Category Archives: Courtship

Encore: A Bashful Bridegroom: 1830s

Country Wedding, John Lewis Krimmel, 1820

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the

A Bashful Bridegroom

Senator Sebastian, of Arkansas, was a native of Hickman county, Tenn. On one occasion a member of Congress was lamenting his bashful awkwardness. “Why,” said the senator from Rackensack, “you don’t know what bashfulness is. Let me tell you a story, and when I get through I will stand the bob if you don’t agree that you never knew anything about bashfulness and its baneful effects. I was the most bashful boy west of the Alleghenies. I wouldn’t look at a girl, much less speak to a maiden; but for all that I fell desperately in love with a sweet, beautiful neighbor girl. It was a desirable match on both side, and the old folks saw the drift, and fixed it up. I thought I should die, just thinking of it. I was a gawky, awkward country lout about nineteen years old. She was an intelligent, refined and fairly well educated girl in a country and at a time when the girls had superior advantages, and were therefore superior in culture to the boys. I fixed the day as far as I could have put it off. I lay awake in a cold perspiration as the time drew near, and shivered with agony and thought of the terrible ordeal. The dreadful day came. I went through with the program somehow in a dazed, confused, mechanical sort of a way, like an automaton booby through a supper where I could eat nothing, and through such games as “Possum Pie,” “Sister Phoebe,” and all that sort of thing. The guests one by one departed, and my hair began to stand on end. Beyond the awful curtain of Isis lay the terrible unknown. My blood grew cold and boiled by turns. I was in a fever and then an ague, pale and flushed by turns. I felt like fleeing into the woods, spending the night in the barn, leaving for the west never to return. I was deeply devoted to Sallie. I loved her harder than mule can kick; but that terrible ordeal!—I could not, dare not stand it. Finally the last guest was gone, the bride retired, the family gone to bed, and I was left alone—horror of horrors, alone with the old man. “John,” said he, “you can take that candle, you will find your room just over this. Goodnight, John, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul,” and with a mischievous twinkle in his fine gray eye the old man left the room. I mentally said “Amen” to his “Heaven help you,” and when I heard him close a distant door, staggered to my feet and seized the farthing dip with nervous grasp. I stood for some minutes contemplating my terrible fate, and the inevitable and speedy doom about to overwhelm me. I knew that it could not be avoided, and yet I hesitated to meet my fate like a man. I stood so long that three love letters had grown in the wick of the tallow dip and a winding sheet was decorating the side of the brass candle-stick. A happy thought struck me. I hastily climbed the stair, marked the position of the landing, and the door of the bridal chamber. I would have died before I would have disrobed in that holy chamber, where awaiting me a trembling and beautiful girl, a blushing maiden, “clothed upon” with her own beauty and modesty, and her snowy robe de nuit. I would make the usual preparations without, blow out the light, open the door, and friendly night would shield my shrinking modesty and bashfulness and grateful darkness at least mitigate the horror of the situation. It was soon done. Preparations for retiring were few and simple in their character in Hickman, altogether consisting of disrobing, and owing to the scarcity of cloth in those days man was somewhere near the Adamic state when he was prepared to woo sweet sleep. The dreadful hour had come; I was ready. I blew out the light, grasped the door-knob with a deathly gripe and a nervous clutch; one moment and it would be over.

One moment and it wasn’t over by a d__n sight. I leaped within, and there around a glowing hickory fire, with candles brightly burning on the mantel and bureau, was the blushing bride, surrounded by the six lovely bridesmaids.”

The Fresno [CA] Republican 24 June 1882: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add….

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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Autobiography of an Old Pair of Scissors: 1875

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN OLD PAIR OF SCISSORS.

I was born in Sheffield, England, at the close of the last century, and was like all those who study Brown’s Shorter Catechism, made out of dust. My father was killed at Herculaneum at the time of the accident there, and buried with other scissors and knives and hooks and swords. On my mother’s side I am descended from a pair of shears that came to England during the Roman invasion. My cousin hung to the belt of a duchess. My uncle belonged to Hampton Court, and used to trim the king’s hair. I came to the United States while the grandfathers of the present generation of children were boys.

When I was young I was a gay fellow—indeed, what might have been called “a perfect blade.” I look old and rusty hanging here on the nail, but take me down, and though my voice is a little squeaky with old age, I can tell you a pretty tale. I am sharper than I look. Old scissors know more than you think. They say I am a little garrulous, and perhaps I may tell things I ought not.

