Category Archives: Victorian

The Noble Revenge: 1868

child pine coffin

The Noble Revenge

The coffin was a plain one—a poor miserable pine coffin. No flowers on its top, no lining of the rose-white satin for the pale brow; no smooth ribbons about the coarse shroud. The brown hair was laid decently back, but there was no crimped cap, with its neat tie beneath the chin. The sufferer from cruel poverty smiled in her sleep; she had found bread, rest, and health.

“I want to see my mother,” sobbed a poor child, as the city undertaker screwed down the top.

“You can’t—get out of the way, boy, why don’t somebody take the brat?”

“Only let me see her one minute;” cried the hopeless, helpless orphan, clutching the side of the charity box, and as he gazed into the rough face anguishing tears streamed rapidly down the cheek, on which no childish bloom ever lingered. Oh! It was pitiful to hear him cry “Only once, only once, let me see my mother.”

Quickly and brutally the hard-hearted monster struck the boy away, so that he reeled from the blow. For a moment the boy stood panting with grief and rage, his blue eyes distended, his lips sprang apart, a fire glittering through his tears as he raised his puny arm, and with a most unchildish accent screamed, “When I’m a man I’ll kill you for that.”
There was a coffin and a heap of earth between the mother and the poor, forsaken child—a monument stronger than granite, built in his boy heart to the memory of the heartless deed.

* * *

The Court House was crowded to suffocation.

“Does any one appear as this man’s counsel? Asked the judge.

There was silence when he finished, until, with lips tightly pressed together, a look of strange intelligence blended with haughty reserve upon his features, a young man stepped forward with a firm tread and kindly eye, to plead of the erring and friendless. He was a stranger but from his first sentence there was a silence. The splendor of his genius entranced—convinced.

The man who could not find a friend was acquitted.

“May God bless you, I cannot.”

“I want no thanks,” replied the stranger with ice coldness.

“I—I believe you are unknown to me.”

“Man! I will refresh your memory. Twenty years ago you struck a broken-hearted boy away from his mother’s coffin. I was that poor boy.”

The man turned livid.

“Have you rescued me, then, to take away my life?”

“No. I have a sweeter revenge; I have saved the life of a man whose brutal deed has rankled in my breast for twenty years. Go! And remember the tears of a friendless child.”

The man bowed his head in shame and went from the presence of a magnanimity as grand to him as incomprehensible, and the noble young lawyer felt God’s smile in his soul forever after.

The Olathe [KS] Mirror 5 March 1868: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A pauper’s funeral was the final insult to the poor, who often went into debt–foolishly, said social reformers–to provide a decent burial for their loved ones. While undertakers were sometimes accused of exploiting the poor–quoting them a price for a funeral that was precisely the amount that the burial club had just paid out–they also waited years for payment that sometimes did not come.

One wonders what crime the city undertaker had committed to bring him within the shadow of the gallows. Mrs Daffodil suspects that he had a lucrative contract to provide subjects to the local medical school and, needing to fill his quota, he helped some clients  to join the Choir Invisible prematurely.

 

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 School of Hammocking: 1901

IN A HAMMOCK WITH THE SUMMER GIRL

A summer school of hammocking was opened in one of the large cities recently. It was a secret society school, conducted on the strictest lines of never tell, and all information regarding its whereabouts, its pupils, their residences, or the places where they, will spend the summer were to be kept secret.

The object of the school was the teaching of grace to the summer girl, who must spend part of her summer days in the hammock. The lessons embraced the getting in and the getting out of it, also the proper manner of sitting down and talking. How to lie down and sleep, how to recline and read, how to carry on an animated conversation without tipping out backward, how to talk, to flirt, to laugh and to rise from the hammock were all in the curriculum.

The teacher—for, though the aims of the school may seem trifling to the unambitious woman, they were taken in all seriousness by the pupils–was one of the most famous teachers of expression in this country. She teaches some of the most celebrated stage people in the world how to be graceful, and she instructs great speakers on the small arts of gesture. When not otherwise engaged she takes classes of women in the 400 and teaches them how to enter a drawing-room and depart therefrom. She shows them how to look at flowers, how to gaze upon works of art, how to receive a compliment with grace and without blushing, how to decline a verbal invitation well, in short, how to be a belle.

The hammock field is a new one to her, but, on being told that she would, by her instruction, fill a long felt want, she consented to give a dozen lessons in the art of entering a hammock to a select circle of young women. The schoolroom was a roof garden, and the hours for the lessons broad daylight with nothing overhead except the sun and a friendly canopy. At the end of twelve lessons the pupils were turned out graduated, with verbal diplomas. All were bound to perpetual secrecy and to know them this summer you must watch the hammock girls and observe which conduct themselves with most grace. Those who are faultless have doubtless been members of the summer school of hammocking.

hammock girl4 (2)

Belle of Summer

The hammock girl is the belle of summer. Old Sol beholds her by the first light of his yellowing rays, and Luna, when she retires behind the day clouds, looks back again to wish her a good night.

To spend the summer in a hammock is the ideal of the languid maid and the favorite dolce far niente of the July girl.

