers and I—were somehow in the great hall, then on the second floor, and at last on the stairs, going on down, flight after flight. Then I knew that I was being led about by the fingers on the tiled floor of the patio, and close to the portero’s lodge. Simpleton that he was! Sleeping like a log, no doubt, while I was being led about in the black darkness by an invisible hand, and no one to save me! I would have yelled, of course, but for one fact—I found it utterly impossible to speak or move my tongue, being a rare and uncomfortable sensation.

But where were we going? Back into the unused lumber rooms, joining onto the patio? Nothing there, except barrels and slabs and empty boxes. What could the ghost mean? He must be utterly demented, surely.

In the middle of the first room we paused. I had an idea of rushing out and screaming for the portero, but abandoned it when I found that my feet wouldn’t go. I heard steps passing to and fro about the floor, and waited, cold and trembling. They approached me; again my hand was taken, and I was led over near the corner of the room. Obedient to the unseen will, I bent down and groped about the floor, guided by the cold fingers holding mine, until I felt something like a tiny ring, set firmly in the floor. I pulled at it faintly, but it did not move, at which the ghost gave a faint sigh. For a second the cold fingers pressed mine, quite affectionately, then released me, and I heard steps passing slowly into the patio, then dying away. Where was it going, and what on earth did it all mean?

But I was so tired and wrought up I tried to find the door, but couldn’t (the cashier would have been revenged could he have seen me stupidly fumbling at a barrel, thinking it was the door), and at last, too fatigued and sleepy to stand, I dropped down on the cold stone floor and went to sleep.

I must have slept for some hours, for when I awoke the light of dawn was coming in at the window, and I sat up and wondered if I had taken leave of my senses during the night. What on earth could I be doing here in the lumber-room? Then, like a flash, I remembered, and, half unconsciously, crept about on the floor seeking the small ring. There it was! I caught it and jerked at it hard. Hey, presto, change! For it seemed to me that the entire floor was giving way. There was a sliding, crashing sound, and I found myself hanging on for dear life to a barrel that, fortunately, retained its equilibrium, and with my feet dangling into space. Down below me was a small, stone-floored room, with big boxes and small ones ranged about the walls.

Treasure! Like a flash the thought struck me, and with one leap I was down in the secret room gazing about at the boxes.

But, alas! upon investigation, the biggest chests proved empty. The bad, wicked count!

No wonder he couldn’t rest in his Spanish grave, but must come back to the scene of his wickedness and deceit to make reparation! But the smaller chests were literally crammed with all sorts of things—big heavy Spanish coins, in gold and silver—gold and silver dinner services, with the crest of the unfortunate emperor; magnificent pieces of jeweled armor and weapons, beautiful jewelry and loose precious stones. I deliberately selected handfuls of the latter, giving my preference to the diamonds and pearls—I had always had a taste for them, which I had never before been able to gratify!—and packed them in a wooden box that I found in the lumber-room. The gold and dinner services and armor, etc., I left as they were, being rather cumbersome, and carried off, rejoicing, my big box of diamonds and pearls and other jewelry.

Needless to say we didn’t go away for the holidays on the eight o’clock train. But I did come down to the office and proceeded to locate my missing nine cents. After which I unfolded the tale of the ghost and the treasure—only keeping quiet the matter of my private loot. Of which I was heartily glad afterwards. For when the government learned of the find what do you suppose they offered me for going about with the ghost and discovering the secret room and treasure? Ten thousand dollars! When I refused, stating that I would take merely, as my reward, one of the gold dinner services, the greedy things objected at first, but I finally had my way. And to this very day they have no idea that I—even I—have all the beautiful jewels. Wouldn’t they be furious if they knew it? But they aren’t apt to, unless they learn English and read this story. Which isn’t likely.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 26 December 1897: p. 27

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Miss James certainly had her own éclat, although a young lady working in the male-dominated field of book-keeping, must have had to find ways to hold her own against supercilious clerks and government officials. She seems to have done so. One wonders how much more than ten thousand dollars she received when she sold the gold dinner service, as she most certainly would have done. Someone so self-possessed and canny would surely have known how gold quickly cools anything placed upon it and that a gold dinner service will invariably create additional expense for extra dishwashing staff.  Sensible girl, although she was perhaps indiscreet in selling her story to the newspapers where anyone in search of a reward–a spiteful cashier, for instance– could have informed the government of her “private loot.”

 

 

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.

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation: 1904

The End of Dinner, Jules Alexandre Grun, 1913

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation

By Lola Terry Shannon

Cecilia is a very bright young western woman with artistic tastes and an unusual facility for putting them to practical use, and is the only American woman who has ever made a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as a designer and decorator in connection with fashionable catering. Since she is a living entity at this writing, and very much alive at that, it may be well to state, in passing, that Cecilia is not her real name but only a fictitious substitute for present purposes.

