Category Archives: Wonders and Curiosities

Fairy Flowers: 1903

The May Fairy Cecily Barker

The May Fairy, Cicely Mary Barker

Fairy Flowers

Those who had to pass at night through lonely places, such as woods and moors, in the olden time, used to be on the lookout lest they should come upon the fairy folk, or be surprised by them. People regarded these imaginary creatures—who were also called “pixies,” and other names—with some curiosity, and a little fear, too. Indeed, they spoke of them as the “good folk,” though they did not think them always good, but supposed they had rather a liking for doing mischief.

One of the funny things about the fairies was the sudden way in which they appeared or vanished from view, and another was that they could make themselves quite tiny if so inclined— small enough to hide within the bell of a cowslip. To sip the dew of morning or evening was a pleasant refreshment to them, and their fondness for dancing was shown by the fairy rings to be seen in meadows or parks. These rings, however, can be easily explained. They are caused by a peculiar fungus which we in circles after moist weather. No wonder is it that some woodland and wayside flowers came to be linked with the fairies, because they were supposed to haunt these.

People seem never tired of discussing what the name ‘foxglove’ means, for while many think this showy flower of the glades was really so called from some connection between it and the fox, a larger number declare it was the ‘folk’s glove,’ since the bells were thought to serve as a hiding-place for the fays or fairies. Some say the flowers were used by these little creatures as caps, gloves, or as petticoats, perhaps, when they were very small.

According to one old author, the fine films spun by the gossamer spider made mantles for the chiefs among them. The delicate flower of the wood-sorrel is known in Wales as the fairy-bell, from a belief that these beings were called to their nightly gambols by a sound which its petals gave.

In Brittany, also in parts of Ireland, the hawthorn, or May-bush, is called the fairy thorn, and fairies are said to hold meetings under the old and twisted bushes to be seen about some moorlands. Fairies were thought to avoid places in which yellow flowers abounded. White ones attracted them, such as the common stitchwort of our hedgerows and the frail wood anemone, touched with a pinkish tint, which soon loses its blossoms when the rough winds of spring are blowing. Even yet there are boys in Devonshire who will not gather the stitchwort, lest, as a result, they should be ‘pixy-led,’ and in the Isle of Man the St. John’s Wort is held to be sacred to fairies, so the traveller is careful to avoid stepping upon the plant.

Young elves, the Norwegians said, are fond of sheltering themselves under the rosemary or the wild thyme. Likely enough, sometimes when the little brown lizard happened to be seen gliding amid the tufts of heather, people thought that it was a fairy, for it was supposed that they did not always appear in their favourite colour of bright green, but now and then dressed in dark grey or brown. The plants oddly called toadstools have had also the name of ‘pixy-stools,’ or, about North Wales, that of ‘fairy tables.’ That common hedgerow plant, the mallow, which has showy purplish flowers, shows in autumn small round fruits, to which the name of fairy cheeses has been given. But the fairies did not always sport about wild or shady spots. Our ancestors thought that parties of them visited gardens, and played at hide-and-seek amongst the tulips.

J. R.S. C.

Chatterbox, J. Erskine Clarke, M.A., editor, 1903: p. 211

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show is drawing to a close. Mrs Daffodil has read about a horticultural trend called “fairy gardens,” where tiny fairy residences and garden accessories are added to wee landscapes. Mrs Daffodil wonders if, like “hummingbird” or “butterfly” gardens, with their carefully chosen, nectar-rich plantings, “fairy gardens” are designed to attract the fae creatures? Perhaps the hints above will suggest plants to include and avoid. And, if any of Mrs Daffodil’s readers’ fairy gardens do entice any of The Gentry to take up residence, Mrs Daffodil suggests installing a “trail cam” to capture the evidence. The Fairy Investigation Society would be most interested. 

 

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.

 

Advertisements

The Mechanical Puppy: 1911

 

new fad mechanical puppy

The New Mechanical Puppy

A toy dog that literally walks when one gently tugs on its leash is the fashionable fad among American maids and matrons just now. Several of these fascinating little bow-wows have made their appearance at Atlantic City and other seaside resorts, where they may be seen toddling by the side of their mistresses in absurdly amusing fashion.

The fad is of European origin, and has caught on as amazingly in the Continent as it promises to do here.

