Category Archives: Literary

The Astor Library Ghost: 1860

ghost-book-popups

A Haunted Library.

The New York Post gives the story of an apparition as seen in the Astor Library, by the Librarian, Dr. Cogswell, and as related and believed by the Doctor. The Post says:

To understand the circumstances of this remarkable apparition the more fully, the reader should remember that Dr. Cogswell, the efficient librarian, has been for some time engaged in the compilation of a complete catalogue of the library. Dr. Cogswell is an unmarried man, and occupies a sleeping apartment in the upper part of the library, the janitor residing in the basement. It is the rule of the library to dismiss visitors at sunset, and during the evening and night no individual besides Dr. Cogswell and the janitor and his family remain in the building. Dr. Cogswell devotes hour of night that should be given to repose, to the pursuance of his work on the catalogue.

Some two weeks ago Doctor Cogswell was at work as usual on the catalogue. It was about eleven o’clock at night, and having occasion to refer to some books in a distant part of the library, he left his desk, took his candle, and, as he had often done before, pursued his course among the winding passages towards the desired spot–But before reaching it, while in an alcove in the southwest part of the older portion of the building, he was startled by seeing a man, respectably dressed in citizen’s clothes, surveying a shelf of books. doctor supposed it to be a robber who had secreted himself for the purpose of abstracting some of the valuable works in the library; after stepping back behind a partition for a moment, he again moved cautiously forward, to catch a glimpse of the individual’s face, when to his surprise he recognised in the supposed robber the features of a physician (whose name we forbear giving) who had lived in the immediate vicinity of the library, and who had died some six weeks ago! It should be borne in mind that this deceased person was a mere casual acquaintance of Dr Cogswell, not an intimate friend, and since his death .Dr. Cogswell had not thought of him.

But the apparition was in the presence of a man not easily scared. The librarian, so far from fainting or shrieking, as might reasonably be expected, calmly addressed the ghost:

“Dr. __,” said he “you seldom, if ever, visited this Library while living. Why do you trouble us now when dead?”

Perhaps the ghost did not like the sound of the human voice; any way, it gave no answer, but disappeared.

The next day Mr. Cogswell thought over the matter, attributed it to some optical delusion, and in the evening proceeded with his work as usual. Again he wished to refer to some books, and again visited the southwestern alcove. There again as large as life, was the ghost, very calmly and placidly surveying the shelves, Mr. Cogswell again spoke to it:

“Dr. __, said he, “again I ask you why you who never visited the Library while living, trouble it when dead?”

Again the ghost vanished: and the undaunted librarian pursued his task without interruption. The next day he examined the shelves before which the apparition had been standing, and by a singular coincidence found that they were filled with books devoted to demonology, witchcraft, magic, spiritualism, &c. Some of these books are rare tomes, several centuries old, written in Latin, illustrated with quaint diagrams, and redolent of misticism; while the next shelves are their younger brethren, the neat spruce works of modern spiritualists, of Brittan, Davis, Edmonds and others. The very titles on these books are suggestive. These are the Prophecies or Prognostications of Michael Nostradamus, a folio published in London in 1672; de Conjectionibus; Kerner’s Majikon; Godwin’s Lives of the Necromancers; Glanvil on Witches and Apparitions; Cornelius Agrippa; Bodin’s Demonomania; Lilly’s Astrology and others, a perusal of any which would effectually murder the sleep of a person of ordinary nerve for at least half a dozen nights. It was these volumes that appeared to attract the apparition.

The third night Mr. Cogswell, still determined that the shade, spirit delusion or effect of indigestion–whatever it might be–should not interfere with his duties, again visited the various books to which he wished to refer to, and when occasion demanded, did not fail to approach the mystic alcove. There again was the apparition, dressed precisely as before, in a gentleman’s usual costume, as natural as life, and with a hand raised, as if about to take down a book. Mr. Cogswell again spoke–“Dr. __.,” he said boldly. “This is the third time I have met you. Tell me if any of this class of books now disturb you? If they do I will have them removed.”

But the ungrateful ghost, without acknowledging this accommodating spirit on the part of its interrogator, disappeared. Nor was it seen since, and the librarian has continued his nightly researches since without interruption.

A few days ago, at a dinner party at the house of a well-known wealthy gentleman, Mr. Cogswell related the circumstances as above recorded, as nearly as we can learn. As above eighteen or twenty persons were present, the remarkable story of course soon spread about. A number of literary men, including an eminent historian and others, heard the recital, and though they attributed Mr. Cogswell’s ghost-seeing to strain and tension of his nerves during the too protracted labors at the catalogue, they yet confess that the story has its remarkable phases. Both Mr. Cogswell and the deceased physician were persons of a practical turn of mind, and always treated the marvelous ghost stories sometimes set afloat with deserved contempt. And, as they were not at all intimate, it will be at least a curious question for the psychologist to determine, why the idea of this deceased gentleman should come to Mr. Cogswell’s brain and resolved itself into an apparition, when engaged in dry, statistical labors, which should effectually banish all thoughts of the marvelous.