She gave some points on her experience to a little group of summer sojourners at an old-fashioned farmhouse one summer evening, which seemed interesting enough to “pass along.”

“I can’t understand,” she said, in laughing response to the clamorous invitation to tell something about her “novel” occupation, “why there need be anything novel about it. Any woman with average brain power, good health, and a knack for bringing out color effects ought to be able to make a success at my calling. Many a young woman of artistic temperament in our large cities, who is trying to make a living as an artist, musician or writer, would find here a fair, open field for her energies and ideas, with plenty of hard work, it is true, but with good money compensation to offset the late and early hours.

“I started in as an employee in a confectionery store in Chicago and soon discovered that my love of fresh, crisp ribbons and pretty bows stood me in good stead. All of my spare moments were used in thinking up new ideas for candy boxes and baskets, and in inventing new color schemes for our large window. Once I designed some favors which my employer was pleased to consider quite original, and when one of the city’s big caterers applied to him for an assistant, I was selected as an emergency substitute, and finally decided to remain in the business.

“No one on the outside can have any idea of the amount of ingenuity for which the business of a fashionable caterer calls. The detail work is enormous. Each person, of course, wants something entirely fresh and original, and the poor man is often driven to despair in his efforts to obtain ideas that are both novel and attractive.

“I went abroad once to help an American confectioner open up a place in London. It was then that I had my first experience in planning for an English hunt dinner. It was to be given at an old manor, the country home of a certain wealthy lord, and my employer considered it, of course, an opportunity from a business standpoint.

“How we did slave getting ready! We had been given carte blanche as to expense, and it was only a question of design and detail; but it brought on a genuine attack of brain fag for everybody engaged in its preparation. The affair was, however, a great success and launched my chief on the top wave of popular favor.

“It was all in gold and scarlet. The table service was far handsomer than anything I had ever seen or even dreamed of, though I had decorated for some of the wealthiest families in our own country. Such wonderful gold and silver plate, which had been handed down, not for generations, but for centuries, all in rich, specially wrought designs without duplicates! And the rare translucent china and exquisite cut glass, together with the plate, made splendid effects possible.

“Well! As I said, this hunt dinner was all in gold and scarlet. We even invented scarlet candies and bonbons with prince of Wales feathers on them in raised gold effect. These were heaped in gold dishes, solid gold epergnes, with tiny electric lights inside, shining through the transparent candies. The souvenirs were water colors of the famous horses and dogs belonging to the family, on imitation gold-tipped oak leaves, in autumnal scarlet tints. The menus were in the form of maple leaves with gold stems. All the flowers were scarlet. The miniature fence which enclosed the centerpiece was an exact copy of those the hunters were to take in the field and had vines and scarlet blossoms climbing over it. The ices were in the form of stags’ heads and we had hunting horns made of puff paste and filled with pate. The whole thing seemed to be a revelation to the titled diners. and, as I said, brought one American caterer many fresh favors.

“Then there was another affair which came soon after which did much “to help us ‘arrive.’ The order for this dinner was ‘everything in green and white.’ and we decided upon lilies of the valley as the principal floral decoration, and we used them almost by the load. An electric fountain in the center of the table sprayed lily of the valley perfume over floating water lilies. The souvenirs were in green and white. The ices were water lilies and the exquisite table service was in green, white and gold. Green grapes and lilies heaped high in gold epergnes were partially hidden by trailing vines. The electric fountain was the feature that made a hit at this dinner, for nobody there had ever seen anything like it.

“We worked day and night trying to make our Regent street store attractive. We changed the whole color scheme once a week and there was always a crowd in front of our windows after a fresh design had been arranged.

“One week we would have everything in autumn tints. Candy boxes and candies, decorations and trimmings, were gorgeous with reds and yellows and rich russets. In the early spring the place blossomed in pink, with real apple blossoms renewed every day, as the leading decoration. When Sweet Lavender was making a great hit at the Lyceum we decorated the place in lavender. Our candy boxes during that time were all lined with lavender satin and adorned with scenes from the play. There were great masses of violets everywhere. and each lady who made a purchase was presented with sprigs of old-fashioned lavender tied with satin ribbon of the prevailing tint.

“But I think we got the most fun from our fishmonger’s window. We had models of almost every edible variety of fish made out of papier-mâché, from huge salmon which held fifteen pounds of candy to tiny, silvery sardines with their hidden store of pink creams. They were made by an expert and were wonderfully lifelike. The blocks of ice under the big fish were thick squares of washing soda, which has, at a distance, the exact appearance of ice. We broke the soda up into small pieces and mixed it with seaweed on handsome trays for the smaller fish, which even included shrimps and oysters as well as lobsters. These were all filled with candy carefully selected with thought to artistic contrast in color. We made an unexpected sensation which kept our force in jolly spirits for the rest of the season, for the policeman who had our particular block under his watchful eye was deceived by the lifelikeness of our display into thinking that the place had changed hands, and, as no fishmongers are allowed on Regent street, he walked in very pompously, to arrest the head of the firm for violation of municipal law. We knew then that our last effort was ‘a howling success,’ and had the satisfaction besides of getting off a rich joke on one of those top-lofty London police.