It is said that the hammock habit is the hardest of all to drop. Once formed it becomes almost an insidious disease, preying upon its victim, who cannot tear herself from its grasp of netting. The hammock is responsible for many an added pound, for many a wasted moment. It is the parent of flirtation and it is the scene of many a jolly summer hour.

The girl who can escape to the country for a month or two takes with her a hammock. But it is not she alone who indulges in such an article. The roof garden girl has discovered that it is mightily pleasant to swing in the net, up under the stars, and for her there are wonderfully built hammocks, supported by uprights that are warranted not to break, or allow the ropes to loosen at the critical moment.

Where lives there a man who has not swung a hammock? To climb a tree, knot a rope to a limb and climb down again is part of the programme of the man who goes away for a rest. The chances are that he will hang many a one and rehang several, for ropes shrink and break, slacken and untie and raise uncertainty generally.

The possibilities of picking one’s self up gracefully when the hammock rope breaks are not to be discussed. That is an emergency which must be met at the time. When the hammock falls there is no choice but to settle down in a heap and to roll over and get up with such God-given grace as may be vouchsafed at the moment.

hammock girl3 (2)

The Getting In

But it is with the chances of being graceful when the hammock is in normal position that this has to deal. It is claimed that the girl who can get into a hammock gracefully and there sit and enjoy a conversation without tipping backward or falling frontward, is entitled to a diploma of grace. Certainly she does well, for the hammock is not a rocking chair, nor an anchored seat. It tips and rolls, shunts and rocks, shifts and falls in unexpected spots and is not dependable as a medium of keeping one’s poise.

The girl who would seat herself in a hammock nicely cannot do so carelessly. Let her merely catch hold of the rope and seat herself and she will find herself landed upon the floor. Possibly she may go entirely over the hammock and seat herself on the other side of it, with her feet clawing the ropes and her hands wildly grasping nothing.

 

To seat yourself in the hammock correctly take hold of one side of the netting, bend slightly, and, with the other hand, draw the hammock in under you. This gives you a purchase upon it; you then seat yourself and find the seat in under you. The trick is twofold. It lies in resting the entire weight upon one foot, and, at the same time, pulling the seat of the hammock forward.

hammock girl2 (2)

To lie down in the hammock requires practice. One must not look as though laid out and one must not sink out of sight in the depths of the hammock. The head should rest upon a pillow at one end of the net and the feet should lie together in the other end. To accomplish this gracefully the body must lie slightly at diagonals with the netting, so that the feet just peep out at one side, the head at the other. This gives one more of an upright position and enables one to carry on a conversation while resting. The hammock robe is not often used. It hides the pretty summer gown. If used at all it is thrown across the foot of the hammock, but is rarely employed as a spread.

The Skirt Question

To keep the skirts in place is a difficult matter when planning to lie down. It is done by gently gathering up the side of the skirts with the hand and tucking them in the hammock as one lies down. The feet should be lifted very slowly and deliberately, with the skirts clinging around them, or the general pictorial effect will not be good.

hammock girl4 (2)

To sit and converse in a hammock affords a theatre for some of the most delightful poses. One of these brings out the true poetry of motion. The young woman who attempts it must seat herself gracefully, and then, with a side motion, turn herself a little. One hand must be extended to grasp the netting, while the other must rest in her lap. The pose is a very comfortable one and certainly pretty.

The summer girl who coquettes in a hammock is lost unless she be very skilful. She must have practiced the scenes before or she will not be a success. If she own a hammock that is supported by uprights, let her take it and swing it in front of a pier glass. With the mirror in front of her she can practice her poses.

The animated pose is the most difficult of all. She must seat herself and in some manner manage to change her poses as she talks. She must be as free as though in a tete-a-tete chair.

hammock girl 1 (2)

A coquettish pose, which gives an opportunity for the display of the pretty feet of the young woman, is that in which, with extended feet, she sits with both hands upon the netting and looks straight at you. To keep her poise both arms are stretched out at the side of, her, and both hands are twisted in the netting. Her feet are crossed and pressed forward so that the hammock is swinging. It is not a strictly conventional pose nor one that is in afford with the accepted poses of Delsarte or his followers, but it is effective.

To read picturesquely is quite difficult, until one has acquired the trick. It all depends upon the way one enters the hammock. The young woman who will seat herself in the middle of the hammock, a little toward one end, and who will lift her skirts with one hand, lifting her feet with them, will be sure of a safe deposit into the hammock. She must practice balancing a little in order to keep her head higher than her feet.

The self-taught hammock girl may be a success if she will practice assiduously, but it is far better to engage a friendly spectator who will look on and criticise and offer suggestions at the valuable moment.

AUGUSTA PRESCOTT.

The Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 26 May 1901: p. 38

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Obviously one needs the correct wardrobe for hammocking: the petticoats that froth beneath the simple summer frock; the pretty stockings and shoes for accidental exposure.

HAMMOCK DRESSES.

“Hammock” dresses, designed for elegant wear on sultry, lazy afternoon, are announced. They are made with long flowing Greek lines; they are steel-less, cushionless, half fitting, but graceful withal, having the look of untidy looseness, and are made of all the soft, pretty crepalines, challis, carmelites and also of China silk, foulard and surah. New York World.

