Category Archives: Holidays

“To Let” – An April Fool’s Day Prank: 1873

TO LET.

I should like to describe my hero as a young and gallant cavalier of this nineteenth century, with the beauty of an Apollo and the wisdom of a sage, but truth compels me to that Rupert Smithson, in spite of his fine Christian appellation, was neither one or the other. His nephew and namesake, who was called by the bosom of his family Rupert the Second, said that his Uncle Rupert was a crusty old bachelor, and I hammer my brains in vain for a more fitting description.

A crusty old bachelor he undoubtedly was, more than fifty years of age, with grizzled hair, heavy gray beard, and a rough voice and manner. It is very true that he was always careful to keep the crustiest side of nature on the surface, and had been discovered in the act of committing several deeds of charity and kindness, that belied utterly his habitual surly tone and abrupt manner. Twenty years before, when the gray hair was nut-brown and clustered in rich curls over the broad white forehead, when the brown eye shown with the fire of ambition, the clear voice was true and tender, Rupert Smithson had given his whole loyal heart to Katie Carroll, neighbor and friend, little sweetheart from childhood.

Urged by love as well as by ambition, he had left his home, in a small Western town, and gone to New York to win a name and fortune to lay at Katie’s feet. The fortune and fame as a successful merchant came to him, but when he returned to Katie he found she had left her home also, to become the wife of a wealthy pork dealer in Cincinnati.

Nobody told Rupert of treachery to the pretty Katie, of letters suppressed, of slanders circulated, and parental authority stretched to the utmost in favor of the wealthy suitor. He had no record of the slow despair that crept over the loving heart, when the pleading letters were answered, of the dull apathy that yielded at last, and gave a way the hand of the young girl, when her heart seemed broken.

All that the young, ardent lover knew was the one bitter fact that the girl he loved faithfully and fondly was false to her promise, the wife of another. He spoke no word of bitterness, but returned to the home he hoped was his stepping-stone, and a life of loneliness.

Ten years later, when his sister, with her son and daughter, came to live in New York for educational advantages, Rupert the First was certainly what his saucy nephew called him, a crusty old bachelor. Yet into that sore, disappointed heart Katie’s desertion had so wounded, the bachelor uncle took with warm love and great indulgence his nephew and niece, bright, handsome children of ten and twelve, who, childlike, imposed upon his good nature, rioted over his quiet, orderly house, his staid housekeeper declared they were worse than a pair of monkeys, caressed him stormily moment, and pouted over some refusal for a monstrous indulgence the next, and treated as bachelor uncles must expect to be treated by their sister’s children.

“Rupert was so set in his fidgety old bachelor ways,” she said, “that it would be positive cruelty to disturb him.”

Probably young Rupert and Fannie did not consider their bright young faces disturbers of their uncle’s tranquility, but it is quite certain that out of school hours, No. 49, their uncle’s house, saw them as frequently as No. 43, where their mother resided.

With the intuitive perception of children they understood that the abrupt, often harsh voice, the surly words, and the demonstrative manner, covered a heart that would have made any sacrifice for their sakes, that loved them with as true a love as their own dead father could have given them.

As they outgrew childhood, evidences of affection ceased to take the form of dolls and drums, and cropped out in Christmas checks, in ball dresses and boquets, a saddle horse, and various other delightful shapes, till Rupert came of age, when he was taken from college into his uncle’s counting house and a closer intimacy than ever was cemented between the young life and the one treading the downward path to old age.

There had been a family gathering at Mrs. Kimberly’s one evening in the month of March, and a conversation had arisen upon the traditional customs and tricks of the 1st of April.

“Senseless, absurd tricks,” Rupert Smithson had called them in his abrupt, rough way, fit only to amuse children or idiots.

“O, pshaw, Uncle Rupert!” said Fannie, saucily, “you played April fool tricks too when you were young.”

“Never! Never could see any wit or sense in them. And what’s more, Miss Fannie, I was never once caught by any of the shallow deceits.”

“Never made an April fool?”

“Never, and never will be,” was the reply. “There child, go play me that last nocturn you learned. It suits me. I hate sky-rocket music, but that is the dreamy, lazy air, and I like it.”

“The idea of your liking anything dreamy and lazy,” said Mrs. Kimberly. “I thought you were all energy and activity.”

“When I work,” was the reply; “but when I rest, I want rest.”

“Uncle Rupert, broke in Rupert, suddenly, ” what will you bet I can’t fool you next week?”

“Bah! The idea of getting to my age to be fooled by a boy like you.”

“Then you defy me?”

“Of course I do.”

“I’ll do it.”

“Fore-warned is fore-armed. But come, stop chatting, I want my music.”

