Category Archives: Christmas

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.

Mrs Daffodil’s Holiday Greetings: 2019

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers all the joys of the holiday season

and every good thing in the New Year!

 

 

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 Society Reporter’s Christmas: 1893

society 1920

LITTLE EVA SWALLOWTAIL,

Or, The Society Reporter’s Christmas.

Early morn in the little parlor of a humble white cottage, where Susan Swallowtail sat waiting for her husband to return from the ball. It lacked but a few days of Christmas, and she had arisen with her little ones at five o’clock in order that William, her husband, might have a warm breakfast and a loving greeting on his return after his long night’s work.

Seated before the fire, with her sewing on her lap, Susan Swallowtail’s thoughts went back to the days when William, then on the threshold of his career as a society reporter, had first won her young heart by his description of her costume at the ball of the “Ladies’ Daughters’ Association of the Ninth Ward.” She remembered how gallantly and tenderly he had wooed her through the columns of the four weekly and Sunday papers in which he conducted the “Fashion Chit-Chat” columns, and then the tears filled her eyes as memory brought once more before her the terrible night when William came to the house and asked her father, the stern old house and sign-painter, for his daughter’s hand.

“And yet,” said Susan to herself, “my life has not been altogether an unhappy one in spite of our poverty. William has a kind heart, and I am sure that if he had anything to wear besides his dress-suit and flannel dressing-gown he would often brighten my lot by taking me out somewhere in the daytime. Ah, if papa would only relent! But I fear he will never forgive me for my marriage.”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of familiar footsteps in the hall, and the next moment her husband had clasped her in his arms, while the children clung to his ulster, and clamored for their early morning kiss.

But there was a cloud on the young husband’s brow and a tremor on his lips as he said: “Run away now, little ones; papa and mamma have something to say to one another that little ears must not hear.”

“My darling,” he said, as soon as they were alone, ” I fear that our Christmas will not be a very merry one. You know how we always depend on the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie for our Christmas dinner?”

“Indeed, I do,” replied the young wife, with a bright smile; “what beautiful slices of roast beef and magnificent mince-pies you always bring home from that ball! Surely, they will give their entertainment on Christmas-eve this year as they always have?”

“Yes, but — can you bear to hear it, my own love?”

“Let me know the worst,” said the young wife, bravely.

“Then,” said William, hoarsely, ” I will tell you. I am not going to that ball. The city editor is going to take the assignment himself, and I must go to a literary and artistic gathering, where there will be nothing but tea and recitations.”

” Yes.” said Susan, bitterly ; “and sandwiches so thin that they can be used to watch the eclipse of the sun. But what have you brought back with you now ? I hope it is something nourishing.”

“My darling.” replied William Swallowtail, in faltering tones, ” I fear you are doomed to another disappointment. I have done my best to-night, but this is all I could get my hands on;” and with these words he drew from the pockets of his heavy woolen ulster a paper-bag filled with wine jelly, a box of matrons glacis, and two pint bottles of champagne.

“Is that all?” said Susan, reproachfully. “The children have had nothing to eat since yesterday morning except patis de foie gras, macaroons, and hot-house grapes. All day long they have been crying for corned-beef sandwiches, and I have had none to give them. You told me, William, when we parted in the early evening, that you were going to a house where there would be at least ham, and perhaps bottled beer, and now you return to me with this paltry package of jelly and that very sweet wine. I hope, William ” — and a cold, hard look of suspicion crept into her face — “that you have not forgotten your vows, and given to another…”

“Susan!” cried William Swallowtail, “how can you speak or even think of such a thing, when you know full well that…”

But Susan withdrew from his embrace, and asked, in bitter, cold accents: “Was there ham at that reception or was there not?”

“There was ham, and corned-beef, too. I will not deny it; but…”

“Then, William, with what woman have you shared it?” demanded the young wife, drawing herself up lo her full height, and fixing her dark, flashing eyes full upon him.

“Susan, I implore you, listen to me, and do not judge me too harshly. There was ham, but there were several German noblemen there, too — Baron Sneeze, of the Austrian legation. Count Pretzel, and a dozen more. The smell of meat inflamed them, and 1 fought my way through them in time to save only this from the wreck.”

He drew from his ulster-pocket something done up in a piece of paper, and handed it to his wife. She opened the package, and saw that it contained what looked like a long piece of very highly polished ivory. Then her face softened, her lips trembled, and her eyes brimmed over with tears. “Forgive my unjust suspicions,” she exclaimed, as she threw herself once more into his arms. “The mute ham-bone tells me, far more strongly than any words of yours could, the story of the society reporter’s awful struggle for life.”

William kissed his young wife affectionately, and then sat down to the breakfast which she had prepared for him.

“I hope,” she said, cheerfully, as she took a dish of lobster-salad from the oven, where it had been warmed over, “that you will keep a sharp lookout for quail this week. It would be nice to have one or two for our Christmas dinner. Of course we can not afford corned-beef and cabbage like those rich people, whom you call by their first names, when you write about them in the Sunday papers; but I do hope we will not be obliged to put up with cakes and pastry and such wretched stuff.”

“Quail!” exclaimed her husband. “They are so scarce and shy this winter that we are obliged to take setter-dogs with us to the entertainments at which they are served. But I will do my best, darling.”

As soon as William had gone to bed, Susan took from its hiding place the present which she had prepared for her husband, and proceeded to sew it to the inside of his ulster as a Christmas surprise for him. She sighed to think that it was the best she could afford this year. It was a useful rather than an ornamental gift — a simple rubber pocket, made from a piece of an old mackintosh, and intended for William to carry soup in.