The Salisbury [NC] Truth 12 June 1890: p. 7

Hammock frocks, fashioned from the softest of undressed mulls, delicate batiste and old, quainty-flowered muslins.

Buffalo [NY] Evening News 27 July 1896: p. 43

Mr Binks’s Safety Hammock tells of the perils of hammock customisation, while useful tips about “hammock frocks” are found in My Lady’s Hammock

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.

Floral Sunshades: 1884

 

flower bedecked parasols 1895

Floral Sunshades.

Floral sunshades are, as we learn the latest innovation in flower fashion just now in Nice, where the ladies are using parasols composed entirely of natural flowers, so that their sunshades resemble nothing so much as gigantic bouquets stuck on sticks. The stalks of the flowers are woven together, so as to form a network of bloom, the inside being lined with silk. One parasol is made entirely of violets, with a bordering of jessamine; another of geraniums, white and red in rows, fringed with maiden-hair fern; another of pansies, and so on. When the flowers fade the parasol has to be made up again, generally at intervals of two days. We always thought our New York friends a little extravagant in their flower torture, nor could any one persuade us to admire the great massive crosses, anchors, wreaths and wedding- bells affected by some portions of American society: but even there they do not, I believe, expose their beautiful flowers on sunshades to wither and die. I hope that it is only some ladies, and those only a few, that degrade nature’s flower gifts in this way. A friend to whom I showed the above paragraph said she should as soon think of skewering a living dove or a lark in her bonnet as of abusing lovely flowers wholesale in the manner that I have just indicated.

The Clay Center [KS] Dispatch 31 July 1884: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Hall Head-Gardener, Mr McKew, would have a word or two to say about the fashionable abuse of flowers. It pains his soul to supply even cut flowers for the table and he would, no doubt, call the floral parasol a shocking waste and a sin against floriculture .

Still, the showiness and ephemeral quality of the floral parasol made it a popular fad:

FLOWER BEDECKED PARASOLS.

The coming season’s sunshades are bewildering in floral effects. One is of violet-colored chiffon, with wreath and nosegays of artificial violets. Big bows of violet ribbon ornament its stick at top and handle, and the graceful ruffle around its edge is gay with silver spangles. A nosegay of violets nestles in the knot of the ribbon on the handle and the whole is delicately scented with violet sachet.

Another new floral parasol, although more severe in style, is even more chic. It is trimmed with orchids, one huge cluster hanging from the bow at the top and a smaller one at the handle. The sunshade itself is of heavy cream-tinted silk, with mother-of-pearl handle. All the parasols this year are noticeable for their elegance and showiness. Every detail is most costly, and, in many instances, most

Perishable, as the fluffy and flowery effects so greatly in vogue are not meant for wear and tear. The good old-fashioned plain parasol, lasting a whole season through, is completely obliterated by this crowd of fragile and efflorescent novelties.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 3 April 1895: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil does not see the appeal in the floral novelty, although there will always be those who will follow a fad merely for the extravagance of the thing. The floral parasol lacks the tidiness one likes to see in fashion accessories. This fashion writer made a very apt comparison:

Some of the floral parasols have a peculiar effect when carried closed. These look as if the owner had been cutting for herself a large posy and fixed it on a stick, in the style of a May day posy of long ago. The impression is still further carried out when a florally trimmed hat to match is worn—as is often the case. The Ottawa [IL] Free Trader 4 August 1888: p. 7

The floral parasol did, however, finally find its niche as a wedding decoration.

floral parasol wedding decoration

A Rose Parasol Instead of the Usual Bridal Bell.

June with its roses affords many tempting opportunities to the floral decorator. For weddings—and June is the favorite month for weddings—no prettier idea could be devised than that of substituting for the hackneyed wedding bell a floral parasol under which the bride and bridegroom may stand during the ceremony or at the reception. The roses and smilax are mounted on a skeleton parasol frame. Pink or white roses are suitable, the garden rose or the hothouse variety being adapted to the purpose.

The Richmond [IN] Palladium and Sun-Telegram 27 July 1911: p. 8

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.

Only Three Months: 1877

 

courting couple 1896 British Library

Courting Couple, 1896, British Library

Only Three Months.

[Danbury News.]

They had been married about three months. The boy from the store appeared with a note from her husband. She clutched the precious missive with an eager hand, tremblingly opened it and read:

“Dear Wife: Send me a pocket handkerchief. John.”

She went slowly to the drawer to get the desired article, and while looking for it she came across the following note, dated two weeks after their wedding:

“SUNLIGHT OF MY SOUL: You will have to send me a handkerchief. Your bewitching eyes so turned my head this morning that I forgot to take one with me, for which I shall kiss the sweet face of my own a thousand times when I come home. In two hours and twenty minutes it will be twelve o’clock, and then I can come to my beautiful rose. I long to fly to you. A thousand kisses I send thee, my fairy wife.

“Yours tenderly, John.”