Acting on the advice of several friends, Mr. Cogswell is now absent on a short trip to Charleston, to recuperate his energies.

Holmes County Republican 12 April 1860: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Astor Library ghost caused quite the stir: sensation-seekers flocked to the library to see, if not the ghost, the place where it had appeared, and Dr Cogswell.

Burleigh, the New York correspondent of the Boston Journal, in his last letter to that paper, writes:

Dr. Johnson said: “Say that a house in London has the plague, and all London will go and see it.” I have spent a few days at the Astor Library. It is quite amusing o see the crowds drift in to see the place where Dr. Cogswell saw the ghost of Dr. Post. Ladies, especially, come in in couples, in fours, alone and with male attendants; with a soft tread and an awe in their looks, with a trembling voice, they step from alcove to alcove, as if they thought the form of the spirit would start out and greet them. And when the Doctor is seen behind the counter (for he has come back,) the small talk runs—“There, that is he,” “There he is” –showing how deeply the public mind is interested in the story of the haunted library, and proving that, after all that has been said and written on the matter, men as readily believe in the existence of ghosts today as they did eighteen hundred years ago, when the disciples thought their Lord was “only a spirit.” Weekly Advocate [Baton Rouge LA] 22 April 1860

During his tenure as the Astor Library librarian, Dr Cogswell collected and arranged nearly a hundred thousand books.  He also began to prepare a catalogue. He had hoped to create indices of authors, titles, and subjects, estimating that it would run to eight volumes. The first part was completed and published in four volumes, 1857-61; and then Dr. Cogswell resigned the office of superintendent. If he had kept the same long hours of toil during his entire term of employment, one can imagine that it was time for a rest.

As for the ghost, Mrs Daffodil wonders if the spirit was seeking in those books of magic, a mystic reanimation formula whereby it might be able to return to earth? Perhaps, like Dr Benjamin Franklin he hoped that

the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author. Epitaph on Himself, Benjamin Franklin. Written in 1728.

World Book Day was celebrated this week, hence the posts on library ghosts and bookcases.That macabre book person over at Haunted Ohio wrote about a ghastly spectre that also appearing to a librarian in A Haunted Library in Leeds, and a possible link with an M.R. James ghost story.

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.

Interior of the Astor Library

Interior of the Astor Library

Ingenious Libraries: 1896

ABOUT BOOKCASES.

WHAT TO DO WHEN SPACE FORBIDS A REAL LIBRARY.

An Arrangement With Silk Panels For Artistic Drawing Rooms—The Lazy Man’s Bookcase—Converting a Dresser Into a Bookcase—For the Boudoir—Oddities

In some artistic homes the difficulty about having bookcases in the drawing room has been solved by making them of oak stained green, with broche silk panels and green velvet top pieces, instead of leather and reed blinds in place of glass. Many protest strongly against glass and claim that it does not keep out dust—it keeps it in. Moreover, glass doors are not easily opened.

bow-window-bookcase

To the indolent man is commended the conversion of the bow window into a dwarf bookcase. A few shelves fixed to the wall will contain many books, and on the upper shelf, prettily covered with strip of good embroidery, a collection of pipes, tobacco jars, pens and ink can be kept. A flap attached to the top shelf, and easily raised or lowered, could be used as a writing desk and with the addition of a luxurious reading chair the cheerless bow window would become a delightful “cosy corner.”

oak-dresser-bookcase

Medium sized sideboards–when selected with a view to the accommodation of books instead of china–afford, with few alterations, admirable bookcases for the family or sitting room. In the large deep drawers weekly papers and account books dear to the heart of the ideal housewife can be neatly kept, while the quaint shape of most of the dressers tempts one to mingle pictures and plates with the books. In the space underneath the placing of an old copper jar for waste paper is suggested.

In the recess that one so often finds near the fireplace a corner bookcase may be fitted, and it is very decorative.

Almost every cultured woman has an ideal room thrust away in the background of her aspirations to which she approaches as near as fortune and opportunity will permit her. Some women delight to have new furniture designed for their particular apartment and exclusive use. Others, again, go forth into the lanes and byways in search of antique treasures that have already lived many lives in many homes. To these the Chippendale bookcase, with its dark triangular shelves, appeals with peculiar force.