But Susan had a bright, hopeful spirit, and a smile soon smoothed the furrows from her face, as she murmured: “How nice it will be when William comes home with his new pocket filled with nice, warm, nourishing bouillon!” and then she glanced up from her work and saw that her daughter, little golden-haired Eva, had entered the room, and was looking at her out of her great truthful deep-blue eyes.

It was Christmas-eve, and, as Jacob Scaffold trudged through the frosty streets, the keen air brought a ruddy glow to his cheeks and tipped his nose with a brighter carmine than any that he used in the practice of his art. Entering the hall in which the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie was taking place, the proud old house and sign-painter quickly divested himself of his outer wraps and made his way to the committee-room.

Then, adorned with a huge badge and streamer, he strolled out to greet his friends, who were making merry on the polished floor of the ball-room. But, although the band played its most stirring measures and the lights gleamed on arms and necks of dazzling whiteness, old Jacob Scaffold sighed deeply as he seated himself in a rather obscure corner and allowed his eyes to roam about the room as if in search of some familiar face.

The fact was that the haughty, purse-proud old man was thinking of another Christmas-eve ten years before when his daughter Susan had danced at this same ball, the brightest, the prettiest, and the most sought-after girl on the floor.

“And to think,” said the old man to himself, “that with all the opportunities she had to make a good match, she should have taken up with that reporter in the shiny dress-suit! It’s five years since I’ve heard anything of her, but of late I’ve been thinking that maybe I was too harsh with her, and, perhaps…”

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a servant who told him that some one desired to see him in the committee-room. On reaching that apartment he found a little girl of, perhaps, eight years of age, plainly clad and carrying a basket in her hand.

Fixing her eyes on Jacob Scaffold, she said:

“Please, sir, are you the chairman of the press committee?”

“I am,” replied the puzzled artist; “but who are you?”

“I am the reporter of the Sunday Guff. My papa has charge of the ‘What the Four Hundred are Doing’ column, but to-night he is obliged to attend a chromo-literary reception, where there will be nothing to eat but tea and cake. Papa has reported your balls and chowder excursions for the past five years, and we have always had ham for dessert for a week afterward. We had all been looking forward to your Christmas-eve ball, and when papa told us that he would have to go to the tea and cake place to-night, mamma felt so badly that I took papa’s ticket out of his pocket when he was asleep and came here myself. Papa has a thick ulster, full of nice big pockets, that he puts on when he goes out to report, but I have brought a basket.”

The child finished her simple and affecting narrative, and the members of the press committee looked at one another dumbfounded. Jacob Scaffold was the first to break the silence.

“And what is your name, little child?” he inquired.

” Eva Swallowtail,” she answered, as she turned a pair of trusting innocent blue eyes full upon him.

The old man grew pale and his lips trembled as he gathered his grandchild in his arms. The other members of the committee softly left the room, for they all knew the story of Susan Scaffold’s misalliance and her father’s bitter feelings toward her and her husband.

“What!” cried Jacob Scaffold, “my grandchild wanting bread! Come to me, little one, and we’ll see what can be done for you.”

And, putting on his heavy ulster, he took little Eva by the hand and led the way to the great thoroughfare, on which the stores were still open.

*******

It was a happy family party that sat down to dinner in William Swallowtail’s humble home that bright Christmas day, and well did the little ones enjoy the treat which their generous new-found grandparent provided for them. They began with a soup made of wine jelly, and ended with a delicious dessert of corned-beef sandwiches and large German pickles; and then, when they could eat no more, and not even a pork pie could tempt their appetites, Grandpa Scaffold told his daughter that he was willing to lift his son-in-law from the hard and degrading labor of writing society chronicles, and give him a chance to better himself with a whitewash brush. “And,” continued the old man, “if I see that he possesses true artistic talent, I will some day give him a chance at the side of a house.” — James L. Ford in Truth.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 January  1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending. Society reportage, with its emphasis on “Upper Ten-dom” tittle-tattle, bore an ambiguous reputation. On one hand, etiquette proclaimed that a lady’s name should never be mentioned in the press except at her birth, marriage, and death. On the other, social columns were highly popular, both with the participants in cotillions, balls, kettledrums, and receptions, and with the “little people,” who thrilled vicariously to descriptions of fancy-dress costumes, champagne suppers, and cotillion figures and favours.

At the time of the writing of this piece, society journalism was becoming the purview of female journalists. Mr William Swallowtail, was fortunate to be rescued by his father-in-law from the hard and degrading labour of writing society chronicles before he was rendered redundant by a lady reporter who would be paid half his wages.

Still, it is a bit disappointing not to have seen the rubber pocket deployed.

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.

His Christmas Gift: 1870

MORVEN’S CHRISTMAS GIFT

 We were sitting in the twilight of Christmas Eve. A long, restful silence had fallen. It was broken at last by the shouts of the children, coming down stairs and full of Christmas turbulence. Just as Morven’s wife had slipped to his side under cover of the shadows, so she now dropped his hand and slipped away before the advancing noise and light. The tie between them always reminded me of some powerful undercurrent, swift, deep, still. It had little or no surface manifestation, but if you chanced to drop into its shadowed seclusion, you felt it actually in the air about you, wave on wave, a mighty pulsation.

The jolly little scamps who called Morven Uncle burst in, following the butler, the lamp, and tea. In their midst they bore Morven’s only child, a wonderful boy of some three years, with a serene, grave, angelic face, and a mysterious look deep in his starry eyes. I never saw such eyes before. They had rings of light around the pupil; their clearness and stillness were wonderful; they were eyes that gazed upon unseen things. The baby had a gravity and a gentleness beyond his years: he looked like a baby St. John, and I used to call him— predicting, perhaps— “the young disciple.”

