Category Archives: Irregular Lives

Fashions in Horse-flesh: 1864

Bristow, Edmund, 1787-1876; Lady Katherine Molyneux's Pony Carriage

Lady Katherine Molyneux’s Pony Carriage, Edmund Bristow, 1840s

FASHIONS IN HORSE FLESH.

(FROM THE LONDON REVIEW.)

The latest fashion of the day is the pony mania. No lady of ton is now complete without her park phaeton and her couple of high stepping ponies. The country has been ransacked for perfect animals of this class for the London market. High action is chiefly sought after and perfection of match. For a pair of park ponies, 300gs. is a price readily obtained. When “Anonyma” first started this fashion the dealers little estimated their value; indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having withdrawn their exemption from the horse tax, their diminutive size, instead of enhancing their value, rather detracted from it, and the breed would possibly have died out. This new whim, however, was a perfect godsend to them. The reader will not be a little astonished to hear that our leading fashionables have started a Ladies’ Pony Club, and just as the four- in-hands jingle along the procession to the Star and Garter, so the lady whips, with their high -stepping ponies, their parasols mounted on their whips, fancy gauntlets and white ribbons, trot down to the same locality in a bright hue to eat “maids of honour.”

The grey ponies in the royal stud are also another testimony to the growing taste for the small compact animals. As we shall show in a future article, these ponies are one of the leading features of the royal stables. The Highland rambles of the young princes and princesses first necessitated this addition to the Queen’s stables, and now it would appear to be continued from choice, as the Prince of Wales invariably when driving himself employs these sturdy grey cobs, whose superb action must be well known to those accustomed to see him drive down the Kew road, on his way to Frogmore.

Weight-carrying cobs have long been favourite animals in this country, but of late the demand for them has been so much on the increase that they can scarcely be got for love or money. Country gentleman rising fourteen stone, and wanting something quiet, will give any money for them. We see now and then one of these fast-walking cobs, making his way over the tan in Rotten Row at a spanking pace, with an old gentleman on his back whose size is enough to make the looker-on perspire. Yet the little cob, with his splendid deep shoulder and strong legs, is as firm under him as a castle. There is a very strong dash of the Suffolk punch in all of these well-bred cobs. Two hundred and fifty guineas is often obtained by the London dealers for a sound specimen of this much sought for class of animal.

The little Shetland pony as shaggy as a bear, and not much bigger than a Newfoundland dog, is fast disappearing from the ride. We used to see him often with his double panniers filled with rosy children swaying about, but of late years not so frequently. The fact is this diminutive race is dying out fast, and even in the Shetland Islands he is now a comparatively rare animal.

The Exmoor pony is more than taking its place. This, the last remnant of the indigenous British horse, is now becoming a famous breed. Some forty years ago this hardy little animal was crossed with Arab breed, and by rigidly adhering to the selection of fine animals for breeding stock, some rare ponies are now finding their way to the market. These animals from the time of being foaled run absolutely wild over the hills and dales of Exmoor, or at least that portion of it which, has been surrounded by forty miles of wall by the late Mr Knight, of Simons Bath; consequently, they are splendid in wind and limb, and when caught and sold by auction are absolutely free from those weaknesses which are inseparable from horses reared and confined in hot stables. The size of these animals has been much increased by the Arab blood, and they average twelve hands with small well-made heads and limbs— spirited little fellows, just suited for boy’s riding or in the pony phaeton in which they are now so often found.

Taranaki [NZ] Herald 22 October 1864: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has heard much from the stable-men about ponies and their tempers and pets. One went so far as to express the opinion that “Ponies are evil.”

Still, they have their uses:

Ostrich feathers are a positive craze this season and they appear in strange and wonderful guises. One of the feather manufacturers in New York has advertised his wares in odd and attractive fashion by having two tiny ponies decked with bells and plumes (three Prince of Wales feathers fastened to the head of each wee horse) harnessed to a miniature carriage in the form of a huge milliner’s box. A black boy in livery sits behind the box and a girl attired in a long, light driving coat and wearing a different feather-trimmed hat every day sits in front and rives the spirited pair. The livery of the boy and the feathers in the hat of the driver and on the heads of the little horses always match perfectly, for the object of the advertisers is as much to prove their skill at dyeing as to display the different kinds of feathers that they sell. Arkansas Gazette [Little Rock AR] 28 May 1911: p. 41

“Anonyma” referenced above, was Catherine Walters, courtesan de luxe and “pretty horse-breaker,” also known as “Skittles.” She and her fellow equestriannes set the fashions in sporting costumes and carriages. This snippet from The Times, 3 July 1862, pg. 12 describes something of the sensation she caused:

Early in the season of 1861, a young lady…made her appearance in Hyde Park. She was a charming creature, beautifully dressed, and she drove with ease and spirit two of the handsomest brown ponies eye ever beheld. Nobody in society had seen her before; nobody in society knew her name, or to whom she belonged; but there she was, prettier, better dressed, and sitting more gracefully in her carriage than any of the fine ladies who envied her looks, her skill, or her equipage….

