Category Archives: Children

The Little Children’s Watches: 1882

The Little Children’s Watches.

Yesterday an old man entered a Little Rock store, and taking from his pocket an old buckskin pouch he emptied two coins on the counter, and the, after regarding the silver for a few moments said; “Mister, I want to buy some goods to make a dress.”

“That money is mutilated, old gentleman. This twenty-five-cent piece has notches filed in it, and this fifty-cent piece has been punched. You see they have been abused. I can’t take them.”

“Abused,” said the old man. “Abused,” and he took up the fifty-cent piece and looked at it tenderly. “And you won’t take it on account of the holes. Heaven grant that I did not have to offer it to you. Years ago, when my first child was a little girl I punched a hole in this coin and strung it around her neck. It was her constant plaything. At night when she went to bed we’d take it off, but early at morning she would call for her watch. When our John—you didn’t know John, did you? No. Well, he used to come to town a good deal.”

“Where is he now?” asked the merchant, not knowing what to say, but desiring to show appreciation of the old man’s story.

“He was killed in the war. I say that when John was a little boy I strung this quarter around his neck. One day his watch got out of fix, he said, and he filed these notches in it. He and his sister Mary—that was the girl’s name—used to play in the yard and compare their watches to see if they were right. Sometimes John wouldn’t like it because Mary’s watch was bigger than his, but she would explain that she was bigger than him and ought to have a bigger watch. The children grew up, but as they had always lived in the woods they were not ashamed to wear their watches.

When a young man came to see Mary once she forgetfully looked at her fifty cents. ‘What are you doing?’ asked the young man, and when she told him she was looking at her watch, he took it as a hint and went home. After this she did not wear her watch in company.

Well, Mary and the young man married. John went off in the army and got killed. Mary’s husband died, and about two years ago Mary was taken sick. When her mother and I reached her house she was dying. Calling me to her bed, she said: ‘Papa, lean over.’ I leaned over, and, taking something from under her pillow, she put it around my neck and said: ‘Papa, take care of my watch.’”

The old man looked at the merchant. The eyes of both men were moist. “Do you see that boy out there on the wagon?” he said. “Well, that is Mary’s child. I wouldn’t part with this money, but my old wife, who always loved me, died this morning, and I have come to buy her a shroud.”

When the old man went out he carried a bundle in one hand and the “watches” in the other.

Little Rock (Ark.) Gazette.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 22 March 1882; p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Shrouds, strangely enough, could be purchased from one’s local dry-goods store. Here is a more light-hearted account of such a purchase: The Trousseau Night-dress.

Mrs Daffodil’s readers will, she hopes, excuse her from further comment, as she has something in her eye.

 

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.

 

A Safe and Sane Fourth: 1911

 

Gee whiz! Don’t I wish every day wuz de fourth, E.W. Kemble, c. 1904 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010717080/

Mrs. Jarr Lays Plans for a Safe and Sane Fourth.

Does She Succeed? Poor Woman! Just Listen Now

By Roy L. McCardell.

“I really ought not to open this till to-morrow,” said Mrs. Jarr, as with reluctant hands she started to undo the package that had aroused so much interest upon its arrival, per c.o.d. delivery, at the Jarr domicile.

“But you said you would, maw! You said you would!” chorused the little Jarrs.

“Well, as its near dinner time, I suppose I might as well,” said Mrs. Jarr. “I only know this: That is that it is a good idea. And if we had done it before it would have been much better for all concerned. For it really is terrible the way the children get burned and injured by those dreadful fireworks on the Fourth of July, and that is why I heartily agree with Miss Ann Teak of ‘The Modern Mothers,’ in her advocacy of a Safe and Sane Fourth, and the substitution of objects symbolic of freedom and patriotism for dangerous explosives.”

“But, maw, ain’t we gonna have any firecrackers?” whined the little boy. “I never burned myself except with sizzors and they didn’t hurt.”

“May Rangle has got a whole lot of fire trackers,” said the little Jarr girl. “I’m doin’ over to her house and we are doin’ to tie ‘em on the tat’s tail.”

“Emma!” cried Mrs. Jarr reprovingly.