Numbered among oddities in bookcases are those made to match the books. A remarkable instance is that of an Englishman who had a strange fad in books. He had them bound in colors, which, according to his theories, suited their characters. For instance, he had all theological books bound in red, because of the blood shedding they had caused; science in gold, since most of it is based on the discoveries of seekers for the aurum potabile; poetry in green, to hint that it is man’s spring offering. In order to carry out these fancies, he had bookcases to match—mahogany for the theology, gilded walnut for the science, oak stained green for the poetry, etc. One bookcase was a hodgepodge of colors, and the bindings were rainbow-like—the books, he told, were of the class called “curious” in catalogues.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser [Honolulu HI] 15 May 1896: p 5

The Fireplace Book-case

The Fireplace Book-case

A NOVEL BOOKCASE

How a Clever Jersey City Woman Made a New Departure

Fireplace Converted Into a Thing of Beauty to Hold Literary Treasures Large and Small

A clever Jersey City woman who has a handsome house on the Heights, has invented a novel book case which is the envy and admiration of all who see it. In the open fireplace of her back parlor, she has fitted a number of shelves and filled them with her favorite volumes. Graceful draperies hang from the mantel and pretty palms, tables and bric-a-brac make the rear of the room beautiful. The idea came to this bright woman as a sort of inspiration, and she promptly carried it out. Her taste in household furnishing is well known, and this, one of the latest successes, is worthy of note. The accompanying illustration gives a good idea of how the book case appears to one entering the room, and proves that there is something new under the sun, in household decoration at least. Others might copy the book case with advantage, for it is really much prettier to be confronted with an array of popular volumes in handsome bindings, half concealed and half revealed by silken hangings, than by yawning fire places with traditional gas logs and brass dogs, no matter how fine the latter may be. This lady’s invention may not be confined to the fireplace, but may be made to do duty in any odd corner or niche which is unsightly in the eye of the house mistress.

 Jersey Journal [Jersey City NJ] 14 February 1896: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In advance of “World Book Day,” Mrs Daffodil celebrates some ingenious and unorthodox book-cases—and one book-lover with eccentric ideas about bindings and shelvings. It puts Mrs Daffodil in mind of those decorators who wrap clients’ books in coloured paper so they look “tidier” and do not clash with the cushions.

Not every one is privileged to have ample book-cases in the Gothic manner or a beautifully proportioned, purpose-built room, such as houses the library at the Hall. The normal bed-sit or semi-detached contains little or no space for a formal library, but the suggestions above may prompt some creative ideas in shelving for the book-lover.  Of course, if one’s only heat is provided by the fireplace, one may have to choose between layering or one’s library.

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 Private Bell: 1804

death-on-bell-rope

THE DUKE OF ROXBURGHE AND HIS SERVANT.

[A Glasgow Professor at the Scott Centenary cited Sir Walter as a witness against Spiritualism. Certain we are that as Spiritualists we rarely find ourselves out of sympathy with Scott. The Edinburgh atmosphere wherein his life was passed was deadly to every form of supernaturalism, but the poet’s honest natural instincts, if oppressed, survived, and are manifest in a multitude of utterances. The following anecdote is from his ” Notes” to the Antiquary.Ed.]

All who were acquainted with that accomplished nobleman, John, Duke of Roxburghe, must remember that he was not more remarkable for creating and possessing a most curious and splendid library, than for his acquaintance with the literary treasures it contained. In arranging his books, fetching and replacing the volumes which he wanted, and carrying on all the necessary intercourse which a man of letters holds with his library, it was the Duke’s custom to employ, not a secretary or librarian, but a livery servant, called Archie, whom habit had made so perfectly acquainted with the library, that he knew every book, as a shepherd does the individuals of his flock, by what is called head-mark, and could bring his master whatever volume he wanted, and afford all the mechanical aid the Duke required in his literary researches. To secure the attendance of Archie, there was a bell hung in his room, which was used on no occasion except to call him individually to the Duke’s study.

His Grace died in St. James’ Square, London, in the year 1804; the body was to be conveyed to Scotland, to lie in state at his mansion of Floors, and to be removed from thence to the family burial-place at Bowden.

At this time, Archie, who had been long attacked by a liver complaint, was in the very last stage of that disease. Yet he prepared himself to accompany the body of the master whom he had so long and so faithfully waited upon. The medical persons assured him he could not survive the journey. It signified nothing, he said, whether he died in England or Scotland; he was resolved to assist in rendering the last honours to the kind master from whom he had been inseparable for so many years, even if he should expire in the attempt. The poor invalid was permitted to attend the Duke’s body to Scotland; but when they reached Floors he was totally exhausted, and obliged to keep his bed, in a sort of stupor which announced speedy dissolution. On the morning of the day fixed for removing the dead body of the Duke to the place of burial, the private bell by which he was wont to summon his attendant to his study, was rung violently. This might easily happen in the confusion of such a scene, although the people of the neighbourhood prefer believing that the bell sounded of its own accord. Ring, however, it did; and Archie, roused by the well-known summons rose up in his bed, and faltered, in broken accents, “Yes, my Lord Duke—yes—I will wait on your Grace instantly;” and with these words on his lips, he is said to have fallen back and expired.

The Spiritual Magazine, February 1873

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Would that all staff were so punctilious in the pursuit of their duties!–it would certainly make Mrs Daffodil’s life a good deal easier. One does wonder, however, if there are vails and half-days in the World Beyond.