“It was well that things happened occasionally, for long hours and incessant work were certainly trying to health and spirits. But we had our compensations. At the end of six months we had made such a decided hit that servants in livery were sent to inquire what our next week’s color scheme would be, so that entertainments could be planned in the same color, and our things obtained without special orders, which always required more time to fill.

“Everybody who is engaged in the catering business must find that entertaining in this prosperous country of ours grows more elaborate every year, and, during the season, a fashionable caterer’s only consolation seems to be that the martyrs are the pick of humanity. Such a constant, well-bred clamor as there is for something fresh and striking!

“If novel designs were necessary for the menus only, the pressure would be wearing enough. but that is the simplest part. The table decorations, forms and garnitures must always be in the nature of a surprise, and to accomplish this in such a way as to pleasantly astonish jaded senses is not an easy task. and it is right here that any number of women of artistic tastes and originality can find quick appreciation.

“As for my method: After an order came in for a particularly elaborate affair, I would go off by myself to cudgel my brain for a new dinner scheme. Then I would talk it over with my employer, who would change a little here and elaborate a little there, offer a few suggestions and then put the whole thing into my hands. When I had made the sketches and designs in the privacy of my own little den. I would go out and give instructions to the bakers, confectioners, florists and candle makers, leaving with them molds and instructions after my designs, after which there were always a hundred other things which I must attend to personally regarding the souvenirs and menus and details of service.

“I had some experience in getting up dinners for uppertendom in New York city last season, and you’ve no idea of the labor that goes into one of those big functions. It’s a city of nerves and notions, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to cater for its rich leisure class. Chicago millionaires do not seem to be so sated with the good things of life. There is a freshness and spontaneity about their enjoyment of creature comforts which belongs naturally, I think, to the breezy west. Last season while I was in New York we had an order from Chicago for everything, even to the waiters. Every smallest detail of that dinner was finished up as completely as possible before it was sent; forward. Even the sorbet cups of ice were frozen and tied with ribbons before being packed. I tied fifteen hundred bows of white ribbon for that dinner. which was entirely in white and green.

“One naturally would think that functions for special days like Valentine or Christmas would suggest themes in themselves, but so many appropriate ideas have been used up already on these celebrations that it has become exceedingly difficult to think up anything distinctly original.

“Designing ribbons and decorating boxes for high-class caterers is a business in itself. One of the most beautiful boxes which I ever designed was ordered by a well-known California woman as a gift to the president and his wife. It was in rich pearl gray and pink satin, hand embroidered and painted, and cost two hundred and fifty dollars, unfilled.

“Yes, there is certainly a fascination about the work, and a wide field for women of artistic originality, and I wonder that more do not take the work up,” Cecilia concluded, as she arose. And, as the little company of interested listeners followed her into the farmhouse parlor, some of them marveled, too, that the wide-awake, aggressive American girl has so completely overlooked this remunerative and, as Cecilia said, fascinating occupation.

Good Housekeeping Vol. 39 1904: pp. 207-209

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Personally Mrs Daffodil would not care to dine while the scent of lilies-of-the-valley was wafted across the soup and fish courses, no matter how novel the electric fountain.

The “uppertendom” of New York was insatiable for novelty in its lavish floral arrangements and cotillion favours.  One of the oddest set of favours were the live pets given at a “swell” New York function in 1897:

Novel Cotillion Favors.

That there is nothing new under the sun is a trite saying which seems truthful; nevertheless, unheard-of ideas are constantly appearing. The latest of these has resulted in a novel cotillion favor. At a recent swell function, live pets were given as favors. Canaries in gilded cages, Maltese and Angora kittens in silk-lined baskets, and tiny toy terriers in dog houses of Japanese niches, were some especially noted.

For the gentlemen there were jointed fishing rods tied with white satin ribbon, skeletons, celluloid skulls, small cameras and silver shaving mirrors.

Dinner favors heard of recently were stuffed birds which could be used in hats, jeweled hat pins, gem decorated belt clasps and neck scarfs.

The Brooklyn [NY] Citizen 7 November 1897: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil expects that the RSPCA would have been waiting outside had any London society hostess attempted such a thing.

“[New York is] a city of nerves and notions, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to cater for its rich leisure class.”

Mrs Daffodil is thankful that the English have no nerves. It makes the caterer’s life much simpler, when clients are so easily pleased with stags’-head ices and hunting horns made of puff paste.