I helped your grandmother prepare for her wedding. I cut out and fitted all the apparel of that happy day. I hear her scold the young folks now for being so dressy, but I can tell you she was once that way herself. Did not I, sixty years ago, lie on the shelf and laugh as I saw her stand by the half hour before the glass, giving an extra twist to her curl and an additional dash of white powder on her hair—now fretted because the powder was too thick, now fretted because it was too thin! She was as proud in cambric and calico and nankeen as Harriet is to-day in white tulle and organdy. I remember how careful she was when she ran me along the edges of the new dress. With me she clipped and notched and gored and trimmed, and day and night I went click! click! click! and it seemed as if she would never let me rest from cutting.

I split the rags for the first carpet on the old homestead, and what a merry time we had when the neighbours came to the “quilting!” I lay on the coverlet that was stretched across the quilting-frame, and heard all the gossip of 1799. Reputations were ripped and torn just as they are now. Fashions were chattered about, the coal-scuttle bonnet of some offensive neighbour (who was not invited to the quilting) was criticised, and the suspicion started that she laced too tight; and an old man who happened to have the best farm in the county was overhauled for the size of his knee-buckles, and the exorbitant ruffles on his shirt, and the costly silk lace to his hat. I lay so still that no one supposed I was listening. I trembled on the coverlet with rage, and wished that I could clip the end of their tattling tongues, but found no chance for revenge, till, in the hand, of a careless neighbour, I notched and nearly spoiled the patchwork.

Yes, I am a pair of old scissors. I cut out many a profile of old-time faces, and the white dimity bed-curtains. I lay on the stand when your grand-parents were courting—for that had to be done then as well as now—and it was the same story of chairs wide apart, and chairs coming nearer, and arm over the back of the chair, and late hours, and four or five gettings up to go with the determination to stay, protracted interviews on the front steps, blushes and kisses. Your great-grandmother, out of patience at the lateness of the hour, shouted over the banisters to your immediate grandmother, “Mary! come to bed!” Because the old people sit in the corner looking so very grave, do not suppose their eyes were never roguish, nor their lips ruby, nor their hair flaxen, nor their feet spry, nor that they always retired at half-past eight o’clock at night. After a while I, the scissors, was laid on the shelf, and finally thrown into a box among nails, and screws and files. Years of darkness and disgrace for a scissors so highly born as I. But one day I was hauled out. A bell tinkled in the street. An Italian scissors-grinder wanted a job. I was put upon the stone, and the grinder put his foot upon the treadle, and the bands pulled, and the wheel sped, and the fire flew, and it seemed as if, in the heat and pressure and agony, I should die. I was ground, and rubbed, and oiled, and polished, till I glittered in the sun and one day, when young Harriet was preparing for the season, I plunged into the fray. I almost lost my senses among the ribbons, and flew up and down among the flounces, and went mad amongst the basques. I move round as gay as when I was young; and modern scissors, with their stumpy ends, and loose pivots, and weak blades, and glaring bows, and coarse shanks, are stupid beside an old family piece like me. You will be surprised how spry I am flying around the sewing room, cutting corsages into heart-shape, and slitting a place for button-holes, and making double-breasted jackets, and hollowing scallops, and putting the last touches on velvet arabesques and Worth overskirts. I feel almost as well at eighty years of age as at ten, and I lie down to sleep at night amid all the fineries of the wardrobe, on olive-green cashmere, and beside pannier puffs, and pillowed on feathers of ostrich.

Oh, what a gay life the scissors live! I may lie on gayest lady’s lap, and little children like me better than almost anything else to play with. The trembling octogenarian takes me by the hand, and the rollicking four-year-old puts on me his dimpled fingers. Mine are the children’s curls and the bride’s veil. I am welcomed to the Christmas-tree, and the sewing-machine, and the editor’s table. I have cut my way through the ages. Beside pen, and sword, and needle, I dare to stand anywhere, indispensable to the race, the world-renowned scissors.

But I had a sad mission once. The bell tolled in the New. England village because a soul had passed. I sat up all the night cutting the pattern for a shroud. Oh, it was gloomy work. There was wailing in the house, but I could not stop to mourn. I had often made the swaddling-clothes for a child, but that was the only time I fashioned a robe for the grave. To fit it around the little neck, and make the sleeves just long enough for the quiet arms—it hurt me more than the tilt-hammers that smote me in Sheffield, than the files of the scissor’s-grinder at the door. I heard heart-strings snap as I went through the linen, and in the white pleats to be folded over the still heart I saw the snow banked on a grave. Give me, the old scissors, fifty bridal dresses to make rather than one shroud to prepare.

