Category Archives: Professions

The Theatrical ‘Bus Driver: 1881

THE THEATRICAL ‘BUS DRIVER

Herbert Standing

“Will any gentleman get outside to ‘blige a lady?” asked the conductor. I have always regarded this question with a certain amount of distrust and suspicion, for I have felt that I am really obliging the conductor; but upon this occasion I complied with the request, and “got outside to ‘blige a lady.”

I found myself on the box-seat, the only occupant with the coachman, the hero of this little story. “Kiver it over yer knees,” he said, giving me the strap of the apron, “for it’s rather chilly to-night, sir.” I did so, lighted my pipe, and endeavoured to make myself as comfortable as I could under the circumstances, for it was raining fast.

As we drove past the gas-lamps I noticed that the driver looked at me rather curiously, and as he pulled up either to let down or take up a passenger, he leaned over towards me and, lowering his voice to a mysterious whisper, said: “You’ll excuse me, you’ll excuse me, sir, but ain’t you wot they calls one o’ the perfeshun?I confessed that such was the case.

“Ah!” said he, ” I thought you wuz. I’m wonderful fond o’ the perfeshun myself, sir, wonderful fond. I takes, as you may say, a reg’lar interest in it, and I’ll tell yer why, sir. You see, sir, my uncle, my mother’s brother, kept a theayter, leastways it warn’t ‘xacly a theayter, but wot they calls a gaff, down the Whitechapel Road, about thirty-four year ago, and afore I tuke to drivin’ I used to be with this ‘ere uncle a ‘elpin’ ‘im in the show. Mind yer, I didn’t do no actin’,” and he chuckled to himself. “Lor’ bless you, no, I warn’t no good at that, I was too nervous. My business consisted of ringing up the curtain and ringing it down agin; and werry orfen I used to hev to do it, for we used to have three shows a night. There was one piece as tuke my fancy special. There warn’t no chatter in it, but it was what they calls a tabbler wax or tabbler something, sir.”

“Tableau vivant?

“That’s it, sir, tabbler wewong, sir. I knowed it was a furrin’ word. It was a piece where three young females comes on all dressed in white, when on comes a chap dressed up with a lot o’ roses and flowers round ‘is ‘ed—they warn’t real, sir—paper ‘uns; a sheepskin tied round ‘is lines, and his nose werry red. He was a bloke as was fond o’ ‘is drop o’ somethin’ short, he was. He was carryin’ what they calls a goblet in ‘is ‘and, and he offers these ‘ere young females a drink out of this ‘ere mug, but they “wouldn’t ‘ev nothin’ to say to him, they was reg’lar teetotalers. I forget the name of the party, my memory ain’t so good as it was, but I think they calls it something like the name o’ the chap who puts ‘is money on hosses, sir. Backer or somethin’.”

I suggested Bacchus.

“That’s it,” said he, with a shout of delight; “Backus and the three Graces, sir, or somethin’ like that. Lor” bless yer soul, sir! fond o’ the perfeshun?—I should think I am. Why there ain’t a night as I gets off this ‘ere work as me and my old woman don’t go to see some piece or other. Lor” bless yer soul, sir! I remember seeing old Phelps” (he called it “Phelips “; and here I must remark that my friend, the driver spoke in a familiar—a very familiar—way of the “perfeshun” for which he professed to have such a great regard). “I remember seeing him in a piece in Droory Lane, sir. It wuz a werry gloomy piece, but werry good. It wuz wrote by that there lord who wuz rayther a goer in his time, sir—I b’lieve Lord Byron. In this ‘ere piece that Phelips— ‘Manfried,’ I think it wuz called, sir—used to go to the top of the mountain and slyoquises to himself, like; werry good piece it wuz, sir—beautiful langwidge. Often thinks about it when I’m sittin’ on this ‘ere seat, and I always finds somethin’ noo in it, sir. I took my old woman to see it, she was pleased too.”

He announced this fact as a sort of confirmation of his own idea— that there was no doubt that the piece was good, if his old woman agreed with him on the subject.

“It’s wonderful what a lot of clever people there is about. Why I was readin’ a harticle the other day in ‘The Daily Telegrarf,’ and I see some remarks as pleased me very much. Well, the follerin’ Saturday night I gets off, and I goes to the Surrey to see a play, and it wus a Roman piece, sir, where they wears toggers, and things like that—long white dresses. It wuz a piece where two blokes ‘as a row in the marketplace ” (“Julius Caesar”), “and, bless my ‘art, if they didn’t go through all the words as I see in the paper! Wonderful lot o’ learnin’ about, sir, and wonderful things is plays—leastways to me. There’s another reason, sir, that I’m fond o’ the perfeshun,” and the old man lowered his voice and coughed once or twice before he went on again.

