Category Archives: Victorian

The Great Grampus Bath-house Tragedy: 1875

The Sad Result of Using Patent Bathing Houses.

New Orleans Picayune.

A harrowing story comes to us from one of our sea side watering places. Old Mr. Grampus was in Paris last spring, and he brought home with him one of Baptiste’s patent bath houses. It was made of vulcanized silk with steel ribs, and it shut and opened by a spring. Open it had the appearance of a beautiful blue and buff striped pavilion, octagonal in shape, and covering a superficial area of some ninety or a hundred square feet. Shut up, it looked like a huge Brobdignagian umbrella, though, being very light, Mr. Grampus could carry it to the beach as easy as he did his camp stool. The Grampuses were very proud of this bath-house. They used to take it down to the most crowded point on the sands and flaunt it in the faces of their rivals. It afforded to Mrs. Grampus and the Miss Grampuses a satisfaction more ecstatic than they had ever known before to emerge from this gorgeous edifice just as those odious Millers came sneaking out of their dingy old wooden huts under the cliff. The crowd gazed at them with envy and admiration, while they either pitied or ignored the Millers. Baptiste’s patent bath-house was an object of respectful amazement to the whole caravansary, and the Grampuses came in for no little social eminence and superiority in consequence.

This sort of thing went on smoothly for a fortnight or so, until the Millers and the Joneses and the Snagsbys were absolutely on the point of leaving Jolimer for sheer mortification. And perhaps they would have gone the very next day, but for the singular adventure which little Blinker had with his donkey. It was about 11 o’clock; the beach had been crowed for an hour or more, and as usual the centre of attraction and of interest was the Grampus bath-house. They had lately embellished this beautiful structure with a pair of golden horns [antlers] and a silk centennial flag, and in the eyes of the unhappy Millers it looked more insolent and gaudy and overwhelming than ever. The Grampus ladies had been inside for a quarter of an hour or so, and the spectators conjectured, rightly as it afterward transpired, that they were almost ready for the surf, when all of a sudden little Blinkers was seen descending one of the winding paths astride a particularly contumacious and evil-minded donkey. His agonized cries and expostulations attracted attention, and in less than a minute every eye, except those of the doomed and unsuspecting Grampuses, was riveted on Blinkers. Here he came, his donkey churning away at the bit, and buck-jumping like a mustang, and be miserable, frantic and helpless with terror. Blinkers stuck, though, and the donkey lunged away down the path like something mad, without shaking off the stricken wretch who rode him.

There were a few Ravelian acrobatics, a wild lurch, and then Blinkers and the donkey went kerslap again the Grampuses’ patent bath-house! One complicated shriek shot through the air, a flutter and a rattling as of machinery, and the next instant Blinkers was dashed upon the sand in a crumpled heap, and a haggard and affrighted donkey with his ears pinned back and his tail between his legs, was seen hustling down the beach like some panic-stricken meteor. And then the great Grampus pavilion with a creak and a snap, suddenly shut itself up into umbrella shape, and waddled hysterically toward the surf on a pair of elephantine legs—identified by a spectator as the legs of the Mrs. Grampus—suggesting the idea, with its towering outline and its antlers and its flag, for some gigantic species of horned giraffe which had just taken the blue ribbon at the fair.

And that was the end of the great Grampus bath-house tragedy. Old mother Grampus pranced about the beach awhile with the patent bath house sitting on her head like a long but emaciated extinguisher, and the two Miss Grampuses who had escaped the collapse rushed frantically into the surf, with a good deal less bathing dress than they would have had if Blinkers and his donkey had given them a little more time. Next day the family departed before the rest of the world had wakened, and the Millers and the Joneses, and the Snagsbys are having their own way. Now, if this narrative should reach the eye of any family using Baptiste’s patent portable bath-house, we trust they will take warning, and never afterward trust to its protection until it has been enclosed in a serviceable picket fence.

Fort Wayne [IN] Weekly Sentinel 18 August 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Truly, a useful warning about bathing-pavilion hubris, which we all should take to heart. How are the Vulcanized fallen!  Mrs Daffodil has sought casually, but in vain for the inventor. Considering his role in submerging persons in water, he must have been called “Jean Baptiste.”

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a bathing machine as the scene of scandal, as well as the ideal bath-house, which will, indeed make one the envy of one’s friends, if not one’s maid.

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 Man in the Dog-Cart: 1890s

My next tale has always seemed to me one of the most interesting psychic experiences that I have ever heard related.

Some few years ago, a young officer, whom we will call Lestrange, went to stay at a country house in the Midlands. It may be said that he was a good type of the average British subaltern, whose tastes, far from  inclining towards abstract study or metaphysical speculation, lay chiefly in the direction of polo, hunting, and sport generally. In fact, the last person in the world one would have said likely to “see a ghost.”

One afternoon during his visit, Lestrange borrowed a dog-cart from his friend, and set out to drive to the neighbouring town. About half-way there he saw walking along the road in front of him a very poor and ragged-looking man, who, as he passed him, looked so ill and miserable that Lestrange, being a kind-hearted person, took pity on him and, pulling up, called out, “Look here, if you are going to C—-, get up behind me and I will give you a lift.” The man said nothing but proceeded to climb up on the cart, and as he did so, Lestrange noticed that he wore a rather peculiar handkerchief round his neck, of bright red, spotted with green. He took his seat and Lestrange drove on and reaching C—- stopped at the door of the principal hotel. When the ostler came forward to take the horse, Lestrange, without looking round, said to him: “Just give that man on the back seat a good hot meal and I’ll pay. He looks as if he wanted it, poor chap.” The ostler looked puzzled and said: “Yes, sir; but what man do you mean?”

