Category Archives: Impostures and Swindles

The New York Girl and the Dog-Catchers: 1890

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A New York Girl’s Nerve

From the New York Sun.

A black French poodle was trotting down Fifth avenue on a breezy, bright afternoon with a fine, straight young woman. The dog seemed proud of his mistress and the girl was proud of her dog. While all was peaceful and danger seemed nowhere nigh, a rickety and creaky covered wagon, drawn by a pitiable wreck of a horse, and having on its seat two repulsive young men, came around a corner. One of the young toughs leaped to the ground and made a quick plunge for the dog, catching it by the hind leg and whirling it above his head in a circle, running as he did so toward the rear of his wagon. Quicker than it takes to say so the young woman was in front of the young tough, with one hand clutching his coat collar and the other holding the muzzle of a silver-mounted smelling bottle to his face.

“You drop my dog or I’ll shoot you,” said the girl.

The young fellow peered out of his small eyes into the determined face before him, and as he attempted to shake the girl’s hand from his collar, said: “Aw, wot yer given me, any way? Don’t yer see we’re der dog catchers, an’ you ain’t got no right ter have yer purp out without a muzzle? Der dog goes along wid us, see?”

The girl’s face took on a fiercer and still more ominous look. The dog, still in the grasp of the man, was twisting to get away and yelping with pain.

“If you do not drop my dog this instant,” said the girl, “I will fire. Do you hear me?”

The catcher dropped the dog. By this time people were coming up to see the disturbance. The young woman put the bogus weapon into the small chatelaine bag that she wore, blew a small silver whistle, and, accompanied by her joyous dog, pursued her morning walk serenely and with stately grace.

The Anaconda Standard 29 October 1890: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Just as Boston girls were labeled intellectuals and Philadelphia girls had a reputation as the souls of propriety, New York girls were said to be able to take care of themselves. Given the “mean streets,” they might walk—dodging scores of mashers, cads, and cat-callers—this was obviously a necessity. Hat-pins and stout parasols could be deployed in an emergency. This young lady showed a particularly inventive flair in using her smelling-salts bottle as a weapon. One of the Hall footmen, who is fond of thrillers at the cinema, reports that he has seen a lip-stick case used in an identical manner in a spy picture. Without the poodle, of course.

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.

 

Lady Queensberry’s Jewels: Nineteenth Century

LONDON, Aug. 7.—The engagement recently announced between Nicholas Wood, the Birmingham motor-car manufacturer and reputed millionaire, and Pauline Chase, the pretty American actress, is off.

A famous woman, whose name need not be mentioned, but who was once a royal favorite and the talk of London, is said to be at the bottom of the trouble. When she puts her eye on any man. he has but little chance of escape, and woe betide his fiancee or even his wife, once the lady has fascinated him. But she only puts her eye on men who have money. They know this, yet they fall into the trap. It seems incredible that a woman who is getting on for 80 and with such a record should still have it in her power to oust young and pretty women, but there it is. Most people noticed that nearly every photograph of the ex-royal favorite taken at Ascot and Newmarket showed Nicholas Wood in attendance; and her friends declare that poor little Pauline Chase is inconsolable.

There is one remarkable story connected with this woman which has never got into print, yet it is absolutely true. Some years ago she got hold of the marquis of Queensberry, a weak, good-natured person, and having got from him all the money possible she then insisted that he must give her the family jewels which, of course, were in the possession of his wife.

“No,” he said, ” I cannot possibly give you Lady Queensberry’s jewels.”

”Oh, but I never take ‘No’ from any one,” she said. “You have got to get them and what is more you must bring them at once.”

The marquis did not dare refuse—he was then under her sway absolutely—and in good time the jewels arrived.

Lady Queensberry missed them and accused her husband of having given them to the woman who was then the sensation of London. He did not deny it.  Instead of flying into a rage she took it calmly and said very little.

“Try to find out where she has deposited them,” she remarked.

Grateful for his wife’s calm in the matter the marquis decided that he would find, out and moreover so unutterably disgusted did he grow with himself and with the other woman that he determined he was finished with her.

When Lady Queensberry discovered the bank in which they were placed which, by the way, was one in Sloane street, she made up her mind she was going to have her jewels back. Always rather clever at imitating signatures she practiced for hours together copying that of her rival, which was really a remarkably easy one to imitate. She also managed to procure some note paper bearing the actress’s address and then and there Lady Queensberry wrote an order to the manager of the bank purporting to have come from the actress, requesting that the jewels which he was taking charge of for her be given to bearer. The manager apparently suspected nothing and handed the case to the messenger who conveyed it back to the marchioness. Every one remembers the sequel; the excitement in Scotland Yard, the amusement of London, the rage of the actress, and the abrupt manner in which the matter was eventually hushed up. The marchioness is the one and only woman who has been a match for the notorious Mrs. X . At the time Lady Queensberry was made a heroine by her friends and the late queen thought the ruse so smart that she sent for her to congratulate her on her cleverness.