The fashionable world eagerly migrated in search of her from the Ladies’ Mile to the Kensington Road. The highest ladies in the land enlisted themselves as her disciples. Driving became the rage. Three, four, five, six hundred guineas were freely given for pairs of ponies, on the simple condition that they should be as handsome as Anonyma’s, that they should show as much breeding as Anonyma’s, that they should step as high as Anonyma’s. If she wore a pork-pie hat, they wore pork-pie hats; if her paletot was made by Poole, their paletots were made by Poole; if she reverted to more feminine attire, they reverted to it also. Where she drove they followed; and I must confess that, as yet, Anonyma has fairly distanced her fair competitors. They can none of them sit, dress, drive, or look as well as she does; nor can any of them procure for money such ponies as Anonyma contrives to get—for love…

The Caledonian Mercury [Edinburgh Scotland] 5 July 1862: p. 5

Previously we have looked at the fine points of hearse horses and seen what comes of a burning desire to keep a carriage.

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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Circus Girls Wear Corsets: 1895

circus world poster with ladies

ALL OF THEM WEAR CORSETS.

Women Circus Performers Encased in Steels.

A Poser for the Dress Reformers—Female Acrobats and Trapeze Stars Do Their Most Daring Acts in Corsets, and Declare Them Safe, Comfortable and Indispensable.

The first request made of all girls who go into a gymnasium is the surrender of corsets. This request is backed up by physicians, who declare it utterly impossible to do good “gym” work in corsets.

Dress reformers tell how injurious to health the corset is; how the action of the intercostal muscles is prevented; how the floating ribs are crushed, how the lower portion of the lungs is paralyzed, but here is a fact that they will find some trouble in explaining satisfactorily. The champion women acrobats, equestriennes, trick and bareback riders, equilibrists, aerial specialists and trapeze performers wear corsets. They do their most wonderful acts in corsets. Contortionists are the only class who habitually work without them.

These women are the most energetic of their sex, noted for their endurance, activity, fine physical development, and especially for length of wind. Now if corsets are such deadly articles, why don’t they take effect on the queens of the sawdust rings?

Imagine being introduced suddenly into the dressing room of Barnum & Bailey’s circus, where 15 stellar performers of whom you had intended to ask, “Do you wear corsets?” had just reached the corset stage in their toilets. Every one of the 15 had either just clasped on a pair or was about to do so. The sight was convincing. No questions were necessary.

“Oh, you do, don’t you?” was the natural exclamation.

“Do what?” asked a young woman in lavender tights.

The wardrobe woman, who was the intruder’s chaperone, made a speech.

“Ladies, this newspaper woman wants to know how many of you wear corsets when in the ring, and if the most difficult feats can be performed in them.”

Linda Jeal 1879

Miss Linda Jeal in her “jockey” costume. designed to help her avoid catching her hair and skirts on fire during her act. http://www.bulibstats.net/illinoiswomen/files/is/htm1/jeal.htm

Then Lavender Tights, who was recognized as Linda Jeal, who flies through paper hoops and does daring bareback hurdle acts, said:

“Everybody that I know wears them. I’d have a broken back if I didn’t, and I guess all the others would. There’s nothing the matter with corsets if they aren’t laced to death. If I left them off I’d never be able to do a thing.

Don’t they disturb the action of your heart? Can you use your intercostal muscles?”

“Well, I’ve been in the business over 20 years, and I guess I’d have been dead before now if corsets affected the heart, and I’ve got the use of about every muscle there is in my body,” and the girls all joined in Miss Jeal’s merry laugh as she turned to them for confirmation.

“Of course, you can’t use the lower part of your lungs in breathing. No anti-corset preacher would allow you that privilege.”

“That’s just what a doctor said to me when I went to be examined to get my life insured. He said I looked ‘delicate.” So I let out my breath and then, while he held a measure, I inflated my lungs. The doctor said I was ‘very deceiving.’ In this business a woman has got to have as much wind as she can get. If she don’t she can’t work. I can do anything in corsets I can without, and for that matter, I can’t do some things at all without the corsets.”

The insurance company accepted Miss Jeal at a very moderate premium, because they decided she was an exceptionally good physical risk.

“Doesn’t corset reform ever get into the circus?”

Sometimes, but not much. My niece has been riding for six years and she got an idea she couldn’t perform with corsets on. Her mother and I had always worn them, but she had her own way. I saw she was getting a stoop in her back, and last fall I told her she must come out in corset. She did, but she was sure she never could bend this way nor that” (drifting backward and forward). “But she did. One day when the corsets burst she insisted on stopping practice to take them off. I said ‘Go ahead.’ When she came back she found she couldn’t get along without them, and now she’s converted to corsets. I read everything I see in the papers about dress reform and the evils of corsets, but it is only necessary to see what acrobatic feats women performers do in corsets to see the holes in anti-corset arguments. There’s Mary Wentworth. Ask her.”

Miss Wentworth came over from her dressing trunk.

“I’m dressed now for a contortion act and haven’t any corsets on. I don’t know any contortionist of first rank who does wear them. But in everything else I do I wouldn’t think of going without them. Yes, I practice in them, as well as perform. I always wear them in trapeze acts.”

