Tag Archives: courtship

His Christmas Gift: 1870


 We were sitting in the twilight of Christmas Eve. A long, restful silence had fallen. It was broken at last by the shouts of the children, coming down stairs and full of Christmas turbulence. Just as Morven’s wife had slipped to his side under cover of the shadows, so she now dropped his hand and slipped away before the advancing noise and light. The tie between them always reminded me of some powerful undercurrent, swift, deep, still. It had little or no surface manifestation, but if you chanced to drop into its shadowed seclusion, you felt it actually in the air about you, wave on wave, a mighty pulsation.

The jolly little scamps who called Morven Uncle burst in, following the butler, the lamp, and tea. In their midst they bore Morven’s only child, a wonderful boy of some three years, with a serene, grave, angelic face, and a mysterious look deep in his starry eyes. I never saw such eyes before. They had rings of light around the pupil; their clearness and stillness were wonderful; they were eyes that gazed upon unseen things. The baby had a gravity and a gentleness beyond his years: he looked like a baby St. John, and I used to call him— predicting, perhaps— “the young disciple.”

On this occasion he was promptly transferred to his mother’s neck, where he accomplished his customary feat of throwing out one dimpled arm like a tendril and linking his father to the group. To see the Morvens standing thus, united by that gravely radiant child, was to feel instinctively that their’s was no ordinary history, that the child was born to some unusual and high, if intangible, destiny. Even the noisy children stood, touched and adoring, at the sight, and kissed his pretty hands as he smiled down on them. This mood soon passed, and presently I heard one ask Morven who gave him the best Christmas gift he ever had.

“My best Christmas present,” he answered, “ was from myself to myself.” ‘

The children laughed, then asked what it was.

“This,” he said, raising Mrs. Morven’s hand to his lips.

“Pshaw ! I should think Aunty gave you that,” they remonstrated.

“No, she didn’t,” insisted Morven. “It came from myself to myself.”

The children scented a story and fell upon him as legitimate prey. Mrs. Morven, however, gave him a warning look and diverted their attention in her skilful way until bedtime. But my curiosity had been aroused, and, when bed had swallowed up the merry cohort, I told Morven I wanted to hear that story. He hesitated.

“Do you believe,” he said, “in the latent powers in man?”

“H — m. That depends.” “Exactly. And on your reply my telling the story, or not, depends.”

“Well, old man; your price is high. Christmas gifts generally do come high, however; so I’ll brave your probable ridicule and admit that I do believe in them, to some extent, in some men.”

“That is, that they inhere in the inner man, (grant me the inner man, for a Christmas story anyhow), and may manifest under unusual circumstances?”

“In some men, while latent in all. Precisely; you put my idea in a nut shell.”

“Well, then, you shall have the story. In the year 1870 I was a young business man of good prospects, going into the world a good deal, rather sought by it as well, and full of material life and worldly ambition. I had engaged myself to a Miss Y., a handsome girl, well born, well educated, a promising society leader, with a fortune about equal to my own, and a Father who could decidedly advance my business prospects. I had carried her away from a score of admirers, and I have heard of her saying somewhat the same thing of myself. We were satisfied with our arrangement; I preferred her to all the women of our circle; she always satisfied my pride and sometimes aroused my passion. I expected no more of any woman. So I never knew exactly why a chilly shadow seemed to fall across my mind now and then. This shade was an indefinite, lurking, irregular thing. I set it down to a touch of dyspepsia. Then I noticed that it vaguely connected itself with my engagement. The moment this fact became apparent to me, I interrogated myself, like an honest man. Had I seen any other woman who attracted me? I knew I had not. There was an ideal head, a St Cecilia, by Raphael, the engraving of which I had loved from childhood, when I manifested a peculiar fondness for it. My mother had left me the engraving in consequence; it always hung over my desk. It was the one hidden soft spot in my heart, but I knew I had never seen a woman like it. Not one gave me that soft glow, as of reminiscent tenderness, which awoke in me as I looked on that grand face. This I attributed to the genius of the painter, who has set the seal of Harmony upon its noble brows. Finding no rival but this for Miss Y., I laughed at my chimera and dismissed it to the land of shades from which it came. Or— to be exact— I tried to dismiss it. Such ghosts “will not down” at our bidding, and especially did I feel its forbidding gloom when Miss Y. granted me any of the privileges of an accepted lover. Then the shadow seemed to rise between us, chilling the touch of my lips and hand, however I might argue it away. Our engagement was only six weeks old when I called on her two days before Christmas. As I entered the parlor, a snatch of music rang from the boudoir beyond, the closing notes of some majestic theme. At the same moment the face of St Cecilia rose vividly before me, objectively floating in the air and accompanied by a peculiar crackling sound.

“I interrupted him. “I have heard that some such tense sound often accompanies a so-called psychic event.”

“Very true. But I did not stop to analyse that I attributed the thing to the music and the train of thought thus established, while Miss Y ’s entrance put a stop to all meditation. Presently I asked her who the unseen musician was.

“The children’s governess,——a distant connection. Have you never seen her?”

I hesitated, searching my memory. Miss Y seemed surprised, even a little suspicious.

“If you have not, it is odd,” she said. ‘‘And if you have, and have forgotten it, that is odder still.” She drew a large portfolio before her. “The face is a peculiar one; see!” She held up a large photograph before me.

“You are out there,” I smiled, for this is Raphael’s St Cecilia,” and I turned the photograph toward her. She laughed triumphantly.

“Just so. I’m glad you see the resemblance. It was my discovery, but no one could see it till I dressed her hair and gowned her like the original and had this photograph taken. But you’re tired. Sit down.”

She pushed a chair towards me and I dropped into it mechanically. Something extraordinary was taking place within me. I couldn’t have spoken for my life, really. My experience had no name for the feeling that took possession of me. Something coursed up and down in my veins like fiery mist. Pictures swam in and out of my brain, all of them connected with that face. I seemed to hear the roaring of cataracts. A great Past was on the point of opening before me; my mind was swallowed up in it already. As soon as I could, I took my leave, but not before Miss Y. had noticed my altered manner and responded to it by a touch of coldness in her own. As I rose, she detained me.

“You know I am not of a suspicious nature,” she said. “But several times lately I have noticed a change in you; an abstraction, a distance. I do not know whether it relates to our engagement.”

I began to protest. She stopped me proudly.

“Let me finish, please. I have no reasons, and I think you have none, to be dissatisfied with our plans. But I do not understand a woman’s giving her heart fully until after marriage, and, if before that time yours or mine should waver, it would be far better to tell the truth then.”

“I assented; praised her right feeling ; assured her of my——heaven knows what!——and got away, leaving her evidently dissatisfied. I wanted to get out of the house and think. The deuce of it was, I couldn’t think. Everything seemed at boiling point. I heard those chords, I saw that face, and hurrying phantoms, shapes of air and fire, opened the flood gates of an unknown Past that plucked at my brain, urging me to I knew not what Seriously alarmed, I hurried home, intending to send for a physician. Exhausted, I dropped into the nearest arm chair, when all at once the fierce tension relaxed, something seemed to snap inside me,— I fell back and fell asleep.

When I awoke, it was ten o’clock of the next day, and I felt like a man who has recovered from a long illness. I believed that opportune sleep had saved me from one. As I rose, a bit of paper fluttered from my knee to the floor. I did not stop to pick it up. For years I had not felt so light of heart. Tons seemed lifted off me. I whistled and sang while I dressed, — and became aware that it was those remembered chords I repeated,— and airily kissed my fingers to my St Cecilia with an “Au Revoir” as I clattered down stairs. I was not due at the Y. mansion until afternoon. All through the day’s occupations my unwonted cheerfulness did not desert me, and my partner congratulated me on having “downed that dyspepsia.” I felt a marked impatience to go to the Y’s, and finally forestalled the hour by some twenty minutes. The butler portentously stopped me as I was entering the parlor.

“Mr. Y. wishes to see you in his study, sir.”

Surprised, I accompanied the man and found Mr. Y . waiting for me. He waved my offered hand aside.