After this Queensberry turned over a new leaf and they have lived more or less happily ever since.

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 19 August 1905: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As usual, the American press does not give all the salient details. Which Marquis of Queensbury?–Archibald William [1818-1858], who died in a shooting accident; or John Sholto Douglas, a rather nasty piece of work who was successfully sued for divorce by his wife Sybil on the grounds of adultery, and who made life so very unpleasant for Mr Oscar Wilde?  And one longs to know the identity of the notorious Mrs X.

Mrs Daffodil applauds Lady Queensberry’s sensible solution to a difficult conundrum.  Mrs Daffodil has a wistful idea that Lady Q. could have found a clever Venetian jeweller to add poisoned prongs to a ring or bracelet, but she or her husband would undoubtedly have been the obvious suspects. Still, Lady Queensberry would have had access to the very best legal representation and might have been acquitted by a sympathetic jury. Society, which shuns the divorcee, is intrigued by a reformed murderess. On the whole murder might have been the more socially palatable option and would have the additional benefit of ridding polite society of a dangerous adventuress.

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.

 

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.

 

 

The Spirits and “The Servant Problem:” 1892

The age-old Servant Question.

The age-old Servant Question.

ONE OF MR. STEAD’S “PRACTICAL GHOSTS”

The following account has been handed to us by a correspondent. The details are trivial enough in themselves, but by no means unworthy of consideration as indicating watchful care on the part of those who acted as guardians of the family.

The narrative is given as it was sent. It is evidently written with a strong sense of the protective guardianship of unseen friends, and will interest many of our readers, and perhaps set some “Cui bono?” critics thinking:

A short time since I lost my cook, and knowing the difficulty of obtaining servants immediately before Christmas I decided not to try as I had a temporary helper, so excellent in every way that I deemed it wiser to wait till after Christmas. This woman, whom we will designate Mrs. B., was a quiet, seemingly respectable, married woman, who came to my bedroom every morning for orders and executed them in the most satisfactory manner. I must here mention that I was confined to my room with a sprained ankle, and so my daughters had to give all extra small orders and look after the general comfort.

A week passed, and so pleased was I that I had B.‘s husband to dinner on Sunday, and wrote to a country friend desiring her not to trouble about me as I was settled, feeling half inclined to continue with Mrs. B. until we should leave this house. On the Monday she came as usual to my room. I asked her how she felt, as she looked peculiarly heavy, and I imagined she had a headache, but she said she was quite well and we had a few pleasant words, in which she thanked me for my kindness to her husband. On Tuesday the same distinguished politeness marked our proceedings.

An hour afterwards, up came my elder daughter to say that her own father, my first husband, had seized her hand and told her. “That B. is a beast, don’t let her worry your mother.” I laughed at the idea and bade her tell him he must be mistaken. At twelve o’clock both my daughters went out for their daily constitutional, but in less than five minutes my younger child (who is a very strong psychic) rushed up to me, saying that neither she nor her sister found it easy to walk, but her legs actually refused to move, and her hand was seized and she wrote on her dress, “Go back! Go back!” They came back, got pencil and paper, and again the same spirit wrote, “Don’t leave your mother, that beast B. will go and abuse her and upset her.”

Now, to my shame be it recorded, I was quite cross, and said “Really, this is too ridiculous. A quiet, orderly woman like that: I am afraid, my dear, you are getting fanatical.”

However, as they had already arranged that one should go out one half-hour, and the other the next, so that one remained with me. I made no further demur. Now comes the sequel. Within half an hour my elder daughter returned.

This woman B. picked a quarrel with her over nothing, and rushed up to me. My housemaid rushed after her, begging her not to come to me. But my daughter having been forewarned ran so fast as to get in front of her and then dared her to go to my room. The woman seemed quite beside herself, but my daughter’s decision quelled her. Our unseen friends then made rather sarcastic remarks upon my incredulity, and begged me to pay her and send her off, assuring me she was a drunkard and a desperate woman.

They said, “She drinks rum, and has a bottle now in her pocket,” so I followed their advice, and she went; and now comes the test of their perfect veracity. I said to my house maid. “Did you know she drank?” “No, ma’am: but on Sunday her husband brought her a bottle of something, I couldn’t make it out; it was not whisky nor brandy; it was darker, and had such an odd smell. She offered me some, and it did smell so nasty!” I think this amply proves the rum’s identity, and I presume I need make no comment on the value of our dear spirit friends’ warning, for all helped, though my first husband was the first to speak. This is not a dreamy experience, and is the more astonishing to us as we are not used to such phenomena, but rather have spiritual teachings. N.S.

