Category Archives: Jewels and Jewellery

Lady Queensberry’s Jewels: Nineteenth Century

LONDON, Aug. 7.—The engagement recently announced between Nicholas Wood, the Birmingham motor-car manufacturer and reputed millionaire, and Pauline Chase, the pretty American actress, is off.

A famous woman, whose name need not be mentioned, but who was once a royal favorite and the talk of London, is said to be at the bottom of the trouble. When she puts her eye on any man. he has but little chance of escape, and woe betide his fiancee or even his wife, once the lady has fascinated him. But she only puts her eye on men who have money. They know this, yet they fall into the trap. It seems incredible that a woman who is getting on for 80 and with such a record should still have it in her power to oust young and pretty women, but there it is. Most people noticed that nearly every photograph of the ex-royal favorite taken at Ascot and Newmarket showed Nicholas Wood in attendance; and her friends declare that poor little Pauline Chase is inconsolable.

There is one remarkable story connected with this woman which has never got into print, yet it is absolutely true. Some years ago she got hold of the marquis of Queensberry, a weak, good-natured person, and having got from him all the money possible she then insisted that he must give her the family jewels which, of course, were in the possession of his wife.

“No,” he said, ” I cannot possibly give you Lady Queensberry’s jewels.”

”Oh, but I never take ‘No’ from any one,” she said. “You have got to get them and what is more you must bring them at once.”

The marquis did not dare refuse—he was then under her sway absolutely—and in good time the jewels arrived.

Lady Queensberry missed them and accused her husband of having given them to the woman who was then the sensation of London. He did not deny it.  Instead of flying into a rage she took it calmly and said very little.

“Try to find out where she has deposited them,” she remarked.

Grateful for his wife’s calm in the matter the marquis decided that he would find, out and moreover so unutterably disgusted did he grow with himself and with the other woman that he determined he was finished with her.

When Lady Queensberry discovered the bank in which they were placed which, by the way, was one in Sloane street, she made up her mind she was going to have her jewels back. Always rather clever at imitating signatures she practiced for hours together copying that of her rival, which was really a remarkably easy one to imitate. She also managed to procure some note paper bearing the actress’s address and then and there Lady Queensberry wrote an order to the manager of the bank purporting to have come from the actress, requesting that the jewels which he was taking charge of for her be given to bearer. The manager apparently suspected nothing and handed the case to the messenger who conveyed it back to the marchioness. Every one remembers the sequel; the excitement in Scotland Yard, the amusement of London, the rage of the actress, and the abrupt manner in which the matter was eventually hushed up. The marchioness is the one and only woman who has been a match for the notorious Mrs. X . At the time Lady Queensberry was made a heroine by her friends and the late queen thought the ruse so smart that she sent for her to congratulate her on her cleverness.

After this Queensberry turned over a new leaf and they have lived more or less happily ever since.

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 19 August 1905: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As usual, the American press does not give all the salient details. Which Marquis of Queensbury?–Archibald William [1818-1858], who died in a shooting accident; or John Sholto Douglas, a rather nasty piece of work who was successfully sued for divorce by his wife Sybil on the grounds of adultery, and who made life so very unpleasant for Mr Oscar Wilde?  And one longs to know the identity of the notorious Mrs X.

Mrs Daffodil applauds Lady Queensberry’s sensible solution to a difficult conundrum.  Mrs Daffodil has a wistful idea that Lady Q. could have found a clever Venetian jeweller to add poisoned prongs to a ring or bracelet, but she or her husband would undoubtedly have been the obvious suspects. Still, Lady Queensberry would have had access to the very best legal representation and might have been acquitted by a sympathetic jury. Society, which shuns the divorcee, is intrigued by a reformed murderess. On the whole murder might have been the more socially palatable option and would have the additional benefit of ridding polite society of a dangerous adventuress.

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 Two Valentines: 1867

THE TWO VALENTINES

By Mary Forman
“It is such a bother to be poor!” There had been a long interval of silence in Mrs. Jameson’s little sitting-room, when Gertie made this exclamation. “What is the new bother, Gertie?” The pleased voice and look of kindly inquiry made the young girl blush deeply, as she replied:— “O mamma, never mind. I was only thinking aloud.” “Thinking of what?” “Of some velvet flowers I saw yesterday at Lee’s, which just matched this ribbon,” and Gertie held up a bonnet she was trimming. “Velvet flowers are so lovely for a winter bonnet, and this one needs something.” “I am sure it looks very nice , Gertie.” “Nice !” said the girl, with scornful emphasis; “yes, it is very nice , and that turned silk is nice , and the short sack made out of your old cloak is nice , and cleaned gloves are nice , and” —

“Why, Gertie!” cried her mother, in a voice of amazement.

“But there is nothing stylish or handsome in cleaned gloves, and retrimmed bonnets, and old cloaks turned into sacks, and so I say poverty is a bother.”

“Gertie, put away the bonnet, and come here. Now, little daughter,” said the widow, gently, “tell me the meaning of this sudden tirade against poverty; of the restless tossing I heard from your room last night; of the nervous unquiet of my contented little girl since yesterday?”

There was no answer.

“Gertie, what did Leon Payne say to you last evening?”

“He asked me to be his wife.” The words were jerked out, hastily.

“And you answered…”

“Jane came in to shut up the parlor, not knowing he was there, and she stayed; so he had no answer at all.”

“But he must be answered, Gertie. He has spoken to me, and I told him it must rest with you.”

