Category Archives: Courtship

The Three Valentines: 1871

cupid-valentine

THE THREE VALENTINES.

THE STORY OF A WITHERED LIFE.

(From Fun.)

Preface.

I have loved three times madly–maniacally loved. My constitutional timidity has in each case prevented a verbal declaration of my sentiments, and confined them to the unsatisfactory medium of the Post-office. Preferring to hide these amatory outpourings under the veil of the anonymous, I have hitherto selected the Fourteenth of February as the most propitious day for their indulgence. With what success the reader shall determine.

Chapter I.

Maria was amiable, accomplished, lovely, and nineteen. Her sole surviving parent was the widow of an officer distinguished by his prowess in garrison duty. I respected the mother while I idolised the daughter. Often as I determined on declaring my passion, so often did my passion prove beyond the power of speech.

I bought my love a Valentine, elegantly embossed, and abounding in Cupids. The verses were more admirable than I should have conceived a modern poet capable of writing. This graceful missive I despatched by post.

But, by an error fatal to my hopes, I had forgotten to put a stamp on the envelope!

On my next visit I was coolly received, the angel’s mother informed me, during a private interview, that she could never sacrifice her darling’s future to a person whose avarice descended so low as a penny sterling. Maria, my heart was broken!

Chapter II.

I loved again, and Clara was perfection. She had a father in commerce, no mother, and money of her own. My attachment was of a nature which beggars description. It ultimately assumed the shape of a Valentine. Beautiful as I had thought my former offering at the shrine of Maria, this tribute of my undying affection for Clara surpassed it in loveliness. Consigning it carefully to a large envelope I affixed a postage stamp with great care.

That fatal missive never arrived at its destination!

On questioning the domestics at the house of my charmer, I discovered that the postman had rigidly demanded a payment of twopence in consideration of extra weight. This paltry sum was refused by Clara’s father.

Could I ally myself with the family of a sordid miser, whose mercenary nature could make so much of twopence? I retired in disgust. Clara, my heart was broken!

18th c valentine

Chapter III.

Once more the arrow of the rosy god perforated my bosom, and I adored Fanny. Both her parents were living, and kept a genial though unassuming tea-table.

I dared not breathe my passion in words, but resorted on a certain day in February to the novel expedient of a Valentine. It was a thing to dream of, a thing of bright imaginings. I procured an envelope worthy of such a treasure, and in a corner two stamps. There should be no mistake this time, I said.

That valentine sealed my bitter fate!

Fanny’s parents declared shortly afterwards that they could receive no more visits from a spendthrift so reckless as to throw money away by wasting twopence on a letter considerably under half-an ounce in weight. Fanny, my heart was broken.

Moral.

I shall perhaps love again. In that case, I am resolved on forwarding my sentiments by the new postal card.

Star 26 May 1871: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a foolish young man, not to take his Valentine offerings to the post-office, where they could be weighed and the proper franking applied! Mrs Daffodil sympathises with the parents; a young man so lacking in common sense could never make Maria, Clara, or Fanny happy.

Of course, to-day the young lovers “tweet” or “text” their love from ‘phones that cost ridiculous sums of money. They will never know the delightful agony of waiting for the post-man on Valentine’s Day. One wonders if love was truer, more measured in the days of the penny-post.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day. And of adequate postage to ensure that all their valentines will be properly delivered to the beloved addressees.

Some previous Valentine’s Day postings: A Stolen or Stray’d Heart at Vauxhall; Hearse Verses: Valentines for Undertakers; War Valentines; St. Valentine’s Day Massacres.

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 Two Valentines: 1867

THE TWO VALENTINES

By Mary Forman
“It is such a bother to be poor!” There had been a long interval of silence in Mrs. Jameson’s little sitting-room, when Gertie made this exclamation. “What is the new bother, Gertie?” The pleased voice and look of kindly inquiry made the young girl blush deeply, as she replied:— “O mamma, never mind. I was only thinking aloud.” “Thinking of what?” “Of some velvet flowers I saw yesterday at Lee’s, which just matched this ribbon,” and Gertie held up a bonnet she was trimming. “Velvet flowers are so lovely for a winter bonnet, and this one needs something.” “I am sure it looks very nice , Gertie.” “Nice !” said the girl, with scornful emphasis; “yes, it is very nice , and that turned silk is nice , and the short sack made out of your old cloak is nice , and cleaned gloves are nice , and” —

“Why, Gertie!” cried her mother, in a voice of amazement.

“But there is nothing stylish or handsome in cleaned gloves, and retrimmed bonnets, and old cloaks turned into sacks, and so I say poverty is a bother.”