I never recovered from the chill of those dismal days, but at the end of life I can look back and feel that I have done my work well. Other scissors have frayed and unravelled the garments they touched, but I have always made a clean path through the linen or the damask I was called to divide. Others screeched complainingly at their toil; I smoothly worked my jaws. Many of the fingers that wrought with me have ceased to open and shut, and my own time will soon come to die, and I shall be buried in a grave of rust, amid cast-off tenpenny nails and horseshoes. But I have stayed long enough to testify, first, that these days are no worse than the old ones, the granddaughter now no more proud than the grandmother was; secondly, that we all need to be hammered and ground in order to take off the rust; and thirdly, that an old scissors, as well as an old man, may be scoured up and made practically useful.

Around the tea-table, Thomas De Witt Talmage, 1875: pp 50-52

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a little strange to find a useful household article so sententious, boastful, and sentimental—all at the same time, but there was a 19th-century vogue for these whimsical first-person “autobiographies” of inanimate objects as we have seen previously in the life-stories of a corset and an old needle-book. In the current era, when nearly everything from fashion to spouses is disposable, one wonders what objects will be left to sell their stories to the tabloids?

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.

 

Girls Who Collect Gentlemen’s Hats: 1893-95

If the Saratoga girl has a fad, quite new with the season, it is the collection of straw hats which are plucked quite heartlessly from the devoted heads of her admirers.

The fad is managed this way: The summer young man goes to call upon the summer girl. He spends an evening pleasantly upon the piazza, or in the cosiest corner of the parlor, and when it comes time for him to go home, he finds his hat firmly clasped by a pair of adorable little white hands, while a pair of blue eyes beseech him to leave his hat, as a reminder of a pleasant evening.

“But,” murmurs the Saratoga unfortunate, “how am I to go home without my hat?”

“Oh, dear,” pouts the pretty miss, “can you not walk home without it? Are you afraid of catching cold? Here, take my handkerchief,” handing him a tiny lace-trimmed absurdity, “and run just as fast as you can.”’

And so it comes to pass that the Saratoga young man has, for a summer fad, a collection of dainty pocket handkerchiefs, bearing different and delicate flower perfumes. While the young woman has her boudoir trimmed with broad-brimmed straw hats.

In one of the big hotels, there is a darling little sitting-room which belongs to a dear little southern heiress. She is from Louisiana, I think, and looks not unlike her southern sister, Mrs. James Brown Potter. Well! Upon a spindle-legged Josephine table in that sitting room, there is a straw hat, with the blue ribbon of Yale around it, and inside the hat there are the sweetest bon-bons, of which a supply is sent daily by him from whom the hat was wrested. Upon the wall there hangs a hat, glorified by painted daisies, and another one, trimmed with natural flowers also sent daily. Upon the floor, daintily lined with blue satin, is hat which must have been worn by a youthful Daniel Webster. It is so very large! And in the hat there sleeps—the Louisiana girl’s pet poodle.

There have been fads and fads. But this summer the straw hat fad rages above and beyond them all…

Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 16 July 1893: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  When the Summer Girl tired of collecting hats, or perhaps ran out of hat-pegs in her darling little sitting-room, she turned to a new fad: collecting hat-bands.

The girl who can boast a number of beaux, owns hat-bands of all of the college colors, and also those pertaining to the various athletic clubs; when her best young man pro tern is a Princetonian, she sports the tiger black and yellow; when he hails from Harvard, red is her favorite for the nonce; then there is dark blue for Yale, and white and light blue for Columbia. There are any number of diverse colors for the minor colleges throughout the United States to which a girl professes devotion, if her best young man belongs to one of them.

The up-to-date girl is an authority on such matters, and is proud of her collection of hat-bands, most of which are trophies of conquest wrested from the unwary college man. Verily this rage for hat-bands is an expensive fad, as the fellows declare, for when a young lady raves over a hat-band, a gallant youth can do no less than present it to his fair companion.

Of course these bands are adjustable by means of silver or gold slides or buckles; these ornaments have become of considerable importance, the jewellers being kept busy in devising novel designs.

Almost as many girls are seen wearing college-pins as boys; some of them are acquired by purchase, while others are exacted as tribute from obsequious admirers. The girls, however, in the different colleges are adopting distinctive badges, and these societies bid fair to rival those of the male colleges in the beauty and diversity of their college emblems. Godey’s Lady’s Book August 1895

Such trophies of conquest could easily have been purchased, but where was the fun in that?

…I know a little miss—and legion is her name—who will most conspicuously sport the crimson when she goes boating with a Harvard man on Monday; who will wear blue for her Yale cavalier of Tuesday; appear on successive days in Boston University’s scarlet and white, McGill’s blue and white, Pennsylvania’s blue and red, Princeton’s scarlet and black; yes, who will wind up the week by going to church on Sunday in Brown’s brown and white. The minx!

