Category Archives: Literary

How a Shakespearean Fairy Flew: 1906

Miss Annie Russell as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. https://shakespeare.emory.edu/a-midsummer-nights-dream/msnd_russell_a_02_front/

MISS RUSSELL AS PUCK

In Every Way the Most Notable Shakespearean Offering That Has Ever Been Witnessed in Jackson

A Crowning Success.

[Miss Annie Russell’s] conception of “Puck,” is the most exquisite treat that has been given the American public in years. The loving mockery and elfish tricks of this household fairy present unique possibilities, and the charming little actress has taken advantage of each and every one of them. Her characterization of the role is the very embodiment of grace, delicacy and daintiness. There is something mysteriously and indescribably elfish about her “Puck,” that warms the cockles of the hart and makes the old young again. The witchery of her personal charm, the glint of her roguish eyes, the grace of her movement, the contagion of her laugh, form a perfect embodiment of what Shakespeare must have intended “Puck” to be, and if the great Bard and Avon could come to earth again and witness Miss Russell’s portrayal of his fanciful role, he would pronounce it thoroughly satisfying….

Never in the memory of the present generations of playgoers has there been such a production of Shakespeare’s fanciful comedy on such a vast scale. The offering Is embellished with mechanical perfection and the staging Is surrounded by artistic excellence never before approached…The flowers glow mysteriously when “Puck” touches them, owls blink solemnly on the tree boughs, fairies flit to and fro through the air with startling naturalness and precision, and every embellishment is wonderful in its originality and perfection. When Miss Russell makes her entrance in the third scene of the first act from aloft, lights on the branch of a tree, flits across to a mossy bank and settles down so softly that the tips of her dainty toes barely dint the downy landing, it looks like a defiance of the laws of gravitation, and forces the conclusion that the climax of fairyland realism has been attained in stage mechanics….

The audience last night marveled greatly over Miss Russell’s flights across the stage, and perhaps few realized the work that was behind that graceful act. Her entrance involves a secret of stage mechanism that is guarded like a jewel of rare price, and requires the alert work of six strong men.

It will perhaps be especially interesting to the ladies of Jackson to know what Miss Russell thinks of this flight. In chatting with the writer on this subject last night she said:

“If I were not an expert horse-woman I never could make that flight. Sounds strange doesn’t it? In the first place I want my friends to understand that I like flying through the air. It is a most exhilarating feeling to stand one instant firmly on the ground and the next to be switched off into space.

“The story of how it is done is most interesting. The apparatus used is in man of its details a secret—a series of wires weighted with bags of shot, worked through a clock-like arrangement, fitted with gear wheels, springs and bolts. It is this clock-like affair that holds the secret, and the owner guards it by removing it from the fly gallery each night and taking it home under his arm. All I know is that it can be so accurately adjusted that the wire will sustain a weight of 1,000 pounds or work just as well as if the weight is only one pound.

“The ticklish part of my flight is this. The machine must be adjusted to carry me between two fixed points. Now this is simple enough in the case of the flying fairies, because they start from one side of the stage and alight at a fixed point at the other side. In my case, I fly to a tree. Now this tree is set on the stage and it is a most difficult matter to set it in exactly the same spot each time. To be sure the stage is marked where the tree is to go, but the variation of a fraction of an inch makes all the difference in the world. That little difference would hurl me against the set piece and do no end of damage to some part of me. It is for this reason that each night, an hour before my flight is to be made, a bag of meal, of my exact weight, takes my place. Then the six men who work the apparatus yank the meal bag across the stage and into the set tree. As I watch that yank I am glad they do not rehearse with me. But once it is adjusted, my flight is as safe, and as sure, and as scientifically perfect as though I were walking across my own drawing room.

“But still there is considerable for me to do. When I land in the tree, I must steady myself in an instant, otherwise I would look like the bag of meal instead of like a bird. That’s where my expert horse-womanship comes in. When I fly from the tree to the stage, the most perfect workmanship is necessary on the part of the wire-workers, because if they did not give me slack the very instant my feet touch the stage I’d topple over like a nine pin.

Even when I do land, you must understand that I am girdled in a steel corset to which the wire is fitted. I land breathless, with this corset gripping me like the iron clad maiden of old. And if you think it is a simple matter to be gay and sprightly with this grip of steel about my heart and no breath—if you think it is easy, well, just try it.