The Duke’s fabled library, consisting of some 10,000 items, was sold at auction in 1812 (forming a plot point for that recent book, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). One wonders if the ghosts of the late Duke and his servant were in attendance.

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

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

 

Mr Hoofnackle Tells the Truth: 1897

Yankee home-spun philosopher, 1911

Yankee home-spun philosopher, 1911

The Hoofnackle Letters.

Translated from the St. Louis (German) “Laterne,” for ” Texas Siftings,” by Alex. E. Sweet.

Mr. Editor,—l read very often that lying in every-day life is getting to be more common every day, that even the children are instructed in lying, &c.

This thing has got to stop. “Jackson,” said I to myself, “you must make an effort to see if in this free country you can’t get along without lying. You must set a good example. Try to live one day, anyhow, without telling a single lie. Be perfectly candid and truthful, no matter what the consequences may be.”

Having thus made up my mind, I determined to make a beginning with Sarah. I began to regret this as soon as we sat down to breakfast, as she was very amiable, something quite unusual with her. I verily believe I would have spared her feelings if she hadn’t asked me if I wanted another cup of coffee. Of course, I couldn’t back down, so I said:

“As far as I know, Missus Hoofnackle, I have not had any coffee yet, unless you call this dishwater coffee. This hogwash is so weak, I don’t see how it manages to crawl out of the pot.” Whew! Talk of cyclones. However, it subsided, because she really thought I had lost the use of my mental faculties, and she had pity on my mental condition.

“What is the matter with you, Jackson, anyhow? Are you not feeling well?”

“No; I’ve got a headache.”

“How do you come to have a headache?” she asked anxiously.

Remembering my vow to tell the truth under all circumstances, I answered boldly:

“My headache is caused by intemperance. I am more or less drunk every night Last night I drank fourteen glasses of beer, seven glasses of wine, four more classes of beer, two schnapps, and three cocktails that I know of. I expect I’ll have delirium tremens before long.”

“Merciful heavens!” cried Sarah. “Is that the kind of a slop-barrel I’ve got for a husband?” After she had called me a tank, &c., she put on her new hat and sailed out of the house.

“This thing starts out fine,” I remarked to myself confidentially. When I got out on the street the first man I met was my landlord. l am owing him several months’ rent, but he has always treated me with consideration. I was sorry to meet him, but Hoofnackle never backs down. During the brief conversation we had I called him a Shylock, and he told me that I never expected to pay him a cent for back rent. He struck a dog-trot for a lawyer’s office and I passed on, happy in the thought that thus far I had told nothing but the truth.

As luck would have it, I met Mrs. Shroud, wife of Undertaker Shroud. She had a market-basket on her arm. She admires me very much, and always takes my part when Sarah abuses me in the coffee klatsch.

“Good morning, Mister Hoofnackle,” says she, smiling pleasantly. “You are looking younger than ever.”

“That’s a blamed sight more than I can say for you, Mrs. Shroud. Your face is all shrivelled up, and if you don’t buy a new set of false teeth you’ll lose those you’ve got in your month. Judging by your looks, you’ll be the next subject that drunken bum of a husband of yours will have to attend to.”

“O, you brute,” she shrieked; and dropping her market basket she turned up her mug and howled like a dog that has been tied up without anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. Then she started on a keen run for her husband’s place of business.

“I’m getting along finely,” I remarked to myself.

The next man that I met was a broker named Grabber. He has always treated me very politely, and I hated to insult him; but I made up my mind not to yield, so when he asked me why I refused to drink with him, I replied candidly.

“I am very sorry, Mr. Grabber, but I do not wish to help you squander the money you have gouged out of the widow and the orphan, you rascally old cheat. You ought to be run in.”

Grabber went off, swearing like a trooper, and then I had the difficulty with Shroud.

When I came to I was at home. There was a note from Sarah, informing me that she had brought suit for divorce, I being a common drunkard. All communications to be addressed to her lawyers, Gougem and Cheatem. She had gone to her mother.

There was another official document in regard to the rent, and still another from Grabber, who wrote that if I did not pay up there would be a personal in that morning’s papers that would make my eyes bulge out when I saw it.

That was glory enough for one day. My advice is, not to be reckless telling the truth. The best way is to keep on lying the same as usual. That is much the healthiest plan. Of course, Mr. Editor, you do not need any such advice, for with you lying has long since become second nature—Your old friend,

JACKSON P. HOOFNACKLE.

Pelorus Guardian and Miners’ Advocate 24 September 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Hoofnackle follows in a long line of whimsically vernacular characters from the American press. They comment on politics and the topics of the day and are alleged to be specimens of genuine home-spun American humour. Some rely heavily on poor orthography and painfully-transcribed regional dialects. Others include “Mr Dooley,” an Irish publican from Chicago; “Petroleum V[esuvius] Nasby,” a “Copperhead” exponent of slavery; and shrewd Yankee “Josh Billings.”  A sampling of Mr Billings’s wit and wisdom:

Luv iz like the meazels, we kant alwus tell when we ketched it and ain’t ap tew hav it severe but onst, and then it ain’t kounted mutch unless it strikes inly. [This is frequently rephrased to suggest that love is like the measles: best caught when young or the consequences are dire.]