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.

The Tell-Tale Sealing Wax: 1908

SEALING-WAX CLUE.

FOOTMAN-THIEF TRACKED.

A remarkable story of tell-tale sealing wax was told at Leeds Assizes in the case of George Percy Finn, aged eighteen, footman, indicted for the theft of a diamond tiara, value £1300, the property of Louisa Montagu, at High Melton, Yorkshire, between January 1 and 4. The prisoner pleaded guilty.

Counsel stated that the tiara was a wedding present to Mrs. Montagu. The prisoner had been in the service of Mr. and Mrs. Montagu for about three months, and was third footman. The tiara was kept in a safe in the pantry, and was in charge of the first footman, in whose custody was the key of the safe. At twelve o’clock on January 2 the tiara was in the safe, and was there seen, by the first footman, who, however, missed it at two o’clock the following day. He at once informed Mr. Montagu. Superintendent Hicks, of Doncaster, went to Melton Park, and interviewed the servants, including the prisoner. They all denied knowledge of the tiara.

On January 8 Mr. Montagu received an anonymous letter to the effect that a tiara had been taken from his house, but was quite safe and would be returned whole for £500. If the jewellery were wanted, Mr. Montagu was to put a “personal” advertisement in a paper. The postmark on the envelope was London.

The letter was sealed with magenta-coloured sealing wax, similar to a stick in Mrs. Montagu’s boudoir. Suspicion fell upon the prisoner, who had access to the boudoir. On January 11 a red stick of sealing wax was substituted for the magenta one, and on the 18th Superintendent Hicks wrote in answer to the advertisement, and sent it to the agony column of the paper specified. In the meantime, a detective had taken up his abode in Melton Park, and by him the prisoner was seen to pick up the newspaper in question and begin to read the agony column.

On January 15 a second anonymous letter came to Mr. Montagu to the same effect, only in stronger terms. This was sealed with vermilion sealing wax, and bore the postmark of Kentish Town. Superintendent Hicks went to the prisoner’s home in London. The prisoner’s mother handed him a letter from her son requesting her to post the letter sent to Melton Park. The superintendent immediately left again for Melton Park, and arrested the prisoner.

The stolen property was afterwards found hidden in a field.

Mr. Justice Sutton sentenced the prisoner to twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labour on the Borstal system, when he would have the opportunity of learning some trade and earning an honest livelihood.

Auckland [NZ] Star 2 May 1908: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The agony columns of the newspapers were full of cryptic advertisements, like this one–obviously written in cypher.

NY Herald 22 August 1879 agony column in cypher

And this one, which suggests that a deceived husband is no longer in the dark.

owl agony column NY Herald 4 October 1879

[Many thanks to Undine of Strange Company for these choice specimens.]

The agony columns of the Times were particularly renowned for their blend of comedy, heart-break, and mystery.

It is a matter of considerable surprise that the “intelligent foreigner ” has made so little, in his criticisms on English eccentricities, of that astonishing product of the present generation, the second column of the Times. To the thorough Englishman it is difficult to understand how other European nations contrive to get on without the help of that daily outlet for the anxieties of the bewildered and the bereaved. Here, taking up the Times of a day or two ago, are nearly a score of these petitions for information on all sorts of subjects. Some half-dozen invocations begin the list in which “Toots,” “Sea,” ” Claudine,” “Duffer,” and “K–ff” are piteously implored to communicate with the heart-broken advertisers, either directly, or through the medium of one of those strange secret agencies, whose existence and doings are so bewildering to steady-going families. Next comes an appeal to a lady, mentioned by name, to apply at an hotel in the classic district of the Minories on urgent private affairs. Then follows a list of all sorts of possessions, lost by their careless owners, from certificates of a great Indian railway down to bracelets, dogs, and bunches of keys, for which rewards varying in amount are specially promised, but most surprising in the way of promised reward is the price set upon “a young married lady” by her disconsolate husband or friends. For the lady herself, including her apparel, besides earrings and brooch, only the sum of  £2 is offered. The Pall Mall Gazette [London England] 5 December 1868: p. 5

It is a pity that young George got ideas above his station. Sealing wax, indeed!  Ideally, he would have enclosed the anonymous letter–written with his non-dominant hand–on the cheapest possible stationary, enclosed in an envelope filched from a hotel lounge, sealed with mucilage from the common glue pot, and smudged with his grubby fingermarks, although the latter might have proved his undoing. The Fingerprint Branch at New Scotland Yard was created in July 1901.  The Devil is in the details….

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.

The Magic Mirror of Lady Eleanor: c. 1704

stumpwork mirror frame

17th c. stumpwork mirror frame. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/72274

THE MAGIC MIRROR.

