Tag Archives: seduction

Gerty’s Elopement: 1889


“I understand, then, you mean an elopement? Oh, surely, surely, Gerty, you never can be in earnest?”
Gerty Fane sat on a fallen log. whose mossy cylinder was half hidden in tall, plumy ferns, and where the trembling July sunbeams rained down through soft summer foliage like a cascade of gold. An artist would have painted her as a wood nymph. with her hair of braided sunshine, her deep, limpid eyes, and the peach-like bloom upon her perfect cheeks.
And yet this dew-eyed beauty was neither more or less than a factory girl, who worked a machine in the big shop whose gray stone chimneys rose out of the hollow below, at a dollar a day; a girl who had grown up on a diet of yellow-covered novels, and dreamed of knights and ladies and perilous adventures.
“Yes,” said Gerty, lifting her dew-blue eyes, “an elopement. Isn’t it romantic? And isn’t he handsome?”
Sarah Willis looked sadly down into the eyes that were so like blue flowers
“Gerty,” said she, “I beseech of you to think twice about this business. Have you forgotten Francis Tryon?”
“Francis Tryon! Only a cutter in the shop!”
“An honest, honorable man,” said Sarah, impressively.
“Why don’t you take him yourself, since he is such a paragon?” retorted Gerty, saucily.
“Because he loves no one but you.”
“Then he may leave off loving me at his leisure,” said Gerty. “I don’t care a fig for him, and never shall. I am going to marry Mr. Montressor; and I never would have told you of the elopement if I had supposed you were going to be so ill natured about it. My father is as unjustly prejudiced against him as you are, and so I am driven to it.”
And Gerty Fane tried to vail her exaltation beneath a tone of injury as she rose up and began to make her way through the tall ferns. Sarah looked wistfully after her.
“A spoiled, harmless little beauty!” she said to herself. “But Mr. Tryon was kind to me when I came here friendless and alone; and Mr. Tryon loves her; for his sake I will not stand quietly by and see her rush on to ruin.”
“You see,” Gerty Fane had told her, confidentially, “I am to go to the shop on Wednesday, just as usual, so that my father will not suspect anything, and then I am to feign a headache, just at train time, and leave work, step quietly on board the train, and go to Pittsburg; there I stop at the Hapgood house. He comes there the next day, and we’re married; and then we shall go to Saratoga, or Newport, or Long Branch, or some of those aristocratic places; and won’t it be charming?”
But Sarah Willis shook her head dubiously.
“I don’t like Mr. Montressor’s looks,” said she.
“He’s just exactly like that picture, ‘Lord Byron,” in the ‘Poets of England,'” retorted Gerty, triumphantly.
“He is only a traveling salesman.”
“But he’s to be a partner in the firm in the fall. He told me so himself, and he showed me the photograph of his employer’s daughter, who is madly in love with him.”
“Why don’t he marry her, then?”
And now Gerty dimpled into radiant consciousness. “I suppose because he likes me best.” said she.
“Oh, Gerty! and you believe all this farrago?” sighed Sarah, despairingly.
“You’re only jealous because you haven’t such a lover yourself,” retorted Gerty, frowning under her curls like a lovely, willful child. And then Sarah Willis abandoned the task of remonstrance. But for all that, the thought of Frank Tryon’s heart-break lay sore and heavy at her inmost soul.
“She may go to ruin her own way,” thought Sarah; “but she shall not drag him down with her. Montressor–Montressor I know I have heard the name somewhere–it carries a disagreeable remembrance with it. I remember now! It was a Mr. Montressor that boarded so long with Aunt Polly Sharker, and then went away without settling his score. George Gordon Montressor! that was the name! I’ll go see Aunt Polly this very night. I can easily get there on the train by 9 o’clock, and back again in time for work tomorrow morning. And if there is anything to be found out, I’ll find it! Francis Tryon was good to me once, and I shall never forget it.”
“Can I speak to you tonight, Gerty?”
Gerty Fane was hurrying away from the great workroom where the buzz of wheels was gradually decreasing, and the girls were beginning to look for their hats and shawls, when Francis Tryon advanced toward her.
“No!” she retorted, petulantly. “I’m in a hurry!”
“Then I will walk along toward home with you.”
“I’d rather go alone!”
He cast one sad, reproachful glance toward her and stepped back. “Gerty—” began he.
“I’m not Gerty, I’m Miss Fane.” said the girl, half defiant, half frightened. “And I’ll trouble you to keep your distance.”
And away she flew like an arrow out of a bow. She was just in time for the train that paused a minute at the solitary little depot in the woods, and, leaning back in the seat, reflected joyfully that she was already beginning the elopement.
Pretty, blossom-like little fool! How little had she calculated the end of her rash experiment! And yet to her it seemed that she was beginning to live romance.
It was toward 10 o’clock at night when the train stopped at Pittsburg. The Hapgood house was nearly opposite the terminus, a comfortable, old-fashioned wooden structure, its windows gleaming with lights, like the shine of friendly eyes; and thither Gerty bent her footsteps.