I often hear affekshunate husbands kall their wifes “Mi Duck,” I wunder if this ain’t a sli delusion tew their big bills?

If yu don’t beleaf in “total depravity,” buy a quart ov gin and studdy it.

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 Temporary Editor: 1901

the-temporary-editor

The Temporary Editor

by Ellis Parker Butler [Author of “Pigs is Pigs.]

The editor of the Hartsock News lay flat on his back in bed, as crazy as a loon, and jabbering like a perpetual motion phonograph. He was only temporary crazy, the grippe having bowled him over. As a rule he was as sane as could be expected, considering that he had chosen Hartsock as a promising field for journalism. But today he was certainly flighty. No sane gentleman will look upon his mother as a spotted cow nor laugh joyously because she walks upright. Neither will he send his grandmother to get out the regular weekly edition of a newspaper. It is an evidence of temporary derangement.

When Granma Huff paused, panting, at the head of the stairs, and pushed open the door of the News office, Jimmie, the office boy, was sitting in the editorial chair studying his Sunday school lesson. The editor never spoke of Jimmie as the “devil,” although that is the customary title. He called him the “angel,” Jimmie was such a good boy. Goodness stood out on him like freckles. Every time he washed his hands and face he washed off enough goodness to supply a dozen boys, and he had signed so many temperance pledges that if he had started in to drink steadily for the balance of his life he would have wound up with some of the pledges still unbroken. Later in life he tried it. But he was a good boy. Granma Huff looked over the rims of her two pair of spectacles and smiled.

“Jimmie,” she said, “my gran’son’s sick, so I’ve come down to git out the News this week, and I want you to hurry ’round and help me all you can.”

“Yes’m,” said Jimmie, meekly.

“Well, now,” said Granma Huff, seating herself in the editorial chair and rubbing her knees with the palms of her hands, “I can’t move ’round much, bein’ as I’ve got the rheumatiz so bad, but I reckon you kin do most thet’s to be did. Gran’son says you’re a right good boy.”

“Yes’m,” said Jimmie, modestly.

“Kin you work the printin’ machine?” enquired Granma, nodding toward the old Washington press.

“Yes’m, I allus does,” said Jimmie.

“Well, then,” said Granma, “I guess you’d better go right on an’ print some papers. I reckon you know ’bout how many’s needed, don’t you?”

Jimmie explained that there were a few things to do first. There must be some news gathered, the forms made ready.

“Do tell!” exclaimed Granma, “I’sposed gran’son ‘ud hev all that ready. Ain’t you got any at all?”

“No’m,” said Jimmie.

“Well, I can’t fix the types, but I guess you know how,” she said, “an I can’t see to write, but you kin take down. First, say, gran’son’s sick with the grippe, but doc says he’ll git along all right soon’s the fever goes down some. Then say Marthy Clemen’s baby’s sick with the measles. I knowed Marthy’s ma before Marthy was born. Her an’ me come from York county, Pennsylvania, together.”

“How d’you spell Pennsylvany?”

“Pen-syl-va-ny,” spelled Granma. “Her ma an’ me was second cousins, she bein a Bell, an’ me a Murdock, an old man Murdock bein’ first cousin o’ Randy Bell. We come down the Ohio on a flat an up the Mississippi by steamer. But I told Marthy that child ‘ud get the measles ef she took it out to Joe Nayadley’s. Got that down?” “Yes’m,” said Jimmie. “Well, I don’t think o’ any more news just now, do you?” she queried.

“No’m,” said Jimmie.

“Will that be enough?” asked Granma.

“No’m, that ain’t more’n two sticks,” said Jimmie.

“Well, what does gran’son do when he hasn’t enough news to fill up?”

“He uses patent insides. This what comes in chunks from Chicago,” said Jimmie; “but we ain’t got none but what we’ve used. He was goin’ to order some when he was took sick.”

“We’ve got to use some over again,” said Granma, decidedly. “What is there?” “Sermons,” said Jimmie, grinning. “We ain’t got nothin’ but Talmage sermons, but we got lots o’ them.”

“Well, I don’t know nothin’ better for people than sermons,” said Granma. “I guess we’ll use them sermons. ‘Twon’t hurt nobody to read ’em over twice. Reckon you’ve got enough of ’em?”

“Yes’m,” said Jimmie.

“All right then, you go ahead an’ fix up the paper like you always do. Mebby you kin git some nice little boy to help. I’m goin’ home, my rheumatiz hurts me so, an I can’t do nothin’ more. Jist be sure to have the paper out on time.” Jimmie promised, and Granma went home. She had done her duty.