She sighed, gave the boy the handkerchief, and sighed again

The Highland Weekly News [Hillsboro OH] 2 August 1877: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The sad change from lover to carping husband was frequently remarked upon in the press, usually in the “Wit and Humour” section:

We heard a man complain about the weight of his baby the other day, and to our certain knowledge that same man used to hold the mother of that baby in his arms hour after hour after the fond parents of said girl had gone to their virtuous couch.

Elevator [San Francisco, CA] 12 September 1874: p. 4

“How lovely the period of engagement.”

“Yet how paradoxical; after marriage it comes to a full stop.”

Blue Pencil Magazine, 1900

Before Marriage: “Excuse me, George. Did my parasol hurt you?”

“Oh, no! my dear. It would be a pleasure if it did.”

After Marriage: “Great Heavens! There was never a woman under the sun that knew how to carry a parasol without scratching a fellow’s eyes out. And there never was a man that knew enough to walk on the right side of a woman with a parasol. There isn’t any right side to a woman with a parasol!”

The Winston Leader [Winston-Salem NC] 4 December 1883: p. 4

He calls her darling before they are married, but after he has been paying her bills for a while he calls her dear.

News-Journal [Mansfield OH] 22 September 1921: p. 4

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.

Her Fourth Husband: 1910

 

widow jones suits me button

HER FOURTH.

By M. Quad.

Copyright, 1910, by Associated Literary Press.]

“What in tarnation is this about your marrying Jim Carter yesterday?” said Henry Doty to Eunice Smith.

“We were married,” was the reply.

“But I was going to marry you myself!”

“I never knew it. You never said anything about it.”

“And you won’t get a divorce from Jim?”

“Of course not.”

“By gum, Eunice, this is using a man mighty mean! I was jest taking time to think things over, and you go off and marry. It’s a mean trick on a feller!”

“Oh, there are other girls.”

“But I don’t want ’em. I want you, and I’m going to stay single till my chance comes.”

It came in about a year. James Carter was assisting a neighbor to load saw logs when one of them broke loose and rolled over him, and he was no more. Henry Doty didn’t rejoice, but he was on hand at the funeral. He oversaw things for the widow for three or four days and then returned to his job. As he held her hand and bade her goodby he said:

“Eunice, there was something I wanted to say to you, but it slipped my mind. Mebbe I’ll think of it next time I come.”

The widow returned to her parents, and the hired man made her a call three or four times a week, but he never talked love. He simply thought love when he was alone. They’d get married when the year was up, and when they got to the Falls they’d put up at the best house and hang the expense. Fourteen months had passed, and Henry was thinking of tying a string around his thumb to make him remember to ask Eunice that question when he was suddenly told that she had married a wire fence man who was working in the neighborhood. He greased his boots and combed his hair and went over to the house to say: “Eunice, If you’ve gone and done it again I can never forgive you! You knew I was calculating to marry you myself.”

“But you never said anything about it,” she retorted.

“But I was getting ready to.”

“If you’d only said”—

“Oh, well, I’ll have to stand it, I suppose. Mebbe it’s all for the best. Mebbe the living will be cheaper by that time. I’m going to keep right on jest as I am till I get you.”

Mr. Davis, the second husband, was fat and rugged and seemed good for forty years more of life, but one can never tell about those things. He was made a very happy man by the marriage and continued in the wire fence business to make others happy. After eight months had gone by he was putting up a fence for a farmer one day when a thunderstorm came up. Mr. Davis had his hands on the wire when the electric fluid found it and shocked him to death. Queerly enough, Henry Doty was driving past in a wagon at the time and was the messenger to announce the sad news to the double widow. He realized that it was no time to speak of a bridal trip then and held his peace.

Once more the widow came back to the old home, and things went on as before. Henry returned to the habit of dropping in frequently, and he only waited for the days to pass until he could ask the question always uppermost in his mind. One evening he presented himself with a string twisted around his thumb, but when the widow called his attention to it he couldn’t remember what he had made sure not to forget. Now and then the farmer for whom he labored and who knew his thoughts would jog him with:

“Henry, the time is passing along, and the widow may step off again any day.”

“But I don’t hear of anybody being after her.”

“You don’t always hear about such things. Widows step right off without much courting.”

“Yes, I must speak to Eunice. I was a-thinking this afternoon I would.”

But he didn’t. He just let things drift on, and one Sunday evening he dropped in just after she had married the rural mall carrier on that route.

Henry was indignant and desperate.

“Why didn’t you say something!” he demanded of the bride.

“Why didn’t you?”

“Say, this is throwing a good man down powerful hard. This is the third time I’ve lost you!”

“But you’ve never said you wanted me. You don’t expect a woman to pop the question, do you?”

“All right, Eunice—all right. I can wait. Bound to get you and make a trip if I wait long enough.”

“It was just eleven months to a day that as the carrier came to a narrow place in the highway he encountered a load of hay. In trying to pass it his cart was upset, and when it was righted he was found with a broken neck. Henry Doty was coming up with a freshly killed hog in his wagon, and as soon as he ascertained what had happened he chucked the hog out of the wagon and drove back three miles with the horses on a dead run. Eunice happened to be at the gate when he  drove up, and he called to her:

“Eunice, get a pencil and write it down that I’m here on the spot.”