“Mamma!” this was after a long, deep silence. “He is very rich. When he marries, his wife can have very luxury. If— if it is me, we can have you with us, and Jane need not teach in that horrid school any longer. We were on—– Street the other day, and stopped to look in a jeweller’s window , and he pointed out the kind of jewels he would wish his wife to wear. I need not wear old silks then, mamma!”

“Then you intend to accept his offer?”

“I don’t know. You see, there is Harry.”

“But Harry cannot offer you jewels .”

“No, poor Harry! If he had only three thousand dollars, Mr. Ingraham would take him into the firm. He told me all about it last week. But think how long it will take him to save three thousand dollars, and of course his wife must save, and pinch, and economize, till he is able to spend more freely.”

“Yes, dear, there would be no variation on the turned cloth and retrimmed bonnets; no velvet flowers, no jewels .”

“But such a noble, true heart; such tender love!”

“Leon Payne loves you.”

“As much as he loves anything beyond his own pleasure and comfort. He is so thoroughly selfish, so hard, and thinks so much of himself. It is his wife that must be handsomely dressed, ride in her carriage, and reflect credit upon his choice. Mamma, he loves me because I am pretty and can sing well, and can manage his house nicely. Harry loves me because it is me .”

There was a sudden violent jerk at the door bell at that instant, that called Gertie to the door. She came back with flying feet. “Two Valentines, mamma! I had forgotten it was the fourteenth!”

“Two?”

“Yes! O mamma, look!” She had torn off the cover from a dainty package in her hand, and opened a morocco case inside. Upon the black velvet lining lay a parure of glittering diamonds flashing up where a stray sunbeam fell upon them into a glorious sea of color. “Leon Payne!” cried Gertie. “Are they not exquisite?”

violet-poetry

Mrs. Jameson’s lip quivered a little as she looked at her daughter’s flushed face and bright eyes, and her heart sent up a silent but fervent prayer for the future trembling before her eyes. “Look at the other,” she said, quietly.

“Only a copy of verses,” said Gertie. “Violet eyes, and all that sort of thing. But, are not these diamonds magnificent? It is the very set I admired so much when we were out the other day.”

“Gertie, it is eleven o’clock, and I must go to Mrs. Lewis’. Little daughter, you may have callers while I am out;” she drew her child into her arms, and looked with anxious love into her eyes, “Gertie, my darling, be true to your own heart.” And so she left her.

True to her own heart. Gertie Jameson sat down to ponder over the words. The diamonds flashed out their glorious waves of light before her eyes; the copy of verses lay open upon the little work-table, and Gertie sat musing.

Pictures of the past came in rapid succession into her memory. It was ten years ago, but she could still remember the day, since her father had been called to the shadow land. The luxurious country home where she and Jane, her elder sister, were born was sold, and they had come to the city. Her mother, one of the finest amateur pianists of her time, had begun to teach music, and they had lived upon her earnings, until Jane was old enough to take the French class in a large seminary, and Gertie to have singing scholars at home; but even with these additions, their income was very limited. Close economy, self-denial, humble fare, and quiet dress, Gertie could recall much more distinctly than the wealth her father had squandered and lost.

Where did Harry Clarke come upon the scene? Gertie scarcely knew. He was a step-son of her mother’s brother, and had come to the city to make his fortune. Far away in the central part of Pennsylvania nestled a small farm where Harry was born, where father and mother had died, and which was the boy’s sole patrimony. The rent of this domain scarcely sufficed to clothe the young clerk, but he had been winning his way in the house of Ingraham & Co., and now, if he could make three thousand dollars, might be a partner. The farm might sell for part of that sum, but where was the rest to come from? queried Gertie. Yet, over Harry’s memory picture the little maiden lingered lovingly. There was no part of her life so pleasant to dwell upon as that where he figured. Long walks and talks, duets over the old piano, chats by fire-light, moonlight, and gas-light. He was so tender and loving, so honorable and true; so respectful to her mother, so tender to Jane, and so ready to advise or assist Jane’s betrothed, a fellow clerk, who was waiting the turn in fortune’s wheel that would enable him to marry. Was not such love as he offered worth any sacrifice?

Leon Payne came in only six months before this musing fit fell upon Gertie. She had met him at a musical party. She had bewitched him by her pretty, piquant beauty, her grace and her voice; he had dazzled her by his handsome face— Harry was not handsome, poor fellow, Gertie sighed— and wealthy. But the young girl knew with a woman’s intuition, that under the courtly manner, flattering attentions, and devoted air, there was a hard, selfish nature, a cruel jealousy, and a suspicious and hot temper. Yet, he was so rich, and Gertie knew all the torture and mistery of genteel poverty.

“Be true to my own heart!” She said the words aloud, as she rose and walked across the room. “Do I love Leon Payne? If he should lose his wealth, would I be a true, loving wife to him still? Could I wear old bonnets and turned dresses for his sake?” She took up the diamonds, and put them on while she spoke. They flashed brilliantly against the deep crimson of her neat dress, and heightened the effect of her young, fresh beauty. “If he were poor and ill, could I work for him as— as I could do for Harry?” It burst from her lips in a sort of cry, and she tore off the jewels and replaced them on their velvet bed. “I could bear all this for Harry, but not for Leon Payne. I will be true to my own heart.”

The winter was gliding into spring, when Mrs. Jameson sat in a luxurious house on —– Street, waiting the home coming of two brides. The parlor in which she waited was richly furnished. Velvet carpets covered the floors, velvet curtains draped the windows, long mirrors threw back the light of large chandeliers, costly pictures in heavily gilt frames hung upon the walls. Above, large bed-rooms were filled with handsomely appointed furniture. In one room laces, velvets, flowers, and silks fit for a royal trousseau , filled drawers and wardrobe; the dining-room was spread for a rich and varied repast, and the widow’s own dress, though only black silk, was rich and handsomely made.

