Category Archives: Mourning

Married in Black: 1919

mourning frock 1916

THE BLACK DRESS

Carlotta Thayer sat crumbling her unpalatable sandwich and forcing herself to eat it between sips of tea from a thick cup. She sold neckwear in the big department store around the corner and had been busy all day handing out jabots and collars and cuff sets to eager buyers. Her face was so pleasant above her own white collar that it attracted quite as much as her wares.

Some day Carlotta hoped to earn really living wages. In the meantime she made $6 a week answer for all her needs. She had resolved life into “making the best of all that comes and the least of all that goes.” Even a poor sandwich was better than none at all. She saw people every day who looked as though they would be glad of what she found so difficult to swallow. Sometimes Carlotta got her suppers in her room as she got her breakfast, but if the weather was pleasant, she was apt to run into the “White House” for her sandwich and tea and afterward stroll home at leisure.

She was only halfway through her sandwich when she turned her eyes just in time to catch the glance of a young man who was entering the door. He stopped, continued to look hard at her for an instant and then hurried down to the table where she sat alone.

“Why, Carlotta!” he exclaimed, bending over her and holding out his hand. “Isn’t it strange? I was thinking of you and then I saw you.”

“I’m awfully glad to see you, Will,” Carlotta said, letting her hand stay in his and looking up into his brown, clear, serious face. “You look like home to me.”

“I’ve just come from there.” He drew off his overcoat and sat down opposite her. “It’s just the same. But you don’t deserve to know about it, Carlotta. You haven’t thought enough of any of us to come back even for a week.”

“I’ve worked every minute since I left,” Carlotta explained. “You see, Will, it’s different here in the city from what it is at Otisville. If you once get behind you never catch up. Things move so fast. I’m working at Davern’s—selling neckwear. It’s real pleasant.”

“You don’t look as though it agreed with you. You’re getting scrawny,” he said conclusively. “Well, Carlotta, I’m hungry as a bear. I’m going to order some supper, but you must stay and help me eat it.”

“Oh, I’ve had mine, thank you,” Carlotta returned lightly. She flushed as she saw his glance fall upon the telltale morsel upon her plate, and again as she heard him ordering chicken and mashed potato and salad and apple cobbler—for two.

“And coffee. You still drink coffee, don’t you, Carlotta? I remember your Aunt Jane’s and how good it tasted, coming hot and fragrant out of that old tin pot. Coffee making is getting to be a lost art with these new contraptions called percolators. My sister’s got one. You know she and Ed had moved into their new house, didn’t you? That leaves the old home empty except for me. And I shan’t be there, for I’m going west.”

“Going—west?” Carlotta repeated. The news gave her a curiously sick feeling. She covered her cheeks with her hands to hide them.

“Yes, clear to San Francisco. The firm’s sending me. I start tonight. Don’t you envy me?”
“Yes, I do,” Carlotta said. “You’ll have a wonderful trip. Just__”

He interrupted, leaning toward her across the table. “Wouldn’t you like to go?”

Carlotta sighed. “I don’t dare think about it. Of course, I know, I never shall.”

The waiter put the food between them and departed. Carlotta lifted her fork and first mouthful took the taste of the sandwich out of her mouth forever. “Oh, it’s so good,” she murmured. “I believe I am hungry, after all. Will, this chicken is almost as good as Aunt Jane’s used to be, isn’t it?”

He shook his head, smiling: “Nothing could equal that. Do you remember how we used to save the wishbone to break when it was dry? And once we both wished for sleds and it flew all to pieces. But we got sleds just the same. Carlotta,” continued Will, earnestly, “don’t you think it a pity that all that old comradeship should be wasted? We never quarreled as children. We wouldn’t quarrel now. We’re in the same key, and that always makes for harmony. Carlotta, say, marry me and go west with me tonight.”

“Marry you!” Carlotta exclaimed. She dropped her fork. “Oh, Will!”

“Why not? What’s to hinder? Telephone to the store manager. Pack what you must have. We’ll get a license, find a ministers and—won’t you, Carlotta?”

“You’ve known me always. I’ve know you and–. Why, I love you, Carlotta. I can make you so happy. We’ll make our trip, then we’ll settle down in the old house. You know what that is. Don’t you see, Carlotta, I can’t go and leave you here in this place? Now that I’ve seen you I can’t possibly. You must come with me. The train leaves at 11:15. It’s 6:30 now. Plenty of time.”