Lady Eleanor Campbell, widow of the great marshal and diplomatist, John, Earl of Stair, in her girlhood had the misfortune to be united to James, Viscount Primrose, of Chesterfield, who died in 1706, a man of dissipated habits and intolerable temper, who treated her so barbarously that there were times when she had every reason to feel that her life was in peril.

One morning she was dressing herself before her mirror, near an open window, when she saw the viscount suddenly appear in the room behind her with a drawn rapier in his hand. He had softly opened the door, and in the mirror she could see that his face, set white and savage, indicated that he had nothing less than murder in his mind. She threw herself out of the window into the street, and half-dressed as she was, fled to Lord Primrose’s mother, who had been Mary Scott, of Thirlstane, and received protection; but no attempt was made to bring about a reconciliation, and, though they had four children, she never lived with him again, and soon after he went abroad.

During his absence there came to Edinburgh a certain foreign conjuror, who, among other occult powers, professed to be able to inform those present of the movements of the absent, however far they might be apart; and the young viscountess was prompted by curiosity to go with a lady friend to the abode of the wise man, in the Canongate, wearing over their heads, by way of disguise, the tartan plaid then worn by women of the humbler classes.

After describing the individual in whose movements she was interested, and expressing a desire to know what he was then about, the conjuror led her before a large mirror, in which a number of colours and forms rapidly assumed the appearance of a church, with a marriage party before the altar, and in the shadowy bridegroom she instantly recognised her absent husband! She gazed upon the delineations as if turned to stone, while the ceremonial of the marriage seemed to proceed, and the clergyman to be on the point of bidding the bride and bridegroom join hands, when suddenly a gentleman, in whose face she recognized a brother of her own, came forward and paused. His face assumed an expression of wrath ; drawing his sword, he rushed upon the bridegroom, who also drew to defend himself; the whole phantasmagoria then became tumultuous and indistinct, and faded completely away.

When the viscountess reached home she wrote a minute narrative of the event, noting the day and hour. This narrative she sealed up in presence of several witnesses, and deposited it in a cabinet. Soon after this her brother, Colonel John Campbell, returned from his travels abroad. She asked him if he heard aught of the viscount in his wanderings.

He answered: “I wish I may never again hear the name of that detestable personage mentioned.” On being questioned, he confessed to having met his lordship under very strange circumstances.

While spending some time at Rotterdam he made the acquaintance of a wealthy merchant who had a very beautiful daughter, and only child, who, he informed him, was on the eve of her marriage with a Scottish gentleman, and he was invited to the wedding, as a countryman of the bridegroom. He went accordingly, and though a little too late for the commencement of the ceremony, was yet in time to save an innocent girl from becoming the victim of his own brother-in-law, Viscount Primrose.

Though the deserted wife had proved her willingness to believe in the magic mirror, by having committed to writing what she had seen, yet she was so astonished at her brother’s tidings that she nearly fainted. She asked her brother on what day the circumstance took place, and having been informed, she gave him her key, and desired him to bring to her the sealed paper. On its being opened, it was then found that at the very moment when she had seen the roughly interrupted nuptial ceremony it had actually been in progress.

The above story appeared in “Old and New Edinburgh,” and although it seems incredible enough, it is so well attested by many celebrated historical personages, that it would be difficult to discredit its accuracy.

The Two Worlds 13 January 1888: p. 135

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The mirror that saved Lady Eleanor from her murderous husband was a magic mirror, indeed!  Mrs Daffodil would not be surprised to learn that the vile Viscount was the inspiration for the expression “the primrose path,” although the phrase was said to be coined by Mr William Shakespeare.

Lady Eleanor was, as one might expect, somewhat soured on the state of matrimony, although she had many suitors after Viscount Primrose died–at the hands of an enraged husband, one imagines. While she felt sentiments warmer than those of ordinary friendship for John, Earl of Stair, she would not consent to their marriage. The Earl, displaying his diplomatic talents to their fullest, bribed one of Lady Eleanor’s servants to let him into her bed-chamber, where he stationed himself in “deshabille”–Mrs Daffodil hopes that the word implies an informal wrapping gown or banyan, rather than complete nudity–at the window overlooking the busy street.  To salvage her reputation, which shortly would have been in tatters, Lady Eleanor married the Earl and they lived reasonably happily (i.e. no drawn rapiers) until his death in 1747.

 

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.

Posed in Wings–and a Bit of Gauze: 1903

Bagnères-de-Luchon statue vallée du Lys Lily of the Valley statue

The Newest Fashionable Folly

POSING FOR NUDE STATUES—THE MARBLE FAD GROWING IN FAVOR AMONG REPRESENTATIVES OF FRENCH SOCIETY.

[Copyrighted, 1903, by W.R. Hearst.]