“You see, sir, me and my old woman ‘ad been married for some time, and we ‘ad two children—two boys—and we was wonderful wishful for a little gal. Not that I’ve a word to say agin the boys, they wuz good enuff for anybody, my boys wuz, and werry good to their old father they have been; but as I wuz a-sayin’, we wuz wonderful wishful for a gal, and at last she comes, sir—our little Ally, a blue-eyed fair-‘aired little thing, as ever you saw, sir. You wouldn’t b’lieve, to look at me, that I could her ‘ad such a darter, for I ain’t ‘ansome. Well, when she wuz about seven or eight years old, I ‘ad a job to take a pleasure party down to ‘Ampton Court; comin’ back, sir, a werry ‘eavy storm come on, and I got soaked, and about four or five days after it, sir, I wuz laid up with the roomatick fever, and uncommon bad I wuz, too, reg’lar dilurus, orf me ‘ead; and when I got better, the missus wuz a sittin’ by my bedside a-holdin’ me ‘and, and she ees, ‘Jim,’ she ses to me —that’s my name, sir, Jim. And she ses, ‘Jim, how would you like our little Ally to be a fairy?’ ‘Fairy!’ I ses. ‘Yes,’ ses she, ‘in a pantomime.’ ‘No, Lizzie,’ I ses, for I thought o’ the cold nights, and I didn’t like the hidear of the blue-eyed little darlin’ comin’ out of the ‘ot theayter into the cold. But times wuz bad, and money wuz short; so the next mornin’ she takes little Ally down^to the theayter—the Lane, sir— and she comes back in about two hours’ time, and says, ‘Ally’s engaged, she’s to be a little fairy.’ I felt uncomfortable like, and yet a bit proud, sir, to think my little gal was in the perfeshun. I often, now and then, as ye may say, curse myself for that bit of pride, sir, for it pretty nearly broke my ‘art. But, there, God knows wot’s best for us, and it don’t do for me to complain. Well, to make a long story short, sir, I went back to work, and got a job a’ drivin’, and every night, when I used to finish, I used to ‘urry off to the theayter to fetch Ally; and one night I noticed as she didn’t run up to me, eager like, aa she used to do. I ses, ‘Ally, what’s the matter?’ and her anser seemed to ‘it me, and give me a sharp pain underneath my westkit, sir. ‘I don’t feel well, dad,’ she said, ‘my face is burnin’, and my ‘ead feels, oh so big.’ I took her up in my arms and ‘urried off ‘ome across the bridge with her as fast as I could go, and me and my old woman put her to bed. I went for a doctor, but afore mornin’ my little gal was in a ragin’ fever.

“Well, sir, I was obliged to go off to work next mornin’, and the day seemed terrible long, and directly I finished my job I used to ‘urry orf ‘ome to my little Ally, and the thing as pleased her most was picture of pantomimes and theaytres; and money being a bit short, I’ll tell you what I used to do: on my way ‘ome I used to tear the pictur’ advertisements with the pantomime off the walls (and uncommon rough I was on them advertisements), to take ’em ‘ome to my little gal, and as I used to ‘urry upstairs (for though we was low in pocket we was high in the attic), I’d listen for her voices ‘Mother,’ she used to say, ‘I hope father’s got another pictur’ for me,’ and when I opened the door, her eyes used to stare out of her head eager like to see what sort of a pictur’ I’d brought her.

“She lay ill like that for weeks, sir, and I used to notice (and it give me a pain over my heart, as if I’d draw this ‘ere ‘bus over it) that her eyes seemed to get bigger and her face smaller and smaller.

“One night, sir, I ‘urried ‘ome, for I had a kind o’ feelin’ on me all day that somethin’ was a-goin’ to ‘appen, and as I went upstairs, for the first time I didn’t hear my Ally’s voice—I felt myself hang back a bit as I opened the door. ‘How’s my __?’

‘Hush,’ my wife said, ‘Ally’s sleepin’.’ I walked up to her bed, and I suppose the noise roused her a bit, for she opened her eyes and looked at me. ‘I ain’t got no picture to-night, Ally.’ She didn’t say nothink, only smiled, and put up her little thin hand and stroked my face. ‘Never mind, daddy dear,’ she said at last, in a little feeble voice, ‘I don’t think I shall want any more pantomime pictures. I’ve had such a lovely dream, daddy, just like a transformation scene at a theayter, only more beautifuler ladies with long white dresses and wings like on their shoulders. I’m glad you’ve come home, daddy, for the ladies seemed to want to take me up in the clouds, like they do in the pantomimes, and I’m—oh—so glad you’ve come! You won’t have to wait for me out in the wet at the stage-door any more, daddy.’ And then she seemed to go a bit queer in her head, and talked about the theayter. She lay quiet for a short time, then gave a kind o’ start, raised herself up and said, ‘Father, they’ve come for me,’ stroked my face with her hand, put her little head down on my shoulder, sir, went off to sleep, never to wake no more.”

And as we passed the lamps I saw the tears rolling down the cheeks of my friend the driver; and, to tell the truth, I felt very choky myself.

“Good-night,” I said, as I shook hands with the old fellow.

“Good-night, sir,” he answered, gazing straight in front of him. I got down without another word, for I felt that “his eyes were with his heart, and that was far away.”

The Theatre, A Monthly Review and Magazine Vol. 1, 1 November 1881: pp. 265-68

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: After a moment to collect herself, to avoid getting “choky,” Mrs Daffodil will be Relentlessly Informative and explain that a “Gaff” might be a freak show (what the Americans call a “side-show” or it might be a cheap theatre for the working-class, especially a musical one.  The so-called “Penny Gaff Theatre,” not unlike the theatres of Shakespeare’s time, played to the Pit.

