Category Archives: etiquette

Something Suitable:1889

SOMETHING SUITABLE.

By E.B.W.

“Here is your invitation at last, Margaret!” Mrs. Darton exclaimed, as she pushed open the door of the kitchen, where her youngest daughter sat by the table peeling and slicing the apples her sister Mary was converting, -with dough and paste-cutter, into substantial tarts for half-a-dozen hungry school-boys.

“Hurrah!” and Margaret joyfully waved above her head a long, ribbonlike strip of green and crimson peel. “This is good news, mamma! Blessings light on Aunt Bessie for remembering me, though she has been a long time about it.”

“Three weeks,” said Mrs. Darton, smiling at her daughter’s enthusiasm. “It is no more since she landed in England, and I met her at Gravesend. She accounts in this note for her silence. Business detained her in London for a week, since when she has been looking for a house. She has been advised to take one on the south coast till she and her daughters are hardened to our changeable climate; so many years in India makes them dread an English winter.”

Margaret’s face lengthened.

“Is Aunt Bessie going to bury herself in the country? I thought–that is I hoped–she would settle near town.”

“She has decided on a house at Torquay; but, as it will not be ready for her till the end of next month, she proposes spending the interval at Brighton, and you are to go to her there.”

“Brighton in the heart of the autumn season ! Delicious !” ejaculated Margaret, springing up to waltz her mother round the kitchen, attempting to repeat the dance with her laughing sister, who kept her at bay -with the rolling-pin. “What a lucky girl I am to have a rich aunt, good-natured enough to give me such a delightful change! There’s one drawback, and that is leaving home. Why doesn’t she invite you too, mother dear, and Mary?”

“As if I could leave papa and the boys!” cried Mrs. Darton.

“Or as if I could be spared,” added Mary. “At five-and-twenty one feels too sober for much holiday making. I shall have a day’s blackberry-picking with the youngsters, and go to the cathedral town for the choral festival, and to the park for the annual picnic of the townspeople; and that is all the dissipation I care for.”

“Query. Shall I be as content, at twenty-five, as my sister?” asked Margaret, demurely, “Perhaps I shall, if I have an amiable young curate to strengthen my resolves with his praises. Don’t blush, Mary, and don’t menace me with such a dangerous weapon. It might fly out of your hand, and I could not go to aunt Bessie’s with a bruised cheek or a black eye. By the way, what day am I to start?”

“Next Monday. Her maid will meet you at King’s Cross.”

“And I shall say adieu to the flats of Cambridgeshire for one short, sweet, too fleeting month! But oh, mother dear, the great question of all has yet to be discussed. What am I to wear? I should not like to go shabby; but I know you will not be justified in asking papa for money just as he has been at such heavy expense in articling Will to Messrs. Stapylton.”

“It’s all right,” replied Mrs. Darton, cheerfully. ” Your Aunt Bessie thought of this before I did, and promised to send you something suitable to wear.”

Margaret winced, for she was young and proud.

“It’s very kind of her, she murmured, slowly; “but it makes me feel like a pauper.”

“I don’t think you need say that, my dear,” her mother made answer. “Before my sister left England, to become the second wife of Judge Laurence, your father had given her the advantage of his time and talents, and enabled her to get possession of some property withheld by a very knavish attorney. Papa positively refused to be paid for his services, and she remembers this, and rejoices to requite him through his children. She is going to send Maurice to college as soon as he is old enough. I am so thankful; for a country doctor, with a large family like ours, cannot always give his sons as thorough an education as he wishes.”

“If Aunt Bessie is going to be a fairy godmother to the boys, I shall love her dearly. And now to commence preparations for my journey. Don’t laugh. Mistress Mary; there is a great deal to be done. When a lady’s wardrobe is a limited one, it is necessary to make the most of it; and as soon as the ‘something to wear’ arrives that is promised me, we shall have to set to work at dressmaking in right earnest.”

Mrs. Darton referred to the note she held in her hand.

“I forgot to look for a postscript. Oh, here it is! Listen to it. ‘I selected two or three things for your little girl when I was doing my own shopping, and ordered the parcel to be sent off to you directly.'”

“And here comes Carrier Cripps with it!” exclaimed Margaret, with a skip and a jump. “How can you go on, Mary, so placidly rolling out paste, whilst I am in a flutter of expectation?”

Away she ran to meet the little covered cart in which an apple-faced old man jogged to and fro the market-town and the station three times in the week; received from Master Cripps the important package that bore the stamp of a West-End linen-draper, and hurried with it to the dining-room, whither her mother and sister followed her.

Too impatient to untie knots, Margaret cut the string, tore open the brown paper, and then eyed the contents askance.

Were these the fairy gifts she had expected to receive?–the pretty, if not actually expensive, gowns that were to enable her to make a good appearance beside her more fortunate cousins?

What she really found was a roll of stout, serviceable calico for under-garments; a dress-length of coarse, strong navy serge, and another of a neat chocolate cambric, and these were all.

Margaret looked from these things to her silent, troubled mother, and back again, tossed them into a heap, and ran away to throw herself on her bed and weep bitter tears of disappointment.

