Category Archives: History 1800-1837

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

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.

Nanny the Witch: 1820s

That bewitching person over at Haunted Ohio suggested to Mrs Daffodil that a Walpurgisnacht post might be amusing and instructive.

A CUMBERLAND WITCH

By Mrs. J. Allsopp

I have been asked by some friends interested in occult subjects to record some information which came to me in my youth, as likely to prove interesting to others. The facts narrated were told to me by my grandmother, who had personally known the author of the proceedings.

About a hundred years ago near the small town of Brampton, in Cumberland, lived a woman who went by the name of Nanny. She was supposed by the country-folk to be a witch, and to have the power to ill-wish and overlook. The people stood in great awe of her and treated her with a fearful respect. Some envied her powers, others conciliated her as much as possible. She was the usual referendum when things were lost, and could always tell where they were. It chanced that my grandfather, who kept a large dairy farm, had for some time been annoyed by the loss of his butter firkins. This became more and more frequent, and as he could not catch the thief, he decided to seek Nanny’s aid in the matter. A neighbour offered to accompany him, as he was rather nervous. As they approached her dwelling she came out and called to my grandfather before he had the chance to speak, “Don’t come any farther, the man who has your firkins is with you.” And it turned out to be true. The man had the firkins.

She was of a rather peculiar appearance, and a less terrible person than she would have been subjected to ridicule. It happened one day that she was going past a farm where the maidens were washing in the open air. As she passed they laughed at her. She stopped, came back and said: “Ye may laugh and dance till I choose ye to stop.” And they began to laugh and dance, and nothing would make them cease. At last in desperation their master went to the old woman and prayed her on bended knees to forgive the girls. This she did, but they had danced twenty-four hours.

It is said that she once entered a house and all the doors both upstairs and down flew violently open. She is supposed to have uttered many prophecies. Her most famous one is that regarding an important local family. This was that when the church bell should toll without hands in L__ church and the hare litter on the hearth-stone great misfortune would happen to them. This did actually come to pass. The church, fallen into ruins almost, gave free ingress to the cattle, and a cow got in and caught her horns in the bell rope, causing the bell to ring. At N__, their ancestral home, a hare got into a disused room and littered on the hearth. Strange as it may seem, a long period of misfortune ensued.

I have said that her power was envied by some. A girl who had watched her very closely for some time, greatly desired to be as clever as she was. She met her one day and plucked up courage to tell her so. “All right, lass,” said the old dame, “come to my cottage to-night at midnight and see thou tell no one, and thou shalt be as clever as I am.” Greatly elated, the girl determined to do as she was bidden, and at midnight sought the lonely cottage of Nanny. She entered shrinkingly, but Nanny assured her there was nothing to fear. Then she asked her if she really meant what she had said that afternoon. Nanny was assured that she did. “Well then,” said Nanny, “put thy hand on thy head and the other under thy foot and say ‘All’s the Devil’s,’ and thou must really mean it.” There was a terrific burst of thunder, and the girl fled in terror from the cottage. This story about the girl had a very weird effect on me. When I retired that night, it seemed that some one stood by the bed and urged me to repeat Nanny’s words. It became a terrible strife of wills and lasted all night. I insisted on saying “All’s the Lord’s.” It passed with the day, but in the morning the bed was saturated with perspiration, and for many years after I dared not sleep alone. How can these things be accounted for?

Many are the tales still current in the country-side about Nanny. The day she died there was the most awful thunderstorm ever known in those parts. The lightning ran along the ground and the thunder was terrific. She is buried in the tiny churchyard of the old Saxon church of Denton, near Carlisle.

The Occult Review December 1921: p. 341-3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:   Nanny seems to have followed the traditional “cunning-woman” career path of “overlooking” (with the Evil Eye), telling the future, finding lost or stolen objects, and dealing out retribution to those who crossed her. The young ladies were fortunate that they weren’t forced to dance until their feet were worn off, as in the old tale.

When “The Queen of Scottish Witches,” Isobel Gowdie, confessed her witchery in 1662, she declared that she “did put the on of my handis to the crowne of my head and the uther to the sole of my foot, and then renuncet all betuixt my two handis, ower to the Divell.” This hands-on method of dedicating oneself to His Satanic Majesty’s service is found in a number of witch testimonials.

