Category Archives: Humour and Satire

Suffering from Bazaars: 1867

Collinson, James, 1825-1881; At the Bazaar

CONCERNING BAZAARS.

I wonder who “got up” the first bazaar? “The world knows nothing of its greatest men” we are told, but if the inventor of bazaars can lay claim to greatness on account of having invented bazaars, I think it is just as well for him, or her, that the world knows nothing of them. The temptation of those who have suffered either as buyers or as sellers to curse their memories would be terrible in the extreme; in fact, awful as might be the consequences of indulging in a fierce string of invective, I do not think that the temptation so to indulge could be resisted; and then consider, not only the quality, but the quantity of vituperation, for who has not at least once during their life-time suffered from bazaars?

There is a society [in aid of the deserving poor] and all the ways of collecting money from said society have been “played out” as the Yankees say, and if something is not done the society will be “played out” too…

The “Meetings in Aid” talk to empty benches, and the plates at the door have only a few coppers upon them, the collecting cards show a nil return, the clergymen will not lend their pulpits, and at last some one as desperately energetic upon the subject of the [charity]… proposes the getting up of a bazaar!

How easy it is to write those words, with what volubility they slide from our tongues; but oh the difficulty, practically and actually, to “get up” a bazaar! Have any of you experienced it? Have you been surfeited with dolls, smothered with mats, plagued with pen-wipers, hung over with anti-macassars, and found your life a burden to you with pincushions? Have you ever known the torment of not only having to collect these things among your friends, but of having to make them up yourself? Every table in your drawing-room is strewn over with bits of cloth, shreds of silk, ends of ribbon, strings of beads, pieces of braid, and squares of cardboard! These are a small portion of the raw material waiting to be made use of; but besides these there are on other tables, and on chairs, on the top of the piano, on the chimney piece, everywhere and anywhere, undressed dolls of all sizes and shapes—from the large wax with the flaxen curls and the terribly vacant blue eyes, to the doll of wood with the stiff joints, and the hair and-the boots put on with a paint-brush!

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Then in the drawers, or upon the shelves of your wardrobe, there will surely be stored articles contributed by friends, and of course ready for the bazaar. A twin-sister of the blue-eyed flaxen-haired doll, which you have to dress, is here, brilliant in white muslin over pink calico, with a gipsy hat and a scarlet opera cloak—congruity is seldom remembered in doll’s attire. Then there is the nun-doll, and the Normandy peasant doll, and the Newhaven fishwife, and the buy-a-broom girl, and Red riding-hood, and a bride and a bridesmaid, and an old grand-dame. The gentlemen dolls are comparatively scarce, but we have the negro minstrel…and we have a sailor, a collegian, a soldier and a policeman, and that is, I think, the sum-total of our “Mr. Dolls,” to quote Eugene Wrayburn, in “Our Mutual Friend.”

puppies pen wiper.JPG

And then the pen-wipers! There is the cocked-hat shape and the flat-bottom boat, and the set of melon-shaped leaves worked with beads, and the other set of leaves, with a thing stretched upon them intended to represent a dog—it is like no dog that I ever saw—and dozens of others all equally ingenious and useless.

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The pincushion family is even more numerous: they begin with the ambitious “Box”—that which once held fragrant ” Havannahs” is now trimmed with lace and ribbon—and the round affair, with the little glass in the centre for flowers, and go down to the smallest thing which can be made and stuffed. We have the Wellington boot and the Blucher boot, and the high-heeled slipper! we have the church-steeple, the belfry bell, and the kitchen-bellows! we have balls, hoops, and croquet mallets—these last are quite a new invention; we have pincushions for the workbox, for the pocket, and the belt; we have pincushions into which it is impossible to put pins, and pincushions from which it is impossible to take pins out! We have hard pincushions and soft pincushions, and pincushions which are neither hard nor soft—in short, pincushions enough to set you mad, and to make you wish that there were no such things as pins in the world!

And then the mats. Of all the rubbish which a bazaar collects together defend me from the mats! Mats of worsted-work and mats of beads, mats of crochet and of knitting, mats of shaded wool crimped to represent moss, and mats of shaded paper crimped to represent leaves! Mats of every size, shape, and colour; mats for the tea-kettle and the tea-urn, the lamps, and the jugs! Mats made of steel rings and—yes I have seen them—mats made of shirt buttons!

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When I add to these the handsome pieces of worsted and patchwork (which rarely sell), cushions, slippers, tea-pot “cosys,” fender-stools, foot-stools, chairs, borders for table-covers, borders for chimney pieces, banner screens and hand-screens, sachets, what-nots, carriage-bags, travelling-bags, bags for nothing at all—when I enumerate the “anti-macassars” —why not call them “anti-trotter-oil pomades?” —in knitting, netting, tatting, and crochet, in braiding and applique, in everything that is possible and impossible—when I try to give even a faint idea of the assortment of children’s clothes, and of the hundred and one knickknacks for which I could not find either a name or a use, you will have some idea, if you have no personal experience, of the “matter” which accumulates when a “bazaar” is about to be got up!