Paris, Dec. 20. The marble fad is a new fashion set by women who are beautiful, titled, cultured. Those who have assisted them to make the fashion successful are sculptors of note. They present their subjects in white marble exquisitely—a Venus rising from the sea, a lily of the valley against the green of mountains, an angel with head bent in thought.

The rounded limbs, the unhidden curves, the undraped lines of Mme. La Duchesse d’Aosta, of Mme. La Duchess d’Uzes, of Mme. La Comtesse Bela Zichy are being discussed from end to end of Paris. At first everyone gasped. What! the Duchess d’Uzes, wife of the premier Duke of France, whose family has been of uninterrupted prominence since the days of the Crusades, daughter-in-law of the famous Dowager Duchess who was born in De Mortemart, daughter of the De Luynes, a family only second in antiquity to the Uzes? What!

They blinked their eyes only to be dazzled by the marble form of the Duchess d’Aosta, formerly the Princess Helene of Orleans, a Bourbon, daughter of the Count of Paris and sister of the Duke of Orleans, chief pretender of the throne of France. She, the wife of one of the royal princes of Rome, oldest cousin of the King of Italy and his heir should Victor Emmanuel have no sons—she to pose as a Venus—A Venus rising, untrammeled by draperies, out of the sea!

They gazed in amazement next to behold the American Countess Zichy, she who was once the wife of Fernando Yznaga, a sister-in-law of the Dowager Duchess of Manchester, and before that Mabel Wright—the famously beautiful Mabel Wright, of Ward McAllister’s Four Hundred. She is now the wife of Count Bela Zichy of Hungary. She is a beauty of renown, blond as the angel for which she has posed in wings—and a bit of gauze.

She is lovely, but Paris gasps all the same at the exhibit.

Conventionality At A Discount.

One of the sculptors who have assisted in the modeling of much aristocratic loveliness was asked to explain this latest fad. He though deeply for a moment. Then he said: “It is quite comprehensible, even commendable when you consider the strict conventions of our absurd fashions. Among aristocrats, women of race and pedigree, we find the finest limbs, the most tapering extremities, the purest outlines. All praise to those among them who defy the decrees that command them to keep such charms hidden. A woman who has beautiful feet, for instance, has no opportunity to show them in their natural beauty, not even when she bathes in the ocean, for the dullard fashion has decreed that the hideous stocking should cover them. She may have such ankles as an artist dreams of—they may be her only beauty, and one may only have a glimpse of them. Ah, it is enough to drive a woman to suicide—or to marble.”

The Duchess d’Uzes, the Duchess d’Aosta, the Countess Zichy have defied conventions, as Pauline Borghese, the sister of Napoleon I, did nigh upon a century ago. She commanded the assistance of Canova, the great Italy sculptor, and you may see her today in the Borghese collection perpetuated in all her natural loveliness as a marble Venus. When she condescended to give an excuse, she said, with all the insolence for which her family was famous: “I am a Bonaparte—I may do as I please.”

Asked if she were not uncomfortable, she replied nonchalantly: “No, there was a stove in the room.”

It is the excuse that our modern duchesses and countesses may give. Nevertheless, the people gasp, and nevertheless, as people will the world over, they gaze and gaze and gaze to the full satisfaction of the aristocrats who have said “Bah” to the conventions.

The original of the statue called the “lily of the Valley” was unveiled last summer at Bagneres-de-Luchon in the Pyrenees. The Duchess d’Uzes was sojourning there, apparently with no purpose but to drink of the warm suphur springs for which the watering place is celebrated. A number of other guests, all more or less fashionable, were there, too, walking, drinking, gossiping, passing their hours as people do who are taking a cure for no very serious ill.

The event of the summer proved to be the unveiling of the “Lily of the Valley.” Cast in whitest marble, it was set before a background of green trees and dark rocks.

The Summer’s Sensation.

The effect was startling. More so was the resemblance.

“What?” “No!” “Impossible! And yet”—

The spectators declared they couldn’t believe their eyes. Day after day they studied intently the Duchess d’Uzes. Between drinks they made mental notes of her lines. During their walks they discussed the striking similarities of figure, of pose, of feature between the lovely, draped duchess and the lovely, undraped statue of the “Lily of the Valley.”
Could it be possible?

Day after day the young Duchess passed them driving, looking the picture of modesty. Day after day she cantered by on one of the horses which she rides so famously. They observed her lies and recalled her reputation for fearlessness. It was she who set the fashion of ballooning for women when the season of gayety threatened to become monotonous. She is original, enterprising, daring, and above all, beautiful—the guests at Bagneres went again and again to look at the now celebrated statue.

There it stood, classically serene, challenging comparison with the old Greek statues, whose models one may never know.