“Gertie, put away the bonnet, and come here. Now, little daughter,” said the widow, gently, “tell me the meaning of this sudden tirade against poverty; of the restless tossing I heard from your room last night; of the nervous unquiet of my contented little girl since yesterday?”

There was no answer.

“Gertie, what did Leon Payne say to you last evening?”

“He asked me to be his wife.” The words were jerked out, hastily.

“And you answered…”

“Jane came in to shut up the parlor, not knowing he was there, and she stayed; so he had no answer at all.”

“But he must be answered, Gertie. He has spoken to me, and I told him it must rest with you.”

“Mamma!” this was after a long, deep silence. “He is very rich. When he marries, his wife can have very luxury. If— if it is me, we can have you with us, and Jane need not teach in that horrid school any longer. We were on—– Street the other day, and stopped to look in a jeweller’s window , and he pointed out the kind of jewels he would wish his wife to wear. I need not wear old silks then, mamma!”

“Then you intend to accept his offer?”

“I don’t know. You see, there is Harry.”

“But Harry cannot offer you jewels .”

“No, poor Harry! If he had only three thousand dollars, Mr. Ingraham would take him into the firm. He told me all about it last week. But think how long it will take him to save three thousand dollars, and of course his wife must save, and pinch, and economize, till he is able to spend more freely.”

“Yes, dear, there would be no variation on the turned cloth and retrimmed bonnets; no velvet flowers, no jewels .”

“But such a noble, true heart; such tender love!”

“Leon Payne loves you.”

“As much as he loves anything beyond his own pleasure and comfort. He is so thoroughly selfish, so hard, and thinks so much of himself. It is his wife that must be handsomely dressed, ride in her carriage, and reflect credit upon his choice. Mamma, he loves me because I am pretty and can sing well, and can manage his house nicely. Harry loves me because it is me .”

There was a sudden violent jerk at the door bell at that instant, that called Gertie to the door. She came back with flying feet. “Two Valentines, mamma! I had forgotten it was the fourteenth!”

“Two?”

“Yes! O mamma, look!” She had torn off the cover from a dainty package in her hand, and opened a morocco case inside. Upon the black velvet lining lay a parure of glittering diamonds flashing up where a stray sunbeam fell upon them into a glorious sea of color. “Leon Payne!” cried Gertie. “Are they not exquisite?”

violet-poetry

Mrs. Jameson’s lip quivered a little as she looked at her daughter’s flushed face and bright eyes, and her heart sent up a silent but fervent prayer for the future trembling before her eyes. “Look at the other,” she said, quietly.

“Only a copy of verses,” said Gertie. “Violet eyes, and all that sort of thing. But, are not these diamonds magnificent? It is the very set I admired so much when we were out the other day.”

“Gertie, it is eleven o’clock, and I must go to Mrs. Lewis’. Little daughter, you may have callers while I am out;” she drew her child into her arms, and looked with anxious love into her eyes, “Gertie, my darling, be true to your own heart.” And so she left her.

True to her own heart. Gertie Jameson sat down to ponder over the words. The diamonds flashed out their glorious waves of light before her eyes; the copy of verses lay open upon the little work-table, and Gertie sat musing.

Pictures of the past came in rapid succession into her memory. It was ten years ago, but she could still remember the day, since her father had been called to the shadow land. The luxurious country home where she and Jane, her elder sister, were born was sold, and they had come to the city. Her mother, one of the finest amateur pianists of her time, had begun to teach music, and they had lived upon her earnings, until Jane was old enough to take the French class in a large seminary, and Gertie to have singing scholars at home; but even with these additions, their income was very limited. Close economy, self-denial, humble fare, and quiet dress, Gertie could recall much more distinctly than the wealth her father had squandered and lost.

Where did Harry Clarke come upon the scene? Gertie scarcely knew. He was a step-son of her mother’s brother, and had come to the city to make his fortune. Far away in the central part of Pennsylvania nestled a small farm where Harry was born, where father and mother had died, and which was the boy’s sole patrimony. The rent of this domain scarcely sufficed to clothe the young clerk, but he had been winning his way in the house of Ingraham & Co., and now, if he could make three thousand dollars, might be a partner. The farm might sell for part of that sum, but where was the rest to come from? queried Gertie. Yet, over Harry’s memory picture the little maiden lingered lovingly. There was no part of her life so pleasant to dwell upon as that where he figured. Long walks and talks, duets over the old piano, chats by fire-light, moonlight, and gas-light. He was so tender and loving, so honorable and true; so respectful to her mother, so tender to Jane, and so ready to advise or assist Jane’s betrothed, a fellow clerk, who was waiting the turn in fortune’s wheel that would enable him to marry. Was not such love as he offered worth any sacrifice?