Lestrange turned his head and saw that the back seat was empty, which rather astonished him and he exclaimed: “Well! I hope he didn’t fall off. But I never heard him get down. At all events, if he turns up here, feed him. He is a ragged, miserable-looking fellow, and you will know him by the handkerchief he had round his neck, bright red and green.” As these last words were uttered a waiter who had been standing in the doorway and heard the conversation came forward and said to Lestrange, “Would you mind stepping inside for a moment, sir?”

Lestrange followed him, noticing that he looked very grave, and the waiter stopped at a closed door, behind the bar, saying: “I heard you describe that tramp you met, sir, and I want you to see what is in here.” He then led the way into a small bedroom, and there, lying on the bed, was the corpse of a man, ragged and poor, wearing round his neck a red handkerchief spotted with green.

Lestrange made a startled exclamation. “Why, that is the very man I took up on the road just now. How did he get here?”

He was then told that the body he saw had been found by the roadside at four o’clock the preceding afternoon, and that it had been taken to the hotel to await the inquest. Comparisons showed that Lestrange had picked up his tramp at the spot where the body had been discovered on the previous day; and the hour, four o’clock, was also found to tally exactly.

Now was this, as the ancients would have told us, the umbra of the poor tramp, loth to quit entirely a world of which it knew at least the worst ills, to “fly to others that it knew not of”? Or was it rather what Mr. C. W. Leadbeater has described in his book, “The Other Side of Death,” as a thought-form, caused by the thoughts of the dead man returning with honor to the scene of his lonely and miserable end, and thereby producing psychic vibrations strong enough to construct an actual representation of his physical body, visible to any “sensitive” who happened that way? We must leave our readers to decide for themselves what theory will best fit as an explanation of this strange and true story.

Stranger Than Fiction, Mary L. Lewes, 1911: p. 96-98

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr. C.W. Leadbeater was a Spiritualist and influential member of the Theosophical Society. He wrote extensively on esoteric subjects such as the astral plane, clairvoyance, and reincarnation. Mrs Daffodil sees no reason to drag “psychic vibrations” or “thought-forms” into a perfectly good English ghost story.

 

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

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

 

 

 

Noted Ladies of the Stage on Corsets: 1890

Adelina Patti endorses the Chicago Corset Company, c. 1880s https://www.rubylane.com/item/398016-4878/Chicago-Corset-Adelina-Patti-Advertising-Trade

A SYMPOSIUM ON CORSETS

The Theories and Practices of Some Noted Singers and Actresses.

[Chicago Tribune.]

A cablegram printed in the Tribune a few days ago said that Mrs. James Brown Potter had abandoned the corset.

A murmur was heard in certain quarters. What had Mme. Patti to say on the subject? A Tribune reporter found the diva in a room filled with the odor of roses. The reporter went at the subject without having been compelled to do so strategically.  Madame motioned Nicolini [her second husband] to a far corner in the room. Then she said in her own peculiar way:

“I think corsets are the correct thing. Some absolutely perfect figures may dispense with them, of course, but the average woman, and especially the stout ones, can not afford to eschew stays. I myself invariably wear them.” “And do you find them injurious?” “Not in the slightest. But, then, my stays are always extraordinarily loose. Interfere with singing? Why, people don’t sing with their stomachs, do they? It must be an oddly formed person who would. As long as one doesn’t wear stays about one’s throat there can be no interference. Now, I can not sing with as much as a ribbon confining my throat.”

Mme. Emma La Jennesse-Albani-Gye’s apartments at the Grand Pacific were as bright as a glowing fire when the reporter called. When “corsets” were mentioned a slight frown deepened in the clear gray eyes, but it passed as quickly as it came, and in her musical voice Mme. Albani gave her views.

“I believe in stays because I have always worn them. I shouldn’t like at all to go without and I’m sure the public wouldn’t like it. Imagine me, for I am a little stout, you know.”

“Plump, Madame, only plump.” “Ah! That is kind of you. Nevertheless you know I shouldn’t look well without a corset. I do not think I could keep up even. I believe the support to be essential absolutely.”

“And not detrimental?”

“Not unless so tight as to interfere with breathing, for breathing is singing. You have seen ‘The Huguenots,’ haven’t you? Yes, well, you remember we all have to wear long pointed bodices there—it was the style of the times—now how could we possibly do so without stays? I don’t know, do you?”

There was an all-pervading odor of roses and white hyacinths through Mme. Nordica’s apartments at the Richelieu. The songstress lay wearied and nervous beneath the eiderdown while her devoted sister tenderly bathed her throbbing brow. The dainty little lady mother sat amid the ruins of Madame’s floral offerings and chatted.

No, Lillian never wears corsets. That is, she never does now—not even for the street or salon. There was a time years ago when she wore them, but they were soon discarded. It was simply a matter of comfort with her. After a while she concluded to try them again. She had several pairs manufactured—little loves of stays, all in delicate satins

“How long did she wear them then?”

“Scarcely at all. One day she said to me: ‘Mamma dear, I am not as comfortable as I used to be; I shall return to the old ways.’ Since then she has never put a corset on.”

“Does she substitute a stiff waist?” “No; she simply wears a thin silk waist, without a suspicion of whalebone in the back and the merest hint of it at the front and sides. We make them all ourselves, so you may be sure they are simplicity personified.

“Cecil, dear, please put your head out of the window; we are having a costume talk and you really must not listen.”

Considering that a fierce rainstorm was raging without, Miss Rosina Vokes was making a cool request of her notably loving hubby.

Mr. Clay merely grinned quietly and sank back further into the recesses of the carriage, shutting his eyes as an indication that his ears were closed.