Mrs Daffodil fails to understand why a simple job interview or visit to a hiring fair was not sufficient, but H.S.M. does seem to have a flair for the dramatic: fiery whiz-bang entrances, sulphurous exits, pacts signed in blood, etc. etc. It has often been said that “the Devil walks as a gentleman,” but no gentleman would be caught dead outside of a fancy-dress ball in those red tights.

There are quite a few fascinating posts about witches and witchcraft on the Haunted Ohio site.  Bagging a Witch in Ohio gives a look at New World beliefs, while The Witch Wreath at the Museum tells of sinister feather crowns found in the pillows of the dying, and The Poear Dear and the Wicked Woman: A Suffolk Witch Story. shares the vernacular story of a “spite” accidentally laid on a wife instead of the husband for whom it was meant.

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 Princess and the Equerry: 1798-1810

Mrs Daffodil is charmed to welcome once again author Catherine Curzon, with an excerpt from her new book Kings of Georgian Britain. We have had the pleasure of Ms. Curzon’s company before, in “A Coronation for the Ages.” She is a royal historian and, among other things, Madame Gilflurt at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. Her theme to-day is the melancholy story of

The Princess and the Equerry

The children of George III and Queen Charlotte were many and their fates were varied. Some lived tragically short lives, some entered scandalous unions and some were never out of the papers. Of course, fun was generally confined to the males whilst for the royal daughters, excitement was a notion that could only be dreamed of. They lived a secluded life at Windsor, serving as companions to their mother as she struggled with the challenges of her husband’s mental disorder.

Princess Amelia was one such cosseted daughter. From her birth in 1783 to her death in 1810, Amelia’s life was wracked by ill health, yet she still found time to embark on the kind of doomed love affair best suited to the pages of romantic fiction. However, there was to be no happy ending.

Princess Amelia was the fifteenth and youngest child of the king and queen. She was born at the Royal Lodge, Windsor just three months after the sad death of 4-year-old Octavius, George’s favourite son, and her birth was a bittersweet time for the family. They soon doted on her and gave her the diminutive nickname, ‘Emily’. George, who was hit hardest of all by the death of his son, transferred his adoration to the newborn and lavished affection and attention on her.

When Amelia was just 5 years old the king suffered his first episode of mental illness. Eventually these periods of sickness grew more frequent until George’s initial plans to take his daughters to Hanover in search of husbands were set aside. Since the king had no desperate wish to see his daughters married off, the princesses remained unbetrothed, drawn into their mother’s secluded, secretive circle. No suitors existed at court so, with little opportunity to meet gentlemen, the girls settled into their domestic niche.

By 1798 Amelia was showing signs of tuberculosis and she was sent to take the air of Weymouth in the company of the Honourable Sir Charles FitzRoy, an equerry more than two decades her senior. During this fateful trip, Amelia and FitzRoy fell in love. They dreamed of marriage but their hopes were dashed when the queen refused to tell her husband of the affair. It meant the end of any marriage plans, yet Amelia would not let go of her dream and she and FitzRoy clung to their love, with the young princess even styling herself as AFR, Amelia FitzRoy.

Recalled to Windsor, Amelia grew increasingly despondent and in 1808 suffered a severe attack of measles. Two years later she took to her bed, wracked by tuberculosis. She knew her time was short and commissioned a mourning ring that would be given to the father who doted on her. She also took pains to ensure that she might make her farewells to the man she loved and, with the help of Amelia’s sisters, FitzRoy was given leave to make visits to Amelia’s bedside. One can only hope that the presence of her love gave Amelia some small comfort during her final days yet it must also have reminded her of what she had lost.

On 2 November 1810, 27-year-old Princess Amelia died. Her final thoughts were for the man she loved and her dying words, related by Princess Mary in a letter to FitzRoy, were, “Tell Charles I die blessing him”. She left him all her worldly possessions, still true to the man whom she had once dreamed of calling husband.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Many thanks for that affecting story and heartiest congratulations to Catherine on the release of her newest book.