Leon Payne came in only six months before this musing fit fell upon Gertie. She had met him at a musical party. She had bewitched him by her pretty, piquant beauty, her grace and her voice; he had dazzled her by his handsome face— Harry was not handsome, poor fellow, Gertie sighed— and wealthy. But the young girl knew with a woman’s intuition, that under the courtly manner, flattering attentions, and devoted air, there was a hard, selfish nature, a cruel jealousy, and a suspicious and hot temper. Yet, he was so rich, and Gertie knew all the torture and mistery of genteel poverty.

“Be true to my own heart!” She said the words aloud, as she rose and walked across the room. “Do I love Leon Payne? If he should lose his wealth, would I be a true, loving wife to him still? Could I wear old bonnets and turned dresses for his sake?” She took up the diamonds, and put them on while she spoke. They flashed brilliantly against the deep crimson of her neat dress, and heightened the effect of her young, fresh beauty. “If he were poor and ill, could I work for him as— as I could do for Harry?” It burst from her lips in a sort of cry, and she tore off the jewels and replaced them on their velvet bed. “I could bear all this for Harry, but not for Leon Payne. I will be true to my own heart.”

The winter was gliding into spring, when Mrs. Jameson sat in a luxurious house on —– Street, waiting the home coming of two brides. The parlor in which she waited was richly furnished. Velvet carpets covered the floors, velvet curtains draped the windows, long mirrors threw back the light of large chandeliers, costly pictures in heavily gilt frames hung upon the walls. Above, large bed-rooms were filled with handsomely appointed furniture. In one room laces, velvets, flowers, and silks fit for a royal trousseau , filled drawers and wardrobe; the dining-room was spread for a rich and varied repast, and the widow’s own dress, though only black silk, was rich and handsomely made.

“My little Gertie,” said Mrs. Jameson, softly, “how will she reign over this palace?” A quieter home, but pleasant, too, was waiting for Jane, whose husband had received an anonymous gift, that enabled him to accept a business opening long looked upon as an unattainable felicity. But Jane was to spend a few days with Gertie before going to her own home, and the mother looked for two brides, as I said before.

It was nearly midnight when the carriage drove up. Gertie was first in her mother’s arms, and then, as Jane took her place, the little bride stood in the centre of the long parlors pale with astonishment. She had tossed off her bonnet, and the simple straw lay upon the velvet carpet, while the soft gray dress of the mistress of the house seemed oddly out of place.

“Where am I?” she gasped, at last.

“At home , darling.” And her husband passed his arm round her waist. “Home!” “It is not a very long story,” he said, looking down into her wondering eyes; “but I did not tell you before because I wanted to see if you loved me .”

She nestled close to him, letting her head fall upon his bosom. “The farm, Gertie,” he said, softly, “was full of oil.” “Oil?” “Petroleum! I sold it for more money than Leon Payne ever possessed. Now, pet, run up stairs, mother will show you the room, and let me see how some of the finery there suits you.”

“But it is nearly midnight.” “Never mind. We want a queen to preside over the supper.”

Mrs. Jameson led her away, while Jane and her husband stood as bewildered as Gertie had been. Suddenly the bridegroom started forward to grasp Harry’s hand.

“Then it was you ,” he said, “who sent me the bundle of greenbacks?” “Are we not brothers ?” said Harry, quietly. There was a little talk then, with husky voices and moist eyes, and Jane was still looking gratefully into Harry’s face, when the door opened and Gertie flashed in. All the light had come back to her eyes, the rich color to her cheeks; and the shining silk revealed snowy arms and shoulders, while rich lace fell in full folds round the sweeping skirts. Upon her clustering curls rested a wreath of white flowers, and rare bracelets clasped her wrists. She made a low reverence to her husband.

“Lovely!” he cried. “But, pet, wear the diamonds to-night.”

“What diamonds?”

“The ones I sent you for a Valentine.”

You sent me! Harry! I sent them back to Leon Payne.”

It was certainly ten years later, when one evening at one of Mrs. Clarke’s receptions, Mrs. Leon Payne said to her, pointing to her jewels:— “It was the oddest thing about these diamonds. Somebody sent them to Leon for a Valentine, years ago. He could never guess where they came from, for of course the lady must have been wealthy; though why she sent a lady’s parure to a gentleman is a mystery. Are they not lovely, Mrs. Clarke?”