“Excuse me a moment, Mr. Morven,” he said. “Let us first understand one another.”

I stared at this singular preliminary, but replied that I was at his service. We both sat down, and he resumed.

“I am a believer in perfect frankness. My daughter received last night an anonymous communication concerning you.”

I suppose I looked the surprise I felt. His tone softened somewhat.

“Such communications are better put in the fire and forgotten. Unfortunately— or fortunately, as the event may decide— my daughter remembered certain things which seemed to confirm the statements of this note. With the good sense which always characterizes her,’’ (here I bowed my assenting admiration, while he frowned at me), “she decided to bring the note to me. In my opinion, we are justified in bringing it to your attention. You have only to deny or confirm the statements it makes. My daughter and I are agreed, Mr. Morven, that we may safely accept your word.”

I tried to thank him. “Not at all,” said he. “So much is due to ourselves. Our present relation would not exist at all, if you were not a man of honor. Permit me to read you the note.”

Taking a sheet of paper from his desk, he read as follows.

“Your lover does not love you. Ask him if this is not true. He struggles against an affection which is beyond his control. He tries to subordinate that to the worldly advantages of his previous engagement with you. But it is your cousin whom he loves, just as she loves him, although no words have passed between them. They love with a force which you will never know, in this life at least, or be able to understand. Morven tries to keep his pledge to you, but shall you hold him against his hidden desire, his secret will? If you do, your whole life will feel the blight of your action.” As Y. read this extraordinary production, I sat like one deaf and dumb. Again the air about me surged and sang, bringing vague memories on its burning tide. As Y. concluded, he looked up abruptly.

“Have you any idea who could have written the thing? It is a peculiar hand”— and he placed the note in my hands.

I looked at it, fascinated. Then I rose to my feet. The hand writing was my own. Not my ordinary hand, but one I had practiced from boyhood to write in my private diary. Every accustomed quirl of the letters was there. As I mutely glared at it I heard in the distance the harmony I knew so well. The face of St Cecilia rose again before me; the floor met the ceiling with a clap, and thoughts of surprising lucidity and swiftness swept through my brain. Only a couple of seconds passed, but I saw it all. I loved her, I had always loved her, and in my sleep my inner self, that part of me where memory of past lives was stored, had awakened and set me free. I turned to the expectant Y.

“As far as I am concerned, Sir,” I said, “I must admit the truth of this accusation. I can only say in extenuation that I did not know myself thoroughly, and that I have not addressed Miss Marie on the subject”

“That is just what she said when my daughter questioned her. It seems a remarkable coincidence of feeling to have arisen without words,” he said with pardonable bitterness. But what did his bitterness matter to me? “Coincidence?” Then she loved me! I hastened to say that in all the circumstances I should wish to see the lady first in his presence. He must have anticipated this on my part, for he opened a door, and my Darling stood before me. To feel what I then felt was to know that I had been hers from all time, that I was hers forever. That she returned this feeling, her timid step and downcast eyes told me eloquently. We found Mr. Y. coldly just. He promised to convey my profound apologies to his daughter, he suggested that I had better be a stranger to his house for some time to come, intimated that when we met again it would be with mutual respect. Then he rose to end the interview. Perhaps the look I gave him reminded him of his own youth, for he left the room. All this while my Darling sat, quivering and shamed, in her chair. I hope I made it up to her. I learned how she had seen me by stray glimpses and loved me. She supposed that I had seen her in the same way, and to this day, the one secret I have from her is in that point. I have never told her that she was known to my inner self alone. When I returned to my room that evening my eye fell upon a bit of paper on the floor. I picked it up. It was a District Telegraph receipt for a note, signed by Miss Y. Here was proof, had I needed any. But I did not. I knew that my Darling was a Christmas gift from myself to myself.”

Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Morven. I now understood the meaning of a gold bracelet she always wore locked upon her wrist, and which bore in letters of sapphire these words: As Ever. Forever.

J. Campbell Ver Planck.

The Path December 1889  pp:  265 -270

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Morven was, indeed, fortunate to have a subconscious–or “latent powers”–looking out for his interests. Mrs Daffodil suggests that the sort of a young woman who would coif and costume the poor-relation governess, have her photographed in the character of St Cecilia, and then taunt her affianced with the portrait was unlikely to make Mr Morven’s married life a dream of joy.


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 Cashmere Shawl: 1840

[From the London Journals.]


Everybody knows the vast importance which our Parisian belles formerly attached to the possession of a cashmere shawl; and although their value is considerably decreased since the Empress Josephine gave fifteen thousand francs for one, they are still objects of desire to all female hearts; I mean married ones, of course, for the cashmere is rarely worn by a demoiselle, at least until she begins to despair of ever being called Madame. Indeed, these shawls play a very important part in matrimonial arrangements; many a match has been brought about by the lady’s impatience to possess them, and many a ménage has been rendered unhappy by a husband’s obstinate refusal to buy one. I do not, however, recollect any adventure in which the cashmere has played so singular a part as the one I am about to narrate.

Monsieur de M. began some time ago, notwithstanding his large fortune and very handsome person, to be set down by his acquaintance as a decided old bachelor; this opinion might be thought too hastily formed, as he was only thirty-six, had not his mode of living given color to it—for it was well known that he did not spend half his income; and he would certainly have been set down as a miser, had not circumstances revealed that instead of hoarding his riches, he dispensed them in charity, but it was charity without ostentation. He mixed in the world, enjoyed its pleasures with moderation, was generally liked, and when at last determined upon committing matrimony, his proposal for Mademoiselle de V. was warmly received by her widowed mother, a perfect woman of the world, who had for some time had her eye upon him, and spread her net by a skillful exhibition of those qualities in herself and daughter, which, though they were very far from possessing, she knew he would look for in a wife. The bait took, to her great joy; for she almost began to despair of getting a match for Sophie, whose own fortune was too small to entitle her to a good one, and who being all of twenty-four, was fast verging on what we in France consider an old maidenism.

The young lady had played her part so well that, without it at all transgressing the rules of propriety, De M. had reason to believe his proposal would be perfectly agreeable to her before he made it to her mamma; his explicitness on one point was, however, far from pleasing to either lady; that was his intention of devoting the same amount as usual to charitable purposes, in which he had no doubt he should be assisted by his dear Sophie. A few timid words of acquiescence from the young ladies, and an eloquent harangue from mamma on the pleasure it must give her daughter to participate in his benevolent plants, settled the matter to De M.’s great delight.

The preliminaries of the marriage were arranged—De M.’s family jewels, which were really very handsome, were sent to be new mounted, and he requested his belle fiancée to make choice of a cashmere. No task could be more agreeable to the fair one, who showed that her taste was equally elegant and magnificent, for she selected a superb long shawl, bleu turquoise ground, and a border of matchless beauty. Nothing could be handsomer, but unfortunately, there was one objection that the bridegroom elect could not get over—it was double the price he intended to give.

Now here I find myself in a strait. I wish to please all my readers, and if I mention De M’s price, I have no doubt that some of the gentler sex will say, “Oh, now mean!” while several of those in unmentionables will call him an extravagant fellow. In order then to avoid drawing upon my hero the displeasure of any party, I shall avoid specifying the sum, and shall, merely, in justice to him, declare that the price he intended to give, would be considered by the generality of the people as a handsome one. He requested Sophie to make choice of another, and several were shown to her, but she had some decided objection to each; and in spite of the significant looks, and even hints of her mother, she shewed so much ill temper and ill nature, that she fairly frightened away all the little cupids that were dancing about the heart of her intended; in  short, the cashmere was not chosen that morning, and the evening brought not the devoted lover, but a letter, in which he made his adieu in a very decided manner.

We have no trials in France for breach of promise; but I think even in England the ladies would not, all the circumstances of the case considered, have got damages, unless indeed she was allowed to have a female jury. The matter passed off, and De M., perfectly recovered from his love fit, went on his usual quiet way for some time.