Coquetry made easy was ever the motto of the shops, and it has for years been easy to get the colors of the best-known nearby colleges, but never before has it been so easy to fit a single sailor hat with five hundred different adjustable bands, each representing some college, tiny or the reverse, and to match each band in the sober or flaming tints of a yachting tie. Evening Star [Washington DC] 6 June 1896: p. 18

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.

 

My Lady’s Hammock: 1895

The Hammock, James Tissot. Source: Wikigallery

MY LADY’S HAMMOCK

It Is a Gorgeous Affair This Season And There are Fetching Gowns Which Go With It and Hosiery Like a Beautiful Italian Sunset

The girl who is spending the season at a fashionable hotel is forced to miss one of the most fascinating pleasures of summertime, namely, the hammock. At the really swell hotels now-a-days one rarely sees a hammock, for the reason, perhaps, that the hammock is a sure destroyer of lace, chiffon or the fashionable costumes that custom demands must be worn all day at the popular watering places.

It is only that fortunate young woman who is summering at some country farm house or big, roomy mountain hotel where there are plenty of trees about the shady piazza nooks that can enjoy the true comfort of the hammock. The watering place girl can only dream of the luxury and the piazza rocking chair is the nearest approach to the graceful swinging couch, canopied by green waving branches which her sister in the mountains spends the long morning hours in.

The tactful maiden studies her “type” before she makes up her mind to adopt the hammock as a permanent summer back ground. There are certain styles of girl that look as though made for a hammock. In it they are marvels of grace and prettiness, but the stout, comfortable, well fed young woman who may make a fetching picture on a bicycle is as much out of place in a hammock as it is possible to imagine. The slim waisted, “fluffy” girl is the kind that looks well in a hammock. She becomes a soft, limp mass of lace and ribbon, the moment she adjusts herself to its meshes, and if an inch or two of her stocking shows beneath the white lace of her skirt it doesn’t look at all shocking, but on the contrary, chic and appropriate. The Burne-Jones type of girl is therefore the special kind who makes her hammock the piece de resistance in the artillery with which she will wage successful warfare on the heart of the  Summer Man.

First, she selects her hammock. If she is a blond she gets one of cool looking white cording, or in blue and white stripes, with bamboo rods stretched across the head and foot. Then she selects the place where it is to hang, always a corner somewhere out of the general.

If she is of a romantic disposition she finds out some rippling resting place, where the tree branches bend across, and she will have her pretty resting place suspended right across the water, climbing into it each time at the rick of a wetting. Here she makes a veritable illustration of the verse: “Summer day; babbling brook/Girl in hammock reading book!”

The girl with dark eyes and brown hair selects a hammock of brilliant red Mexican grass, or some other Oriental looking weave. She piles it with silken cushions of the same rich hues; deep crimson and olive greens and here and there a Persian covering that stands out among the others, making an effect that delights the soul of any artist which may be in the vicinity until he begs for the privilege of sketching the hammock’s occupant.

The fair haired blue eyed girl has blue and white cushions and little pillows for her ears, covered with white dotted Swiss and trimmed with Val. Lace. I picked up one of these ridiculous little things the other day and learned for the first time that they existed. Just imagine a cushion about five inches square stuffed with cotton and a suspicion of violet sachet, made specially for to tuck under your ear among the larger pillows.

The heart shaped cushion is one of the novelties for my lady’s hammock this year. It is shaped exactly like the real article which is supposed to exist even in the bosom of summer’s merriest maiden and it is embroidered over with its owner’s favorite flower, and sometimes a motto or sentiment.

One of the prettiest that I have seen is covered with marguerites embroidered in their natural colors and through the blossoms runs the line in gold thread: “He loves me; he loves me not?”

Another with a border of the ox-eyed daisies says:

“I don’t care what the daisies say;

I know I’ll be married some fine day!”

This summer girl not only has the regulation tag upon her hammock with her name thereon, but she attaches it with a huge bow of ribbon matching her cushions in color. The ends of this hang so low that they sweep the grass beneath the float in every passing breeze.

Of course there are frocks specially for hammock wear, and stockings and shoes of attractive design to be worn when reposing in this luxurious swing.

At no time in the career of a summer girl are her feet more in evidence than when she is poised in her hammock or getting in or out of it.

This last operation is one which it takes considerable dexterity and grace to accomplish successfully, but after a while most of these clever young women manage to do it without turning an eyelash and with a not-too-reckless display of ankle. It looks wonderfully difficult to a mere man, but it all depends on a little quickness and a certain curves of the limbs in getting out, which keeps the skirts in place.

A man is apt to get all tangled up in a hammock, and he emerges from one as a rule looking as though he had been in a collision. But the hammock maiden has it all down to a science.

