Category Archives: Professions

Grandmere Jeanneton: 1884

grandmere

“GRANDMERE JEANNETON.”

I was smoking my after-dinner cigar and reading Figaro on the esplanade in Strasbourg, when I was accosted by an old woman who inquired in French for the nearest photographer. She wore the common dress of the Alsatian peasant, and her dusty shoes indicated a long foot journey, but under her linen head-dress fell her white hair round a face that, sunburnt and wrinkled and wearing traces of recent tears, yet was so beautiful in its expression of tender goodness and touching resignation not unmixed with a certain pride, that I involuntarily addressed her as “Grandmere,” and forgetting that I had promised a friend to await his arrival, offered to guide her to her destination.

On the road she told me her simple story. She was a widow, and lived prior to the French-German war with her married son in a village, fifty miles from Strasbourg. They were well-to-do peasants before the enemy invaded their little village; but one morning they woke to find the Prussians encamped in their fields and making themselves perfectly at home. More troops arrived the next day and the following, until the quiet village was a big camp, where the enemy heaped up the stores needed for the siege of Strasbourg.

One dark night the camp was alarmed and a magazine containing among other stores a considerable quantity of powder was found on fire, and there was no doubt that it was the work of the inhabitants. Accordingly the next morning six of the most prominent or most patriotic of the inhabitants were brought before the Prussian commander, and after a short examination that proved nothing, without further trial, were shot in the square in front of the village church. The widow’s son was one of the six victims, and his wife, who became frantic with grief over his death, was the next morning found lifeless on his grave, thus leaving her infant son to the sole care of his grandmother.

The old woman now centered all her hope and all her affection in the little boy, and as he grew up she was fully repaid, for he loved his grandmother with an intensity often found in children who die young a love that was alone equaled by his veneration of his dead parents, his adoration of “la belle France” and his hate of the Prussians, for the old woman, who loved her country dearly, and never forgot that her husband fell fighting for it at “Solferino,” and that her son was killed by its enemies, instilled, perhaps unconsciously, both feelings in his young breast.

One day, when the boy was 10 years old, a Prussian official who inspected the village school was struck with his beauty and serious air, and addressed a question to him in German respecting his parents. “The Prussians killed them,” answered the boy in French. The official colored, and in a rebuking tone asked the boy why he didn’t speak German. “Because it is the language of my country’s enemies,” answered the boy fearlessly.

The official ordered him in arrest, and he was shut up in a chamber above the school-room, where he remained until night, when he boldly leaped from the window to the ground and, as he fell in a thick copse, escaped unhurt. The boy now fairly flew to his grandmother’s house, but as he was afraid of being seen and brought back to the school if he followed the road, he crossed in through the fields behind the village.

It was in the harvest and the grapes were ripe, so old Martin, the owner of the choicest grapes in the village, kept watch with a loaded shot-gun over his precious treasures. Softly he walks over the field behind the wine-press, when he hears something force its way through the grapevines. He stops and cocks his piece. He will now catch the thief who robs him of his biggest grapes. The moon is behind the clouds, out he sees the outline of a person running fast through the vines. “Halt!” he commands but the person never heeds him. He raises his gun–a flash–a scream–a fall of a body among the grapes, and when the old man arrives on the spot, he finds instead of the supposed grape thief a little curly-haired boy whose life is fast ebbing away with the blood that flows out and mixes with the crushed grapes; his black eyes are already fixed and glassy and it is with a faltering voice he whispers: “Give my love to grandmother and tell her– father! mother! I am coming”–his hands grasp the vines tighter, he raises himself to a sitting posture, the moon coming from behind the clouds shines on the wine leaves in his curly hair, a cry rises in his throat: “Vive la belle France!”–he sinks back, his eyes closed, and the orphan boy is gone.

“And it was me–me alone–who murdered him,” complained the grandmother when she concluded her tale. Her eyes were dry, but the muscles round the corner of her mouth worked convulsively and there was a great sob in her throat. “It was all my fault, the result of my unforgiveness; holy Mary have mercy–” and the old woman ran the black beads of her rosary through her fingers, murmuring her prayers.

We arrived shortly after at our destination, the atelier of a French photographer, with whom I was slightly acquainted. I introduced my companion to him, and he, after offering her a seat, addressed some questions to her about her picture. She looked at him with wonder, and finally replied that she only wanted a picture of her boy. “Ah!” said the photographer, “a little boy, very good, where is he!” A tear dimmed the old woman’s black eye, and for answer she pointed up to heaven. “Oh!” exclaimed my friend, “dead! I do not like to photograph dead bodies, but still as monsieur brought you here I will make an exception; when did your little boy die?”

“When the grapes ripen he will have been gone a year,” replied the grandmother.

“But, my dear,” began the photographer, perplexed, when I interrupted him, and taking him aside told him the old woman’s story and how she had walked fifty miles on her old legs to procure a likeness of her dead grandchild.

“But, my dear fellow, what can I do? I am grieved, upon my word I am; but what would you have me do? I can’t photograph angels!”

A noise of romping children was now heard and two boys, about 8 and 10 years old, came running into the atelier, crying at the top of their voices: “Oh, papa, voici!”

“Hush, children!” said the parent, “go away; I am busy,” and the happy boys disappeared laughing in the next room. A sudden idea struck me and turning to the old woman, who looked wistfully at the door through which the boys escaped, I asked her if she had kept any of her little boy’s clothes. “Indeed I have, monsieur!” she answered. “I have kept everything belonging to the little dear,” and opening a bundle she carried with her she continued: “Here is the best dress and (her voice sunk to a whisper) the last I ever saw him wear.”

I now took the photographer aside and made him acquainted with my plan for “photographing angels,” and after obtaining his promise of carrying out my instructions I persuaded the grandmother to leave her grandson’s clothing in the atelier and follow me to an inn, where I left her to the care of the buxom hostess.

Two days after the photographer sent for her and on her arrival handed her a picture at sight of which the old woman began crying freely. “My boy! my own darling boy! It is the clothes I spun every thread of myself and his pretty curly hair but why does he cover his face so? Won’t he look at me?” she asked suddenly, looking up from the picture that represented a little boy kneeling in a chair with his folded hands before his face.

“Oh!” remarked the photographer, “he is saying his prayers.”

“Yes, yes, I know! he is praying for his poor old grandmere. Oh, my darling boy!” and the great tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. “God and our lady bless you, messieurs!” said she when she grew calmer. “I am now going to pray by my boy’s grave until I follow him;” and refusing all aid for her trip home, but pressing her newly found treasure fast to her brave old heart, “Grandmere Jeanneton” left us.