One morning he called on an old woman, to whom he had been a constant benefactor for some years, and as he mounted to her dwelling on the fourth story, a lady passed him on the stairs, plainly dressed, and with a black veil down. As he made way for her respectfully, he observed that her figure, though petite, was elegant, and her features, from the slight glimpse he had of them, agreeable. On entering Manette’s apartment, he found her in tears, and a handsome cashmere shawl lying on a chair.

“What is the matter, my poor Manette?” cried he, in a pitying tone. “What are you crying for?”

“Oh, it is nothing, Sir,” said the old woman, wiping her eyes; “there is nothing amiss, indeed.”

“But what are you in tears for?”

“Why I could not help crying while I was telling poor Jeannette’s story to that dear good lady, Madame de ___.”

My readers will easily believe that De M. insisted upon hearing Jeannette’s story, which we shall tell more briefly than Manette did. She was a friend of the old woman, recently left a widow with several small children, reduced by the death of her husband to the greatest distress, she was in danger of perishing for want, when an offer was made her, if she could raise six hundred francs, of going into a business that would support both her and her children creditably. “But,” continued Manette, “where could she raise six hundred francs? Bah! One might as well have asked her a million; and so I said to Madame de__ who found me crying just as Jeannette left me.”

“Don’t say that, Manette,” cried she, “we shall make up the money somehow. I have very little by me now, but I think you could sell this shawl for that, or at any rate for nearly as much, and I will make up the rest,” and before I could say a word, Monsieur, she had thrown off her beautiful shawl, and telling me to do the best I could with it, and to let her know as soon as it was sold, she hurried away just as you came.”

“What an excellent creature!”

“Excellent indeed! I don’t believe there is her equal in the world. Why, Monsieur, though she is young, aye and very pretty and lively too, she thinks of nothing but doing good. You would not believe how sparingly she lives, and how many things she denies herself, that she may have it in her power to assist the unfortunate.”

My readers will not be surprised that De M. bought the shawl, first swearing Manette to secrecy. His next step was to obtain an introduction to Madame de ___, who was still a young and really very pretty widow. He declares that he had no other intention of doing so than to form a friendship with a woman of a congenial mind, but—“Friendship with woman is sister to love.”

And so it proved in this case, for within three months the well-assorted pair were united. When he purchased the shawl, it was with the intention of sending it back to her anonymously, but he delayed doing so for some time, lest through it his share of the affair might be discovered, and he lose the pleasure of her acquaintance. When he sent the usual marriage presents, there was no cashmere among them. Whatever the widow thought of the omission, she said nothing about it, but on the very evening before the ceremony was performed, he asked her to choose one, which she did; and this time he had no fault to find with his fiancée on the score of extravagance. The morning after marriage he said to her, as they were seated at breakfast.

“Were you not surprised, chere amie, that you did not sooner receive your cashmere?”

I thought you had forgotten it.”

“No, I delayed out of prudence, that you might not have an opportunity of selling it.”

At these words Amelie’s face became scarlet!

“Dearest! Best beloved!” cried the happy husband, unsealing a packet, and presenting the shawl—“receive again the offering you made to charity; an offering dear and sacred in my eyes, for it has led to a felicity which I despaired of finding—that of a wife whose heart was in perfect unison with my own.”

And so in truth it is, and will I hope remain, notwithstanding that the acquaintance—the female part of it, I mean—of Madame de M. thinks she pays a very bad compliment to her husband’s present; for while his rich cadeau de Noces is seldom seen on her shoulders, she is observed to be excessively fond of a cashmere that she was known to have some time before her second marriage, and which is very inferior to the one De M. presented her with.

The Gloucester [MA] Telegraph 25 December 1841: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The cashmere shawl, indeed, had the power to transform lives. Mrs Daffodil has written before about the plague carried in a cashmere, and how the Empress Josephine’s life was “saved by a shawl.” We have also seen delectable descriptions of the cadeau de Noces of an aristocratic French bride, in which she tells of her delight that her fiancé was thoughtful enough to give a red-ground cashmere to her dear mamma.

Monsieur de M. is to be congratulated on his good sense in making his adieu so decidedly. Mrs Daffodil shudders to think of what perils would have marked his married life: extravagance, recriminations, forged notes, money-lenders, and, perhaps, scandal, divorce, or even murder. One need only examine the ending chapters of Madame Bovary to see what the harvest might have been, had it not been for a cashmere shawl….

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.

Paper Lace Frills Give Cupid Chills: 1917


To Give a Girl a Valentine, One Really Ought to Own a Mine

Margaret Mason

“Oh Valentine, wilt thou be mine?”

“Indeed I will” said she,

“If you can prove you’ll be a mine

Of gold and jewels for me.”

New York, Feb. 9

Alas! Poor little Dan Cupid is trailing his rosy wings in the dust. He leans sad and discouraged on his quiver with a quiver of his under lip. Since munition millionaires are buying up hearts of rubies and scarves of Point de Venise to present to their fair Valentines this February 14th, Cupid feels red satin hearts and paper lace frills won’t have a chance.

Oh, where are the paper lace and tinsel valentines of yesterday? The hand-painted satin hearts, pierced with gilded darts, all amorously inscribed with some choice and burning sentiment fresh from a passionate poet’s pen. They are in the dust heap of the Gods along with the broken vows, shattered hearts and withered flowers.

The modern maid is educated up to more expensive love tokens. She insists that the tinsel of her valentine be at least 14 karat, if not 22. Her paper lace must be real lace and any hearts coming her way must be shiny jeweled ones instead of shiny satin. There are all sorts of heart shaped jewel boxes too ranging from gold, silver and carved ivory, down to equally effective and less expensive enamel, lacquer, brass, ivorine, and pewter. If you sent one of these with this telling little sentiment borrowed from one of William Winter’s poems:

“I send you, dear, an empty heart

But send it from a very full one.”

You cannot fail to win the gratified adoration of your Valentine lady.

Nephrite frame by Faberge.

Nephrite frame by Faberge.

If you have the face to do it a heart shaped picture frame of silver or colored leather makes a picturesque valentine and there are heart shaped crystal vials of perfume rare, fit for the most fastidious of noses. Love often smiles on one who exchanges dollars for scents.

To bag a heart with a heart-shaped bag would seem to be a popular sport this February 14, for the varieties of valentine bags offered is most bewildering. There are sewing bags and bags for anything at all.

The most elaborate, ornate, and expensive of the valentine tokens I have glimpsed is a heart shaped brooch of rubies pierced by an arrow of platinum from whose point drips a drop of ruby gore. The nicest St. Valentine gift, I think, is a hand-carved old gilt and blue wood frame enshrining the photograph of The-Only-Man-in-the-World. And I think what a practical and useful gift for next year it will be so easy to change the photograph for another of the 1918 or more current Only-Man-in-the-World.

Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 9 February 1917: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The escalating expense of St Valentine’s Day has always been a point of controversy.  Victorian gentleman complained of elaborate valentines costing more than a labourer’s monthly wages. Will the Beloved be satisfied with something cheap and whimsical or must the gift be royally lavish? There is much at stake.

Jewellery is somewhat more problematic. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they rarely achieve their resale value at auction. One of the most poignant sights in the world is the gold cigarette case or bracelet in an auction catalogue engraved, “Yours Forever,” “Eternal Love, Pookie,” or some other sentimentally inaccurate inscription. Mrs Daffodil’s advice is to suggest that one’s lover invest in items of precious metal. A photograph should be framed, at the very least, sterling silver, so that if the current Only-Man-in-the-World objects to a souvenir of his predecessor, the article can be pawned with profit.

Of course, if one is the owner of a mine or munitions factory or if one is Queen, cost is no object:

There are three great makers [of Valentines in England]: Rimmel, Dean and Goodall. Rimmel is the famous perfumer, and his goods waft their fragrance far and wide and turn, nasally speaking, thousands of dirty post-office pigeon-holes into Araby the blest. Messrs Dean claim to have produced the most costly valentine ever made. This was executed to the order of the Queen, and was a marvel of the illuminator’s art, being also further enriched by feather flowers of the most exquisite description. These encircled some lines of poetry by the late Prince Consort, and the valentine was sent to the Prince of Wales on his eighteenth birthday. Its cost has not been divulged, on the principle, no doubt, that “the unknown is always wonderful.”