But far be it for me to say that a bazaar is all work and no play; on the contrary, it is generally considered “delightful” and “great fun,” except perhaps by “papa,” who never can find a chair to sit upon while the bazaar mania lasts; and also by “mamma,” who, after the first few days, begins to think that the “girls” are wasting their time, and that the bazaar gives Mr. Verdant Green, the curate, too many opportunities for “dropping in.”

bazaar apron with leaves

But “girls,” as a rule, like fancy work, they have a positive genius for slippers, and are in their element among mats; besides, won’t it be nice to appear in pretty new muslins and becoming hats on the day of the bazaar; and “won’t it be fun to act shop-maids!” Such a good excuse for a little “innocent flirtation.” Oh, yes; the young ladies are all sympathy for the [deserving poor]!

But the really hard work begins when it is announced that enough of dolls have been dressed, pincushions stuffed, and rubbish generally collected; then the day for the sale has to be fixed, placards have to be drawn out, printed, pasted, and posted! the room has to be swept and garnished, the tables have to be set and ornamented, and the wares have to be spread out! How joyfully the young ladies assemble the day before the bazaar to do the work of decoration, and how fagged they are before evening, how weary of the sight of pink and blue glazed calico of laurel branches and paper flowers, of hammers and of nails! But there are not—more is the pity—any fairy wands now-a-days, and if we don’t like looking at bare walls while we are dining or dancing in public, or while we are selling dolls for charity, we must just buy the hammers and the nails, the glazed calico and the paper flowers, and set to work to make the bare walls look smart. Indeed, a great deal of what I may collectively call “hammering and nailing” goes on in the world before we can dine or dance, or get married, or even see our friends in a quiet way: yes, and even when the child is born, and the man dies, we have the frosted christening cake, and the plumes upon the hearse.

But the decorations are finished at last, and the tables are arranged, and how difficult it was to arrange them in the most effective manner, and so to dispose the dolls, the pincushions, the pen-wipers, and all kinds of rubbish so as to prevent Mrs. Smith from fancying that her contribution was not thought so much of as the contribution of Mrs. James. The sale begins at one o’clock, and by half-past twelve the fair shopwomen, in the new muslins and the becoming hats, are in their places, with little cash boxes beside them, and little piles of small silver for change, and a little pencil to jot down accounts.

female members of charity bazaar 1885

Lady workers at a charity bazaar, including a fortune teller in the front row, 1885

There is a great deal of variety about these amateur shopwomen: there is the timid seller, who either sits down behind her counter, or else shields herself behind a screen of antimacassars, or pinafores, which she has ingeniously suspended for the purposes of fence; she is always changing the position of her wares, and hoping that they look well from the outside; after everything she sells she counts her money, and she is the only one from whom, on the first day of the sale, any article can be got a bargain. She never asks any one to buy anything, but when people come up to her stall she gently puts some little thing that she fancies they may be looking for, more prominently in view. It is to her that children who have small sums, varying from one penny to six, to invest in behalf of the [charity], invariably resort; she is almost certain to cheat herself rather than disappoint the eager little buyers, and to give a shilling doll for sixpence; indeed I think it may be said that the timid seller does not make much.

Then there is the worrying seller: she is generally a “fast” young lady, and she keeps shop as though she had served her time to a “fancy business.” Her wares are arranged to the best advantage, she knows where everything is, and if she have not exactly what you ask for, she will give you something far nicer and prettier, she says, in every way; she is never at a loss for anything, from a sharp answer to a penny top; it is very hard to escape from her without buying: you feel that you are being taken in, but you have no power to resist; she tells you that the article you are looking at is really “ridiculously, shamefully cheap! that you never saw so pretty a “cosy,” so “lovely a fender-stool,” or such a “love” of a smoking cap; and then, if you are a gentleman, you probably buy the three articles, although perhaps, strictly speaking, you have no tea-pot for the “cosy,” no fender for the stool, and no head for the cap, for you don’t smoke! and having paid for them you are about to “move on,” trying to feel that you have not thrown away your money, when the worrying seller again attacks you to take a ticket for a raffle— “A splendid cushion, worked in beads, for sixpence! fancy that cushion for sixpence!”

lily cushion

Well, you think it would be cheap at the money, and although you never won anything at a raffle in your life, you give your sixpence, and you are allowed to escape for the present.

Then there is the quiet, lady-like seller, about whose table I think the steadiest trade is carried on; she does not force you to buy whether you like it or not, neither will she allow people who really want to buy to pass on to other tables, as the timid seller would do. She is generally a pretty girl too, and of course the gentlemen crowd about her, and the gentlemen attract the ladies, and so the world goes round!

Then there, is the seller great at expedients by which to get off the large unsaleable articles, and the small rubbishy articles, and from whom, especially on the second day, you can get the most wonderful and unexpected bargains. For the large articles, such as worked chair-covers, cushions, banner-screens, &c, &c, she gets up raffles, she charters unwary young gentlemen, and giving them the articles to be raffled for, and a piece of paper and a pencil, she sends them about through the room to collect names and shillings. Then, with the smaller things, actual rubbish, which no one in their senses would buy, she makes up a raffle in which there are no blanks! The name of the particular chiffon is written on a slip of paper, the slips are put into a “wheel of fortune,” you give your sixpence and draw your slip, and get your doll, your pincushion, your pen-wiper, or your mat!