“I don’t understand it at all,” sighed Mrs. Darton, in confidence to her sympathizing elder daughter. “Unless your aunt thought it would be wiser to make her present plain and useful, than to encourage in Margaret a love of dress, which, in our circumstances, it is more prudent to repress.”

“Perhaps Aunt Bessie dresses very simply herself,” Mary suggested.

“A rich widow, who had discarded her crape when she landed, and is evidently not in the habit of denying herself any luxury! No, no, Mary, my sister Bessie does not clothe herself in coarse serge and common print. But what is to be done? your father will be vexed if this invitation is declined; yet to bid Margaret go, arrayed in a garb that would mark her as the poor relation, I cannot.”

However, Mr. Darton, rendered irritable by overwork and the anxiety of making a small income meet the wants of a large family, angrily pooh-poohed the mothers objections.

“Decline so kind an offer simply because our sister’s good sense prompted her to send useful articles instead of finery! You shall do nothing so foolish. Margaret is to go to Brighton, I insist on it, and let her remember that by behaving rudely or ungratefully she may ruin the prospects of her brothers. If anything should happen to me, pray what friend have you in the world besides Mrs. Laurence?”

“If papa insists, of course I must obey,” said Margaret, gulping down a sob. “And for Maurice’s sake I will try to be civil and all that; but I shall take care not to stay longer than I can help. and wear those horrid things I will not. The serge can be cut into blouses for the boys.”

“But, my dear child, you are so poorly provided for such a visit,” sighed Mrs. Darton.

“Do not I know that, and writhe at the thought of displaying my poverty to my rich relatives! Yet if they were not ashamed to insult it, why should I care? Not even to please papa will I put on Aunt Bessie’s ‘something suitable.'”

And to this resolution Margaret adhered. Her loving mother would have sold a small quantity of lace she possessed, and made a few additions to her daughter’s wardrobe with the price obtained for it, but her purpose was discovered and forbidden. It was, therefore, with a very small amount of luggage–the gray cashmere, just made up for Sunday wear, the dark green worn all last winter, and an Indian muslin embroidered for her by Mary at the beginning of the summer that Margaret went away, to be convoyed to Brighton by the highly respectable, middle-aged woman in black silk and furred mantle, who introduced herself to the young lady as Mrs. Laurence’s personal attendant.

Some of Margaret’s resentment melted beneath the warmth of her reception, for Mrs. Laurence, a handsome, energetic, middle-aged woman, came into the hall to meet her niece, and tell her, with a hug and a kiss, that she was almost as pretty as her mother used to be at her age.

Then she was hurried upstairs, to be introduced to Emma and Marion, sallow, sickly looking girls of thirteen and fourteen, whose time seemed to be spent in ceaseless squabbling with the brisk little French governess, who was endeavoring to arouse them from their indolence.

There was not much companionship to be expected from them, and for the first three or four days after her arrival at Brighton, Margaret scarcely saw her aunt, except at lunch. Mrs. Laurence breakfasted in her own room, came to the luncheon-tray with her hands full of papers, over which she pored, or made notes while she ate a few biscuits. The carriage bore her off directly after, and she merely returned in time to dress for a dinner-party, being overwhelmed with invitations from friends and relatives of her late husband.

Perhaps Margaret preferred that it should be so. She felt no desire to improve her acquaintance with the lady who had made her feel so keenly that she was a poor relation; but, at the same time, she was in no hurry to return home. Gossiping neighbors might whisper that she had been sent back in disgrace; and her father, whom press of work often rendered unjust, would be sure to suspect her of having given way to temper, and forgetting that any act of rudeness on her part might mar the future of those she loved.

So Margaret resolved not to do anything hastily. Mademoiselle, when set free from her duties in the schoolroom, was a vivacious, intelligent companion; and the gaiety of Brighton was as delightful as it was new to the young girl, who had never before left the village in one of the midland counties where her parents resided.

To stroll along the King’s Road, watching the ever-changing groups that came and went; to sit on the pier, listening to the choicest music; or to venture as close to the waves as could be done with safety, and thrill with mingled pleasure and awe as they rolled on; these were amusements enough for such a novice, and the first week of Margaret’s stay in Blank Crescent glided away with astonishing rapidity. But one morning Mrs. Laurence came to luncheon without the usual budget of papers. “At last I am free,” she said to Margaret, “and I shall have time to attend to you. Poor child, how I have had to neglect you! I have had a whole family on my hands,” she proceeded to explain; “a family in which my dear husband, the Judge, was very much interested. I found them out as soon as I got here; and, as two of the sons were going on in a very unsatisfactory way, I suggested their all emigrating; so they start to-morrow. It has been a tremendous undertaking to get them all off with a clergyman who has promised to look after them; but it is done, and I can repose on my laurels and transfer my attentions to you.

“Have you been dull, my love? No? You shall go with me to a conversazione this evening. To-morrow I have a reception here, and a couple of engagements for the following night, both of which include you. Remember, you must be dressed by seven. I have promised to look in at the theater on our way, and see the first act of the new opera. Jones shall get you some flowers and do your hair.”