About the Author

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at www.madamegilflurt.com. Her work has been featured on HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austens Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall, he National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

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Buy Links

Pen & Sword: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Kings-of-Georgian-Britain-Hardback/p/12904

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kings-Georgian-Britain-Catherine-Curzon-ebook/dp/B06XRKVVSN/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Georgian-Britain-Catherine-Curzon/dp/1473871220/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491296218&sr=8-1&keywords=kings+of+georgian+britain

About the Book

For over a century of turmoil, upheaval and scandal, Great Britain was a Georgian land.

From the day the German-speaking George I stepped off the boat from Hanover, to the night that George IV, bloated and diseased, breathed his last at Windsor, the four kings presided over a changing nation.

Kings of Georgian Britain offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the four Georges and the events that shaped their characters and reigns. From love affairs to family feuds, political wrangling and beyond, peer behind the pomp and follow these iconic figures from cradle to grave. After all, being a king isn’t always grand parties and jaw-dropping jewels, and sometimes following in a father’s footsteps can be the hardest job around.

Take a trip back in time to meet the wives, mistresses, friends and foes of the men who shaped the nation, and find out what really went on behind closed palace doors. Whether dodging assassins, marrying for money, digging up their ancestors or sparking domestic disputes that echoed down the generations, the kings of Georgian Britain were never short on drama.

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 Duke’s Private Bell: 1804

death-on-bell-rope

THE DUKE OF ROXBURGHE AND HIS SERVANT.

[A Glasgow Professor at the Scott Centenary cited Sir Walter as a witness against Spiritualism. Certain we are that as Spiritualists we rarely find ourselves out of sympathy with Scott. The Edinburgh atmosphere wherein his life was passed was deadly to every form of supernaturalism, but the poet’s honest natural instincts, if oppressed, survived, and are manifest in a multitude of utterances. The following anecdote is from his ” Notes” to the Antiquary.Ed.]

All who were acquainted with that accomplished nobleman, John, Duke of Roxburghe, must remember that he was not more remarkable for creating and possessing a most curious and splendid library, than for his acquaintance with the literary treasures it contained. In arranging his books, fetching and replacing the volumes which he wanted, and carrying on all the necessary intercourse which a man of letters holds with his library, it was the Duke’s custom to employ, not a secretary or librarian, but a livery servant, called Archie, whom habit had made so perfectly acquainted with the library, that he knew every book, as a shepherd does the individuals of his flock, by what is called head-mark, and could bring his master whatever volume he wanted, and afford all the mechanical aid the Duke required in his literary researches. To secure the attendance of Archie, there was a bell hung in his room, which was used on no occasion except to call him individually to the Duke’s study.

His Grace died in St. James’ Square, London, in the year 1804; the body was to be conveyed to Scotland, to lie in state at his mansion of Floors, and to be removed from thence to the family burial-place at Bowden.

At this time, Archie, who had been long attacked by a liver complaint, was in the very last stage of that disease. Yet he prepared himself to accompany the body of the master whom he had so long and so faithfully waited upon. The medical persons assured him he could not survive the journey. It signified nothing, he said, whether he died in England or Scotland; he was resolved to assist in rendering the last honours to the kind master from whom he had been inseparable for so many years, even if he should expire in the attempt. The poor invalid was permitted to attend the Duke’s body to Scotland; but when they reached Floors he was totally exhausted, and obliged to keep his bed, in a sort of stupor which announced speedy dissolution. On the morning of the day fixed for removing the dead body of the Duke to the place of burial, the private bell by which he was wont to summon his attendant to his study, was rung violently. This might easily happen in the confusion of such a scene, although the people of the neighbourhood prefer believing that the bell sounded of its own accord. Ring, however, it did; and Archie, roused by the well-known summons rose up in his bed, and faltered, in broken accents, “Yes, my Lord Duke—yes—I will wait on your Grace instantly;” and with these words on his lips, he is said to have fallen back and expired.

The Spiritual Magazine, February 1873

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Would that all staff were so punctilious in the pursuit of their duties!–it would certainly make Mrs Daffodil’s life a good deal easier. One does wonder, however, if there are vails and half-days in the World Beyond.

The Duke’s fabled library, consisting of some 10,000 items, was sold at auction in 1812 (forming a plot point for that recent book, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). One wonders if the ghosts of the late Duke and his servant were in attendance.