Springfield [MA] Republican 24 March 1873: p. 8

One has a strong suspicion that the Prince of Wales would have preferred a trip to Paris or a racing horse for his stable.

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.


Show Her at a Tea-table, Not a Ball: 1815

regency ball

Mr Editor,

After an absence of five-and-thirty years I returned to my native country in 1815, and have since that time resided for the most part in this city. I am an idle man and a bachelor, and derive great amusement from the Magazines and Reviews; I hope I shall not be accused of presumption, if I offer now and then to be one of your contributors, as well as one of your readers.

I should be very sorry, however, to write merely because I have nothing else to do; and I hope you will do me the justice to believe me, when I say that this letter is dedicated chiefly by a, sincere wish to do good to a certain class of readers, among whom, if I be not mistaken, your Miscellany has a pretty considerable circulation. Do not let the ladies (for it is to them that I address myself) imagine that I am the same quizzing sarcastic old bachelor who rallied them in your last Number about teeth and stays—I am a plain, well-meaning, common-place man, and my utmost ambition is to give good advice in a matter with which you will readily acknowledge I have had tolerable opportunities of making myself acquainted.

My fair readers then must know, that it is with considerable pain I have remarked a variety of changes which have taken place since my departure in 1780—I do not mean changes in dress, houses, and equipages—for these, I frankly acknowledge, have all been altered greatly for the better;—neither do I mean to insinuate, that the belles of the present day are less beautiful than those whom I remember, although such an opinion is, I confess, not unfrequently broached at the Edinburgh India club, of which I have the honour to be a member. I allude to changes in the arrangements of social intercourse, of which none, I think, have so much reason to complain as the young ladies, although, perhaps, the evil occasioned to the youth of my own sex be much more considerable than they are pleased to imagine. You must know, in a word, that the prevailing system of balls, and routs, and evening parties, is my abhorrence; and the matrons who think, as I have heard, that in establishing the fashion of these entertainments, they have achieved a great triumph in favour of their own sex, and more especially of their own daughters, may rest assured, that it would have been far wiser in them to have allowed the old usages, which they have dislodged, to remain in statu quo. The matron mind is not yet ripe for conviction on this head, but I doubt not, the experience of another ten years will abundantly do the business.

In the old state of things, when men lived more among themselves than they now do, a ball was a matter of no trifling moment. The young gentleman dressed himself for an assembly as he would have done for court, and gazed upon the elegant creatures who glided before him with high heels, powdered locks, and evanescent waists, with somewhat the same feelings of distant reverence and admiration with which a benighted poet might be supposed to contemplate the revealed gambols of a group of fairies or mermaids. But, now-a-days, there is a ball every night, and such illusions, if they do occur, are extremely short-lived. By dint of going through a few hot campaigns, the most awkward recruit becomes a fearless veteran; and the beau who dances every night for three or four seasons together, learns to face the most deadly artillery of smiles and dimples, without betraying any symptom of emotion. Every experienced general wishes the lines of his opponent to be filled with raw soldiers; and the shrewdest matron is she, that fills her drawing-room with the greatest number of unpractised Philanders. But this is not all. In the days when there were fewer balls, there were more tea parties, and there is always more occasion for flirtation at one tea-table than at twenty great assemblies, exactly as there is more room for the display of individual heroism in a skirmish than in a general engagement…

When Raphael was consulted about the disposal of one of his great pictures, his answer was, “place it by itself’” and whenever any mother shall ask my opinion how she may set off her daughter to best advantage, I shall reply in the same strain, “shew her at a tea-table, not at a ball.” If the picture be a middling one, it had better be hung up where there are no master-pieces; if it were the Transfiguration itself, it could gain nothing by being stuck into a crowded gallery. Do not allow the vain hope of favourable contrast to work upon you…Serious business is better managed in a committee than in a full house…The truth is, and matron or maid may doubt it if she will, that a marriage is becoming every day a greater rarity among us. At first sight, it may appear, that I am ill entitled to handle this topic, and I may incur some danger of having the old adage, about the Devil reproving sin, thrown in my teeth. But my fair readers must remember, that old Indians have better excuses than most other old bachelors. In their youth they have scarcely any opportunity of falling in love, and in their old age they have other things to think of. In my time there were fewer old bachelors, and infinitely fewer old maids, than now. No man—I except always the army—ever thought himself fairly set down in life till he was married, and the moment a laird returned from his travels, or a lawyer had got himself dubbed advocate or W. S. his first concern was to discover a suitable young woman, whom he forthwith courted with great diligence, and whose scruples he commonly found means to overcome by the end of a twelvemonth. If the nymph had a tocher, she was, to be sure, nothing the worse for it ; but in most cases, a good education, respectable connexions, and an agreeable person, set any young creature above the risk of dying an old maid, unless that happened to be her own choice. The single lady, of a certain age, was mostly such a one as had to thank either her own temper or some peculiar ill usage of nature or fortune for her mishap. I have seen enough of society since I came home, to convince me that they manage these things otherwise now.

My attention has been called to these matters more than it otherwise might have been, by the domestic circumstances of some relations among whom I spend a good deal of my time. I have a sister in this town, a widow lady with a small income, and six daughters, all unmarried; the eldest about thirty, and the youngest twenty-two. You will easily believe, that at their fireside circle, balls, routs, beaux, and tea parties, form no unusual articles of conversation. My sister is still an advocate for the new system, and, in her conversations with me, is backed by all the young ladies of the family. But I do not despair of converting them all by degrees, and indeed I think I can already perceive certain slight symptoms of growing conviction in the two eldest of my nieces. I fear their wisdom, even should all my expectations be fulfilled, will now avail them little practically, they will at least have the consolation of being theoretically in the right, and of shifting the reproach of their barrenness from themselves to their system.

One point is easily conceded to me by my two demi-converts, viz. that the only girl who has a tolerable chance of being married, is she who has a tolerable fortune. The most angelic beauty, they allow, may, as the world now goes, glitter in vain from seventeen till seven-and-twenty without receiving a single offer. A young gentleman of the modern cut would as soon think of proposing to the moon. The belle may be as enchanting, and the moon as bright as you please, but both must dwindle away to nothing, and be succeeded by new belles and new moons, doomed to go through the same career of dazzling, and dwindling, and being forgotten in their turn. But no sooner does an heiress come out than she is provided with a long train of indefatigable danglers. She makes her election. The next rich miss is accommodated with the same suite of wooers, and you may always know an heiress by her danglers, exactly as you do a commanding officer by his aide-du-camp and his orderlies. When two heiresses are at once upon the town, they become partners for the time, and have all their stock of lovers in common, as the Roman consuls had their fasces, or as the colleague-ministers of Edinburgh have their congregations…The two likeliest admirers marry the girls, and it is a mere toss-up of a halfpenny which marries which. The only thing the lover cares for is the fortune of his mistress, and all his sagacity is employed in discovering the exact amount of cash payable on the wedding-day. This, to be sure, is a very necessary part of his manoeuvre, for there are, it seems, at least twenty take-ins (as they are called) for one true heiress….

All this my nieces admit, but as yet they do not seem quite to approve the inference I draw from it. If I be correct in my opinion, the blame lies entirely with the matrons who have invented the rout-system. They have made beauty common-place, and they wonder that it is undervalued. They might as well pave the streets with Spanish ingots, and then complain that the price of bullion had fallen. They have removed the old phantasies of extravagant admiration and single-hearted idolatry, under which courtships were commenced and marriages coveted. It is their fault that wedlock is now become a mere commercial speculation, and that men have learned to dabble in courtship exactly as they would in the funds. They have blunted our passions, and they now blame us for having the command of our reason. Restore to us our tea parties, and our evening walks, and our little suppers, and let balls be only once a month, as they used to be, and routs never, and you daughters, you may depend upon it, will not lie so heavy on your hands. You have become traders, why is it that you cannot take a hint from the state of currency and the market?