“But for why?”

“And that I ask you to marry me when the year is up.”

“Why. Henry, what can you mean!”

“And that we take in Niagara Falls and all of Buffalo on our wedding trip and that we love each other till death do us part”

And it was said that the fourth husband was the happiest of all.

The Hot Springs [SD] Weekly Star 10 March 1910: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The lady must have possessed considerable property or personal fascinations to “step off” as often as she did. Mrs Daffodil is not sure that someone as dilatory as Mr Doty is a wise spousal choice, but Eunice née Smith cannot say she was not warned.  She seemed to enjoy a variety of husbands and was happy enough to take her chances that the reticent fellow would never Speak his Love.

 

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 Modest Proposal About English Wedding Presents: 1872

A representative specimen of English wedding gift horror http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23462/lot/212/

ENGLISH WEDDINGS, AND WEDDING PRESENTS.

It is a matter of unquestionable notoriety, that all marriages are made in heaven; and it is equally certain that the beautiful descriptions of them, which we read, must be due to celestial correspondents. Such choice of words, such felicity of arrangement, such grace of epithets, could not emanate from any inferior source; and the future historian will best gather from these chronicles the condition of the English language in our day, and the manners and customs of those who spoke it. We shall not, perhaps, be accused of unnecessary repetition, if we call attention to the subject.

The sun is shining, and peculiar interest is excited. The bridegroom is accompanied by his friend, who is officiating as groomsman, and who is qualified by frequent service for the efficient discharge of the multifarious duties which are attached to the position. At precisely thirteen minutes and a half past eleven they alight at the church, saluted by the acclamations of the crowd, the excitement of the bystanders, and the symphony of bells. When the door is opened, four and twenty perpetual curates and prebendaries, deans and archdeacons, begin to assist one another. The scene increases in interest, until the climax is reached, when the bride enters, leaning on somebody’s arm, and supported by her bridesmaids, supplied with jewelry by a neighboring firm, which thus has the good fortune to secure eight advertisements of its goods.

The religious ceremony is performed with peculiar solemnity, unbroken, save by the fidgeting of the groomsman; the benediction is pronounced, and on repairing to the vestry, the formalities of registration are gone through, — a part of the ceremony which is often described in language worthy of Burke. After this, the party repair again to a mansion or residence, where a sumptuous dejeuner is prepared, and numerous covers are laid; a mysterious but interesting process. It is here that English oratory is displayed to its best advantage; and graceful tributes are paid on all sides, characterized by good taste, by brevity, and fluency. The peer forgets his pomposity, and the fact that nobody listens to him elsewhere; the groomsman feels that the lightest part of his duties has come, and all regret the close of his remarks. At precisely four minutes past two the bride and bridegroom take leave of their friends, and seek the seclusion of a country-seat.

Meantime, the “friends” separate, and the correspondent is enabled to furnish those advertisements which all read with interest, if not with excitement. The enumeration of the presents and of the names, both of their eminent manufacturers and of their donors, fills columns, and affords invaluable opportunities for fine writing. The “members of the domestic household,” called sometimes by profane and illiterate people servants, contribute something difficult to carry, and impossible to pack.

It is interesting to know that the flowers were not the production of nature, but were expressly supplied for the occasion by the floral manufacturer; nor is the name of the pastry-cook wanting, who made the indigestible compound termed a “bride-cake.” A few years more, and we shall be told the incomes of the guests, their ages, and the construction of the ladies’ petticoats. It may be that publicity is thus ostentatiously given to the names of those who contribute towards the future menage of the happy couple, in order that the standard may be raised, and that the donor of a water-bottle may shrink from appearing in the same list with the donor of a diamond bracelet. That aim, however, has not yet been realized, and the list of objects is as varied, and as free from all connection with each other, as the words which make up a page of Johnson’s Dictionary.

The company is a medley one; sugar-basins and aneroids, an antique pair of bellows, the Zoological Gardens faithfully represented in ormolu, a musical-box, a sketch mounted as a fan, fifty travelling articles to make locomotion impossible, a basket of snowdrops, and nine addresses on vellum, congratulating the bridegroom on the examples he has to imitate and on the wisdom of his choice, quite unreadable from the magnificent flourishes with which the initial letters abound, and signed by the schoolmaster and schoolmistress in behalf of the scholars.

Were the bride and bridegroom endowed with ostrich-like digestions, they might find some use for these articles. As it is, they often prove the most unmitigated nuisance, a misery alike to him who gives and to him or her who receives. It occasionally happens that the announcement of an engagement, instead of recalling the fact that two people are perfectly certain of being happy for life, that the cares of this world are over for them, and that a beautiful account of their marriage will appear in the newspapers and enrich the literature of the country, only suggests the painful thought that a present must be given, and, in order to be given, must be bought.