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.

 

Die For Love: 1830s to present

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride, art by Jessica Wiesel

To-day Mrs Daffodil once again—well, “welcomes” is perhaps too strong a word—but shall we say “accommodates” that ghost-writing person over at Haunted Ohio, who says that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the very first volume of her Haunted Ohio series. Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the assertion that this is grounds for celebration, but in this world of fleeting fame, twenty-five years is a long time and a ghost story for Hallowe’en never goes amiss. This story comes from the second volume in the series, cunningly entitled Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State.

DIE FOR LOVE

Beaver Creek threads its way through the steep hills and thick forests of Beaver Creek State Park. During the canal boom of the 1880s the area prospered, but today it is an area of deserted logging camps, ruined canal locks, and ghost towns.  One such town, Sprucevale, is accessible only by bridle path.  And all that remains of Sprucevale are the three walls of Hambelton’s grist mill—and the legend of Esther Hale.

On the morning of August 12, 1837, Esther Hale was happily preparing for her wedding. The table in the parlor was decorated with flowers and greenery; the cake was in the kitchen, covered with a cheesecloth veil to keep off the flies.  The wedding was set for ten in the morning.  By half past ten the guests were beginning to fidget and smile behind their fans.  By half past twelve they climbed into their wagons and drove away.  The messenger Esther sent could find no trace of her lover.  The cabin was deserted, he said, the ashes in the stove were cold.

When her friends tried to help her to bed, Esther quietly rebuffed them until they left her sitting alone in the dark by the window of the parlor. When they returned the next morning, the curtains had been drawn, as if in a house of mourning.  They were never again opened in Esther Hale’s lifetime.

All summer Esther moved like a ghost through the house. In the kitchen, beetles tunneled through the cake.  The flowers withered in the parlor while the spiders spun their gossamer hangings.  Her friends coaxed her to eat and drink a little, but when they tried to get her to change her dress or remove the wedding decorations, she flew at them with claw-like fingers.  Eventually they left her alone.

Broken hearts kill slowly. Four months later a neighbor noticed that the door to Esther’s house was open, banging back and forth in the December wind.  He notified the sheriff and the doctor who took a party of men to the dark house.  Snow had drifted throughout the rooms like a white shroud. Esther was slumped over the parlor window sill, her veil over her face.  Someone held up a lantern.  The doctor drew back the shredded lace.  Esther had been dead for several weeks.  When they saw the horror beneath, they silently covered her over again.  She was buried so, shrouded in her wedding clothes.

You can still see her, dressed in white, looking for her lover. It is said that she haunts the bridge over Beaver Creek, waiting there every year on August 12, a hideous figure in tattered white satin and lace.  If she touches you, she will become young and beautiful again—but you will die.

Nanette Young of Harmony Hills Stables enjoys taking people on trail rides and telling them the ghost stories of the area, especially the tale about the ghostly bride. Local people say they’ve seen Esther run in front of their headlights.  Nanette says that her car shuts off every morning by the grist mill.  Other people have had the same experience.

“One Christmas I was out looking at the Christmas lights with my mother. I told her, ‘This car is going to shut off as we pass that building.’  My girlfriend who was with us said, ‘Yeah, it happens every morning.’ My mother didn’t believe me, then it shut right off.  When this happens I just coast down the hill.  There are forty thousand hills out here.  But the car doesn’t shut off on any of the others.”

On August 8th, Nanette took a group of riders out on the trail. It was a clear night, but a mysterious fog rose from the creek up to the horses’ legs.  As they passed Esther’s house and rode onto the bridge, the last man in line said, “I feel a cold force pulling on my sweat shirt!”  Nanette could see nothing, but when they reached the safety of the barn, the hood of his sweat shirt was torn.

If you are in the area in early August, drive through quickly with your windows rolled up. And keep a sharp lookout for a skeletal woman in a wedding dress stained by the grave for she will lunge at your car, her bony fingers scrabbling at your windows, desperate as Death to touch and claim your living flesh.

Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State, Chris Woodyard, 1992

Like most local legends, there are a number of variations in the stories about Esther Hale. She is said to have been a Quakeress preacher, she is said to walk out of the Hambleton Mill in Beaver Creek State Park in Northeastern Ohio, and write “Come” on one of the stone walls of the mill on Christmas Eve.