The resemblance was not to be disputed—the “lily of the Valley” was the Duchess d’Uzes. Every day during her sojourn at Bagneses she had visited the studio of the great artist who was to perpetuate her in marble. She had gone secretly and alone. Accused by one of her set of cowardice, she explained:
“To pose for an undraped statue is as yet considered unconventional; therefore, one does not announce it to the world. But if one is beautiful…”

The Duchess D’Uzes.

The Duchess’ excuse found an echo in the heart of the Duchess d’Aosta, who is of the daughters of the late Count of Paris is the loveliest. It has been said of her that even if she were not of royal blood she would be considered handsome. She might, in that event, however, be more rudely censured. As it is, she shocks society and still remains in it, a maneuver, by the way, not confined to Italy or France alone.

The Duchess is clever, restless, courageous and not in love with her husband. Only a few years ago she startled all Europe by announcing her intention to leave him. He had done nothing wrong, and was undeniably attached to his handsome wife, but she was tired of him that was all there was against him. It was enough until her ambition came to the rescue. The possibility of giving an heir to the throne of Italy persuaded her to retain her position of Duchess d’Aosta. This is history, so too are the Duchess’ love affairs, so too are. the duels that have been fought by the Duke on her account.

Vanitas Vanitatum.

And now comes the episode of the statue. This time the Duchess has shocked profoundly. Her mother, the Countess of Paris, who is a lady to her finger tips, is in despair; the King of Italy is furious; the Duke is at his wits’ end. There is no one he can challenge. He does not dare to denounce those who point to the lovely Venus as his wife’s portrait, because above the graceful figure her features are too plainly sculptured. Photographs of the statue are for sale everywhere, and the Duchess is calm in the midst of a tremendous family row. To prove this they tell the following anecdote of her:

One of her intimate friends sympathized with her deeply. “Poor woman,” she said, “with your beauty they want you to remain forever in obscurity. But tell me, was it not very uncomfortable posing—without–well, as the statue is?”

The Duchess looked at her from under her wealth of golden hair and firm but clear, steady blue eyes. “Oh, no,” she answered reminiscently of the Borghese princess, “the studio was well heated. I was most comfortable, I assure you.”

The fad to have your friends see how charming marble may make you grows. In its progress it has claimed the Countess Bela Zichy. Of her the sculptor D’Epiny [Prosper D’Epinay] says: “She is, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He has done his best to prove this to the world in the statue he has made of her.”

However some dozen or more years ago, when she was Mabel Wright, a girl designing calicoes to assist her father, who was at work in a print factory, her beauty was recognized without the aid of either painters or sculptors. Without fame or fortune she made her way into the heart of Mrs. Astor’s “Four Hundred,” and there met and married Fernando Yznaga, brother of Consuelo, the present Dowager Duchess of Manchester, for whom the present Duchess of Marlborough was named.

How The Nude Craze Has Grown.

Unhappiness, divorce and all the things that lead to a second marriage followed in quick succession, and the American girl became a Hungarian Countess. Since then she has lived much in the great world abroad. Naturally she has made its fashions here.

But the end is not yet. It has Just been said that King Victor. Emmanuel is furious. He has read the riot act to his cousin’s beautiful wife, and has forcibly reminded her of the fate of that other beautiful Duchess of Aosta, Laetitia. The unconventional and dashing Laetitia, when she persisted in her flirtatious conduct with army officers and riding astride in public on a bicycle was sent to prison to do penance and was threatened if she did not cool down the King would take away her allowance and she could shift for herself.

The younger Duchess, more intrepid than her young mother-in-law, has snapped her fingers in the face of the King and has announced if he tried any such summary punishment on her she would scandalize Italy at this very ticklish point in the affairs of the country by suing for a divorce. This has made the King even more furious, and he has retaliated by saying if she did such a thing he would see to it that her position in any court of Europe would be forfeited.

And so the situation now stands. In the case of the Countess Bela-Zichy another royal rumpus has been aroused. While the Count stands by his wife and insists that the statue is an exquisite expression of purity, the court ladies of Austria, with the Emperor in sympathy with them, have made, it.is said, a secret compact to completely ostracize the lovely blonde countess if it is really proved beyond dispute that she posed as a diaphanous angel. The Austro-Hungarian court is one of the stiffest in Europe for etiquette, and if the case is decided against the Countess Bela Zichy her social position will be ruined.

The row in the D’Uzes family has become so intense over the nude posing of their young Duchess that nobody quite knows yet what the family council will decide to do.

Consequences Of This Folly.

However daring these aristocrats may be, the setting of conventionalities at defiance in statuary or paintings is not original with them. We can recall, for Instance, when Cleo de Merode, the lovely ballet dancer, posed for the sculptor Falguiere; also the sensation that followed the announcement that Mme. du Gast was the model for Gervex’s painting of “The Nude Lady With the Black Mask.” It is true that Mile, de Merode denied that she had posed for anything but the head of the statue called “The Dancer.” It is also true that Mme. du Gast sued those who had dared to say she was the original of the lady who might be just about to slip into her bath.