“My little Gertie,” said Mrs. Jameson, softly, “how will she reign over this palace?” A quieter home, but pleasant, too, was waiting for Jane, whose husband had received an anonymous gift, that enabled him to accept a business opening long looked upon as an unattainable felicity. But Jane was to spend a few days with Gertie before going to her own home, and the mother looked for two brides, as I said before.

It was nearly midnight when the carriage drove up. Gertie was first in her mother’s arms, and then, as Jane took her place, the little bride stood in the centre of the long parlors pale with astonishment. She had tossed off her bonnet, and the simple straw lay upon the velvet carpet, while the soft gray dress of the mistress of the house seemed oddly out of place.

“Where am I?” she gasped, at last.

“At home , darling.” And her husband passed his arm round her waist. “Home!” “It is not a very long story,” he said, looking down into her wondering eyes; “but I did not tell you before because I wanted to see if you loved me .”

She nestled close to him, letting her head fall upon his bosom. “The farm, Gertie,” he said, softly, “was full of oil.” “Oil?” “Petroleum! I sold it for more money than Leon Payne ever possessed. Now, pet, run up stairs, mother will show you the room, and let me see how some of the finery there suits you.”

“But it is nearly midnight.” “Never mind. We want a queen to preside over the supper.”

Mrs. Jameson led her away, while Jane and her husband stood as bewildered as Gertie had been. Suddenly the bridegroom started forward to grasp Harry’s hand.

“Then it was you ,” he said, “who sent me the bundle of greenbacks?” “Are we not brothers ?” said Harry, quietly. There was a little talk then, with husky voices and moist eyes, and Jane was still looking gratefully into Harry’s face, when the door opened and Gertie flashed in. All the light had come back to her eyes, the rich color to her cheeks; and the shining silk revealed snowy arms and shoulders, while rich lace fell in full folds round the sweeping skirts. Upon her clustering curls rested a wreath of white flowers, and rare bracelets clasped her wrists. She made a low reverence to her husband.

“Lovely!” he cried. “But, pet, wear the diamonds to-night.”

“What diamonds?”

“The ones I sent you for a Valentine.”

You sent me! Harry! I sent them back to Leon Payne.”

It was certainly ten years later, when one evening at one of Mrs. Clarke’s receptions, Mrs. Leon Payne said to her, pointing to her jewels:— “It was the oddest thing about these diamonds. Somebody sent them to Leon for a Valentine, years ago. He could never guess where they came from, for of course the lady must have been wealthy; though why she sent a lady’s parure to a gentleman is a mystery. Are they not lovely, Mrs. Clarke?”

“Very lovely,” and Gertie smiled, as she thought of the day ten years before, when she was true to her own heart .

Godey’s Lady’s Book February 1867

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is certain that all of her readers will take this salutary Valentine lesson to their bosoms: Always be true to your heart!  It would also not do any harm to have a quiet geological survey done of the Beloved’s rustic farm.

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.

 

Paper Lace Frills Give Cupid Chills: 1917

PAPER LACE FRILLS GIVE CUPID CHILLS

To Give a Girl a Valentine, One Really Ought to Own a Mine

Margaret Mason

“Oh Valentine, wilt thou be mine?”

“Indeed I will” said she,

“If you can prove you’ll be a mine

Of gold and jewels for me.”

New York, Feb. 9

Alas! Poor little Dan Cupid is trailing his rosy wings in the dust. He leans sad and discouraged on his quiver with a quiver of his under lip. Since munition millionaires are buying up hearts of rubies and scarves of Point de Venise to present to their fair Valentines this February 14th, Cupid feels red satin hearts and paper lace frills won’t have a chance.

Oh, where are the paper lace and tinsel valentines of yesterday? The hand-painted satin hearts, pierced with gilded darts, all amorously inscribed with some choice and burning sentiment fresh from a passionate poet’s pen. They are in the dust heap of the Gods along with the broken vows, shattered hearts and withered flowers.

The modern maid is educated up to more expensive love tokens. She insists that the tinsel of her valentine be at least 14 karat, if not 22. Her paper lace must be real lace and any hearts coming her way must be shiny jeweled ones instead of shiny satin. There are all sorts of heart shaped jewel boxes too ranging from gold, silver and carved ivory, down to equally effective and less expensive enamel, lacquer, brass, ivorine, and pewter. If you sent one of these with this telling little sentiment borrowed from one of William Winter’s poems:

“I send you, dear, an empty heart

But send it from a very full one.”

You cannot fail to win the gratified adoration of your Valentine lady.

Nephrite frame by Faberge.

Nephrite frame by Faberge.

If you have the face to do it a heart shaped picture frame of silver or colored leather makes a picturesque valentine and there are heart shaped crystal vials of perfume rare, fit for the most fastidious of noses. Love often smiles on one who exchanges dollars for scents.

To bag a heart with a heart-shaped bag would seem to be a popular sport this February 14, for the varieties of valentine bags offered is most bewildering. There are sewing bags and bags for anything at all.

The most elaborate, ornate, and expensive of the valentine tokens I have glimpsed is a heart shaped brooch of rubies pierced by an arrow of platinum from whose point drips a drop of ruby gore. The nicest St. Valentine gift, I think, is a hand-carved old gilt and blue wood frame enshrining the photograph of The-Only-Man-in-the-World. And I think what a practical and useful gift for next year it will be so easy to change the photograph for another of the 1918 or more current Only-Man-in-the-World.

Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 9 February 1917: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The escalating expense of St Valentine’s Day has always been a point of controversy.  Victorian gentleman complained of elaborate valentines costing more than a labourer’s monthly wages. Will the Beloved be satisfied with something cheap and whimsical or must the gift be royally lavish? There is much at stake.

Jewellery is somewhat more problematic. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they rarely achieve their resale value at auction. One of the most poignant sights in the world is the gold cigarette case or bracelet in an auction catalogue engraved, “Yours Forever,” “Eternal Love, Pookie,” or some other sentimentally inaccurate inscription. Mrs Daffodil’s advice is to suggest that one’s lover invest in items of precious metal. A photograph should be framed, at the very least, sterling silver, so that if the current Only-Man-in-the-World objects to a souvenir of his predecessor, the article can be pawned with profit.

Of course, if one is the owner of a mine or munitions factory or if one is Queen, cost is no object:

There are three great makers [of Valentines in England]: Rimmel, Dean and Goodall. Rimmel is the famous perfumer, and his goods waft their fragrance far and wide and turn, nasally speaking, thousands of dirty post-office pigeon-holes into Araby the blest. Messrs Dean claim to have produced the most costly valentine ever made. This was executed to the order of the Queen, and was a marvel of the illuminator’s art, being also further enriched by feather flowers of the most exquisite description. These encircled some lines of poetry by the late Prince Consort, and the valentine was sent to the Prince of Wales on his eighteenth birthday. Its cost has not been divulged, on the principle, no doubt, that “the unknown is always wonderful.”

Springfield [MA] Republican 24 March 1873: p. 8

One has a strong suspicion that the Prince of Wales would have preferred a trip to Paris or a racing horse for his stable.

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.

 

Queen Victoria and the Governess: 1883

On the date when Her Majesty Queen Victoria joined her beloved Albert in the Other World, Mrs Daffodil presents a story of Her Majesty’s kindness to a mourning governess.

QUEEN VICTORIA’S TENDERNESS.

There is so much cruel forgetfulness of the rights of inferiors and servants on the part of the ” privileged classes ” generally, that we are always pleased and refreshed to read the stories which are told of Victoria’s good heart and kind consideration. Grace Greenwood relates the following:

When I was in England I heard several pleasant anecdotes of the queen and her family from a lady who had received them from a friend, the governess of the royal children. This governess, a very interesting young lady, was the orphan daughter of a Scottish clergyman. During the first year of her residence at Windsor her mother died. When she first received the news of her mother’s serious illness, she applied to the Queen to be allowed to resign her situation, feeling that to her mother she owed even a more sacred duty than to her sovereign.

The Queen, who had been much pleased with her, would not hear of her making this sacrifice, but said, in a tone of most gentle sympathy:

“Go at once to your mother, child; stay as long as she needs you, and then come back to us. Prince Albert and I will hear the children’s lessons; so, in any event, let your mind be at rest in regard to your pupils.”

The governess went, and had several weeks of sweet mournful communion with her dying mother. Then when she had seen that dear form laid to sleep under the daisies in the old kirkyard, she returned to the palace, where the loneliness of the royal grandeur would have oppressed her sorrowing heart beyond endurance had it not been for the gracious, womanly sympathy of the Queen, who came every day to her school room, and the considerate kindness of her young pupils. A year went by, the first anniversary of her great loss dawned upon her and she was overwhelmed as never before by the utter loneliness of her grief. She felt that no one in all the great household knew how much goodness and sweetness passed out of mortal life that day a year ago, or could give one tear, one thought, to that grave under the Scottish daisies.

Every morning before breakfast, which the elder children took with their father and mother in the pleasant crimson parlor looking out on the terrace at Windsor, her pupils came to the school-room for a brief religious exercise. This morning the voice of the governess trembled in reading the Scriptures of the day. Some words of Divine tenderness were too much for her poor, lonely, grieving heart— her strength gave way, and, laying her head on the desk before her, she burst into tears, murmuring, “O, mother, mother!”

One after another the children stole out of the room, and went to their mother to tell how sadly their governess was feeling, and that kind hearted monarch, exclaiming, “Oh, poor girl, it is the anniversary of her mother’s death!” hurried to the school-room, where she found Miss __ struggling to regain her composure.

“My poor child,” she said, “I am sorry the children disturbed you this morning. I meant to have given orders that you should have this day entirely to yourself. Take it as a sad and sacred holiday—I will hear the lessons of the children.” And then she added: “To show you that I have not forgotten this mournful anniversary, I bring you this gift,” clasping on her arm a beautiful mourning bracelet, with a locket of her mother’s hair, marked with the date of her mother’s death. What wonder that the orphan kissed, with tears, this gift, and the more than royal hand that bestowed it?  

Friends’ Review: A Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal, Volume 36, Samuel Rhoads, Enoch Lewis, eds., 1883

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was, indeed, a very kind gesture from Her Majesty, in keeping with this anecdote from the first moments of her reign:

The first act of her life as queen was to write a letter, breathing the purest and tenderest feelings of affection and condolence to Queen Adelaide. . . . Her majesty wrote the letter spontaneously and having finished it folded it and addressed it to “Her Majesty the Queen.” Some one in her presence, who had a right to make a remark, noticing this, mentioned that the superscription was not correct and that the letter ought to be addressed to “Her Majesty, the Queen Dowager.”