Miss Wentworth is one of the all-around performers, who is considered to have a long career ahead of her, and she expects to wear corsets to the end of her days.

miss lonny contortionist elastic lady acrobat 1900

Miss Lonny, “Elastic Lady Acrobat” or contortionist, c. 1900-1909 http://cdm15847.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15847coll3/id/78662/rec/5

Just then along came a little woman in pink, simply one bunch of exquisite muscle from neck to heels. “Come here, Miss Julietta. You always wear corsets, don’t you?” called Miss Wentworth.

“I never go without them. But what’s all this about?”

“Why, you know there are folks who are trying to get women to stop wearing corsets, because it injures their health,” explained Miss Wentworth.

“Injures the health? Look at me. How could I do my tricks if I wasn’t healthy? I’ve been training since I was 3 years old, and have worn corsets ever since I can remember. Do I look as if they hurt me? See that,” and Miss Julietta threw up a muscle on her arms like rock, and took a couple of deep breaths that were like filling a balloon. “Why, I can do anything in corsets,” and the muscular little woman hurried to her corner to change her dress, and in a few moments was saying good-day.

circus performers in corsets dance on the slack rope

Miss Julietta is a gymnast, an acrobat and about everything else except a contortionist. She does a wonderful high-rope act now, where she jumps up and down on the rope, changes her costume, and keeps the audience breathless, wondering why she doesn’t shake herself to pieces.

circus performers weara corsets swinging from the rings

Two aerial performers are Josie Ashton and Miss Potter. One works with a partner on a double flying trapeze, and Miss Ashton in pendulating rings. Both are devotees of corsets. It has become the fad now among dancers on the stage to scorn corsets. Miss Girdelles performs some eccentric dancing feats and high kicking, which has been considered feasible only sans corsets. Grotesque acrobatic tricks are combined with the dancing. “All in corsets,” she says, “and couldn’t be done without them.”

Josie Ashton circus bareback rider

Miss Josie Ashton was also an equestrienne.

At this point a little woman in street clothes came in. An English sailor hat was perched on an elaborate coiffure, and as she appeared Miss Jeal called out:

“How do you do, Miss Pink Cheeks? Do you wear corsets?”

“Miss Pink Cheeks,” who is one of the flying Dillons, looked surprised at such a question, and dropped into her dressing chair.

“Do you wear corsets in your act?”

“No, I don’t.”

The girls looked surprised as she went on. “I never have worn them while performing.”

“Why, you look just as if you did when you walk into the ring.”

“I know it; that is because every muscle in my body has been developed, and the body has got its natural shape.”

Miss Dillon has an idea that will delight women who are tired of having the Venus de Milo and the Medici lady’s waist held up to them as models. When asked to account for the discrepancy between her idea of the shape of a woman’s waist and that the Venus exploits, she said:

“Why, Venus didn’t take any exercise. If she had used her muscles as she ought, she would have lost that lumpy look about her waist, worked off some extra flesh and had a respectable shape instead of looking like a dowdy.”

flying dillons circus

Miss Dillon at one time was part of “The Flying Dillons.” trapeze act.

Miss Dillon’s act is exceedingly daring. She works on a high trapeze, and after exploits that make timid women wish she wouldn’t do so any more she takes a dive from the top into a net below.

Mme. Catroni, who had been listening to her side partner, Miss Dillon, said: “I didn’t take to wearing corsets until I was 20 years old, but I think you’ll find that most women performers, unless they are contortionists, wear corsets into the ring. There may be a little fondness for making a good appearance, and nobody would want to see a woman without them unless she was very slim and compactly built. I never heard of a woman’s being injured by a broken corset steel. I got my head smashed and a rib broken in a four-horse tandem hurdle race a year ago, but the corset steels didn’t even scratch me. Even the lady clown wears corsets, and she can turn somersaults, backward flips and handsprings. She doubles herself up and rolls around the ring, and all those things that dress reformers would say were impossible.”

the meers sisters circus

The Meers Sisters performed an equestrienne act.

The Meers Sisters, who perform four times within eight hours what would seem to be most exhausting bareback acts, and at the end of each number still are able to go into the dressing room smiling and joking, looked scornful and the mere idea of not wearing corsets.

“What a silly notion,” one said.

“We never could do without them,” exclaimed another. “Corsets give the back support. Sometimes a steel smashes, but that never stops us.”

“Which all goes to bear out the speech of Dr. Mary Green of Detroit sprung on the dress-reform session of the National Woman’s Council in Washington when she declared that corsets, when properly worn, were not injurious in any way, and that she had even prescribed them. If Dr. Green wants any arguments, get the records of these champion women performers, who all wear corsets.

Boston [MA] Herald 28 April 1895: p. 29

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We have seen a debate about the use and utility of corsets before–by ladies of the stage.  It continues to-day among historical re-enactors and tight-lacing enthusiasts, some of whom are known as “waist-trainers.” The dress-reformers of the age were, of course, ever-ready with statistics of consumption caused by corsetry and often advocated less stringent “waists” or “bodices.”