Some male critics are likely to aver that the mechanical puppy is an improvement over that of flesh and blood for a whole lot of reasons. The question now is, whether the axiom, “Love me, love my dog,” stands as good with the wheels and springs canine as it did with the one of bone and muscle.

Lexington [KY] Herald 8 July 1911: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is again one of those whimsical holidays when Staff does not get the day off:  “Puppy Day.”  One does indeed feel that it would be far easier to “Love me, love my dog,” with a clockwork creature that did not soil the carpets, jump upon the  furniture, or howl in the night.

An earlier canine automaton had not the soft fur and big, puppy eyes of the 1911 model, but was designed for more utilitarian purposes:

THE MECHANICAL DOG.

A Meriden (Connecticut) man has invented a mechanical watchdog for the protection of buildings. A small lamp illuminates the eyes, and, by a simple arrangement, the tail pumps a quantity of compressed air into a cylinder, which is concealed in the body of the animal. This air escapes slowly through the dog’s vicious-looking teeth in such a manner that when the animal is placed on the front porch and duly “touched off,” it growls all night in a most alarming manner.

A boarding-house keeper in Meriden experimented with the inventor’s working model, and “set” the automatic guardian inside her front gate at the hour “when churchyards yawn,” The next day it was discovered that out of eighteen of her boarders who had latchkeys sixteen slept at a hotel that night, except one inebriated sixth floorer, who indignantly smashed the model with a brick at about 3.30 a.m.

Otago Witness 10 July 1880: p. 27

 

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.

Martha Washington’s Preserved Pears: 1912

What is perhaps the most valuable jar of preserved pears in the world is in the possession of J. W. Mossburg, and is on exhibition at his restaurant on Pennsylvania avenue.

It Is a bushel jar. and was preserved, it is said, in 1760 by Martha Washington. Mr. Mossburg purchased the pears five years ago for 50 cents, and was not aware at the time that they had such a famous history.

He has recently learned from several men who attended the Philadelphia exposition in 1873 that they were on exhibition there, and from that fact he has traced their history back to the days of Martha Washington. They were preserved, it is believed, in 1760 in an earthen jar, and were never unsealed until they were transferred from the earthen jar to the glass one which now holds them, for the purpose of showing them at the  Philadelphia exposition.

Tracing Pear’s History.

According to John M. Boulter, of Philadelphia, who remembers seeing the pears at the exposition, they were removed to Philadelphia by Ali Benson, an old slave of the Washington’s immediately after the burning of the White House. It is said that when the slave was driving his load, he was held up by some British soldiers and forced to give up several Jars of the pears and some rare old wine. It was several days before he got the rest of his load to Philadelphia, and gave them to John C. Mailer, a friend of the Washington family, who was to keep them until the war was over.

When, at the close of the war, most of the pears were brought back to Washington, several Jars were left as a present to Mr. Mailer. At the time of the Philadelphia Centennial they were brought to light by Mrs. Eilen C. Haller, a descendant of John Haller, who showed them at the exposition.

martha washington's pears

Sold to Woman.

After the exposition was over the pears were sold to Mrs. John J. Keenan, of Baltimore. The price is said to have been $2,000. After the death of Mrs. Keenan’s husband, the pears were sold by the executors of the estate to Charles Sensencsy, of Washington, and their value seems to have been forgotten.

Mr. Mossburg considers the pears almost invaluable, and says he has refused an offer of $300 for them, and several offers of less amounts. The pears are perfectly solid, and so carefully were they preserved that even those touching the sides of the jar do not appear to have been at all flattened.

Society Wants Them.

Judge Charles S. Bundy. a prominent member of the Oldest Inhabitants Association of the District of Columbia, will Introduce a resolution at the next meeting of that organization, requesting that it take some action toward securing the jar of pears. Judge Bundy believes that such a valuable relic should not be owned privately, but should either be brought back to Mt. Vernon or put into the hands of some patriotic organization.

“These pears, preserved by Martha Washington In 1760, are In my opinion, one of the most valuable relics in the country,” declared Judge Bundy yesterday, “imagine having in our possession, in these modern days, a sample of the cookery of Martha Washington nearly 152 years old! Every precaution should be taken to safeguard the relic, and I for one am strongly In favor of having the pears taken over by some patriotic organization or cared for by the Government.”