As to the picture, our readers have of course all guessed that the photographer dressed his oldest boy in the poor peasant boy’s clothes; and who would not practice such a deception to see the tears that rolled down Grandmere Jeanneton’s aged cheeks?

The Argos [IN] Reflector 25 December 1884: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil was formerly in service in the household of Mrs Marrowfat, the society medium and shudders at the impostures by which that clever lady enriched herself at the expense of the desolate and sorrowing. And yet, somehow, Mrs Daffodil cannot bring herself to condemn the photographer who gave such consolation to the aged Grandmere who had lost everything.

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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The Sewing Machine Agent and the Widow: 1875

lady at sewing machine 1860s

How a Pennsylvania Widow Served a Sewing Machine Agent.

The usually quiet little village of Leesport on the line of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad, eight miles above Reading, has had a sensation, which has caused a good deal of amusement. A Reading sewing-machine agent induced the head of a family to take a machine and pay for it in monthly installments. Before the machine was paid for, the husband and father died. The widow was in destitute circumstances, with half a dozen children, and unable to pay the balance owing on the machine, when the agent came round to take the machine away. She determined that he should not remove the machine until he had handed back at least some of the money that had been paid on it by her husband. He was apparently just as determined to secure the machine without returning any of the filthy lucre, insulted the woman and endeavored to take by force what he said belonged to the company by reason of the payment of monthly installments having been stopped.

While the agent was inside the house she locked both the front and back doors, and put the keys in her dress pocket, and being a robust woman “went for” the agent. She took hold of him and a severe and prolonged struggle ensued, while the children were frightened and cried and screamed. The widow threw the agent over the hot kitchen stove, and finally succeeded in setting him down on top of it and held him there, when he begged piteously for mercy. “For God’s sake, let me go, and I’ll pay you back every cent your husband paid me.” Being satisfied that he was severely scorched, if not partly roasted around the thighs, she pulled him off the stove, but held on to him until he had paid back every cent of the installments and then she gave him two minutes time to take the machine and clear out with it. The name of the plucky woman and also that of the agent, are withheld by special request.

Atchison [KS] Daily Patriot 30 September 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Isaac Singer patented  the sewing machine in 1851. It was touted as relieving the housewife from the drudgery of sewing, yet made possible even more drudgery in sweatshops.

We might debate who did it better:  how very different the methods of this “robust” widow were from those in another story of a widow and a sewing machine on the hire-purchase plan. Equally happy endings, except, possibly, for the scars impressed on that part of his anatomy by the agent. And a salutary anecdote about the importance of life insurance.

 

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 Aristocats: 1909

 

OUTFITTING HER MAJESTY, THE CAT, NOT AN EASY TASK NOW

The Society Feline Is Many Grades Removed from the Midnight Prowler on the Back Fence.

Blue Blood in a Cat’s Veins Is a Costly Fluid

Fashionable People Are Turning Nowadays from the Dog to the Cat

More Cats Were Seen in Newport Last Seasons Than Ever Before in its History

A Cat Is Better Fitted For Carrying About.

The proverb maker says “A cat can look at a king.” But it takes a king to look at a fashionable cat these days. At least a king of coin, for a society feline is as far removed from the midnight prowlers, whose habitat is a plank on the backyard fence as the moth is from the star. Blue blood in a cat’s veins is a costly fluid. Most cats serve only the boy in the backyard and the cartoonist, but a cat of fine blood and prize markings is a feline gem of the rarest ray serene. And each ray of blood, so to speak, is worth its weight in silver.

Fashionable folk are turning from the dog to the cat. The cat is being gradually promoted from the basement to the sleeping basket in the parlor. Instead of sleeping wherever it can the cat now has a specially made sleeping basket and wears a nightgown. The cat craze is spreading everywhere. More cats were seen at Newport last summer than ever before in all its history. And this when the time of the cat is winter. A cat looks more fashionable in winter than in summer. A dog can follow all right in the summer, but in the winter he can’t jump through the snow; and if he does he gets is boots all dirty. A cat is fitted for carrying. Then in the winter time when the dog cannot very well accompany his owner the cat comes into her own. Her long, thick fur makes her look appropriate when the snow blows and the wind bites. When the air sings and brings red to women’s cheeks a cat looks a picture under a woman’s arm.

 

 

This winter more than forty cat shows will be held in the United States. Rare cats will be exhibited and blue ribbons will be awarded from Bangor, Me., to Pasadena, Cal. Even in Canada cat fairs will be held. There the two governing bodies that hold these shows, and the books of these institutions show that there are 2,000 pedigreed cats in the United States. And all the fashionable Toms and Tabbies are not pedigreed, nor are they social climbers. By chance they happen to have the marks and qualifications that go to make a desirable cat, and the first thing they know they are raised to the ranks of society by being taken up by a cat lover.

Ask the first man you meet on the street, or the person next you on the car what he imagines a fashionable cat is worth and he will wrinkle up his brows for a moment and say: “Oh, I suppose about $20.” Then he will blush and built fortifications by saying that he supposes there might be one cat worth that much.
Tell a cat fancier that and he will slap his knees in glee. He will inform you impressively that you couldn’t any more than buy a night prowler for that.

Why, $20 wouldn’t go very far toward outfitting a cat even. Goodness no! Twenty dollars would leave a cat’s wardrobe so barren that a cat of luxury would get up and stalk majestically away. Put $20 in a cat’s outfit and you would have to have the bill of sale to know that you had bought anything at all. It wouldn’t more than buy a cat blanket and a few catnip balls. Cat is another way of spelling money. Especially if you put fashionable before it. A kitten from a blooded sire sells for from $50 to $100. Yes, actually sells. That is the mark-down price, too. The value of an average prize-winning cat is about $150. Then when you begin to sift them out for the best the price jump up like steel on a squeeze. Whenever you start out to buy a blooded cat or kitten take a full pocket-book. Cats often change hands at $500.

 

Mrs. George Lynas, an Indiana woman, has a cat that she bought in England for $525. This does not include the expense of bringing him over. He is a Persian Chinchilla, and is 3 years old. His name is Rob Roy II. Of Arrandale. His name is no more aristocratic than he is. Mrs. James Conolisk of Gowanda has a cat valued at $800. Ho, that is not just the value she puts on it; there are several persons who would like to become his owner at that figure. That is not all. C.H. Jones of Rochester, N.Y., has a cat that he holds at $2,000. No, that is not a mistake—there should be three ciphers after the “2.” The animal’s name is Honorable Peter Stirling—or “Petie.”  Honorable Peter is a very famous cat, and is known wherever cat lovers congregate. “Petie” has a record behind him, for he has promenaded on Broadway with his master without string or chain. He walks along with his master with all the proud dignity of his namesake. Two thousand dollars would buy enough ordinary cats to have made the Pied Piper hurry out early in the morning and study the want ad section. If you had $2,000 to invest in the common or backyard variety of cats you would have to put electric trucks on all the furniture vans in town. The Egyptians who held cats to be sacred and bowed down to them in worship would only give two or three kopecks for a bushel of them. Such a cat as “Petie” ought to be able to look at a whole battalion of kings and never get fussed.