“My dear child, I couldn’t dream of not wearing corsets. I should not be able to dance or sing or anything. I should be tired to death in no time. Injurious! Fudge! Don’t you pin your faith to loose-seeming dresses. I know a lot of these Greek-draped actresses who lace tight-tight underneath the flowing draperies. Forgive me if I’m positive—that is my way—but I believe in corsets, pure and simple. I believe corsets are just as essential for a woman as suspenders are for a man, and one must wear them if one doesn’t want one’s things all slipping around and off. And then the support. Every decently formed woman needs support, of course. O! women who are excessively thin could go without stays, I fancy; but then they look all up and down, you know. When to put on corsets? As soon as the figure gives the merest hint of development. It is on the same principle as pinning a band tightly round a baby’s dear little body so that its precious back will not get broken. Every woman needs the support of corsets.”

Just then Mr. Clay opened the eye and directed an aside to his wife.

“Tight? Gracious, no. I should not want you to suppose I advocated such a thing for a moment. I honestly don’t believe in that. Don’t tell, though, but I used to be horribly vain. I once wore seventeens—just fancy! Seventeen corset—laced tight. I was off the stage then, and one day was at the Newmarket races. I was fancying myself, I assure you, when I heard an old English lord remark, apropos of me: ‘Good Gawd! She’ll come in half.’ It wasn’t pleasant, so now I wear my stays loose—quite.”

When Mary Anderson was here a Tribune reporter called on her in reference to this all-round question of corsets. Miss Anderson, in her artistic house gown, looked as innocent of stays as Perdita.

“Corsets?” with a cold, pale smile. “No, I don’t wear them. I see Mrs. Croly (Jennie June) has been telling tales out of school, so I may as well confess. I don’t wear stays.” “How did you come to discard them?” “It was after I went to England. My health was poor, and the doctor ordered out door exercise. I took off corsets then, and never put them on again. But then I have no superfluous flesh and am rather too slender. They did not interfere with my posing, but I feel better without them. It’s all ‘as you like it.’ I like it better without.”

“You wear a corset with conventional dress?”

“Never under any circumstances! And the ladies of my company do not wear them on the stage. Stage dressing is nearly always unconventional, except in society plays, the draperies being from the shoulder and armpit, and stays are manifestly out of place from artistic reasons alone.”

“Corsets? Of course I wear them. Who does not? Think of me as ‘Nadjy’ with nothing to tie those black spangles to. I’d drop to pieces,” said Miss Janson. [Miss Marie Jansen] “Then the Tribune might ask its readers to listen to the ‘Tale of Woe’ in earnest. Are they an inconvenience? Look!” She got behind a door in the parlor of the Grand Pacific hotel, and after a furtive glance down the corridor, daintily kicked the palm of her outstretched hand, executing a pirouette after it.

“I’m all right and my stays are as taut as a sail in high wind. Sometimes I have wondered what would happen if the strings should break. ‘Listen to the Tale of Woe,’” she hummed, casting her eyes meditatively on the chandelier.

“Pauline Hallo wears them, too, and all the chorus girls. Some of them would be sad figures if they didn’t. ‘Listen to the Tale of Woe.’ Of course, anyone who sings must wear them loose. I have one now, but look.” She took a deep breath which distended the region just above her fluttering heart that is nightly clasped in a jet black vise, and trilled airily “Listen to the Tale of Woe,” and had plenty of breath to spare after the effort.

Kansas City [MO] Times 19 January 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Operatic ladies, were, of course, known for their famously opulent figures; some even said that slimming cost them their voice. It is rather fascinating that four out of the six ladies who weighed in, insisted on the benefits of corsets. Reform Dress did not make much headway among denizens of the stage.

Adelina Patti was, of course, the prima donna assoluta of nineteenth-century opera. She was one of the financially shrewdest theatrical ladies of her day and, as we see from the advertising card at the head of this post, she endorsed the California Corset Company.

Madame Nordica was the so-called “Yankee Diva,” Maine-born Lillian Nordica, another opera star, famous for her collection of husbands and jewels.

“Listen to the Tale of Woe” was the signature tune of the once wildly-popular opera Nadjy.

Mrs Daffodil has previously reported on gentlemen, including actors, who wear corsets as well as the controversy over tight-lacing, The Flapper and Her Corset, and “The Autobiography of a Corset,” as well as several other posts on this absorbing subject, which may be found by looking under the “corset” filing tab.

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.

 

My Lady’s Hammock: 1895

The Hammock, James Tissot. Source: Wikigallery

MY LADY’S HAMMOCK

It Is a Gorgeous Affair This Season And There are Fetching Gowns Which Go With It and Hosiery Like a Beautiful Italian Sunset

The girl who is spending the season at a fashionable hotel is forced to miss one of the most fascinating pleasures of summertime, namely, the hammock. At the really swell hotels now-a-days one rarely sees a hammock, for the reason, perhaps, that the hammock is a sure destroyer of lace, chiffon or the fashionable costumes that custom demands must be worn all day at the popular watering places.

It is only that fortunate young woman who is summering at some country farm house or big, roomy mountain hotel where there are plenty of trees about the shady piazza nooks that can enjoy the true comfort of the hammock. The watering place girl can only dream of the luxury and the piazza rocking chair is the nearest approach to the graceful swinging couch, canopied by green waving branches which her sister in the mountains spends the long morning hours in.