“Very lovely,” and Gertie smiled, as she thought of the day ten years before, when she was true to her own heart .

Godey’s Lady’s Book February 1867

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is certain that all of her readers will take this salutary Valentine lesson to their bosoms: Always be true to your heart!  It would also not do any harm to have a quiet geological survey done of the Beloved’s rustic farm.

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.

 

Making Valentines in London: 1871

THE VALENTINE IN LONDON.

Curious to see one of the veritable temples of Venus, whence issue the bleeding hearts and flowery darts of Cupid, we were directed to a very unromantic house in that very prosaic thoroughfare Aldersgate street, in which is installed as agent of the classic goddess a very business-like but romantic-looking Englishman, who does by substitute, we are given to understand, the major portion of lover’s work in this country. We were informed that he keeps a real poet, as part of his manufacturing machinery; and as we wound our way up the dark and devious stairs, we looked about for that individual with “eye in fine frenzy rolling,” but failed to catch it, as we passed the smudgy-looking printers intent upon their prosaic work. Nevertheless, this armory of Venus upon inspection proved to be one of the curiosities of this great city.

We soon became aware of one fact that a little astonished us—the valentine of the shops is not even indigenous. Not only do we no longer address our lovers in our own phrases, ornamented with our own devices, but we fail to supply the manufactured substitute. France, the reader will instantly suggest, finds us in the sentimental finery, the amatory poetry, and the soft lace-work in which the British youth wraps up his affections. Nothing of the kind; strange delusion; they know nothing of valentines in fair France. There, New Year’s Day takes its place, and it is to old Germany that we have to go to find St. Valentine as much respected as amongst ourselves.

In the old land of printing, the valentine has always been a theme for the printer’s and the lithographer’s art; hence the reason of their power to supersede our own handicraft in this department of ornamental stationery. But if we import the foreign work, we utilize it in our own fashion. German valentines come over to us in the form of embossed and colored card-work, of the most elaborate character—wreaths, devices, pictures, emblems, all grouped together in fancy designs; the different parts, however, being attached by fine points which easily break asunder. The English valentine-maker fancies he can make combinations of his own out of these easily resolved materials, which will suit the home market better; hence the first part of his business is to break the German valentines to pieces, in order that they may be built up afresh. Rows of sprightly young damsels are engaged at this work, tearing hearts out of encircling wreaths, separating lace-work from mottoes, with the most unconcerned hands, disuniting the most touching emblems, reducing flowery pictures to mere disjecta membra, which other hands are employed in reuniting in a more simple fashion. All valentines, it is true, are not subjected to this revolutionary process; it is only the cheaper sort, in which we cannot compete with the foreign work. The more expensive valentines are of home manufacture.

The range of cost is extraordinary, extending from a penny to a pound. In the higher-priced ones, satin and lace are the surroundings, and the settings are exquisite pictures. These are arranged with such springs and delicate foldings that they will not bear the rough usage of the post, but require the protection of elaborate cases. In short, a high-class valentine packed for delivery is like a lady going to the opera, who must have the whole carriage-seat to herself, to keep her flounces, her Brussels lace, and her towering headdress entirely free from the touch of ordinary mortals; so the delicate fancy valentine is fenced off, and goes by the parcel post—a mighty aristocrat beside the ordinary penny specimens in the postman’s bag.

Lace-work for valentines is a manufacture by itself, and is made in a very curious way. It is stamped in relief in a metal mold; one side of the mold is then lifted, and all the superfluous paper is rubbed away with pumice-stone, leaving the lace pattern in the die, from which it is lifted when cleared of its surroundings.

The statistics of London valentines, if they could be procured, would be very curious. There is no means of even making a guess at the numbers which pass through the post-offices of the entire kingdom; but a guess may be made at the numbers passing through St. Martin’s-le-Grand. The average number of letters is, of course, pretty well known, and in the year 1866 there passed through the London post-offices, for delivery in town and country, 897,900 in excess of this average on St. Valentine ‘s Day. In 1868 the excess had increased to 1,199,142. Probably on St. Valentine ‘s Day, 1871, this number will have increased to a million and a half, bringing a revenue, due entirely to the tender sentiment, of upward of £15,000. Who shall say after this that sentiment does not pay?

Frank Leslies Weekly, 18 March 1871

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In 1895, the Valentine trade was said to be in decline.