At the first penny gaff to which I came in the London Road, there was the usual crowd of working people and unemployed who are soon to be civilized and elevated to a private-theatricals standard by Beaumont trustees, and according to Mr. Besant, but who as yet have not risen above the penny-gaff level. Talking to them from steps that served as a platform was a Mephistopheles, who, like Mr. Irving, had borrowed the red dress, cock’s feather, and sword from the puppet costumer, and, unlike him, but perhaps more sensibly, had retained the moustache and forked beard of the operatic Mephisto. As in the old drama, Mephistopheles laid a wager in the court of Heaven before the real play began, so his penny-gaff successor bargained with the people before the curtain was drawn. “What’ll you see insoide, gen’lemen?” he cried; “people suspended in midair! Yes, gen’lemen. At other places a guinea’s charged, and people’s wisibly supported by one stick. But ‘ere all sticks is taken away and I’m only chargin’ you a pinny. We don’t ask a shillin’, gen’lemen, but only a pinny. What I promises outsoide, I performs in. My show is sciointifik and respectable, and a ten minutes’ respectable and sciointifik show’s better’n a hour’s rot, which is all you gets in some of your guinea theatres. Your own consciences’Il prompt you to recommen’ my show!” I give his patter, since it points out what he considered to be the principal feature of his performance.

Child labour laws did not bar children from working at all hours on the stage. As an 1862 report on the English theatrical economy remarks: “It is a well-known fact that little boys and girls of six and seven years often support a whole family by their slender earnings.”

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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Ladies Who Collect Diamonds: 1888

 

DIAMOND COLLECTIONS

A Fashionable Fad That Is Uniquely Profitable as Well.

Jewelers’ Weekly

A jeweller says: “I saw a very handsome collection of diamonds a few days ago; not that there’s anything particularly surprising in that statement, but it was where I saw them that surprised me. They lay in soft little nests of cotton wool in the depths of a pretty Indian box, and to me, used to seeing them upon the tables in my own and other dealers’ offices, they looked rather strange when displayed in a prettily furnished drawing room. The diamonds in question rested upon an antique, spider-legged table, covered with quaint and delicate carvings.

“My hostess showed me the stones in a way which let me see she fully appreciated their value, and I ventured to ask her what on earth she was doing with such a quantity of unset gems, and whether she had any intention of opening an office in opposition to myself.

“’Why,’ said she, ‘is it possible that you don’t know it’s fashionable to make a collection of diamonds or precious stones?”

“I blushingly confessed my ignorance of fashion’s decree, and handing me a cup of tea, she bade me sit down and proceeded to enlighten me.

“’Every woman who can afford the hobby,’ said she, ‘now has a collection of diamonds. They are often bought under a guarantee that the jeweller who sells them will take them back at a certain percentage of the cost, and in my estimation they are better than stocks and bonds anyway as an investment, because their value doesn’t fluctuate to any extent and—because they are. That’s why!’

“I ventured to suggest that the latter reason was rather a feminine one and asked for further particulars.

“’Well,’ she continued, ‘there isn’t much more. A great many ladies of my acquaintance have snug little sums laid away in gems, but you may be sure they don’t let everybody know it, and it’s only their most intimate friends who have seen them. We who haven’t quite so valuable a collection, however, frequently meet at friendly tea parties, where we show our treasures and sometimes do a little trading; just enough to make us feel like business women, you know.

“I mentally blessed these ‘friendly tea parties,’ and ever since my visit have indulged in the wish that the number of their fair participants may multiply and prosper.”

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 26 February 1888: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is a pity that some enterprising lady did not start the “Gem of the Month Club” in support of the jewel collectors. Mrs Daffodil considers that those persons who host parties for their friends where they attempt to sell plastic storage pieces and cosmetics are missing a lucrative opportunity.

The narrator’s condescending attitude towards ladies and their jewels was, alas, universal. A lady was happy to accept gems and jewellery from her husband or any other interested gentleman party, but would trust him to secure them at the vault and provide adequate cover in case of loss or theft. She was expected to adorn herself in the fruits of her husband’s industry (or the forbidden fruits of her personal affairs) and was told not to worry her pretty little head over her jewels’ safety or value. This perceived ignorance came in useful when ladies needed to have paste replicas made so that the genuine necklace or tiara might be put into the hands of some discreet pawnbroker for a little ready cash.

A YEAR TOO LATE.

A nobleman went to a pawnbroker to borrow a thousand pounds upon his wife’s jewels, and said, “I want you to take the stones out of the settings and put false ones in their stead, as I do not wish her to know that I have pawned them.”

“You are too late,” said the pawnbroker,” “for I purchased the real stones of my lady last year.”

2,000 Jokes and Jests: Wit, Humor and Anecdote, Native and Foreign, Classic and Otherwise, 1893  P. 32

 

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.

Twelve Golden Rules for Women Cooks: 1838

the cook hints to servants 1843

The Cook, from Hints to Servants, 1843

TWELVE GOLDEN RULES FOR WOMEN COOKS.

[Extracted from that excellent work, “Essays on Good-Living.”]

Never get drunk—until the last dish be served up.

Never be saucy—unless you happen to be in your airs and can’t help it; but then, take care to have the last word.