Jimmie did his. There were forty-two local and patent medicine advertisements that were always scattered through the reading. He knew this, and as the sermons were long and solid, he cut each sermon into small pieces, laying the electrotypes across the chair and sawing them into chunks with the office saw. Then he made up his forms, sticking in a piece of sermon, then a local, then another bit of sermon, then a patent medicine “ad,” then more sermon. He did not miss a department. He had “Local News,” “Country Correspondence,” “From Our Exchanges” and “A Little Nonsense,” each in its appointed place, but each composed of short reading advertisements and small sections of sermon. The sermons were rather mixed. In sawing them up he had failed to preserve their consecutive form. There were fifteen columns of disjointed sermon, sandwiched with “Perkins Plasters” and “Get Your Canned Tomatoes at Wray’s.” Jimmie persuaded Bob Hochstetler to help him run the press, and the paper came out on time. The editor was sleeping nicely when Jimmie delivered the News at the door. The editor was out of his fever. When he awoke Granma proudly handed him the News. As a rule, I have said, the editor was as sane as could be expected. He looked through the paper, and gasped. It was two days later before the two strong men who were called in to hold him in bed were permitted to release him. Then he thanked Granma, put on his clothes and went down to his office and discharged Jimmie three times. The third time he raised his wages.

The next week the editorial page contained the following notice, double-leaded, at the head of the first column:

“Ahead Again.”

“The News, always the foremost paper of the State, again outstripped its rivals last week by inaugurating a new and highly moral prize competition. As we never do things by half, we devoted our entire paper to this newest and most attractive feature. Scattered over pages one, four, five and eight were five complete sermons. To the party sending the first correct arrangement of all the sermons we will send the News free for five years; for any one sermon correctly arranged, the News for one year. Address: Sermon Editor, this office. Thus once more the News distances those reeking sheets, the Jimtown Blade and the Richmond Gust!”

Current Opinion, Volume 30, Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Frank Crane, editors, 1901

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: La Grippe was  believed to make some of its victims temporarily insane. The scrambled sermon contest is not as eccentric an idea as one might expect; the highly competitive newspapers of the past were always looking for novel prize contests to attract readership. “Talmage” was Dr Thomas DeWitt Talmage, one of the most popular divines and preachers in the United States. He ministered to the depraved people of New York with sermons attacking every species of vice, but when three successive “Tabernacles” burnt to the ground, he felt unappreciated. He abandoned New York to the Evil One, went on tour and wrote sermonizing articles and books. His oratory was colourful and full of striking imagery. Here is a particularly trenchant excerpt:

As to the physical ruin wrought by the dissipations of social life, there can be no doubt. What may we expect of people who work all day and dance all night? After awhile they will be thrown on society, nervous, exhausted imbeciles. These people who indulge in the suppers and the midnight revels and then go home in the cold unwrapped in limbs, will after awhile be found to have been written down in God’s eternal records as suicides, as much suicides as if they had taken their life with a pistol, or a knife, or strychnine.

How many people in America have stepped from the ballroom into the graveyard! Consumptions and swift neuralgias are close on their track. Amid many of the glittering scenes of social life in America, diseases stand right and left, and balance and chain. The breath of the sepulchre floats up through the perfume, and the froth of Death’s lip bubbles up in the champagne.

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 Lost Story of the William and Mary: A Guest Post by Gill Hoffs

william-and-mary-shipwreck-gill-hoffs

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to welcome author Gill Hoffs, whose new book The Lost Story of the William and Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson, has just been released.

Mrs. Daffodil is a creature of the land and shudders at the horrors of shipwreck. Yet, what we see in these excerpts are snap-shots of life on an emigrant ship, the alien impression the survivors made in England, and descriptions of Frisian emigrant clothing. Even in the wake of this maritime tragedy, we catch glimpses of fashion and adornment.

The following is excerpted from “The Lost Story of the William and Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson” (Pen & Sword, 2016, all rights reserved, available from http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Lost-Story-of-the-William-and-Mary-Hardback/p/12290).

When reading about Victorian maritime disasters in old newspapers while conducting research for my book The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’ (Pen & Sword, 2014, 2015 http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur-Paperback/p/10677), one shipwreck stood out as particularly odd among the thousands reported. The William and Mary was an ordinary vessel with a common name, which set sail from Liverpool in early 1853 without any sort of fanfare or special treatment. Nothing distinguished the parties of Irish, Scottish, English, Dutch and German emigrants on board, nor the captain and crew, from any of the thousands of others leaving port that month. But within a few months the William and Mary would provoke outrage in newspapers around the world.

The accounts I read at first bemoaned the loss of over 200 passengers and a handful of crew, hoped for the salvation of a group who might have made it onto a raft as the ship went down before the captain’s eyes in the shark-infested waters of the Bahamas and hinted at their dissatisfaction with the captain and crew’s ‘hurry to yield to the instinct [of self-preservation]’ (Freeman’s Journal, 31 May 1853). Then, according to articles published just a few weeks later, the truth came out – or, at least, a version of it.