“Oh!” said the plump, motherly landlady, “it’s the young lady from Wardham village as a room was engaged for by Mr. Montressor. Number 16. Yes, it’s all right, Miss. Please to walk up. The lady’s there, waiting for you!”
“The lady?”
“Mrs. Montressor, you know,” said the landlady. “And a fine, handsome person she is, only a trifle stout, as we all is, when we gets toward 40 odd.”
Gerty stood as still and white as if she was turned to stone.
“His mother, I suppose,” she told herself, regaining courage. “How kind of him to send her here, to welcome me!”
At the same moment the landlady flung open the door of number 16, a small cozy room, with a bright lamp burning on the table.
“It’s the young lady, mem!” said she, dipping a courtesy.
And a fat woman, gayly dressed in cotton velvet and imitation lace, waddled forward.
“Oh!” said she, “good evening, my dear. So you’re the gal that’s goin’ to marry my husband?”
“Your husband?” echoed Gerty.
“Don’t be alarmed,” said the fat woman, busying herself with the strings of Gerty’s hat. “We was divorced eight years ago. He couldn’t support me, and I wasn’t goin’ to support him. He’s had two wives since. But don’t worry. He’s got bills from both of ’em. One of ’em drank, and t’ other one said he drank. I guess they was both true! And now he’s shined up to you! Well. I guess you’ll get enough of him: a great lazy, drinkin’ vagabond, as was raised in Pork Hill workhouse, and served two terms in the penitentiary for forgin’ Lawyer Odderley’s name to a check for $50.”
Gerty stood pale and shocked.
“It is false!” gasped she. “You are inventing these lies to estrange me from him.”
“Bless your heart, my dear, no I ain’t,” said the fat woman, with a comfortable, chuckling laugh. “What should I gain by estrangin’ you from him? I don’t care. I’ve my marriage lines to show, and my papers of divorce, and Gordy’s welcome to marry as many new wives as Bluebeard, for all I care.”
Gerty turned to the landlady.
“How early does the first train for Wardham start in the morning,” said she.
“At 4 o’clock,” said the landlady. The railroad hands go down on it.” “So will I.” said Gerty. “And how about the gentleman as engaged the rooms?” questioned Mrs. Hapgood.
“I’ll never speak to him again!” said Gerty, with spirit.

She was at her machine the next morning, as usual, and when Frank Tryon came past she looked up shyly into his face.
“Please, Mr. Tryon,” she said, “won’t you forgive me for being so cross with you last night? I–I am very sorry. And if you can walk home with me tonight–”
That was enough for Mr. Tryon. They were engaged before the moon was an hour high that night!
For Gerty’s fancy could not endure the idea of being fourth or fifth wife to a man who had once graced the penitentiary, and Mr. Montressor never beheld his pretty fiancee again.
And Sarah Willis kept the secret of her elopement well.
The Shippensburg [PA] Chronicle 12 September 1889: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A spoilt little beauty she may be, but Gerty is far from harmless. Her engagement to Mr Tryon is one best characterised as “rebound.” Mrs Daffodil wonders if there had not been quite so many Mrs Montressors–if she had been, say, only the second wife–if she would have gone through with the elopement. One fears that Gerty will continue to sigh over yellow-covered novels and long for perilous adventures. Sooner than later she will tire of the faithful Mr Tryon for whom she does not care a fig and run off with some plausible, Byronesque drummer with a wife and five children back in Buffalo. If there was any justice in this world, Mr Tryon, hurt by Gerty’s refusal, would have walked home with Sarah Willis and immediately awakened to her kindliness and goodness, recognising that Gerty’s dew-blue eyes and hair of braided sunshine concealed a cankered heart. One does not like to dwell on the sequel to this “happy ending.”

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 Handsome Man a Mistake: 1903


Leyendecker handsome man

The Handsome Man a Mistake.