¿With Kindest Greetings for this Christmas dayî

Lithograph scrap, cat in a slipper, 1870s

A complete outfit for a cat looks like an inventory of the trunk of a belle going to the seashore for a month. Tabby has to have more things to wear than a bride. Tabby must have a collar. Some cats have lived and flourished to a ripe old age on the division fence who never once felt the need of a collar. But you must remember that our Tabby is a fashionable cat. A collar worn by Fluff would never do for Tabby, Never! Horrors! no! A dog collar on a cat! Again horrors! Even if nine tenths of the people can’t tell a dog collar from a cat collar it would never do to put Fluffs collar on Tabby. Tabby could never lift her eyes in self-respect if she had to wear a dog collar.

lalique cats choker

The caption is ambiguous as to whether this Lalique glass collar is a collar engraved with cats or a collar designed to be worn by cats, c. 1906-8 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/cats-choker/IgHy04_MHQ64MA

A cat collar is rope-shaped—round–so that it will fit down into the fur. The collar isn’t to show much, for the cat’s fur is an adornment. On a short haired cat a collar of some width may be used, but never on a cat of long fur. The color of the collar must harmonize with the color of the cat. A cat properly rigged out is a study in color harmony. There should be no abrupt changes of color; the blankets, collar and leading string should present one impression—an artist would call it a “tone.” The rigger out of cats is just us much of an artist as the man who sticks his thumb through a palette and smears paint on his jacket. Before a man will begin to outfit your cat he steps off a few pace and casts a critical eye over her, studying her just as a decorator does a room before he begins operations. As far as the ensemble will harmonize this year the prevailing color in collars is tan and brown.   Last year the collars had a touch of red in them, but this season they are more sombre. A collar costs just what you want to pay for it—usually more. You can begin at $10 and keep on for some time. The costlier collars are set with stones; often a small diamond gleams on top of the collar, or a row of moonstones may encircle the leather belt. When you begin putting stones and jewels on the collar of your cat you are adding ciphers behind the first figures on your check-book with great celerity. Then a “lead” must be bought. The lead is of braided leather or silk cord and must harmonize with the collar and blanket. Otherwise there would be a discord in the color symphony.

cat in cradle 1880 Letters from a Cat

A cat of caste must have three blankets at the very least. No self -respecting cat can have fewer. A dog would need more, of course, but a cat, since its hair is its show, must have a wardrobe of three blankets. One is a house blanket; this is to keep its fur slick and smooth. Then it must be the possessor of a heavy winter blanket, and a lighter one for spring. The ruling color for winter blankets is dark, with blue as a choice. The spring blanket may show more color. On a cat of color a Scotch plaid may be worn, but if the cat is of solid color the fast color should be kept to. From the present rage in cat and cat accessories it will not be long until the fashion magazines will devote a corner to the latest styles in cat outfittings side and side with the latest in women’s hats and muffs.

Your pocketbook gets a full breath when you come to boots; a dog can wear rubber boots or leather hoots and enjoy them, but a puss in boots goes only in Mother Goose rhymes. Boots were tried for cats, but the cat always sat down and tried to get them off. But cat cuffs make up for lack of boots. A cat cuff is a kind of wristlet worn around a cat’s ankle. They are made of leather, and fasten on with a polished buckle. Some of them have minute bells, which give a soft tinkle as Puss picks her way. When she skips and frolics they play a merry tune. The old story of the cat being belled is now a fact. For traveling there is a specially made bag. It looks like any ordinary bag, but when the conductor goes on by the owner reaches down and rolls up the end. Cross bars show, and from the inside Puss pushes her nose against the screen. This is to give her air. This bag costs from $11onward and upward.

A basket to ship Tabby when you don’t feel like carrying her may be bought. It has airholes, and an opening where food may be put in. It costs $6. You put your pet in, give her some food, and you need not worry about her, for, with the conveniences of the basket, she will have a safe and easy trip to her destination. A cat housed up must have exercise. For this purpose for people who do not send their animals to a regular cattery during the snowy days, a cat gymnasium may be bought. This is a little woolen affair that sets on four legs, and may be put up in the nursery or in any open room. The cat may climb the pole, thus sharpening its claws or strike at the swinging balls that hang in the middle. Across the top is a round perch, on which it is the delight of the average cat’s life to walk. It will try and try until it succeeds. When it grows tired it gets in the swinging basket and can rock itself by walking from one side to the other. A cat exercising outfit gives a cat health and contentment.

wicker cat bed

Wicker cat bed that belonged to Sara Roosevelt, mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/-/rAGFVwloddJN6Q?childAssetId=gAEkRmepzQQaZQ

When night comes the cat is put to bed. But it is not by opening the door and putting her out. And here comes the nightgown. It has two little sleeves for the forelegs, and tucks and puckers and frills, to say nothing about the lace at the collar and the pink ribbons. Puss sticks her forefeet into it, it is drawn over her, then buttoned at the top. If you buy the gown downtown you pay $4 up. Generally up. Then you put Tabitha in her little sleeping basket. It is of wicker, and has one low side for her highness to crawl in over. In the bottom is some kind of skin, usually goat, making it as soft and downy as can be. The basket is shoved under a bed or a piece of furniture during the daytime. A cat used to sleeping in a basket will not sleep anywhere else. The sleeping basket wears a tag reading $3.

In the morning comes the manicuring. For there is a special manicure set, with two brushes, two combs, a box of nail paste, a buffer to make the claws glisten, a pair of nail clippers, and a toothbrush, Some of the boxes have a bit of chamois skin, which will give luster to a cat’s hair when rubbed over it. And again some of the ultra cats have nail files in their manicure sets; these files give the nails a delicate rounding off that must make a cat’s heart pound with joy. A manicure set with your monogram on the leather case will mean $25 at the very least. A cat of the blue ribbon class has to be manicured just the same as an heiress. A cat is the daintiest of animals but still she has to have her teeth brushed; and if the brush does not eradicate all the tartar she must be taken to a cat hospital.

cats in a scales 1873 St Nicholas

A cat of blood is watched over night and day, in sickness and in health. If she falls ill she is taken to a special cat hospital in an ambulance, where a white-suited doctor with the walls of his office hidden by degrees in Latin and penmanship flourishes feels her pulse, looks at her tongue, and taps her ribs. When he performs an operation on your kitty you couldn’t tell the bill from that of a private hospital. At the hospital cats are boarded, exercised, and groomed. Attendants do nothing else than wait on them. Every whim that floats through the cat’s mind is promptly attended to. If you wish to go out of town for the summer yon can leave your Napoleon Bonaparte, or Josephine, at the hospital, assured that every attention known to man will be given your pet.

cat headstone

Pet cat’s headstone, Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/93302

Finally, when your cat dies she may be buried in a cat cemetery, and have her own tombstone and flowers. A small fee keeps up the lot. There is such a cat cemetery at Yorktown Heights, N. Y., where the graves are laid out in neat, orderly rows, and stone headpieces richly carved rear themselves to the memory of departed Tabbies and gone-but-not-forgotten Toms.

Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 21 November 1909: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is that delightful holiday, “International Cat Day,” when our feline friends are celebrated. Cook has made some tempting dishes of chicken for all of the Hall cats and they have received an extra ration of catnip.

Like the “dandy dogs, the aristocrats of dogdom, the cat, too, has her day and her fashionable accoutrements.

victorian cat collar with bell

Cat collar with bells.

Fashionable cats are now ornamented with collar and bells, so that puss makes music wherever she goes. Weekly Chillicothe [MO] Crisis 13 November 1884: p. 1

And one would give much to see a chat chapeau created by a Parisian milliner. These portraits of “Monkey” and his hats are from the 1940s.

 

Cats’ Millinery Marks Parade of Parisiennes

Paris, Oct. 30. Cats have ousted dogs in the affections of French women. Whereas, in the past it was considered fashionable for a Parisienne to promenade with a dog dressed in a neat tight-fitting coat, today this Parisienne is out of date if she does not take with her a cat, often of priceless value. But cats do not wear coats. They wear specially-fitted and made hats.

Below the Sacre Coeur, up at Montmartre, there lives a hatter. In his shop window he has on exhibition the tiniest hats ever seen in France. At any hour of the day cars roll up outside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and engages in an earnest conversation with the hatter. She has come to have her pet angora tried for a hat. She prefers a bowler shaped hat as a change to the soft slouch hat. She also wants to purchase a small top hat for her pet for evening wear. The hatter’s recommendations of a soft velvet hat fall on deaf ears. The hatter says bowler hats fit the cats better than any other and he has large orders on hand. El Paso [TX] Herald 30 October 1920: p. 21

 

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.

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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.

What to Do with Duplicate Wedding Gifts: 1895-1899

elizabeth-phillip-jewels--a wedding gifts 1947

Some of the wedding gifts for Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten, 1947 http://royalweddings.hellomagazine.com/prince-william-and-kate-middleton/galeria/20110203477/william-kate/wedding/gifts/1/

BRIDE AND HER GIFTS

Trade in Duplicate Presents Is Growing Year by Year.

RICH PEOPLE SELL THEM

Interesting Incidents Related by the First Dealer.

Wife of a Millionaire Disposes of Three Costly Solid Silver Salad Bowls.

When buying a wedding gift, look well to it that you have not given that identical article to some other bride. The extent to which duplicate presents are made is something to be wondered at, but the extent to which they are got rid of would probably cause their donors to wonder still more. When the bride writes to you on delicately tinted, daintily scented paper that your gift to her was gloriously gorgeous and the thing of all things that she most longed for, don’t pat yourself on the back and compliment yourself on your rare powers of selection and excellent taste; don’t even believe a word that she says unless you have an affidavit that no other piece of silver, jewelry, bric-a-brac, or whatever it chances to be, was ever made like it anywhere in this world. For unless this is the case, before your missive reaches you your gift, which has cost you so much anxious thought, time, and maybe money, may have been exchanged or sold outright along with a dozen or more Just like it. This business of exchanging and selling duplicate wedding gifts is by no means new. It has been going on for almost a quarter of a century, but it is getting bigger and bigger every day. J. H. Johnston, who was the originator of the duplicate-wedding gift business, delights to talk about it when he can get his mind off of literature and art long enough to come down to anything so commonplace as swapping wedding presents.

“One learns a great deal about human nature in buying and exchanging wedding gifts,” he said, in response to a question, “and I see and hear many amusing things. How did I come to go in this business? Well, away back in 1876 one day an advertisement of a sale of misfit carpets caught my eyes ‘Misfit carpets,’ I said to myself, ‘misfit carpets. If misfit carpets, why not misfit wedding presents;’ and immediately I advertised that I would buy and exchange duplicate gifts. From the first the scheme took well.

“In buying and exchanging wedding presents one naturally hears very curious stories and a romance revealed in one minute might be drawn out into a volume by a skillful novelist.  Brides, as a general thing, have a great deal of sentiment about their wedding gifts, even if they get a great many of one kind. They rarely sell them outright for cold cash, but prefer to exchange them. The majority bring them to us soon after this wedding, though not a few have so much sentiment that they keep them for years before they can make up their minds to part with what has been graciously bestowed on them the day of all days in their life. In the course of a day it is not uncommon to buy and exchange barrels of silver and jewelry is also exchanged.

Fee in a Divorce Case.

“A short time ago I bought thirty dozen after-dinner coffee spoons from a bride who had kept back enough to supply her needs, and only last week at newly married woman from Detroit sold us eleven fine cut-glass bowls. I once bought three solid silver tea sets from a bride who had received six, and I also bought ten solid silver salad bowls from one person. As I said, most brides prefer to exchange their gifts rather than sell them. Occasionally we get hold of wedding presents, not always duplicates, that have cost their owners a distinct sacrifice. One day I received a letter from a lawyer, a well-known man down In William street, asking me to call at his office, as he wished to see me on business. . The next day I went down, and found him at his desk. He turned immediately to two office boys and said:

“’Edward, you and James bring in that trunk from the next room.'”

The. boys returned staggering under the weight of a tremendous trunk, and, taking a key from his pocket, the lawyer opened it and began taking out piece after piece of the most magnificent silverware.

“‘Some time ago.’ he said, ‘I had a client for whom I had to get a divorce from her husband. She had no money to pay me, but gave me some of her wedding presents, and here they are. I’ve kept them a long time, thinking that she might some day redeem them, but she never will, and I want to sell them to you.’

“A great many people have an idea that only poor people and those in moderate circumstances exchange or sell their duplicate wedding presents, and, indeed, that most of the sliver sold to dealers come from people who have to sell to relieve pressing wants. The great bulk of silver and the greatest number of duplicate gifts come from the wealthiest people.