Pretty, saucy, mirth-loving Fannie. with her dancing black eyes and brilliant smile, did not look like a very promising interpreter of dreamy, lazy music, but once her hands touched the keys of the grand pianoforte, the whole nature seemed to merge into the sounds she created. Merry music made dancing elves of her fingers as they flew over the notes; dreamy music drew a mask of hushed beauty over her face. and her great black eyes would dilate and seem to see far away beauties as the room filled with the sweet, low cadences.

She would look like an inspired Joan of Arc when grand chords rolled out under her hands in majestic measures, and sacred music transformed her beauty into something saintly. When once the rosewood case closed, Saint Cecilia became pretty, winsome Fannie Kimberly again.

There were few influences that could soften the outer crust of manner in Rupert Smithson, but he would hide his face away when Fannie played, ashamed of the tears that started, or smiles that hovered on his lips as the music pierced down into that warm, loving heart he had tried to conceal with cynical words and looks.

So, when the first chords of the nocturn melted softly into silence, the old bachelor stole away and left the house, bidding no one farewell. They were accustomed to his singular ways, and no one followed him, but Mrs. Kimberly sighed as she said:

“Rupert gets more odd and crusty every year.”

“But he is so good,” Fannie said, leaving her piano stool with a twirl that kept it spinning around giddily.

“Why don’t he get married?” asked Rupert. “It is a downright shame to have that splendid house shut up year after year, excepting just the few rooms Uncle Rupert and Mrs. Jones occupy.”

“I mean to ask him,” said Fannie, impulsively.

“No, no!” said Mrs. Kimberly, hastily, ” never speak of that to your uncle, Fannie, Never!”

“But why not?”

“I never told you before, but your uncle was engaged years ago, and there was some trouble. I never understood about it exactly, for I was married and left Wilton the same year that Rupert came to New York. But this I do know; the lady after waiting three or four years, married, and Rupert has never been the same man since. I am quite sure he was very much attached to her, and that you would wound him, Fannie, if you jested about marriage.”

“But I don’t mean to jest at all. I think he would be ever so much happier if he had some one to love, and some one to love him in return. It must be dreadfully lonesome in that large house with no companion but Mrs. Jones, who is 100 years old, I am certain.”

“He ought to marry her,” said Rupert, “she always calls him ‘dearie.'”

“Don’t, children, jest about it any more,” said their mother, “and be sure you never mention the subject to your uncle.”

The first of April was a clear, rather cold day, the air bright and snapping, and the sky all treacherous smiles as became the coquettish month of sunshine and showers.

Uncle Rupert, finishing his lonely breakfast, thought to himself: “I must be on the lookout to-day for Rupert’s promised trick! He won’t find it so easy as he imagines to fool his old uncle. Who’s there?” The last two words in answer to a somewhat timid knock upon the door.

It was certainly not easy to astonish Rupert Smithson, but his eyes opened with an unmistakable expression of amazement as the door opened to admit a tall, slender figure in deep mourning, and a low, very sweet voice asked:

“Is this the landlord?

“The—the–what?”

“I called about the house, sir.”

“What house? Take a seat”–suddenly recalling his politeness.

“Is not this No. 49 W__ place?”

“Certainly it is.”

“I have been looking out for some time for a furnished house suitable for boarders, sir, and if I find this one suits me, and the rent is not too high ”

“But__,” interrupted the astonished bachelor.

“O, I hope it is not taken. The advertisement said to call between 8 and 9, and it struck 8 as I stood on the door step.”

“O, the advertisement. Oh no. Master Rupert. This is your doings, is it? will you let me see the advertisement, madam?”

“You have the paper in your hand, sir,” she said, timidly. “I did not cut it out.”

“O, you saw it in the paper,” and he turned to the list of houses to let.

Sure enough there it was.

“To let, furnished–three story, brown-stone front, basement.” and rather a full description of the advantages of the premises, with the emphatic addition, “call only between 8 and 9 A. M.”

“So as to be sure I am at home, the rascal,” said Rupert Smithson, laying aside the paper.

“I am sorry, madam,” he said, ” that you have had the trouble of calling upon a useless errand.”

“Then it is taken?” said a very disappointed voice, and the heavy crape veil was lifted to show a sweet, matronly face, framed in that most saddest of all badges, a widow’s cap.

“Well, no,” said the perplexed bachelor, “it is not exactly taken.”

“Perhaps you object to boarders?”

“You want to take boarders?” he answered, thinking how ladylike and gentle she looked, and wondered if she had long been a widow.

“Yes, sir; but I would be very careful about the reference.”

“Have you ever kept boarders before?”