Carlotta felt dazed. To marry Will Galt and go to California with him, and to live in the dear old house where she had played so much in her childhood! To be back in Otisville, loved, secure, at rest! Heaven scarcely offered more. She felt like throwing out her hands to him and crying: “Oh, Will, take me! I’ve always cared for you! I went away because I was too proud to stay when I thought you didn’t care for me. And it’s hard—hard for all my courage and resolve.” Instead she drew back. “I can’t,” she faltered.

Will’s face grew long and stern. “Some one else?”

“N-no, no, indeed!”

“What then?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you!” Tears came stingingly at the end of a hysterical little giggle.

In the glass beside them she saw herself, black frock, shabby black coat, still shabbier black hat, the last of her mourning for Aunt Jane. She had nothing else, not another thing that she could wear to be married in. And how could she be married in mourning? It made her shiver to think of it. And she could not tell Will. If she told him he would rush out to some place and buy her a dress, and she could not permit that. In the town where she had been brought up men did not buy frocks for their brides to be married in. She would rather wear the black dress than incur such a shame. And she could not wear the black dress.

If she had any money at all she could buy the dress for herself, but that morning she had paid her room rent, which left her exactly 87 cents to tide her over until her next pay envelope.

“It’s no use, I can’t.” She had gathered all her forces. “Don’t let’s talk about it any more, Will. Let’s be friends.” She drew on her gloves so nervously that the thinnest one split across the palm. She gazed awestruck at the disaster, then clenched her hand on it and stood up. She was about as white as her collar. And Will, on the other side of the table, was white, too.

“Well, I can’t kidnap you, that’s certain,” he said. “You’re old enough to know your own mind. But I think you’re making a mistake.

They did not speak again until they were on the street. Then he said rather brokenly: “If—if you should change your mind, Carlotta, you can ‘phone me at the Carlton. I’ll be there until my train leaves. Now, which car shall I put you on?”

When 15 minutes after she entered her own room Carlotta felt she had put aside her one chance for happiness and the great adventure because she could not be married in a black dress. She sank upon the bed and buried her face in the thin pillow For a few moments she had all the agony of tears without any tears at all. Then suddenly she became aware that some one else was crying near at hand, on the other side of the thin partition. She turned her head and listened. In that room lived a girl whom she did not think much of –a fussy little person who jingled and swished when she walked and left trails of scent behind her. She worked in the ten-cent store, Carlotta believed.

Carlotta had always avoided May Bagley like the plague, but now the sound of those sobs aroused her pity and made her forget her own trouble. Maybe she could do something for the poor little butterfly suffering so audibly from singed wings. A moment later she knocked at the other girl’s door. A piteous voice bade her enter and she walked in. May Bagley sat huddled in a chair and beside her on the floor was the letter which evidently had caused all her woe. She lifted her wretched face to Carlotta’s.

“Oh, it’s you, Miss Thayer!” she tearfully said. “I’m so glad. You’ll understand. I was afraid it was that horrid old Miss Dix that was never young or anything in her life. She’d tell me it served me right not to have a decent thing to wear to Uncle Nat’s funeral or any money to buy with. And—and I’ve got to go, for you see—“ She was sopping at her wet face with a little pink and white rag, which was still wetter. Carlotta silently held out to her one black-edged handkerchief. May looked at it. “That’s just what I need,” she said. “Oh, Miss Thayer, it’s—it’s awful. If I don’t go to Uncle Nat’s funeral dressed appropriately Aunt Hat will never speak to me again. And there’s money coming to me if I do. Oh, I wish I were dead!  What’ve I been thinking of all this time to buy pink and blue and green things that I can’t wear at all?”

As Carlotta looked down at her fluffy blond head she suddenly remembered herself and her own predicament and a thought came to her—a thought so scintillant and joyful and daring that she laughed out loud. She knelt beside May. “Listen!” she said. “We’re about the same size. You take my clothes and lend me some of yours.”

The girl looked up hopefully. “Honest? Do you mean it?” she cried.

“Yes. It will help me out. For while you want mourning” –here Carlotta smiled—“I need a colored dress and I haven’t one or any money. If I don’t have it—“

“You’ll lose some money, too?”

“No,” Carlotta replied: “I lose more than money. I lose the chance to marry the man I’ve wanted all my life.”