“I agree with the children,” said Mr. Jarr, “Not with hurting or scaring of the poor cat, of course; yet I think that it’s a lot of mollycoddles who would deprive the children of making a little harmless racket on the Fourth. Safe and Sane Fourth! Huh, I think it’s a tame and timid one without firecrackers!” 

“Now, there you go! Inciting the children to all sorts of dreadful things!” remarked Mrs. Jarr plaintively. “It’s no wonder I have a hard time inculcating refinement in these innocent little lambs! Miss Ann Teak told me of an orphan child on the east side who said he would rather have ice cream any day than firecrackers.”

By this time Mrs. Jarr had the strings off the package and the box open, disclosing a mass of gayly colored paper objects. She contented herself with giving Master Jarr a reproving look for his heretical observations and began placing the colored paper things on the table.

They were napkin holders in the shape of firecrackers, the napkins being rice paper ones in the semblance of American flags. There were also scalloped streamers of red, white and blue, which Mrs. Jarr proceeded to drape from the chandelier over the dining room table.

“There!” she said, as she fastened them up. ‘See how beautiful and patriotic these pretty but harmless things make the table for a Fourth of July dinner! Your Aunt Emma, after whom you are named” (here she was addressing the little girl), “always has her table decorated so prettily that it gives one an appetite to see it. It is true that she never has anything much to eat, but one forgets that. On Washington’s Birthday she has little hatchets and cherries, and Thanksgiving Day she has little toy paper turkeys and paper pumpkins and witches’ hats and you forget how slim the meal is.” 

“Aw, is this all, maw?” inquired the boy, regarding the table decorations with disdain. “Ain’t we gonna have any fireworks to-morrow?”

“You can have some torpedoes, which are not dangerous, and some of those sparklers, that look so pretty and do not do any damage,” replied Mrs. Jarr. “But you won’t have a single thing if you are not a good boy and say you are grateful to mamma for getting these pretties. And here are fans with pictures on them showing ‘The Spirit of ‘76’ and the “Signing of the Declaration of Independence,” she added.

“Aw, you can’t make any noise with a fan! Who wants a fan!” cried Young Hopeful, and he screwed up his face in an energetic endeavor to cry.

“I like de fans, div ‘em ta ME, mamma!” cried the little girl. “Anyway I can shoot off Mary Rangle’s fire crackers to-morrow.”

“Now, Willie, if you say one word more you shan’t have any supper and you shan’t have any ice cream to-morrow and you shall never be permitted to go to the moving pictures,” cried Mrs. Jarr, warningly. “We are going to have a Safe and Sane Fourth in this house without any injuries and without any danger of fires!”

But she spoke too soon. The napkin holders looked so greatly like cannon fire crackers that Master Jarr had touched a lighted match to the imitation fuse. It flared up and caught the paper streams from the chandelier and the next minute there was a blaze.

Mr. Jarr got the fire out with such minor personal damage as burned eyelashes and scorched hands. It is likely that the unsafe and insane Fourth will transpire, as usual, to-morrow at the Jarr’s.

The Evening World [New York NY] 3 July 1911: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The unheeded plea for a “Safe and Sane Fourth” went out every year.  Dire casualties from fireworks mounted yearly, despite desperate diversions by hostesses who entertained their “Independence Party” guests at daintily decorated tables:

The house was beautifully decorated with crimson rambler roses, blue larkspurs, and white flowers, large eagles of crepe paper, flags, and national colors. After a short program of patriotic songs and humorous readings, the hostess passed pencils and papers with the words “Independence Day,” from which we were to make as many words as possible. After this we were given a paper flag with stripes on, but with the place for stars left blank; around the two parlors were tacked up on the wall pictures of well-known people, actors, authors, and political leaders. We guessed these “stars” and wrote their names in the blank spaces.