“I am quite aware,” said Queen Victoria, “of her majesty’s altered character, but I will not be the first person to remind her of it.” Wit, Wisdom and Foibles of the Great, Charles Anthony Shriner

Her Majesty’s rigidity over the forms of mourning caused acid comment in the papers at the death of her son, Leopold, the Duke of Albany:

CONVENTIONAL MOURNING.

Dear Mr Editor, I hope I shall not shock you very much if I let your readers know in confidence that some of us are getting just a wee bit tired of the fuss people still persist in making over the death of the poor dear Duke of Albany. Fancy having to go into mourning at the very commencement of summer for six weeks. It seems too dreadful. A friend of mine, a charming woman, but sadly independent, declares nothing shall induce her to make herself uncomfortable for so long, and that she means to dress as usual next week. Of course nothing can come of her resolve unless some ill-natured friend tells the Court officials, but it is certainly running a risk. Ladies in society who disregarded the Queen’s injunctions about wearing mourning for the Prince Consort, were struck off the Lord Chamberlain’s list and debarred from attending all Court balls, State concerts and drawing-rooms for three seasons afterwards. This, I can assure you, is a very serious punishment. It means social annihilation for the time being, as people do not care to be seen in your company lest they too should incur Royal displeasure. The Queen does not insist upon crape, even her ladies-in-waiting are relieved from this infliction, but she requires that the period of mourning shall be strictly observed. As John Brown used to say, “When Her Majesty mourns, she mourns.” Truth remarks, perhaps a little ill-naturedly, that the Queen seems to take a morbid pleasure in ceremonies of a mournful nature, and to almost revel in all the undertaker’s details as to coffins, services, graves and monuments. Certainly she seldom seems as active and vigorous as when superintending something of the kind. Star 9 June 1884: p. 3

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.

For more on the customs of Victorian mourning, see The Victorian Book of the Dead.

The Snake Garter: 1897

This was sold as a bracelet, but one wonders if it was a garter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397161260861916692/

This was sold as a bracelet, but one wonders if it was a garter. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397161260861916692/

THE SNAKE GARTER

Strange Fad Adopted by the Society Girls of New York

Snake-lovers are becoming constantly more numerous among women who are at leisure to have fads. The newest manifestation of the strange fancy for serpents is the snake garter, which recently made its first appearance in Paris, and which was sketched for the New York World immediately upon its arrival in this country. A counterpart of this not altogether attractive ornament was first made to gratify the whim of a well-known society woman in Paris. Accident disclosed its possession to one of her friends, who was so delighted with it that the secret of the caprice was soon an open one.

Snake garters were many in Paris the next week. The garter is usually made of gold fibers, cleverly knit together so that the whole is made perfectly flexible. It is long enough to coil twice around the leg just below the knee, and is sufficiently elastic to retain its position.

The snake garter is freed from much of the horror naturally attached to it by the elaborate decorations which accompany it. The head is a knob of jewels of various colors, and a line of tiny diamonds runs from the head to the extreme tip of the tail.

Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 14 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil really does not understand the appeal of reptilian fashion. The average lady would scream or faint in horror and dismay if a genuine snake were to be found writhing about her leg.  Yet we are expected to believe that a bit of plaited gold tinsel and some tawdry gemstones will cause sensibly snake-averse persons to disregard the revulsion they naturally feel for the species and eagerly embrace ophidian accessories more suited to a lady snake-charmer.

Mrs Daffodil has written before about the garter-mounted pocket-book and garter-flask. There were an infinite number of novelties among these nether necessities.

The latest fashionable extravagance among silly city society ladies are garter buckles. A pair was sold in New York the other day that were valued at eight hundred dollars. The Reading [PA] Times 24 January 1889: p. 2

“HONI SOIT” GARTER

London September 30.

Fashion’s latest fad is in the form of garters with a tiny pocket at the back of the knee for a handkerchief or powder-puff. The garters are made of gold or silver tinsel woven in elastic bands. Auckland Star, 10 October 1924: p. 7

The bicycle girl’s garter-buckle is in keeping with her favorite sport; it is of gold, etched with a figure of a girl in knickers on a wheel. Godey’s Lady’s Book July 1897

And, most stunningly, seen at the New York Horse Show of 1912:

The wonderful diamond garter—or what Mr. John R. Townsend called a “leg bracelet,” worn by a very prominent matron, was the sensation of the hour at the Horse Show. It was a broad band of diamonds clasped on the left leg just below the knee. From it hung a two-inch fringe of smaller diamonds. The matron’s skirt was slit up on the side so as to show the garter.

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.

 

Frivolous Gaby and her Jewels: 1920

gaby-deslys-1910

Why Frivolous Gaby Left Her $1,000,000 Gems to the Poor

The Strange Fear That Made Her Recklessly Extravagant, Penurious, Caused Her Untimely Death, and Forced Her to Give Her Most Precious Possessions to the Destitute.

The sale of poor Gaby Deslys’s jewels for the benefit of the poor of Marseilles is one of the strangest, most puzzling freaks of human behavior of our day.

That a woman who was universally noted for her frivolity, her extravagance, her worldliness in short, should perform the utterly unworldly act of selling all her jewels for the unknown poor seems inexplicable. These jewels were the greatest pride, the greatest joy of her life of insensate extravagance, and yet she willed away the magnificent collection to help a lot of wretched, squalid, hopeless paupers. The act is entirely contrary to what one would expect In a person of her spectacular career.

The explanation of Gaby’s strange will has been furnished to your correspondent by one of her intimate friends. Her action can only be understood when one knows the peculiar state of mind, almost a pathological condition, which had dominated her for years.