She fixes up her last summer’s dresses to wear in the hammock. Of course there must not be too many buttons upon any frock for this purpose, as they catch in the meshes and come off, as a usual thing. But plenty of lace and soft ribbons can be worn and a gown which could never be worn anywhere else, owing to its last season’s cut, makes a most effective costume for hammock wear.

A pretty little girl who affects the hammock pose to a considerable extent, confided to me the other day that she discarded stays in her hours of open air repose. She wore some mysterious sort of waist made with whale bone, but without steels.

“When I’ve been out tramping, or fishing, or driving, and get home tired out,” she told me, “I just run up to my room and have a sponge bath. Then I slip into one of these waists, which is ever so much cooler you know, put on my loosest and fluffiest hammock frock and get down here under the trees, and in a minute I’m enjoying as pleasant a nap as it is possible to imagine.”

This girl has a collection of pretty hosiery and shoes for her afternoon siesta. She has one pair of the daintiest French morocco “mules” or slippers without any upper part in the back, which she wears with red silk stockings. Then she has Japanese slippers in all colors and hose to match, some of them quite visit in design. One of the oddest conceits are her “rainbow” stockings.

Her pleasure in wearing them must be that of the small boy with his first cigar; “purely intellectual,” for they are strictly invisible, but I suppose there must be sort of conscious delight in the possession of such frivols as these. They are worn with a small, innocent-looking brown suede slipper which buttons over the instep with three large brown buttons. The stocking which shows over the ankle is brown, the same as the shoe, but as it reaches the calf of the leg it lightens by degrees to a golden yellow, turning with a sort of beautiful Italian sunset effect into palest violet, and then deepening into purple at the top. The garters worn with this are of black elastic, through which runs a violet ribbon. The side knot is of the same ribbon and the buckles are of engraved and oxidized silver, an owl on one symbolizing night, and a lark on the other for morning. These are the most fetching of all her hammock properties, and it seems a pity that they are so unobtrusively worn undiscovered, unless a hammock costume of bloomers be adopted.

The Herald [Los Angeles CA] 25 August 1895: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Pleasant as are the solitary delights of the hammock, dual occupancy is where the sparks really fly:

THE FATEFUL HAMMOCK

A Potent Factor in Midsummer Joys and Midwinter Repentance.

The hammock has much to answer for.

It has developed from nothing into a potent factor in midsummer social joys and sorrows.

A decade ago the hammock was sporadic. It is now universal. Certain tourists from this heretofore unhammocked land of the free, journeying into Mexico and in Cuba noted the meshed crescent with interest first and with admiration afterwards, insomuch that they brought one of the swaying couches with them.

The result has been remarkable. Americans have taken the hammock to their very hearts, and American ingenuity has devised machinery capable of turning out hammocks almost as fast as the finished article will turn out its occupant. A summer bereft of a hammock would be to the American lad and lass a dreary and unromantic period.

Given a good article of moonlight and a hammock big enough for two, and there is no combination which will more rapidly and thoroughly advance the cause of Cupid and bring about the lighting of Hymen’s torch.

Between the moon and the hammock there is a certain analogy. A young moon is very like a hammock, and when Luna appears in the west, her crescent apparently swung between two invisible trees and fastened with a pair of bright stars, the analogy is complete. One can readily fancy an angel swaying in the celestial hammock, which is said also to contain a man. And the idea is so apt to fix itself in the mind of the ardent mortal who gazes westward that his first impulse is to get a hammock, and an earthly angel of his own, and then to sway joyously to the rhythm of two hearts that beat as one.

As an aid to flirtation it is twin sister to a fan.

If a young couple ever trust themselves to the support of the same hammock at the same time, Cupid has his own way thereafter. The pair must of necessity be brought into such sweet proximity that every particle of formality and reserve is melted away. One may withdraw from his fair one on a bench, may hold aloof while seated on the same grassy bank, and may hitch his chair away, or closer, as his feelings dictate. But in the same hammock one can do none of these things. He can only submit to fate and propinquity and  be led delightfully to the momentous question.

The hammock…is fashioned much like a spider’s web. But who would not willingly be a fly when the web holds a charming maiden? And what man is there with soul so dead who is not glad that the hammock has come to stay.

The Macon [MS] Beacon 16 August 1890: p. 4

 

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 Dangerous Pair of Stockings: 1883

A Dangerous Pair of Stockings

A man at Albert Lea, Minn., had the worst time explaining a telegram to his wife. He is a sporting man, who does a good deal of fishing and hunting, and he had a pair of rubber wading stockings which he wore when hunting marshes. A friend of his wanted a pair of them, and he promised to send to New York and get them. The two men were great friends, and the man who had been promised the wading-stockings, and who lived at North Branch, got ready to go hunting last fall, and wanted them, so he telegraphed to his Albert Lea friend, as follows:

“Send my stockings at once, as I need them bad. YOUR BLONDE DARLING.”