Circus performers often used different names in the course of their careers so accurate biographical data is sometimes hard to find.  Linda Jeal was known as a “hurricane rider” and “The Queen of the Flaming Zone” for her fiery equestrienne act.   Mme. Girdelle was one of The Three Girdelles, described as “grotesques.”  Mme. “Catroni” was Mattie Robinson Castroni, a “mounted broadsword fencer” who fenced on horseback in velvet Renaissance costumes and armour with her husband, Prof. G.M. Castroni. Mrs Daffodil regrets that she was not able to find an image of this diverting act.

 

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.

Do You Want That Raise?: 1911

This Grafter Took Our Course

Do You Want That Raise?

OUR GRAFT CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL WILL GET IT FOR YOU.

The world of graft is always looking for bad men.

Are YOU in on it? By studying daytimes YOU can raise your position from that of a porch-climber, or second-story man or pick-pocket, to a high position in society. The swell hotels and penitentiaries await YOU. We will prove our ability by cheating you. We can point to hundreds of cashiers in Canada who tried our methods. One student climbed from the position of street-car conductor, in which he knocked down fares, to that of the manager of the worst street railway system in the country through our aid.

DO IT NOW.

If you want to rise to a position where you can steal a thousand a week, clip off the coupon below and send it to us, with your choice marked. We will send you absolutely free full information about qualifying for any position. We furnish all text-books, and cheat our students by the installment plan, or any other they desire. Any honest and industrious thief can become an embezzler with a little study.

graft school coupon

Caricature, wit and humor of a nation in picture, song and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Plus ça change…

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.

An Awfully Handsome Thing: 1889

SENT HER A SHROUD

A Young Fellow Made His Girl a Present and Nearly Lost a Bride.

The number of packages left carelessly lying around in different places in the city and lost must run up into the thousands in the course of a year. According to Billy Meech, a railway ticket office in a prominent hotel is the great receiving basin of such truck. Many of the articles left are found to be trifles of no account whatever, but occasionally it happens that something of value is found. Billy Meech tells the following incident in this connection. Said he: “One day I found on my counter a package some one had left, and, as usual in such cases, laid it back, thinking the owner would call again and claim it, as is usually the case, but in this instance no one came. After it had been in our hands about two months my clerk one day suggested that we open it, and agreeing, the string was cut and enough of the contents exposed to satisfy us two fellows that it was an exceedingly handsome nightgown for a lady. The fabric was very fine and the lace upon the front would have made any woman’s mouth water with envy. Our curiosity satiated, the paper was readjusted and the package laid back on the shelf. My clerk was engaged to be married, his fiancée living down in Indianapolis.

“The wedding was to come off in a short time, and about two weeks before the time he said, referring to that package: ‘I wonder if it would do an harm if I sent that garment to my girl. It’s an awfully handsome thing and I can write a letter explaining why I send such a present; I don’t think she would care, do you, Billy?’ I told him no; to send it, and he did, with a long letter of explanation. The girl got the package all right, for about the right time the clerk received a letter. It was a stunner, I can tell you. By one of those mishaps that always occur when they should not, she failed to get the letter with the bundle. Her letter was short but sharp. It read: ‘What do you mean by sending me a shroud?’ Just think of it. The young fellow, with the best intentions in the world of sending his girl a beautiful present, had sent a garment for a dead body. I did not wonder she was angry about it. I shouldn’t like it myself. Well, she wrote a few lines about it not being much of a joke, and about bad luck and all that, and wound up by saying the match was off. But the young man wouldn’t have it that way. He got leave and down to Indianapolis he went flying. He squared things all right, for I got a dispatch from him saying, ‘All right; we are married.’ So it rather hurried the matter after all. It was a queer accident, though, and might have proved serious, but it did not, for the couple are living together now as happy as turtle doves, but I cannot help thinking what a chump a man is who can’t tell a woman’s night gown from a shroud.”

Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune [Knoxville TN] 19 April 1889: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written before of a verdant young man purchasing a widow’s cap for his sweetheart and of an elegant shroud being mistaken for a fashionable night-dress.  “Chump” is perhaps too strong a word. It was a natural mistake and certainly one easily made by an innocent unfamiliar with the niceties of  ladies’ nocturnal garb.

Still, Mrs Daffodil is troubled by a singular point of etiquette. A gentleman would never send so familiar a gift, even to a fiancee. Was the young groom-to-be truly that ignorant of the rules of decent society? Chocolates, a volume of poetry bound in limp mauve morocco, flowers, or (one blushes to relate it) a pair of gloves, were the only gifts permitted by etiquette. So, even if one grants that the Benedict was a chump, his eagerness to send a robe de nuit to an unmarried girl renders him a cad and Mrs Daffodil is sending censorious glances in his direction. One is dubious about how long such a union would last.

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 Easy-Going Mother: 1892

 

 

1914 Doucet robe mother with child and puppet

The Easy-Going Mother.