But Margaret proudly declined the lady’s-maid’s assistance. She did not choose to be under the inquisitive eyes of that important personage while she shook out the skirts of her only evening-gown, and fastened at her throat her only ornament, a bunch of crimson rosebuds. Mademoiselle whispered in her ear that she was toute-a-faite charmante, and Mrs. Laurence, regal in black velvet and lace, and diamond stars, nodded approval of the simple girlish costume.

Nor did Margaret feel as much embarrassed by the inquisitive or admiring glances of a throng of strangers as she had feared she should, for the first face on which her eyes rested was a familiar one.

When Mr. Darton’s family was smaller and his children younger he had taken pupils and was wont to congratulate himself that the students who commenced their medical education under his tuition had invariably turned out well.

The cleverest of them all—Gordon Evrington—was now practicing at London-super-Mare, where he was steadily rising to the top of his profession. It was not often that he could spare an evening for amusement, but he felt himself repaid when he recognized in the graceful little creature, whose eyes sparkled with pleasure at sight of him, the pretty child whose willing slave he had been in the long ago.

Dr. Evrington soon found his way to the back of Margaret’s chair; and if she had some trouble in keeping back her tears when he talked affectionately of her mother, and recalled the scenes and spots so dear to the young girl now she was so far away from them, still she was sorry when a call upon his attention compelled him to leave her.

“But I shall see you again,” he said “I have the pleasure of knowing Mrs Laurence. You will make a long stay with her?”

“Oh! no; I hope not! That is, I think not. I came reluctantly; and though my aunt is kind, I—”

Here Margaret stopped, afraid of saying too much; and Gordon Evrington went away mystified; but determined to see more of one who came nearer to his fancy-portrait of what a maiden of seventeen should be, than the more fashionable young ladies angling so openly for the hand of the clever physician.

Mrs. Laurence, who saw them meet, asked a few questions in her brisk fashion; then, in the important business of going with her daughters to the dentist, appeared to forget Margaret till both were dressed for dinner on the following day, and met on the stairs just as the first guests arrived.

A swift scrutiny may have shown her that the embroidered muslin was not as fresh as it had been, but she made no remark; and by the aid of a good-natured housemaid, who ironed it out, it even passed muster once again; but this third time of wearing was at a juvenile party, and Margaret, whose gaiety and good-nature caused her to be much in request, came home with her once immaculate skirts so smudged and so soiled by the sticky caresses of some of her small admirers, that nothing but the labors of the laundress could renovate it.

And Mrs. Laurence had issued cards for a soiree; Dr. Evrington would be amongst the guests, and Margaret, alas! would have to stay up-stairs, to miss the pleasant chat he had warned her, during a chance rencontre in the street, that he was looking forward to.

If her lips were tremulous that day, and she found it difficult to appear in her usual spirits, no one appeared to notice it. Mademoiselle was suffering with tooth-ache, and, in the hurry and bustle of preparing for so large a party, no one appeared to see that Mrs. Laurence’s pretty niece shut herself in her room early in the afternoon, and had not emerged from it when the guests began to arrive.

It was verging on ten o’clock when Margaret’s door was thrown open and Mrs. Laurence came in. The room was dark, but crouching at the window she saw a little figure, and hurried toward it.

“Why, what does this mean, child? Are you ill? No, your skin is not feverish. Have you had bad news from home? But of course not! You would have told me directly. Then why are you sitting here in this melancholy fashion? I insist on knowing.”

“I should like to go home, aunt Bessie.”

“For what reason? Be frank, and tell me. What, silent? I did not know one of your dear mother’s children could be sullen. However, I can not–will not–leave you moping here.” And Mrs. Laurence rang imperatively for lights. “Now, dress yourself, Margaret, and come down with me.”

“It is impossible, madam, for”– the truth was told with proud reluctance “for I have nothing to wear.”

“Nothing! Did you not have the gowns made up that I sent you? Was there not time? You should have told me so as soon as you came. I am surprised that, your mother–”

“Do not blame her!” cried Margaret. “She would have sold her lace to fit me out respectably, but how could I let her?”

“How, indeed, poor soul! But surely with what I sent you, child, you ought to have done very well. Where are those dresses? Of course you brought them with you unmade? No! What is the meaning of this? Were you too proud to accept my gifts, or was your vanity wounded by their simplicity? You do not reply. You are beginning to make me feel ashamed of you! How can you display such temper such ingratitude? I bought for you, as I would for my own daughters, and–”

But now Margaret broke in impetuously:

“And would you have had me appear before your guests to-night in coarse serge, or a calico gown?”

“What are you saying?” exclaimed her aunt, looking positively startled. “I begin to think there has been some mistake. I purchased for you a cream surah and pale blue nun’s veiling to be made up for evening wear, a dinner-dress of biscuit cashmere, and a pretty stripe for walking. Did you not receive them?”

Then Margaret described the contents of the package she had received, and Mrs. Laurence threw herself into a chair, and laughed long and heartily.