On this occasion he was promptly transferred to his mother’s neck, where he accomplished his customary feat of throwing out one dimpled arm like a tendril and linking his father to the group. To see the Morvens standing thus, united by that gravely radiant child, was to feel instinctively that their’s was no ordinary history, that the child was born to some unusual and high, if intangible, destiny. Even the noisy children stood, touched and adoring, at the sight, and kissed his pretty hands as he smiled down on them. This mood soon passed, and presently I heard one ask Morven who gave him the best Christmas gift he ever had.

“My best Christmas present,” he answered, “ was from myself to myself.” ‘

The children laughed, then asked what it was.

“This,” he said, raising Mrs. Morven’s hand to his lips.

“Pshaw ! I should think Aunty gave you that,” they remonstrated.

“No, she didn’t,” insisted Morven. “It came from myself to myself.”

The children scented a story and fell upon him as legitimate prey. Mrs. Morven, however, gave him a warning look and diverted their attention in her skilful way until bedtime. But my curiosity had been aroused, and, when bed had swallowed up the merry cohort, I told Morven I wanted to hear that story. He hesitated.

“Do you believe,” he said, “in the latent powers in man?”

“H — m. That depends.” “Exactly. And on your reply my telling the story, or not, depends.”

“Well, old man; your price is high. Christmas gifts generally do come high, however; so I’ll brave your probable ridicule and admit that I do believe in them, to some extent, in some men.”

“That is, that they inhere in the inner man, (grant me the inner man, for a Christmas story anyhow), and may manifest under unusual circumstances?”

“In some men, while latent in all. Precisely; you put my idea in a nut shell.”

“Well, then, you shall have the story. In the year 1870 I was a young business man of good prospects, going into the world a good deal, rather sought by it as well, and full of material life and worldly ambition. I had engaged myself to a Miss Y., a handsome girl, well born, well educated, a promising society leader, with a fortune about equal to my own, and a Father who could decidedly advance my business prospects. I had carried her away from a score of admirers, and I have heard of her saying somewhat the same thing of myself. We were satisfied with our arrangement; I preferred her to all the women of our circle; she always satisfied my pride and sometimes aroused my passion. I expected no more of any woman. So I never knew exactly why a chilly shadow seemed to fall across my mind now and then. This shade was an indefinite, lurking, irregular thing. I set it down to a touch of dyspepsia. Then I noticed that it vaguely connected itself with my engagement. The moment this fact became apparent to me, I interrogated myself, like an honest man. Had I seen any other woman who attracted me? I knew I had not. There was an ideal head, a St Cecilia, by Raphael, the engraving of which I had loved from childhood, when I manifested a peculiar fondness for it. My mother had left me the engraving in consequence; it always hung over my desk. It was the one hidden soft spot in my heart, but I knew I had never seen a woman like it. Not one gave me that soft glow, as of reminiscent tenderness, which awoke in me as I looked on that grand face. This I attributed to the genius of the painter, who has set the seal of Harmony upon its noble brows. Finding no rival but this for Miss Y., I laughed at my chimera and dismissed it to the land of shades from which it came. Or— to be exact— I tried to dismiss it. Such ghosts “will not down” at our bidding, and especially did I feel its forbidding gloom when Miss Y. granted me any of the privileges of an accepted lover. Then the shadow seemed to rise between us, chilling the touch of my lips and hand, however I might argue it away. Our engagement was only six weeks old when I called on her two days before Christmas. As I entered the parlor, a snatch of music rang from the boudoir beyond, the closing notes of some majestic theme. At the same moment the face of St Cecilia rose vividly before me, objectively floating in the air and accompanied by a peculiar crackling sound.

“I interrupted him. “I have heard that some such tense sound often accompanies a so-called psychic event.”

“Very true. But I did not stop to analyse that I attributed the thing to the music and the train of thought thus established, while Miss Y ’s entrance put a stop to all meditation. Presently I asked her who the unseen musician was.

“The children’s governess,——a distant connection. Have you never seen her?”

I hesitated, searching my memory. Miss Y seemed surprised, even a little suspicious.

“If you have not, it is odd,” she said. ‘‘And if you have, and have forgotten it, that is odder still.” She drew a large portfolio before her. “The face is a peculiar one; see!” She held up a large photograph before me.

“You are out there,” I smiled, for this is Raphael’s St Cecilia,” and I turned the photograph toward her. She laughed triumphantly.

“Just so. I’m glad you see the resemblance. It was my discovery, but no one could see it till I dressed her hair and gowned her like the original and had this photograph taken. But you’re tired. Sit down.”

She pushed a chair towards me and I dropped into it mechanically. Something extraordinary was taking place within me. I couldn’t have spoken for my life, really. My experience had no name for the feeling that took possession of me. Something coursed up and down in my veins like fiery mist. Pictures swam in and out of my brain, all of them connected with that face. I seemed to hear the roaring of cataracts. A great Past was on the point of opening before me; my mind was swallowed up in it already. As soon as I could, I took my leave, but not before Miss Y. had noticed my altered manner and responded to it by a touch of coldness in her own. As I rose, she detained me.

“You know I am not of a suspicious nature,” she said. “But several times lately I have noticed a change in you; an abstraction, a distance. I do not know whether it relates to our engagement.”

I began to protest. She stopped me proudly.

“Let me finish, please. I have no reasons, and I think you have none, to be dissatisfied with our plans. But I do not understand a woman’s giving her heart fully until after marriage, and, if before that time yours or mine should waver, it would be far better to tell the truth then.”