May Bagley leaped up and snatched Carlotta to her in a hug. “There’s a man in my story, too,” she said; “a home man. Now, let’s swap.”

From her closet she brought a pink dress and a taupe hat, with a pink rose and a corduroy coat edged with fur—cheap, showy garments, but the most beautiful to Carlotta at that moment of any she had ever seen. A few moments of deft movements and the transformation was complete.

And then the telephone! Just for a moment Carlotta lost her voice when she heard Will’s voice over the wire.

“You’ve changed your mind? God be thanked! I’ll be there in 15 minutes in a taxi, Carlotta. Oh, you darling girl!”

At 11:20 that night a radiant young pair sat holding hands on the west-bound limited. The girl had just told the story of the black dress. At that moment on the platform of a little country station another girl in shabby black was being folded in the arms of a stern faced old woman. But being an experienced little person she kept her story to herself.

Honolulu [HI] Star-Bulletin 4 December 1919: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wonders if working in a ten-cent store makes one a more experienced little person than working in cuffs and jabots. Perhaps the clientele consisted of Mashers and Dudes. Mrs Daffodil also wonders why the well-set-up Will was not off fighting the Hun in France.

There are several elements of lingering superstition in this story: Carlotta (and that is quite the exotic name for someone from Otisville with an Aunt Jane) may have also felt sick because Will’s phrase “going West,” was a common euphemism for dying. We may wonder at Carlotta’s hysteria about her black wardrobe, but readers would have remembered a well-known rhyme: “Married in black, you’ll wish yourself back,” which explains Carlotta’s refusal to be married in mourning. Mrs Daffodil cannot help but think that cheap, showy garments cannot be much luckier. “Married in tat, his love will fall flat” about sums it up.

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

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

 

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Making Her Father’s Grave: 1879

orphans decorating their fathers' graves

Decoration Day at Philadelphia: Orphans Decorating Their Fathers’ Graves in Glenwood Cemetery, 1870s

Making Her Father’s Grave

A Pathetic Scene Witnessed in an Ohio Cemetery

[From the Sandusky (O.) Register.]

A little girl with tangled locks, peeping from under a calico hood, clad in a dress of chintz, loitered behind us as the great dusty crowd moved out of the gates of Mount Adna the other day after they had scattered their flowers and done honor to the dead. Dreamily she gazed after them, her eyes filled with a far away look of tenderness, until the last one had disappeared and the rattle of the drums had died away. Then she turned and vaguely scanned the mounds that rose about her, clutching still tighter the fading bunch of dandelions and grass that her chubby hand held. An old man came by and gently patted her curly head as he spoke her name, but she only shrank back still further, and when he told a passing stranger that the little one’s father had died on shipboard and been buried at sea, there was only a tear drop in the child’s eye to tell that she heard or knew the story.

When they were gone she moved on further to a neglected, empty lot, and, kneeling down, she piled up a mound of earth, whispering as she patted it and smoothed it with her chubby hand: “This won’t be so awfully big as the others, I guess, but may be it will be big enough so that God will see it, and think that papa is buried here.” Carefully she trimmed the sides with the grass she plucked, murmuring on: “And may be it will grow so that it will be like the rest in two or three years, and then maybe papa will sometime come back and”–.

But she paused, as though it suddenly dawned upon her young mind that he rested beneath the waves, and the tear-drops that sprang to her eyes moistened the little bunch of dandelions that she planted among the grasses on the mound she had reared. When the sexton passed that way at night as he went to close the gates, he found the little one fast asleep, with her head pillowed on the mound.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 30 October 1879: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Victorian mourning was built around a fixed and ideal ritual: an edifying death-bed, preparing the loved one’s body for the grave, the funeral, and then the burial in a quiet, green cemetery beneath a headstone with a touching inscription, where the family could visit, plant flowers, weep, or picnic. Decoration Day was an important holiday for the bereaved. Graves were tidied and planted and the dead were remembered.

Those whose loved ones never returned: whose bodies were either not identified or were buried on a distant battlefield felt a sense of incompleteness beyond their personal loss: they had also been deprived of essential parts of the mourning ritual.

Mrs Daffodil knows of a person whose Great-Great-Great Grandfather was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. Family lore says that his head was shot off so that his body was never identified and was buried as an “Unknown” at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  The man’s daughter never turned away a tramp, believing it might be her father come back.

 

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.