Light, 13 February 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This instructive anecdote appeared in the Spiritualist journal Light. Many Spiritualists were tee-total. They might call up spirits, but they did not drink them.

“Mr Stead” was journalist and psychic researcher, William Thomas Stead , who died when the Titanic sank, but, undeterred by death, continued to deliver séance communications.

The Drunken Servant was a figure of fun to the comic papers and the terror of mistresses everywhere.  It was bad enough when the intoxicated servant was a man, but a female inebriate was not to be borne. Of course, being the sole domestic (saving the house-maid) over Christmas in a household with an incapacitated mistress might have driven the woman to drink.  Mrs Daffodil does not speak from personal experience, one understands. Mrs Daffodil, although she has had her share of trying lady employers, has found that one needs a clear head to either deal with or dispose of overly-demanding mistresses.

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 Crazy-Quilt Mania: 1883-1891

crazy-quilt-1884-pa

A crazy quilt made c. 1884 in Pennsylvania by Lucy Richards Brock http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/50455.html?mulR=478039240|1

CRAZY QUILTS

A Feminine Mania Which Has Many Sides.

“What’s all this talk about crazy quilts?” asked a Chronicle reporter of a young lady acquaintance.

“Is it possible that you have never seen one?” exclaimed the young lady, “when dozens of them have been exhibited and raffled right here in San Francisco. Why, I’ll show you mine. There,” said she triumphantly, after spreading before the attentive gaze of the reporter a dazzling army of bright-colored blocks, “that is a ‘crazy quilt,’ or will be when these blocks are all stitched together on the machine. You can judge of the effect by placing them together.”

“It’s a great deal of work, isn’t it?” asked the reporter.

“Well, that depends,” was the reply. “Mine is made on these squares with a piece of cloth for the foundation of every block; on each of which the silks and velvets and brocades are placed in erratic fashion, the more zigzag the pattern and the greater the contrast of colors the better. Some, though, put all their patches on one large foundation, which is a very bulky, clumsy way, for, as you see, each scrap must be worked all around its edges with a fancy stitch in bright silk or floss. The ordinary stitch is the featherstitch or else the old-fashioned ‘herring-bone.” But, of course, if one choses, the needlework may be very elaborate, illustrating all the stitches known to decorative art.”

“I should think that the silk for the ornamentation of the patches would an item of expense?”

“It was to me until I stopped buying it by the spool. I get waste silk now, all sorts of colors, for 25 cents an ounce.”

“Where did this idea of a ‘crazy quilt’ originate?” was the next question.

“Well, I’ve been told all sorts of versions, but I believe that the truth is this: The officers’ wives in a military post somewhere on the frontiers invented it. Of course it’s only a new variation of an old idea. Patchwork is as old as the hills. Silk patches are an innovation on the calico quilts of our grandmothers, who early in their tender years were initiated into the mysteries of ‘star quilt,’—that of the ‘rising sun,’ ‘fox and geese,’ ‘flowers’ and the ‘log cabin’—all the rage during the Presidential campaign of ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler too,’ as the old Whig war-cry had it.”

COLLECTING THE PATCHES

“Tell me why this particular style is called a ‘crazy quilt?’” persisted the reporter.

“Oh, for any number of reasons. Because the pattern is crooked, confused, confounded; because there’s an infatuation in the work itself; because to see one is to want to make one; because in our search for pieces we drive dressmakers, milliners and dry goods clerks crazy.”

“Why, is it so hard to make a collection of patches?”

“Awful!” exclaimed the young lady in a tone of desperation. Everybody wants them. Whenever two ladies meet greetings are hurriedly exchanged, and if they do not both speak at once, the one who can talk the fastest says: ‘Oh, my dear, I’ve been wanting to see you this long time to ask you for some silk scraps.’ ‘You’re not making a crazy quilt are you?’ the other one interrupts. ‘I was going to ask you for some scraps myself!’”

“”Why, do you know,” continued the young lady, “I’ve had people I was visiting want to cut off a piece of my bonnet string.”

“Indeed.”

“Yes. I’ve asked all my gentlemen friends for their cravats and hat linings; there’s always a clean piece, you know, underneath. Last week I went to my milliner for some pieces and she told me all their customers were coming for the same thing. I didn’t get any there. Then I went to my dressmaker, who does a rushing business. ‘Mrs. F.,’ said I, ‘have you any—‘ ‘Stop,’ said she, waving me off with her hand; ‘don’t say “crazy quilt” to me. I’m wild. I’ve just taken away my own shears from a lady who intended to snip off some pieces of the goods on my cutting table.’ Nothing there. It’s no use going for samples—they won’t cut them for us at the stores. But you’ll save me your cravats, won’t you?”