“No, sir. Since my husband died, six years ago–he failed in business, and brought on a severe illness by mental anxiety–my daughter and myself have been sewing, but we have both been in ill health all winter, and I want to try some way of getting a living that is less confining. I have kept house several years, but I have no capital to furnish, so we want to secure a house furnished like this one, if possible.”

Quite unconscious of the reason, Rupert Smithson was finding it very pleasant to talk to this gentle little widow about her plans, and as she spoke, was wondering if it would not make an agreeable variety in his lonely life to let her make her experiment of keeping a boarding house upon the premises Seeing his hesitation, she said, earnestly,

“I think you will be satisfied with my references, sir. I have lived in one house and have worked for one firm for six years, and if you require it, I can obtain letters from my husband’s friends in Cincinnati.”

“Cincinnati?”

“He was pretty well known there, Perhaps you have heard of him, John Murray, ___street?”

“John Murray!” Rupert Smithson looked searchingly into the pale face that was so pleadingly raised to his gaze. Where was the rosy cheeks, the dancing eyes, the laughing lips that he pictured as belonging to John Murray’s wife? Knowing now the truth, he recognized the face before him, the youth all gone, and the expression sanctified by sorrow and long suffering.

“You have children?” he said, after a long silence.

“Only one living, a daughter, seventeen years old. I have buried all the others.”

“I will let you have the house on one condition,” he said, his lip trembling a little as he spoke.

She did not answer. In the softened eyes looking into her own, in the voice suddenly modulated to a tender sweetness, some memory was awakened, and she only listened with bated breath and dilating eyes.

“On one condition, Katie,” he said, “that you come to it as my wife, and its mistress. I have waited for you over twenty years, Katie.”

It was hard to believe, even then, though the little widow let him caress her, and sobbed upon his breast.

This gray-haired, middle-aged man was so unlike the Rupert she had believed false. Even after the whole past was discussed, and Rupert knew how he had been wronged, but not by Katie, it was hard to believe there might be years of happiness still in store for them.

Rupert Smithson didn’t put in an appearance at his counting house that day, and Rupert the Second went home to his dinner in rather an uneasy state of mind regarding that April fool trick of his.

“I must run over and see if I have offended beyond all hope of pardon,” he said, as he rose from the table.

But a gruff voice behind him arrested his steps.

“So, so; you have advertised my house to let,” said his uncle, but spite of his efforts he failed to look very angry.

“How many old maids and widows applied for it?” inquired the daring young scapegrace.

“I don t know. After the first application my housekeeper told the others the house was taken.

“Taken!”

“Yes, I have let it upon a life lease. too.”

Here he opened the door.

“My wife!”

Very shy, blushing and timid “my wife” looked in her slate-colored dress and bonnet, as her three-hours’ husband led her in.

After a moment’s scrutiny Mrs. Kimberly cried: “It is Katie Carroll!”

“Katie Smithson!” said the bridegroom, with immense dignity, “and my daughter, Winifred.”

There was a new sensation, as a pretty blonde answered this call, but a warmer welcome was never given than was accorded to these by their new relatives, and to this day Uncle Rupert will not acknowledge that he got the worst of the joke when his nephew played him an April fool’s trick by advertising his house to let.

The Elk County [PA] Advocate 9 October 1873: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  April Fool’s Pranks followed well-worn paths: sending merchants with loads of goods to unsuspecting householders; insulting signs stuck to a stranger’s coat; coins glued to the side-walk; and, of course, advertising an occupied house to let.

The author used a full stock of Victorian popular literature cliches: the husband who failed in business, went into a Decline and died; the broken-hearted widow whose children are all in the grave, save one; the suppressed letters to separate devoted lovers; and the crusty old bachelor with a heart of gold. All that is missing is the villainous nobleman and the lisping child. Never mind–Rupert the Second and saucy, mirth-loving Fannie have been cast in the juvenile roles, sans lisp.  Mrs Daffodil assumes that the author was paid by the word; hence the lengthy and altogether unnecessary description of Fanny’s musical talents.

 

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 Modern Mother: 1928

 

the modern flapper mother The Decatur Review 18 March 1928

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers who celebrate it a very happy, and perhaps less strenuous, Mothering Sunday.

Although the clarity of the cartoon is not of the best, this was one of Ethel Hays’s spritely cartoons, from 1928.  She was widely known for her “Flapper Fanny” cartoons and her book illustrations.

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 Leap-Year Idyll: 1884

A Leap-Year Idyll.