The tactful maiden studies her “type” before she makes up her mind to adopt the hammock as a permanent summer back ground. There are certain styles of girl that look as though made for a hammock. In it they are marvels of grace and prettiness, but the stout, comfortable, well fed young woman who may make a fetching picture on a bicycle is as much out of place in a hammock as it is possible to imagine. The slim waisted, “fluffy” girl is the kind that looks well in a hammock. She becomes a soft, limp mass of lace and ribbon, the moment she adjusts herself to its meshes, and if an inch or two of her stocking shows beneath the white lace of her skirt it doesn’t look at all shocking, but on the contrary, chic and appropriate. The Burne-Jones type of girl is therefore the special kind who makes her hammock the piece de resistance in the artillery with which she will wage successful warfare on the heart of the  Summer Man.

First, she selects her hammock. If she is a blond she gets one of cool looking white cording, or in blue and white stripes, with bamboo rods stretched across the head and foot. Then she selects the place where it is to hang, always a corner somewhere out of the general.

If she is of a romantic disposition she finds out some rippling resting place, where the tree branches bend across, and she will have her pretty resting place suspended right across the water, climbing into it each time at the rick of a wetting. Here she makes a veritable illustration of the verse: “Summer day; babbling brook/Girl in hammock reading book!”

The girl with dark eyes and brown hair selects a hammock of brilliant red Mexican grass, or some other Oriental looking weave. She piles it with silken cushions of the same rich hues; deep crimson and olive greens and here and there a Persian covering that stands out among the others, making an effect that delights the soul of any artist which may be in the vicinity until he begs for the privilege of sketching the hammock’s occupant.

The fair haired blue eyed girl has blue and white cushions and little pillows for her ears, covered with white dotted Swiss and trimmed with Val. Lace. I picked up one of these ridiculous little things the other day and learned for the first time that they existed. Just imagine a cushion about five inches square stuffed with cotton and a suspicion of violet sachet, made specially for to tuck under your ear among the larger pillows.

The heart shaped cushion is one of the novelties for my lady’s hammock this year. It is shaped exactly like the real article which is supposed to exist even in the bosom of summer’s merriest maiden and it is embroidered over with its owner’s favorite flower, and sometimes a motto or sentiment.

One of the prettiest that I have seen is covered with marguerites embroidered in their natural colors and through the blossoms runs the line in gold thread: “He loves me; he loves me not?”

Another with a border of the ox-eyed daisies says:

“I don’t care what the daisies say;

I know I’ll be married some fine day!”

This summer girl not only has the regulation tag upon her hammock with her name thereon, but she attaches it with a huge bow of ribbon matching her cushions in color. The ends of this hang so low that they sweep the grass beneath the float in every passing breeze.

Of course there are frocks specially for hammock wear, and stockings and shoes of attractive design to be worn when reposing in this luxurious swing.

At no time in the career of a summer girl are her feet more in evidence than when she is poised in her hammock or getting in or out of it.

This last operation is one which it takes considerable dexterity and grace to accomplish successfully, but after a while most of these clever young women manage to do it without turning an eyelash and with a not-too-reckless display of ankle. It looks wonderfully difficult to a mere man, but it all depends on a little quickness and a certain curves of the limbs in getting out, which keeps the skirts in place.

A man is apt to get all tangled up in a hammock, and he emerges from one as a rule looking as though he had been in a collision. But the hammock maiden has it all down to a science.

She fixes up her last summer’s dresses to wear in the hammock. Of course there must not be too many buttons upon any frock for this purpose, as they catch in the meshes and come off, as a usual thing. But plenty of lace and soft ribbons can be worn and a gown which could never be worn anywhere else, owing to its last season’s cut, makes a most effective costume for hammock wear.

A pretty little girl who affects the hammock pose to a considerable extent, confided to me the other day that she discarded stays in her hours of open air repose. She wore some mysterious sort of waist made with whale bone, but without steels.

“When I’ve been out tramping, or fishing, or driving, and get home tired out,” she told me, “I just run up to my room and have a sponge bath. Then I slip into one of these waists, which is ever so much cooler you know, put on my loosest and fluffiest hammock frock and get down here under the trees, and in a minute I’m enjoying as pleasant a nap as it is possible to imagine.”

This girl has a collection of pretty hosiery and shoes for her afternoon siesta. She has one pair of the daintiest French morocco “mules” or slippers without any upper part in the back, which she wears with red silk stockings. Then she has Japanese slippers in all colors and hose to match, some of them quite visit in design. One of the oddest conceits are her “rainbow” stockings.

Her pleasure in wearing them must be that of the small boy with his first cigar; “purely intellectual,” for they are strictly invisible, but I suppose there must be sort of conscious delight in the possession of such frivols as these. They are worn with a small, innocent-looking brown suede slipper which buttons over the instep with three large brown buttons. The stocking which shows over the ankle is brown, the same as the shoe, but as it reaches the calf of the leg it lightens by degrees to a golden yellow, turning with a sort of beautiful Italian sunset effect into palest violet, and then deepening into purple at the top. The garters worn with this are of black elastic, through which runs a violet ribbon. The side knot is of the same ribbon and the buckles are of engraved and oxidized silver, an owl on one symbolizing night, and a lark on the other for morning. These are the most fetching of all her hammock properties, and it seems a pity that they are so unobtrusively worn undiscovered, unless a hammock costume of bloomers be adopted.

The Herald [Los Angeles CA] 25 August 1895: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Pleasant as are the solitary delights of the hammock, dual occupancy is where the sparks really fly:

THE FATEFUL HAMMOCK

A Potent Factor in Midsummer Joys and Midwinter Repentance.

The hammock has much to answer for.

It has developed from nothing into a potent factor in midsummer social joys and sorrows.

A decade ago the hammock was sporadic. It is now universal. Certain tourists from this heretofore unhammocked land of the free, journeying into Mexico and in Cuba noted the meshed crescent with interest first and with admiration afterwards, insomuch that they brought one of the swaying couches with them.