Practically, there is but one firm left in the valentine trade, namely, Messrs. Goode Brothers, of Clerkenwell. The astonishingly rapid decline of the valentine within the past ten years brought ruin to many a wholesale manufacturer, to whom the trade was worth perhaps £20,000 a year, between the years 1870 and 1875-—the golden age of the valentine. At this period a single maker would keep six designers and eighty girls employed on valentines all the year round. Rice paper from China was bought by the shipload; plush, in wholesale quantities of 9,000 yards at 2s. per yard; and silk fringe, from Coventry, in bales of a hundred gross of yards. Twenty years ago, too, the big valentine dealer’s turnover was a thousand pounds a week during the three months of the season; and in his workrooms a quarter of a ton of the finest white gum disappeared in the dainty trifles. Four well-paid male artists designed the “comics”—mainly trade skits and domestic incidents—and these were reproduced on 1,500 reams of paper. The machines were kept going night and day, turning out a million caricatures a week, of which some 5,000 gross were dispatched to Australia by sailing vessels in May and June. From a hundred to a hundred and thirty different comic designs were produced every year, and one house would have five smart “commercials” showing the pattern-books to retailers in all parts of the kingdom….

One of the very few of the valentine “commercials” left in London tells a woeful tale of the dying trade. Every season a fresh batch of fancy dealers shake their heads at his approach, with the remark, “I don’t think I’ll go in for it this year.” The valentine trade in the Metropolis is simply infinitesimal; the matter-of-fact Londoner prefers to send his lady-love a box of gloves on the “fourteenth,” and we opine that the damsel herself prefers this useful valentine even to the chastely designed “ sentimental” of to-day, though the latter be resplendent with aluminium frosting which costs a guinea a pound.

Although flowers and confectionary are always acceptable, one simply cannot argue with a useful box of gloves, particularly if the gentleman has spent enough time holding one’s hand to ascertain the correct size.

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.

 

Paper Lace Frills Give Cupid Chills: 1917

PAPER LACE FRILLS GIVE CUPID CHILLS

To Give a Girl a Valentine, One Really Ought to Own a Mine

Margaret Mason

“Oh Valentine, wilt thou be mine?”

“Indeed I will” said she,

“If you can prove you’ll be a mine

Of gold and jewels for me.”

New York, Feb. 9

Alas! Poor little Dan Cupid is trailing his rosy wings in the dust. He leans sad and discouraged on his quiver with a quiver of his under lip. Since munition millionaires are buying up hearts of rubies and scarves of Point de Venise to present to their fair Valentines this February 14th, Cupid feels red satin hearts and paper lace frills won’t have a chance.

Oh, where are the paper lace and tinsel valentines of yesterday? The hand-painted satin hearts, pierced with gilded darts, all amorously inscribed with some choice and burning sentiment fresh from a passionate poet’s pen. They are in the dust heap of the Gods along with the broken vows, shattered hearts and withered flowers.

The modern maid is educated up to more expensive love tokens. She insists that the tinsel of her valentine be at least 14 karat, if not 22. Her paper lace must be real lace and any hearts coming her way must be shiny jeweled ones instead of shiny satin. There are all sorts of heart shaped jewel boxes too ranging from gold, silver and carved ivory, down to equally effective and less expensive enamel, lacquer, brass, ivorine, and pewter. If you sent one of these with this telling little sentiment borrowed from one of William Winter’s poems:

“I send you, dear, an empty heart

But send it from a very full one.”

You cannot fail to win the gratified adoration of your Valentine lady.

Nephrite frame by Faberge.

Nephrite frame by Faberge.

If you have the face to do it a heart shaped picture frame of silver or colored leather makes a picturesque valentine and there are heart shaped crystal vials of perfume rare, fit for the most fastidious of noses. Love often smiles on one who exchanges dollars for scents.

To bag a heart with a heart-shaped bag would seem to be a popular sport this February 14, for the varieties of valentine bags offered is most bewildering. There are sewing bags and bags for anything at all.

The most elaborate, ornate, and expensive of the valentine tokens I have glimpsed is a heart shaped brooch of rubies pierced by an arrow of platinum from whose point drips a drop of ruby gore. The nicest St. Valentine gift, I think, is a hand-carved old gilt and blue wood frame enshrining the photograph of The-Only-Man-in-the-World. And I think what a practical and useful gift for next year it will be so easy to change the photograph for another of the 1918 or more current Only-Man-in-the-World.

Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 9 February 1917: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The escalating expense of St Valentine’s Day has always been a point of controversy.  Victorian gentleman complained of elaborate valentines costing more than a labourer’s monthly wages. Will the Beloved be satisfied with something cheap and whimsical or must the gift be royally lavish? There is much at stake.