“For instance, one day a carriage drove up to the door with the swellest of swell coachmen and footmen on the box. The footman jumped down, opened the door, and two magnificently dressed women got out and came in. One of them, after looking about a bit, asked the price of a little silver clock which I had bought in Amsterdam the last time I was there. I told her $35, and she said:

“‘All right; I’ll take that.’ Going along the case, she picked out half a dozen articles, saying that she would take them, and then she said: ‘By the way, won’t you send your porter out to my carriage and have him bring in some silver that is there?”

The porter returned with three of the handsomest solid silver salad bowls I’ve ever seen anywhere, and she asked me how much I would give her for them. I told her $150, and the difference between that and the cost of the things she had just purchased was $75. I had just made a deposit in the bank and didn’t have enough cash to give her, so I asked if she’d take a check. She said of course she would, and when I asked her name to make it out, imagine my surprise when she gave me the name of a forty millionaire banker. She caught my expression and laughingly said:

“I received nine big sliver salad bowls among my wedding presents. Don’t you think that six are enough?”

My answer was, ‘I certainly do, and I don’t blame you for turning them into goods such as you desire or cash, and what applies to her applies to every other bride.”

Erasure of Gift Marks.

“Are not these duplicate gifts frequently marked with the monogram or full name of the owner?” was asked.

“Yes, but we have a process of refinishing silver so that no vestige of engraving is visible.” visible.” was the reply. “Indeed, as I said, so many brides have so much sentiment about gilts that they store rather than sell or exchange them. After a while, however, they find that the storage costs so much that they make up their minds to part with what was once so dear, and so here they come with a lot of battered or abused silverware. We give them a fair cash valuation for it, or other articles, put their goods in order, and sell them–frequently for other brides. There is an epergne there which was made to order at one of the most fashionable houses in the city. It was given to a couple on their fiftieth anniversary and cost $650. It is a magnificent piece, and when put in order you would never know it. The next time it is sold the selling price will be $150. Why the owners disposed of it I cannot say. Possibly because they didn’t want the responsibility of caring for it and were not disposed to pay storage on it.”

The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 27 November 1898: p. 30

wedding gifts grand forks ND daily herald 27 Sept 1890 p 6

 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Duplicates, particularly in glassware and silver, were a perpetual problem for the newly-married. One invariably ended up with nine pitchers and no useful table-linen. This clerk understood the bridal frustration:

ABOUT WEDDING PRESENTS.

One Who Knows Tells Something of Their Purchase and Exchange. Practical Gifts Preferred by the Up-to-Date Bride

Duplicates and the Surprises That Bob Up When Mistakes Are Remedied.

“It would be a good thing if somebody would inaugurate the bridal fad of sending along with wedding invitations a printed list of articles most acceptable in the gift line. People somehow seem to imagine that only the gew-gaws of life appeal to a newly-wedded pair, and they make a mighty big mistake. The purchasers of a rare piece of Dresden would probably be as insulted as surprised if they could see it handed back a few days after the honeymoon in exchange for a novelty in coffee pots or a substantial whisk broom and holder.

This is what a salesman in a well-known bric-a-brac establishment said the other day after just completing an “exchange” with an interesting young couple who were lamenting together over half a dozen duplicates in Bohemian glass.

“Now that pair,” he continued, as they left the store, “must have sent out their wedding invitations just about the time we were having a bargain run on flower vases. There was, I remember, quite a rush for them at the time, for people are just snobbish enough to want to have our stamp on a box, no matter how trivial the article it contains.

“Those Bohemian glass vases were snatched up right and left. Six of them have found their way into the possession of that couple. They wanted to know how many of them they could exchange. The girl said, quite candidly, that they would never have enough flowers to fill half of the vases, and as for ornaments bouquet holders minus blooms were about as superfluous as bonbon baskets without any sweets.

“Oh yes, we have some funny experiences in bridal present exchanges. It’s amusing at times to see how surprised a customer is when she finds she can’t exchange her ten-dollar knickknack for some article that runs up into the fifties.

“If two women are together when they discover the price of some gift which they have very much over-estimated they draw off and begin a whispered, “Well, did you ever? I never would have believed he could have been so mean.’ “Twelve dollars and a half, and he’s able to pay a hundred. I shan’t forget it.’ And so on.

“The other day a progressive young woman brought in an article that had been purchased here, something I believe in silver and glass for the dressing table, and wanted to exchange it for a sterling silver corkscrew.

“Nine times out of ten an exchange supplements something practical for a purely decorative affair. People don’t buy wedding presents with much discretion. I could give them points. I know, for experience with duplicates and exchanges has taught me not a little wisdom in that line. But they want to make a lot of show for their money or they want something altogether unique and between the struggle for quantity and a desire for originality, the practical, acceptable things in stock are entirely overlooked until the recipient of so much decorative riff-raff comes in and effects an exchange for something more necessary to every-day living.”

Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 8 June 1895: p. 11

For other posts on the subject, such as some gift-exchange contretemps, how quiet weddings are a blunder if one wishes a well-laden gift table, and wedding gifts as a source of worry for the conscientious guest. As for the wedding gifts received by then-Princess Elizabeth, in the photo at the head of the post, one imagines that the bride did not worry about receiving duplicate diamond tiaras.

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.

Wedding Tales from a Parish Clerk: 1830

[The narrator is a parish clerk of long-standing.]

It would not perhaps be unamusing to describe the vast changes in fashion which have taken place during the forty years that I have officiated as parish clerk; but though I am not an inattentive observer of dress, I have looked beyond the bridal robes, and my chief delight has been to scrutinize, I hope not impertinently, the conduct of the parties. I was much interested by the appearance of a lady who came in a splendid carriage, and attended by her friends to our church. She was richly and elegantly attired, in white lace and white satin; but no one who looked upon her countenance would ever cast a thought upon her dress again: her form was so thin and fragile, it seemed a mere shadow; her face was of lily paleness, and she wore a look of such deep and touching melancholy, that the heart melted at the piteous sight. There was, however, no violence in her grief; her eyes were tearless, and her manner was calm. I understood that she was a great heiress, who had lately changed her name for a large fortune, and that she was of age, and her own mistress; therefore there could be no constraint employed in inducing her to approach the altar. My ears are rather quick, and I could not help overhearing a part of that lady’s conversation with her bridesmaid, as they walked up and down the aisle together. “I was wrong to come here,” she said in a mournful tone, “wrong to allow any persuasion to tempt me to violate the faith I have plighted to the dead. Can an oath so sacred as that which I have sworn ever be cancelled? I scarcely dare glance my eyes towards those dark and distant corners, lest I should encounter his reproaching shade: it seems as though he must rise from the grave to upbraid me with my broken vow.”