Only one young lady of this place, Cummins Ville, [Cumminsville, Ohio, USA] has thus far been heard of taking advantage of the privilege that leap-year is popularly supposed to bestow upon the fair sex. As the writer was sworn to secrecy when the information was obtained, no names can be given. Suffice it to say that hat parties are well known and respectable residents of this ward. It seems that she was keeping company with a very worthy young man, and matters were approaching a crisis, when his mother, hearing how the land lay, appeared upon the scene, and informed the trembling lassie that she should never wed her son, swearing she would cut him off with a shilling and threatening all kinds of dire consequences unless she would forthwith and forever discard him. To this, at last, the maid reluctantly consented, and the prospective mother-in-law retired in good order highly elated with her victory. Some days after the young lady met a masculine acquaintance of hers, and being very old friends she lost no time in rehearsing to him her sad mishap in Cupid’s field of battle. This friend, being of a very sympathetic nature, bade her cheer up, consoling her in every way possible, and ended by saying: “Come over to my house. I’ve got two boys old enough to be married. You can have your choice of them.” Whether the invitation was given in jest or earnest will never be known, but she took him at his word and called that evening, but received no encouragement from the boys, who were very bashful, and she even had to go home unaccompanied. The next day the father met her, and told her that his son John had been very much impressed with her appearance, but was too bashful to make any advances, and advised her to call again. This she did the next evening. John overcame his timidity sufficiently to engage in conversation with her, and escorted her home and made his advances with such readiness that a few days subsequently they were married, and they are now as happy as a pair of turtle-doves. This is what might be called a leap-year idyll, and is written without exaggeration—with malice toward none and charity for all.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 27 April 1884: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  So kind of the neighbour to offer the young lady her choice of sons, although the gesture has rather the air of offering a guest a choice of hot beverages or a selection of pastries. One does wonder at the disappointed heart that would find solace so quickly with a comparative stranger, perhaps out of pique or of desperation. One hopes that the turtle-dove motif continued throughout their married life.

We have met bashful young gentlemen before, as in the unfortunate Bashful Bridegroom. They were the butt of many a joke and comic drawing:

When a young lady tripped into a music store the other day, and asked the bashful clerk in attendance for “Two Kisses,” he jammed on his hat and rushed out of the back door. The clerk, never having heard of the piece of music, thought he was the victim of a leap year proposal and his salary was not large enough for two.

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 6 March 1880: p. 1

you'll have to ask papa leap year

 

woman proposes to man

A young lawyer of Reading received a leap year proposal of marriage. He hasn’t as yet accepted, and won’t until he asks ma.

Lebanon [PA] Daily News 10 January 1873: p. 4

Finally, this oft-disappointed young lady realised that she would have to utilise all the special powers of Leap Year to drag the groom to the altar.

BASHFUL BRIDEGROOM’S FATE.

Iowa Girl, Tired of Waiting, Led Him to the Altar.

Douglas, Wis., Jan. 4. Anna Schlegelmilch has solved for herself the problem of winning a bashful man one so bashful that he could not screw up his courage to undergo the ordeal of a home wedding. Time and time again he disappointed her at the altar. She knew his failing, but she also has recognized his virtues, and because he would be a good husband, could she ever get him, she was determined to be patient, even at the cost of embarrassment and no small amount of humiliation.

Miss Schlegelmilch had made at least a dozen wedding cakes that never served the intended end, and friends had been invited for the wedding so often that they came to regard the invitations as the order of the day. Every time at the last moment the expected bridegroom was absent.

But just before the end of leap year [1904] he called and once more asked her to name the wedding day. This time she simply put on her hat, marched him to the minister, and before he had time to pale, the thing was done. There were no cards, no flowers, no witnesses, beyond those required by law.

The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 5 January 1905: p. 9

It was stated in earlier reports (the wedding took place in September of 1904) that

The bride applied for and secured the dispensation and permitted the ceremony at once, stating to the court that the groom had delayed the wedding on several previous occasions when all preparations had been made because of his bashfulness. She did not intend to be embarrassed again.

The South Bend [IN] Tribune 17 September 1904: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil wonders what those virtues were that encouraged Miss Schlegelmilch to tolerate the gentleman’s vacillating nonsense. She hopes that they compensated for the previous embarrassments and the wasted cakes. The couple was married until the lady’s untimely death in 1932.

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 Valentine: 1920

leap year thoughts I'll get you yet valentine

Leap Year Valentine

My dear young man: I want to state

I know your measurements and gait

And you’re no mental heavyweight,

Nor are you apt to jar the state,

But what of that? I don’t desire

A man to set the seas on fire.

He, whom the very gods admire

Is apt to blow up like a tire.