“I assented; praised her right feeling ; assured her of my——heaven knows what!——and got away, leaving her evidently dissatisfied. I wanted to get out of the house and think. The deuce of it was, I couldn’t think. Everything seemed at boiling point. I heard those chords, I saw that face, and hurrying phantoms, shapes of air and fire, opened the flood gates of an unknown Past that plucked at my brain, urging me to I knew not what Seriously alarmed, I hurried home, intending to send for a physician. Exhausted, I dropped into the nearest arm chair, when all at once the fierce tension relaxed, something seemed to snap inside me,— I fell back and fell asleep.

When I awoke, it was ten o’clock of the next day, and I felt like a man who has recovered from a long illness. I believed that opportune sleep had saved me from one. As I rose, a bit of paper fluttered from my knee to the floor. I did not stop to pick it up. For years I had not felt so light of heart. Tons seemed lifted off me. I whistled and sang while I dressed, — and became aware that it was those remembered chords I repeated,— and airily kissed my fingers to my St Cecilia with an “Au Revoir” as I clattered down stairs. I was not due at the Y. mansion until afternoon. All through the day’s occupations my unwonted cheerfulness did not desert me, and my partner congratulated me on having “downed that dyspepsia.” I felt a marked impatience to go to the Y’s, and finally forestalled the hour by some twenty minutes. The butler portentously stopped me as I was entering the parlor.

“Mr. Y. wishes to see you in his study, sir.”

Surprised, I accompanied the man and found Mr. Y . waiting for me. He waved my offered hand aside.

“Excuse me a moment, Mr. Morven,” he said. “Let us first understand one another.”

I stared at this singular preliminary, but replied that I was at his service. We both sat down, and he resumed.

“I am a believer in perfect frankness. My daughter received last night an anonymous communication concerning you.”

I suppose I looked the surprise I felt. His tone softened somewhat.

“Such communications are better put in the fire and forgotten. Unfortunately— or fortunately, as the event may decide— my daughter remembered certain things which seemed to confirm the statements of this note. With the good sense which always characterizes her,’’ (here I bowed my assenting admiration, while he frowned at me), “she decided to bring the note to me. In my opinion, we are justified in bringing it to your attention. You have only to deny or confirm the statements it makes. My daughter and I are agreed, Mr. Morven, that we may safely accept your word.”

I tried to thank him. “Not at all,” said he. “So much is due to ourselves. Our present relation would not exist at all, if you were not a man of honor. Permit me to read you the note.”

Taking a sheet of paper from his desk, he read as follows.

“Your lover does not love you. Ask him if this is not true. He struggles against an affection which is beyond his control. He tries to subordinate that to the worldly advantages of his previous engagement with you. But it is your cousin whom he loves, just as she loves him, although no words have passed between them. They love with a force which you will never know, in this life at least, or be able to understand. Morven tries to keep his pledge to you, but shall you hold him against his hidden desire, his secret will? If you do, your whole life will feel the blight of your action.” As Y. read this extraordinary production, I sat like one deaf and dumb. Again the air about me surged and sang, bringing vague memories on its burning tide. As Y. concluded, he looked up abruptly.

“Have you any idea who could have written the thing? It is a peculiar hand”— and he placed the note in my hands.

I looked at it, fascinated. Then I rose to my feet. The hand writing was my own. Not my ordinary hand, but one I had practiced from boyhood to write in my private diary. Every accustomed quirl of the letters was there. As I mutely glared at it I heard in the distance the harmony I knew so well. The face of St Cecilia rose again before me; the floor met the ceiling with a clap, and thoughts of surprising lucidity and swiftness swept through my brain. Only a couple of seconds passed, but I saw it all. I loved her, I had always loved her, and in my sleep my inner self, that part of me where memory of past lives was stored, had awakened and set me free. I turned to the expectant Y.

“As far as I am concerned, Sir,” I said, “I must admit the truth of this accusation. I can only say in extenuation that I did not know myself thoroughly, and that I have not addressed Miss Marie on the subject”

“That is just what she said when my daughter questioned her. It seems a remarkable coincidence of feeling to have arisen without words,” he said with pardonable bitterness. But what did his bitterness matter to me? “Coincidence?” Then she loved me! I hastened to say that in all the circumstances I should wish to see the lady first in his presence. He must have anticipated this on my part, for he opened a door, and my Darling stood before me. To feel what I then felt was to know that I had been hers from all time, that I was hers forever. That she returned this feeling, her timid step and downcast eyes told me eloquently. We found Mr. Y. coldly just. He promised to convey my profound apologies to his daughter, he suggested that I had better be a stranger to his house for some time to come, intimated that when we met again it would be with mutual respect. Then he rose to end the interview. Perhaps the look I gave him reminded him of his own youth, for he left the room. All this while my Darling sat, quivering and shamed, in her chair. I hope I made it up to her. I learned how she had seen me by stray glimpses and loved me. She supposed that I had seen her in the same way, and to this day, the one secret I have from her is in that point. I have never told her that she was known to my inner self alone. When I returned to my room that evening my eye fell upon a bit of paper on the floor. I picked it up. It was a District Telegraph receipt for a note, signed by Miss Y. Here was proof, had I needed any. But I did not. I knew that my Darling was a Christmas gift from myself to myself.”

Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Morven. I now understood the meaning of a gold bracelet she always wore locked upon her wrist, and which bore in letters of sapphire these words: As Ever. Forever.

J. Campbell Ver Planck.

The Path December 1889  pp:  265 -270

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Morven was, indeed, fortunate to have a subconscious–or “latent powers”–looking out for his interests. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the sort of a young woman who would coif and costume the poor-relation governess, have her photographed in the character of St Cecilia, and then taunt her affianced with the portrait was unlikely to make Mr Morven’s married life a dream of joy.

 

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.

Novel Ways to Distribute Christmas Gifts: 1911-12, 1921

Clad as a Christmas tree and ready to distribute the presents.

Clad as a Christmas tree and ready to distribute the presents.