Perhaps my matron readers may expect that I am about to end all this abuse of home with an advice to send their daughters out to India. Be assured, that if I had thought that an adviseable plan, I might long ago have had all my six nieces sent out to me nothing loath, one by one like turkeys, or two by two like pheasants, or three by three like snipes, exactly as I might have thought fit to give the hint. I remember, indeed, when a voyage to India was, for any female adventurer, a very pretty speculation. A third cousin of my own, from Inverness—a tall strapping Highland wench, with red hair and splay feet—arrived upon me in the year 1795, when I was in quarters at Cawnpore, bringing with her, as her sole testimonial, a letter of introduction from her mother, whom I had never seen, stating that she, the young emigrante, had a delicate constitution, and stood in need of a change of climate. I immediately carried my fair cousin to the commanding colonel’s lady, who agreed to get her off by way of obliging me. The aide-du-camp, accordingly gave notice that an arrival had taken place, and that the hall would be immediately thrown open for three days. There, accordingly, in the largest apartment of the government house, did the colonel’s lady and her protégée sit in full dress during the space of three days, and thither did all the officers at the station resort to take a view of the importation. Those of them who were gratified with the inspection, sent their proposals in writing to the young lady; and, at the close of the third day, my cousin, out of no less than ten admirers, made choice of a sturdy captain, whose person pleased her eye. This was really doing things in a businesslike fashion; and such, I remember, was the constant ceremonial of an Indian courtship. But, I fear, the young ladies who make voyages now~a-days will find that things are changed in the eastern market, at least as much as in the western. The formal exhibition of three days has long since been laid aside, and it would seem as if no adequate substitute had as yet been discovered in its room. The shoals of voluntary exiles that flowed in upon us for some ears, over-ran the demand beyond all computation.

Among these were many respectable women, of whom the worst thing could say were, that they had no money and little delicacy; but by far the greater part consisted of silly, giddy, glib-tongued minxes, who had flirted away their character at home—and there were not wanting some whose reputation was indeed as equivocal as could well be wished. Even they who left England with a good name, had every chance to arrive at Calcutta with a bad one. In an outward-bound Indiaman, unless the captain be a perfect Puritan, the intercourse between the passengers, male and female, is of the most easy description imaginable; and in five instances out of ten, a marriage at the Cape, en passant, with a Dutch boor, or, at the end of the voyage, with some mate or the like, is convenient, if not necessary. To a young lady who accompanies her parents to India no man can have any objection, but, in my opinion, that protection alone, and no other, is sufficient. But what is by far the most decisive objection, the Indian gentlemen are now become extremely nice in regard to the age of the emigrantes; and my readers may depend upon it, that any thing above twenty will positively not go down, I suspect that few under that age are sufficiently humble to think the voyage necessary for themselves.

The ship in which I returned to Europe, two years ago, brought home a very smart young spinster of thirty-five, who had gone out to India, seven years before, as the friend of the wife of a lieutenant in one of the marching regiments. This lady, in the sure hope of a speedy settlement, had carried out with her, in addition to her piano-forte, a complete basket of baby-linens, three sticks of coral, and a silver caudle-cup. All, however, was in vain; and she at last had made up her mind to come home and die in a garret. But it was her singular good fortune to sail in the same vessel with a jolly retired chaplain, who, it seems, was smitten during the voyage, and I myself had the honour of giving her away at Southampton on our arrival. To the tattle of the company I never gave any ear. I would not, however, advise any of your readers to make her conduct their pattern, and remain, Mr Editor, your obedient servant


Edinburgh, Dec. 18, 1817

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 1818

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add to this exhaustive and instructive screed except to wonder how it was that the “Old Indian” campaigner never himself married? Was there no Colonel’s lady to assist in displaying the new arrivals? Was it his kindly, yet officious, attempts to do good, while remaining serenely oblivious of causing offence?  [Mrs Daffodil believes that the modern term for this is “mansplaining.”] Or was it simply that he never found an heiress to choose him from among her danglers?

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 Bore of a Ball-room: 1832

The Tricolored Quadrille Ball, New York City 1830

The Tricolored Quadrille Ball, New York City 1830


From a London Journal.

It is an amusing thing to stand in the outskirts of what Lord Mulgrave terms the gown-tearing, tugging, riving mob of a London ballroom, and speculate on the motives and views of the individuals of which it is composed. “Je suis ici pour mon grandpere,” said the Duc de Rohan, at a seance of the French Academy. “Et moi pour ma grammaire,” replied the Abbe de Levizac. “I am here in honour of my grandfather,” might be observed by many a Fitzroy, Seymour, Somerset, or Bentinck at Almack’s; – “And I, in honour of my daughter, or niece, or protegee,” would be an apt rejoinder from half the ancient dames stationary on the satin sofas of the sanctuary. For a given number of personages, of proportionate means and condition of life, to meet together for purposes of mutual amusement, is, in the abstract, a very reasonable employment of their superfluous time and superfluous coin. But in these days of sophistication, few things are to be considered in so bald and definite a point of view; and of the three or four hundred human beings congregated together during the months of June and July, in certain “matchless and magnificent mansions,”—garnished by Gunter with a sufficiency of pines and spring chickens, and by Michaud with minikin Collinet and his flageolet—we venture to assert that scarcely fifty are brought within its portals by a view to mutual entertainment.

First, in the list of guests, are those who go because they are apprehensive of being classed among the uninvited; labouring through the toils of the toilet solely to prove their right of being there. Next come the idlers, who fly to the throng in the hope of getting rid of themselves; finding it far more charming to yawn away the evening, and grumble over the weariness, staleness, flatness, and unprofitableness of life among ladies in satin gowns, and gentlemen in satin cravats, than in the domestic desolation of home.

After these, we rank the routineers, who order their carriages to the door at eleven o’clock P.M., every night between April and July, merely because they have done the same every season for the last ten years;  persons, in fact, who go everywhere, and see every thing, because. every body of their acquaintance does the same. Then we have the dowagers “on business;” intent on exhibiting “my youngest daughter—her first season,”—or “my sweet young friend, Lady Jane, quite a novice, as you may perceive, in gay scenes of this description.” A little further may be seen certain fading beauties, whose daughters and Lady Janes are still with the governess; profiting by their absence to listen to the whispers of the Colonel and Lord Henry, who are either already married, or not “marrying men.” Close at hand are two or three husbands of the fading beauties; either perplexed in the extreme by the mature coquetry of their worse halves, or taking notes for a curtain lecture, or gathering data for conjugal recrimination. Others, both of the Lady Janes, and the married beauties, are there at the hollow impulse of mere vanity; to show the beautiful robe a la Grecque, smuggled from Paris through Cholera and quarantine, or anxious to prove that, though the Duchess of Buccleugh’s diamonds are very fine, their own are more tastefully set. A few “very good-natured friends” of the hostess go in hopes of discovering that the supper is deficient by a dozen of champaigne and half a dozen pounds of grapes; while one or two flirts of a somewhat pronounced notoriety, go that their names may be included in the Morning Post list of persons present, (or our own,) which thus endorses their passport to other and better balls. The young men go to prove that they are in fashion; the middle-aged to show that they are not too old to be asked to balls; and the elderlies because they find themselves shouldered at the Clubs, and can bestow in a ball-room their tediousness without measure or limitation on any unlucky person whose carriage is ordered late.