To explain the grounds for this impression would be impossible; a slight relationship exists between the victim and one or other of the engaged pair, and the persons about to marry are going to live in London, possibly in a large house; it may be that the intending giver received at some former period a perfectly useless and now blackened object, too dirty to make its appearance again in the world of rubbish, and that he feels bound to reciprocate the attention. “Human nature,” says a great authoress, “is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person who either marries or dies is sure of being kindly spoken of.” Whatever may be the cause, the dilemma remains the same. Much mental agony is undergone, increasing as the interval before the marriage becomes shorter. Some prudent persons have a stock of objects always on hand, one of which they forward upon receipt of the intelligence; and thus they may have the good fortune to send the first of the fifteen inkstands which follow.

She who hesitates is lost; now helplessly bemoaning her condition, now peering uneasily into shop-windows, and finding that every thing costs seven pounds, when she is prepared to spend only four. Her sense of her unfortunate position daily grows in intensity, and she may next be seen sitting in a shop, with a choice selection in front of her, amongst which are a blotting-book covered with excrescences of brass like a portmanteau, a miniature helmet, two shepherdesses of modern Meissen, a silver-gilt machine for brushing away crumbs after breakfasting in bed, a gentleman in ormolu looking into a windwill about the same size as himself and of the same material, both containing cavities in their insides for matches, the discovery of which would occupy a lifetime. What a choice is here! The biggest fool of her acquaintance has just ordered the silver-gilt machine, which costs thirty pounds, so she takes the windwill with a sigh of relief, and sends it as a little object to remind her friend of the happy hours they have spent together.

Her friend sends in return a little note, assuring her that she will always value it, reflecting that it is a just requital for the ormolu porcupine stuffed with pins which she had presented on a previous occasion. But the donor and the windmill are not destined to lose sight of one another just yet.

It is bad enough to see the rubbish in the shop, but there is some excuse for the production of these costly and worthless trifles. What the dogs are in the East to the streets, the givers of modern wedding presents are to the trade, — the scavengers of refuse; what is too dirty, too useless, too ugly for other purposes, they absorb; but it is too hard to be called upon to look at it again when exposed to view in the drawing-room of the unfortunate girl whose future life is to be spent, or supposed to be spent, in its contemplation. There are entertainments of divers kinds and degrees of dullness; but the entertainment which is given for the display of the objects we have described is without an equal.

Neatly arranged upon the tables in symmetrical order lie these specimens of English taste, “several hundreds in number,” slips of paper being attached to them recording the names of the givers. Here the lady and the windmill meet once more, regretfully perhaps, for some kind friend announces that she only gave two pounds for the candlesticks opposite; another has picked up something for thirty shillings, which produces a sublime effect, and the name of the shop where similar objects can be procured is whispered in secret. There is a pleasing equality evinced in the display; her Grace and the housemaid think the same thing ” beautiful,” and probably spend the same amount of money upon the object of their admiration.

The custom of giving wedding presents, as it now exists, is a social tax which, though paid by every one, is only paid grudgingly and on compulsion. It represents neither affection nor interest, and is not productive of the smallest profit to any save the tradesmen whose wares are sold for the purpose. Its counterpart can only be found in the custom which existed a short time ago of giving leaving-books at Eton. The fashion was exactly analogous; little boys give them to big boys, to whom they always had been, and to whom they continued in after life, complete strangers, subscribing themselves their “sincere friends on their leaving Eton.” The head-master submitted to the custom at a smaller cost; wise in his generation, and being an elegant classic, he had published, or privately printed, a quarto edition of some Latin author, which, it is needless to say, nobody ever wanted, and no one ever bought. This peculiarly useless volume was exchanged for the sum of ten pounds, deposited in some corner of the room by the boy who was bidding good-by, whence it was generally supposed that the head-master ultimately took it. This pleasant mode of escaping the tax was, unfortunately, not open to those who paid for the leaving-books presented by their sons to their sincere friends, and who not unnaturally considered that the annual expenditure of fifteen or twenty pounds was hardly compensated by the possession of some scores of soiled copies bound in yellow calf.

What these books are to the library, wedding presents are to the ordinary furniture of a house. What is to be done with the windmill? Should the first opportunity be seized for getting rid of it, there is the risk that its donor will tenderly inquire after it. It cannot be given away after the lapse of six months; for its color is gone, and it looks as if it might have been present at Hilpah’s wedding to Shalum. The poor thing eventually finds a shelter and a home in some spare bedroom of a country house, where damp and dust hasten its decay. Sometimes it is destined to a harder fate. One swallow does not make a summer, and the gift of a wedding present does not insure the celebration of a marriage; the engagement may very possibly be broken off, and one of the consequences is the return of the windmill to its unhappy and original possessor, whose feelings on its re-appearance we forbear from commenting on.

If the State would include wedding presents among the assessed taxes, and fix a definite sum to be paid at the beginning of each year, great relief would be experienced; the government would, of course, realize a profit, and a large sum would still remain to be distributed as marriage portions. The present inequality would be remedied; for, as it is, those who never marry at all (and their number is daily increasing) receive no return for their original outlay; but on the institution of the tax this need no longer be the case. Single women, on attaining the age of forty-five, might, on condition of subscribing a declaration setting forth the extreme improbability of their marrying, and their aversion to that condition, receive the sum to which they would have been entitled on marriage. Widows, on the other hand, would get nothing under any circumstances, being exhorted to remain contented with the ormolu of the first marriage.