There is always a great deal of excitement round this seller’s table; she is so full of fun, and tells you so pleasantly, if you lose in one of the large raffles, “to try again, and you will have better luck!” that you do try again, and if, as is very probable, you have not better luck, she will perhaps console you by telling you that “everyone can’t win.”

charity bazaar peddler doll.JPG

And among the buyers there is quite as much variety as among the sellers. I have often thought that if, of the people who go to an exhibition—say of pictures—those who go to see and to be seen, those who go to meet their friends, those who go because everyone goes, those who go because they may as well kill time by staring at pictures as kill it by not staring at them, were all turned out, the people who go to see the pictures from the pure and simple love of art, would be few indeed. And so with bazaars—of those who go for amusement, from curiosity, and from idleness were all turned out; those who go to buy, and especially those who buy for the sake of charity, would be a decided minority.

But among the actual buyers at a bazaar there is, as I have said, a great variety. There is the gentleman who declares that he intends to lay out exactly half-a-crown, and who lays out five pounds before an hour; there is the hard-to-be-pleased buyer, who is also determined to lay out a certain sum, who is equally determined not to be imposed upon, and not to be inveigled into putting in for a raffle, this buyer (generally a rich old maid) turns a deaf ear to the worrying seller, while she coolly examines almost every article upon the table, and probably ends by walking off to another stall without having opened her purse; she finally expends her money upon useful frocks and pinafores for her little nephews and nieces at home.

Then there is the reckless buyer—by far the more numerous class—who buys the most absurd and utterly useless things, and who, moreover, carries them about for the rest of the day, and finds them dreadfully in the way. And there is the buyer who is watching and waiting for bargains, and always asking “What is the lowest you will take for this?These buyers disarrange the table sadly and take up the different articles and pinch them and pull them and squeeze them in a most tormenting way; they open everything in the shape of a box, and generally smell them too; they examine into the mysteries of the doll’s attire in a very impertinent, I might almost say indelicate, manner; they turn the “cosies” inside out, and count the needles in the needle-books; but the way in which they maltreat the mats is really shocking. Indeed mats generally at a bazaar have a bad time of it, there is no respect for them, dolls sit upon them, and they are flattened out of all shape by cushions.

1871 charity bazaar for consumption hospital

Charity Bazaar in Aid of the National Hospital for Consumptives, 1871

I think the grand mistake of all in connexion with bazaars is in making them to last two days; when the second day comes the sellers are tired, the wares are tossed, and the whole affair is as flat as stale champagne. Of course there are exceptions, and I have myself been at bazaars which were better the second day than the first.

Finally, it has always been a perplexing question to me to know what becomes of the things which are not sold at bazaars! Do the dolls emigrate? do the pincushions and the pen-wipers and the mats melt? or is there a “Hades” for fancy work—a “Happy hunting ground” for Chiffons, into which they vanish and are heard of no more? Or are they returned to their original owners, or makers rather, to be pulled out of workboxes, or writing-desks after many years, and contemptuously thrown aside with the remark—”Look at that dreadful old thing which I made for the [Charity] Bazaar!” S. G.

The Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, Music & Romance, 1867

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has been reluctantly involved with several charitable jumble sales. Not only was it painful to see the waste of time and materials expended in inadequate fancy-work, one had existential questions about why someone would have deliberately dressed a pair of taxidermied rooks in 18th century costumes and posed them under a glass bell as if dancing a minuet. The misguided horrors that had once been the ornament of  some suburban villa were truly shocking to contemplate. It is often said that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Mrs Daffodil fears that a great many people required a stomach-pump.

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.

 

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Twelve Golden Rules for Women Cooks: 1838

the cook hints to servants 1843

The Cook, from Hints to Servants, 1843

TWELVE GOLDEN RULES FOR WOMEN COOKS.

[Extracted from that excellent work, “Essays on Good-Living.”]

Never get drunk—until the last dish be served up.

Never be saucy—unless you happen to be in your airs and can’t help it; but then, take care to have the last word.

Never be sulky—unless you have a great dinner to dress; your mistress will then be sure to coax you.

Never spoil a joint—unless you have been unjustly found fault with, (which must be the fact if you have been accused at all); in which case, if complaint be made of its having been under-done, you may, next time, roast it to a cinder; and, if that should not give satisfaction, you may, the following day, send it up raw.

Never get dinner ready at the time it is ordered—unless you know that the family are not ready for it; in which case, send it up to a moment; if it be cold and spoiled, that, you know, will not be your fault.

Never admit that you are in the wrong—unless the devil will have it so that you cannot help it. If you should transgress your orders, stand stoutly to it, that they were such as you have followed; and, if you have not brass enough for that, say, you thought they were.

Never take snuff –unless when you are mixing a stew, or stirring the soup. Nor never examine the latter without holding a lighted tallow candle obliquely over the pot; if it should not enable you to see quite to the bottom, what drops from it will at least enrich the contents; and when you taste it, be sure to throw back what remains in your spoon.

 Never wash your hands—until you have made the pies; you must do it then, and to do it sooner is only wasting time and soap.

Never give warning to quit your place—until you are quite sure that it will put the family to the greatest inconvenience, and then, be off at a moment; say, “your father’s dead, or your mother’s dying, and you cannot stay if it was ever so.” If warning be given to you, from that moment you may spoil every thing that comes under your hands.

Never tell tales of the family you are with—unless they should be to their disadvantage; nor never speak well of your last mistress, unless it be to contrast her with the present.