The result has been remarkable. Americans have taken the hammock to their very hearts, and American ingenuity has devised machinery capable of turning out hammocks almost as fast as the finished article will turn out its occupant. A summer bereft of a hammock would be to the American lad and lass a dreary and unromantic period.

Given a good article of moonlight and a hammock big enough for two, and there is no combination which will more rapidly and thoroughly advance the cause of Cupid and bring about the lighting of Hymen’s torch.

Between the moon and the hammock there is a certain analogy. A young moon is very like a hammock, and when Luna appears in the west, her crescent apparently swung between two invisible trees and fastened with a pair of bright stars, the analogy is complete. One can readily fancy an angel swaying in the celestial hammock, which is said also to contain a man. And the idea is so apt to fix itself in the mind of the ardent mortal who gazes westward that his first impulse is to get a hammock, and an earthly angel of his own, and then to sway joyously to the rhythm of two hearts that beat as one.

As an aid to flirtation it is twin sister to a fan.

If a young couple ever trust themselves to the support of the same hammock at the same time, Cupid has his own way thereafter. The pair must of necessity be brought into such sweet proximity that every particle of formality and reserve is melted away. One may withdraw from his fair one on a bench, may hold aloof while seated on the same grassy bank, and may hitch his chair away, or closer, as his feelings dictate. But in the same hammock one can do none of these things. He can only submit to fate and propinquity and  be led delightfully to the momentous question.

The hammock…is fashioned much like a spider’s web. But who would not willingly be a fly when the web holds a charming maiden? And what man is there with soul so dead who is not glad that the hammock has come to stay.

The Macon [MS] Beacon 16 August 1890: 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.

 

Girl Wanted: 1874

Lady: “But I very much dislike dogs in the kitchen!”
Cook: “Then it would be no use my engaging of myself, Ma’am—for my object is to get a comfortable home for Tiny and myself!”
Punch 10 April 1875: p. 159

GIRL WANTED

Yes, I want another—”A tidy girl to do house-work in a small family—good wages and a good home.” That’s the way my advertisement always reads, and as soon as the paper is out the girls commence coming. Tidy girls from ten to sixty-five years old come pulling the bell, and when told that they won’t suit they put on such a look of contempt for the door, the door-plate, the front gate and the entire institution, that the world seems three degrees hotter than before.

I always engage the girl. This is because of an idea of mine that I can read human nature, and because I do not fear to tell them in plain English what is expected of them. After the door-bell has been pulled about five times, the right-looking sort of a girl makes her appearance. She says she saw the advertisement, and is invited in. She says she can do any kind of cooking; loves to wash; is fond of children; can never sleep after five o’clock in the morning; never goes out evenings; does not know a young man in Detroit, and she’d be willing to work for low wages for the sake of getting a good home.

She is told to drop her bundle, lay off her things and go to work, and a great burden rolls off my mind as I congratulate myself that the prize-medal girl has arrived at last. She’s all right up to about seven in the evening, when she is suddenly missed, and returns about ten o’clock to say that she “just dropped out” to get a postage-stamp. The next day she begins to scatter the tea-spoons in the back-yard, stops her ironing to read a dime novel, and at supper-time wants to know if I can’t send the children off to live with their grandfather, get a cook stove with silver-plated knobs and have an addition built to the kitchen. That evening a big red-headed butcher walks in, crosses his legs over the kitchen table, and proceeds to court Sarah. She doesn’t last but a day or two longer, and then we secure another.

This one is right from New Hampshire, and doesn’t know a soul in Michigan, and yet she hasn’t finished the dinner dishes before a cross-eyed young man rings the bell and says he’d like to see Hannah for a moment. After seeing him, Hannah concludes not to stay, as we are so far from St. John’s church, and as we don’t appear to be religious people.

The next one especially recommends herself as being “just like their own mother” to the children, and isn’t in the house half a day before she draws Small Pica over her knee and gives him a regular old Canadian waltz.

The next one has five recommendations as a neat and tidy girl, and yet it isn’t three days before she bakes the shoe brush with the beef, washes her hands in a soup tureen, or drops hairpins into the pudding.

I growl about these things after a while, but I am met with the statement that they had worked five years for Governor this, or Lord that, and that in all that time no one had so much as looked cross-eyed at them. I am called mean, ill-tempered, particular, fault-finding, and all that, and the girl goes away wondering why the Lord has spared me as long as He has.

We’ve been wanting “a good, tidy girl” for these last twelve years, and I suppose that we may go another dozen and still be wanting.

“Quad’s Odds” M. Quad, 1874: p. 173

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Domestics come and domestics go, but The Servant Question is eternal….

Mrs Daffodil has been fortunate in her selection and retention of staff, but the many jokes on saucy servants and demanding domestics hide the pain of those in suburban villas and New York brownstones longing for a Girl.

Mrs. Hiram Daly — “And so you’ve got your old cook back! I thought you told me she was married about three months ago, and had gone to housekeeping.”

Mrs. Riverside Rives — “She has given up housekeeping and has come back to me.”

Mrs. Hiram Daly — “What was the matter?”

Mrs. Riverside Rives — “She couldn’t get a girl.” — Puck, 1893

Mistress (severely) — “If such a thing occurs again, Norah, I shall have to get another servant.”

Norah — “I wish yer would; there’s easily enough work fer two of us.” — Tit-Bits. 1901

Binks: Oh, yes, she carries herself like an empress, and bosses me around all she likes now; but wait until we are married, and then see how she’ll fawn and cringe.

Winks: To you?

Binks: No, to the servant girl.