“But for all the difficulties—or possibly because of all these difficulties—I like it. It is such a relief not to be the duffering heroine that I have been most of my stage life.”

Jackson [MS] Daily News 17 November 1906: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Those “duffering” heroines Miss Russell speaks of were sentimental stock roles of Sweet Young Things named variously Sylvia, Esmerelda, Elaine, Hazel, Ada, Maggie, Edith, Ruth, or Sue, of which she heartily tired during her years in the theatre. She was, one fears, typecast, hence her delight in the role of Puck. However, this critic was less complimentary about the Jackson production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream” than the Daily News:  

The opening of the Astor Theatre, New York, September 21, 1906, was signalized by a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” made by the managers of that theatre, Messrs. Wagenhals & Kemper. Miss Annie Russell, an actress of English origin but exclusively American training, acted Puck, and was gay, agile, and frisky…. Puck, though a busy part, is subsidiary in the play, and, except that it provides opportunity for the manifestation of a sprightly, mischievous, frolicsome spirit, possesses no charm that should attract an actor of fine ability to undertake its representation. There is no obvious reason why a female should play it, and probably the only reason why a female ever elected, or was assigned, to play it is that Puck is most effective when assumed by a person whose figure is slight and handsome and whose temperament is volatile—as commonly happens with young women. The most that any player can accomplish with the part is an exhibition of physical agility and vital, elfish, exuberant delight in the mischievous activities of a droll deviltry. Miss Russell’s acting had usually manifested a sentimental temperament and a finical style, but as Puck she was moderately vivacious and pleasing.

Shakespeare on the Stage; Third Series, Volume 3, William Winter, 1916

An acrobatic flying corset used by the “Flying Dancer” Azella in 1865. Perhaps Miss Russell’s flying apparatus was similar. http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/Online/object.aspx?objectID=object-76193&start=10&rows=1

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

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

 

An April Fool: 1898

AN APRIL FOOL.

Rowland Grey.

Mrs. Chetwynd, wife of the eminent publisher, had been a trying wife to an excellent husband for thirty years. When she died, it must be confessed that it was something of a relief, though John Chetwynd, decorous in all things, scarcely acknowledged it even to himself. The big house at Surbiton, in which Philistia had so greatly triumphed, speedily becoming intolerable, the widower, in very deep black, went to do his mourning abroad. He was a handsome, well-preserved man of sixty, who had eschewed society and stuck to business, with the result that he was the predestined victim of the first clever woman who might come in his way.

He had had no time for travel till now; had actually never even done tourist Switzerland. It was in the middle of a balmy September when he drifted to Montreux; and the blue lake, the scarlet creepers, the great beds of begonias, the gay, white hotels, came on him as a startling surprise. Montreux is a naughty little town in winter. By the time the lovely white narcissus has covered the green slopes of Les Avants, no one has a rag of reputation left.

But when Mr. Chetwynd came out into the garden of the Hotel d’Edelweiss et de la Grande Bretagne on a dazzling, dewy morning, Montreux had not quite awakened from her summer somnolence, and was innocently charming. Truth to tell, Mr. Chetwynd was first bewildered, then bored. The hotel had misled him by its sub-title, and was full of chattering old foreign ladies. Besides, an orthodox widower, in deep mourning, does not make acquaintances. He was one of those uncomfortable men who do not smoke, and, in consequence, have never properly learnt to be idle. Nor did his French go beyond a timid petition for that menu that has become an English word, because the Briton simply cannot pronounce it.

It was three days before he became aware of the presence of a compatriot in the person of a very pretty young governess called “mademoiselle” by two weedy, overdressed French bits of precocity. It was many a long month before he knew that Miss Violet Baynes had found out all about him before he had been at the Edelweiss a night. This young person was twenty-four. She dressed with an ingénue simplicity that was the perfection of well-concealed art, and Mr. Chetwynd thought she was eighteen. Her grey frock, big, shady, white hat, and peach-blossom complexion, were set off most happily by a background of flaming crimson foliage, a foreground of turquoise lake. Pierre, with lean legs in striped socks; Camille, en bébé, though much too old for that style of costume, only set off her natural grace to further advantage. Mr. Chetwynd was struck by the group. For two days he looked and longed. On the third he daringly ventured on “good morning,” and was rewarded by a dimple-revealing smile. On the fourth he was entering a small summer-house, where he was in the habit of reading the Times, when, to his surprise, he found it tenanted. Miss Baynes sat there sewing at something frilly, minus the big hat, and plus a vision of hair in curly disorder.