Never cheat—unless you can do it without being discovered; but, if you don’t yourself cheat, never prevent others—“Your master can afford it;”— “Service is no inheritance;”—and “poor servants and tradesfolk must live.”

Never tell a lie —when you can get as much by telling the truth; nor ever tell the truth, when you can get more by telling a lie.

Never support a sweetheart out of the house—unless you can’t get one in.

The London Jester; Or, Museum of Mirth, Wit, and Humour, 1838: pp. 100-101

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Of all the domestic plagues, the Cook was believed to be the worst. Complaints were heard on all sides about cooks who were ill-tempered, dishonest, dirty, and intemperate. A truly good cook knew that her value was above rubies and a potential employer would have a job to impress her. Cook’s whims and fancies were Law. And when a gem of a cook was found, other ladies conspired to lure her away.  This rarely ended well:

STOLE HER COOK.

Red Bank, N.J.  Because Mrs. C. B. West stole her “jewel of a cook,” Mrs. G.E. Poulson built a “spite fence” and threatened to horsewhip. West had her arrested. The Evening Sun [Baltimore MD] 9 May 1913: p. 1

 

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

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

The Haunted Bed: 1859

doll's tester bed

The Haunted Bed

Mark Lemon

‘Why, Betty, if there isn’t Mr. Ponsonby at the door with his baggage, I’ll be whipped!’ cried the head waiter at the ___ hotel, on the evening  preceding the regatta.

‘Mr. Ponsonby, you don’t say so! and I’d given him up, and just put that weak-minded gent as come at ten o’clock in Forty-two–Mr. Ponsonby’s room as I call it; and there’s not a bed to be had in Cowes for love or money.’

‘What’s that, you say, Betty?’ said the newcomer; ‘not another bed but mine,’

‘That it, sir,’ replied Betty; ‘I kept it for you till the last train; now as that has been in a hour, I gave you up, sir. What will you do?’

‘Awkward,’ exclaimed Ponsonby; ‘the old clock in the room will break its heart; but I must sleep on a sofa.’

‘Not one disengaged, sir,’ said the waiter.

‘No sir,’ added Betty, ‘not one sir. There are four small children put to bed in a chest of drawers now in Twenty-four. We let everything before we would let Forty-two.’

‘That’s the gent that’s got your room,’ whispered John, as he ushered Mr. Ponsonby into the coffee-room.

The person alluded to was a very mild, milky-looking young gentleman of twenty-one. His present position was evidently a new one, for he was constantly employed in pulling up his shirt collar and using his toothpick.

‘John,’ said Ponsonby, ‘I must have a bed. Bring me a broiled bone and a glass of brandy and water, and put them on the table next to the young gentleman, whilst I speak to Betty.’

What the nature of Mr Ponsonby’s communication to Betty was I don’t mean to reveal; but she laughed consumedly and was shortly afterwards seen entering No. Forty-two with a warming-pan, and then returning without it. The bone and brandy and water were duly served, and Mr. Ponsonby took his place at the table. The mild gentleman pulled his collar more frequently and plied the toothpick with increased, energy.   ‘Waiter,’ cried Ponsonby, ‘here–take this thing away.’

‘Capital bone sir,’ said John; somewhat astonished.

‘Don’t tell me a capital bone!’ exclaimed Ponsonby. ‘The ‘bus driver was complaining of the mortality among his horses. Take it away.’

The mild gentleman looking alarmed, and paused in the act of pulling up his left collar.

‘Wretched house, this, sir,’ said Ponsonby, confidentially; ‘never come here if I can avoid it; but at regatta time glad to get in anywhere!’

‘Yes, sir,’ said the mild one.

‘They served me a rascally trick once, and I shall never forget it. I wonder who sleeps in that room to-night–poor devil!’

‘May I inquire what the trick was, sir?’

‘Oh! Certainly,’ said Ponsonby, ‘though I hardly like to tell the story, in case you should doubt my veracity.’

‘Oh! Sir—‘

‘Well, it seems absurd to talk of haunted chambers in the nineteenth century;’ and Ponsonby paused.

‘Not at all, sir,’ said the mild one, encouragingly.

‘But that there is one in this house I am ready to swear,’ exclaimed Ponsonby; ‘a room with a large, old-fashioned clock in it.’

‘No. Forty-two!’ gasped the mild one; ‘that’s my room!’

‘Hush, for heaven’s sake!’ said Ponsonby; ‘had I know that, I wouldn’t have said a word for the world.’

‘My dear sir, don’t say that; pray go on sir. I’m not superstitious, neither am I foolishly incredulous,’ and the mild one wiped his forehead, and emptied his tumbler at a gulp.

‘Well, as you desire it, I will narrate my story,’ said Ponsonby. ‘It was exactly three years ago, this very day, that I and my luggage found ourselves in No. Forty-two, the last room, (so the chambermaid told me,) unlet in the house.’

‘Exactly what she told me—a cockatrice!’ interrupted the mild one.

‘I was tired by my day’s journey, and went to bed exactly as the clock struck twelve. Though fatigued, I felt no disposition to sleep, so I placed my candle on the bed-steps, and began to read. I had read about five minutes, when suddenly I received a most violent blow in the stomach, and the clock struck a quarter. I started up; there was no one—nothing to account for the phenomenon. At last I concluded it must have been fancy. I read on for another quarter of an hour, when I received two blows of greater violence than the former one! The clock chimed the half-hour.’