During the interval before the adoption of this plan we have but one remedy to propose. Surely the old shoes which are now so lavishly thrown away at the departure of the bride and bridegroom, are capable of conversion into some valuable substance; which cannot be predicated of wedding presents. Let, therefore, the next “groomsman ” set a bright example, and deserve well of society and the oppressed; as the carriage starts, let a shower of aneroids, barometers, bellows, candlesticks, vases, mosaics, and antiques, gracefully fall and flutter around it. Thus we feel sure that a “peculiar interest would be excited,” while the struggles of the crowd to possess objects which to their inexperienced eyes might seem capable of being exchanged for a shilling would give additional animation to the scene. The prevalence of this custom might be expected to modify to some extent the present fashion, the chief compensation for which must be found in the advantages which result from a study of the pages of the Court Journal.

Every Saturday 27 April 1872: p. 449-51

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil fears that she has nothing to add to these really excellent proposals, except to note that the shower might result in shards of broken Dresden china and glass in the streets. That would annoy the horses, but crossing-sweepers might be delighted with the added employment and tips.

It is a bore, but one may also exchange or sell the horrors.

As for the loss of wedding gifts to the ladies who remain unmarried, this “bachelor-girl’s” father and friends were thoughtful enough to make up the deficit: 

One of the great bugbears of spinsterhood has been demolished by a Minnesota woman. Though she had had many suitors, of course, she was still unwedded at thirty, and one day, as she was sending off a gift to a girl friend who was about to be married, she bewailed the fact that the bachelor-girl never got wedding-presents or a trousseau. Her father promised that she herself should not be slighted in this respect, whether she married or not, and a few weeks ago, when she accepted the offer of a business position and decided to take up her bachelor residence in Chicago, the old gentleman was as good as his word. He gave her a handsome check to buy a complete outfit of clothes, from shoes to bonnets, and many of her friends took up the idea and gave her useful and ornamental articles for her bachelor apartment. And now it is announced — whether it be through the aid of her fine feathers or not is not stated — she is to marry the president of the company that employs her.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] March 21, 1898

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 Face in the Mirror: 1870s

bride at mirror single

THE FACE IN THE MIRROR.

“Oh, Aunt Cassie, do you really intend to give it to me? That lovely antique mirror, with the frame of twisted coral, and the delicious old Neptune sitting with his trident, all in tarnished gold, on the top? Oh!” cried the bride-elect; “I would rather have that than all my other wedding presents put together. It will be so beautiful in my new drawing-room.”

Aunt Cassie, a silver-haired little old lady in black silk, and antiquated gold ear-drops, shuddered. “You are welcome to it, child,” she said. “I never liked the thing since–since I saw your uncle’s reflection in it the night before the news came of his death in Canada. The house servants say it is a ‘haunted glass.’”

“But, Aunt Cassie,” reasoned Letty Latrobe, “that was all your imagination.”

“Do you think so?” said Aunt Cassie, quietly.

And so the old mirror was carried up to the blue saloon, and put up with the bride’s other presents in the place of honor, where its dim surface reflected sets of silver, jewel-boxes, ivory toilet sets, glove-holders, and piles of rare lace and delicate embroidery. Miss Latrobe’s new maid, a handsome woman, with long gold ear-drops, and a scarlet bandanna handkerchief twisted around her head, viewed it with rapture. “I declare, miss,” said she, “I never saw such a glass in my life. I came into the room not thinking, like, and when I looked up–laws, miss; there was me a-pickin’ up the laces, and you standin’ behind me, all in your wedding dress”

“I!” cried Letty. “In my wedding dress! There you are mistaken, Ruby. I never have put on my wedding dress yet. Don’t you know it isn’t lucky?” The maid looked around with a startled glance.

“Then it was she,” she said, as if to herself. “And I can’t get away from her, do what I will.”

“Ruby,” exclaimed Letty, “what are you talking about?”

“Nothing, miss,” said Ruby. “It’s a way I’ve got, living a good deal by myself, talkin’ out just what my thoughts is.”

But after that Ruby avoided the old mirror.

Down stairs in the servants hall that very evening she made herself very sociable, and asked various questions about Miss Latrobe’s new bridegroom.

“He’s a brave, handsome gentleman,” said Phillis, the cook, warming to the subject as she brandished a stew-pan over the fire. “A bit older than our young missy, but–”

“Oh!” said Ruby. “Older, eh? A military gentleman, now?”

“Bless me,” said Phillis, “however did you know?”

“I think I heard it mentioned upstairs,” said Ruby. “A captain in the army, with a scar over one temple, as you’d hardly notice if you didn’t know of it.”

“Well, I declare,” said Phillis.

“Speaks very soft and has eyes as bright as diamonds,” said Ruby. “Yes, it’s the sort of a gentleman that the young ladies like. So the wedding is to be next week, and I suppose they’ll travel abroad. Dear, dear; it’s fine to be a young lady like Miss Latrobe, now, isn’t it?”

The next day when Letty was dressing in her room, she took a fancy to try the effect of a sort of old-fashioned pearls, which had been the wedding gift of her mother.