Is the easy-going the ideal mother? After a prolonged study of those who err in other ways, and unconsciously, often with the purest motives, work great harm in the baby lives entrusted to their care, one is almost ready to believe that the ability to “let alone” is the most valuable trait in a mother. Yet on looking closely into her ways, and noting the results of her course, that belief is sadly shaken. Let us observe her a little.

The home of the easy-going is overrun by babies, that being the easiest way to get along. Now nothing is sweeter than a wholesome baby, but who—beside its mother —wants it always in the foreground, its dressing the most important event of the family life, the details of its breakfast occupying the whole household, and its nap throwing a spell of enforced silence on every one within the walls?

Out of the cradle the children become even more pervasive; nothing is forbidden them, and no care is taken to teach them the difference between use and abuse. In consequence, there is not a clean or whole book on the premises, not a chair that is firm, not a table unmutilated. Boys ride the spring furniture and harness the chairs, if they do not hack and destroy to the top of their bent. Girls bang the piano, “take tea” in the parlor, scatter cake and doll rags at will.

They think they have a good time; so does their mother, who consoles herself for present discomfort and the alienation of her friends by the belief that they will outgrow all this lawlessness. “Boys will be boys,” is one of the first articles in her creed. It is as if a gardener should let the weeds grow up among the flowers, in the belief that they can be more easily disposed of when of full size and well rooted, forgetting that the strong growing weeds will, long before that time, have crushed the life out of the flowers, and that even—by great labor—they are pulled up and eradicated then, they will leave a scarred and seamed surface.

Think of the martyrdom of a guest in the home of the easy-going! Not only are the children always under foot, all the chairs sticky, and bread and butter on the sofa, but the small tyrants themselves, with their noise and unrestrained wildness, insist on seeing her, probably soil her gown with greasy fingers, handle her parasol and fan, run off with her umbrella, and often go so far as to demand any little thing in her possession that pleases their fancy.

And how is the untrained child in other people’s houses? Is he not the terror of the hostess, who dreads his encroachments, his violence among the pretty things which her own children have been taught to respect! Is not such a child the true “enfant terrible” for which America is famous?

The effect upon the children themselves is greatest. Left to their own devices, with their wills untrained, the seeds of carelessness and selfishness rapidly grow into weeds which may take a lifetime to root out. A sad wrong is done to children who are defrauded of the necessary discipline, who are not taught to respect the rights of others, and to restrain their own lawlessness. Because of this neglect they are dreaded and feared by everyone who knows them, when with a little control they might have been a credit to parents, a joy to friends, and a welcome guest everywhere.

The daughters of such a household come to womanhood with no habits of neatness or order, and no thoughtful care for others. The case of a son is even worse. A boy with that masterful and all-grasping nature, which, duly controlled is an element of success in his future conflict with the world, needs always careful drilling in respect for the rights of others, including animals. He needs training in personal daintiness, in civility, in gentleness of manner. He is born a little savage with great possibilities; he must be led into the path of a noble manhood: Led, not driven, nor “nagged,” still less allowed to reach maturity with all his barbarisms upon him.

Self-training is a thing rarely attempted by a grown man, accustomed to indulge rather than to fight his inclinations. The world will rudely teach him external decency, a show of regard for the claims of others, and certain appearances indispensable to the respect of his neighbors, but in his own home, in the bosom of his family, he will to the day of his death display the selfishness, the carelessness of the feelings or the wishes of others, the habits of disorder so firmly built into his character in his unfortunate boyhood.

The easy-going mother is frequently the product of a too severe training, in which petty tyranny of some sort destroyed any pleasure in life. “If I ever have a home,” the daughter of such a household is apt to think, when smarting under some of its harsh rules and restrictions, “if I ever have a home, there shall be peace and comfort in it.” And so feeling she naturally falls into the opposite error. In trying honestly and sincerely to do her duty, to secure her household liberty, which is the breath of life, she failed to draw the line at license, and license is as bad in its tendencies as the evil she wished to avoid.

Olive Thorne Miller.

Boston [MA] Herald 31 July 1892: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, of course, Mothering Sunday–an excellent day on which to publicly praise good Mamas and privately blame the bad. Even in 1892 there was debate about the ideal “good mother.”

To-day’s mothers seem torn between the “helicopter” and the “free-range”  models of raising children. Mrs Daffodil can see advantages to both: Learning to pilot a helicopter is excellent for eye-hand co-ordination and free-range is useful for the eggs. It is not necessarily an “either-or” situation.

Mrs Daffodil has always been punctilious about not taking positions in households where there is an “easy-going” mother. Such persons always think that their children are “expressive,” or “high-spirited,” when they are merely destructive. Mrs Daffodil is accustomed to being obeyed and when she has very occasionally had to correct visiting children by gently asking them to, say, refrain from setting Basil, the scullery cat on fire with their firecrackers, she has always been appalled at the insolence with which she is met. Fortunately she had time before their next visit to train Basil to “fetch” burning squibs and return them to their owner. Judging by the calls to the kitchen for aloe, he performed splendidly.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all fond Mamas the very happiest of days! But she will not allow their children to torment Basil or jump on the furniture at the Hall.

 

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.