Never be sulky—unless you have a great dinner to dress; your mistress will then be sure to coax you.

Never spoil a joint—unless you have been unjustly found fault with, (which must be the fact if you have been accused at all); in which case, if complaint be made of its having been under-done, you may, next time, roast it to a cinder; and, if that should not give satisfaction, you may, the following day, send it up raw.

Never get dinner ready at the time it is ordered—unless you know that the family are not ready for it; in which case, send it up to a moment; if it be cold and spoiled, that, you know, will not be your fault.

Never admit that you are in the wrong—unless the devil will have it so that you cannot help it. If you should transgress your orders, stand stoutly to it, that they were such as you have followed; and, if you have not brass enough for that, say, you thought they were.

Never take snuff –unless when you are mixing a stew, or stirring the soup. Nor never examine the latter without holding a lighted tallow candle obliquely over the pot; if it should not enable you to see quite to the bottom, what drops from it will at least enrich the contents; and when you taste it, be sure to throw back what remains in your spoon.

 Never wash your hands—until you have made the pies; you must do it then, and to do it sooner is only wasting time and soap.

Never give warning to quit your place—until you are quite sure that it will put the family to the greatest inconvenience, and then, be off at a moment; say, “your father’s dead, or your mother’s dying, and you cannot stay if it was ever so.” If warning be given to you, from that moment you may spoil every thing that comes under your hands.

Never tell tales of the family you are with—unless they should be to their disadvantage; nor never speak well of your last mistress, unless it be to contrast her with the present.

Never cheat—unless you can do it without being discovered; but, if you don’t yourself cheat, never prevent others—“Your master can afford it;”— “Service is no inheritance;”—and “poor servants and tradesfolk must live.”

Never tell a lie —when you can get as much by telling the truth; nor ever tell the truth, when you can get more by telling a lie.

Never support a sweetheart out of the house—unless you can’t get one in.

The London Jester; Or, Museum of Mirth, Wit, and Humour, 1838: pp. 100-101

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Of all the domestic plagues, the Cook was believed to be the worst. Complaints were heard on all sides about cooks who were ill-tempered, dishonest, dirty, and intemperate. A truly good cook knew that her value was above rubies and a potential employer would have a job to impress her. Cook’s whims and fancies were Law. And when a gem of a cook was found, other ladies conspired to lure her away.  This rarely ended well:

STOLE HER COOK.

Red Bank, N.J.  Because Mrs. C. B. West stole her “jewel of a cook,” Mrs. G.E. Poulson built a “spite fence” and threatened to horsewhip. West had her arrested. The Evening Sun [Baltimore MD] 9 May 1913: p. 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.

The Deferred Appointment: 1911

The Deferred Appointment

Algernon Blackwood

The little “Photographic Studio” in the side-street beyond Shepherd’s Bush had done no business all day, for the light had been uninviting to even the vainest sitter, and the murky sky that foreboded snow had hung over London without a break since dawn. Pedestrians went hurrying and shivering along the pavements, disappearing into the gloom of countless ugly little houses the moment they passed beyond the glare of the big electric standards that lit the thundering motor-buses in the main street. The first flakes of snow, indeed, were already falling slowly, as though they shrank from settling in the grime. The wind moaned and sang dismally, catching the ears and lifting the shabby coat-tails of Mr. Mortimer Jenkyn, “Photographic Artist,” as he stood outside and put the shutters up with his own cold hands in despair of further trade.

It was five minutes to six. With a lingering glance at the enlarged portrait of a fat man in masonic regalia who was the pride and glory of his window-front, he fixed the last hook of the shutter, and turned to go indoors. There was developing and framing to be done upstairs, not very remunerative work, but better, at any rate, than waiting in an empty studio for customers who did not come—wasting the heat of two oil-stoves into the bargain. And it was then, in the act of closing the street-door behind him, that he saw a man standing in the shadows of the narrow passage, staring fixedly into his face.

Mr. Jenkyn admits that he jumped. The man was so very close, yet he had not seen him come in; and in the eyes was such a curiously sad and appealing expression. He had already sent his assistant home, and there was no other occupant of the little two-storey house. The man must have slipped past him from the dark street while his back was turned. Who in the world could he be, and what could he want? Was he beggar, customer, or rogue?

“Good evening,” Mr. Jenkyn said, washing his hands, but using only half the oily politeness of tone with which he favoured sitters. He was just going to add “sir,” feeling it wiser to be on the safe side, when the stranger shifted his position so that the light fell directly upon his face, and Mr. Jenkyn was aware that he—recognised him. Unless he was greatly mistaken, it was the second-hand bookseller in the main street.

“Ah, it’s you, Mr. Wilson!” he stammered, making half a question of it, as though not quite convinced. “Pardon me; I did not quite catch your face—er—I was just shutting up.” The other bowed his head in reply. “Won’t you come in? Do, please.” Mr. Jenkyn led the way. He wondered what was the matter. The visitor was not among his customers; indeed, he could hardly claim to know him, having only seen him occasionally when calling at the shop for slight purchases of paper and what not. The man, he now realised, looked fearfully ill and wasted, his face pale and haggard. It upset him rather, this sudden, abrupt call. He felt sorry, pained. He felt uneasy.