The Haunted Ohio series is available at online retailers and through Barnes & Noble stores.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

 

An Ingenious Ghost: 1825

Image from The Spectre of the Hall, British Library

Image from The Spectre of the Hall, British Library

A TERRIFIC EXPEDIENT OF A THIEF.

Arthur Chambers was a thief endowed with uncommon address and talent. His adventures were marked by boldness in their object, and ingenuity in their accomplishment, as the following relation will shew:—

He hired the first floor of a house, and agreed with the landlord for fourteen shillings per week. Having been taken for a man of fortune, both from his appearance and expense, a mutual confidence was gradually established. When his plot was matured, he one day entered, with a very pensive and sorrowful look, the apartment of his landlord, who anxiously enquired the cause of his great uneasiness: Chambers, with tears in his eyes, informed him, that he had just returned from Hampstead, where he had witnessed the death of a beloved brother, who had left him his sole heir, with an express injunction to convey his dear remains to Westminster Abbey. He therefore entreated the favour of being allowed to bring his brother’s remains at a certain hour to his house, that from thence they might be conveyed to the place of their destination. His request was readily granted.

Chambers went off the next morning, leaving word, that the corpse would be there at six o’clock in the evening. At the appointed hour the hearse with six horses arrived at the door. An elegant coffin, with six gilded handles, was carried up stairs, and placed upon the dining-room table, and the horses were conveyed by the men to a stable in the neighbourhood. They informed the landlord that Chambers was detained on business, and would probably sleep that night in the Strand.

This artful rogue was, however, confined in the coffin, in which air-holes were made, the screw-nails left unfixed, his clothes all on, and only a winding-sheet wrapped above all, and his face disguised with flour. All the family went to bed except the maid-servant. Chambers arose from his confinement, went down stairs to the kitchen, wrapped in his winding-sheet, sat down and stared the maid in the face, who, overwhelmed with fear, cried out, “A ghost! a ghost!” and ran upstairs to her master’s room. He chid her unreasonable fears, and requested her to return to bed, and compose herself. She obstinately refused, and remained in the room;

In a short time, however, in stalks the stately ghost, took his seat, and conferred a complete sweat and a terrible fright upon all three who were present. Retiring from his station, when he deemed it convenient, he continued, by the moving of the doors, and the noise raised through the house, to conceal his designs. In the meantime he went down stairs, and opened the doors to his accomplices, who assisted in carrying off the plate, and every thing which could be removed, not even sparing the utensils of the kitchen. The maid was the first to venture from the room in the morning, and to inform her master and mistress what had happened, who, more than the night before, chid her credulity in believing that a ghost could rob a house, or carry away any article out of it. In a little time, however, the landlord was induced to rise from his bed, go down stairs, and found, to his astonishment and chagrin, that the whole of his plate, and almost the whole of his moveables, were gone and he had only received in return an empty coffin!

Chambers, after continuing his depredations, and being guilty of numerous acts of consummate art and villany, was at last detected, tried, sentenced, and finished his singular and vicious career at Tyburn. 

The Terrific Register, 1825

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil hopes that this anecdote is new to her readers; it is rather an old chestnut and was told about a number of criminals, named and unnamed. Arthur Chambers was something of a legend in the London Underworld. An unsavoury character trying to lure the hero into a life of crime, states:

“Not know who Arthur Chambers was !” exclaimed Master Blake in surprise; “ well, that is a go! why, Arthur Chambers was the very prince of prigs [thieves]; the downiest diver [most cunning pick-pocket], the rummest [foot] pad, the kiddiest [most fraudulent] scamp, the prettiest cheat, and the most dexterous filch upon town.”

A footnote adds:

‘This prince of prigs was the most dexterous pickpocket of his own or any other day. He was of low extraction, and, according to Captain Charles Johnson, commenced pilfering even while he was in petticoats. He was a perfect master of slang in all its varieties, from the maunders’, or beggars’, cant, to the Romanee, or gipsy patter, and Newgate flash of the light-fingered gentry. Many curious stories are related by Johnson of Arthur’s proficiency as a cheat: one in which he got himself conveyed into his own lodgings as a dead man, and, in the character of a ghost, contrived, during the night, to rifle the house, is really dramatic, and might almost form a farce. After a long career of roguery in all the lower walks of his profession, for Arthur never aspired to the dignity of a housebreaker or highwayman, and being confined in Bridewell and many other prisons, he was detected in a street robbery, found guilty, and, some time before the birth of our hero, suffered the usual fate of such offenders at Tyburn.