The friend endeavoured to combat these fantastical notions, urged the duty she owed to the living, and the various excellencies of the man who now claimed her hand. “I know it all,” returned the fair mourner, “but still I cannot be persuaded that I have not acted lightly in accepting the addresses of another. My faith should be buried in the tomb with my heart and my affections. I fear me that he who now receives my vows will repent those solicitations which have induced me to break my steadfast resolution to keep that solemn promise which made me the bride of the dead.” Pulling down her veil, she passed her hand across, her eyes and sighed heavily. Not wishing to appear intrusive, I withdrew to the vestry-room; and shortly afterwards the bridegroom entered, accompanied by a gentleman whom he introduced as a stranger, saying that the relative who was to have attended him as the groom’s-man had been suddenly taken ill, and his place unexpectedly supplied by a friend newly arrived from the continent. He then inquired for the bride, entered the church, and led her to the altar. The clergyman opened his book– the ceremony commenced–and the lady, raising her drooping downcast head, fixed her eyes upon the stranger who stood by her intended husband’s side, and, uttering a wild scream, fell lifeless on the ground! We carried her immediately into the vestry, and, after many applications of hartshorn-and-water, she at length revived. In the interim an explanation had taken place; and I learned that in early life the bride had been engaged to the gentleman whose appearance had caused so much agitation, and whom she had long mourned as one numbered with the dead. The bridegroom did not urge the conclusion of the ceremony, and indeed the spirits of the lady had sustained too severe a shock for the possibility of going through it. Her tremor was so great that there was some difficulty in conveying her to the carriage, and the whole party retired looking very blank and dejected.

About three months afterwards, the same lady came to church again to be married, and never in my life did I see so astonishing a change as that which had taken place in her person and demeanour. She had grown quite plump; a sweet flush suffused her face, and her eyes, instead of being sunk and hollow, were now radiantly brilliant. She stepped forward with a cheerful air, and her voice sounded joyously. If my surprise were great at this alteration, it was still greater when I looked at the bridegroom, and saw that he was the very same gentleman who had come before. I thought, to be sure, that the lady who had grieved so deeply was now going to be united to her first love–but no such thing; and I was told afterwards, that the young heiress was so shocked by the inconstancy of the faithless friend–for it seems that he was not aware of the report of his death, and had long ceased to trouble himself about her–that her attachment was quite cured, and she had determined to bestow her hand and fortune upon the man who best deserved them.

There was something very remarkable about the next couple who came to be married. The lady was old, and the gentleman young –a mere boy of one-and-twenty, going to link himself with sixty-five. And such a vinegar, crabbed aspect as the bride possessed, was surely never exhibited at a wedding before. She seemed conscious that she was about to do a foolish thing, and was angry that the world thought so too; the bridegroom looked sheepish, and kept his eyes fixed on the ground, while he rapped his shoe with his cane, much to the discomfiture of the lady, who was compelled to put herself forward as he hung back, and to take his arm instead of waiting to be led to the altar. She could not conceal her mortification at the neglect she experienced, but she bridled, and tossed, and cast such bitter glances upon those who seemed disposed to smile, that all, the party stood awe-struck; and when the ceremony commenced, it was rather curious to hear the bridegroom whispering his part of the service, while the sharp shrill voice of the bride was actually startling in the solemn silence of a large and nearly empty church. The contrast between this antiquated belle’s yellow parchment visage and her snowy drapery was so striking that it increased her ugliness. I could think of nothing but an Egyptian mummy tricked out in white satin; and there were some sly looks passed amid the company when her restless fiery eyes were for a moment withdrawn, which seemed to say that some such idea was gliding through their heads. I suppose that she had a good deal of money; for by the poor lad’s manner I should think that nothing else would have induced so young a man to link himself with such a withered, and I may say pestilent hag.

I have seen, to be sure, many unwilling bride-grooms in my time. One, I remember, was evidently brought to church through fear of the brothers of his bride. They came, three of them, to escort the lady, as fierce as dragoon officers; and I believe one of them was in the army, for he clattered in with long spurs, and wore a brave pair of mustachios on his upper lip. The other two were stout athletic men, with an air of great resolution; while the bridegroom, who was strong enough to have coped with any one of them, but who in all probability disliked the chances of a bullet, looked dogged and sullen, taking especial care to show that the slight civility which he displayed was extorted from him by compulsion. I felt for the poor girl, for she met nothing but stern glances. The rising tears were checked by a frown from some one of her three brothers, who watched her narrowly; and there was little consolation to be drawn from the countenance of her intended husband: if ever he looked up there was a scowl upon his brow. She could only hope to exchange three tyrants for one, and there seemed too great a probability that the last would revenge upon her the treatment which he had received from her kinsmen. The ladies of the party shook their heads and were silent; and altogether I never saw more evil augury, although the termination was not so disastrous as that which I once witnessed upon a nearly similar occasion.

The lady, according to custom, came first. She had many of her friends about her; and the whole company showed more joy than is generally exhibited by the polite world, even on these happy events. There appeared to be a sort of congratulation amongst them, as though they had brought some fortunate circumstance to pass of which they had despaired; and amid them also was a tall bluff-looking brother, who seemed very well pleased with the success of his exertions. The bride, too, was in high spirits, and talked and smiled with her bride’s-maiden, arranged her dress at the glass, and carried her head with an air. So much were the party occupied with their own satisfied feelings, that they did not appear to observe the wild and haggard look of the bridegroom. I was shocked and alarmed at the pale and ghastly countenance which he presented; he was dressed in black, and though somebody took notice of this circumstance, it was only to joke about it. To me he seemed under the influence of brandy, or of laudanum, for he talked strangely, and laughed in such a manner that I shuddered at the sound. Nobody, however, appeared to regard it; and the wedding party entered the church as gaily as possible. During the ceremony the bridegroom’ s mood changed; as if struck by its solemnity, he became grave; a shade of inexpressible sadness passed over his wan, cold brow; and large drops of perspiration chased each other down his face. The nuptial rite ended; he stooped forward to kiss the bride, and just as the clergyman turned to leave the altar, drew a pistol from his bosom, and shot himself through the heart before an arm could be raised to prevent him! Down dropped the new married couple together, for this unhappy gentleman had entangled himself in his wife’s drapery, and dragged her with him as he fell. It was a horrid sight to see the dead and the living stretched in this fearful embrace upon the ground. Paralyzed by the report of the pistol, we stood aghast, and a minute elapsed before even I could stretch out my hand to extricate the bride from her shocking situation.  She had not fainted, and she could not weep; but her eyes were glazed, her features rigid, and her skin changed to a deep leaden hue. Her satin robe was in several places stained with blood; and surely never was any spectacle half so ghastly! Her friends repressed their tears and sobs; and, gathering round her, attempted to convey her away. She submitted as if unwittingly; but when her foot was on the threshold of the portal, she burst into long and continued shrieks. The whole church rang with the appalling cry; and it was not until she had completely exhausted herself by her screams, and had sunk into a sort of torpor, interrupted only by low moans, that she could be taken from the fatal spot. A coroner’s inquest sat in the vestry; and a sad tale of female levity, and of the weakness and libertinism of man, came out. But the subject is too painful to dwell upon, and I gladly turn to pleasanter recollections.