Into the studio they passed, the visitor going first as though he knew the way, Mr. Jenkyn noticing through his flurry that he was in his “Sunday best.” Evidently he had come with a definite purpose. It was odd. Still without speaking, he moved straight across the room and posed himself in front of the dingy background of painted trees, facing the camera. The studio was brightly lit. He seated himself in the faded arm-chair, crossed his legs, drew up the little round table with the artificial roses upon it in a tall, thin vase, and struck an attitude. He meant to be photographed.

His eyes, staring straight into the lens, draped as it was with the black velvet curtain, seemed, however, to take no account of the Photographic Artist. But Mr. Jenkyn, standing still beside the door, felt a cold air playing over his face that was not merely the winter cold from the street. He felt his hair rise. A slight shiver ran down his back. In that pale, drawn face, and in those staring eyes across the room that gazed so fixedly into the draped camera, he read the signature of illness that no longer knows hope. It was Death that he saw.

In a flash the impression came and went—less than a second. The whole business, indeed, had not occupied two minutes. Mr. Jenkyn pulled himself together with a strong effort, dismissed his foolish obsession, and came sharply to practical considerations. “Forgive me,” he said, a trifle thickly, confusedly, “but I—er—did not quite realise. You desire to sit for your portrait, of course. I’ve had such a busy day, and—’ardly looked for a customer so late.” The clock, as he spoke, struck six. But he did not notice the sound. Through his mind ran another reflection: “A man shouldn’t ‘ave his picture taken when he’s ill and next door to dying. Lord! He’ll want a lot of touching-up and finishin’, too!”

He began discussing the size, price, and length—the usual rigmarole of his “profession,” and the other, sitting there, still vouchsafed no comment or reply. He simply made the impression of a man in a great hurry, who wished to finish a disagreeable business without unnecessary talk. Many men, reflected the photographer, were the same; being photographed was worse to them than going to the dentist. Mr. Jenkyn filled the pauses with his professional running talk and patter, while the sitter, fixed and motionless, kept his first position and stared at the camera. The photographer rather prided himself upon his ability to make sitters look bright and pleasant; but this man was hopeless. It was only afterwards Mr. Jenkyn recalled the singular fact that he never once touched him—that, in fact, something connected possibly with his frail appearance of deadly illness had prevented his going close to arrange the details of the hastily assumed pose.

“It must be a flashlight, of course, Mr. Wilson,” he said, fidgeting at length with the camera-stand, shifting it slightly nearer; while the other moved his head gently yet impatiently in agreement. Mr. Jenkyn longed to suggest his coming another time when he looked better, to speak with sympathy of his illness; to say something, in fact, that might establish a personal relation. But his tongue in this respect seemed utterly tied. It was just this personal relation which seemed impossible of approach—absolutely and peremptorily impossible. There seemed a barrier between the two. He could only chatter the usual professional commonplaces. To tell the truth, Mr. Jenkyn thinks he felt a little dazed the whole time—not quite his usual self. And, meanwhile, his uneasiness oddly increased. He hurried. He, too, wanted the matter done with and his visitor gone.

At length everything was ready, only the flashlight waiting to be turned on, when, stooping, he covered his head with the velvet cloth and peered through the lens— at no one! When he says “at no one,” however, he qualifies it thus: “There was a quick flash of brilliant white light and a face in the middle of it—my gracious Heaven! But such a face—’im, yet not ’im—like a sudden rushing glory of a face! It shot off like lightning out of the camera’s field of vision. It left me blinded, I assure you, ’alf blinded, and that’s a fac’. It was sheer dazzling!”

It seems Mr. Jenkyn remained entangled a moment in the cloth, eyes closed, breath coming in gasps, for when he got clear and straightened up again, staring once more at his customer over the top of the camera, he stared for the second time at—no one. And the cap that he held in his left hand he clapped feverishly over the uncovered lens. Mr. Jenkyn staggered… looked hurriedly round the empty studio, then ran, knocking a chair over as he went, into the passage. The hall was deserted, the front door closed. His visitor had disappeared “almost as though he hadn’t never been there at all”—thus he described it to himself in a terrified whisper. And again he felt the hair rise on his scalp; his skin crawled a little, and something put back the ice against his spine.

After a moment he returned to the studio and somewhat feverishly examined it. There stood the chair against the dingy background of trees; and there, close beside it, was the round table with the flower vase. Less than a minute ago Mr. Thomas Wilson, looking like death, had been sitting in that very chair. “It wasn’t all a sort of dreamin’, then,” ran through his disordered and frightened mind. “I did see something…!” He remembered vaguely stories he had read in the newspapers, stories of queer warnings that saved people from disasters, apparitions, faces seen in dream, and so forth. “Maybe,” he thought with confusion, “something’s going to ’appen to me!” Further than that he could not get for some little time, as he stood there staring about him, almost expecting that Mr. Wilson might reappear as strangely as he had disappeared. He went over the whole scene again and again, reconstructing it in minutest detail. And only then, for the first time, did he plainly realise two things which somehow or other he had not thought strange before, but now thought very strange. For his visitor, he remembered, had not uttered a single word, nor had he, Mr. Jenkyn, once touched his person… And, thereupon, without more ado, he put on his hat and coat and went round to the little shop in the main street to buy some ink and stationery which he did not in the least require.