The dispatch came to the man’s residence, and his wife opened it, and her hair stood right up straight. When the innocent husband came home she put on a refrigerator expression, and handed him a pair of her own old stockings, done up in a paper, and told him he better send them to his blonde darling at North Branch. He was taken all of a heap, and asked her what she meant, and said he had no blonde darling at North Branch or any other branch; and after he had said he did not know a woman any-where, and never thought of supplying stockings to anybody but his wife, she handed him the telegram. He scratched his head, blushed, and then she thought she had him, but finally he laughed right out loud, and went to his room, where he keeps his guns and things, and brought out the new pair of rubber wading stockings, that he had bought for his friend, each of which would hold a bushel of wheat, and handed them to his wife, and asked her how she thought they would look on a blonde darling. Then he told her they were for his sporting friend, of a male persuasion, and she asked his pardon, but insisted that the telegram had a bad look on the face of it, and was enough to scare any wife out of her wits and stockings. The wading stockings were expressed to the friend with a letter, telling him to be mighty careful in future how he telegraphed.

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette [Concord, NH] 25 January 1883: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must  take the wife’s side: the telegram certainly did have a “bad look” to it and one cannot blame her for being upset.  For all she knew, it could have been a genuine instance of a stocking mis-communication which would inevitably lead to a domestic tragedy. One is relieved that this was not another and hopes that the “blonde darling” ceased his “kidding” in future.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of a wag who, as a “joke,” sent out half a dozen telegrams to random acquaintances, reading: “All is discovered. Fly at once!”  The men decamped and were never seen again. In the wrong hands, telegraphy is a dangerous weapon.

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 Cashmere Shawl: 1840

 

[From the London Journals.]

THE CASHMERE SHAWL

Everybody knows the vast importance which our Parisian belles formerly attached to the possession of a cashmere shawl; and although their value is considerably decreased since the Empress Josephine gave fifteen thousand francs for one, they are still objects of desire to all female hearts; I mean married ones, of course, for the cashmere is rarely worn by a demoiselle, at least until she begins to despair of ever being called Madame. Indeed, these shawls play a very important part in matrimonial arrangements; many a match has been brought about by the lady’s impatience to possess them, and many a ménage has been rendered unhappy by a husband’s obstinate refusal to buy one. I do not, however, recollect any adventure in which the cashmere has played so singular a part as the one I am about to narrate.

Monsieur de M. began some time ago, notwithstanding his large fortune and very handsome person, to be set down by his acquaintance as a decided old bachelor; this opinion might be thought too hastily formed, as he was only thirty-six, had not his mode of living given color to it—for it was well known that he did not spend half his income; and he would certainly have been set down as a miser, had not circumstances revealed that instead of hoarding his riches, he dispensed them in charity, but it was charity without ostentation. He mixed in the world, enjoyed its pleasures with moderation, was generally liked, and when at last determined upon committing matrimony, his proposal for Mademoiselle de V. was warmly received by her widowed mother, a perfect woman of the world, who had for some time had her eye upon him, and spread her net by a skillful exhibition of those qualities in herself and daughter, which, though they were very far from possessing, she knew he would look for in a wife. The bait took, to her great joy; for she almost began to despair of getting a match for Sophie, whose own fortune was too small to entitle her to a good one, and who being all of twenty-four, was fast verging on what we in France consider an old maidenism.

The young lady had played her part so well that, without it at all transgressing the rules of propriety, De M. had reason to believe his proposal would be perfectly agreeable to her before he made it to her mamma; his explicitness on one point was, however, far from pleasing to either lady; that was his intention of devoting the same amount as usual to charitable purposes, in which he had no doubt he should be assisted by his dear Sophie. A few timid words of acquiescence from the young ladies, and an eloquent harangue from mamma on the pleasure it must give her daughter to participate in his benevolent plants, settled the matter to De M.’s great delight.

The preliminaries of the marriage were arranged—De M.’s family jewels, which were really very handsome, were sent to be new mounted, and he requested his belle fiancée to make choice of a cashmere. No task could be more agreeable to the fair one, who showed that her taste was equally elegant and magnificent, for she selected a superb long shawl, bleu turquoise ground, and a border of matchless beauty. Nothing could be handsomer, but unfortunately, there was one objection that the bridegroom elect could not get over—it was double the price he intended to give.