‘Another glass of brandy and water!’ cried the mild one.

It was brought, and Ponsonby proceeded:

‘I seized the bell-rope, but a sense of shame would not let me proceed. I therefore resolved to keep watch for a short time. As I set up in bed, my eyes fell upon the face of the old clock in the corner. I could not help thinking that was connected with the annoyance I had suffered. As I looked, the minute-hand gradually approached the IX on the dial, and the moment it arrived there I received three distinct and particularly sharp raps on the crown of my head. The clock struck the three-quarters. I was now convinced that there was something wrong. What was I to do? If I disturbed the house and told this story, I should be laughed at, and set down either as drunk or dreaming. I resolved to brave the worse. I got out of bed, and, gently opening the clock-case, stopped the vibration of the pendulum.

‘Come, that must prevent the striking,’ thought I and laid myself down with something like a chuckle at my own brilliancy.’

‘A chuckle!’ murmured the mild one.

‘I had not been in bed above five minutes,’ resumed Ponsonby, ‘when I heard the door of the block-case open slowly. I felt, I confess, a tremor—‘

‘I should think so!’

‘And I saw the pendulum throw a somersault on the floor, and deliberately hop—hop—hop towards the bed. It paused for a moment, and bending it round brazen face full upon me, said—‘

‘Spoke?’ gasped the mild one.

‘Said,’ continued Ponsonby: (not heeding the interruption,) “Sir, I am very much obliged to you for stopping my labors. People think I never want any rest, but that I can stand being perpetually wound up and kept on the go. With your permission, I’ll get into bed;’ and without waiting for an answer, into bed it got.

‘I suppose,’ continued the pendulum, you are not aware that this is our room.’

‘Our room!’ said I.

‘Yes; mine and the rest of the works. The man who made us, died in this bed, and left it to us as a legacy. You found something rather unpleasant, didn’t you?’

‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘very unpleasant.’

‘Ah! That was the striking weight; he always serves intruders that way when we are going. When we are not, and I come to bed, he is quiet enough. But as I am likely to be set going again in the morning, and it’s now nearly half past nine, I’ll wish you a good night.

‘Good night, sir,’ I replied, quaking from heat to foot. ‘So,’ thought I, ‘who ever sleeps in this bed must either submit to be thumped black and blue by the striking weight, or accept of this horrible monster for a bed-fellow. At this moment the pendulum, I suppose, fell asleep, for it commenced an innocent ‘tick-tick,’ ‘tick-tick,’ that rendered all attempts at forgetfulness of my part impossible.’

‘Another glass of brandy and water!’ cried the mild one.

‘No, no,’ said Ponsonby, ‘I would advise you not. Have your chamber candle and go to bed.’

‘Go to bed in No. 42!’ exclaimed the mild one. ‘Never!’

‘My dear fellow, matters may have changed since the period I have been talking of. Go to your room, and if anything occurs it is easy to ring the bell. Come, I’ll see you to the door.’

And, taking their candles, the pair proceeded to No. 42.

‘Here we are,’ said Ponsonby, ‘good night.’

The mild gentleman could only wave his head in valediction as he entered the haunted chamber. In a minute he uttered a shrill cry, and rushed into the lobby, his hair literally on end with terror.

‘What’s the matter, now?’ said Ponsonby.

‘It’s there!—in bed—fast asleep—I’ve seen it—the pendulum! I’d not sleep there for a thousand pounds!’

‘Good gracious! What will you do?’

‘Sleep on the stairs—if I but had my carpet-bag out of the room!’

‘I’ll fetch it for you. I don’t mind the pendulum; he’s an old friend of mine.’

And in another minute, the mild one was travelling down to the coffee-room, bumping his carpet bag from stair to stair, to the probable disturbance of the whole house.

‘Betty! Betty!’ said Ponsonby, in an undertone, ‘tell the porter to bring my baggage to No. 42. Ha! Ha! Capital, Betty!’ roared Ponsonby as he saw the cause of the mild one’s terror.

It was the brazen warming pan comfortably put to bed in No. 42, and which the M.G. in his terror had taken for a pendulum.

In the morning the mild gentleman did not show himself. He had drank three bottles of soda water, paid his bill, and gone off by the first train.

The Democratic Pioneer [Elizabeth City NC] 17 May 1859: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mark Lemon was the genial co-founder and long-time editor and writer for the comic magazine Punch.  He has a freshness and a modern strain to his writing that makes it amusing, even to-day, while a good deal of Victorian humour is lost on modern readers.

warming pan

Brass warming pan

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.

Mr Binks’s Safety Hammock: 1909

The Hammock Tissot

SAFETY HAMMOCK

MR. BINKS FOUND INVENTION SUCCESS.

But He Will Improve It When He Gets Well, At His Daughter’s Request.

Ellis Parker Butler.

Author of “Pigs is Pigs,” etc.