Mr. Mossberg recognizes the propriety of having the fruit in possession of some patriotic organization, but at the same time felt that it was not an impropriety for him to retain possession of them as long as he allowed the public to view It freely.

Mossburg’s Position.

“You can readily appreciate my position In this matter,” he said yesterday. “The pears are, so far as I know, the only surviving examples of the cookery of Mrs., Washington. For that reason I am not over willing for them to leave my possession. Of course, if some responsible public organization would take them over, and guarantee that they would not get Into private ownership again, it is possible that 1 would part with them, if they are to remain in private ownership, I, above all people am entitled to keep them.”

A letter has been received from the regents of Mt. Vernon, asking that they be allowed to Investigate the authenticity of the history of the pears. Mr. Mossburg answered the letter, stating that he was exerting every effort to procure all documents necessary to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt the verity of his relic. The pears are of the Bartlett variety, and were grown. it is believed, in the orchards of Mt. Vernon.

While the recipe used by Mrs. Washington for preserving this particular jar of pears is not positively known, there seems to be no reason for supposing it was not the same as that now In the possession of Mrs. Arvllla McDonough, of 1401 Massachusetts avenue. This recipe, in the language in which it was originally written. is as follows:

“Ye pears shoulde be very freshe. Washe and put yhem into bollng lye for on minute. Remove and put yhem Into cold water. Nexte put ye fruit into a prepared sirupe of sugar and water. Use an half pound of sugar for everie pound of ye fruit; water to dissolve. Now cook for on quarter of an hour. Remove and put on plates to cool. Boyle sirupe down to one-half  its original quantitie. Put sirupe and pears into jars and add brandy. Seal while hote.”

“If Martha Washington were alive today and attempted to use her recipe for preserving pears, she would get in trouble with the pure food experts,” said Dr. Harvey W. Wiley when discussing the recipe supposed to have belonged to Mrs. Washington, now in the possession of Mrs. Arvllla McDonough, of 1401 Massachusetts avenue northwest.

“The recipe would have been all right,” continued the expert. “It would have been excellent if she had left out the part about boiling them in lye. That is plainly in violation of the pure food laws and there was a possibility of the poison getting into the pears if the skins were not promptly removed after immersion.

“The pears now in the possession of Mr. Mossburg are, I should say, not dangerous, even if Mr. Mossburg cared to eat them, which I understand he does not. The immersion in brandy for so many years has probably purified them even if they did originally become poisoned.”

The Washington [DC] Times 11 September 1912: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Happily, in time for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers in the States who celebrate Presidents Day, there has been quite a stir about the newly discovered Washington pears, said to have been “put up,” by Martha Washington herself.

From the time of the United States Centennial in 1876, the public was fascinated with the Revolutionary period and with relics of the early days of the United States. Martha Washington, in particular, was an object of reverence, as the Mother of Her Country. Exhibitions and reports on garments, weapons, locks of hair, and jewellery worn or owned by the Washington family filled the newspapers. There was also something of a “colonial revival” in dress, which had the disastrous result that many genuine 18th-century garments were altered for fancy dress, pageants, or “Lady Washington teas.”  (Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a disastrous attempt to organise such an entertainment, as well as a young lady who deceived the Concord Ball with a “genuine” 18th-century gown aged with the assistance of coffee and camphor.)

As for the “verity” of the Washington pears, Mrs Daffodil cannot find any independent evidence that the famous pears were any more than a canny marketing device on the part of Mr. Mossburg, the owner of the Cafe Florentine.

Mrs Daffodil has just been quietly taken aside by a kindly friend who points out that the recent thrilling discovery was actually of General Washington’s hairsfound by Archivist John Meyers in an ancient book at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Mrs Daffodil, who, distinctly heard “pears,” regrets the error.

Here is Susan Holloway Scott, author of I, Eliza Hamilton, on the fascinating “back story” of the Washington hair.

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 Talking Dog: 1891

gypsy the talking dog

THE TALKING DOG

A Paris Saloon-Keeper Taken In

Too Much Faith and Cupidity.

A queer case came before a Paris police court the other day, in which a saloon-keeper named Latrouche appeared as complaining against a traveling showman called Pivot, whom he charged with swindling him out of 400 francs under somewhat strange circumstances. In the first portion of his long statement to the presiding judge, Latrouche insisted that the prisoner’s dog could talk. But the story is best told in the following stenographic report of the proceedings.