The next event was the luncheon, served at small tables. Place cards were hand-painted miniature Uncle Sams, and blue and white china and cut glass were used. Each plate contained pressed chicken and a peanut butter sandwich, both cut in star shape, potato salad on a lettuce leaf, a beet pickle, cheese straws, and a spray of blue flowers. At the end of this course each lady was presented with what appeared to be a four-inch firecracker, but upon unwrapping, it was found to contain a short comical story. Woman’s Home Companion 1913: p. 99

Mrs Daffodil concedes that pretty paper decorations and comical firecrackers would undoubtedly lack the pyrotechnic panache enjoyed by Mr and Master Jarr.

Still, one would not wish to be May Rangle’s cat.

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.

 

Papa Not a Very Acceptable Guest: 1752

LYONS, March 5.

AN Affair has lately broke out here which is very remarkable. An eminent Trader of this City, who had acquired an easy Fortune, had a Couple of handsome Daughters, whom he married to his Liking, and divided between them all he had, upon an Agreement that he should pass the Winter with the one, and the Summer with the other. Before the End of the first Year, he found sufficient Grounds to conclude, that he was not a very acceptable Guest to either; of which, however, he took no Notice, but hired a handsome Lodging, in which he resided for a few Weeks. He then applied himself to a Friend, and told him the Truth of the Matter, desired him to give him two hundred Livres, and to lend him fifty thousand in ready Money for a few Hours. His friend very readily complied with his Request. The next Day the old Man made a grand Entertainment, to which his Daughters, and their Husbands, were invited. Just at the Dinner was over, his Friend came in a great Hurry, told him of an unexpected Demand upon him, and desired to know it he could lend him fifty thousand Livres. The old Man told him, without any Emotion, that twice as much was at his Service if he had wanted it; and going into the next Room brought him the Money, After this he was not suffered to stay at longer in his Lodging; his Daughters were Jealous if he remained but a Day more at one House than the other; and after three or four Years spent in this Manner, he died last Month; when upon examining his Cabinet, instead of Riches, there was found a Note, in which were these Words, He who has suffered by his Virtue, has a Right to avail himself of the Vices of those by whom be suffered; and a Father ought never to be so fond of his Children, as to forget what is due to himself .

The Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, VA] 25 June 1752

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While not all children are as unfeeling as the daughters above, we have previously seen in these pages the account of a clerical gentleman victimised by his daughter’s caprices in sewing smuggled lace into his overcoat, and a shamefully calculating daughter in The Resurrection of Willie Todd.

Then there is this minx:

The old gentleman went into the parlor the other night, at the witching hour of 11:45, and found the room unlighted and his daughter and a dear friend occupying a tete-a-tete in the corner by the window. ‘Evangeline,’ the old man said, sternly, ‘this is scandalous.’ ‘Yes, papa,’ she answered sweetly, ‘it is candles because times are so hard, and lights costs so much, that Ferdinand and I said we should try and get along with the starlight.’ And papa turned about, in speechless amazement, and tried to walk out of the room through a panel in the wall paper.

Portsmouth [OH] Times 15 December 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil wishes all the fond Papas in her readership a very happy day, as well as grateful-spirited children.

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.

How to Celebrate May-Day: 1863, 1912, 1928

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

Mrs Daffodil asserts that the proper English May-Day consists of floral displays, dancing rustics, various contests of strength, agility, and alcohol consumption, a good deal of fumbling about in the shrubbery, and, of course, the crowning of the May Queen. (Mrs Daffodil prefers to ignore the co-opting of the holiday by the International Labour Movement.)

Our American cousins , too, took up the flowery garlands of the celebration, adding little touches of their own to the festival. One fears they did not fully appreciate the pagan undertones of characters like “Jack-in-the-Green” or “Robin Hood.”  However, perhaps subliminally, they acknowledged the propriety of using the imagery of a Spring Fertility Festival for a bridal shower. “Perky” May-Pole, indeed….

The Indians call the month of May the “Time of the Flower-Moon.” Just as April is filled with rain showers, May is the month for bride-showers, following the order of the flower-moon preceding the honeymoon for the June bride.

A luncheon shower is a pleasing way of entertaining the bride-to-be. The table can be decorated effectively with a pink and green May pole for a centerpiece, its flower streamers in corresponding colors draped down to different places on the table. At the end of each, folded in pink paper blossoms, are little notes, preferably in verse, directing the bride-to-be to different part of the house (on the mantel, behind the phonograph, and so on), each a hiding place for a dainty gift for the bride—flowered lingerie, smart china, or any gift that carries out the flower motif.