“I did not expect to see you here,” observes Mrs. A. to Mrs. B. on the landing-place leading to Lady F’s. ball-room, which neither has any chance of entering for the next half hour. “I dare say not;  this is the first time I ever ventured here. But, to say the truth, I want to show people I am in town, without the bore of sending round my cards.” “How old Lady Maria is grown! And what in the world does she mean by coming out so soon? It is very little more than a year since she lost her husband.” “If you had such lumber to dispose of as four ugly daughters, you would ‘take no note of time,’ as far as the forms of widowhood are concerned.” “And there is the bride, Lady Mary Grubb! In my time people did not allow the world to encroach upon their honeymoon!” “But you see she has forfeited caste by marrying a parvenu, and loses no time in showing people that the creature has less of the shop about him than might be expected.” “And her mother, the marchioness, I protest!” “Of course. She is very wise to put a good face on this awkward business of her eldest daughter.” “And poor Mrs. Partlet—taking care that her great, gawky, silly son, does not commit himself by blundering into the nets of the marrying young ladies.” “And Lady Helena watching her husband’s flirtation with Mrs. Tomtit, while her eye-glass actually trembled with jealous fury!” “And little Clara Fidget, trying to find out by what vile designing damsel Lord Charles has been kidnapped away from her.” “There is scarcely any one here to-night,” cries Mrs. A., standing aside a moment, to make way for the crowd, which has already torn away a yard of her sabots. “What can you expect in a house where they ask every body. Lady F. is in the popularity line. She invites whole families—from the great grandmother in her diamond stomacher, to the open-mouthed hobbledehoy in loose nankins, at home for his Easter holidays.” “It is a great impertinence in people to inflict one with an indiscriminate mob. I shall never come here again. Ah! Colonel de Hauteville, I see you have struggled through the billows. What chance have we of getting into the ballroom.” “Luckily, for you, very little. It is a very bad ball—hardly a face one knows.” “Sir William, you have been dancing, I perceive?” “There is no other way of getting room to stir in a crowd of this sort. I was obliged to ask one of Lady F’s. daughters to waltz, to escape from between two great fat women, who were squeezing me into gold-beater’s skin. Dunbar! How are you?” “How am I? why, very much bored, of course. What shall we do? Is there a supper?” “Not such a one as a Christian man should venture on. Let us go to Crockford’s.” “With all my heart. Make haste. Lady P. will be laying violent hands on you, and wanting you to dance.” “If I do, &c. &c. &c.”

In nine cases out of ten, such, or such like, is the dialogue of the very people who have passed two hours between dinner and dressing time yawning on a sofa, lest they should be betrayed into going unfashionably early—who have endured for another hour the pains and penalties of being laced, curled, rouged, stuck with a paper of pins, and fidgetted by the difficult coalition of three dozen hooks-and-eyes, in order to do honour to the assembly; and who, at last, insist on dragging two unoffending quadrupeds, and two or three wretched domestics, out of their beds in “the sweet o’ the night,” in order that they may be seen and see, by candlelight, a crowd of idle men and women of fashion, whom they may see by daylight any day in the week. Yet hence the poor are clothed, the mean are fed; and the philosophy of the ball-room compels us to acknowledge, that of the persons thus occupied, very few are capable of employing themselves to better purpose.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] August, 1832

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Such delicious gossip overheard at a ball!  What backbiting, and conjugal recrimination, and smuggled gowns! And those ageing beauties and ugly, marriageable daughters displayed for the market! Mrs Daffodil figuratively rubs her hands together in anticipation when she thinks of the many murderous possibilities so conveniently assembled in a single room.

Gunter is, of course, the purveyor of ices and confectionary. “Minikin Collinet” is Hubert Collinet, a flageolet virtuoso of such small stature that it was frequently remarked upon in his notices. Michaud was a musican impressario, who arranged programmes and musicians for balls in England and France.

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 Love-Haunted Chamber: 1901




All Who Sleep Within Its Walls Succumb to His Power

A Cure for Celibacy.

A love-haunted chamber is something new in spook lore, and it is a departure from conventional stories of the weird and eerie to encounter an experience in which the god of love, wreathed in smiles and soft blandishments, takes the place of sheet-shrouded wraith or horrid specter.

There is a certain mansion near Washington that possesses a haunted apartment, which, however, instead of being shunned by visitors is eagerly sought by the young and sometimes designedly inhabited by persons of uncertain age, but, like Barkis, willin’. For it is whispered through the country around that if an unmarried person but stay overnight in this room matrimonial prospects will soon thereafter be manifest, and if the sleeper be inclined that way, will take definite shape and eventuate at the altar. Indeed, there are stories of the potency of the charm that hovers about the room going further and enthralling unwilling captives or those who unwittingly and with no thought of love have risked themselves within its magic portals.

It is a large and cheery room, beautifully decorated in blue and gold and rose, with rose-tinted curtains and carpet. On one wall is a panel bearing a painting of Cupid leading a maid through a tangle of roses, she half-hesitating yet half eagerly following her guide. On the opposite wall another Cupid beckons an Apollo, who, nothing loath, presses joyously onward. The room was once the bower of a young girl, the pride of the countryside and the light of that household, who, before Cupid could rivet the silk-incased chains he was winding about her, was called away.

For a long time he room was closed and remained just as she had left it. Then, after a period, when the hospitable old house again opened its doors, and one night when there was a press of company, the daughter’s room was given over to occupancy by a guest. It happened that this guest was a maiden relative whom the gods had punished for her early scorning of their offers by withholding opportunities until anxiety had begun to take the place of indifference. All unconscious of what was in store for her, she laid herself between the lavender-scented linen of the mahogany bed, and before blowing out the candle by the bedside admired the decoration of the walls and noted the harmonious scheme that was worked out in the Cupids rioting in the carving of the footboard.

All thorough the night she was half aware of delightful dreams. The Cupids from the walls and the carvings seemed to be busy about her bedside with garlands and ropes of flowers, and throughout their weaving game the Apollo on the wall appeared to be active and to stand out in a strange, soft radiance of light. Next day she laughingly told her story, and when a week later she departed, lo, she carried with her the heart and offer of the hand of a member of the party.

The next coincidence was connected with the visit of a hardened bachelor, whom a prayerful mother had wished for years to see safely in the leading strings of some good woman. This scornful wretch openly flouted the story of the love-haunted room, and defiantly offered to sleep within it, betting a basket of France’s best vintage that he would come off unscathed by Cupid’s arrows. With mock ceremony he was escorted to the haunted chamber, and left by his host with an earnest wish for a safe night and sound sleep.

The visitor noted that the bed was between the two panels, and he moved it beneath the panel of Apollo and Cupid, in a very spirit of bravado, as if to dare them to do their worst. Then he blew out the candle and was soon snoring most unromantically, as the result of the day’s hard hunting. What happened before morning he would never tell. Sure it was, however, that he was disturbed enough to cut his visit short and leave, being ashamed not to sleep in the room again, and the family would never have known the result of the experiment if the hostess had not a month later received a letter from the aforesaid prayerful mother, in which she declared how thankful she was that her beloved John would be married before New Year to a woman noted for her piety and strong qualities of mind.

There were other strange coincidences connected with the room that winter, and when spring came the mansion was fairly beset with visitors. Oddly enough, many of them sought to occupy the room. Some, by shameless strategy, professing incredulity in the charm and a disposition to defy it, when all knew ‘twas but eagerness to reap the beneficent magic. So were other schemes employed to entrap unsuspecting and guileless young men into the fatal circle, they never knowing why fate had so swiftly overtaken them.

Beneath the bay window of the love-haunted room is an old-fashioned garden, with an arbor and seats therein, and it is said that as the summer waxed the charm of the room would extend to the garden, and on moonlight nights, when the dew sparkled and heliotrope and lilac gave off their fragrance, the couples would slip away from the verandas and the dimly lit parlor to wander together along its walks.

It was dangerous for single men, however successfully they had avoided the traps and pitfalls set by designing mammas and crafty papas up to that time, to venture into these mystic shades to smoke a bed-time cigar, and now the confirmed old bachelors and the hardened old maids will never attend house parties in that mansion unless assured beforehand that there are rooms in plenty and that no one of them will be bedded in Cupid’s chamber.

The Evening Star [Washington DC] 21 December 1901: p. 19

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Art has always held the power to inspire love. Yet Mrs Daffodil has some doubts about the strict veracity of this item. Although the location is described as in a private house, it seems to have more visitors than the average home–or is that merely the famed Virginia hospitality? Said mansion is unnamed, but the detailed description of the murals in the fateful chamber hints that some real location is being depicted. There is a suspicion that this could have been a puff-piece for a resort wishing to draw more customers.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the claims for “Doctor” Graham’s “Celestial Bed,” at the Temple of Health in London, where the young person who later became Lady Hamilton, made her debut. Just as match-making services advertise their marriage statistics, this establishment should have been held to account. Two confirmed engagements is scarcely an adequate sample.