The shop seemed all as usual, though Mr. Wilson himself was not visible behind the littered desk. A tall gentleman was talking in low tones to the partner. Mr. Jenkyn bowed as he went in, then stood examining a case of cheap stylographic pens, waiting for the others to finish. It was impossible to avoid overhearing. Besides, the little shop had distinguished customers sometimes, he had heard, and this evidently was one of them. He only understood part of the conversation, but he remembers all of it. “Singular, yes, these last words of dying men,” the tall man was saying, “very singular. You remember Newman’s: ‘More light,’ wasn’t it?” The bookseller nodded.

“Fine,” he said, “fine, that!” There was a pause. Mr. Jenkyn stooped lower over the pens. “This, too, was fine in its way,” the gentleman added, straightening up to go; “the old promise, you see, unfulfilled but not forgotten. Cropped up suddenly out of the delirium. Curious, very curious! A good, conscientious man to the last. In all the twenty years I’ve known him he never broke his word…”

A motor-bus drowned a sentence, and then was heard in the bookseller’s voice, as he moved towards the door. “…You see, he was half-way down the stairs before they found him, always repeating the same thing, ‘I promised the wife, I promised the wife.’ And it was a job, I’m told, getting him back again… he struggled so. That’s what finished him so quick, I suppose. Fifteen minutes later he was gone, and his last words were always the same, ‘I promised the wife’…”

The tall man was gone, and Mr. Jenkyn forgot about his purchases. “When did it ’appen?” he heard himself asking in a voice he hardly recognised as his own. And the reply roared and thundered in his ears as he went down the street a minute later to his house: “Close on six o’clock—a few minutes before the hour. Been ill for weeks, yes. Caught him out of bed with high fever on his way to your place, Mr. Jenkyn, calling at the top of his voice that he’d forgotten to see you about his picture being taken. Yes, very sad, very sad indeed.”

But Mr. Jenkyn did not return to his studio. He left the light burning there all night. He went to the little room where he slept out, and next day gave the plate to be developed by his assistant. “Defective plate, sir,” was the report in due course; “shows nothing but a flash of light—uncommonly brilliant.” “Make a print of it all the same,” was the reply. Six months later, when he examined the plate and print, Mr. Jenkyn found that the singular streaks of light had disappeared from both. The uncommon brilliance had faded out completely as though it had never been there.

The Times-Democrat [New Orleans LA] 12 March 1911: p. 39

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Algernon Blackwood is perhaps best known for his “weird” supernatural and horror fiction. This is a workmanlike example of one of his ghost stories.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that the death-like countenance of Mr Wilson did not appear in the plate or the print so that the image could have been presented to his wife as a memento (mori) of the occasion. Normally a post-mortem photograph would be taken at the home of the deceased, with the decedent passively submitting to the professional ministrations of the photographic artist. The notion of a post-mortem photograph taken of a subject who not only walked into the photographic studio but posed himself at a table containing a vase of artificial roses is uncommonly chilling.

 

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.

Left-Over Laundry: 1889

 

laundry 1901

LEFT-OVER LAUNDRY

Novel Business of a Smart Young Boston Man

“Those bundles,” said he, “which that young man took off with him were what would be called left-over laundry. That is, they have lain upon our shelves for several months since they were washed and have never been called for.”

“Do you have many such bundles?” “Well, yes, we do. That young man who just went out calls here about once a month and he gets just about as many bundles every time. You see there are a great many forgetful people in this world, and many of them will take a bundle of clothes to some laundry office, and then, before it comes time to take them out, will have forgotten where they left them, and so the stuff is left on the agent’s hands. Then again many of the bundles are left by drummers and other travellers who are called away from town before their clothes are washed, and either do not come back at all or have forgotten the place when they do come.

“Then there is still another class: Young men who have money one day and are broke the next. These fellows will often leave large bundles and then will not have money enough to spare to get them out for some time and when they do get them the laundry has been in the office so long that they feel ashamed to call for it. From these and some other causes we have many bundles which would never be called for it they laid on our shelves for ten years. Until within a few months all of these bundles have been a dead loss to us, as we are obliged to pay the laundryman for washing the clothes and then get nothing for them.

“As they are all second-hand clothes we could not sell them until this young man came long and he takes all we have off our hands. What does he do with them? Why, he sells them, of course, he makes a business of it, and goes all over the city and suburbs, collecting this uncalled-for laundry. Of course he has to buy it blind, as he is not allowed to examine the bundles before purchasing them, and so he gets all sorts of things in all sorts of conditions, but as, for instance, he only has to pay ten cents for a shirt, and often gets one which is nearly new and costs perhaps $2, he can afford to get stuck on a few of the things.

“He has made it his business to get acquainted with poor young men and women, to whom he sells articles for about a quarter of what they would cost in the stores and still manages to clear from 300 to 500 per cent on his sales. Not a bad profit, if the sales are big enough, is it? And the business is an easy and a clean one to handle. Altogether it is one of the most novel methods of making a living that I have heard of for some time.”

Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 29 December 1889: p. 17

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is always interested to hear of ingenious entrepreneurs who find ways to re-use clothing—an idea which is attracting new interest these days. We have heard of the lady who renovated silks, and of the widow who cleverly restyled outworn fashions.  Second-hand clothing was a lucrative business, either as clothing or even as rags. Certainly it would have been a more cleanly trade than handling the clothes at slop– or pawn-shops. One wonders if the young man kept a store-front or if he went door-to-door to those poor young men and women, peddling the contents of the bundles.

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

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

 

A Lady’s Coolness Upon a Trying Occasion: 1838

the robber and his child 1832

The Robber and His Child, Karl Friedrich Lessing, 1832 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-robber-and-his-child/TQEZjvDA3qdUXw

THE DANGER OF GIVING WAY TO FEELING IN COMMITTING A HIGHWAY ROBBERY.

At Wandsworth Petty Sessions on Tuesday, John Wood, who described himself as a plumber, and who appeared in a very wretched state, was charged with a highway robbery upon the person of Mrs Chevalier, the wife of a respectable tradesman living in Yardley street, Wilmington square, Clerkenwell. lt appeared from the evidence of the prosecutrix, that on Monday last she left home by a stage-coach on a visit to a friend in the neighbourhood of Wimbledon. On her return, being too late for the coach, she was compelled to proceed on foot to Fulham, across the common: it was then about six o’clock. After she had proceeded a short distance the prisoner sprang upon her and demanded her money; at the same moment he presented a pistol at her head, and threatened that he would at once blow her brains out if she did not deliver up to him what money she had about her; adding, that he was reduced to the last extremity, that he had a wife and family at home in a starving state, and he did not care what became of him. She then, under the fear of his threat, gave him what money she had, which amounted to about £3, which consisted of nine half-crowns, a half-sovereign, and the remainder in silver and copper. After the prisoner had robbed her he put the pistol in his pocket. She then remarked to him that she had to go to London, and as he had taken from her all the money she had, perhaps he would let her have two shillings to pay for the omnibus to London, and a halfpenny to go over the bridge. He gave her what she required. She then remarked to him that she would be obliged to him if he would accompany her within a short distance of Fulham, to protect her, as, being alone, she might be again stopped, and if she were stopped, the person would not believe but that she had money about her. The prisoner agreed, and they walked together some distance. They passed two or three men who were walking singly. The prosecutrix, however, however, did not think it prudent to alarm them; but, on coming up to a policeman, she instantly acquainted him, and at the same time seized the prisoner, who, having used great exertions, extricated himself from her grasp and ran away. He was pursued by the police-officer, who speedily apprehended him. The prisoner did not deny the charge, but stated that he had a wife and five children at home, who were in a state of the most deplorable destitution. He was committed for trial. The bench highly praised the conduct of the prosecutrix, who had displayed such coolness and intrepidity upon the trying occasion in which she was placed.

The Examiner [London, England] 25 March 1838: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil confesses that, while she admires the impressive coolness the lady displayed on this trying occasion, she still feels a certain, possibly unwarranted, pity for the plumber with the large family in such a deplorable state of destitution. What he did was certainly wrong; yet instead of running away, he gave Mrs Chevalier omnibus fare and agreed to “protect her.” The Poor Laws were pitiless; tearing families apart to send them to the Workhouse with cold charity, indeed. One hopes that the Parish gave the starving family some relief and that the prosecutrix pleaded for mercy for the hapless man.

 

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 Professional Ghost:1904

the ghost of greystone grange 1878

The Ghost of Greystone Grange, a shilling-shocker from 1878. British Library

In this season of Hallowe’en and its attendant Horrors, Mrs Daffodil is practically compelled to invite that shuddersome person from Haunted Ohio to share one of her posts. Mrs Daffodil is sure that her readers will find this piece to be less fraught than some of the ghastly stories which that weird writer normally shares about mourning practices.

***

Let us lighten the mood with an amusing little tale about a man with an unusual job–told in the vernacular–by Robert Ernest Vernede, author and poet, who died in the Great War.

TALE OF A GHOST

By R.E. Vernede

He was a thin, weak-legged old man, with a chronic cold and a grievance. I had met him in a country lane, shuffling along with a piece of rope in one hand and a stable lantern and some bits of old iron in the other. He told me his profession with a child-like vanity that was not without its charm, and, warmed by a pint of bitter I stood him at a wayside inn, he enlarged upon his grievance.

“It ain’t wurf it,” he said, “not by a long chalk it ain’t. I’ll give it up, that’s what I’ll do. It’s them blue lights and signtific contrapshions as does me. Nobody never asked for blue lights when I fust started. They ‘and’t thought of ‘em neither.”

“How long ago was that?” I asked.