Miniature May poles made of striped candy sticks and ribbons, with the guest’s name written on a flat card to which the stick is fastened, will serve as place cards, and you may have pretty little “May baskets” filled with candy at each cover.

If you are serving your guests at small tables, there may be different centerpieces for each table. “Jack-in-the-green,” a clown, dressed in pink and green, and hidden in a bouquet of flowers, is charmingly reminiscent of old England. The “Lady of the May,” a child’s doll, decorated with flowers, signifies a popular old custom you might work into your scheme of decorating, or, if you are using a long table, you may have the May pole in the exact center. “Jack-in-the-green” at one end and the “Lady of the May” at the other.

Games apropos to the occasion may feature the Robin Hood idea—Robin Hood, you know, always figured prominently in the celebration of the first of May. Tiny bows and arrows and a flower-decorated target will furnish amusement—with a gay May basket, some tiny present hidden beneath its flowers, for a prize. And nothing would be more fun or more appropriate than to crown the bride-to-be “Queen of the May” during your party.

For your bridge game use score cards decorated with spring blossoms, and go to a little extra trouble with your pencil. Wrap it in pink and green strips of paper, hand colored ribbons from it, and stick it in a paper-covered spool for a base, so that it will stand up straight and perky like a May pole when not in use. Seattle [WA] Daily Times 24 April 1928: p. 19

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It really is rather extraordinary how long even bowdlerised and ill-understood versions of the May-Day Festivities survived. Even in the United States, May-Pole dances and parties were a staple of young ladies’ academies and, as we have seen, bridal showers. Rather earlier, there was advice on May-Day Tableaux for the young. Mrs Daffodil gives a single sample so as to not weary her readers.

TABLEAU  I— MAY

Let the furniture be removed from the stage, and the background draped with white, looped with garlands of flowers and leaves; the floor covered with white, and flowers scattered over it. One single figure represents May. A beautiful blonde should be selected. Let her wear pure white; the dress long, full, and floating; her hair should fall free, either in curls or waving ripples, and a wreath of delicate flowers rest on her head; flowers should appear to fall all about her; in her hair and on her dress (small pins, or a few stitches of thread will fasten them); her hands are raised, her eyes uplifted, as if she were just about to rise and soar away. The writer has seen a lovely child so dressed and standing, and the tableau was as beautiful as can be imagined. Godey’s Lady’s Book May 1863

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1910

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1905

Mrs Daffodil is not quite sure when the escalation of May-Day Pageants began, but in this account from 1912, the May Queen is accompanied, not only by the traditional English Robin-Hood and Hobby Horse, but a parade-of-all-nations including (inexplicably) Roman maidens and Japanese girls. Each of the national groups had its own suggested dance figure, song or May-Pole braiding pattern. If one was ambitious and had a stock of willing young ladies, one could reconstruct the entire tedious pageant by consulting this detailed book.

A SUCCESSFUL MAY-DAY PAGEANT.

At six o’clock in the evening, just about sundown, the processional pageant of all the players, two and two, carrying their ornamental accessories proceed in their march to the May-pole, heralded by the forester’s bugle horn. There are groups of various national dancers in the characteristic costume of their countries including the little milkmaids with cap, apron, and pail; the Scotch Highlanders with plaid cap and feather; the English shepherdesses with their crooks, looking like a band of veritable Bopeeps; the graceful Roman maidens, with their musical pipes and garlands; some Japanese girls with their parasols, waddling and tiptoeing. Rollicking and wild with glee come Robin Hood and his merry men, for the Morris dances, not forgetting the hobbyhorse with spirited “false trots, smooth ambles and Canterbury paces.” The inimitable jester with his pranks, and the little black-faced chimney-sweeps. The pageant procession approaching the May-pole, the centre of the scene, is led by the May Queen and her retinue, half of the attendants on each side of the queen, partners on opposite sides. Each attendant holds a garland of the canopy in her hands. The Festival Book: May-Day Pastime and The May-Pole Dances, Revels and Musical Games for the Playground, School and College, Jennette Emeline Carpenter Lincoln, 1912

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the Maddest Merriest Day Of All the Glad New Year.