Yet, who knew that celibacy was a condition that needed curing? Pretty murals and erotic dreams may have tipped the balance, but Mrs Daffodil is not sanguine about a “hardened bachelor” donning the silk-incased chains with a lady of such strong mind and piety.

Mrs Daffodil has chosen the topic of tomorrow’s Valentine holiday for her theme today. For a more relevant story on how the Thirteen Club celebrated Friday the 13th, please see this post.

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.



Marriage a la Mode: Three Would-be Brides: 1730, 1778, 1820

An 1824 wedding gown. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

An 1824 wedding gown. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


JULY, 1730.

Extracts from the Diary of my Great-grandmother.

Five o’clock.— Got up an hour before my usual time to distil surfeit-water. Said my prayers. Finished one of my father’s new shirts. Mem. To send to town for some currants, raisins, and ratafia water. Six .— Some poor women came for medicine to my mother; gave out of the store-room several doses, and a pint of sack. Mem. To carry two shillings to Tom, the carpenter’s wife, who is ill. Seven. — Breakfasted. A card has come from Mr. Jenkins, to let us know he will do himself the pleasure of dining with us. The match debated during breakfast. My father says, if he finds him a man of good morals, he’ll not differ as to the settlements. I am ordered never to be alone with Mr. J. until all the writings are drawn. Eight.— Read the Psalms and chapters for the day. Taught little Jemmy his catechism. Mem. Betsey has marked J. in her sampler to-day: that stands for Jenkins. Nine.— Darn some old point-lace tuckers. Do some clear-starching and ironing for next week. Ten.— Go see the carpenter’s wife. Her family in very great want. Give them a shilling from my own pocket-money. Eleven .— Sit down to my cross-stitch. A shepherdess the subject, for an urn-rug. Twelve.— My mother orders me to make a custard-pudding, to show Mr. Jenkins what I can do. Orders me to wear my best gown at dinner, and only two patches. Mem. I mean to appear in my new hoop and laced stomacher. Mr. J. is a man of figure, so will look to my appearance. One.— Too much ratafia water in the pudding. Mr. J. praised some hare of my potting. I begin to like him vastly well, but must not let him perceive it. Mem. Our currant wine just out. Mislaid the key of the corner-cupboard. Thinking of Mr. J. Two.— Miss T. and her lover stepped in to tea. Promise her receipt for pickling mushrooms. Mem. Mrs. Hart’s receipt for burns very good. Must have it in the house. Garlick syrup excellent for coughs. Eight. — Supper. My brother tells me Mr. Jenkins is very wild. Mem. Never to see his face again!

A 1779 wedding gown

A 1779 wedding gown


Notes from my Grandmother’s Pocket Diary.

Two o’clock.— Arrived this moment in town. We have been three days coming from S—– in our own coach. Just put off my riding-dress, and huddled on my green gown, to get to the milliner’s, mercer’s, &c. Overjoyed to be in town; so have no appetite for my dinner. Four.— Going out with Miss Tendrill. She tells me coque de perle necklace and ear-rings are much in vogue. Mem. To teaze my mother until she gets them for me. Arrive at Truefit’s. N. B. Truefit the first modeste in the world. Ordered a cane hat, lined with cerulean blue Persian, trimmed with blonde lace and ribbons, for walking in the Park, and making morning calls. Mem. Must bespeak two pairs of white leather shoes, with red heels, and bindings to correspond. Advised to have a Saint Teresa of sarsnet and blonde lace, as ’tis the latest mode. Ordered it at once. Mem. Blonde lace ruffles, with a large slope, vastly genteel. Uneasy till I get them. Eight.— Go home, fearing I may miss Mr. Cleveland. He advises, as my shoulders are rather round, that my stays be made high behind. He says ’tis quite the thing to have them so. I have desired they should be cut low before, as it shows the chest off to advantage. Sunday. Eleven o’clock.— Had no rest last night, anticipating the pleasure of the week to come. Too late for church. I shall dress in time enough for a ride in the Park. One. — Miss Wyndham has called for me. Go to Mrs. Emerson, to engage her to matronize us to an assembly to-morrow night. Mr. —– walked up to speak to us. An acquaintance of Miss Wyndham. A fine well-made man; improves on better acquaintance. He took great notice of me, and told Miss W. I was a prodigious fine girl. Miss W. jealous, and anxious to return home; he offered to escort us. Miss W. complained of headache, and would not speak. I improved the opportunity, by chatting away merrily to Mr. —– all the way home. Mem. To get green Persian calash, same as Miss Wyndham’s. Mr.—– praised it, so I won’t be outdone. Seven.— Mr. —– invited to dinner by my mother. I engrossed all his attention. He is very rich. Eleven.— Desired Mary to waken me at two in the morning, to have my hair dressed. It will be done in about four hours. Monday. Two in the morning.— Crumpe just arrived. Read Damon and Ella, whilst my head is being operated on. A sweet book! Seven.— My hair finished. Mem. Crumpe the first hair-dresser in Europe. Only 463 black pins in it. No other could have accomplished it with less than 470. Eleven. — Out shopping with Mrs. Emerson. Take the round of the fashionable milliners. Bespeak a grenadier cap of blonde lace, with a Mary Stuart peak. Saw a lovely clouded lute-string at Ball and Campbell’s. Resolved to have it. ‘Tis very much genteeler than Miss Wyndham’s. Twelve.— Had a glance at Mr. —–. They say half the reigning belles are dying for love of him. Charming creature! Mem. To dance the first minuet with him to-night, if possible. One.— Much fatigued from tumbling over silks, &c. Tried on my new negligee. Mem. Must not go to the assembly until ten. Country hours will not do here. Tuesday. One.— Paid so many visits yesterday before the assembly, that I was tired and out of sorts. Mr. —– danced with Miss Wyndham half the night. Well, to be sure, what taste some people have! She looked downright frightful. Her fortune is a large one; that covers all defects, I suppose. I am mortified, have a bad headache, and wish our stay in town was at an end. I have just heard that Mr. —– proposed for Miss Wyndham last night. I shall cut her acquaintance most certainly.


Leaves from my Mother’s Journal.

Tuesday, Dec. 2.— The boxes containing my trousseau have just arrived. My cousin Annie and I busy unpacking them. Annie to be my bridesmaid. How brilliant her color is to-day: she looks very lovely, and will grace our wedding. Of course, dear Edward is charmed with her, for my sake. My wedding-dress is of white lace, gored on the hips, and quite tight down to the knee, where small flowers, headed with thick wadded rolls of white satin, commence. The body is just one finger deep in front, and a little deeper behind. The dress is made low, for the ball on the evening of the wedding; and with it has come a white flowered satin spencer, covered with small white tassels on the front, and with a stiff standing collar, which looks very stylish. My hat is composed of blonde and satin, and has six full ostrich feathers in it, three at each side, the two end ones being very long, so as to fall gracefully on the shoulders. Madame Lion has sent, amongst other things, a blue cloth pelisse, trimmed with sable; the price of it is thirty-five guineas. Edward made Annie try on some of my things to see how he liked them. Strange that it was not me he wished to see them upon! Dear Edward, how thoughtful he is— he made me retire to my room very early, saying I looked fatigued. Annie did not follow me until twelve o’clock, and seemed flushed and slightly agitated on entering the room. She says I look so pale I should wear a little rouge. ‘Tis a fashion I never yet adopted. Wednesday, Dec. 3.— Papa and dear Edward all day in the study, closeted with Mr. Grabb, our attorney, arranging about settlements. Tomorrow I shall be the happy bride of him whom I adore. Guests arriving all day. I saw Annie coming out of the shrubbery with dear Edward, before the dinner-bell rang. What could they have gone there for? The hour late, too, for walking, and the evening cold and damp. Twelve o’clock.— Just retired to my room for the night. Take one more peep at my wedding dress, laid on the sofa, and now retire to dream of the happy morn fast approaching.