This post was previously published in December, 2013.

As we have seen, it isn’t enough to merely purchase and wrap presents in the traditional snowy tissue paper. To meet the newly-elevated standards, which, frankly, Mrs Daffodil finds rather nouveau-riche, one must disguise those presents in ingenious wrappings and, further, distribute them in unusual ways. The Queen of Italy, for example, distributed her Christmas presents in 1886 by lottery, The Prince of Naples and the Queen held satin bags—one filled with names and the other numbers. Mrs Daffodil imagines that the prizes on that occasion were far more lavish than the beef and blankets distributed to English estate workers. Here are several other instances of up-to-date present distribution:

A LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE

An animated Christmas tree would prove the greatest possible success. The part of the Christmas tree should be played by a tall child of twelve or thirteen, dressed to represent a fir tree. A white princess petticoat makes a good foundation, upon which wide flounces of dark green crinkled paper can be tacked. Several stiff white muslin petticoats should be also worn to stick out the dress at the bottom.

The “tree” must be hung with strings of silver tinsel, very light Christmas tree ornaments, strings of small gaily coloured crackers and a variety of bright penny toys, which should be lightly sewn onto the dress right through to the princess lining, for the weight of them would tear the paper.

The “Christmas tree” must have a cap adorned with a Christmas star and must stand in a red earthenware bread pan to represent the pot, the heavier presents being piled up round her feet.

A tiny brother clad as a wee Santa Claus with a red flannel dressing gown, adorned with bands of cotton wool spangled with hoar frost, wearing a cotton wool bear; or a wee sister as a Christmas tree fairy, in a frilly pink crinkled paper frock, with wings of silver paper and a twinkling Christmas tree star in her hair, armed with a pair of scissors, may be introduced into the scheme to cut off and distribute the gifts.

THE POSTMAN HIMSELF

“Postman’s Knock” has a delightfully Christmassy sound, and if well carried out is the greatest possible success.

The part of Postman should be played by father, uncle, or big elder brother, though, failing these, a feminine postman, providing she wears the traditional postman’s cap and a man’s overcoat and a sprig of holly in her buttonhole.

The one absolute essential is that the postman should bring with him a big bag filled with stamped and addressed parcels.

If the present distributing is to take place immediately after tea at a small Christmas party, a lively game, such as Hunt the Slipper or Blind Man’s Bluff, should be started and when the fun is at its highest a double postman’s knock comes at the door—the game stops abruptly and as the children glance wonderingly at one another, the hostess, having answered the knock, returns to say, “A parcel for Miss Mary Dash. Go out to the postman, dear, and fetch it.”

Out goes the small recipient to return a moment later with a fully addressed parcel, which he or she proceeds to unwrap, to the intense interest of the other children. A second knock heralds the return of the postman, who this time asks for Master Harold Dash, and so the game goes on, until each member of the company has been outside.

In order to make the parcels thoroughly realistic looking used stamps should be collected for some little time beforehand and a few gummed onto each parcel which, having been wrapped up in brown paper and string, may be further adorned with one or two Christmas seals.

A MAGIC COAL BOX

A magic Christmas coal box creates much amusement. For this small-sized presents must be chosen, in order that they may be wrapped up in black paper to resemble lumps of coal.

The “coal” is now piled into a big brass coal scuttle, or round witch’s cauldron, before being carried into the room, and the children are invited to come forward one by one to take a knob of coal with a pair of tongs provided for the purpose.

When they discover that each one contains a wee Christmas gift their delight knows no bounds, and one dare predict that such a novel form of “lucky dip” would prove an equal success at a grown-up evening party. 

London Evening News 19 December 1911: p. 7

Distributing the Gifts

Going to the post-office is a jolly method of distribution. Pasteboard and brown paper, aided by judicious grouping of chairs and tables, easily transform a room into a post-office, and a wisely selected postmaster may make the collection of mail an occasion of much merriment. Have general delivery and lock boxes, and at the general delivery window see that each person is properly identified.

A Christmas hunt is always exciting. The clue, given at the breakfast table, is written on a slip of paper in some such words as these: “Pass the parlor, shun the hall, seek the summer kitchen wall.” In that vicinity the gift will be found, wrapped and addressee. It adds to the fun if the directions lead first to other rhymes, three or four being followed up before the hidden treasure is found….

Still another hunt takes the form of a polar expedition and is great sport in the country when there is snow enough for it. Immediately after breakfast the entire party sets out for a walk. When they turn toward home, the host or someone selected as guide informs them that supplies are hidden along the way in various caches and they will do well to look out for them. Each cache is merely a mound of snow covering lightly a quantity of gift packages, securely wrapped. There need be only three or four mounds and the gifts should be divided promiscuously among them. If the walk has been long, the first cache to be found—that is, the one farthest from home—may hide a box of cookies, which will be haled joyfully and will make the gifts in the next cache an even greater surprise.
The last cache to be reached may be the centerpiece on the dining table. Here it should be of cotton glittering with diamond dust with the pole rising from the middle of it, a fat, squatty pole with a jolly Santa Claus top.

Small gifts may be concealed in a Jack Horner pie, brought to the table when dinner is finished. Choose a deep, round pan of a size to fit the number of the party and put into it the present, each daintily wrapped and marked with the name of the one to receive it. The Herald [Algiers, LA], 1921

One might also call upon a conjuror to hand out the Christmas gifts:

Next comes the conjuror, and especially the old-fashioned conjuror—he who produces hens from tea canisters, doves from beneath flower pots and yards of orange-coloured satin ribbon from his mouth. The “pocket conjuror,” whose skill lies in his fingers, is the one most generally met with, and all his apparatus, as his name implies goes into his pockets. He occasionally finds himself in a somewhat awkward situation, as hostesses have hit upon the idea of  distributing presents through the medium of the conjuror. At a recent party the unfortunate entertainer was made responsible for the production of a large elephant and a wheelbarrow.