Randolph Binks of Betzville , is passionately fond of reclining in a hammock, but up to the present he has never reclined in one to any great extent. Mr. Binks is an excellent citizen, but is more rotund than any other man in this county, and when he reclines in a hammock so much of him rotunds upward that it overthrows the equilibrium, and the hammock quickly but gracefully turns over and drops Mr. Binks on the ground with a thud. Any man less passionately fond of reclining in a hammock would have given it up long ago, but Mr. Binks said in our hearing that he would be blamed if he would let any hammock in creation get the best of him. He says he has gently climbed into the hammock over 8,902 times, put his head back carefully, grasped the edges, and that each and every time the hammock has revolved half a revolution suddenly, and spilled him on the hard, hard ground. He says that at about the eight thousand nine hundred and third time he decided that be had been attacking the hammock too gently, and that it must be taken roughly, like the nettle, to be handled properly, so he stood back and made a leap, landing in the hammock. This was almost successful, except that the hammock acted like a springboard and, taking Mr. Binks, threw him six feet against the fence, head first, breaking three pickets. In his temporary anger Mr. Binks arose and kicked the hammock, which then grabbed him by the foot, yanked his other foot off the ground, and bumped him down on the back of his head.

When he became calm Mr. Binks went as far away from the hammock as he could get and sat down on the ground and studied it, and he came to the conclusion that what the hammock needed was a counter-weight. If there was a greater weight attached to the underneath of the hammock when Mr. Binks got into it, it could not turn over. He said he wondered that no one had ever before thought of putting a keel on a hammock, and he immediately began looking about for a good, heavy weight. The best thing he could find was an old millstone, and he built up a solid wall of loose brick underneath the hammock. On top of this he laid the millstone, and then he pressed the hammock smoothly against the millstone, and, warming two quarts of glue, he poured it into the hammock and went away to allow the glue to harden in peace.

That evening Adelia, Mr. Binks’s daughter, and her fiancé, young Wilfred Doppelgang, went quietly into the back yard to sit in the hammock and spoon. They sat.

About three hours later Adelia raised her head from Wilfred’s shoulder and said, “It don’t seem like you hug as hard as you used to. Wilfred!” She said this in a reproachful tone of voice, implying that perhaps Wilfred did not love her as of yore and Wilfred, who did love her as of yore, tried to take his arm from about her waist, and get a new strangle hold, but, alas! he could not! He could not get his arm loose for that hug. In the course of three hours the glue had hardened and the hug had become a permanent, guaranteed fast embrace. He had undoubtedly allowed his sleeve to repose a moment or more in the glue, and Wilfred’s sleeve and the back gores of Adelia’s shirt waist had become one and inseparable. This is desirable in a union of states, but it is not recommended for all purposes.

With consternation Wilfred then started to leave the hammock. So did Adelia. Instantly, without a moment’s hesitation, they did not leave. Reader, have you ever been glued to a large, round, sandy complected millstone? Have you ever seated yourself upon a millstone well buttered with glue, with the girl of your choice beside you, and then sat there until the glue hardened  and you became, as you might say, two souls with but a single thought? Wilfred and Adelia could not arise; they could not even sidestep. They were glued to the millstone, and the millstone was glued to the hammock, and the hammock was tied to two large trees, and the roots of the trees extended many, many feet into the soil. There was but one thing to do.

Cautiously leaning forward, Adelia and Wilfred began to remove the loose pile of brick from beneath the millstone, until all the bricks were gone. Then, wrapped arm in arm, they began to joggle the hammock. It  was a trying moment. Suddenly, as out of a clear sky, there was a sound of ripping, breaking, tearing, and then a thud. The millstone had fallen to earth, taking with it the central portion of the hammock. This left a large hole in the hammock. It also took with it— Pardon me, I should say it also left a large___ At any rate Wilfred and Adelia sped hastily toward the house.

Half an hour later Mr. Randolph Binks strolled home, and all was silence. As has been said, he is passionately fond of reclining in a hammock. He has since remarked to Uncle Ashdod Glute that his invention of a non-tipping hammock was a success.

Formerly, when he entered a hammock one thing always happened — the hammock reversed itself and threw him out. But now Randolph Binks walked up to his hammock and threw himself into it with confidence.

The hammock did not, Mr. Binks says, throw him out. Mr. Binks merely walked up to the hammock in the dark and threw himself into it. Mr. Binks says that in passing through the hole that had been torn in the hammock he thought very few things worthy of reproduction by the press. He says he merely passed through in a simple, unconventional way  and met the millstone quite informally, saluting it with the back of his head. He says it was a mere love tap—for the millstone.

Mr. Binks claims that his hammock was a success on three counts: First—The hammock did not turn over and drop Mr. Binks on the ground with a thud; he fell through. Second–The hammock did not drop him on the ground with a thud; he hit the millstone. Third—The hammock did not drop him with a thud: the noise was clean and sharp, like the iron rim of the millstone. Mr. Binks says he can think of only one improvement. Hereafter when he wishes to glue anything under a hammock he will choose a feather bed rather than a millstone.

(Copyright. 1909. by W.G. Chapman.)

New York [NY] Daily Tribune, 24 October 1909: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Hammocks, as we have seen, can be instruments of seduction, although in this case, the attractive qualities of the object were entirely the result of two quarts of well-warmed glue. While we can but admire Mr Binks’s “make-lemonade” spirit about the success of his invention, we urge him not to quit his usual day-time employment.

The malign disposition of the hammock was well-known, as this poem celebrates:

THE INIQUITY OF THE HAMMOCK.

Josh Wink, in Baltimore American.

Consider now the hammock, how it lurketh like a snare.

To grab the unsuspecting man and throw him in the air.