The President (to the complainant) “Well, I must say that you have a robust faith.”

The Complainant Latrouche—”But, Mr. President, the people who were in my place at the time also believed—that the prisoner’s dog talked just like a human being.”

“Well, what did he say?”

“The accused, Mr. Pivot, came into my establishment with his dog, a little brindle. Well, he sat down at a table, and the dog jumped up on a stool and squatted himself beside his master. I approached the man asked him what he wished to have. He replied, ‘a bock;’ and right then a queer voice added, ‘and a piece of veal for me!’ I was astounded, and looked about to find out where that voice came from. Pivot said, ‘Don’t be frightened, it is only my dog.’ ‘What!’ said I; your dog can talk?’ ‘Yes,’ replied Pivot, ‘I taught him to talk!’ Well you can imagine my astonishment, and, thinking that the fellow was fooling me, I said, ‘Make him speak again.’ Then Pivot said: ‘Ask him what he wants.’ Then I, not believing the thing possible, but just to see, said to the dog, “Well, old fellow, what will you have?’

‘I told you I wanted a piece of veal!’ said the dog. My wife, my children, my waiter, and all the customers exclaimed in wonder: ‘Gracious, he talks! As for me, I remained nailed to the floor, motionless as an ecce homo, until the accused remarked: ‘Well, well, why don’t you serve use?’ I got the bock and the piece of veal. I gave the beer to the individual and the meat to the dog.

“Then my wife brought me into a corner; my young ones came and my waiter also came. ‘You must buy that dog,’ said she, ‘and put up a sign, Au chien qui parle! Crowds will come and we will make a heap of money!’ My youngsters also said: ‘Oh, yes, papa, buy him!’ And my waiter remarked: ‘That is going to put an awful amount of work upon me, with all the people that will come.’

“Well, finally you bought him?’

“Yes, sir, 400 francs; but immediately after paying down my money the dog said to his master: ‘So that is what you are doing! Selling me, eh! Very well, I won’t speak another word.’

“And he didn’t speak after his master went away.”

“Not a word, not a syllable, nothing; and in the evening everybody was laughing at me. They told me that the dog’s master must have been a ventriloquist. Then I became furious at being swindled. I went to the commissary of police and told the whole story. He nearly split his sides laughing. Eight days afterward I found the thief at the Montmartre fair, where he was performing as a juggler.”

The President (to the prisoner)—”You are a ventriloquist?”

The Prisoner—”Yes, sir.”

“And you swindled the plaintiff by making him believe that your dog could talk?”

“It was he who tormented me to sell the dog. I didn’t want to sell him, because I made my living with him. Then the plaintiff said to me: ‘I’ll give you 200 francs.’ I refused. ‘Three hundred!’ said he. Then I began to say to myself that I might get another dog. The plaintiff said finally: ‘Come, I’ll give you 400 francs, with the bock and the piece of meat thrown in.’ Well, then I accepted.

“And what became of the dog?”

“Oh, he found me out again; but the gentleman can have him if he wishes.”

Latrouche—”Thank you, I don’t want your dog that can’t talk!”

The President (to plaintiff) “So it turns out that it was you that pressed the prisoner to take your money.”

Latrouche—”Because my wife told me that with the sign ‘The Talking Dog’ I would make a heap of gold as big as myself.”

The prisoner was discharged.

The Evansville [IN] Courier 21 June 1891: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A gallant gentleman, indeed, to blame the wife for his avarice and credulity!  One suspects that the aptly-named M. Pivot was not quite as reluctant to part with the animal as he testified; there are other records of mountebanks training their talented animals to find their masters after sale. The dog rebuking his master for selling him with silence was the perfect touch.

For genuinely talented dogs, please see Caesar, Jack, and Paddington Tim–dogs who collected at rail-way stations for charity, A Clever Dog Drives a Bargain, and The Dog- Caddie.

One of the footmen, who has a somewhat juvenile sense of humour, told Mrs Daffodil of an amusing “Looney-toons cartoon” about a singing frog.  He saw similarities to the story above, except there is no dog and no ventriloquist. Mrs Daffodil will let her readers decide if the comparison is apt.