Mourning the Dandy Dog: 1896

 

a stone in the dog cemetery 1905

We have previously read of the luxuries lavished on the “dandy dogs” by their masters and mistresses. Yet, in spite of the finest food and drink and the best medical care, these beloved pets, like all of us, “must come to dust.” As we come to the end of “National Pet Week,” we continue the dandy dog narrative as found in The Strand.

 

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And yet, with all this, dandy dogs die like their humbler brethren – probably much sooner. Then comes the funeral, with its flowers, carriages, and marble monuments. I am not jesting. An illustrated article has already appeared in THE STRAND MAGAZINE on the Dogs’ Cemetery, situated, appropriately, in Hyde Park. Mr. Rotherham, the canine specialist, has an extensive burying-ground of the same kind on his property at Neasden.

Mr. Kenyon, the gentle, sympathetic undertaker of Edgware Road, tells me he was sent for in hot haste one Saturday afternoon. He was out at the time, but he called on the Sunday – thinking, of course, that he was required to take an order for the burial of an ordinary Christian. It was not so. The deceased was a pet dog that had met with a tragic death in the street beneath a coal cart. The lady tearfully explained that she wanted the body embalmed, and then placed in a glass coffin, so that she could have poor dear “Friskie” with her all days—even to the consummation of her own; the two would then be interred together. Mr. Kenyon thought this might be magnificent, but it was not business; so he declined the commission.

Mr. Rotherham knows of dozens of cases in which toy dogs have had costly funerals. Pets that die in town are usually buried at the country seat of the family. In this surgeon’s canine cemetery lies one dog that was brought from France. But here is a poetic funeral card that speaks for itself; note that it contains hopeful hints of a canine hereafter – “another place,” as they say in Parliament.

But listen to Mr. Rotherham’s record case. “A year or two ago I was called to the Grosvenor Hotel to see a dog. When I entered the room I saw a young man stretched on the hearth-rug. I thought I had been called to see him ; but I found I was mistaken. The dog was dead, the circumstances being these: The gentleman had occasion to go out, so he shut his dog in the sitting-room. The dog pro tested strongly in his absence – mainly by disfiguring the door, and driving several other visitors nearly crazy with continuous howls. When the master returned, the hotel people complained, whereupon the young gentleman proceeded to chastise his demonstrative pet – which chastisement took the form of a running kick that ended the dog’s days.

“The remorseful man’s reparation resolved itself into a gorgeous funeral. There was a purple velvet pall, two broughams (one for the coffin and one for the mourners), and three guineas’ worth of flowers—chiefly lilies of the valley. A leaden shell was made and inclosed in a polished mahogany coffin, with silver fittings and name-plate. A touch of romance was given to this unique function when, just as the leaden shell was about to be sealed up, the impetuous young fellow was seen to put in with the dog’s remains a packet of letters and a gold locket containing hair. I imagine the dog must have belonged to the chief mourner’s deceased lady-love.”

This funeral, Mr. Rotherham assures me, cost £30 or £40; and the funniest thing about it was that the surgeon himself was requested to “follow.” He consented to do this, and was forthwith provided with a white silk sash and a satin rosette. Another very interesting dog’s funeral was one carried out by a London undertaker, although the remains were to be interred in the tomb of the sorrowing master’s ancestors in Sicily. The dog’s body was, of course, embalmed ; and the headstone was sent with it.

dog's funeral card strand

A typical dog’s funeral-card is reproduced here. “Monkey” was a quaint little Yorkshire; and his mistress — an enormously rich woman, and a great believer in Sir Henry Thompson – had his remains cremated. “Monkey’s” cinerary urn, shown in the accompanying photograph, probably represents the very highest pinnacle of (deceased) Dandy Dog-dom. It cost six hundred guineas, being in the form of a solid tortoise-shell sedan chair, enameled all over the front and sides in the most costly manner, and inlaid with brilliants, rubies, emeralds, and pearls; the extremities of the handles are simply incrusted with jewels.

dog's Monkey cinerary urn, cost 600 Guineas

Inside is a gold-mounted crystal jar, with a monogram in diamonds; this contains the ashes. It is surmounted by a skull. The name of the departed pet is perpetuated by the monkey seen on top of the casket; and in his paw he holds a fine pearl. This casket was made by Messrs. A. Barrett and Sons, of 63 and 64, Piccadilly; of course, it was an exceptional order, but Mr. H. Barrett tells me that the firm ordinarily make cinerary urns, ranging in price from £10 to £250, for holding the ashes of cremated pet dogs.