“Gaby had an almost insane fear of poverty,” said your correspondent’s informant. “Poverty was to her like a personal devil, always watching her and waiting to grasp her in his cruel clutches. Her most extravagant acts were committed as a form of defiance to this demon–poverty. The final act of her life, willing her jewels to the poor, was intended to be her supreme blow at the demon.”

This revelation of the famous dancer’s state of mind also clears up some of the mystery surrounding the last romance of her life, her affair with the young Duke de Crussol, member of France’s most ancient noble family. The Duke, who accompanied the dancer to New York about a year ago, was so profoundly devoted to her that his family came to the conclusion he was planning to marry her and was dreadfully worried at the prospect.

The truth was that the pretty dancer had confided to the young Duke her dream of leaving all her wealth to the poor and that with the enthusiasm of youth he was completely carried away by her idealism. That is why he treated her with a reverence not usually paid by young dukes to frivolous dancers. That also explains his profound emotion at her death, why he I broke into tears, wrung his hands in anguish, and could scarcely control himself:

“She had such a beautiful soul.” said the Duke, evidently under the influence of knowledge that was not within the reach of ordinary persons. “She was good, she was noble, she lived for others. Nobody can understand yet how good she was.”

The Duke, it should be recalled, distinguished himself as an aviator during the War, and threw away his chance of the Legion of Honor in order to visit Gaby Deslys when she was ill.

The value of the jewels left by Gaby to the poor is enormous, and is not fully indicated by the sale at auction already held. The market is a bad one at present, and the prices obtained were disappointing in view of the remarkable beauty and rarity of the pieces, and besides that there are many that have not yet been sold. Few stage-favorites have ever accumulated so great an aggregation of wealth.

Her entire collection was conservatively estimated at 5,300,000 francs, which at a normal rate of exchange would be about $1,060,000.

It would require a volume to catalogue all her jewels. Among those sold for the benefit of the poor of Marseilles may be signalled:

The necklace of forty-nine graduated pearls given to Gaby by Manuel II of Portugal, $105,000

Gaby’s famous necklace of fifty-seven pearls, with three great pearls pendant,

the central pearl black, $100,000.

A string of sixty-nine pearls, $47,600.

A string of one hundred and fifty pearls, $56,000.

Two platinum and diamond necklaces, $51,000

A splendid diamond pendant, $11,300.

An emerald pendant, set in diamonds, $19,440.

The gems were of many kinds, but pearls predominated. All the stones were of an extraordinary degree of beauty and purity–there was nothing second rate in the collection. A superb gold and platinum handbag, an antique Chinese ivory bracelet, and a beautiful sapphire and diamond armlet were among the curiosities of the display.

To her dancing partner, Harry Pilcer, she left $50,000, and income of $3,600 a year and many other gifts, while she made other benefactions to the poor besides the one mentioned.

Gaby’s fear and hatred of poverty was a sentiment which had arisen in early youth in an extraordinary ambition, vital and luxury loving temperament, and grew there until it had become a devouring passion, almost a mania. At one time, when she was at the height of her success, her concentration upon this idea became so great that her reason was endangered and she was forced to consult an eminent neurologist—Dr. Henri Mesurier, of the Salpetriere Hospital.

He gave her a long course of treatment with the object of reducing the frantic torrent of her ideas to a normal channel. Fully recognizing that it would be useless and foolish to uproot the deepest sentiment of her nature, the doctor contented himself with directing it toward a goal that would not bring ruin or madness upon her. Thus it came to be agreed between them that she should find a life-long satisfaction of her passion by accumulating treasures and leaving her accumulated wealth after death to strike the hardest possible blow against poverty. In this way she was protected to some extent from the danger of ruining herself by her extravagances in her lifetime.

The existence of Gaby Deslys was one long triumph over the demon Poverty, a fantastic deriding of his powers and terrors, a battle which she always won, but a battle so furious that her reason was often endangered.

Gaby was brought up by parents who suffered the lowest depth of poverty in the famous old city of Marseilles, on the Mediterranean. In no city of the civilized world perhaps is poverty so prevalent and so appalling as in Marseilles. Its slums have been accumulating misery since the days of the ancient Phoenicians, who founded the city and for more than two thousand years they have put their blight upon unnumbered victims.

At thirteen years of age Gaby understood to the full what poverty meant in its worst and most degrading sense. She determined to conquer it and never fall under its power again. This determination became the dominant passion of her life and the cause of her early death.

The rapidity of her success as a public artist was amazing. She chose to be a dancer and quickly became a star performer without any training, but that which she gave herself while dancing to an organ in a Marseilles slum or doing a turn in a third class café.

Her beauty, her vitality, her daring poses, her astonishing way of wearing astonishing clothes captivated the public but her skill as a dancer was even by her own admission not equal to that of many other performers.

Always she wanted money, but it was not merely for the sake of money but for the purpose of celebrating her triumph over her childhood enemy—poverty. Her skill in business transactions was amazing, and she was able by her audacity and cleverness to obtain $100,000 for a tour where a woman of greater artistic accomplishments would not, perhaps , have received $5,000.

In the course of a few years Gaby was able to accumulate a great fortune in money and other possessions the most valuable collection of jewels, bibelots and art treasures owned by any actress in Paris, a palace in London and an estate in America which has not yet been appraised.

Nobody, perhaps, will ever know the true story of her relations with ex-King Manuel of Portugal. People will always believe that Manuel’s infatuation for her, the gifts which he showered upon her, brought about the revolution that cost him his throne. According to this view the gorgeous pearl necklace which Manuel gave the fair dancer, was the last act of recklessness that goaded his infuriated people to expel him.