The Philipsburg [MT] Mail 15 August 1895: p. 7

Mrs. A: “I see you have got a new servant girl.”

Ms. B. “Yes, I make it a point to get a new one every month.”

Mrs. A: “But that must be very inconvenient.”

Mrs. B: “Yes, but there’s nothing going on in this town that I don’t know all about it.”

Illinois State Register [Springfield, IL] 28 August 1887: p. 2

First suburban — ” Hello, Smith! You are got up regardless. Going to a wedding?”

Second suburban— “No. I’m going in town to try to engage a cook, and I wish to create a good impression.” — Bazar, 1892

Mistress (trying to be agreeable) “What are your favorite dishes, Bridget?”

The new cook: “To ate or to break, mum?” 

Daily Illinois State Register [Springfield IL] 2 April 1907: p. 10

 

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on How to Spoil Servants

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 Husband Lost and Found: 1894

STRANGER

Than Fiction Is Real Life.

Romantic Story of Separation and Reunion.

After Twenty-Eight Years, Walter Henley, of Nashville, Finds His Wife.

Dover, Ky., March 16. Twenty-eight years ago last September Miss Josie Hamilton, an orphan, making her home with a maiden aunt living in Huntington, W. Va., was a passenger on an Ohio steamer from Cincinnati to that city. The second clerk on the boat was a young man named Walter P. Henley, whose home was in Pittsburg, and who will be remembered by river men of to-day as one of the handsomest and most popular clerks on the river. Young Henley became terribly smitten with the charms of Miss Hamilton, then a beautiful and vivacious young girl of 19 summers. The attraction was mutual, and it seemed to be a case of love at first sight with them both.

Before the boat had reached the young lady’s destination, Mr. Henley had engaged himself to marry the young lady, and the wedding was set for the following May. The first year of their wedding life was one of extreme happiness, the young bride continuing to reside with her aunt in Huntington, and making frequent round trips on the boat with her husband.

In the second year of their marriage, Mrs. Henley persuaded her husband to leave the river and open out a grocery store in Huntington. All went well for about a year, when Mr. Henley, who had acquired the habit of strong drink, indulged to such an extent that liquor became his master. As

THE HABIT GREW

Upon him he became cross and overbearing in his manner toward his wife, and frequent domestic quarrels were the result.

One day he indulged in an unusually violent quarrel with his wife, and in a fit of rage said he would leave the house and never return. He was as good as his word, and that night sold his store for a mere song and took passage on a down steamer for Cincinnati. From there he soon departed for the West. The heart-broken young wife, with the care of a bright, little baby boy, was left almost penniless by the deserting husband, and, to make matters worse, her aunt had died but a few months previous. She would not go to her husband’s people, as they had been opposed to their son’s marriage. Neither would she write to them. Instead she decided to go to an uncle, a Mr. Jackson, who was a prosperous farmer, living a few miles back of Covington, and who gave his niece and her babe a generous welcome.

With this kind relative Mrs. Henley and her little boy took up their permanent abode, and when Mr. Jackson, in 1882, sold his Kenton County farm and purchased 200 acres of fine land about 20 miles south of this place she came with him to the new home. In the meantime the deserted wife had never heard a word from or about her husband, and did not even know whether he was still living.

Six years ago the son, Charley T. Henley, then a bright and industrious young man of 22, and who had just received a business education at the Smith College, at Lexington, went to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was given a position in the real estate office a married son of Mr. Jackson, who had located in that city some 15 years ago. Now comes the strangest and most

ROMANTIC PART OF THE STORY.

And which reads more like fiction than an actual occurrence in real life.

Last January Mrs. Henley went to Chattanooga on a visit to her son. About a week after her arrival there, she was sitting in the office one afternoon chatting with her son and Mr. Jackson, when in stepped a well-dressed and portly gentleman with the air of an all-round business man. The stranger gave only a hurried glance at the lady present and introduced himself to Mr. Jackson as W. P. Henley, real estate agent, Nashville, Tenn.

It afterward developed that he had called to consult Mr. Jackson in regard to some Chattanooga property. At the sound of the gentleman’s name, Mrs. Henley, who had been keenly eyeing the visitor, gave a scream and fell to the floor in a dead faint. All three gentlemen went to her assistance, and the long absent husband, for such he proved to be, immediately recognized his wife and also his son, now that the mist was clearing away, as young Henley bore a striking resemblance to his father.

By the administering of proper restoratives Mr. Henley was soon brought to a state of consciousness, and then the husband, who appeared overjoyed at the strange and unexpected meeting, stated that the one hope of his life in recent years was now realized. He then told the

STORY OF HIS WANDERINGS

Since his desertion of his wife in Huntington. After sobering up in Cincinnati and coming to his senses he regretted what he had done, but his money was about all gone and he was ashamed to go back to Huntington.

On a sudden impulse he resolved to go out West and when he made a stake to send for his wife. At the same time he made a solemn pledge to himself never to drink another drop of liquor, and that pledge he had faithfully kept. He made money rapidly out West, and was soon in a splendid shape financially. And yet he could never hear anything from or about his wife and child.

He wrote to friends in Huntington, and they could only reply that she had left that city, but did not know where she had gone. He had drifted to the booming city of Wichita on the top wave of excitement, and by judicious investments and timely sales made quite a fortune in real estate. He had moved to Nashville three years ago and entered the real estate business, and in the meantime hand almost given up all hope of ever finding any trace of his wife and child. A complete reconciliation took place between the long separated husband and wife, and they are now living happily together in Nashville. Mr. Henley has taken in a partner in the real estate business and the firm name now reads Walter P. Henley & Son. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 17 March 1894: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil is too censorious but anyone clever enough to make a fortune by judicious investments and timely sales, ought to have had the wit to hire a Pinkerton operative with some of that fortune to locate his wife and child, who, for aught he knew, were dead in a ditch somewhere.