Yea, verily, the hammock hath a look of innocence, but it may take the strongest man and throw him to the fence.

The hammock hangeth to the trees with meek and humble look,

And tempteth foolish man until he cometh with a book.

And climbeth in and stretched out and openeth the page,

And then the wicked hammock getteth up its fiercest rage.

It turneth like a serpent, and it taketh such a clutch

Upon the feeble victim that he gaspeth very much.

It whirleth him about the air and swingeth him around, and when he opens his eyes again he’s slammed upon the ground.

O, surely, surely, this is so, yet over him the while

The hammock swayeth quietly and seemeth then to smile.

But yet again the man doth get within the hammock there, and thinketh he will read the book and banish all dull care.

And then again the hammock jumps before a page he’s read,

And ere he knoweth what is up he standeth on his head.

Yea, verily, and then again a hammock in the shade

Will cunningly exert itself and lure a foolish maid

To seek to rest within its folds, and when she sitteth in

The hammock, it will almost seem to wear a happy grin.

It seizeth on the maiden fair and chuckleth at her shriek;

She spraineth both her dainty wrists and moaneth “O, alas!”

And findeth that her hammock sways with truly pleasant gall,

And seemth to inquire of her “good sakes! Did some one fall?”

O, yes, my son, and on a time, when Cupid holds his sway,

And some enamored youth comes round to learn the happy day,

‘Tis then the hammock taketh them and in the air doth hump,

And giveth both their foolish heads a most terrific bump.

And slingeth them about the place until it getteth tired.

And when it wearieth at last across the yard they’re fired;

The man descendeth in a heap upon the garden walk;

The maid hath hairpins in her eyes and is too mad to talk;

And then the wicked hammock waits in most unholy glee

To hear the racket that it knows is very sure to be;

For when the maid regains her breath she riseth to her feet,

And voweth that the man himself is full of all deceit,

And that he pulled it down himself ad that she never more

Will see his face, and wisheth that he’d gone an hour before,

And that she’ll never, never, be his bonnie blushing bride,

And so he getteth to his feet and far away doth ride.

My son, beware the hammock when it swings itself aright.

For it can make the proudest man a truly humble sight.

The Ottawa Journal [Ontario Canada] 29 August 1901: p. 4

 

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

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

The Widow, the Shoemaker and the Will: 1850s

A Flaw in the Will

A Flaw in the Will, Phillip Richard Morris http://blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WAGMU_OP99/

An amusing incident is related of a woman in England whose husband, a very wealthy man, died suddenly without any will.

The widow, desirous of securing the whole property, concealed her husband’s death, and persuaded a poor shoe-maker to take his place while a will could be made. Accordingly, he was closely muffled up in bed as if very sick, and a lawyer was employed to write the will. The shoe-maker, in a feeble voice, bequeathed half of all the property to the widow.

“What shall be done with the remainder? ” asked the lawyer.

“The remainder,”‘ replied he, “I give and bequeath to the poor little shoe-maker across the street, who has always been a good neighbor and a deserving man.” thus securing a rich bequest for himself!

The widow was thunderstruck with the man’s audacious cunning, but did not dare to expose the fraud; and so two rogues shared the estate.

The Herald of Progress, 21 May 1864: p. 222

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil will point out that this story is very likely to be an “urban legend,” to judge by the many variants and repetitions found in the papers, but that does not make it any less plausible.

The widow of a man who was careless enough to die intestate generally only inherited a third of his estate. If you are interested in the arcane law covering subject of such vital interest to ladies who could have no property of their own until the Married Women’s Property Act was passed a few years later, please see this link. So it is no wonder that the widow was keen to perpetrate a fraud.  She does not seem to have been alone. Such impositions involving deathwills, and mourning were a staple of the nineteenth-century press. No trick was too low, where a bequest was concerned:

AN APPARITION OF HIS MOTHER

Was Invoked by Fakirs to Swindle H.S.H. Cavendish the Great British Explorer.

London, May 14. The chancery court has ordered the cancellation of the deed by which H.S.H. Cavendish, the explorer, provided that his property should go to Mrs. Strutt, wife of Major C.H. Strutt, and her children, to the exclusion of the plaintiff’s own wife, who was Isabel Jay, formerly leading lady of the Savoy theatre.

Mr. Cavendish, in his appeal to the chancery court, charged Maj. Strutt and Mrs. Strutt with influencing him through table turning, and claimed that Mrs. Strutt obtained the deed by pretending to be the ghost of his, the plaintiff’s, mother, and by representing the latter as speaking from heaven and advising him to so dispose of his property. The Winnipeg [Manitoba, Canada] Tribune 14 May 1903: p. 9

 

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.

 

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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.

Spoopendyke and the Bathing Suit: 1880

1877 men's bathing suit

A COMPLICATED GARMENT.

“My dear,” observed Mr. Spoopendyke, looking up from his paper, “I think I would be greatly benefited this Summer by sea baths. Bathing in the surf is an excellent tonic, and if you will make me up a suit, and one for yourself, if you like, we’ll go down often and take a dip in the waves.”

“The very thing,” smiled Mrs. Spoopendyke, “you certainly need something to tone you up, and there’s nothing like salt water. I think I’ll make mine of blue flannel, and, let me see, yours ought to be, red, my dear.”