See another May-Day post about a May-Queen controversy. And this, about the ideal vs. the actual May Day. And this parody of the all-too-easily-parodied Tennyson’s “The May Queen,” adapted for inclement weather.

 

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 Family Budget: 1875

THE FAMILY BUDGET.

A Meeting was held in the library of the mansion belonging to John Smith. Esq., on Tuesday last, to consider the annual financial statement of Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith occupied his usual chair, and Mrs. Smith was accommodated with a seat on the sofa. Amongst those present were the Misses Smith (4), John Smith, Esq., Jun., and Masters Tommy and Harry Smith. Charles Dashleigh, Esq. (nephew of Mrs. Smith), was also in attendance.

Mrs. Smith opened the proceedings by explaining that the holding of the Meeting had been strongly opposed by the Chairman (Mr. J. Smith).’ She regretted to say that she had been compelled to resort to force to gain admittance. (” Shame!”) But skill had overcome power. (“Hear, hear!”) The library fire had been purposely allowed to expire; and when the Chairman rang for fresh fuel, an entrance had been secured under cover of the coal-scuttle. ( Cheers.) However, there they were; and they were well satisfied to let matters rest. She would explain as briefly as possible the position of affairs. This year the grant for Millinery would have to be materially increased, as trains were growing longer and longer day by day. Moreover, full evening dress was beginning to be worn again at the Opera. Meat was never dearer, and, in spite of the “Stores,” grocery of all kinds was excessively expensive. The Meeting would remember that twelve months since an additional grant had to be made to pay for the brougham; but this sum would not be saved this year, as it had already been expended in purchasing a box at Covent Garden. (“O! O!”’ from the Chairman.) There was also a great increase in the item, “&c.” Last year “&c.” amounted to £874 5s. 6d. ; this year “&c.” had increased to £1,202 4s. 7 1/2d.

The Chairman said he would like to have a list of the items included in the term ” &c.”

Mrs. Smith had no doubt but what he would. (Laughter.) She could only say that ” &c.” meant lots of things. (“Hear, hear!”) For instance, the children’s schooling, bouquets, subscriptions to the Circulating Library, and, in fact, a lot of other things she could not remember at the moment. It saved a great deal of time and trouble to put the things down in a round sum. (“Hear, hear.'”) To meet this expenditure, she looked, as usual, to the cheque-book and banking account of Mr. Smith—the gentleman now occupying the Chair. (Cheers.)

Miss Smith complained of the small grant allowed for pin-money. False curls had greatly increased in value during the past year, and really the sum she received scarcely sufficed to pay the bill of the hair-dresser. She must have some more money, to avoid appearing in the character of  “a perfect fright.”

(“Hear, hear.”)

The Misses Angelina and Laura Smith corroborated the statement of their elder sister.

Mr. Smith Junior said he must have an additional fifty pounds a year allowed to him, as flowers in the button-hole were coming into fashion again.

Mr. Charles Dashleigh said he had looked in on the chance of his uncle being able, or, rather willing, to do something for him.

The Chairman was understood to say that he was neither able nor willing to do anything for his nephew—an announcement that was received with much cheering.

Mr. Charles Dashleigh observed that, after that statement, he need not stay any longer. (“Hear, hear!”) He would merely add that he had always managed to live at the rate of £2000 a year on an income something under £200. How he managed to do this was as great a mystery to himself as it was to the rest of the civilised world. The speaker then withdrew.

Mrs. Smith said, that the business of the Meeting being over, she merely had to ask the Chairman for a cheque. (Cheers.)

The Chairman, after observing “What must be must,” (a remark which caused some merriment,) retired from the Library, avowedly to get his cheque-book, which he said had been left in the Dining-room.

After waiting patiently for half an hour for the return of the Chairman, the Meeting ascertained that that gentleman had treacherously left his home for his Club.