“Ruby,” said she, “go and get my pearls out of the blue velvet case on the little mosaic table.”

Ruby came back presently with a scared look.

“I can’t find ’em, miss,” said she.

Letty jumped up with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders.

“You must be blind,” said she. “I’ll go myself.”

There they lay perfectly in sight, close to the old mirror. With girlish interest Letty fastened the drops into her ears and clasped the string around her neck; and as she looked smilingly into the glass she became vaguely conscious that another figure stood there a little behind her, mantled in a soft haze, as if of distance–a young girl in orange blossoms and bridal veil, with something in her hand, which Letty at first construed to be a sparkling hilted dagger, held up to strike.

Involuntarily she recoiled.

“Ruby,” she called out to her maid. “Ruby! who is there? How dare you let anyone into the room while I am dressing, Ruby?”

The girl hurried in with a startled face.

“Did you call. Miss Latrobe?” said she.

“Ruby, come here,” cried Letty. “Stand close beside me. Look into the glass.”

“Yes, miss,” said Ruby, with the still troubled face.

“Do you see nothing, Ruby?”

“No, miss,” said Ruby, shivering and clasping her hands together very tight.

“Nor I, either, now,” said Miss Latrobe. “But it was there just now.”

“What, miss?”

“Tell me truly, Ruby,” said Letty, putting both hands on the girl’s shoulder, and looking into her face with large, terrified eyes. “Look at that glass. Do you see nothing there? Have you ever seen anything there?”

Ruby shrank back and burst into tears.

“It’s a young girl, miss,” she sobbed, “in her wedding dress, and a stiletto in her hand. It’s my young mistress, miss, as I lived with five years ago, at Malta, as was married to Capt. Hayes.”

Letty’s face grew pale. “Captain Hayes,” she repeated. “Married to him! Married to my betrothed husband! Ruby, think what you are saying!”

“If I was to be murdered for it, miss,” cried the girl, sinking on the floor, and covering her eyes with her bands. “I couldn’t say no different! Ask him if he remembers Anita Valloti, the commander’s daughter at Malta! Ask him if he knows anything of the mad-house at Madapolo Heights! There I’ve told it all now!”

“But, Ruby, what do you mean?” gasped Miss Latrobe,

“Ask him,” the girl reiterated, shaking and quivering all over in what seemed like a perfect tempest of fear and horror.

Letty sank down among the wedding presents, with her golden hair floating all over her shoulders, and looked with a pale horror into the antique mirror. There was nothing there now but her own fair reflection. “Ruby is dreaming,” she said to her self. “All this is a waking nightmare, neither more nor less.”

Capt. Hayes came that afternoon, dark, brilliantly handsome, full of wit, and for the moment his presence dissipated the dark clouds of suspicion which were beginning to settle around Letty Latrobe’s warm young heart.

“Oh, Robert,” she cried brightly when dinner was over. “I have received ever so many exquisite presents since last you were here. Do come into the blue room and look at them.”

All unconsciously she led him into the long apartment with the antique mirror at its end.

“First of all,” she said, “Aunt Cassie Revere gave me this. It is over two hundred years old, and”- –

She paused with a cry of terror. Close behind their two reflections was that of the pallid girl in the bridal dress and veil, holding the glittering-hilted dagger above her head. And in the same second she saw how deadly white and haggard Capt. Hayes’s face had become.

“Robert,” she cried. “what does this mean?” Then suddenly, remembering the maid’s words, “it is Anita Valloti, the commandant’s daughter at Malta! Robert, what is this terrible secret that you have hidden away from me?”

**

There was no wedding at Magnolia Hill that golden June. Ruby, the maid, revealed it–how Captain Hayes had wooed and won the beautiful young Spanish girl at Malta: how he had afterward become wearied of her childish loveliness, and seizing eagerly upon the pretext of some slight incoherence of manner or conversation, had incarcerated the poor little human butterfly in a private asylum on Madapolo Heights, some leagues from the city. Nor, confronted with all this evidence, did the captain dare to deny the story of his guilt.

Therefore there was no wedding in the lonely homestead. And instead of going on her bridal trip with Captain Hayes, Letty Latrobe persuaded her father to take her to Malta, and visited the famous Maison de Sante at Madapolo.

“I should like to see it for myself,” she said, softly.

Fra Antonio, one of the gowned brotherhood in attendance, looked a little surprised when they asked for La Signora Hayes, or as her name was entered there, “La Signorina Anita Valloti.”

“Did you not know?” he asked. “The poor young signora is dead. She died on the nineteenth of last June.”

The nineteenth of June! Mr. Latrobe and his daughter looked at one another. It was on the nineteenth of June that they had seen the strange reflection in the antique mirror–it was on the nineteenth of June that the marriage at Magnolia Hill was broken off.

So they laid fresh roses on the simple cross that rose above the poor young thing’s last resting-place, and came away with wet eyes and tender hearts.

The Saturday Evening Press [Menasha WI] 20 April 1882: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A narrow escape for Miss Latrobe and possibly a narrow escape from plagiarism charges for the author, who seems to have been heavily influenced by  Jane Eyre.

 

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.