She exhibited all the shyness the publisher felt, and then broke the ice with such success that, within half an hour, they were chattering as if they were old friends, Pierre and Camille meanwhile making mud-pies on the gravel with toy alpenstocks. Lesson time came too soon. There was no sign of Miss Baynes at table d’hôte. When Mr. Chetwynd strolled in the garden after dinner, and looked at the moon on the lake, his mind was so pleasingly engaged, he hardly felt lonely.

Next morning they met again. The publisher heard, with much satisfaction, that Madame de Fauche, the mamma of the smirking Camille, was an invalid, wintering at Montreux. Also that Miss Baynes was an orphan. He did not move on to Glion, as he had intended, and informed his confidential clerk that he should be abroad some time longer.

One day Violet confided to him, with the prettiest hesitation, that she had tried to write; that little stories of hers had appeared here and there. He had never alluded to his own vocation, and Miss Violet was all astonishment when she heard of it.

“You are really Mr. Chetwynd? Oh, if I had known, I should never, never have dared to tell you. Only you have been so good and kind, and I am so lonely.” She raised a great pair of dewy grey eyes to her companion irresistibly as she spoke.

“Now you must promise to let me help you,” began the publisher of two leading magazines into which a legion of beginners had striven in vain to enter.

Miss Baynes showed her lovely curling lashes, and hung her head. “Oh, I could not,” she began, bashfully. “My work is so poor. I know I am not clever, and you__” She broke off most expressively, and refused to renew the subject.

Next morning she sat mending a pathetically shabby little glove. “Such hands as hers ought never to go shabby,” thought the solid Chetwynd, and the thought so haunted him that he finally creaked into a shop in the Grande Rue and bashfully bought half a dozen pairs of a wary vendor, who thus disposed of the worst, dearest, and ugliest of her stock.

He rather dreaded being thanked, but he could not keep away from the little summer-house that was redder with autumn tints every day. On this occasion it disclosed an affecting little tableau, framed in bowery creepers. Violet Baynes sat at the table, with her face hidden, her slender shoulders shaken with sobs. She was all in white, and there was no sign of Pierre or Camille, no sound of their shrill voices. Round her lay a snowstorm of manuscript sheets, a few partly torn across. It was too much for the elderly lover to see unmoved.

“Miss Baynes, Violet, what is the matter? Do let me try and comfort you.”

“Oh, my kind friend, I am very, very silly, I know, but Harvey and Medway have refused my poor novel, and I had so hoped to have been able to tell you good news about it. I did want you so to read it!”

“Did you send it in like that?” asked Chetwynd, waxing practical, and gathering up the sheets with an accustomed hand.

The artful Violet was playing her trump card now. She had only just finished the novel, and she had been engaged to a sub-editor long enough to know that only type-written copy gives a novice any chance of being read.

“Of course I did. I am much too dreadfully poor to pay for type-writing.”

Mr. Chetwynd had by this time picked it all up, and noted that it was very illegible. But he was too much in love to be daunted. He held it tightly, and said firmly, “Now I have got it, I shall read it!”

An April smile came across his tearful listener’s pretty face. She put her small hand upon his with an appealing sweetness that thrilled him.

“I will read it to you,” she said, softly, “and you shall tell me if the poor thing is worth typing.”

It took four mornings. She used to sit in a low deck chair that afforded distracting glimpses of ankles and small shoes. She had the “excellent thing in woman,” a low voice, which sometimes seemed to tremble a little when the middle-aged hero talked to the young heroine. The heroine—Gladys, of course– refused a baronet and a captain, and was finally landed in a pair of rather elderly arms. It was neither clever nor original, but it was not worse than books often issued by other firms, if never by that of the pre-eminent Chetwynd and Chetwynd.

That love is blind, proved true, as usual. Mr. Chetwynd had married his senior’s mature daughter early, after the manner of the good apprentice. But he had never loved till now.