Henri Gervex Le modèle masqué nude model masked

The fad for being photographed, painted, hewn in marble, grows. Is it due to vanity? Apropos, here is a story told of a woman well known in the world of society. It happened at a time when she had been admired immensely, but, being very young, had been seen but little. She was strictly chaperoned everywhere by her mother, who superintended also the cut of her gowns. She was permitted to wear what might be described as a very modest décolleté to parties or dinners. On a certain occasion she was visiting at a country house without her mother. It was night. She was alone in her room, undressing. In a mirror her figure, girlish, charming, graceful, was reflected. She moved and smiled; she moved and sighed. Then she looked at herself intently and took note of her charms. It seemed to her a pity that no eyes should see them but her own. It seemed such a pity that she sallied forth to the library below, with a lighted candle In One hand and her eyes tightly closed.

She encountered her host and some of his guests–judges of beauty. They said she had walked in her sleep. She encountered her hostess, who declared her guest was wide awake. Either way, a record of her loveliness flew through society. Her defenders said she was so exquisite, endowed with such purity of line, that it would have been a shame to keep it hidden always–forever under drapery. The girl thought so, too. This was before Madame la Duchesse d’Aosta, Madame la Duchesse d’Uzes and Madame la Comtesse Zichy had set their approval upon the marble fad as the very latest artistic solace for woman’s vanity.

The Baltimore [MD] Sun 27 December 1903: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Obviously Mr William Randolph Hurst warmed to his theme, no doubt with the aide of a stove in the room.

While we do not often see Duchesses and Countesses posing as nature made them for exquisite expressions of purity in marble or bronze, reality TV stars and athletes more than fill the void with lingerie “selfies” and ESPN’s “The Body” issue. Plus ça change…

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.

Four Candles: c. 1780s

wertmuller_marie_antoinette_and_children

Marie Antoinette walking with two of her children in the park of the Trianon, Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, 1785 Nationalmuseum Stockholm

Walking one day in the park of the Trianon, gay and exquisite, the queen came unexpectedly upon a rough-looking man, totally unknown to her. A woman of high and unbreakable courage, Queen of France and full of confidence in her charmed destiny, she was seized, nevertheless, with a sensation of inexplicable terror. The man was the brewer, Santerre. Later, at the time of her execution, he was in charge of the National Guard of the City of Paris. . . .

Madame Campan [the Queen’s friend and lady-in-waiting] related the following anecdote: “Four candles were placed upon the queen’s dressing- table; the first one went out of itself; I soon relighted it; the second, then the third also, went out. At this the queen, pressing my hand with a movement of alarm, said to me, ‘Misfortune makes one superstitious; if that fourth candle goes out, nothing can keep me from regarding it as an evil omen’; the fourth candle went out.

“Someone remarked to the queen that the four candles had probably been made in the same mould, and that a defect in the wick was naturally to be found at the same place, since they had gone out in the order in which they had been lighted. The queen would listen to nothing; and with that indefinable emotion which the bravest heart cannot always overcome in momentous hours, gave herself up to gloomy apprehensions.

La reine se couchait très-tard, ou plutôt cette infortunée princesse commençait à ne plus goûter de repos. Vers la fin de mai, un soir qu’elle était assise au milieu de la chambre, elle racontait plusieurs choses remarquables qui avaient eu lieu pendant le cours de la journée; quatre bougies étaient placées sur sa toilette; la première s’éteignit d’elle-même, je la rallumai : bientôt la seconde, puis la troisième, s’éteignirent aussi ; alors la reine, me serrant la main avec un mouvement d’effroi, me dit: “Le malheur peut rendre superstitieuse; si cette quatrième bougie s’éteint comme les autres, rien ne pourra m’empêcher de regarder cela comme un sinistre présage….” La quatrième bougie s’éteignit.

On fit observer à la reine que les quatre bougies avaient probablement été coulées dans le même moule, et qu’un défaut à la mèche s’était naturellement trouvé au même endroit, puisque les bougies s’étaient éteintes dans l’ordre où on les avait allumées.

Memoires sur la vie de Marie-Antoinette, Reine de France et de Navarre, Mme. Campan, 1886

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  On Bastille Day one’s thoughts often turn to the doomed Queen of France. Hindsight is, of course, keenly precise and there were many stories told in retrospect, of the omens presaging the fall of the Ancien Regime. We have previously read of the Queen’s terror at the mysterious prophecy of a cartomancer. One wonders a little wistfully what would have happened had the Royal family successfully made their way to safety at the fortress of Montmédy. Would the Revolution have failed or was their  rendezvous with Madame Guillotine written in the stars?

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.