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 Stuffed Cat-skin: 1860s

A Stuffed Cat-skin.

An eccentric and parsimonious old lady, who died in a small village in the State of Maine, some twenty years ago, always kept a half dozen cats about the house. She was a dried-up-looking old crone, and some ill-minded people had gone so far as to call her a witch, doubtless because of her oddities and her cats, “black, white, and brindled.” When one of these delightful night-prowlers departed this life, the old lady would have the skin of the animal stuffed, to adorn her mantel shelf. My informant said he had once seen them with his own eyes, arranged along on the shelf, some half score of them, looking as demure and comfortable as a stuffed cat could, while the old woman sat by the fireplace, crooning over her knitting work.

The woman paid no bills that she could avoid, always pleading poverty as her excuse for the non-fulfilment of her responsibilities.

One dark and stormy night she was taken very sick, and by a preconcerted signal to a neighbor, — the placing of a light in a certain window, — help was summoned, including the village doctor, to whom she owed a fee for each visit he had ever made her. But this was fated to be the doctor’s last call to that patient.

“O, doctor, then I am dying at last — am I?”

The physician assured her such was the case.

“Then, doctor, I must tell you that you’ve been very patient with me, and have hastened day or night to see me, in my whims, as well as my real sickness, and you shall be rewarded. I have no money, but you see all my treasures arranged along on the mantel-piece there?”

“What!” exclaimed the doctor ; “you don’t call those cats treasures, I hope!”

“Yes, they are my only treasures, doctor. Now, I want to be just to you, above all others, because you’ve not only served me as I said, but you’ve often sent me wood and provisions during the cold winters —”

Here she became too feeble to go on, and the doctor revived her with some cordial from his saddle-bags, when she took breath, and continued, —

“See them, doctor; eleven of them. Which will you choose?” The doctor, with as much grace as possible, declined selecting any one of the useless stuffed skins; when the old lady, by much effort, raised her head from the pillow, and said, “Well, I will select for you. Take the black one —take — the black — cat — doctor!” and died.

Her dying words so impressed him, that he took the cat home, and, on opening her, — for it was very heavy, — he found that the skin contained nearly a hundred dollars, in gold.

The Funny Side of Physic: 1880: p. 400-2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A macabre case of a black cat being lucky!

Recently Mrs Daffodil posted a story by Mr Oscar Wilde on the theme of deceptive appearances, The Model Millionaire. The nineteenth century press was found of stories about immensely wealthy misers who went about in rags and the eccentric places they hid their treasures, such as the following:

“ Peg-leg” Dan used to be a familiar figure on Clark Street, in Chicago. He sold pencils and chewing-gum from a little tray that swung from his neck, and the thump of his peg-leg helped to wear away the sidewalk from daylight to night-time. Then, one day they picked up what was left of Dan, and tried to patch it together on the operating-table at the hospital.

“Just look out for my peg,” he’d say anxiously; and to please him, the old wooden leg was stood up beside his cot where he could look at it.

“I’m going to will you that, nurse,” he told the white-capped girl who soothed his last hours, and she smiled back, and told him he’d need it himself.

“No, I won’t, and I ain’t joking, either.“ he said earnestly. ” Don’t you forget what I say. You can have that peg-leg as soon as they’ve finished with me, ’cause you‘ve been good to me. understand. nurse? Don’t you forget.”

She did not forget. She took the old. battered wooden leg as a memento of the kind-faced, brave old cripple. And. on closer examination, the leg was found to be hollow. and jammed with bills of high denomination. making it as valuable as was ever the “precious leg of Miss Kilmansegg.”** Something over fifteen thousand it yielded as “ Peg-leg” Dan’s treasure-trove. left to the nurse who was kind to him. And she didn’t forget.

**A reference to “Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg,” a poem about a solid gold artificial limb by Thomas Hood.

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.

 

Richard Snowflake, Esq.: late 1880s

Five Pounds of Intelligence.

Charles Dawbarn

Richard Snowflake, Esq., was his name, but he graciously allowed his particular friends to call him “Dick.” Only eighty ounces of French poodle, counting flesh, bones, and early white hair; but then, it was all permeated with an intelligence that counted by the ton on the scales of heaven.