In conclusion it may be said that pet dogs are treated by their mistresses almost precisely as though they were human members of the family; the only discrepancy in the analogy being that it is horribly bad form for a lady to drive in the park with her baby by her side, while the presence of a pompous pug or a toy terrier is irreproachably correct.

The Strand Magazine 1896

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite the sorrowful sentiments expressed, Mrs Daffodil finds “Monkey’s” cinerary urn arrangement to be both absurdly costly and macabre. Expensive funerals for beloved pets were frequently featured in the press. Dogs were thus honoured.

Fine Funeral of a Pet Pug.

Paris is laughing over the extravagant funeral of the pet dog of an American family residing in the gay capital. The body was placed in two caskets, one of oak, the other leaden, conveyed in a hearse covered with flowers to Vaucresson, and there buried. A number of mourners in carriages followed the hearse to the cemetery, and a monument costing $300 was erected over the grave, the total expenditure for the funeral amounting to over $500.  Edgefield [SC] Advertiser 20 February 1895: p. 1

So were cats.

Funeral for Cat

With more pomp and ceremony, perhaps, than ever marked the obsequies of any animal buried in New Haven, Conn., the pet cat of Mrs. William Gay, a wealthy woman, was recently interred. Laid out in a pink silk-lined coffin, with catnip spread around the remains, a big pink silk bow at his throat and fastened to the collar with silver bells, Sonny was buried I a grave dug in the garden by the janitor of the apartment house. Mr. and Mrs. Gay, who believe their pet was poisoned by some one  in the neighborhood, attended the ceremony.

In life Sonny was cared for like a baby, being given the best of food and sleeping in a little bed, snugly tucked in between specially made sheets, with blankest of the same size and with downy pillows for his head. Given a bath and combed every evening by Mrs. Gay, his shiny fur was soft as down. The Silver Messenger [Challis ID] 20 January 1903: p. 6

girl with dead canary Greuze

Girl with Dead Canary, Greuze

And even canaries:

Shoddy made a pretty good exhibition of itself in Philadelphia this week at the funeral of a pet canary. The coffin was of walnut, mounted with silver handles, and screw-heads, and upon it was a cross of white flowers with the inscription in rose-letters, “We mourn thee.” The little boy who was to read the funeral service broke down at the moment he was encouraging his hearers to bear their loss with fortitude, and the other children joined in his sobs. Even older people, who had drawn to the scene by curiosity, were affected. Next Sunday they will put up marble grave-stones with an appropriate inscription, over the resting place. The coffin cost $10, the flowers $6, and the gravestones cannot be had short of $10. The Buffalo [NY] Commercial 4 May 1878: p. 2

Mimi Matthews, the author of The Pug That Bit Napoleon has written this excellent piece on dog funerals in the late Victorian era.

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.

Lily’s Wardrobe: 1877

blue baby shoes embroidered with forget-me-nots 1875-84

Baby shoes embroidered with forget-me-nots. c. 1875-84 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/pair-of-baby-s-shoes/sgE9W8oo_ImA-A

Which is Best?

“Oh, what shall I do with them?” said a bereaved mother, as she hung over the little garments whose owner had gone to be with the angels. “Can I ever put them out of my sight? Never! Never!” It was only a week since white crape on the door told the passers-by that death had taken a little child from the home. Now the mother had ventured into the nursery to touch the clothing which her darling had made sacred. They were not elegant garments, at least they were not of finest lace and cambric, but every article told of the love which made it. There were no careless stitches, no sparing of pains could be discovered. Fine, dainty, chaste in every detail, they spoke pathetically of the tenderness which fashioned them. And now what could be done with them? A beautiful box was made; it was of satin-wood and silver, and on the handle was graven the name, “Lily.” Into this, between silver paper, and with sprays of rosemary, was laid the tiny wardrobe. Here the mother came to weep, to open afresh the never-healing wound. Here she recalled each precious word, and look and her lost one; here she tried to imagine the little arms again around her neck, the soft cheek pressed to hers.

Her grief became first selfish, then morbid. The luxury of tears forbade exertion, which is one of God’s laws for healthy spiritual development.

One day a friend came. “My dear,” she said, “what is to become of these little things when you can no longer shed tears over them? Are they to be buried, as sweet Lily’s body was when her soul went up to God?”