One wonders if this was a species of “urban legend” common in the papers of the past. Here is another, similar story of a happy, improbable coincidence, albeit with a shipwreck, rather than liquor, as the agent of separation

A late issue of the Vallejo (Cal.) Chronicle says: ‘One of those strange episodes in human life which makes us sometimes wonder at “the eternal fitness of things.” occurred last night at the Vallejo junction. The tide being low on the arrival of the Contra Costa passengers for Vallejo were compelled to make quite a descent from the wharf to the boat, and the ladies required the assistance of the gentlemen present. A Mr. G., a grain speculator, was doing the agreeable in this respect, and one of the last ladies to descend was overburdened with a few bundles, which he took charge of, and accompanied the lady to the cabin, where they sat and engaged in conversation. The subject finally touched upon the nativity of each, when it was found they were both from the same town in Kentucky. This fact made each more communicative, when he inquired her name, which was given as Mrs. G. Immediately the gentleman grew pale and excited, and asked:

“You had a daughter, did you not?”

“I did “she responded. “Pray, how did you know that?”

“Is that daughter living?”

“She is, and at present on a visit to friends at Vallejo, where I am now going.”

“Merciful heavens!” he gasped. “My child!”

“Sir,” said the lady, rising; “what do you mean?”

“Mean?” he crazily replied. “Mean? Why, I mean that that daughter is my own child and you are my wife!”

Almost overpowered at this confession she plied him with questions, to every it one of which he returned a correct answer, when she was convinced that the man was really her husband, from whom she had been separated twenty years. It seems the twain were married at Paris, Ky., in 1858, and thirteen months afterward he went to Liverpool on business. The vessel on which he took passage was wrecked, and all on board were supposed to have perished.

The news coming to the young wife’s ears, she was utterly prostrated and was ordered to California by her physicians. Arriving here she took up her residence in Los Angeles. The husband was picked up from the wreck by a fishing smack and taken to some remote foreign port, where he was thrown upon a bed of sickness, which lasted some fifteen months. In the meantime he had written repeatedly to his wife, but received no answer. In his despair he concluded to risk a journey across the Atlantic. Feeble as he was he shipped before the mast on a sailing vessel, and in due time arrived in New York. From there he wrote three times to his wife, but received no answer.

Almost frenzied at the thought that she might be dead, and being without funds and no friends, he “faced” his fare clear to Kentucky, and shortly after arrived at Paris. Inquiries throughout the town assured him that his wife had disappeared a year or so before, no one knew whither. Some said she had gone in search of her husband, others that she might be dead, and others that she had gone to California. He sought the old family physician, but he had left the town some time before. Mr. G. then went to work at Louisville and made enough to bring him to California a year after his arrival in Kentucky. He searched everywhere for his absent wife, but without success, and finally gave her up as dead, and she also had mourned for his death. Neither, however, had married again, and last evening on board the Contra Costa was the first intimation either had that the other was in existence.

The now happy couple arrived here last night, and to the surprise of the friends of the lady she introduced her husband, from whom she had been separated twenty years. But imagine his unutterable surprise and joy when the mother led into the parlor a beautiful young lady, his own daughter, whom he had not seen since she was a babe. Father, mother and child will leave tomorrow for San Francisco, where Mr. G., who is now a comparatively wealthy man, has his business, and where they will hereafter reside.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 4 February 1880: p. 1

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

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

 

A Ghost’s Whispered Story: 1870s

Niagara Falls, 1890

Was It a Dream?

A GHOST’S WHISPERED STORY.

They told me that the house was haunted. Nothing had been seen in the shape of an apparition by those who resided there; there was no terrific disturbance, no bright and mysterious light, but there was a general belief that the house was haunted. The ghost was a well-behaved ghost, and modest. On inquiring of one who had slept there, I learned that he had heard nothing except a confused murmur, a sound of low, indistinct speech, as of some one trying to speak while suffering under aphony. It was a laborious whisper, of which a word now and then was audible. I asked him what were the words, and he told me that two he remembered—”falls” and “boat”—but no others. The only thing remarkable about that was that others who had slept there had heard the same words. That gave me, I was quite sure, a key to the matter, and I smiled. I concluded the purchase of the house that very day. It was cheap enough. Nobody would live in it, and it was rotting through disuse. The owner, who needed ready cash, was glad to get rid of his profitless property. The house itself was a comfortable mansion, that cost 10,000 dollars to build, and the ground, rather more than three acre, had been handsomely laid out in trees and shrubbery, though now overgrown with brambles. The architect assured me that 1800 would put the house and grounds in order, and add modern conveniences. So I bought it for 2000 down, and had the necessary repairs made, their cost overrunning the estimate nearly 200 dollars. So that for 4000 dollars I obtained a handsome and convenient dwelling on the banks of a noble river, with the tiny demesne sloping to the south-west, having picturesque views on either hand, and in a good neighbourhood. The night before my family were to remove to it I took up my lodging in the house alone, having had a pallet laid down in the library.