Whatever the historical facts may be concerning Gaby’s relations with the King, it is certain that following the revelation of this romance, she enjoyed an unusual increase of wealth and valuable jewels. And on this as on all other occasions she displayed the faculty of turning whatever happened to her Into money. But she did not seek money for the miserly purpose of hoarding, but simply to jest at the monster poverty.

Gaby frankly set out to make all the money she possibly could, and she did not conceal this purpose from anyone—not even from romantic young kings and noblemen who paid then court to her. She made no pretence of following art for art’s sake–she followed art for money’s sake.

There was hardly anything she would not do for money. For several seasons she demanded $500 from everyone who enjoyed the privilege of taking supper with her. She had noticed that many nouveaux riches and would-be sports were eager to be seen supping or dining with her or with any of the popular actresses of the moment.

She knew that such men had no real regard for her. They sought her society mainly for the glory or notoriety which it reflected on them. Why should they not pay for that which they so selfishly sought? Why should they enjoy it merely by paying for a meal? Therefore Gaby took all the money she could obtain from such persons in the most baldly commercial spirit. But with all who were poor, all who had been her true friends in any way she was generous to an extreme degree.

She frankly recognized that her beautiful body was her capital. It was through that alone that she was able to earn her great fortune. Anything that injured her body diminished her capital and her wealth and the mere idea of such a diminution, such a submission to the monster poverty, filled her with horror and she was ready to die rather than yield an inch to the arch enemy. It was indeed this sentiment that eventually brought about Gaby s untimely death.

She had suffered from an attack of influenza and pleurisy. As an after effect they left several abscesses in the respiratory tract which prostrated her after she had struggled valiantly to carry on her work for several weeks.

The surgeons informed her that the abscesses could be emptied safely and quickly through one or more incisions in her neck and that she would make a rapid recovery from her illness. But the incisions would have made a permanent scar on her neck, would have injured that beauty on which her income depended, would, in short, have seriously diminished her capital and wealth. She absolutely refused to permit them to operate.

The surgeons brought their tools and endeavored to overcome her opposition. Even in her weakened condition her will proved absolutely insurmountable. The method of treating the abscesses through the mouth proved ineffective to relieve the system of the poison and she died from the septic poisoning at the height of her fame and beauty.

“I will die laughing at poverty,” she gasped In her last moments as she lay in her luxurious apartment surrounded by every comfort that wealth could procure to lessen her sufferings.

This singular, passionate fear of poverty gives the answer to the great enigma of her life–her mingled sordidness, generosity, charity, avarice and recklessness.

A few months ago, as she sat robed in glorious pearls and costly fabrics, surrounded by the art treasures of the ages, she exclaimed to a group of intimate friends: “Ah! j’ai tellement peur de la misere!” “Ah! I have such fear of poverty!”

She then described her conception of the monster, her early struggles with him, her triumph over him with a dramatic force that far exceeded anything she had ever displayed on the stage and that held her hearers thrilled.

On her beautiful body she then wore jewels that were worth not less than $300,000. In an adjoining room was the exquisite bed that had belonged to the celebrated Duchess de Fontanges—one of several beds of equal historical value which Gaby used in rotation.

In cabinets about her were Limoges enamels that had been the joy of the great King Francis I. On the walls were paintings by Botticelli and other early Italian masters. On the book shelves were priceless volumes printed by Elzevir and Aldus Manutius.

“And I, the little poverty-stricken brat of Marseilles, enjoy all this and more,” shrieked Gaby. “I laugh at poverty! I fear Him no more! I defy him!”

Her house on Kensington Gore, London, near the old palace where Queen Victoria was born, was described by Englishmen as so stately, so luxurious that it was fit only for royalty. Her lingerie and her silk-stockings which were the most costly that the manufacturers of the world could produce, were discarded after she had worn them two or three times at the most.

Her motor cars were the most luxurious and costly obtainable, and she abandoned them after using them for a few months. One of her recent purchases was an eighty-horsepower touring car, containing an exquisite boudoir where she could dress and make up in comfort. This she sold after three months use, because she did not like the exact tone of the upholstery.

All these extravagances, these insensate luxuries, were a gratification of her peculiar mental bias and a way of hurling defiance at old poverty. She wanted to feel that she could command every luxury that misery denied to its slaves. She wanted to feel that she had such command of these luxuries that she could throw them away if she pleased—could flaunt them or flout them as she saw fit.

But such was her passion for luxuries that she Instinctively sought those that were rarest and so, unconsciously perhaps, she accumulated things that had great intrinsic value. Very often they increased in value and so she grow richer and richer. When she bought absolutely flawless pearls, the largest and finest in the market, she picked the only kind that would sell again for as much or more than their purchase price.

All the time that she was hilariously and triumphantly defying poverty she was hugging to herself and a very few intimates the secret of the supreme blow she meant to aim at the monster. She thought with deep joy of her great plan of leaving her choicest treasures to fight poverty in that squalid old city where he held his most hopeless victims. This was the course in which she had been encouraged by the great neurologist in order to maintain her mental balance and keep her from ruining herself by her extravagances.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 18 July 1920: p. 77

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Gaby was, by all accounts, a fascinating personality, captivating, as mentioned above, aristocrats and a King. While one cannot fault a person born into poverty for wishing to make as much money as possible, this article suggests that the entertainer was a trifle unbalanced on the subject. The overwrought tone of the article implies to Mrs Daffodil’s mind that the author is  not altogether impartial in his assessment of Mlle Deslys.