“My dear, you must forgive me,” she said, when she could speak, “for it is not I who have been in fault, but the shopman, who has evidently put the wrong addresses on the parcels intrusted to him to dispatch. When I was shopping I bought that serge, etc., for a young girl for whom I had procured a situation. I knew she was flighty and had a bad mother, who would have spent the sum I promised for her outfit in useless finery; so I very prudently, as I thought, laid it out myself. And now I can account for the rapturous tone of the letter of thanks I have received, and the assurance that the lovely things that I have sent Sarah Dobbs will make quite a lady of her. What must her mistress have thought of me? And you too, poor child! Now I can understand why you have shrunk from me and not seemed happy here.”

Margaret spent the rest of that evening in her room, but it was in a very different state of mind. She had no more reservations from Aunt Bessie, and not only stayed willingly at Brighton till Mrs. Laurence moved to Torquay, but accompanied her thither.

Only for a brief term, however. Dr. Evrington has won from her a promise to be his, and ere long he will seek his bride at the house of her father, Aunt Bessie having promised, ‘midst laughter and tears, to give her “something suitable,” both for her dowry and her trousseau.

The Daily Republican [Monongahela PA] 19 June 1889: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One does so like a happy ending, especially when a young woman has not only been bitterly disappointed in the contents of a parcel, but finds the weight of her brothers’ fortunes resting squarely on her embroidered-muslin-clad shoulders.

The contrast of dress materials for “lady” and “servant” is a sobering one. Still, one fears for the flighty Sarah Dobbs in that pretty stripe for walking….

 

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 anecdote

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.

Leap Year Superstitions: 1904-1908

leap year through the hoop

This is, of course, a Leap Year. Mrs Daffodil, who hastens to assure her readers that she has no intention of proposing to anyone, thought it would be pleasant to look at some of the topsy-turvey traditions of the Leap Year and its Proposals.

Here are some of the popular superstitions:

Nothing shall be built, planned, or planted in a leap-year; it does not prosper. Leap-years are unlucky because they have an even number of days in them, also because they can be divided by four, which is an unlucky number…Leap-year is a very unlucky year for babies. Those born in a leap year are hard to raise, and they are constantly subject to sickness. In some mysterious way it is said, the whole vegetable world is affected by the influences of leap-year. The peas and beans grow the wrong way in their pods and seeds are set in quite the contrary way to what they are in other years.

Go to an old deserted house at midnight on the last day of February in leap-year. Walk around the house scattering hemp seed. On the fourth round you will see your future husband or wife; but if you see a coffin, you are never to marry.

In America as well as in England leap-year is considered the one year when the maidens have the privilege to propose to young men; if a man refuses a leap-year proposal he must pay the penalty of a silk gown and a kiss. [This arises from the following legend:]

As St. Patrick was perambulating the shores of Lough N’eagh, after having driven the frogs out of the bogs and the snakes out of the grass, he was accosted by St . Bridget, who with many tears and lamentations informed him that dissension had arisen among the ladies in her nunnery over the fact that they were debarred the privilege of “popping the question…”

It will be remembered that in Bridget’s day celibacy, although approved by the Church as the proper life of a religious, and consequently made binding upon the individual by a private vow, was not enforced as a general and absolute rule for the clergy.

St. Patrick a sternly single man himself was yet so far moved that he offered to concede to the ladies the privilege of proposing one year in every seven. But at this St. Bridget demurred, and throwing her arms about his neck, exclaimed, “Arrah! Pathrick, jewel, I daurn’t go back to the gurls wid such a proposal. Mek it wan year in four.”

To which St. Patrick replied, “Biddy, acushla, squeeze me that way again, and I’ll give you leap year, the longest one of the lot.”

St. Bridget, thus encouraged, bethought herself of her own husbandless condition, and accordingly popped the question to St. Patrick herself. But he had taken the vows of celibacy; so he had to patch up the difficulty as best he could with a kiss and a silk gown.

And ever since then, “if a man refuses a leap-year proposal, he must pay the penalty of a silk gown and a kiss.”  Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences, edited by Cora Linn Morrison Daniels, Charles McClellan Stevens, 1903

It occurs to Mrs Daffodil that if one were careful to choose a number of truly reluctant gentlemen, one might very economically replenish one’s wardrobe….

leap year unsafe for a poor lone bachelor valentine

The notion of the ladies lying in ambush gave the gentlemen the vapours. Fortunately an Old Bachelor had some helpful suggestions:

How a Man Can Say No in Leap Year

By An Old Bachelor

Nerve-trying leap year again is here and it behooves all unmarried men to be on the alert as to where they go and what they do and say.

How to refuse the girl is a problem that has racked many a brain during leap year. Few men know the secret. The result has been that many have said yes when they meant no, simply because they did not have the nerve to say no. And disaster rampant has been the outcome.

There can be no doubt that leap year is the most trying of all years on the unmarried man. There is no task that man has to perform so very torturing to the nerves as to say no to a pretty girl when she has proposed. Therefore it behooves every man to learn how to say no or otherwise this year there will be a crop of marriages that man nor nature never intended, with all the resultant harvest of calamity and woe.