 

I want a man who earns enough

to keep the kids in shoes and stuff,

So we can make a decent bluff

At being somewhat up to snuff,

But I don’t want a man so bent

On profiteering and per cent

That all his days and nights are spent

Upon that one accomplishment.

 

I want a man whose form and face

Proclaim him of the human race,

But not of such transcendent grace

He aims to take Apollo’s place,

For it is my judicial view

Most men are steadfast, strong and true

As they’re unattractive. You,

In this respect, I think will do.

 

So if you’d like a wedding trip

By motor, trolley, train or ship,

With me along, well here’s my tip:

Don’t let your present chances slip.

If you agree to this just sign

The contract on the dotted line

And take me while the taking’s fine.

Your loving, leap-year

VALENTINE.

Bisbee [AZ] Daily Review 15 February 1920: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It appears that the narrator has exceedingly low standards for a mate–and expects that the chosen candidate will fail to achieve even those modest requirements. Mrs Daffodil wishes her joy.

In this Leap Year when, traditionally, the ladies may propose to the Beloved, Mrs Daffodil also wishes her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day.

 

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.

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 Misfit Christmas Present Exchange: 1894

lavender men's slippers lily of the valley remember scrolls 1860s

MISFIT CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.

What this country needs more than anything else, just once a year, is a Misfit Christmas Present Exchange.

An enterprising gentleman has already started an establishment where one can dispose of duplicate wedding presents, but a person gets married once only in his life, whereas he or she, as the case or sex may be, endures many Christmases.

How sweet and pleasant would it be, for instance, if a young and pretty clergyman who has been remembered by seventeen or two dozen of the ewe lambs of his congregation with a pair of slippers from each, could trade off most of them for, say, a meerschaum pipe or some perpendicular linen collars! Until such an exchange begins to fill a long felt want, the daily papers could help on the good work by permitting their patrons to insert free such advertisements as the following, at holiday time:

“A boy of twelve wishes to exchange a new copy of ‘Josephus,’ handsomely bound, for a second hand copy of ‘Beelzebub Dick, the Terror of Gory Gulch’; or ‘ Deadhead Dan, the Young Detective of Mulberry Avenue.'”

“Young lady would part with seven (7) Christmas cards (four of them hand painted) in return for a diamond engagement ring.”

“Married man desires to exchange a pair of ice cream colored wristers for a glass of beer.”

“Young clergyman will dispose of an assorted lot of slippers, some of which are embroidered with blue dogs with scarlet eyes, for a serviceable pair of winter gloves, fur lined preferred. Must be mates.”

“Boston young lady, temporarily residing in New York, would like to exchange eight copies of Browning’s complete works, all new and unused, for a pair of gold rimmed spectacles, No. 5, near sighted.”

“Young married man will trade a box of cigars (handsome work of art on inside of lid) for a ten cent plug of chewing tobacco.”

“Gentleman desires to part with a pair of large red mittens. Will accept a two ply ham sandwich or three Frankfurter sausages in exchange.”

“Youth will give a copy of Lamb’s Poems of Childhood (leaves uncut), for a baseball bat or a cheap pistol with a box of cartridges.”

“A musically inclined girl will exchange her brother’s irresponsible cornet for an upright piano.”

“A young gentleman of eleven, in long pantaloons, will give a fancy cap, labeled ‘For a Good Boy,’ for a ticket to any accessible dime museum.”

“Young lady of fourteen wishes to exchange a wax doll, with real hair, for a copy of ‘The Quick or the Dead’; also a rubber cry doll for twenty five cents’ worth of chewing gum, vanilla or strawberry.”

“The father of a seven year old boy wishes to dispose of a new bass drum, warranted sound (too sound, in fact). No reasonable offer refused.”

Munsey’s Magazine, Volume 10, 1894: pp. 318-319

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a brilliant idea!  Still, Mrs Daffodil fears that consumers would fight shy of those cigars, which young brides were proverbially dreadful at choosing, not to mention uncut volumes of Browning and Lamb. The Quick or the Dead, which readers may examine for themselves here, is a sensational novel about a woman torn between her love for her dead husband and a living suitor. It was notorious in its day and has been described as “morbid,” “hysterical,” and “immature.” The author was particularly fond of adjectives:  “A rich purple-blue dusk had sunk down over the land, and the gleam of the frozen ice-pond in the far field shone desolately forth from tangled patches of orange-colored wild grass.” “She threw herself into a drift of crimson pillows … brooding upon the broken fire, whose lilac flames palpitated over a bed of gold-veined coals.” Obviously the perfect gift for a young lady of fourteen.

Mrs Daffodil hopes that all of you had a Happy Christmas and did not receive any of the presents above, especially that irresponsible cornet.

 

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.