Civilization demands of man that he become a specialist. He must walk in a narrow groove all day, even though he put on a dress-coat when evening comes and pretend to be just like his fellows. Nature laid the same command upon Richard Snowflake. He looked like a poodle, barked like a poodle, and perhaps bit like a poodle, but he had hobby. He was a specialist, and in his own line acquired a distinction and achieved success possible, only, to a dog born under very peculiar planetary influences.

The stars had marked him as their favorite seven months before my friend made his acquaintance in the city of Detroit. But the mark was small at that time for he only weighed two pounds; one dollar and fifty cents was his price—seventy-five cents a pound for the poodle, with the intelligence thrown in. Mortals are short-sighted, but the angels wept with joy. Richard’s life-work demonstrated a wider field than the broad avenues of Detroit. In fact his destiny amongst his fellows was to become a Cyrus B. Field, a Jay Gould and a Russell Sage, all rolled into one little dog of the French poodle variety. He was born with a faculty for accumulating wealth, but unlike Jay Gould he could not begin with a patent mouse trap. A mouse was too small game for Richard Snowflake, Esq. He was far too honorable to use water to increase his capital, indeed his friends say he grew up from two pounds to five almost entirely upon milk.

The first evidence of special talent was given by Richard a few months after his change of ownership. He was in a carriage sitting quietly in the lap of his mistress whose husband was driving, when suddenly he insisted on getting out. It was the work only of a moment to run to the side of the road and return with an envelope containing two ten-dollar bills. Of course he was praised and petted for his financial ability. In a week or two he found more money, and at intervals of weeks or months continued his collections. His mistress kept an account of his earnings for the two years of his short life, including the value of a diamond ring which he fished out of the drains of a long deserted home, and she assured me the total amount was over three hundred dollars.

One day a boy—an evil-minded, wicked boy—pointed his toy pistol at poor Richard. In a glass case on the parlor table now reposes the martyred Snowflake. As the lady was telling me the history, we were looking at the little hero who lay there with glass eyes and a curly tail, and the cruel bullet was under his fore paw. The husband was in the front room and confirmed the story, as he said he had been present at several of the collections taken up by Richard for the benefit of the family.

So far, the Seybert commission will of course talk learnedly about the attraction of cohesion, and show us how Kellar, the magician, can do the same if any body can be found who will lend him a couple hundred dollars and an old diamond ring. But there was a postscript which carries the mystery a step further into the field of Spiritualism where the Journal fights its battles of today.

Just a week after Richard Snowflake, Esq. had ceased to snap at flies, and had gone to the paradise where it is believed fleas are refused admittance, his mistress felt him in her arms as she was walking in the street. Being clairvoyant and clairaudient she says she saw him and heard his cheerful little bark of greeting. Suddenly be jumped down and ran across the street. She followed till he stopped with his paw on a crumpled-up ten-dollar-bill. It was his contribution to the funeral expenses. He never appeared again, and if ten dollar bills are still lying around loose or flattering in the air, they are now doubtless gathered by dogs of another breed.

The reader might ask if I believe the story.

I have testified that I stood by the glass case containing the dead dog and the fatal bullet while listening to the wonderful narrative. There, too, was the cash account kept by the day, all ready to be added up by the skillful accountant. The ten dollar bills were the only missing links in this wonderful biography. The magician was dead.

But the dog-ghost, and that last ten dollar bill? Yes, I heard all that too. I saw neither the ghost nor the bills. The reader and the editor have exhausted my testimony, save that I remember the lady said the dog seemed half asleep and refused to eat for some hours before each find, and that she was conscious of influences at such times although they never assumed human form or personality. So the mediumship of life below man might be an interesting theme for discussion.

San Leandro, Cal.

Religio-Philosophical Journal 4 January 1890

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a very curious story! One has certainly heard of intelligent dogs doing clever things, such as the French dog who traded game birds for bread and the dogs who collect for charity at railway stations. But a dog with a nose for treasure is a very rare breed, indeed. How agreeable it would be to have a pet like Richard Snowflake to collect ten-pound notes or valuable jewellery whenever he left the house. Certainly it would make a nice change from the little offerings Snuff, the Hall mouser, lays on the hearth rug.