Jewellery is somewhat more problematic. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they rarely achieve their resale value at auction. One of the most poignant sights in the world is the gold cigarette case or bracelet in an auction catalogue engraved, “Yours Forever,” “Eternal Love, Pookie,” or some other sentimentally inaccurate inscription. Mrs Daffodil’s advice is to suggest that one’s lover invest in items of precious metal. A photograph should be framed, at the very least, sterling silver, so that if the current Only-Man-in-the-World objects to a souvenir of his predecessor, the article can be pawned with profit.

Of course, if one is the owner of a mine or munitions factory or if one is Queen, cost is no object:

There are three great makers [of Valentines in England]: Rimmel, Dean and Goodall. Rimmel is the famous perfumer, and his goods waft their fragrance far and wide and turn, nasally speaking, thousands of dirty post-office pigeon-holes into Araby the blest. Messrs Dean claim to have produced the most costly valentine ever made. This was executed to the order of the Queen, and was a marvel of the illuminator’s art, being also further enriched by feather flowers of the most exquisite description. These encircled some lines of poetry by the late Prince Consort, and the valentine was sent to the Prince of Wales on his eighteenth birthday. Its cost has not been divulged, on the principle, no doubt, that “the unknown is always wonderful.”

Springfield [MA] Republican 24 March 1873: p. 8

One has a strong suspicion that the Prince of Wales would have preferred a trip to Paris or a racing horse for his stable.

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 Very Worst Thing: Young Ladies and Their True Confessions: 1895

 SOME DILEMMAS

But the Worst One was the Story of the Letters.

They were having a real nice time together, and they had told each other almost all of their private affairs when one of them remarked, as she deftly removed a marshmallow from a hatpin on which she had toasted it, “Look here, girls, I wish you would tell me the very worst thing that ever happened to you.”

“H’m,” replied the plump brunette, “that is easy enough in my own case. It happened the last time I went sleighing with Tom. You see, we quarreled desperately and”—

“Was that it?” slyly put in the tall blond.

“It was not. It was the discovery after I had refused to speak to him that I had lost my handkerchief. We had five miles yet to reach home, and I had a cold anyhow, so you may imagine my sufferings.”

“Mercy on us, that was nothing at all,” groaned the tall blond. “Don’t waste any sympathy on her, girls, but listen to me. I was just starting to dress the other day when Walter sent up a message that he had stopped on his way to the train and wouldn’t I see him for a moment right away? In my haste I got on May’s back hair instead of my own. It is nine shades darker, so you can imagine the effect. The parlor curtains were at the laundry, too, the sun was shining brutally in, and I discovered my mistake in the mantel mirror as I took my seat. Think of it! After he had written a poem, which was almost accepted by a magazine, to my ‘Riotous Golden Hair!’”

“Oh, oh!” groaned the first girl, “that was simply awful! As for me, you know I would perish before I would admire Dora’s sleeves. Well, one night I staid with her and died of envy at her new dark blue waist.”

“The one with sleeves like sublimated sofa pillows?” queried the plump brunette.

violet-satin-bodice

“The same. I had on my pink one, but it faded away like a sunrise before hers. I determined to have sleeves like those or fill an early grave, so in the morning I told her that I couldn’t possibly wear my pink waist home in daytime, and she actually loaned me her new one.”

“Even Dora has a good fit sometimes,” said the tall blond.

“M’hm. I went home as fast as I could, took off the waist which I had promised to send right back, and flew to the dressmaker’s with it. She promised to make my new sleeves juts like ‘em, and I was coming peacefully away when whom should I meet on the threshold but Dora herself!”

“Oh, Fan, how awful!”

“It was. Not as bad as it might have been, though, for she had my pink waist in her hand. She had come to have the garniture on it copied. Of course neither of us could say a word, but the one moment in which I knew that I was found out was the most awful of my life. I woke up at night bathed in cold perspiration at the thought of it.”

‘And no wonder,” said the other girls in chorus. “Do have some more marshmallows, dear.”

The melancholy girl with the brown hair heaved a sepulchral sigh: “I am glad to know that other people have woes too. I have mine. George and I quarreled desperately yesterday because he actually said I was flirting with Jim.”

“And were you?” queried the blond.

“Of course not. I denied it indignantly and gave back his ring on the spot. When he was gone, I bundled up his letters, called a messenger and sent them off before I drew breath. Today I discovered that I had by mistake inclosed a lot of Jim’s with them, and now I’m wondering how I’m ever going to explain them away.”

And for a moment there was an awed silence in the room.