I suppose the stories I had heard, though I had laughed at them, made their impression on my mind. Such things always do, in spite of reason. A vague feeling of easiness fills us m the presence of mystery even though our curiosity or our pride gets the better of our terror, and we probe the thing to the bottom, or try to. That may account for my restlessness, for I was restless and wakeful. I had been busy all day, in arranging furniture, and in directing the men at work on the grounds, in the latter case handling the spade and mattock myself quite often, and was thoroughly tired. Yet 1 could not sleep. It was 10 o’clock when I turned down the light so that it gave only a faint glimmer, and lay down. Eleven o’clock came, and 12, and I still tossed on my couch with open eyes. When the echo of the last stroke of the bell of the church in the neighbouring town of B__ died away, I felt there was some thing or some one in the room. I sprang up, turned the light on full, and grasped the loaded revolver which lay on the library table. There was no one there certainlv that I could see, and the door was locked, I and I laughed at my alarm. The next moment, as I threw myself in the great arm chair, I felt there was some one close to me. Just then there was a low and labored whisper at my right ear. The words distinct, though faintly uttered:

“Let me tell you my story,”

I sprang up and looked around. Nothing there. It appeared to be imagination, and yet I felt terror. Was I awake? I was, undoubtedly. The whisper came again:

“You must listen.”

I felt that to be true. The thin, icy, forced whisper held me by a spell. I could not have moved had flames burst out around me. Body and mind seemed stricken with palsy, I could hear, but nothing more. Then the whisper returned, and I can remember all that followed, word for word, and can write it out, again and again without varying a word or a letter.

“It was three miles above the cataract. As I stood upon, the river bank I could see, even at that point, with what swiftness the Niagara was hurrying toward the fatal plunge. There was a skiff tied to a root on the bank, and as it afforded me a seat, I stepped in and sat down in the stern sheets. There I played with my hands in the stream and listened to the distant incessant roar of the boiling waters. As I sat there I thought of my young wife hundreds of miles away, whom I had left a few days before to attend to some business in Canada, and whom I was to rejoin the next day, having taken this point on my way homeward. I sat there with my eyes half closed, and then, throwing myself backward, was lulled to sleep by the monotonous noise. How long I slept I do not know, but a piercing shriek, rising above the dull roar of the falls, awakened me. I looked round. The boat had broken loose, and I was far out in the stream, all drifting rapidly toward the falls. I sprang up to seize the oars and pull to shore. There were no oars in the boat.

“I glanced toward the shore. It seemed the bank was lined with men, women, and, children, who may have called to me, but I could hear nothing. My first impulse was to leap overboard, but then I could not swim.

“A man on the bank threw a lasso. I waited the coming of the loop, and reached my hand towards it, but it fell short. It was drawn in, and the man, running swiftly to a point further down, tried again. He apparently cast it with greater force, but it fell further off than before. I was being drawn nearer to the centre of the horse-shoe. “And now there came the lethargy of despair. I sat there without hope and without fear. My doom was inevitable. The motion of the boat grew faster and faster; the distant banks whirled past me, and then my spirit rose in a kind of ecstasy. I gave a sharp glance around me and laughed. As the boat struck the edge of the abyss and rose for the final plunge I caught sight of a dense mist; I heard above the roar the rush of a thousand wings; I felt as though I had been struck with a numbing blow, and breath and consciousness left me together.

“It seemed to be a dream, for when I recovered I found I was here in my own house. Yonder sat my wife, clad in black, her head buried in her hands. Yes! it seemed a dream, for though I tried to speak to her, my lips made no sounds and I heard nothing. I touched her, but she did not heed it. I looked around the room, bewildered.

“It was this library. There on a long table, which did not belong here, lay some- thing like a human form, covered by a sheet. What was it doing here? Whose body lay here? A new and more unspeakable terror seized me. I would like to have cried out. I could not. I was dumb.

“My wife arose and went to the table. ‘Now,’ I said to myself, ‘I shall know all.’ She raised the cover from her head, and, stooping down, kissed the face of the corpse. Could it be that my father-in-law, Colonel Barnesleigh, had died while I was away! I did not walk, but I was moved by some unseen power until I stood by my wife and over the dead body and looked down. I knew it all then. I recognised the cold, lifeless face. It was my own….”

Then the whisper ceased, and I fell in a deep sleep in the chair. It was daylight when I awoke. I looked around. Had I dreamed it all? On the table was the fragment of a newspaper. Picking it up, my glance caught the name of a former owner of the house, and I read as follows:

Melancholy Casualty.—A terrible event occurred on Friday last, Robert Grant of this village, on his return from Toronto, where he had been on business, stopped at Niagara. He took a walk above the falls after breakfast. He must have got in a boat and lost or broken the oars— though it is said no oars were in the boat at all. He was seen afloat by a large crowd of people just above the fall. Every attempt was made to rescue him, but unsuccessfully, and he was carried to death. His body was recovered on Sunday, and is now on its way here. He leaves a widow.

I had certainly seen never seen that paragraph before. I am quite sure of that. From that time out there had been no noises in the house, except such as could be easily explained, and the whispered voice never came again. Yet, if it were no dream, or no imaginary whisper, why should me ghost have told his story to me, and why should he tell it at all?

Thomas Dunn English.

Auckland [NZ] Star, 22 March 1879: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One does not expect impeccable logic in a ghost story, but to be perfectly frank, Mrs Daffodil has several objections to this sensational tale. One is that the narrator could easily have read or sub-consciously absorbed the contents of the newspaper fragment so conveniently situated on the table, thus generating a vivid and ghostly dream. Second, what sort of imbecile gets into a boat above the great Niagara cataract and, without noticing if the boat is securely moored or if there are oars, falls asleep, knowing that he cannot swim?

Perhaps this is only what might have been expected from Mr English, who was the author “Ben Bolt,” one of the hoariest chestnuts of the drawing-room recitation oeuvre and of such works as Walter Woolfe, or the Doom of the Drinker, a Temperance novel. (Mrs Daffodil shudders even to hint at the existence of such a literary genre.) The author also quarreled with Mr Edgar Allan Poe, who said that English was “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature”.

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.