To be Relentlessly Informative, Mrs Daffodil was puzzled by the reference to water and milk, but apparently it refers to “watering one’s stock,” an ethically dubious practice of the Robber Baron class.  Kellar is Harry Kellar, an eminent American conjurer. The Seybert Commission studied psychic phenomena and Spiritualism. It was not unusual for Victorian pet owners to stuff their defunct pets and display them under glass. There is even a famous ghost legend about a dog in a glass case from the Isle of Wight.

 

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.

 

Pigeons of Doom: 1700

 

Doves in a funeral flower arrangement, 1885

Both doves and pigeons are constantly associated in the popular mind with death. Every reader of Westward Ho! will remember the white dove which was the habitual death-token of the Oxenham family.

We have in Shropshire a less poetical record of a similar death-warning, which, however, seems to have been attached not so much to a particular family as to a particular house. The narrative shall be given verbatim from the pages of the old writer who has preserved it for us.

‘Beecause many maryages of persons in this parish of Myddle have beene made with persons of Cayhowell, I will say something of that farme. . . . There is a wounderfull thing observable concerning this farme, of which I may say, in the words of Du Bartas—

Strang to bee told, and though believed of few,

Yet is not soe incredible as true.

It is observed that if the chiefe person of the family that inhabits in this farme doe fall sick, if his sicknesse bee to death, there come a paire of pidgeons to the house about a fortnight or a weeke before the person’s death, and continue there untill the person’s death, and then goe away. This I have knowne them doe three severall times. 1st. Old Mrs. Bradocke fell sicke about a quarter of a yeare after my Sister was maryed, and the paire of pidgeons came thither, which I saw. They did every night roust under the shelter of the roofe of the kitchen att the end, and did sit upon the ends of the side raisers. In the day time they fled about the gardines and yards. I have seene them pecking on the hemp butt as if they did feed, and for ought I know they did feed. They were pretty large pidgeons; the feathers on their tayles were white, and the long feathers of theire wings, their breasts, and bellyes, white, and a large white ring about theire necks ; but the tops of theire heads, their backs, and theire wings (except the long feathers,) were of a light browne or nutmeg colour. (My brother-in-law, Andrew Bradocke, told mee that hee feared his mother would die, for there came such a pair of pidgeons before his father’s death, and hee had heard they did soe beefore the death of his grandfather.) After the death of Mrs. Bradocke, the pidgeons went away. 2ndly. About three-quarters of a year after the death of Mrs. Bradocke, my father goeing to give a visit to them at Kayhowell, fell sicke there, and lay sicke about nine or ten weekes. About a fortnight beefore his death, the pidgeons came; and when hee was dead, went away. 3rdly. About a yeare after his death, my brother-in-law, Andrew Bradocke, fell sicke, the pidgeons came, and hee died; they seemed to me to bee the same pidgeons at all these three times. When I went to pay Mr. Smalman, then minister of Kynerley, the buriall fee for Andrew Bradocke, which was in April, Mr. Smalman said, this is the fiftieth Corps which I have interred here since Candlemas last, and God knows who is next, which happened to bee himselfe. Andrew Bradocke died of a sort of rambeling feavourish distemper, which raged in that country, and my sister soone after his decease fell sicke, but shee recovered, and dureing her sicknesse, the pidgeons came not, which I observed, for I went thither every day, and returned att night. Afterwards my Sister sett out [= let] her farme to John Owen, a substantiall tenant, who about three yeares after fell sicke; and my Sister comeing to Newton, told mee that shee feared her tenant would bee dead, for hee was sicke, and the pidgeons were come; and hee died then.’

From Richard Gough, Antiquityes and Memoyres of the Parish of Myddle, 1700, Ed. 1875, pp. 45-48

Shropshire folk-lore: a sheaf of gleanings, edited by Charlotte Sophia Burne, 1885: p. 227-9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On several recent mornings Mrs Daffodil has noticed the mourning doves making moan in the shrubberies. The creatures visit only intermittently and Mrs Daffodil does not know whether to take it as an omen or a directive…

Doves and pigeons are often conflated in folk-lore. One suspects that their reputation as downy death omens comes from their role as a symbol for the Holy Spirit.  In some parts of England there was a superstition that if pigeon feathers were found in the feather bed or pillow of a dying person, that person would not be able to pass on until the offending feathers were removed. See this post on “Feather Superstitions” for the particulars of death-preventing feathers.

 

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.