A Grateful Little Owl: 1880s


the little owl 1508

The Little Owl, Albrecht Durer, 1508, Albertina, Vienna

A Grateful Little Owl.

“The dining-room opened on a little courtyard under the Trinta dei Monti steps, transformed by me into a sort of infirmary and convalescent home for my various animals. Among them was a darling little owl, a direct descendant from the owl of Minerva. I had found it in the Campagna with a broken wing half dead of hunger. Its wing healed, I had twice taken it back where I had found it and set it free, twice it had flown back to my carriage to perch on my shoulder, it would not hear of our parting. Since then the little owl was sitting on her perch in the corner of the dining-room, looking lovingly at me with her golden eyes. She had even given up sleeping in the day in order not to lose sight of me. When I used to stroke her soft little person she would half close her eyes with delight and nibble gently at my lips with her tiny, sharp beak, as near to a kiss as an owl can get, Among the patients admitted to the dining-room was a very excitable young Russian lady, who was giving me lots of trouble. Would you believe it, this lady got so jealous of the owl, she used to glare at the little bird so savagely, that I had to give strict orders to Anna never to leave these two alone in the room. One day on coming in for luncheon, Anna told me that the Russian lady had just called with a dead mouse wrapped in paper. She had caught it in her room, she felt sure the owl would like it for breakfast. The owl knew better after having bitten off its head, owl fashion, she refused to eat it. I took it to the English chemist; it contained enough arsenic to kill a cat.”

The Story of San Michele, Axel Munthe, 1929: pp. 431-432

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, one of the days of the “International Festival of Owls.” Mrs Daffodil is fond of the night-flying creatures despite (or perhaps because of) their folkloric reputation as an Omen of Death. And, like Mrs Daffodil, they are so helpful in keeping down vermin.

Axel Munthe, while he was an admirable doctor, is perhaps best known for his skill as a raconteur and for being a passionate advocate of animal rights. His passions also ran to the ladies; he seems to have fascinated a largish swath of the English aristocracy as well as at least one of the crowned heads of Europe. Plus a Russian lady and a little owl.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a pair of pet owls. You will find the first section of the two-part story here.

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 Baroness’ Jewel Box: 1870s

 

jewel casket hermann bohm

THE BARONESS’ JEWEL BOX

A Story from the German

The Baroness Rukavina Eltz was the most splendid and dashing personage in the Er Valley. Her castle near Somlyo was the finest specimen of a great residence in all that shadow of the Er Mellek [Érmellék], and she, a Roumanian by birth and a Hungarian by marriage, seemed to unite  all the brilliant characteristics of both these picturesque races.

She was a widow to begin with, and since the animal man has speculated upon the varieties of the angel woman, a widow has been pronounced the most amiable variety of the species. She was very beautiful, tall, svelte, blue eyed, black-haired , piquant, red and white, with the most scornful little mouth and the most delicate profile; her hand and foot were models, although the latter was frequently stamped when she was not pleased. She was–in the third and last place, as preachers say– very rich, and had fallen heiress to two collections of jewels which were almost fabulously valuable. A brilliant creature, the Baroness. She owned villages and vineyards and made a large income every year from her sale of Ruster, a grand wine of a pale golden hue, which had as full and peculiar a flavor as she had herself. The Baroness sent her wine to Vienna, where it was considered equal to Tokay.

Of course, she had suitors, the beautiful, sharp Baroness. They came from Transylvania and Russia, from Roumania and all Hungary, from Austria and all the German Principalities; and for the unlucky wretches about Pus Poki and the Behar Settlement, and the country gentleman of Erdioszegh, they knelt and worshipped in vain as she dashed past them on her fleet thoroughbred, for she was Diana as a huntress and the queen of the Amazons also. Her black horse Tetenyer was said to emit fire from his nostrils when he stopped to breathe.

This grand lady was afraid of nobody, loved nobody, had no friends, save the nuns at the foot of the Rez Gebirge and one old priest who seemed to be deeply in her confidence. Every year she made a grand visit somewhere–Vienna, Paris, Rome, London or St. Petersburg. She spent money like water, made everybody talk, wonder and admire, and where her splendid jewels were the envy of all the Court ladies.

Yes, she was afraid of one man, and that was her steward, Neusiedler, he who for years had managed her vast estates, her vineyards and her wheatfields, her fields and fisheries.

Neusiedler was a crouching, cross eyed, mean-looking German, married to a bold, black eyed woman, who was twice his size, and who lived in the village, near the castle, and who spent her time envying and hating the Baroness. Madame Pasteur, the French companion, and Matilde, the French maid, who never left the Baroness, thought that Neusiedler, and his wife had the evil eye and that they would some day wilt the Baroness. But Rukavina Eltz laughed at this fear, and kept on her course exultant. Still when the yearly pay day came round, and she had to look over accounts with Neusiedler, she did show what she had never shown before–fear.