* * *

The author first introduces us to the hygienic challenges faced by emigrants.

This was the age of the crinoline and women and girls wore voluminous skirts and – if they had them – giant bloomer underpants that went past their knees. Poorer women stiffened their multiple petticoats with rings of horsehair or rolled newspaper and stored precious items, such as money and important papers, in their corsets and stays while still aspiring to the impractical wasp-waisted ideal. Outfits were constricting, heavy, not easily changed in such cramped quarters and even less easily cleaned despite this being extremely desirable given the numerous vomit and food stains that would quickly accumulate on the many layers of fabric. Depending on the state of the lodging houses where the emigrants had previously slept and the state of the straw that made up their ‘donkey’s breakfast’ bedding, there would likely be fleas and similar pests annoying them on board.

* * *

Yet life on board ship had some pleasant moments:

Once the emigrants had found their sea-legs, the voyage became more tolerable and occasionally even enjoyable. According to Haagsma [a survivor who wrote about the ordeal], ‘we entertained ourselves with music or in other ways’. Those with an instrument would gladly show off their prowess with a melody, some passengers – or occasionally, sailors – would sing and dance and there would be a celebratory mood for a while at least as people let loose with a jig. There were restrictions regarding who could go where on the ship, none more so than for the Frisian women, who were forbidden from going on deck with bare feet. But Captain Stinson appears to have taken a shine to at least one of the young women, as Haagsma later related: ‘One evening, at the request of the captain, a Friesian girl was dressed in national or rather provincial clothing and presented to him, which he, the mates and others enjoyed very much. They were especially impressed by the gold ear-pie[ce] with the lace bonnet. The captain called her “a soldier with a southwester.” The gold ear-piece he said was the helmet and the southwester, that you can easily guess.’

* **

When the survivors of the William and Mary were landed, many had only the clothes on their backs. These were far from fashionable to the English eye:

The Frisians made an impression on the English, particularly when they had to take a break at the yellow-brick station of Ely to allow the cattle to change trains for London. ‘We had to remain there until two thirty and meanwhile toured the city, to the great amusement of the residents. The wooden shoes and silver ear ornaments [traditional Frisian dress] caused people to stare at us,’ recalled Haagsma, who was impressed with what he saw of England, saying ‘at Peterborough … they have a station 160 feet in length. The beautiful scene across hills and valleys, along woods and creeks soon disappeared. They were covered by the dark evening fog, which alas prevented the inquisitive traveller from seeing any more. But I know this, that we passed through tunnels three times, which are the result of the iron will of English enterprise.’

* * *

[In Liverpool as] in Ely, the traditional dress of the Frisians drew attention. Roorda wrote, ‘On our arrival the inhabitants of Liverpool expressed very great bemusement at the clogs that we wore and particularly the oorijzers [a type of head covering] which the women in our company wore, yet nobody was unfriendly to us and the owners of our lodging in particular were always very generous and forthcoming.’ Dutch people wore thick woollen socks with wooden clogs and would have clattered across cobbled streets, whereas many of the inhabitants of Liverpool (and the poorer emigrants) would have gone without any kind of footwear due to the extreme poverty there.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, came to Liverpool a few months later to work as US Consul and was shocked to see people out with bare legs and feet even when there was snow on the ground, turning their skin raw and red.

Trijntje [Catherine Tuininga Albers de Haan], who survived the William and Mary wreck, but lost her bag of keepsakes, including her dead children's clothing, during the rescue. It was she who had been told by her Mother to make sure she kept her oorijzers so she could show her social standing. Copyright Christopher Lindstrom

Trijntje [Catherine Tuininga Albers de Haan], who survived the William and Mary shipwreck, but lost her bag of keepsakes, including her dead children’s clothing, during the rescue. It was she who had been told by her Mother to make sure she kept her oorijzers so she could show her social standing. Copyright Christopher Lindstrom

Even more startling was the hair of the Frisian women, which the English found shockingly short:

Haagsma said, ‘The Frisian women with their bonnets aroused the pity of the English and they said, “O, God, those women have no hair”.’ They did, but at that time they cut their hair fairly short, especially compared to British women and wore it under a thin white cloth cap held in place by an ornate metal headdress. These were symbols of wealth and locality and one Frisian woman, 39-year-old Trijntje de Haan, was under strict orders from her mother not to lose hers. Her granddaughter later recalled, ‘there was her head dress which consisted of a lace cap with a gold chain over the brow to hold the lace in place and ending at each temple with loops of lace held in place by engraved gold knobs which completed the decoration. Almost the last advice grandmother had received from her mother was this, “No matter how poor you may become, Treen, never give up your head-dress, for without that you will lose caste and your social standing”.’