Ukiah [CA] Daily Journal 3 May 1895: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: How, indeed?  Mrs Daffodil, who has seen and abetted a good deal of blackmail in her time in service, always advises burning compromising letters and beating the ashes to powder with a poker. Such trifling precautions may save the recipient from being beaten to a powder by a disgruntled lover with a blunt instrument.

Still, stories about ladies who experience difficulties when entertaining two consecutive gentlemen are so commonplace as to be scarcely worth our sympathy. It is the unprincipled ladies who rush off to their dressmakers to copy a sleeve or a garniture of a rival who truly shock Mrs Daffodil.

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 Confidential Secretary: 1880s

lady-bess-male-impersonator

The following story is narrated by the son of an Irish politician whom we will call by the name of O’Brien. The events narrated followed on his return from abroad consequent on his father’s death. In recounting the circumstances of his return to his native land he put on record the following striking occurrences:

My father’s death recalled me from abroad. His letters and MSS. were sealed up, and it was my duty upon my arrival in Ireland to wade through the enormous pile of correspondence. He was a man with literary tastes, he was a strong Home Ruler, a Parnellite, and although he had never made the public a participant in his labours, he left a testamentary instruction for the publication of his essays, etc., on this great political problem.

Now I myself, as one of Her Majesty’s civil servants, was strongly for the Union, and was afraid that I could not do justice to the intentions of the testator.

I had been away from home more than ten years, and I found that my father had been assisted in his work by a young fellow, Louis Sullivan, who seemed to be his only companion, my mother having died when I was quite young. Of course, I was only too glad to retain the services of the young man. I requested him to call, and we soon came to an arrangement satisfactory to both of us. Louis Sullivan. who was about twenty years of age, was slim and fragile, his face was very handsome, of true Irish type, with dark hair and blue eyes. He was well versed in my father’s literary work, and absolved me entirely from any responsibility. I left him fully in charge of all matters referring to Home Rule, and took the sifting and investigating of letters and other papers upon myself.

During some months we were daily together, and I often observed that my young companion looked at me with an expression of fondness which touched me in an inexplicable manner. I came across some letters which showed me that Louis was more than a mere acquaintance to me. My father had years ago formed an intimacy with a woman residing on his estate, who had nursed him through a severe illness, and a child was born as the result of this attachment. The name of the woman was Sullivan, and she was dead. I thought it more than coincidence that Louis Sullivan should have been with my father ever since then, and I could understand why my father should have provided for his young companion by a substantial annuity. He was his own child, though I soon became convinced that Louis was not acquainted with this fact. Nevertheless, I felt that blood spoke loudly, for I saw that Louis loved me, and such a state of things can only be due to a strong sympathy, which, no doubt, is based upon blood relationship.

In a conversation with him one day, I gathered that he was under the impression that his father had died before he was born. I could not undeceive him and let him know that he was an illegitimate child. At last our tasks were finished, and as I was leaving Ireland, a separation became necessary. The night before my departure I asked Louis to dine with me.

It was a sad occasion; little was said, and it was evident we both felt keenly the approaching parting from each other. At last Louis broke the silence, and taking my hand in his, he asked my forgiveness for making a confession. I saw now that I was mistaken, and that he knew our relationship, and I told him that his confession was not needed, that I knew all, and embracing him, kissed him, and called him brother. The result of my action was a great surprise. Louis burst into a fit of the most violent weeping. I told him how I had found out the secret, and entreated him to come with me, and be my brother before the world. I could not understand his subsequent behavior, but he refused point-blank. This was the last I saw of him…

  • • • • •

I was in ___, where I intended to spend some weeks. It was just eight days since I had left Ireland. I was ascending the staircase of the Hotel___in ___. It was the evening twilight. Suddenly I saw standing before me the shape of a woman dressed in white. I stared at her; she bore the face of Louis Sullivan. Too astonished to speak, I stood looking at her in amazement, when she vanished.

  • • • • •

Subsequently I learned the truth. The being who recently had been my companion, and whom I had discovered to be so near a relation, was indeed no brother, but a sister. Why my father had made her wear men’s clothes I never exactly understood, unless it was the fear that the presence of a young girl at his house would have given occasion to gossip. She is now dead. She died the very evening she appeared to me at the hotel in ___. With her own hands she made an end to her life. The letter she left behind her told all: she loved me, and was just on the point on that evening before my departure of confessing her feelings when, misunderstanding her purpose, I told her she was my brother. Her relationship to me had not been known to her, but she found now that she was my sister—she could not bear the situation and she died.

That I should have seen her in the shape of a woman, when her sex was entirely unsuspected, seemed to me the most inexplicable feature of the occurrence.”