Among her jewels was a splendid rope of pearl-colored pearls, the rarest thing in the whole world, neither black nor white, but pearl color, with three great emerald pendants, each as large as a small pear. The Emperor always noticed this jewel with a smile and a compliment when the Baroness Rukavina-Eltz went to a court ball at Vienna. He told her that the Empress had nothing half as handsome, and it is to be feared that the Emperor spoke also of the white, firm neck on which the necklace rested, for Rukavina-Eltz was apt to blush and look magnificently well at such moments. Then she had great chains of sapphires as blue as her eyes and some big rubies which the baron had given her (the old Baron, twice her age, who went down into Roumania for her when she was 15.) and she had diamonds, of course—every rich lady has diamonds– and a great box full of engraved amethysts and antique gems, some that Cardinal Antonelli gave her in Rome, for he, too, had admired the wild Baroness.

Indeed, if the Baroness Rukavina Eltz had ever written her memoirs, what a story she could have told! But the end of every woman’s history is that she finally falls in love, and such was the beginning of the end of the story of Rukavina-Eltz. She went to England one summer, and there was a young Lord Ronald Somerset, or a Lord George Levenson Montague, or a young Lord Howard Plantagenet (they mix them up so, these English words, they are not half so individual as our Hungarian names.) who could ride better than she could. This was a terrible blow to the Baroness and she wished herself dead.

But when at dinner the soft-voiced, handsome, tall young Englishman, Sir Lyster Howard Lyster (that was his name after all) sat next to her and talked so well and so complimentary to her seat, ‘cross country, and noticed the pearl-colored pearls, and the emeralds, with his lips, and the neck underneath with his eyes, Rukavina Eltz forgave him, and he began to talk of her home near Somlyo, and it ended in a large English party coming to the Er Valley, under the shadow of the Er Mellek, for a long summer visit. And how they raved about everything—the wine, the horses the scenery, the wild, barbaric splendor of the Baroness’ housekeeping, and how they all hated Neusiedler and his big, black-browed wife, who were invited up to the balls.

There was an English lady, one with very long teeth, and a very long noise, and very high eyebrows, and they called her Lady Louisa. She was very grand and lofty, and Madame Pasteur heard her say one day—“Do you know, dear Baroness, I think you are so very careless—don’t you know? –about those beautiful jewels of yours—do you know?”

“But who could steal them?” said the Baroness, laughing. “There are none like them in all Hungary, and no one would dare wear them, they are so rare!”

‘Ah! But some of these wild people of yours! They might swallow your emeralds, those fierce Croats, the Roumanians; and then you keep them in such open closets and boxes.” Madame Pasteur nodded her meek head, too. She had trembled for the jewels always.

But the Baroness and Sir Lyster began to think of other things and jewels; and there were moonlight rides and walks, and there were long talks and many reveries. Lady Louisa went home, they all went, but Sir Lyster came back.

And then, one evening, Madame Pasteur said afterwards that she saw Neusiedler come in and bully the baroness and she heard him hiss out the words—“Remember if you marry, you lose all. Remember the Baron’s will!”

And Rukavina-Eltz turned pale and said, “Bully, traitor, fiend,” between her shut teeth. She went off to Paris on one of her long visits, and Neusiedler squeezed the tenants and made every one miserable. The castle was shut up and black Tetenyer grew thin in his stable.

When she came back she looked older and more sedate. She went often to see the nuns at the foot of Rez Gebirge. She saw the priest also very often, and Madame Pasteur thougth she was growing devote. But she dressed in her usual dashing colors (for she was a very Roumanian at heart) and she wore one of those scarlet quilted petticoats that the English ladies wore so much; and very pretty it looked, with her dark habit and her dark dresses looped up over it. This, with a scarlet feather in her hat, looked as if the Baroness was thinking of England.

It was a miserable day, that, when Madame Pasteur and Matilda came screaming down the long corridor.

“The jewels are gone! Gone! Gone!’

The Baroness had the great bell of the castle run, and Neusiedler was sent for at once. She was very pale for she loved those pearls and emeralds.

Neusiedler was composed, every look was made to say, “I told you so;” he had always warned her about the jewels.

“What can be done?” asked the Baroness.

“Search, whip, imprison, all who attempt to leave the province,” said Neusiedler, calmly.

“Except women—I will have no women whipped,” said the Baroness.

“I am glad to hear that, “said Neusiedler, laughing his malicious laugh, “for Madame Neusiedler goes to Vienna tomorrow.”

“Ah!” said the Baroness, “you know I could not mean, at any rate, that Madame Neusiedler should be disturbed; send her in my little carriage with the three ponies to Erdiosegh.”

“Your excellency is very condescending,” said Neusiedler, bowing to the ground.

The local police sought everywhere for the lost jewels, but no traces of them could be found. The Baroness sat in a sort of stupor and looked out of the window.

“I will go to England,” said she hastily one day. “Neusiedler, some money, and arrange for me to be gone three months.”

“It is well, Madame,” said the steward.

It was a very roundabout route that the Baroness took for England. When Matilda and Madame Pasteur reached the station at Erdiosegh, they were astonished to see the Baroness dash into the ticket-office and buy tickets for Vienna, and when they arrived, all of them, at her fine hotel at Vienna, who should step out to meet them but Sir Lyster Howard Lyster.