The Life and Adventures of Jack Sheppard, Lincoln Fortescue, Esq., 1845, p. 42

The term “Newgate flash,” above, refers to a type of slang. It also reflected a certain admiration in society for the roguish criminal who could carry off an imposition like the one above with such panache.

At one time there was a brief passion for polished steel; and among the slang refinements of the day was the application of that metal to a watch-chain of long links, imitating fetters, and called “the Newgate flash,” indicating the sympathy that existed for the numerous felons who were then weekly being hanged at the Old Bailey. Bentley’s Miscellany, 1852, p. 621

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

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

Making Straw Bonnets: c. 1800

late-18th-early-19th-straw-bonnet

A late-18th / early 19th-century straw bonnet http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-bonnet-326663

That spring brought a new fashion in head gear. Straw bonnets came into vogue. Peabody, Waterman & Co. received an invoice from England, and Mrs. Peabody presented one to her sister Hannah. I greatly admired this bonnet, but mother said she could not afford to buy me one that season. Aunt Sarah, noticing my discontented visage, inquired the cause, at which she signified her readiness to teach me to braid straw, and make myself a bonnet. Much surprised, I asked how she had learned. “As I have most things, I taught myself,” was the reply. “During the Revolutionary war two British cruisers for two days lay off the mouth of the Merrimac. The inhabitants of the “Port” were greatly alarmed, momentarily expecting a bombardment. Your great-aunt Mollie Noyes packed her effects, and, with her children, came here. Though the men-of-war withdrew without any demonstration, as the news immediately came that Captain Noyes’s vessel had been captured, and himself and crew were prisoners at Dartmoor, Mrs. Noyes remained some time. Your father was troubled with headache, and often complained of the heat of his wool hat. One day during haying, Aunt Noyes brought him a straw hat, which she said Captain Noyes had brought from foreign parts. After it was worn out your father missed it so much that the idea struck me of braiding one. We had a field of oats. I cut some straw, took the old hat, and, after patiently unbraiding and braiding for a time, at length succeeded in obtaining the secret. I braided and sewed a hat, which, though not as handsome as the foreign one, did very well. I braided several, and can teach you. When the oats are large enough to cut you can make a pretty bonnet.”

Mother tried to dissuade me from this project. She didn’t believe I could “make anything decent.” I was strong in faith, and my aunt upheld this determination. As soon as the straw was ripe I began to plait, and soon had sufficient for a bonnet. The straw was finer than Aunt Hannah’s, but, as no knowledge of bleaching had been obtained, it was not as white; still, it looked very well. Aunt Sarah fashioned it in the prevailing mode, but a difficulty arose respecting pressing. The front was easily managed, but how could the crown be shaped? Aunt Sarah was a person of expedients; I never knew her frustrated in anything she set about. A mortar was turned bottom upward, paper fitted over it, and the crown shaped to the requisite form. I was jubilant over this bonnet, and my Aunt Peabody sent a white ribbon to trim it, like Aunt Hannah’s. Neither before nor after do I think I was ever so proud of an article of dress as I was of that bonnet. After this we cut a quantity of straw, and I braided father a hat…

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with chevron plaiting http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-bonnet-326722

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with chevron plaiting http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-bonnet-326722

With my multifarious duties, I had contrived to plait a new straw bonnet for myself. Aunt Sarah assisted me to make common hats for father and the boys. We also fashioned a cunning bonnet for my little sister Susan to wear upon her first advent at meeting. Upon sight of this head gear, little Joe demanded a Sunday straw hat. Aunt Sarah said that was a good idea. I plaited a fine braid; the hat was made and lined with green silk. Jim thought he should like one, only the braid might be coarser. When father saw this hat, he asked us to make one for him; the light hat was “so comfortable in warm weather.” The gentlemen and youth of the neighborhood and vicinity, seeing and liking these hats, came to solicit us to braid some for them. In a short time quite a lucrative business was established. In the midst of the hurry, one of our cousins, Patty Noyes, came in, to beg us to braid her a bonnet; she “must have one for the very next Sunday.” “That is an impossibility.” “Then sew one from this!” she exclaimed, seizing a roll of the hat braid. “That is too coarse.” “That is a matter of taste,” she returned; “if I have a coarse straw it may set the fashion. Just sew the braid as I direct.”