“Thirty-seven years come Michelmas,” said the old man, proudly. “I was the fust profeshnal ghost, as you might say, in the country, and there ain’t many now as ha’ done what I done. How I know it was 37 years come Michelmas, I was a-working on the pump at Buntford, an’ they putt the figgers on it. I ain’t a scholar mesalf, but I’ve heard me niece read ‘em—“

“What used you to be, then?”
“Bricklayer. That’s how I come to be a ghost—along of Mr. Frank Burrers, which I dessay you’ve known the name of. “’E come up to me one night—we was repairin’ an old ‘ouse, ‘Grimbles’ they call it, which Mr. Richard Price, as owned the ‘ouse, and ‘is father before ‘im was wishin’ to sell. Seems Mr. Frank Burrers liked the ‘ouse, an’ they do say as he’d bid for it; but Mr. Price, he wanted more money than what ‘ad been bid. That was how it was when Mr. Frank Burrers he comes up to me, and sez he, ‘John,’ he sez, ‘that’s a old ‘ouse you’re workin’ on.’ ‘That’s what it looks to be,’ sez I. ‘They do tell me,’ sez he, ‘as it’s ‘aunted. Did ever you ‘ear any queer noises while you was about—clankin’ o’ chains at night an’ strange footsteps?’ I never hadn’t, an’ I told Mr. Burrers so, saying that what was more, I didn’t believe there was such things as ghosts. ‘Well, well,’ sez he, soothing like, ‘some folks do and some folks don’t. As it ‘appens, it ‘ud pay me if that there Grimbles was ‘aunted.’ ‘You don’t say it?’ sez I. ‘Yes, I do,’ sez he. ‘It ‘ud pay me and it ‘ud pay you.’ ‘What do you mean?’ sez I, wiv me ears up. For we just finishing wiv the ‘ouse, an’ I ‘and’t no job fixed arter that, and the winter comin’. ‘I mean that if you was to ‘aunt that ‘ouse it ‘ud be money in your pocket, John,’ sez he. ‘I dessay it’ ud come nigh to 16 shillin’s a week. You’d have to ‘aunt it fair an’ square, mind—no shirkin’—hours 9-7 reg’lar; and if there was anyone comin’ to look over the house wiv a view to purchase, you’d have to put in a bit of extra ‘auntin’. It wouldn’t be wot you’d call ‘ard work, but it ‘ud have to be steady, so that folks get to know there’s a shoes up to Grimbles as walks reg’lar.’

“Well, the end of it was that I took the job. I didn’t like it at fust, thin’ as how it was a come down from being a bricklayer to be a ghost. Once or twiced I felt lonely-like an’ thought o’ giving it up, but arter a while it began to grown on me, an’ in four weeks Mr. Frank Burrers he bought the ‘ouse for £200 less than what he’d offered for it fust. He giv’ me my 16 shillin’s a week an’ two pound extry, an’ sez he, ‘I’m goin’ in for a bit o’ properthy-buyin’ in different parts o’ the country, an’ if you like to sign on wiv me reg’lar, why, you can come down wiv’ me an’ ‘aunt such ‘ouses, as they’ve got too big a price up on. ‘Auntin’ seems to suit you,’ sez he, lookin’ at me. ‘You won’t never be stout; but you ain’t so thin as I’ve seen you.’”

“An’ did you sign on with Mr. Burrers?” I asked.

“I did,” said the old man. “Seven year I worked for him—Essex—Yorkshire—Souf Wales—Worrickshire—I bin in all them places durin’ that time ‘auntin.’ Sometimes I was a lame ghost; sometimes I ‘ad one arm, or I jingled me spurs or me chains. Once I kerried me head under me arm, an’ Mr. Burrers he paid me 18 shillin’s that week. I used to be able to groan nine different ways an’ all of ‘em ‘orrible. Sometimes it was the gall’ry I ‘aunted, and then again it was a garret or a shrubbery. It all depended on the fambly history. Mr. Burrers used to read it up an’ tell me what to do.”
“Did you ever frighten anyone?” I asked.

The old man looked at me with ineffable scorn.

“’Underds,” he said. “Care-takers, pleecmen, poachers, intendin’ tenants, girls wot had arranged to meet their young men thereabouts, curits, ‘ouse agents’ clerks—I’ve frightened ‘em all, an’ not bin nabbed once. I eud frighten ‘em still, if times was wot they used to be.”

“They’ve changed, have they?”
“Mr. Burrers died, an’ arter that I never had the same prospects. There aren’t any re’glar employers o’ ghosts. Gen’ally it’s bin a company as has giv’ me a job—wantin’ either to redooce the price of a ‘ouse, same as Mr. Burrers; or to advytize a seaside place. There’s a good deal o’ advytizing done that way o’ late. Them trippers get tired o’ the pier an’ the [minstrel shows] an’ drivin’ to see a monument. Then we starts a ‘aunted ‘ouse a few miles. P’r’aps it’s by arrangements wiv a job-master an’ he drives folks out to see; p’r’aps it’s a hotel proprietor that takes up the notion.”

“But it’s not as good a profession as it was.”

“Not by a long way. They wants it signtific—blue lights and such contrapshions. ‘ad to spend two shillin’s on blue lights on’y yesterday out o’ 14 shillin’s a week. I’ll ‘ave to give it up; that’s what I’ll ‘ave to do.”

I paid the price of another half-pint, and left this interesting old man still lamenting the downfall of his profession. It really seems that even ghosts should have to move with the times. Black and White.

The Evening Star [Independence, KS] 9 November 1904: p. 6

Ghost-‘unters still wants it signtific…. to judge by all the electronic gadgetry that pervades paranormal TV. It was ever thus. See this post on “The Psychic Howler” and other early ghost-hunting equipment. Any non-fictional tales of genuine “professional ghosts?” ‘aunt me at chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

 

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.