Nothing but the well-known eccentricity of the Baroness apologized to Madame Pasteur for what followed. She commanded two dresses to be made, and that Madame Pasteur should go with her to a public masked ball at the Opera House in Vienna.

“Sir Lyster Howard Lyster will go with us!” said she, as a shade passed over the pale face of her companion.

Oh! That the lady of sixteen quarterings should be seen in such a low place! No; she was not seen! She was masked; but that she should even go! What a sacrifice of pride and of decency, Madame Pasteur thought it, as she saw the Baroness take the arm of one masked man after the other, and then go into the supper room with a party who followed a tall mask in a black domino.

A voice stuck on Madame Pasteur’s ear—was it that of Madame Neusiedler? Was it—could it be?

Yes! And as she threw back mask and hood there sparkled on her neck the pearl-colored pearls and the emerald pendants of the lost jewels. O Heaven!

“The necklace of the Baroness,” shouted the impulsive, the imprudent Madame Pasteur.

It nearly spoiled the plot, for Madame Neusiedler was among the friends and confederates. However, the tall Englishman stepped forward, and the two Viennese policemen arrested the woman.

She behaved with extraordinary coolness, and explained—“It is indeed the necklace of the Baroness, given by her to my husband for moneys which he had advanced to her. Let her deny it if she dare. I have her written acknowledgment of the money, and I have come to Vienna to sell the necklace, where it is well known.”

All gathered around the wonderful necklace, which the Chief of Police put in his breast pocket, removing the woman Neusiedler.

The Baroness went back to her hotel and allowed Madame Pasteur to pass a wretched night. She would explain nothing.

All Vienna was alive when the great case came on, and not a few ladies were glad to hear that the Rukavina-Eltz jewels were in pawn—that envied necklace.

Neusiedler came to his wife’s rescue, and told the story over again. The evidence against the Baroness was damning. She had, according to his story, lived far, far beyond her income, and he had supplied her with money. She had fabricated the story of the lost necklace, to try and cheat him, but here were her signatures,  and here was the Baron’s will, which she was about to try to disregard—his will saying that she should never marry, or, if she did, that she lost all her vast estates.

“Baroness Rukavina Eltz, what have you to say to this? What is your defense?” said the prosecuting counsel.

“Only this!” said the Baroness, holding up in her hand the pearl colored pearls and the emerald drops, the real necklace! On the Judge’s desk lay a facsimile of the famous necklace. The two ornaments looked exactly alike.

“Let an expert be brought and say which is the real necklace and which the imitation one, made in Paris, and used by me to lure this wretched and dishonest thief of a steward on to his destruction!” said the Baroness, with a flash of Roumanian fire in her eyes.

It was true! Neusiedler had been foiled; he had stolen a false necklace, which the Baroness had had made in the Rue de la Paix.

“He has been stealing from me for years; he has doubtless forged a false will of the Baron, for I have found the true one!” said Rukavina Eltz. “I could not unravel the net that he has thrown over me but for this happy thought of tempting him to steal some false jewels. Had he got the real ones, his story would have been plausible. Now, I trust justice is convinced that it is a lie!”

A dreadful noise followed this speech of the spirited Baroness; Neusiedler had fallen down in a fit. Never more would he drink the yellow tinted Ruster; never more would he return to the joys of crushing the peasantry of Somlyo—of cheating the Baroness. The Baroness had cheated him at last. Sold! Sold! Sold! With false pearls and emeralds!

It was a very grand wedding, that of the Baroness to Sir Lyster Howard Lyster, who though only an English country gentleman, proved to be richer than she and who made her a loving and a hunting husband.

The Emperor gave her away, and she wore the pearl-colored pearl with the emerald drops, now become historical.

“Ah! Madame, dear Baroness, please tell me where you have kept the real jewels all these months?” said the pious Madame Pasteur, almost kissing the hem of her mistress’ robes.

The Baroness was dressed for travelling, as her faithful adherent knelt and asked this question. She had on the quilted satin red petticoat; the scarlet of old England.

“Was it in the double locked closet of the north tower?”

“Ah, no! faithful Pasteur, thou knowest Neusiedler had the key to that!”

“Was it in the jewel case of thy great ancestress, the Roumanian Princess?”

“No. Guess again!”

“Was it in the convent of the nuns of Rez Gebirge?”

“No, Pasteur, I never gave them anything to keep but my sins.”

“Was it in the Baron’s strong box in the cellar?”

“No, my dear Pasteur, no. You have the hiding place under your finger. They were quilted into the lining of this red satin petticoat. I owe the idea to that good Lady Louisa. “See here!” and gently raising the edge of her travelling skirt, right over her left foot, the Baroness showed Madame Pasteur a neat little series of pockets, where the jewels had been safely hidden in a scarlet prison.

The Columbian [Bloomsburg PA] 19 August 1881: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A happy ending, and all due to an undergarment that proved functional as well as decorative.  Never let it be said that fashionable scarlet petticoats are good for nothing but seduction.

The Baroness must, indeed, have been magnificent to turn the head of the Emperor, married to the exquisitely beautiful and equally wild horsewoman, the Empress Elisabeth.

 

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.