“Buried?” said the mother. “I do not know; I suppose not.”

“Would you not rather give them away yourself,” said her friend, “than have less loving hands than yours do so?”

“Oh, I could not give away my darling’s clothes. No other child must wear them.”

“Here are a great many garments,” continued her friend; “and think how many little children are in need. I remember Lily always wanted to give to the poor.”

“Yes,” mused the mother.

The friend said no more, but her words sank deep into the stricken heart. Before her great sorrow she had been generous to the needy. Now she remembered with sharp pain that she had forgotten all those who once depended largely on her bounty. One thought suggested another, and soon she saw her future path shining in clear light—the light of love.

With tender memories, but with a strong resolve, the hoarded treasures were brought forth. Little children were made glad, and mothers’ hearts comforted. And did the angel Lily seem farther away for this sacrifice? Oh, no! When the material bond was broken, the mother’s thought went naturally to greet her child in her heavenly joy. Instead of tears of anguish over the earthly relics, there were tears of joy that her darling was so blessed. Did her love lessen? Never. But her power to love deepened as she thought of those things which are eternal, and realized that her child had entered upon them. Harper’s Bazar.

The Republican [Sycamore, IL] 17 October 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A poignant picture of a devastating loss….

While to-day the bereaved are practically required to “get over” their loss in a few weeks so that no one is rendered uncomfortable by the spectre of their sorrow, the Victorians wisely understood the need for a specified time of grief. However, they also understood the unhealthy nature of what alienists now call “complicated grief.” Queen Victoria, for example, was widely criticised for giving way to excessive mourning to the neglect of her duties. Although it may be a later, apocryphal story, it is said that she turned Prince Albert’s death-room into a shrine, directing that his servants continue to lay out his clothes and bring hot water for shaving.  Certainly she insisted on memorialising her mourning in dozens of photos of herself and her children wearing deepest black, gazing sadly at a bust of the late Prince Consort. In the face of rising public discontent, the press dubbed her “The Widow of Windsor” and there were mutterings overheard about dismantling the monarchy. It seemed that none of her family could guide the bereaved Queen into the sensible outlook of Lily’s mother’s friend, although eventually she was persuaded back into public life by her out-spoken servant and confidant, John Brown.

 

For more on the history of Victorian mourning and death, see Chris Woodyard’s The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available for Kindle.

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.

Mrs Lincoln’s Bonnet String: 1865

mary todd lincoln bonnet worn to ford's theatre

The bonnet worn by Mrs. Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre on 14 April, 1865, the night President Lincoln was assassinated. http://digitalcollection.chicagohistory.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16029coll3/id/2592/rec/1

MRS. LINCOLN’S BONNET STRING NOW A TREASURED RELIC IN A MISSOURI HOME

A Bit of Tulle From Headgear the Martyred President’s Wife Wore the Night He Was Assassinated Has Been Preserved and Handed Down in Family of Man in Whose Apartment the Great Emancipator Died.

Even in his lifetime mementoes of President Lincoln were carefully preserved to be passed on as heirlooms. With his tragic death these took on greatly increased significance and importance, and with the growing appreciation of the great emancipator’s place in history they have come to be among the most cherished of possessions.

One of these to which unusual interest attaches now reposes in a small pasteboard box in one of the finest ante-bellum homes in Central Missouri, the residence of Mrs. Charles Carroll Hemenway at Glasgow. It is a string from the bonnet Mrs. Lincoln wore to that fateful performance of “Our American Cousins” at Ford’s theater, April 14, 1865. A mere wisp of white tulle, it has lain all these years, folded several times and carefully protected from the light, together with a letter written by an eye-witness of the tragic scenes in which it figured. Although the bonnet string itself is of purely sentimental value, the letter throws vivid and authentic light on the closing hours in the life of the martyred President.

The bonnet string and the letter were sent in May, 1865, by George Francis of Washington, to his niece, Josephine Hemenway, who at her death, passed them on to her brother, the late Rev. Charles Carroll Hemenway, of Glasgow, Mo. It is from his widow, now wintering in New York City with her daughter, Josephine Hemenway Kenyon—widely known woman physician and editor of the Child Health page for Good Housekeeping magazine—that permission has been obtained to tell the story, perhaps for the first time in print.