London Standard 27 December 1912: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Here in the Servants’ Hall, we do not require a conjuror or “lucky dip” to distribute his Lordship’s Boxing Day bounty:  a dress length wrapped in tissue paper for the females and tobacco for the men. Mrs Daffodil is anticipating a length of black taffeta and a little extra in the pay envelope in token of his Lordship’s appreciation of her handling a delicate affair for one of his cousins, which, without her, would have been a matter for assisting the police with their inquiries. If the truth were told, Mrs Daffodil knows of several individuals who deserve to receive large lumps of genuine coal instead of cleverly wrapped gifts.

 

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.

It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story: 1891

The Ghost of Marley

The Ghost of Marley visits Scrooge.

It was Christmas Eve.

I begin this way, because it is the proper, orthodox, respectable way to begin, and I have been brought up in a proper, orthodox, respectable way, and taught to always do the proper, orthodox, respectable thing; and the habit clings to me.

Of course, as a mere matter of information it is quite unnecessary to mention the date at all. The experienced reader knows it was Christmas Eve, without my telling him. It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story.

Christmas Eve is the ghosts’ great gala night. On Christmas Eve they hold their annual fete. On Christmas Eve everybody in Ghostland who is anybody—or rather, speaking of ghosts, one should say, I suppose, every nobody who is any nobody—comes out to show himself or herself, to see and to be seen, to promenade about and display their winding-sheets and grave-clothes to each other, to criticise one another’s style, and sneer at one another’s complexion.

‘Christmas Eve parade,’ as I expect they themselves term it, is a function, doubtless, eagerly prepared for and looked forward to throughout Ghostland, especially by the swagger set, such as the murdered Barons, the crime-stained Countesses, and the Earls who came over with the Conqueror, and assassinated their relatives, and died raving mad.

Hollow moans and fiendish grins are, one may be sure, energetically practised up. Blood-curdling shrieks and marrow-freezing gestures are probably rehearsed for weeks beforehand.

Rusty chains and gory daggers are overhauled, and put into good working order; and sheets and shrouds, laid carefully by from the previous year’s show, are taken down and shaken out, and mended, and aired.

Oh, it is a stirring night in Ghostland, the night of December the twenty-fourth!

Ghosts never come out on Christmas night itself, you may have noticed. Christmas Eve, we suspect, has been too much for them; they are not used to excitement. For about a week after Christmas Eve, the gentlemen ghosts, no doubt, feel as if they were all head, and go about making solemn resolutions to themselves that they will stop in next Christmas Eve; while the lady spectres are contradictory and snappish, and liable to burst into tears and leave the room hurriedly on being spoken to, for no perceptible cause whatever.

Ghosts with no position to maintain—mere middle – class ghosts — occasionally, I believe, do a little haunting on off-nights: on All-hallows Eve, and at Midsummer; and some will even run up for a mere local event—to celebrate, for instance, the anniversary of the hanging of somebody’s grandfather, or to prophesy a misfortune.

He does love prophesying a misfortune, does the average British ghost. Send him out to prognosticate trouble to somebody, and he is happy. Let him force his way into a peaceful home, and turn the whole house upside down by foretelling a funeral, or predicting a bankruptcy, or hinting at a coming disgrace, or some other terrible disaster, about which nobody in their senses would want to know sooner than they could possibly help, and the prior knowledge of which can serve no useful purpose whatsoever, and he feels that he is combining duty with pleasure. He would never forgive himself if anybody in his family had a trouble and he had not been there for a couple of months beforehand, doing silly tricks on the lawn,or balancing himself on somebody’s bedrail.

Then there are, besides, the very young, or very conscientious ghosts with a lost will or an undiscovered number weighing heavy on their minds, who will haunt steadily all the year round; and also the fussy ghost, who is indignant at having been buried in the dust-bin or in the village pond, and who never gives the parish a single night’s quiet until somebody has paid for a first-class funeral for him.

But these are the exceptions. As I have said, the average orthodox ghost does his one turn a year, on Christmas Eve, and is satisfied.

Why on Christmas Eve, of all nights in the year, I never could myself understand. It is invariably one of the most dismal of nights to be out in —cold, muddy, and wet. And besides, at Christmas time, everybody has quite enough to put up with in the way of a houseful of living relations, without wanting the ghosts of any dead ones mooning about the place, I am sure.

There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas—something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails.

And not only do the ghosts themselves always walk on Christmas Eve, but live people always sit and talk about them on Christmas Eve. Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood. 

There is a good deal of similarity about our ghostly experiences; but this of course is not our fault but the fault of the ghosts, who never will try any new performances, but always will keep steadily to the old, safe business. The consequence is that, when you have been at one Christmas Eve party, and heard six people relate their adventures with spirits, you do not require to hear any more ghost stories. To listen to any further ghost stories after that would be like sitting out two farcical comedies, or taking in two comic journals; the repetition would become wearisome.

There is always the young man who was, one year, spending the Christmas at a country house, and, on Christmas Eve, they put him to sleep in the west wing. Then in the middle of the night, the room door quietly opens and somebody — generally a lady in her night-dress—walks slowly in, and comes and sits on the bed. The young man thinks it must be one of the visitors, or some relative of the family, though he does not remember having previously seen her, who, unable to go to sleep, and feeling lonesome, all by herself, has come into his room for a chat. He has no idea it is a ghost: he is so unsuspicious. She does not speak, however; and, when he looks again, she is gone!