Courage and firmness are the first requisites. For the courageous man in full possession of all his faculties, it might do to hesitate and evade the question, and thus delay the matter until leap year is over. But for the timid man such a rule will never apply .he must come right out and say no without any hesitancy at all.

Don’t wait a second or your courage may fail. Don’t think at all. Just say no and then jump out of the window or by other means get away from the scene as quickly as possible and leave the town.

For the courageous man, the man who has nearly as much nerve as a woman, a different policy may be pursued. If the girl is not too persistent he may be able to avoid the marriage and at the same time not come right out and say no.

No better direction can be given to this man than to employ the tactics used by women. Say “I will be a brother,” or “this is so sudden,” or better still, tell the girl that you had intended proposing yourself, that you object to leap year proposals and ask her to wait until next year, when you will have another chance to propose.

Tell her anything. Don’t mind a little white lie; resort to any kind of scheme or device, but avoid the marriage.

Be very careful to word your utterances so as to not become involved in a breach of promise suit.

The best advice of all, however, is to keep out of the company of women during the year. Happy the man living in the wild west during the dangerous period.

For the man in the city it is almost impossible to keep away from women, especially from widows. He finds them at nearly all entertainments and in the offices and on the street galore. Therefore, the best he can do is not talk to woman during the year 1908 only when it is absolutely necessary. under no conditions should you engage in conversation with a widow. They are threatening enough during ordinary years; their presence is absolutely fatal to single blessedness during leap year.

Never answer the telephone yourself, and be careful to learn whether it is a woman or a man who wants to speak to you before you ever take the receiver in your hand.

If a man will carefully observe these rules there is a chance that he may get thru the year without anything serious happening to him. In a few weeks you will become accustomed to the way of acting and the task will be less difficult. Then you will gain nerve with your growing self-confidence.

You will not jump in nervous suspicion when your stenographer says: “Do you want me now?” or “I am ready to take your dictations.”

Stay at home as much as possible, keep your door locked, and beware of intoxicants, for when a man indulges he often rushes into dangers he would never dare when sober.

Never think of suicide until all other expedients have been resorted to. And remember, leap year is but one day longer than any other year. Fort Worth [TX] Star-Telegram 4 March 1908: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil hopes that your Leap Year Proposals, should you choose to make them, will bring you all the happiness you desire. Remember, in Leap Year, the gentleman….

leap year kissesleap year acceptleap year silk dress

This post was originally published in 2016. 

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.

Love in an Election Year: 1899, 1918

It Was a Leap Year Valentine

The most original conceit of the season in the shape of a valentine came to a handsome Philadelphia beau on February 14, from a young woman, who evidently looks upon every year as a leap year. The valentine was in the form of an official blanket ballot, and the different party columns were headed “love ticket,” “friendship ticket,” “Independent ticket,” and “marble-heart ticket.” The young woman voted her ticket, in the first column, straight, and the recipient of the valentine declares he will acknowledge his election as soon as his salary has grown enough to permit of such rashness.

The ticket she voted for follows:

valentine's ballot

Oregonian [Portland OR] 1 March 1899: p. 5

An odd valentine was that sent two years ago by Francis Evelin of Chicago to Sarah Collins of Toledo. I. Everlin had asked the latter to marry him on numerous occasions; but the young woman had always asked him to refrain from regarding her otherwise than “a sister.” Everlin had no such intention, however, and, biding his time till Valentine’s day, sent her a valentine made up to resemble a ballot, such as is used in municipal elections. At the top of the ballot was a pen and ink picture of a house, and beneath appeared Everlin’s name opposite all the offices to be voted for, viz., rentpayer, bundle carrier, loving husband, and so on. A slip was appended asking the voter to vote the straight ticket. Whether it was the humor of it or something else is unknown; but the fact remains that Miss Collins put the matrimonial X under the house.

Tombstone [AZ] Epitaph 10 February 1918: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil understands that 2020 is both an election year in the United States and Leap Year the world over. If those ladies eager to be married will be guided by Mrs Daffodil, she suggests that a working knowledge of parliamentary procedure is always useful in affaires de cœur. 

It is generally supposed that the idea of young girls proposing marriage in leap-year is a pleasant little fiction of the humorist; but there is evidence that sometimes the fair sex does avail itself of its quadrennial privilege. An anecdote told in England of a member of the House of Commons is a case in point. According to the raconteur who is responsible for the story, the commoner had been paying attention to a young lady for a long while, and had taken her to attend the House until she was perfectly posted in its rules. On the last day of the session, as they came out, he brought her a bouquet, saying,

“May I offer you my handful of flowers?”

She promptly replied, “I move to amend by omitting all after the word hand.”

He blushingly accepted the amendment, and they adopted it unanimously.

Northern Christian Advocate [Syracuse NY] 16 August 1893: p. 7

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 anecdote

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 Young Man and His Valentines: 1887

[St. Valentine’s] day is observed right along now, and here in Springfield where we live, move and consequently don’t have to pay any rent, it is particularly celebrated. It’s the biggest day in the year for the largest percentage of people. I like St. Valentine’s day. I once paid $4.45 for a large, sweet-smelling affair with a heart-shaped basque and no end of flesh-colored kids, without buttons or anything on which to button, meandering around over it. I got another fellow to address the envelope. It was a girl on whose outline I was madly and passionately impaled. The other fellow was a good writer and the next day the girl accused him of sending her the valentine. He looked down in sweet confusion and said as he wiggled from side to side, “Oh, Miss Jones, who’d have thought you knew my hand-writing.”