Upon this discovery being made, the Meeting passed a vote of want of confidence in the absent Chairman, and separated angrily.

When our parcel was made up, Mr. John Smith was still dining.

Punch 24 April 1875: p. 180

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It has often been said that if the government would find itself in a solvent condition, it would do well to adopt the budgetary methods of the prudent and thrifty housewife.  This popular idea may have been overstated as it does not allow for the naturally improvident or the purchase of false curls and boxes at Covent Garden.

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 Dances of the Day: A Chat with a Royal Dancing Teacher: 1893

THE DANCES OF THE DAY

A CHAT WITH THE LADY WHO TEACHES THE PRINCESS BEATRICE’S CHILDREN

The two eldest children of Princess Beatrice have reached the age when the discipline of the nursery is gradually exchanged for that of the school room. One of the newly imposed duties of the Royal babies at Windsor Castle consists of a weekly dancing lesson. The lady who has been asked to undertake the task of teaching “their paces” to the Queen’s small grandchildren is Mrs. Wordsworth, whose name as an authority on, and a first-rate teacher of, dancing, is well known in London and elsewhere. Once a week Mrs. Wordsworth escapes from her never-ending engagements to go to Windsor, where Her Majesty honours all the dancing lessons to her grandchildren with her presence. This is not surprising, for it would be hard to find a more charming and amusing sight than a class of juvenile dancers whom Mrs. Wordsworth teaches. For this lady does not teach like other teachers; the principles on which she bases her instruction are strictly scientific, a fact which, we hasten to add, makes her classes not less but much more interesting and entertaining than is generally the case. A representative whose attention had been drawn to some of the dancing classes at Queensberry Hall, Harrington-road, gives the following account of a visit to that ideal ballroom:

It is absolutely no use trying to get more than a moment’s attention from Mrs. Wordsworth while her lesson is proceeding. She has eight assistants dispersed among the sixty or seventy pupils forming one of the juvenile classes, but for all that it is Mrs. Wordsworth herself on whom falls all the real work. It is not with her voice and with her movements only that she teaches, but she throws into it her whole soul and spirit, and such teaching is infectious. The pupils cannot be dull or indifferent; they are awakened, quickened, drawn away (in some cases, it is easy to see, in spite of themselves), till even the most awkward lassie and the most clumsy lad shake off their gaucherie and join the fun in utter self-forgetfulness.

To watch a class of Mrs. Wordsworth’s pupils, be they small beginners or graceful maidens practising society skirt-dance, is an artistic treat. Imagine an immense hall, well aired, lighted from the top, and with a faultlessly smooth floor. In one corner a piano, along the walls, on either side, the delighted kith and kin of the dancers, and the whole hall filled with children, mostly girls, from the toddling infant of four or five, whose kittenish capers are in themselves as good as the proverbial play, to the graceful young beauty standing on the brink where “maidenhood and childhood meet.” All the girls dressed in dainty loose gowns of soft stuffs and pretty tints. There are also a few boys, but boys at dancing lessons are not things of beauty, and they keep, wisely and well, in the background.

cretan-garland-dance-lighter

At one moment the whole class is engaged in playing ball, in the manner of Greek maidens; next they dance with skipping-ropes, toy with fans, accompany their Spanish dances by the musical click of castanettes, or show that even clumsy-looking clubs can be gracefully handled. And among them, eager, anxious, delighted, or momentarily chiding, moves the teacher, forgetful of everything except that these children must learn to dance and to move gracefully about. After two hours of incessant strain, Mrs. Wordsworth retired for a few moments into her tiny private room, and there, fanning her hot face, she expressed her views of the dancing of the day as follows:

“How are new dances made, Mrs. Wordsworth, or are there no new dances?” “Yes, there are new dances every season. As far as I am concerned, I invent my own dances as I go along. Perhaps a new tune is in vogue. If it lends itself at all to dancing, I listen to it, and while doing so determine in my own mind what steps would suit it best. After much experience this becomes quite easy to me now.”