Mr. Francis and his wife lived in an apartment house across the street from Ford’s theater, where Lincoln was assassinated. The President was carried to their apartment, but Mr. and Mrs. Francis had retired, so he was taken to a small bedroom at the end of the hall, occupied by a young man. Mrs. Lincoln, in her distraction, cast her bonnet aside and when she departed from the house several hours later, she neglected to take it with her. The young man, knowing that she would adopt the mourning bonnet as was the custom of the period, made no attempt to return her property. Keeping it for his own, he cut from it one of its strings which he gave to the Francis family across the hall.

WILD DAYS IN WASHINGTON.

Mr. Francis’s letter with its detailed account of the occurrences of that tragic night follows with the omission of some family news at its conclusion.

“Washington, D.C.

“May 5, 1865.

“Dear Josephine: Your letter of last week and the one in January reached me in due time. I have been on the point of writing to you for sometime back but we have had so much excitement here, so much to occupy my attention, that it has seemed as if I must be in a dream and I have hardly known what I was about.

“The fall of Richmond, the surrender of Lee’s army and the assassination of the President is all that has been thought of here. The President died in our house and we witnessed that heart-rending scene. I shall never forget that awful night, following as it did one of such general rejoicing. For a week before the whole city had been crazy over the fall of Richmond, and the surrender of Lee’s army. Only the night before, the city was illuminated, and though it has been illuminated several times just before this time it was more general and was the grandest affair of its kind that ever took place in Washington.

“THE PRESIDENT IS SHOT!”

“At the time of the murder we were about getting in bed. I had changed my clothes and shut off the gas when we heard such a terrible scream that we ran to the front window to see what it could mean. We saw a great commotion in the theater, some running in, others hurrying out, and we could hear hundreds of voices mingling in the greatest confusion. Presently we heard some one say ‘the President is shot,’ when I hurried on my clothes and ran across the street as they brought him out of the theater.

“Poor man! I could see as the gas light fell upon his face that it was deathly pale and that his eyes were clouded. They carried him out into the street and toward our steps. The door was open and a young man belonging to the house, standing on the steps, told them to bring him in there, expecting to have him laid upon our bed. But the door of our room being fastened, they passed on to a little room in the back building at the end of the hall. Huldah (Mrs. Francis) remained looing out of the window until she saw them bringing him up our steps, when she ran to get on her clothes.

“Mrs. Lincoln came in soon after, accompanied by major Rathbone and Miss Harris. She was perfectly frantic. ‘Where is my husband? Where is my husband?’ she cried, wringing her hands in the greatest anguish. As she approached his bedside, she bent over him kissing him again and again, exclaiming, ‘How can it be so! Do speak to me.’

NO HOPE FROM THE FIRST.

“Secretary Stanton, Secretary Wells and all of the members of the cabinet except Secretary Seward came in and remained all night. Also Charles Lumm, George Carter, General Augur, General Meigs, two or three surgeons and a good many others. Our front parlor was given up to Mrs. Lincoln and her friends. The back parlor (our bedroom) was occupied by Secretary Stanton. He wrote his dispatches there during the night. Judge Carter held an informal court there, and it was full of people.

“Mrs. Lincoln went in to see her husband occasionally. Robert Lincoln was with her. Reverend Dr. Gurly was there and made a prayer by the bedside of the President, and then in the parlor with Mrs. Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln was insensible from the first and there was no hope from the moment he was shot. As he lay on the bed, the only sign of life he exhibited was his breathing. About 2 o’clock he began to breathe harder and he breathed with more and more difficulty until he died. After he died, Dr. Gurly made a short prayer over him and then prayed again with Mrs. Lincoln in the parlor.

A CABINET MEETING THERE.

“A cabinet meeting was then held in our back parlor, and soon after the most of the people left. Mrs. Lincoln went soon and in about two hours after he died he was carried away to the President’s room. We saw him the last time up in the capitol the day before he was carried away.

“Things are now resuming their natural appearance, but business seems to keep very quiet….

“Your Uncle

“George Francis.

Kansas City [MO] Star 12 February 1934: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  At the head of the article, we find an image of the bonnet worn to Ford’s Theatre by Mrs Lincoln on that tragic night in 1865. The ribbons do not appear to have been removed or altered, but perhaps there was tulle over the present strings or the “tulle” was actually a bit of lace.