Then the girl was sure it was him, and the next week she crocheted him a horse blanket and a lot of other fancy work, including a cute little money purse to be used as a savings bank in which his nibs was expected to put all his spare coin for missionary purposes. On  one side it had these crewel, crewel words, “Give freely,” and on the other side, “Love the giver.” The young man obeyed one of the mottoes, at least. I never in my life saw a man so stuck on himself. But I got even with him. He married the girl.

Since the sad and foregoing experience, I have rigidly adhered to the habit of slyly writing my name in one corner of every pretty and costly valentine I send. It adds to the poetry of the lovely trifle and keeps the girl’s father from kicking the necktie off of the wrong man.

I put my name once on a comic valentine which I sent to a young fellow whom I used to wake myself up at night with an alarm-clock to hate. I wanted him to know who sent it. It was a hideous caricature, got up in the most exaggerated style. It had a great mouth, like the map of somebody’s affected lung in the almanacs. It was unmistakably homely in six colors and a verse. I put my name on it and sent it to this fellow. I was wild with glee and excitement during the day, and fancied I could see him flinging himself over a four-story precipice and dashing his brains out with a three-“em” dash.

Next morning  I received a note from the recipient of the valentine. He had evidently recipped it. The note was as follows:

Springfield, O., Feb. 15, 1884.

Dear Fellow: — Photo received. Thanks so hard. But the signature was superfluous. I recognized the features as soon as I saw them. But don’t you think that part of the mouth was lost in the retouching of the negative at the expense of the naturalness of the picture.

Yours in earnest inquiry.

GUS.

P.S. I don’t speak positively about the mouth. I merely throw it out as a suggestion. I had to throw it out, as there wasn’t room enough in the house.

Once More,

Gus

The next time I met Gus, we had a chat and when we parted, he looked hurt—especially about the left eye. During the next week, Gus put in his time trying to decipher the inscription on a beef-steak, at a distance of a decimal part of an inch from his sense of sight.

When I was fourteen years old I was wildly stuck on a little girl who lived across from where we were accumulating a rent account. I determined to send her a valentine. I got a lovely one, with a beautiful vine clambering over it and a cluster of violets in the center. A sweet little cherub, attired in an intelligent look and a maxillary dimple, was peering out from between the violets, with one little fat leg trailing along behind him in the airy fashion that cupid affects. But the verse on it made me tired. It was something to the effect that when the starlight was kissing the moonlight and the evening zephyrs were exhaling a bouquet of vesper odors, then I loved her—oh, I loved her. I knew that my girl was a practical sort of a person who always split the family kindling and had to draw the family rain-water by hanging head downward in the cistern and dragging an old brass kettle along the bottom with a sound like an escaped Wagnerian overture. I knew that if I wanted to make any impression on her, I mustn’t spring any “Luna, thou art the moon” business on her, for she would simply come to the front gate and yell across to my folks to put me on ice before I got mildewed. So I made some verses entirely of my own composure and pasted them over the sentimental lollipop. This was my poetry:

Oh maid! My little speckled maid!

This is a world of trouble,

But when I see you—am I glad?

Well, I should gently bubble.

 

You are the apple of my eye,

As I have oft declared;

And I’m the apple, too, of yours,

Why then can’t we be pa(i)red?

 

Forgive me for my crime-like rhyme,

And should we ever part,

Dost know fair maid, what restest next

My madly palping heart?

I didn’t see anything of my girl for four days and I had concluded she had fallen into the cistern and broken her pledge. But on the fifth day she came sneaking across the street, shoved something under the front door, rang the bell, and then skinned back again as tight as she could go. On the way she stepped on her left ankle with her right foot and brushed away a mud-puddle in the road, but I laid it to excitement. My heart beat wildly as I heard my big brother go to the door, and present he returned with an envelope in his hand and a broad grin bordering the hair on his head. My brother had the broadest grin I ever stood beside and examined. He handed me an envelope. It was dog-eared and finger-marked. I tore it open. Inside was a half sheet of paper, with the following written on it in red ink:

You talk as though you were a chump,

Or took me for a flirt:

I guess the thing that’s next your heart

Must be your undershirt.

I let this girl alone after this and turned my affections elsewhere. I always felt hard toward the family, and as soon as I grew up and went to work for a newspaper I took my revenge out on her brother. I saw him washing his neck one day, and he got so much soil off of it that I wrote the item up and put it under the head of real estate transfers. He must have appreciated this delicate piece of satire, for I never knew him to repeat the operation.