“I believe it was you, Mrs. Wordsworth, as it not, to whom is due the revival of taste for step-dancing?” “Yes, I was the first to teach it in England; but what began with a few dances created by Taglioni has now grown to an infinite variety of pretty arrangements. I often get an idea for a new dance form the picture. For instance, Sir Frederick Leighton’s painting of the Greek maidens playing at ball suggested the idea of the exercise with balls which you have been watching. I study the picture very carefully, till I know exactly what muscles come into play if the position on the picture is assumed. Then, since I want all the muscles to be exercised, I add other steps and poses till I have what I want. Mr. Alma-Tadema’s pictures also furnish me with many suggestions.”

“Then, is your idea of what a dance should be based upon the idea of the Greeks, whom you seem to take as your models?”

“It is. But though dancing is recreation, it should never be bodily recreation only. I want my pupils not to follow blindly and unthinkingly my teaching as to steps and poses. No one will ever dance or move gracefully who goes to a dancing-class in that spirit. I want the movements of the body to be prompted by the brain; I want my pupils to think. Thus they do not all move and dance in exactly the same way, but each puts something of her own individuality into the dance. I do not want to mould them all in the same form; they must remain individuals.”

The Westminster Budget [London, England] 26 May 1893: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Daughter of a Brighton dancing master, Mrs Wordsworth was one of the most famous society dance teachers in England. She held strong views about the practical value of dance as exercise, discipline and promoter of moral fibre:

A moral gain is also attainable for many by this study. Experienced teachers have seen instances of improvement effected in nerve and temper, undiscoverable until the stern discipline of the dancing lesson came to the rescue, working subtly in the guise of play—for one must remember that vigorous movement is natural to the young. The disobedient become accustomed to obey; the sulky perforce throw off their habitual mood; ill-temper is forgotten. Thus the physical benefit of the exercise is supplemented by other elevating influences. 1895

The use of the word “stern” is no accident. Despite those gowns “of soft stuffs and pretty tints,” Mrs Wordsworth felt that the terpsichorean arts were best inculcated by an almost military discipline. This was not entirely to Queen Victoria’s taste:

The queen, hearing of Mrs. Wordsworth’s fame as an instructor of stiff ankles, sent for this energetic little lady, who was introduced to teach the children of Princess Beatrice. Possessing a stentorian voice and extreme vigor in her manner of imparting, Mrs. Wordsworth treated her little items of royalty to the same shouts and signals which she finds so effective with her great army of pupils, the queen being present and much interested in the lesson. Next time this celebrated dancing mistress visited Windsor, however, it was politely intimated through a lady in waiting that her majesty’s nerves had been a little tried by the “forcible” method of her excellent instruction, so the royal Battenberg babies had perforce a much easier half hour. Hamilton [OH] Evening Journal 10 February 1894: p. 8

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.

 

Queen Victoria and the Governess: 1883

On the date when Her Majesty Queen Victoria joined her beloved Albert in the Other World, Mrs Daffodil presents a story of Her Majesty’s kindness to a mourning governess.

QUEEN VICTORIA’S TENDERNESS.

There is so much cruel forgetfulness of the rights of inferiors and servants on the part of the ” privileged classes ” generally, that we are always pleased and refreshed to read the stories which are told of Victoria’s good heart and kind consideration. Grace Greenwood relates the following:

When I was in England I heard several pleasant anecdotes of the queen and her family from a lady who had received them from a friend, the governess of the royal children. This governess, a very interesting young lady, was the orphan daughter of a Scottish clergyman. During the first year of her residence at Windsor her mother died. When she first received the news of her mother’s serious illness, she applied to the Queen to be allowed to resign her situation, feeling that to her mother she owed even a more sacred duty than to her sovereign.

The Queen, who had been much pleased with her, would not hear of her making this sacrifice, but said, in a tone of most gentle sympathy:

“Go at once to your mother, child; stay as long as she needs you, and then come back to us. Prince Albert and I will hear the children’s lessons; so, in any event, let your mind be at rest in regard to your pupils.”