We had a very fine party shortly afterwards, who arrived in two or three carriages. The bride was young and fair, but she held her head down, and seemed greatly agitated. It was very easy to perceive that her heart had not been consulted in the choice of a husband. The father, a tall heavy-browed man, cast severe and threatening glances upon his trembling daughter; but the mother, though she seemed equally bent upon the match, interceded for a little cessation of hostilities; and, when the shrinking girl asked to be allowed to walk for a moment with one friend in the church, in order to collect her scattered thoughts, leave was granted. As she passed out of the door she dropped her white satin reticule, and it clanked heavily against the steps–a sound not at all like that of a smelling-bottle, and I must confess that my curiosity was strongly excited. I endeavoured to pick it up; but before I could bend my arm, which is a little stiff with the rheumatism, she had whipped it off the ground, and down the side aisle she went, leaning upon her companion’s arm. This aisle is long, and rather dark, terminating in a heavy oaken screen, which conceals the green baize door leading to the front portal. She passed behind this screen and was seen no more! I thought it very odd, but it was not my place to speak, so I returned into the vestry room, that I might not be questioned. Presently the bridegroom arrived and an ill-favoured gentleman he was with a fretful discontented countenance; and he began complaining of having been detained at home by some fool’s message. After he had grumbled for a few minutes the bride was called for–she was not to be found. The father stormed. “Is this a time,” he exclaimed, “to play such childish tricks! she has hidden herself in some corner;” and away we all hastened in search of her. The church doors were shut and locked; but as I passed up the gallery stairs, I observed that the bolts were withdrawn from that which led from the side aisle. I did not, however, feel myself compelled to publish this discovery, though I shrewdly suspected that the reticule which had rung so loudly as it fell contained a key; and so it proved. Some time was wasted in examining the organ-loft, and indeed every place in which a mouse might have been concealed. At last somebody hit upon the truth, and a little inquiry placed the elopement beyond a doubt. We learned that a carriage had been in waiting at a corner of the street opposite to the church; and that a gentleman had been seen loitering under the portico, who, the instant that two ladies popped out, conducted them to his equipage, which moved leisurely away, while we were engaged in our unsuccessful search. Upon strict examination, it came out that a pew-opener had furnished the means of obtaining a false key. It would be impossible to describe the rage and dismay of the disappointed parties: the mother went off in hysterics, the bridegroom looked sourer than ever, the father raved and swore bitterly; and the clergyman, after vainly attempting to pacify him, read him a lecture upon his intemperate conduct. All those who were not related to the parties slunk quietly away, perhaps to have their laugh out; and I take shame to myself to say that I could not help enjoying the scene, so thoroughly unamiable did those persons appear with whom the fair bride was unfortunately connected. I was anxious about the young couple, and heard with great pleasure that they got safe to Scotland.

Another young lady, forced by her parents to the altar, did not manage matters quite so cleverly. They had dressed her out, poor thing, in ball-room attire; her beautiful hair fell in ringlets from the crown of her head, down a swanlike throat as white as snow, and these glossy tresses were wreathed with long knots of pearl, which crossed her forehead twice, and mingled in rich loops with the clustering curls. Her white arms were bare, for her gloves had been lost in the coach, and the veil had slipped from her hand and hung in disorder over her shoulders. Before the carriage reached the church, I saw her fair face thrust out of one of the windows, as if in expectation of seeing somebody. She paused for an instant on the steps, and, unmindful of the gazing crowd, cast hurried glances up and down the street; and even in the vestry-room, and in the church, she searched every corner narrowly with her eyes, turning round quickly at the slightest sound. Hope did not forsake her until the very last moment–when the bridegroom appeared– a tall prim person, who drew on his gloves very deliberately, not seeing or heeding the agonizing perturbation of his intended bride. Her movements became more hurried as her expectation of a rescue decreased. She suffered herself, as if bewildered, to be led to the communion table; her head all the time turned over her shoulder, still watching for the arrival of some too tardy friend. But when she stood by the rails, and the actual commencement of the ceremony struck upon her ear, she seemed to awaken to a full sense of her dangerous situation; and, throwing up her beautiful white arms, and tearing away the long curls from her brow, she exclaimed, with much vehemence, “No! no! no!” Her bosom heaved as though it would have burst through the satin and lace which confined it; her dark flashing eyes seemed starting from her head; her cheek was now flushed with the hue of crimson, and now pale as death, and every feature was swelled and convulsed by the tumultuous emotions which shook her frame. The tall prim gentleman looked astounded: there was a gathering together of friends; but the bride was not to be appeased–she still continued her half-frenzied exclamation, “No! no! no!” A slight scuffle was heard outside the church, and in the next moment a fine-looking young man dashed in through the vestry-room, scarcely making two steps to the afflicted fair, who, uttering a piercing cry of joy, rushed into his outstretched arms. The clergyman shut his book, scandalized by the indecorum of these proceedings; the tall prim gentleman opened his eyes, and seemed fumbling in his waistcoat pocket for a card; and the lovers, careless of every thing but each other, clasped in a fervent embrace, had sunk down upon one of the free seats in the middle aisle–the youth swearing by heaven and earth that his beloved should not be torn from his grasp, and the lady sobbing on his shoulder. The parents of the bride, confounded and amazed at this unexpected catastrophe, had nothing to say. They at length attempted to soothe the bridegroom ; but he had elevated his eyebrows, and, looking unutterable things, was evidently preparing to walk off; and, this resolution taken, he was not to be stayed. He seized his hat, placed it solemnly under his arm, faced about, and, perceiving that his rival was wholly engrossed in wiping away the tears from the loveliest pair of eyes in the world, he pursed up his mouth to its original formality, and marched straight out of the church. An arrangement now took place between the intruder and the crest-fallen papa and mamma. The latter was left with her daughter, while the two gentlemen went in quest of a new license. The young lady, a little too wilful, it must be owned, pouted and coaxed, till the old lady’s brow relaxed, and all was harmony. Again the curate was called upon to perform his office, and now radiant smiles played upon the lips of the bride–a soft confusion stole over her cheek, and scarcely waiting until the conclusion of the ceremony, as if she feared a second separation, clung to her husband’s arm, not quitting it even while signing her name in the book.