The Occult Review November 1912, p. 270-1

 Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Females disguising themselves as males is a well-worn plot device—Shakespeare was particularly fond of it—but rarely has it been deployed to such tragic effect.  

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 Swell Party on Ice: 1881

London Skating Rink, 1882, British Museum.

London Skating Rink, 1882, British Museum.

“Clara Belle” has been to the aristocratic rink in the  polo grounds, off Fifth Avenue, and discourses of her skating sisters with her usual freedom. “A swell party,” she says, ” had hired the ice for the afternoon, and were thus enabled to skate without showing their heels to common people. A great deal of solid comfort was in the warm club-house, where the girls awarded the valued privilege of putting on their skates, and that sentimental operation was performed with some newly acquired graces. There was a prosaic attendant at hand to do the work, but he was only called on to serve the older and plainer women. The more attractive girls were beset by volunteers, and one impartial maiden surrendered a foot to each of two admirers. She manifestly enjoyed the experience of having two fellows on their knees before her at a time, and bore the ordeal with unexampled patience, though they were wonderfully slow, and kept her feet in their laps at least ten minutes. Not being shoemakers, they appeared to appreciate the boon, and to be each determined to make it last longer than the other, under the pretense of having trouble with the straps. Finally her big brother came along, and pulled the buckles into place with brutal celerity. She did not say ‘thank you’ to him, and probably didn’t feel like it.”

“The assemblage,” she continues, “was comely as a whole, and had a few good exhibits of American beauty. They wore short street-costumes, in many cases quite elaborate. The fashion used to be to wear plain woolen dresses, made expressly for skating ; but it is not so now. The rage for costly fabrics is too great to be relaxed for even one afternoon. Satins, velvets, and plushes were commoner than wool, and the damage done toilets by falls on the ice was simply immense. An awkward girl, with a weight of one hundred and eighty pounds, sat down with a thud on not less than a full square yard of embossed velvet, and slid over a rough spot, utterly ruining not less than forty dollars worth of surface. But she didn’t care. I only saw one who seemed to be at all mindful of consequences. She wore a skirt of velvet and brocade satin, and evidently was resolved not to spoil it. Whenever she slipped up she managed to fall cat fashion on all fours—and to straddle about until an upright position was regained without having dragged the precious cloth on the ice. She was built like a spider, weighed about ninety pounds, and could strike light, while the other girl went down with a crushing, spreading, sprawling force that was terrific.

“The only distinctive features of dress for the occasion were on the heads and legs. Many of the women wore turban-like caps of fur, plush, or velvet ; but there were a few very coquettish hoods, of the pattern usually worn by little children, but made of handsome dark materials. These were at once warm and stylish. The hair left visible was a frizzle or bang in front, and a careless brush hanging down behind. The effect was killing, particularly if the girl had any claims to beauty of face. A close hood on a round, rosy-cheeked creature, with a bang reaching nearly to her bright eyes, and a tangle of hair flying behind her, made her simply bewitching.”

But Clara reveals the artifices of the sex with most refreshing frankness. Listen:
“One whom I have especially in mind was as artful in reality as she was innocent in aspect. Her arrangement of stockings proved it. She wore a pair of leggings, or over-hose, of knitting or crochet work, reaching from low down on her boots to a little above the ankle. They were red, and therefore conspicuous enough to draw considerable attention to her skating gear. But that was not all. Every high flop of her short skirts revealed light pink silk stockings.— just a tantalizing amount of almost flesh-colored surface above the leggings, at the point where her legs began to swell. The contrivance has often been resorted to in the ballet. It may be that I wrong her by the suspicion that her falls were not always accidental. She was a most excellent skater, and it did seem odd that she should go over on her face, with her heels kicking up behind, four times in one hour. Being of her sex I was no doubt envious. However, I did not discern any incredulity on the part of the men, who invariably rushed to her assistance, and I really believe the trickery was as pleasing to them as it was to her.”

On the whole, it is perhaps as well that we have no skating in ‘Frisco.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 22 January 1881

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Well, quite.

Young ladies who skated in crinoline in the ’60s might certainly tantalise the young men with a glimpse of stocking, but the narrower dresses of the ’80s should have rendered this delight impossible, except, of course, to this saucy siren of the ice. One wonders if this member of the “swell” skating party “swelled” her calves by means of artificial padding as young ladies did in the ’60s.

Some other posts on ice-skating: A Naughty Story on Ice, An Idler at a New York Ice Carnival, and How to Be Decorative While Ice-Skating.

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.