There are somethings in a person’s life which ought not to be made fun of, and I deeply deplore the habit of sending comic valentines. I admit that the temptation is strong, but it ought to be resisted. I knew a man who had a mother-in-law on his wife’s side of the house, who had a cast of features that would stop the progress of time on a sun-dial when she looked at it. She was so ugly that her son-in-law used to keep a jar of cucumbers pickled by setting her photo next to it. Yet he did not go and get a horrible thing in four and five colors with a satirical verse, and send it to his mother-in-law. Not he. He simply sent her one of her own tintypes. She had him arrested. She then expired to slow curtain, soft music, and plaid fire.

Any young man of good address ought to have no trouble in having plenty of pretty valentines sent him. Mine is care REPUBLIC office. But any one who intends sending me comic ones will please address them to Box ¾, New Zealand.

CABRIOLET.

Springfield [OH] Daily Republic 29 January 1887: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “comic” or “vinegar” valentine was the bane of St Valentine’s Day. The receipt of one of these horrors might cause tears, loving hearts torn asunder, ruptured engagements, horse-whippings, and even worse violence.  Still, unkind as it was, Mrs Daffodil feels that the verse hand-delivered by “the little speckled maid,” equitably summed up the narrator’s “chump” tendencies. One wonders what would have been the outcome had he not called her “speckled” (that deadly insult to the charmingly freckled complexion!) and had left the Valentine versifying to trained professionals.

To be Relentlessly Informative, the puzzling reference to “plaid fire,” refers to melodramatic theatrical conventions as in this passage from an 1866 edition of “Fun,” satirically describing a play: “Dance by all the characters, blue fire, green fire, red fire, plaid fire, grand transformation scene, and rhymed tags…”

 

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 anecdote

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 Lost Garter: 1890

The ancient order of the garter was recalled to nineteenth century prominence here the other day by an incident that is being discussed very delightedly by the heavy social set. The actors in the drama are well known in Washington society. The lady is one of the prettiest girls in Washington and lives not a mile from the White House. Her father has drawn a great deal of money from the United States Treasury in his lifetime and is by no means unknown to fame.

It was at the Garfield Hospital ball. The gentleman was an army officer of more than ordinary rank. In appearance they are well matched. She is a dazzling blonde with a figure that can discount any one-armed Venus de Milo I ever saw. The names of the two have been coupled together not a little, but it is safe to predict that such remarks will cease from now on.

It happened this way They had just danced a quadrille and returned to their seats in a palm-decorated corner quite out of the way of the madding crowd. What he was saying when another man came to claim her for the next dance is immaterial, but when his following gaze lost the lovely form in the crowd, he glanced manlike at his boots and [in] a minute his eyes were riveted on a dainty light blue gold-clasped article that lay on the floor not a yard from where his fair partner of the  previous minute had been seated. As he recognized its character all the be-ruffled courtiers of the court of the English king seemed to troop before him and honi soit qui mal y pense trembled on his tongue as he thrust the pretty thing into an inner pocket.

Poor fellow he could not stand prosperity. During the rest of the  evening he was so idiotically happy that he failed to notice the disturbed and furtively searching glances that the pretty woman, cognizant of her loss, every now and then cast into odd corners where a loose article might have been brushed.

On the way home a confession of his newly-found treasure rose to his lips a dozen times, only to be postponed. When at last he stood in the hall of her house she looked so pretty that he could resist no longer. He held one of her gloves in his hand. It required no juggling skill to take his blue and gold treasure and slip it into the glove. It was better, he  thought, to give it to her than tell her. He didn’t know how much the  poor girl had gone through since he had picked up the dainty bauble. Just as he was beginning to tell her good-night he handed back her glove. In a moment the form that had been full of yielding grace grew rigid. One pretty hand clasped the glove so closely that it didn’t take all the keen intuition of the girl to understand that the long lost and much-needed article was within. No sooner had she realized that during all her suffering this man had possessed the article than her spirit rose in arms, sentiment vanished, and with the ejaculation, “Oh, you horrid brute,” she fled up the stairway, leaving him to his reflections and a large chunk of mortification.

The next time he called she sent word that she was “out,” and the young officer’s messmates don’t think it prudent to include garters in their conversations held before the hero of this tale.

The little married woman who told me of the incident explains the action of the young lady by saying that it was not mortification at the nature of the article that had been in the young a man’s possession that vexed the girl so much as it was fear lest she had lost one of the articles that had been especially purchased to match the dainty garments by which it was immediately surrounded, and that anyhow the heroine didn’t love the hero or she would have knighted him then and there with the precious article. But then women say odd things of one another and perhaps the poor girl was mortified after all.

Los Angeles [CA] Evening Express 15 March 1890: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over a story perhaps better suited to the pages of a French novel than a family newspaper.  With so little common sense, one has doubts about the fitness of the officer for that “more than ordinary rank.”  Surely the contretemps could have easily been avoided by posting the lost item back to its owner anonymously? We may also wonder how the young officer knew what the dainty article was, but then one knows what young officers are….

 

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 anecdote

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 Lady’s Social Diplomacy: 1895

Romney, George, 1734-1802; A Hand Holding a Letter

Social Diplomacy.

New York Tribune.