“There is charm and freshness in your little story, and the ending is particularly good. If we can come to terms, I shall be quite willing to publish—let me see, what is it?—‘A Heart of Gold.’ Give me the copy. I will see to the typing.”

That evening Miss Baynes found a note in her room containing a cheque for fifty pounds.

Two days later Mr. Chetwynd took his courage in both hands, and proposed to his new writer. He did it so well that Mr. Jim Beresford-Smith quite enjoyed the letter telling him all about it, and the pleasing reflection that he was engaged to one of the smartest little girls in England.

Miss Baynes listened with the grace of a Récamier, but her reply was rather disappointing: “I cannot answer you at once. I am too surprised, too unworthy of the great honour you have done me. Besides, it is too soon after. We must wait. Let us say good-bye till the spring, till my book comes out, and then I will give my decision.”

“Of course she was right,” reflected Mr. Chetwynd, after he had agreed to the hard condition, comforted by that small word, “we.”

He went back, and was horribly afraid to face his own press readers. The acceptance of “A Heart of Gold,” without their intervention, filled these worthies with an excusable indignation. “Flimsy rubbish,” was the kindest verdict privately recorded against it. Then it was found that the title had been appropriated, and there was quite a buzz among the minor paragraph-mongers. Gradually an uneasy conviction stole over Mr. Chetwynd that there was a lot of unaccountable log-rolling in connection with “George Henderson.” He was old-fashioned, and detested the modern method.

No answer had as yet come from Violet, in spite of another Grandisonian appeal on his part, and the book would be out next week.

The thirty-first of March found Mr. Chetwynd seated alone in his severely mahogany dining-room, with a howling East wind making the rain clash against the panes. A wet Sunday is always abominable, and this was a peculiarly depressing specimen. Surbiton, from the window, was a dismal contrast to a memory of Montreux, all sunshine, flowers, and soft, sympathetic grey eyes, above a grey frock.

He had little appetite for breakfast, and looked to his letters for the amusement the post so seldom affords. There were two papers, halfpenny evening papers of the sort he abhorred, with great red marks.

“George Eliot, George Sand, George Fleming, and George Egerton. It is, perhaps, premature to suggest that the new recruit to the formidable ranks of the Georges will equal these; yet George Henderson, whose first novel is to appear on Monday, makes her literary début under fortunate circumstances. Issued by Messrs. Chetwynd and Chetwynd under the pleasing title April Folly, it is whispered that the book has already received the hall-mark of distinct literary approval.”

“Slovenly, vulgar trash!” growled Chetwynd, adjusting his pince-nez for the second, but in no way prepared for the blow it was destined to inflict.

“Our Swiss correspondent informs us that an interesting literary wedding has just taken place at Montreux. The charming young lady who prefers to be known as ‘George Henderson,’ was privately married to the energetic sub-editor of Mr. Worthingham’s new venture, the ‘Merry-go-Round.’” There was a further panegyric of “this thoroughly up-to-date journal,”—but poor Chetwynd read no more.

It began to dawn on him that this simple little girl had been an actress from first to last, and it was hard to tell whether he was most hurt or angry. The rain poured down in torrents, and he felt the East wind in his aching bones. He saw his own bald reflection in the looking-glass. “No fool like an old fool,” he murmured, bitterly, and “April Folly,” “April Folly,” stared at him from all the advertisement columns till he was fairly sickened.

The weather was very different in Montreux, where Jim Beresford-Smith had had rather a nasty fall from his bicycle because he had imprudently tried to put his arm round his wife’s waist in an unfrequented bit of the road to Villeneuve. She had been telling him how she had written her first novel, and how she had got it accepted.

“You see, Jim, he fell in love with me directly, and that made it easy enough. Men are blind, though, for he believed all my nonsense about having tried Harvey and Medway, and never seemed to see I’d put him in.” “Poor old chap,” said Jim, with a pitying air of magnanimity; but it is possible that, later, he learnt to feel less compassion for Mr. Chetwynd.

To-Day 16 April 1898: pp. 320-5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has a strong suspicion that “Rowland Grey” is the nom de plume of a young person possessed of a peach-blossom complexion and dewy grey eyes.

In fact, Miss Rowland Grey was associated with the Savoy circle (her brother was an intimate friend of W.S. Gilbert) and wrote novels such as Lindenblumen and Other Stories and In Sunny Switzerland.

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 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.