* * * * * *

Here the manuscript ceases; for, when morn came— that morn so longed for— Edward was missing; and, stranger far, Annie was nowhere to be found, and was sought for in vain. The faithless pair had eloped together, and the following day were united at Gretna Green. Long did my poor mother pine and mourn her sad fate. But at length brighter days arose for her; and in my dear and honored father she found what she had long searched for— a congenial loving, and honest heart. M.E.H.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] June 1854

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wonders what the author’s Great-Grandmother would have thought of Dollar Princesses, or flapper-brides, or today’s faux-celebrity weddings with sponsorships and paparazzi. Obviously her daughter did not absorb that lady’s sensible character or her notions of useful service and parental obedience. And with such a flirt for a mother, the 1820 bride could scarcely choose wisely, no matter how fascinating Dear Edward.

But to some extent, the essentials have not changed: weddings bring on an onslaught of fashion, rather than thoughtful contemplation about how to pass the time after the Happiest Day of one’s life has passed. Marriage ought to mean more than a trousseau, champagne toasts, and the cover of Hello Magazine.


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.


Dear Mr Brown: A Romantic Tragedy: 1893

The Love Letter, Raimundo Madrazo

The Love Letter, Raimundo Madrazo

A Sentimental Tragedy.


Dear Mr. Brown —

— Yours sincerely, M. Robinson.


My Dear Mr. Brown —

— Always yours very sincerely,

Minnie Robinson.


My Dear— Jack (!)—

— Yours always, Minnie Robinson.


My Dearest Jack —

— Yours, Minnie.


My Darling Jack —

— Lovingly yours, Min.


My Dearest Jack—

-Lovingly, Minnie.


My Dear Jack —

-With love, yours, MINNIE.


Dear Jack—

-Ever yours, Minnie Robinson.


My Dear Mr. Brown —

— Your sincere friend, Minnie Robinson.


Dear Mr. Brown —

—Yours sincerely, M. Robinson.



The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 9 January 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil really has no post-script to add to this old, old story. One supposes the next step was the dead-letter office.

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.

“All the Batchelors are Blindly Captivated by Widows”: 1734

The first lieutenant governor of New York, as a young bachelor of 1730

The first lieutenant governor of New York, as a young bachelor of 1730

Charleston, March 2. On the 23d last past in the morning, one Martin Dunn,belonging to his Majesty’s Ship the Alborough, happened to be with Benjamin Story in his Periauger in the Northern Branch of Store’s River, and striking at an Alligator, fell over board and down to the Ground immediately: No doubt but the Alligator made a good breakfast on him.

We have by the last Advice from Purrysburgh [South Carolina] an account of the noble Effects the Climate of that Colony has produced: There is six Couples embarked thence for Savannah in Georgia, to be join’d in the holy State of Matrimony, and half a dozen pair more preparing themselves for the same.

To His Excellency Governor Johnson, The humble Petition of all the Maids whose Names are under-written.

WHEREAS we the humble Petitioners are at present in a very melancholly Disposition of Mind, considering how all the Batchelors are blindly captivated by Widows , and our more youthful Charms thereby neglected, the Consequence of this our Request is, that your Excellency will for the future order, that no Widow shall presume to marry any young Man till the Maids are provided for, or else to pay each of them a Fine for Satisfaction, for invading our Liberties, and likewise a Fine to be laid on all such Batchelors as shall be married to Widows . The great Disadvantage it is to us Maids is, that the Widows by their forward Carriages do snap up the young Men, and have the Vanity to think their Merits beyond ours, which is a great Imposition upon us, who ought to have the Preference. This is humbly recommended to your Excellency’s Consideration, and hope you will prevent any further Insults. And we poor Maids as in duty bound will ever pray. P.S. I— being the oldest Maid, and therefore most concerned, do think it proper to be the Messenger to your Excellency, in behalf of my Fellow Subscribers.

(Was signed by sixteen Maids, and delivered to the Governor Yesterday at the Feast.)

The Pennsylvania Gazette 28 March 1734

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil thinks it clever of the author to have begun this account of rapacious widows snapping up eligible men with an alligator breakfasting on an unfortunate gentleman. Because Mrs Daffodil is Relentlessly Informative, she will mention that a Periauger is a shallow draft sailing vessel, also known as a pirogue.

The Governor was Robert Johnson, the British colonial Governor of the Province of South Carolina, also known as “the Good Governor,” as he was much-beloved. He was a kindly administrator (except to pirates), but one is uncertain whether the petition was ever granted. One hopes so, for the sake of that oldest Maid.

Badges for Bachelors: 1912

A "bachelor button."

A “bachelor button.”

Since it is June, a traditional month to celebrate brides, grooms, trousseaux, and the blessed state of matrimony, Mrs Daffodil will be addressing many of her efforts to stories of bridal fads, fancies and phantoms.

We began last June’s series with this essay on choosing an agreeable husband. Now there comes a novel proposal from a concerned public servant about a way for men to signify eligible bachelorhood.

There was a time when we believed that the fate of the nation was secure so long as Philadelphia stood proudly at the post of propriety. We believe so still, but unfortunately Philadelphia herself seems to have been lured into frivolous ways and to be in danger of losing her proud place as the national mentor. We have it on the authority of Mr. Joseph Rogers, who is the assistant

public prosecutor, that there are married men in Philadelphia who are so lost to all sense of decency as to conceal the fact that they are already prisoners on parole and who have the effrontery to join the quarry for the sake of the exhilarating scamper, with the hunt in close pursuit. It is dreadful to record such things of Philadelphia, but we have always had our suspicions that things are not quite what they seem in the Quaker City.  

But all may yet be well if Mr. Rogers is allowed to have his way. Would that the country were full of just such stalwart officials as Mr. Rogers, who can be trusted to frame a law inside of about two minutes, or to suggest an ordinance that will nip all frivolities in the bud and almost before they have begun to crack the shell. These metaphors are somewhat mixed, but enthusiasm always acts upon us in that way.

Mr. Rogers has sent out a circular advising that all unmarried men be required

to wear a button or a badge as evidence of their unclaimed position. In this way the pursuit could be more intelligently directed and many a woman would be spared the disappointment that sometimes crowns a long and desperate chase.  

The proposal has merits. There is a sporting element about it that appeals to us. In the first place it would bring a measure of relief to the married man, who has troubles enough already without the constant vigilance that should devolve only upon the free. On the other hand, it would impose no real

hardship upon the bachelor, who is presumably young and agile and whose running capacities should be at their prime. It is among the requisites of a good hunt that the scent should be strong and that there should be no cross trails. By the adoption of the bachelor button the married man would be

able to appear in full daylight, while the youthful and athletic bachelor would understand that his safety depended upon his power of sustained flight.

Mrs. Kendal, the celebrated English actress, has been interviewed upon this point, and of course she raises all kinds of objections. She states that whether you put a badge upon the men or upon the bachelors it must kind of a badge that won’t come off.

Many men. she reminds us, wear wedding rings, but some one once told of a German — the story is vastly improbable, but possibly true — who slipped away from home one evening under the pretense of seeing a man about a dog and who came home after nine o’clock with his wedding ring in his waistcoat

pocket. Now what good is any kind of a button, asks Mrs. Kendal, that can be slipped on and off in a moment? Obviously none at all. So she suggests that a ring through the nose would be more efficacious. Let the insertion of the ring by a competent blacksmith be a part of the wedding service, and this could be made into quite a pretty little ceremony by the aid of the anvil chorus. A

husband thus ringed would not only be secure from pursuit and annoyance, but also from temptation, while the ring would be invaluable in the enforcement of domestic discipline.

The Argonaut 23 March 1912.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil supposes that the most obvious “bachelor button:” a button-hole ornament of Centaurea cyanus, is also easily donned by the “prisoners on parole” who wish to feign a state of single blessedness.

Previously we have read about the “fad” of nose-rings, which was proposed by a female of a certain notoriety and moral flexibility. In an age struggling with the notion of equal rights for the sexes, one should not be surprised to find an equally demeaning proposal  to ring husbands’ noses as well.

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.