The young man relates the circumstance at the breakfast – table next morning, and asks each of the ladies present if it were she who was his visitor. But they all assure him that it was not, and the host, who has grown deadly pale, begs him to say no more about the matter, which strikes the young man as a singularly strange request.

After breakfast the host takes the young man into a corner, and explains to him that what he saw was the ghost of a lady who had been murdered in that very bed, or who had murdered somebody else there—it does not really matter which: you can be a ghost by murdering somebody else or by being murdered yourself, whichever you prefer. The murdered ghost is, perhaps, the more popular; but, on the other hand, you can frighten people better if you are the murdered one, because then you can show your wounds and do groans. Then there is the sceptical guest—it is always ‘the guest’ who gets let in for this sort of thing, by-the-bye. A ghost never thinks much of his own family: it is ‘the guest* he likes to haunt who after listening to the host’s ghost story, on Christmas Eve, laughs at it, and says that he does not believe there are such things as ghosts at all; and that he will sleep in the haunted chamber that very night, if they will let him.

Everybody urges him not to be reckless, but he persists in his foolhardiness, and goes up to the Yellow Chamber (or whatever colour the haunted room may be) with a light heart and a candle, and wishes them all goodnight, and shuts the door.

Next morning he has got snow white hair.

He does not tell anybody what he has seen: it is too awful.

There is also the plucky guest, who sees a ghost, and knows it is a ghost, and watches it, as it comes into the room and disappears through the wainscot, after which, as the ghost does not seem to be coming back, and there is nothing, consequently, to be gained by stopping awake, he goes to sleep.

He does not mention having seen the ghost to anybody, for fear of frightening them—some people are so nervous about ghosts,—but determines to wait for the next night, and see if the apparition appears again.

It does appear again, and, this time, he gets out of bed, dresses himself and does his hair, and follows it; and then discovers a secret passage leading from the bedroom down into the beer-cellar, —a passage which, no doubt, was not unfrequently made use of in the bad old days of yore.

After him comes the young man who woke up with a strange sensation in the middle of the night, and found his rich bachelor uncle standing by his bedside. The rich uncle smiled a weird sort of smile and vanished. The young man immediately got up and looked at his watch. It had stopped at half-past four, he having forgotten to wind it.

He made inquiries the next day, and found that, strangely enough, his rich uncle, whose only nephew he was, had married a widow with eleven children at exactly a quarter to twelve, only two days ago.

The young man does not attempt to explain the extraordinary circumstance. All he does is to vouch for the truth of his narrative.

And, to mention another case, there is the gentleman who is returning home late at night, from a Freemasons’ dinner, and who, noticing a light issuing from a ruined abbey, creeps up, and looks through the keyhole. He sees the ghost of a ‘grey sister’ kissing the ghost of a brown monk, and is so inexpressibly shocked and frightened, that he faints on the spot, and is discovered there the next morning, lying in a heap against the or, still speechless, and with his faithful latch-key clasped tightly in his hand.

All these things happen on Christmas Eve, they are all told of on Christmas Eve. For ghost stories to be told on any other evening than the evening of the twenty-fourth of December would be impossible in English society as at present regulated. Therefore, in introducing the sad but authentic ghost stories that follow hereafter, I feel that it is unnecessary to inform the student of Anglo-Saxon literature that the date on which they were told and on which the incidents took place was—Christmas Eve.

Nevertheless, I do so.

“Introduction,” Told After Supper, Jerome K. Jerome, 1891

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Sadly, the English Christmas ghost story tradition has fallen into disuse. Worse, depictions of holiday horror have degenerated into lurid motion pictures with titles like “Santa’s Slay,” “Silent Night, Bloody Night,” and “Bikini Bloodbath Christmas,” full of inelegant and untidy homicides.

In refreshing contrast to these horrors, a gentleman named Robert Lloyd Parry has been making an effort to revive the delicious dread of the holiday season with his one-man shows, wherein he portrays the master of the Christmas Eve ghost tale, M.R. James, who, one may confidently assert, never wrote about young ladies in bathing costumes.

The author of this piece which so delightfully skewers the cliches of the Christmas ghost story, was Jerome K. Jerome [1859-1927], an actor, journalist, and author of the humourous classic Three Men in a Boat.

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, historical anecdotes, and holiday amusements.

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, historical anecdotes, and holiday amusements.

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.

This was originally posted in 2013.

An Undine with a Soul: 1892

green and pink gown

Green and pink gown by the House of Worth, 1897, Chertsey Museum

AN UNDINE WITH A SOUL.
How a Clever New York Maiden Saved Her Social Fortunes.

Special Correspondence Sunday Post-Dispatch.

New York. Gift making is over and all the world is duly thankful, a large part of it that the holiday pother is well ended, here and there an individual for what has not been received. This is notably the case with a young woman much addicted to artistic yearning and full of a fine feeling for color. Though the best circles here receive her with open arms, it is wholly because of her personal charm, backed with substantial expectations. Her family is good enough, not distinguished, and only comfortably endowed with this world’s goods. Her father claims a cross of Knickerbocker blood. Her mother comes of thrifty trader-folk, clean and honest, but wholly unaesthetic. There is a childless rich aunt, the mother’s sister, widow of a retired grocer, for whose garmenting gorgeous is a poor pale word. Fair, fat and fifty; she revels in big hats all over sky blue feathers, in velvet gowns of green and scarlet aflaunt with white lace; in brocades that would do admirably as wall tapestries; in tea-gowns calculated to make a self-respecting rainbow go out of business; in bracelets and lockets and chatelaines, distinctly audible as far as eye can reach. In fact the good lady lives to be clothed. Style is her fetish, and she offers to it a perpetual oblation of good, hard cash, expended for “all the latest things.”