Remonstrance was useless. The bonnet was sewed. It looked very well, and when trimmed was really pretty. Patty’s joke proved a prophecy,—she did set a fashion. Orders came for several similar bonnets. This extra straw work brought a great hurry in the autumn….

A quantity of straw had been stored the summer before; this spring, orders for bonnets and hats came as fast as they could be filled.

As I have stated, Uncle Thurrel’s only daughter had married Mr. Jonathan Smith, the son of the Rev. Dr. Smith, the first Baptist clergyman in Haverhill. Mr. Smith kept a store in that town. Straw bonnets were becoming so fashionable, Mrs. Smith conceived the idea of our supplying the sale at her husband’s establishment. Hitherto our bonnets had remained the natural color of the straw. Straw work had been commenced in Providence, and through some relatives there, Mrs. Smith learned the process of bleaching. We were greatly pleased to become initiated into the mystery, and with her native ingenuity, Aunt Sarah contrived a bleachery. Holes were bored in the head of a barrel, strings were attached to the bonnets and passed up through the apertures, which were then plugged with wooden spiles; sulphur sprinkled over embers put in the dish of a foot-stove was placed beneath; the whole being tightened by an old quilt, not a fume escaped, and the bonnets came forth as white as the imported. To this period the braid had been plaited from whole straw; this year the split straws began to come, and Aunt Sarah finding that she could split straw with a coarse comb, concluded to have some combs made for the purpose. Comb making had been an industry of the town since its first settlement.

Mr. Noyes was a great oddity. He would run half over the parish bareheaded and barefooted. It was no uncommon thing for him to appear at our house, after dinner of a hot summer day, in only a shirt aud breeches, having run across the fields two miles, “jest to take a nooning.” A great joker and a capital story-teller, his appearance was the signal for a general frolic. He was fond of telling strangers that his father used to say he had “four remarkable children: Molly was remarkably handsome, Tim was a remarkable sloven, John was remarkably wicked, and Enoch was remarkably cunning.” To this gentleman Aunt Sarah applied. As might have been expected, he entered into the business with characteristic zest, and in a short time we were supplied with half a dozen different-sized straw splitters.

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with ornamental edging. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/bonnet-326664

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with ornamental edging. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/bonnet-326664

Mrs. Smith, having cut a tiny piece of trimming from an imported bonnet, brought it for me to imitate. How vividly I recall the two long hours which I passed, sitting on the chamber floor surrounded by the litter of straw, patiently weaving and unweaving until the secret was obtained. Having acquired this ornamental cue, I invented several other decorations with which to finish the edge of the bonnets. I also learned to make straw plumes and tassels from examining those of the foreign bonnets. Miss Mary Perkins kept a fashionable millinery establishment in Newburyport. Hearing of our straw manufacture she rode up to see us and immediately ordered bonnets. After a time the plain straw became superseded by diamond and other fancy plaits. These being the ton, Miss Jenkins also purloined a bit from the inside of a diamond satin straw, and brought it as a pattern of a braid. It looked so intricate I nearly despaired of my ability to copy it, but Miss Jenkins would not permit me to demur, and as every one spoke encouragingly I made the effort, and in two or three hours accomplished the task. This was a timely achievement; our bonnets were in great demand, and we continued the business through the warm season for several years until the establishment of straw factories and my approaching marriage curtailed the work; but Aunt Sarah continued to braid men’s hats and supply her friends’ bonnets for a long time.

Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, Sarah Smith Emery, 1879

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil can highly recommend the delightful memoirs of Mrs Emery; she tells of the homely minutiae of life at the turn of the nineteenth century and restores to us details of women’s work that otherwise would have been lost to history. The lady has the additional merit of being a charming and engaging narrator. 

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.