The governess went, and had several weeks of sweet mournful communion with her dying mother. Then when she had seen that dear form laid to sleep under the daisies in the old kirkyard, she returned to the palace, where the loneliness of the royal grandeur would have oppressed her sorrowing heart beyond endurance had it not been for the gracious, womanly sympathy of the Queen, who came every day to her school room, and the considerate kindness of her young pupils. A year went by, the first anniversary of her great loss dawned upon her and she was overwhelmed as never before by the utter loneliness of her grief. She felt that no one in all the great household knew how much goodness and sweetness passed out of mortal life that day a year ago, or could give one tear, one thought, to that grave under the Scottish daisies.

Every morning before breakfast, which the elder children took with their father and mother in the pleasant crimson parlor looking out on the terrace at Windsor, her pupils came to the school-room for a brief religious exercise. This morning the voice of the governess trembled in reading the Scriptures of the day. Some words of Divine tenderness were too much for her poor, lonely, grieving heart— her strength gave way, and, laying her head on the desk before her, she burst into tears, murmuring, “O, mother, mother!”

One after another the children stole out of the room, and went to their mother to tell how sadly their governess was feeling, and that kind hearted monarch, exclaiming, “Oh, poor girl, it is the anniversary of her mother’s death!” hurried to the school-room, where she found Miss __ struggling to regain her composure.

“My poor child,” she said, “I am sorry the children disturbed you this morning. I meant to have given orders that you should have this day entirely to yourself. Take it as a sad and sacred holiday—I will hear the lessons of the children.” And then she added: “To show you that I have not forgotten this mournful anniversary, I bring you this gift,” clasping on her arm a beautiful mourning bracelet, with a locket of her mother’s hair, marked with the date of her mother’s death. What wonder that the orphan kissed, with tears, this gift, and the more than royal hand that bestowed it?  

Friends’ Review: A Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal, Volume 36, Samuel Rhoads, Enoch Lewis, eds., 1883

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was, indeed, a very kind gesture from Her Majesty, in keeping with this anecdote from the first moments of her reign:

The first act of her life as queen was to write a letter, breathing the purest and tenderest feelings of affection and condolence to Queen Adelaide. . . . Her majesty wrote the letter spontaneously and having finished it folded it and addressed it to “Her Majesty the Queen.” Some one in her presence, who had a right to make a remark, noticing this, mentioned that the superscription was not correct and that the letter ought to be addressed to “Her Majesty, the Queen Dowager.”

“I am quite aware,” said Queen Victoria, “of her majesty’s altered character, but I will not be the first person to remind her of it.” Wit, Wisdom and Foibles of the Great, Charles Anthony Shriner

Her Majesty’s rigidity over the forms of mourning caused acid comment in the papers at the death of her son, Leopold, the Duke of Albany:

CONVENTIONAL MOURNING.

Dear Mr Editor, I hope I shall not shock you very much if I let your readers know in confidence that some of us are getting just a wee bit tired of the fuss people still persist in making over the death of the poor dear Duke of Albany. Fancy having to go into mourning at the very commencement of summer for six weeks. It seems too dreadful. A friend of mine, a charming woman, but sadly independent, declares nothing shall induce her to make herself uncomfortable for so long, and that she means to dress as usual next week. Of course nothing can come of her resolve unless some ill-natured friend tells the Court officials, but it is certainly running a risk. Ladies in society who disregarded the Queen’s injunctions about wearing mourning for the Prince Consort, were struck off the Lord Chamberlain’s list and debarred from attending all Court balls, State concerts and drawing-rooms for three seasons afterwards. This, I can assure you, is a very serious punishment. It means social annihilation for the time being, as people do not care to be seen in your company lest they too should incur Royal displeasure. The Queen does not insist upon crape, even her ladies-in-waiting are relieved from this infliction, but she requires that the period of mourning shall be strictly observed. As John Brown used to say, “When Her Majesty mourns, she mourns.” Truth remarks, perhaps a little ill-naturedly, that the Queen seems to take a morbid pleasure in ceremonies of a mournful nature, and to almost revel in all the undertaker’s details as to coffins, services, graves and monuments. Certainly she seldom seems as active and vigorous as when superintending something of the kind. Star 9 June 1884: p. 3

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.

For more on the customs of Victorian mourning, see The Victorian Book of the Dead.