Now here I find myself in a strait. I wish to please all my readers, and if I mention De M’s price, I have no doubt that some of the gentler sex will say, “Oh, now mean!” while several of those in unmentionables will call him an extravagant fellow. In order then to avoid drawing upon my hero the displeasure of any party, I shall avoid specifying the sum, and shall, merely, in justice to him, declare that the price he intended to give, would be considered by the generality of the people as a handsome one. He requested Sophie to make choice of another, and several were shown to her, but she had some decided objection to each; and in spite of the significant looks, and even hints of her mother, she shewed so much ill temper and ill nature, that she fairly frightened away all the little cupids that were dancing about the heart of her intended; in  short, the cashmere was not chosen that morning, and the evening brought not the devoted lover, but a letter, in which he made his adieu in a very decided manner.

We have no trials in France for breach of promise; but I think even in England the ladies would not, all the circumstances of the case considered, have got damages, unless indeed she was allowed to have a female jury. The matter passed off, and De M., perfectly recovered from his love fit, went on his usual quiet way for some time.

One morning he called on an old woman, to whom he had been a constant benefactor for some years, and as he mounted to her dwelling on the fourth story, a lady passed him on the stairs, plainly dressed, and with a black veil down. As he made way for her respectfully, he observed that her figure, though petite, was elegant, and her features, from the slight glimpse he had of them, agreeable. On entering Manette’s apartment, he found her in tears, and a handsome cashmere shawl lying on a chair.

“What is the matter, my poor Manette?” cried he, in a pitying tone. “What are you crying for?”

“Oh, it is nothing, Sir,” said the old woman, wiping her eyes; “there is nothing amiss, indeed.”

“But what are you in tears for?”

“Why I could not help crying while I was telling poor Jeannette’s story to that dear good lady, Madame de ___.”

My readers will easily believe that De M. insisted upon hearing Jeannette’s story, which we shall tell more briefly than Manette did. She was a friend of the old woman, recently left a widow with several small children, reduced by the death of her husband to the greatest distress, she was in danger of perishing for want, when an offer was made her, if she could raise six hundred francs, of going into a business that would support both her and her children creditably. “But,” continued Manette, “where could she raise six hundred francs? Bah! One might as well have asked her a million; and so I said to Madame de__ who found me crying just as Jeannette left me.”

“Don’t say that, Manette,” cried she, “we shall make up the money somehow. I have very little by me now, but I think you could sell this shawl for that, or at any rate for nearly as much, and I will make up the rest,” and before I could say a word, Monsieur, she had thrown off her beautiful shawl, and telling me to do the best I could with it, and to let her know as soon as it was sold, she hurried away just as you came.”

“What an excellent creature!”

“Excellent indeed! I don’t believe there is her equal in the world. Why, Monsieur, though she is young, aye and very pretty and lively too, she thinks of nothing but doing good. You would not believe how sparingly she lives, and how many things she denies herself, that she may have it in her power to assist the unfortunate.”

My readers will not be surprised that De M. bought the shawl, first swearing Manette to secrecy. His next step was to obtain an introduction to Madame de ___, who was still a young and really very petty widow. He declares that he had no other intention of doing so than to form a friendship with a woman of a congenial mind, but—“Friendship with woman is sister to love.”

And so it proved in this case, for within three months the well-assorted pair were united. When he purchased the shawl, it was with the intention of sending it back to her anonymously, but he delayed doing so for some time, lest through it his share of the affair might be discovered, and he lose the pleasure of her acquaintance. When he sent the usual marriage presents, there was no cashmere among them. Whatever the widow thought of the omission, she said nothing about it, but on the very evening before the ceremony was performed, he asked her to choose one, which she did; and this time he had no fault to find with his fiancée on the score of extravagance. The morning after marriage he said to her, as they were seated at breakfast.

“Were you not surprised, chere amie, that you did not sooner receive your cashmere?”

I thought you had forgotten it.”

“No, I delayed out of prudence, that you might not have an opportunity of selling it.”

At these words Amelie’s face became scarlet!

“Dearest! Best beloved!” cried the happy husband, unsealing a packet, and presenting the shawl—“receive again the offering you made to charity; an offering dear and sacred in my eyes, for it has led to a felicity which I despaired of finding—that of a wife whose heart was in perfect unison with my own.”

And so in truth it is, and will I hope remain, notwithstanding that the acquaintance—the female part of it, I mean—of Madame de M. thinks she pays a very bad compliment to her husband’s present; for while his rich cadeau de Noces is seldom seen on her shoulders, she is observed to be excessively fond of a cashmere that she was known to have some time before her second marriage, and which is very inferior to the one De M. presented her with.