Notwithstanding she shows the family thrift otherwise. The beauty, as her namesake and prospective heiress, has a reasonable claim upon her generosity. It is one, though, that the young woman most willingly waives. All her life particularly at Christmas times she has been endowed with things that her aunt bought, wore and laid aside the season before, and woe to the recipient if she dares to leave them unworn. Since she came out. two winters back, they have been the nightmare of her existence. Between tears and laughter she told me of her struggles with one particularly flamboyant gown, a grass-green silk all betagged and befrilled with vulgarly deep pink, and aglitter with crystal passementeries in the bargain. It was as rich and costly as it was ugly and to the donor’s mind exactly the thing the girl needed to wear at a swell dinner party with dancing after it, two weeks in prospect. The victim of it thought otherwise. The invitation was the first that had come to her from the really swagger set. If she did not do credit to it it would be also the last. To go in that impossible gown was to foredoom herself to social failure. What could she be but a dumb fright under the oppression of that rainbow horror? Yet not to wear it might cost her eventually a solid quarter million. It was a case of her face or her fortune, and she did not care to sacrifice either. There was nothing for it but diplomacy. Taking her courage in both hands, she stripped off every vestige of the pink, and with it ornamented a loose white cashmere house-robe, where the effect was not half so bad. This she sent to her aunt as a birthday gift, intimating that only the elder lady’s magnificent complexion could bear such rich color. Then the green remnant was veiled and swathed in clouds of pink and white tulle, layer upon layer, with crystal drops here and there and trails of water grass and lilies on the corsage and about the waist. Thus gowned, with an emerald pendant on her bare white throat, green slippers, green stockings, a white and green fan, the young woman was voted an Undine with a soul and her social success assured. But it was a narrow escape–a harrowing experience–one, too, that she feared was to be indefinitely repeated. There were three brocades in her aunt’s wardrobe that it seemed certain the Christmas just past would precipitate on her devoted head. A line in a fashion letter saved her. It read, ‘”Old brocades are more stylish than new, now that the texture is again in fashion.” By consequence, at the eleventh hour the aunt bought for her niece a bonbonniere as big as your two hands, all over gilt and flowers, and sent for her modiste to see what were the possibilities of the gowns she could not bring herself to part with.

blue and gold velvet dress 1895

1895 velvet and brocade gown. ttps://artsandculture.google.com/asset/dress/cQEsM1SnLWPe2g

So here is a new use for the fashion letter. Certainly womankind should be grateful to it for it brings much of sweetness and light into the chaos of feminine costume. The sentence quoted is frozen fact. The happiest, she is the one who had a grand aunt or mother considerate enough to leave her a chest full or even one gown of the rich old-fashioned taffeta brocade. One that I saw resurrected the other day was as freshly beautiful as though it had not come out of Paris 120 years ago. The ground was a rich chocolate brown satin brocaded with a cluster of cherries and their leaves in natural tints, alternating with poppy clusters in shaded red and yellow. It was made with a very long waist pointed and opening quite to the bottom over a stomacher of yellow lace. The same yellow lace made a tucker in the low square neck and triple ruffles for the elbow sleeves. The skirt opened in front and was looped away from a petticoat of plain brown satin short enough to show the high heeled red shoes with big bows and silver buckles and even a tiny bit of the red clocked stockings. Behind the brocade swept out into a train full three yards long, lined throughout with yellow brown paduasoy. Its first wearer was a colonial dame of renown—a vice regal lady whose stately beauty is the most cherished tradition of her descendants. This costume, which figured at more than one historic ball, has been kept intact even to fan and gloves, which by the way are as long as the longest of our period. It was brought to light with some faint idea of remodeling it into a ball-gown for a great-great granddaughter. In the end it was decided to leave it alone. There are hints, though, of a colonial costume ball for the benefit of the Mary Washington Monument association. If they take form and substance it is safe to say the brown brocade will appear and ruffle with the best.

 

 

Failing old brocade you may buy new ones twice as beautiful in all the delicate evening shades—blues like a dream of heaven or the shimmering summer sea, pale tea-rose pinks, shot stuff, opalescent as the tints of dawn or as full of changing hues as a pigeon’s purple neck; cream amber, Indian red, jonquil yellow, pearl, dead white, black, gray, crimson, all in the most lustrous weaves, with a pattern of lace festoons or true love knots, or stars or spots or crescents in self-tones running all over them. Other sorts have delicate flowers or bouquets colored to the life; still others sheaves of wheat in gold or silver, or suns or moons or intricate arabesque tracery in the same precious metals. In making up the brocade forms either a coat bodice in front with a velvet train, or else a trained skirt with bodice of fine cloth, or may be a court train and sleeves to a princess gown the color of its ground.

The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY] 27 December 1891: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We must applaud the very diplomatic young woman, even if she is much addicted to artistic yearning.  Few, if any of us, could so deftly steer between the Scylla of social ruin and the Charybdis of an aunt having a quarter million in her gift.  The Undine gown sounds enchanting. And the pink-trimmed cashmere house-robe and its attendant compliment to the aunt’s complexion was a sheer stroke of genius.

The House of Worth was noted for its exquisite brocades, often woven à la disposition or with metallic threads. The descriptions above could have come from a vendeuse tempting the Undine’s aunt at Maison Worth.

 

As a side-light, Mrs Daffodil was full of anxiety over the fate of the yellow-brown “paduasoy,” for fear that it had been remodeled, i.e. vandalised, into a ball gown for some heedless debutante. It was with a feeling of profound relief that she heard that it was left alone, although there was still the threat of the colonial costume ball. We have previously read of the historic costumes worn on such occasions in An Imposter at the Concord Ball. It is a dress-historian’s worst nightmare.

 

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.