It was widely remarked at the time that the fabled jewel collection “under-performed,” as auction aficionados say:

It is said that a certain gloom pervaded the atmosphere when the jewels of Gaby Deslys were sold by auction in a public gallery in Paris. Perhaps it was only the fancy of an impressionable correspondent, but the Parisians are a sentimental people, and the gulf between anything so personal as jewelry and a public auction room is wide and obvious. Every glittering trinket there must have had its history in emotion, in the joy of purchase or gift, in the ecstasy of possession. Every one must have been fragrant with romance and with a voiceless eloquence of boudoir and footlights. If only they could tell their stories, but perhaps it is as well that they can not. There is hardly an antique jewel in the world, without its record of blood and crime as well as of love, hardly one without its guilt of greed and murder.

But what an astonishing mass of jewelry was owned by Gaby Deslys. One wonders where it all came from, but that is one of the things that we are never likely to be told. No matter how large her earnings as a dancer she could hardly have bought a half of it. The most wonderful thing there was a platinum collar carrying an enormous diamond and four splendid pearls. In the centre was a great black pearl weighing 140 grammes flanked by two white pearls nearly as large. It had been valued at 500,000 francs, but the auctioneer was unable to raise the bids above 402,000 francs, and it went to some unknown person who was supposed to be acting for a wealthy client. Doubtless we shall hear more about this resplendent collar, and it is fairly safe to assume that the news will come from somewhere in America.

Gaby Deslys was a lover of pearls and there was much curiosity to see her collection. A chain of 154 pearls was sold for 280,000 francs, and three pearl necklaces brought a total of 1,054,000 francs. A platinum net bag studded with diamonds and pearls were sold for 39,000 francs, which was said to be much less than its value. But the most curious of all the articles offered for sale was a belt made of American gold coins, including seventeen twenty-dollar pieces. This brought 4100 francs, a curiously low price, seeing that the coins alone were worth more than that amount. Presumably the belt was the gift of some American admirer, and it may be that the donors themselves were in some cases among the bidders. It would be strange if it were not so, for who would wish to see his gift to a lady fall into strange hands and amid the prosaic associations of an auction room?

The Argonaut 10 July 1920: p. 28

Here is a link to some images of the lovely Mlle Deslys, accompanied by a recording of her singing several songs, c. 1910.

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

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

The Duke’s Diamonds: 1863

 

The Duke Of Brunswick.—The Duke of Brunswick, now residing in Paris, has an extraordinary collection of diamonds, valued at £450,000. A catalogue of his gems, which has just been published, contains 268 quarto pages, and gives the history of each stone; one has glittered on the breast of an emperor, another has sparkled in a royal diadem, a third has served as the eye of an idol. In this way diamonds follow one another of the value of from £2000 to £12,000 each. Not content with these, the duke is at the present moment bargaining for two gems—one valued at £35,000, the other at £97,500.

The possessor of these treasures is a perfect slave to them—he dare not leave Paris, for his diamonds form the chain which binds him; he dare not even absent himself from home a single night for fear of being robbed. The house he resides in is built less for comfort than for safety: it is equally proof against fire and thieves. It is surrounded by a lofty wall, on the top of which are spikes so arranged that when a hand is laid on one of them a bell commences ringing. The diamonds are kept in a safe let into the wall, and the duke’s bed stands before it, so that a thief attempting to get at the safe must awaken the sleeper. But this arrangement enables the Duke to gloat over his beloved jewels while he is lying in bed, and this he frequently does for hours together. Even were the safe reached and forcibly opened it would be useless, for four guns would be discharged and kill the burglar on the spot; and with the discharge of the guns is connected the ringing of an alarm-bell in every room to arouse the household. The duke’s bedroom has but one small window, and this is securely barred. The bolt on his door is of the stoutest iron, and the lock cannot be either picked or forced. A case containing twelve loaded revolvers stands by the side of his bed. Notwithstanding these precautions the duke continually fancies that he is about to be robbed, and this fear pursues him day and night. His idols prove his curse.

The Panorama, 1863: p. 83

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The alleged “Duke of Brunswick,” was, in fact, Charles II, former Duke of Brunswick, although he was allowed to keep his title when he was deposed in 1830 for his eccentricities and his corrupt government. Since he spent the first years after his father’s death under the guardianship of the Prince Regent, later George IV of England, his fascination with diamonds is readily explicable. While described in his obituary as a “painted, bewigged Lothario, whose follies, eccentricities, and diamonds made him the talk of Europe,”  he undeniably had an eye for jewels. It was said that he owned the Agra diamond and the “Brunswick Blue,” reputed to have been cut from the same stone as the Hope Diamond. He never married and left his fortune to the City of Geneva, which was disappointed in the results of the sale of his jewels and plate, some of which proved spurious.

Mrs Daffodil understands, from a mention made by a tabloid-reading footman, that a certain television personality, a Miss Kardashian, in town for Paris Fashion Week, was recently the victim of a terrifying and daring jewel robbery. The thirteen pieces of jewellery purloined, including Miss Kardashian’s immense engagement ring, were reported to be worth US$10 million, a figure later reduced to US$5.6 million in the insurance claims.  If Miss Kardashian happens to peruse these pages, she might wish to take a hint from the Duke who seems to have neglected no detail of security for his collection, anticipating the use of so-called “panic rooms” in the residences of the wealthy and powerful.

For a story of a sinister tablet-diamond ring, see this post; and for a clever diamond thief, see “The Diamond Buckles.”

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.