The Gloucester [MA] Telegraph 25 December 1841: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The cashmere shawl, indeed, had the power to transform lives. Mrs Daffodil has written before about the plague carried in a cashmere, and how the Empress Josephine’s life was “saved by a shawl.” We have also seen delectable descriptions of the cadeau de Noces of an aristocratic French bride, in which she tells of her delight that her fiancé was thoughtful enough to give a red-ground cashmere to her dear mamma.

Monsieur de M. is to be congratulated on his good sense in making his adieu so decidedly. Mrs Daffodil shudders to think of what perils would have marked his married life: extravagance, recriminations, forged notes, money-lenders, and, perhaps, scandal, divorce, or even murder. One need only examine the ending chapters of Madame Bovary to see what the harvest might have been, had it not been for a cashmere shawl….

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.

 

Home from the Wedding Tour: 1902

The Wedding Tour.

“So you are back from your wedding trip, Beth,” said Beatrice, cordially. “Did you have a pleasant time?”

“An unusual one, at least,” replied Beth. “At least I hope so. I should hate to think my experience could be repeated in every town where my husband ever lived when he was a bachelor.”

“Go on, dear!” exclaimed Beatrice. “This sounds interesting.”

“First,” Beth began, “let me give you some advice. Never visit in a town where your husband, when you have one, is well-acquainted and you are not, especially if you hail from a city like Chicago. The inhabitants never forgive a man who ignores the village girls to marry a non-native—or, rather, they never forgive the designing creature who permits him to throw himself away on her. They always pity him from the bottom of their hearts, for they feel sure that he was deeply attached to Susan Smith or Betsey Jones. There is never any doubt in their minds that the bold, scheming city girl ‘roped him in,’ as they say.”

“Mercy! How could they say such a thing of you, of all girls?”

“Well, one day shortly after we reached this former home of Ted’s we went, just for exercise, down to the railway station with Ted’s brother Jack, who was going to the next town for a day on business. The train was a half hour late, and the boys went outside to smoke and chat, while I was soon deeply interested in a magazine that I had just bought. Presently three pretty, rosy-looking girls came in, all laughing and talking at once. You know every one who happens to be downtown within an hour or so of train time has to go to the station to see the train come in. These girls seated themselves on the bench nearest the window overlooking the platform, and I settled back to meditate loftily on the narrowness of the life those girls led.

“But my meditations were doomed to come to a sudden end, at least along that particular line, for as Ted and Jack sauntered past the window with their heads well down and enjoying a good, old-fashioned visit, one girl, whom the others called Blanche, exclaimed, ‘If there isn’t Ted Fowler!’ I felt a little indignation at the familiar tone she used. That indignation grew steadily for a few moments in view of the fact that those girls sat there admiring and praising him—giggling and blushing over my own Teddy.

“’Did you know he was married?’ asked one of the three, whose name appeared to be Edith..

“’Yes, poor fellow,’ replied the third girl. ‘Too bad, too! You know he was dead in love with Blanche. Wasn’t he, Blanche?’

“I hoped Blanche would deny this and ease my mind, for she was undeniably a very pretty girl and might have been quite a witch in her own way. But she only said, modestly. ‘Oh, yes, I suppose he was. He used to tell me so often enough, goodness knows!’

“‘How ever could you endure it?’ asked Beatrice.

“Endure it! Why I was simply speechless with rage by that time. My Teddy telling any other girl that he loved her and that ‘often enough, goodness knows’ just kept going round and round in my mind. I could have cried with disappointment in Teddy.

“But that isn’t all. Edith volunteered the information that Ted had married, ‘an awful extravagant thing and ugly as mud.’ Then, probably aided by the expression on my face, it seemed to strike them that I was the extravagant, ugly thing. I suppose I answered the description accurately.

“‘Two of them were really very much embarrassed by the discovery, but Blanche tossed her pretty head in a saucy fashion that seemed to maintain that it was true just the same.

“I feel sure I should have said something then had it not been for Teddy, who opened the door and asked me if I was finding it dull. ‘Oh, no,’ I said. ‘I have just been admiring the only girl you ever loved.’ Ted glanced at the girls, then laughed and said, ‘You must have found a mirror in this dingy old place.’ And, would you believe it, he didn’t even remember Blanche, who claimed to be his long lost love.”

“Ted is wonderfully discreet,” said Beatrice, softly.

The Leavenworth [KS] Times 2 September 1902: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What would a wedding tour be without some sort of misadventure to relate humorously to one’s children and grand-children? See these posts: Shuffling Off to Buffalo, A Honeymoon Adventure, and Pants and All, She’s Still my Wife for more honeymoon calamities.

Mrs Daffodil hopes that “Teddy” continued to be as discreet throughout a long and happy married life with his rage-filled bride.

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.