“I don’t think you caught the exact drift of my remark,” retorted Mr. Spoopendyke; “I didn’t say I was going into the opera business, or that I was going to hire out to some country village as a conflagration. My plan was to go in swimming, Mrs. Spoopendyke, to go in swimming, and not grow up with the country as a cremation furnace. You can make yours of blue if you want it, but you can’t make mine of red, that’s all.”

“There’s a pretty shade of yellow flannel–”

“Most indubitably, Mrs. Spoopendyke, but if you think I’m going to masquerade around Manhattan Beach in the capacity of a ham, you haven’t yet seized my idea. I don’t apprehend that I shall benefit by the waters any more by going around looking like a Santa Cruz rum barrel. What I want is a bathing suit, and If you can’t got one up without making me look like Fulton street car I’ll go and buy something to suit me.”

“Would you want it all in one piece, or do you want pants and blouse?”

“I want a suit easy to get in and out of. I’m not particular about following the fashion. Make up something neat, plain and substantial, but don’t stick any fancy colors into it. I want it modest and serviceable.”

Mrs. Spoopendyke made up the suit, under the guidance of a lady friend, whose aunt had told her how it should be constructed. It was in one piece, and when completed was rather a startling garment.

“’I’ll try it on, to-night,” said Mr. Spoopendyke, eyeing it askance when it was handed him.

Before retiring Mr. Spoopendyke examined the suit, and then began to get into it.

“Why didn’t you make some legs to it?  What d’ye want to make it all arms for?” he inquired, struggling around to see why it didn’t come up behind. “You’ve got it on sideways,” exclaimed Mrs. Spoopendyke. “You’ve got one leg into the sleeve.”

“I’ve got to get it on sideways. There ain’t any top to it. Don’t you know enough to put the arms up where they belong?  What d’ye think I am, anyhow? A star fish? Where does this leg go?”

“Right in there. That’s the place for that leg.”

“Then where’s the leg that goes in this hole?”

“Why, the other leg.”

“The measly thing’s all legs. Who’d you make this thing for, me? What d’ye take me for, a centipede? Who else is going to get in here with me? I want somebody else. I ain’t twins. I can’t fill this business up. What d’ye call it, anyway, a family machine?”

“Those other places ain’t legs; they’re sleeves.”

“What are they doing down there? Why ain’t they up here where they belong? What are they there for, snow shoes? S’pose I’m going to stand on my head to get my arms in those holes?”

‘I don’t think you’ve got it on right,” suggested Mrs. Spoopendyke. “It looks twisted.”

“That’s the way you told me. You said, ‘put this leg here and that one there,’ and there they are. Now, where does the rest of me go?”

“I made it according to the pattern,” sighed Mrs. Spoopendyke.

“Then it’s all right, and it’s me that’s twisted,” sneered Mr. Spoopendyke. “I’ll have my arms and legs altered. All I want is to have my legs jammed in the small of my back and my arms stuck in my hips; then it’ll fit. What did you take for a pattern, a crab? Where’d you find the lobster you made this thing from? S’pose I’m going into the water on all fours? I told you I wanted a bathing suit, didn’t I?  Did I say anything about a chair cover?”

“I think if you take it off and try it on over again, it’ll work,” reasoned Mrs. Spoopendyke,

“Oh! of course. I’ve only got to humor the gastod thing. That’s all it wants,” and Mr. Spoopendyke wrenched it off with a growl.

“Now pull it on,” said Mrs. Spoopondyke.

Mr. Spoopendyke went at it again, and reversed the original order of disposing his limbs.

“Suit you now?” he howled. “That the way you meant it to go? What’s these things flopping around here?”

“Those are the legs, I’m afraid,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, dejectedly.

“What are they doing up here? I see; oh! I see, this is supposed to represent me making a dive. When I get this on, I’m going head first. Where’s the balance? Where’s the rest? Give me the suit that represents me head up,” and Mr, Spoopendyke danced around the room in fury.

“Just turn it over, my dear,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, “and you are all right.”

“How’m I going to turn it over?” yelled Mr. Spoopendyke. “S’pose I’m going to carry around a steam boiler to turn me over when I want the other end of this thing up? S’pose I’m going to hire a man to go around with a griddle spoon and turn me over like a flapjack, just to please this dod gasted bathing suit? D’ye think I work on pivots?”

“Just take it off and put it on the other way,” urged Mrs. Spoopendyke, who began to see her way clear.

Mr. Spoopendyke kicked the structure up to the ceiling, and plunged into it once more. This time it came out all right, and as he buttoned it up and surveyed himself in the glass the clouds passed away and he smiled. “I like it,” he remarked, “the color suits me and I think you have done very well, my dear; only,” and he frowned slightly, “I wish you would mark the arms and legs so I can distinguish one from the other, or some day I will present the startling spectacle of a respectable elderly gentleman hopping around the beach up side down. That’s all.”

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 27 June 1880: p. 2

swimsuits 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have met the irascible Mr Spoopendyke before, as he complained of the masquerade costume the much-tried Mrs Spoopendyke had selected for him. Back in the day his vile abuse passed for humourous domestic banter. If Mrs Daffodil were Mrs Spoopendyke, she would have sewed a number of lead weights into the seams and hems of the bathing costume she had so kindly constructed and would have encouraged the lout to eat a hearty lunch and then take a nice long swim, far far from shore.

 

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.