DEVICES OF THE MANIACS.

The reporter, after giving the required promise, took his leave. On his way he stopped at a dry goods store, and as a query said “Samples” to the clerk at the silk counter.

“Don’t give any after 10 A.M. Are you making a crazy quilt, too?” “No. But tell me, do you have many such requests?” “Guess we do! The ladies have no conscience at all; expect us to cut and hack away at our richest goods. We’ve had to shut down on the sample business. Why it took time and cost us something. But we’ve had our fun out of it, too. One day a little girl came in and asked for samples of light silks. I noticed that she looked queer when I gave them to her. Before she got out of the store she began to cry. Mr. S., the proprietor saw her and asked her if she’d lost anything. What do you suppose she said? ‘No, sir; but that man over there cut the samples in such long, thin strips, that they’re no good for the built.”

“What was too bad,” said the reporter.

“I can tell you a better one than that of Mrs. __,” mentioning a well-known name that the reporter was surprised to hear. “She came in to look at some brocades. I showed her our handsomest. She couldn’t make up her mind. Then she said: ‘I really don’t know which of these blues will match my silk, but if you will cut me a piece of each I can tell when I get home and send for the one I like best.’

‘Why, mamma, that’s what you said at all the stores,’ said her small boy.”

“Dead give-away, wasn’t it?” said the reporter.

“Guess so, for the youngster, for she took him out quick.”

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 28 September 1883: p. 3

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905) Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877 American, Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905)
Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877
American,
Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905) Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877 American, Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905)
Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877
American,
Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil hopes that none of her readers are sample fiends. Dry-goods stores resented the “sample nuisance” as a form of shop-lifting:

A manager of a dry goods firm, when asked about this petty form of shoplifting [candy], said that what the manager of the candy department said was as true in his case as in others. He further made the statement that this form of theft [for crazy quilts] was actually conducted by mail…

“Well, that is where we lose, principally. Persons in town and out of it—women mainly—write to us for a bunch of sample of some particular color. That is the last we hear of the samples or the supposedly prospective customer. And if we had any means of checking it we would probably find that the same women were procuring samples of other colors from other stores. These silk and satin samples cost money, and the loss occasioned by this deliberate theft amounts to something considerable in the year.

“Another form of petty larceny is of the same class, practically, but really more expensive to us when you know that the samples that go in this case are fine cloths, such as are used for trouserings and coats. These samples are those used in the making of fireside rugs.” Watertown [NY] Daily Times 23 February 1905: p. 6

A scheme to stop the sample fiends was invented by a Boston retailer:

Fair dames who have been wont, when paternal and fraternal neckties ran short, to replenish their crazy quilt materials by writing to large dry goods houses for samples of this or that silk or velvet, will be obliged to exert their ingenuity in some new direction, if a scheme to be put into operation by a big Sixth avenue concern is generally adopted. This firm is now having printed on large cards a figure something in the shape of a numerously spoked wheel. The figure is in black lines, and the triangular spaces between the lines are filled on each side with a different shade of color. Above is a space on which is to be pasted a small piece of silk or velvet goods. This will show the quality of the material. The triangular spots, each of which has a number printed on it, stand for the colors. The fair applicant for samples “from which to order a new dress” will hereafter instead of a package of 15 or 20 scraps from as many different pieces of goods, receive a few of these cards and will read beneath

The Gay Wheel

A printed request that she will order her dress fomo the one the quality of the sample which suits her best, and according as to colors, to the numbers. The firm that is about to try this plan claims that is loss from its “sample” nuisance amounts to thousands of dollars annually, and that any attempt to refuse outright the demands of the ladies results in a severe loss of trade. Boston [MA] Herald 20 June 1886: p. 8

“Crazy-quilt fiends” would stop at nothing to get fabric, even importuning celebrities:

The “crazy quilt people,” we are assured, are worse than all. They apply by the hundreds to Mrs Harrison for scraps of her dress. Scores of them send her bits of silk, on which she is requested to write her name, the autograph being intended to form the centre-piece of a crazy quilt. If she does not immediately comply with their demands, they write and beg of her to hurry up. Wanganui Chronicle 12 September 1890: p. 3

The crazy quilt fiend has again tackled the Governor. This time the request is not for a piece of one his discarded neckties, but for a block of silk bearing his autograph and the date. Verily, some of the prevailing fads are peculiar. Idaho Statesman [Boise ID] 17 May 1891: p. 1

This narrator suggested that the styles of gents’ neckwear had been altered by the craze:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can. Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: 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.