One is slightly uncertain of the bonnet’s provenance–it appears to have been purchased by the Chicago Historical Society in 1920, which is when the Society bought the eccentric and eclectic collection of Charles Frederick Gunther, a wealthy confectioner who amassed a wealth of historical artifacts for his own museum, including many relics of the Lincoln assassination, such as the furniture of the President’s death-chamber, as well as the purported skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden.

 

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

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

 

An Awfully Handsome Thing: 1889

SENT HER A SHROUD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cry of the Banshee: 1887

the tempest rodin banshee

The Cry of the Banshee

There is now living in Bristol a Mrs. Linahan, an old Irish woman, who has not seen her own country for forty years. She is old, poor, bed ridden and suffering, but patient and cheerful beyond belief. Her strongest feeling is love for Ireland ,and she likes talking to me because I am Irish. Many a time, sitting in her little, close room, above the noisy street, she has told me about banshees and phookas and fairies, especially the first. She declares solemnly she once heard the cry, or caoin of a banshee.

“It was when I was a little young child,” she told me, “And knew nothing at all of banshees or of death. One day mother sent me to see after my grandmother, the length of three miles from our house. All  the road was deep in snow, and I went my lone – and didn’t know the grandmother was dead, and my aunt gone to the village for help. So I got to the house, and I see her lying so still and quiet I thought she was sleepin’. When I called her and she wouldn’t stir or speak, I thought I’d put snow on her face to wake her. I just stepped outside to get a handful, and came in, leaving the door open, and then I heard a far away cry, so faint and yet so fearsome that I shook like a leaf in the wind. It got nearer and nearer, and then I heard a sound like clapping or wringing of hands, as they do in keening at a funeral. Twice it came and then I slid down to the ground and crept under the bed where my grandmother lay, and there I heard it for the third time crying, “Ochone, Ochone,” at the very door. Then it suddenly stopped; I couldn’t tell where it went, and I dared not lift up my head till the woman came in the house. One of them took me up and said: “It was the banshee the child heard, for the woman that lies there was one of the real old Irish families – she was an O’Grady and that was the raison of it.’” English Magazine

Aberdeen [SD] Daily News 18 May 1887: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Clapping and keening were a feature of Irish funerals; professional keeners called bean chaointe would cry of the merits of the deceased and the broken hearts of those left behind.

The “raison of it” was that banshees were said to be attached only to the oldest, noblest Irish families, usually meaning those prefaced by “O'” or “Mac.”

In some cases, families have been apprised of an approaching death by some strange spectre, either male or female, a remarkable instance of which occurs in the MS. memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, and is to this effect: “Her husband, Sir Richard, and she, chanced, during their abode in Ireland, to visit a friend, who resided in his ancient baronial castle surrounded with a moat. At midnight she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and, looking out of bed, beheld by the moonlight a female face and part of the form hovering at the window. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale; and the hair, which was reddish, was loose and dishevelled. This apparition continued to exhibit itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks, similar to that which had at first excited Lady Fanshaw’s attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to her host what had happened, and found him prepared not only to credit, but to account for, what had happened.

“A near relation of mine,” said he, “expired last night in the castle. Before such an event happens in this family and castle, the female spectre whom you have seen is always visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonour done his family, he caused to be drowned in the castle moat.”

This, of course, was no other than the Banshee, which in times past has been the source of so much terror in Ireland.

However, sometimes  embarrassing errors occurred.

Amongst the innumerable stories told of its appearance may be mentioned one related by Mrs. Lefanu, the niece of Sheridan, in the memoirs of her grandmother, Mrs. Frances Sheridan. From this account we gather that Miss Elizabeth Sheridan was a firm believer in the Banshee, and firmly maintained that the one attached to the Sheridan family was distinctly heard lamenting beneath the windows of the family residence before the news arrived from France of Mrs. Frances Sheridan’s death at Blois. She adds that a niece of Miss Sheridan’s made her very angry by observing that as Mrs. Frances Sheridan was by birth a Chamberlaine, a family of English extraction, she had no right to the guardianship of an Irish fairy, and that therefore the Banshee must have made a mistake.

Strange Pages from Family Papers, T.F. Thistelton-Dyer, 1895

Mrs Daffodil and that person over at Haunted Ohio are both fascinated by tales of banshees. It is always useful to know one’s death omens. For other stories of banshees, both knocking and shrieking, please see A Banshee in IndianaThe Banshee of the O’Dowds, The Banshee Sang of Death, and A Banshee at Sea 

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.