Diplomacy ranks next to tact in social ethics, and to be a successful hostess with limited means nowadays In New York requires almost the brains of a Machiavelli. How little Mrs. Z.–who lives in a bandbox of a house, with only a parlor maid to serve at her dainty table–manages to get the smartest people to dine with her en petit comité, whenever she will, apparently is a constant source of amusement and irritation to her rich neighbor, Mrs. Midas. The latter, despite her chef and her millions, sometimes finds it hard work to collect enough guests for her heavy entertainments twice or thrice during the season, and her own invitations are few and far between, whereas Mrs. Z. drives out whenever she is not entertaining at home.

“What do you suppose is the secret of her success?” exclaimed one of her friends. “Certainly she seems to have very few substantial advantages. She is comparatively poor, she is hardly even pretty, though It must be admitted she is very chic, but no more so than many others, She is certainly ‘sympatica,’ but so are a score of people I could name. Her house is a dear, but as a man said the other day, there is ‘hardly room in it to swing a cat,’ while her dinners, which are, of course, perfect in their way, are simplicity itself. What is her especial attraction is absolutely inexplicable, and yet it is there. or she could not pick and choose among the most exclusive people as she undoubtedly does.”

“My dear,” answered her companion, “it is tact combined with diplomacy and I will give you an instance of the latter quality, which is, of course, only one out of many. She told me this herself, so I need not hesitate to repeat it. Wishing to secure, for a special occasion, Mr.—, the celebrated author, who is a somewhat surly lion, and seldom condescends to roar at any one’s table except at that of Mrs. B., the pretty widow he wants to marry, Mrs. Z. cast about in her mind how she could engage him, by letting him know, before he had time to write a refusal, that Mrs. B. was invited, without directly saying so, which would, of course, be impossible. Suddenly an inspiration seized her: she wrote an invitation to Mrs. B. and put it into the wrong envelope, which, by an odd coincidence, happened to be addressed to Mr.—. Of course, as soon as the letters had gone to the post, she discovered her mistake, and wrote another note of explanation. Needless to say that both guests came and her dinner went off as her dinners always are sure to do, with the most perfect success.”

The Indianapolis [IN] Journal 6 December 1895: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Tact and diplomacy, indeed!  Mrs Daffodil must make a note of the hostess’s mixed-envelope scheme; she can think of several occasions on which it might be useful. Indeed, it has often been used as a plot device for stage, screen, and fiction. Comic valentines are particularly susceptible to being placed in the wrong envelopes, often with disastrous consequences.

The situation gave rise to much mirth in the joke columns of newspapers.

REMEDY FOR MEASLES.

A lady who had two children sick with the measles wrote to a friend for the best remedy. The friend had just received a note from another lady, inquiring her method of making pickles. In reply the lady unfortunately placed the notes in the wrong envelopes, so that the person who inquired about the pickles received the remedy for the measles, and the anxious mother of the sick children read with horror the following: “Scald them three or four times in hot vinegar, and sprinkle them with salt, and in a few days they will be cured.”

The Osage City [KS] Free Press 3 May 1878: p. 3

AMUSING MISTAKE—A MINISTER ASKED TO LOAN A HOOP SKIRT.

A well-known minister in Chelsea, Mass., was greatly surprised, some time since at receiving an epistle from a lady friend at Cape Ann, containing sundry and divers female confidences relative to her approaching marriage, and an urgent request to send immediately a “hoop skirt.”

The minister was completely dumbfounded. It was a strange epistle for him to receive, but there was the superscription, Rev. ___, as plain as could be. In the course of the day, however, the mystery was cleared up, and it appeared that the fair correspondent had indicted two letters, one to the reverend gent requesting his presence to tie the marriage knot, and the other to a female friend, enlarging on the anticipated occasion, and requesting her services in procuring that highly useful article a hoop skirt. By some hocus-pocus the letters were placed in the wrong envelopes, but luckily the rightful owners exchanged letters, and the minister and hoop skirt were both there! Bangor (Me.) Times.

The States and Union [ Ashland OH] 16 May 1860: p. 4

The lady of rank in this last anecdote was singularly lacking in tact and diplomacy. She was also fortunate that she did not live in the days when Royalty could say “Off with her head,” with impunity:

A NOTE IN THE WRONG ENVELOPE.

A lady of rank had received the honor of an invitation to dinner from the Princess Mary of Teck, [Mother of Queen Mary, the present Queen’s grandmother.] for a day when she was engaged to dine with an old friend. She wrote two letters—one to the Princess in her sweetest manner, acknowledging the honor, &c.; another to her friend, beginning: “Such a bore, dear! Fat Mary has invited me to dinner on our day, and of course I must go.” To her horror, she learned by the next post that her friend had got the letter for the Princess in her friend’s envelope. The mischief was done, and she went prepared to throw herself at the feet of her royal hostess, when the Princess met her with open hands and smiling face as she said: “Fat Mary is very much pleased to see you, and hopes you won’t find her a bore.”

London Truth.

The Press Herald [Pine Grove PA] 22 October 1880: p. 1

 

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

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

 

 

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation: 1904

The End of Dinner, Jules Alexandre Grun, 1913

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation

By Lola Terry Shannon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Novel Cotillion Favors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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