There was nothing extraordinary about the next couple who joined their hands in our church, excepting their surpassing beauty. It seemed a question which could be styled the handsomer, the lady or the gentleman: both were tall, and both had that noble aspect which one is apt to fancy the exclusive gift of high birth. The bridegroom was a man of rank, and the bride little inferior in family connexion. The friends of each party, magnificently appointed, graced the ceremony: altogether–it seemed a most suitable match, and was one of the grandest weddings that had taken place for a long time. The whole affair was conducted with the greatest propriety; hearts, as well as hands, appeared to be joined; the lady smiling through the few tears which she seemed to shed, only because her mother and her sisters wept at parting from her, and the rapturous delight of the gentleman breaking through the cold and guarded forms prescribed by the fashion.

I was much amazed to see the same lady only five years afterwards come again to our church to be married. The same she certainly was, but still how different! Wrapped in a plain deshabille, attended by a cringing female, who bore the stamp of vulgarity in face, dress, and demeanour; her cheeks highly rouged, and the elegant modesty of her manners changed into a bold recklessness, which seemed to struggle with a sense of shame. I could scarcely believe my eyes; the widow of a nobleman would not surely have been in this degraded state. I was soon convinced of the truth of the surmise which flashed across my mind: she answered to the responses in her maiden name–she had been divorced–and the man to whom she now plighted the vow so lately broken, was he worthy of the sacrifice? I should say, no! He was, I understand, one of the wits of the day; but in person, bearing and breeding; sadly, wretchedly beneath her former lord. She seemed to feel her situation, notwithstanding all her efforts to shake off the painful recollections that would arise. I saw her press her hand once or twice upon her heart; and when her eyes glanced around, and caught those well -known objects which she had gazed upon in happier days, she heaved deep and frequent sighs. There was less of solemn earnestness about the clergyman who officiated than usual, and he seemed to hurry over the service as though the holy rite were profaned in joining guilt and shame together. But though the marriage ceremony was cut short, it had already detained this dishonoured pair too long. As they were leaving the altar the vestry-door opened, and a gay bridal party descended the steps. It was the divorced lady’s deserted husband, leading a beautiful young creature, the emblem of innocence and purity, by the hand, and surrounded by a host of friends splendidly attired. A start, and almost a scream of recognition, betrayed the emotion which the wretched woman, who had forfeited her rank in society, sustained at this unexpected and most unwished-for meeting. She had many mortifications to undergo before she could get away. During the ceremony of signing her name, several individuals made excuse to enter the vestry, in order to stare at her; while the ladies, in passing by, shrunk away as though they feared contamination; and she was obliged to walk half-way down the street, amid a line of gaping menials, before she could reach her shabby carriage, which had drawn off to make room for the coroneted coaches of the noble company in the church.

There was something I thought exceedingly strange about another wedding which took place nearly at the same period. One chariot contained the whole party, which consisted of an elderly and a young gentleman, and the bride, a very pretty girl, not more than seventeen or eighteen at the utmost. She was handsomely dressed, but in colours, and not with the precision and neatness of a bride: her clothes, though fashionable and expensive, were certainly not entirely new, bearing slight tokens of having been worn before. Neither did she show any thing like timidity or bashfulness; asking a hundred questions, as if totally ignorant of the forms and ceremonies usually observed at weddings, laughing heartily at the idea of a set of demure bride-maids, and exclaiming continually, “La! how ridiculous! The bridegroom lounged upon the chair and benches, and said it would be a fine addition to a parson’s income, if he could unmarry the fools who were silly enough to slip into his noose; and the old gentleman listened to this idle conversation with a grieved and mortified air. The young couple, it seems, had not very long returned from a journey to Scotland, and were now re-united, to satisfy the scruples of the bride’s father; although both appeared as if they would have been as well pleased to have been left at liberty to seize the facilities offered in the North for the annulling, as well as the celebrating of contracts, too often hastily performed and speedily repented.

There was a gentleman, a sort of Blue-beard, I must call him, who, having -his town-house in our parish, came five times to be married; and I observed that, in all his five wives, he seemed to make a pretty good choice, at least as far as beauty went. The first was a blooming country nymph, who, except that her hair was powdered, and she wore high-heeled shoes, might have passed, with her large curls pinned stiffly in a row, immense hat, and spreading furbelows, for a belle of the present day; and a mighty comely pair she and the ‘Squire made. The second wife was a languishing lady of quality, who, annoyed at the bridegroom’ s old-fashioned prejudice against a special license, kept her salts in her hand, said that the church smelled of dead bodies, and that she should catch some disease and die; and so she did. Then came the third, buttoned up in a riding-habit, which was an ugly fashion adopted at weddings some fifteen or twenty years ago, with a man’s hat upon her head, and a green gauze veil: her partner, then a little inclining to the shady side of life, affected the fooleries of the times, and was dressed in the very tip of the mode, She looked as though she would see him out; but he came again; and the fourth, a pale, pensive, ladylike woman, apparently far gone in a consumption, who seemed, poor thing, as though she had been crossed in love, and now married only for a maintenance, did not last long. The fifth time we had three weddings: the old gentleman and his son espoused two sisters; the former taking care to choose the younger lady, and his daughter married the uncle of her father’s bride. It was a droll exhibition; and I think that the elder Benedict would have done well to remain in his widowed state; for he appeared to have caught a Tartar at last, and would have some difficulty in carrying things with the high hand which he had done with his former wives. I have not heard of his death, but I still retain the expectation of seeing his widow.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, October 1830

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A candid narrative from a gentleman with a front-pew seat, as we might say. He is most severe upon the ladies, which one feels is ungenerous of him and unfair to a sex put at such a disadvantage by society and the law. One does wonder why the clergy did not put a stop to marriages where there was obviously coercion.

A Consent.—A girl was forced into a disagreeable match with an old man whom she detested. When the clergyman came to that part of the service where the bride is asked if she consents to take the bridegroom for her husband, she said with great simplicity, ” Oh dear, no, sir! but you are the first person who has asked my opinion about the matter.” New-York Mirror, Volume 18, 1840

Or where fashion sowed confusion:

 A certain Macaroni bien peudre et bien frize, with a feather hat under his arm, perfumed like an Egyptian mummy, and who had all the appearance of a modern puppy, went to church with his bride, to receive the nuptial blessing, when the Parson, struck with wonder at the strange apparition, for fear of a mistake, thought proper to ask before the ceremony, which of the two was the Lady?

Spooner’s Vermont Journal [Windsor, VT]  7 April 1784: p. 3

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

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

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.