The oorijzer, sometimes translated as “ear iron,” was originally a frame of iron. (Mrs Daffodil actually knows a young lady blacksmith who has forged one. It looked rather like a bed-spring.) The frames eventually were made in silver and gold, becoming, as mentioned above, a status symbol. The English did not quite understand the nuances of this fashion:

Class and social standing were of great importance to the Victorians, but while some felt reassured by their knowledge of their place in society – generally those in the upper classes – many felt trapped or hobbled by the strictures and snobberies of the system. This was another reason some found the idea of emigration so attractive: the social mobility and chance of a fresh start elsewhere offered opportunities to many that would be denied them if they stayed at home. Thus Liverpool and other ports became inundated with those seeking a better, or at least different, life.

Not everyone was happy about this. Nathaniel Hawthorne was displeased with the busy atmosphere of the city, saying ‘The people are as numerous as maggots in cheese; you behold them, disgusting and all moving about, as when you raise a plank or log that has long lain on the ground and find many vivacious bugs and insects beneath it.’

Mr Hawthorne was, undoubtedly, a gifted writer, but his distaste for foreigners is rather uncouthly expressed and in a manner not unknown even to-day.

* * *

If you wish to find out more about the passengers and crew on the doomed voyage of the William and Mary, please see  http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Lost-Story-of-the-William-and-Mary-Hardback/p/12290 or contact Gill at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk or @GillHoffs on twitter.”]

Mrs Daffodil was intrigued by this passage shared by the author:

A storm tossed the William and Mary about, emptying emigrants from their bunks onto the deck and the ship was holed on first one rock then another, allowing water to gush into the hold. What happened next was brutal and bizarre and if it wasn’t for the kindness of a local wrecker, the true story of Stinson and his crew’s loathsome actions that could easily be interpreted as an attempt at mass murder would have been lost at sea along with over 200 passengers – which is probably just what Stinson hoped would happen.

Wholesale murder at sea foiled by a kindly local wrecker is something Mrs Daffodil would pay to see…

Many thanks, Gill!

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.

Elegantly-phrased Abuse: 1851

Joe Chamberlain; Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, listening to a debate in the House of Commons 1895 Sydney Prior Hall (1842–1922) National Portrait Gallery

Joe Chamberlain; Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, listening to a debate in the House of Commons 1895
Sydney Prior Hall (1842–1922)
National Portrait Gallery

THE SCHOOL OF ABUSE.

TO THE EDITOR.

Sir,—I have a fancy for attending public meetings in which personal matters are discussed with acrimony; and vituperation and recrimination give zest to the proceedings. But it seems to me, that in the true science of abuse, the English are very strangely deficient. It is one of the few matters (except bricklaying) in which the Irish excel us. Instead therefore of such coarse expressions as “fool,” “liar,” and “coward,” the banishment of which from the vocabulary of an orator entails so much tame circumlocution, and tends to greatly to abate the virulence of an attack, I beg to offer, for the use of future disputants, the following “model observations,” which I trust will be found to answer every purpose:—

Mild Contradiction.

“I will not accuse the gentleman who has last spoken of being a willful propagator of untruths, because his general reputation renders such a charge utterly superfluous. But as his circumstantial statement has only excited curiosity by showing what did not happen, allow me to lay the facts before you.”

Indulgence In Personalities.

“By a singular perversion of terms, Mr. Chairman, I am accused of having ‘indulged in personalities’ against the individual opposite. Sir, when that individual becomes the necessary topic of discourse, no allusion to him can be properly called an ‘indulgence.’ Such allusions must be as painful to the speakers as dishonourable to their object. The only real ‘indulgence’ desirable in such a case, would be a total forgetfulness of his existence.”

A Peaceable Disposition.

“Sir,—Not even the constitutional timidity of the preceding speaker need lead him to apprehend personal danger from the violence of my temper. The consideration that were I to follow my natural impulse, I should disfigure his features beyond recognition, is quite sufficient to withhold my arm. For, sir, I should thus simply confer upon him an inestimable benefit, by elevating him from an object of contempt into a subject for mistaken compassion.”

Possibility for Improvement.

“But, as some philosophers teach, that even the lower animals run their course of progress, and advance systematically towards perfection in the scale of creation, we may yet entertain a hope for the moral, physical, and intellectual improvement of my opponent, by his removal into a more elevated grade of existence. Who knows but that, in a few centuries, he may reappear upon earth, refined into a baboon.”

Hoping that my system will meet with the approval it deserves, I remain,

Yours,

VITRIOLEUS CARBOY

The Month, A View of Passing Subjects and Manners, Albert Smith & John Leech, 1851

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Carboy’s system is well-timed. With the United States Presidential campaign season underway and the prospect of many acrimonious remarks in Britain on the subject of “Brexit” (which sounds to Mrs Daffodil like the name of a particularly revolting breakfast-food) one cannot have too many examples of elegantly-phrased abuse.

One of Mrs Daffodil’s favourite quotations, from Mr Disraeli about Mr Peel: “”The Right Honourable Gentleman’s smile was like the silver plate on a coffin.”

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.