Her Royal Highness, Woman, has decided that physical beauty ought to be the monopoly of her sex, and that the Handsome Man is a mistake. She has been investigating him in various roles, and declares that as a lover he is unsatisfactory, as a husband a failure, and as a brother a nuisance. The fiancée of the good-looking man has to pay dearly for her capture of an Adonis. She lives in a state of perpetual siege against a host of fair rivals, and has to run the gauntlet of such remarks as “I wonder what that handsome Mr Jones can see in that Enid Smith,” and “Isn’t it funny how good-looking men always marry such plain wives?” Her troubles are only augmented when she becomes a young matron. She has to stoically endure her husband’s flirtations with other women— who will flatter him if she will not — and to smile amiably when Mrs Robinson praises Jack and Muriel —

“Such pretty children; so like their father!” Last, but not least, she must skimp her wardrobe, while her attractive husband spends on his ties and socks what the Ugly Man would have concentrated cheerfully on his wife’s fur coat.

As a brother the Handsome Man is certainly not an unmixed blessing. From the first moment he opens his “beautiful” eyes he is the idol of an adoring mother, who displays to his moral shortcomings a more than beetle-like obtuseness. As he grows older she palliates his love for pleasure and his disinclination for work by the excuse, “Jack is so good-looking, he is sure to marry an heiress if he goes into society.”

The sister of the  Handsome Man is only asked to parties where the hostess dare not ask him without her, and she is ordered to be civil to all sorts of people who detest her but admire “dear Jack.” Then the handsome brother is generally a woman’s man, which means that Jack will not bring men friends home to smoke and play ping pong and fall in love with his sister. If the modern girl could have her choice in such a matter, she would plump unreservedly for a plain, good-natured, ordinary brother, who would contentedly accept the back seat allotted by twentieth-century women to the “mere man.”

Troublesome though the Handsome Man undoubtedly is, it is probable that, in spite of all her protestations, her Royal Highness Woman will continue to admire and marry him. The Handsome Man of to-day certainly compares favourably with the “pretty” man of 50 years ago. That popular hero was narrow-chested, puny, and pink-and-white, while black whiskers inevitably adorned” his thin cheeks. Today the Handsome Man is stalwart, well set-up, and muscular, for mere beauty of feature will count for very little. He may not be industrious, but he is wise enough to play cricket, football, and golf, and is, by the way, almost as conceited of his prowess in these directions as of his classic nose and chin and “beautiful” eyes.

Otago [NZ] Witness 18 March 1903: p. 61

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Bothersome though they are, these difficulties pale in comparison with the swath cut through happy homes and boarding houses by creatures so utterly lacking in conscience. Mrs Daffodil feels that the word “mistake” is woefully inadequate, given the damage that they do.

The Ravages of the Handsome Man.

There should be something done at once to put a stop to the ravages of the handsome man. The handsome man has not been noted for his nice regard for the rights of other men since the days when Paris ran away with Helen and involved Troy and Greece in a deadly war. It was supposed that the growth of morality and good manners had somewhat curtailed the piratical tendencies of the man who was born with a handsomer face than his neighbors and that he had of late confined his blandishments to susceptible maidens. Some late instances, however, indicate that he is at his old tricks and that he has not reformed at all, but is pursuing his calling of poaching on his neighbors’ preserves quite as vigorously as in the days of Antony and Alcibiades. He is cosmopolitan in his tastes and slights neither high nor low in his attentions.

A young German began housekeeping with his new-married wife in Newark. The young Teuton was poor in this world’s goods, possessing only the wealth of his wife’s affections and a half interest in a bouncing baby. To eke out the slender income of the family a handsome boarder was taken. About a week ago the handsome boarder concluded to leave town and took with him the whole establishment, with the exception of the husband, including $250 in money belonging to. the injured man. A German chemist, while en route to tins country a short time ago, became acquainted with a fair daughter of Germany, to whom he was married on his arrival at New York. The young couple set up their household in Hoboken and to help pay expenses a handsome boarder, also of Teutonic extraction, was taken. After a time the husband thought he discovered that the new boarder was too fond of his wife and ordered him to leave the house. He left, but took the wife and baby with him. It is needless to say that the two German husbands are of one opinion about the deserts of handsome men.

The handsome man does not confine his ravages to the homes of the humble. This is made apparent by a late Hartford scandal. The son of a political millionaire, himself the possessor of no inconsiderable claims to manly beauty, married a fascinating widow who was not only beautiful but talented. But a handsomer man from Boston cast his evil eye on that happy home and it was not. Two suits for divorce and a legal quarrel about the division of a property are the present results of too much handsomeness on the part of that Boston man.

The handsome man of moderate means and good character is also proving dangerous. A New Brunswick family, consisting of husband, wife and three interesting children, has lately become the victim of his wiles. The handsome man in this case is a church member and the trusted employe of a manufacturing company. He has left the church scandalized, the company short and the married man without either wife or children. It is not worthwhile multiplying instances to prove that the handsome man is dangerous and ought to be abolished. That fact is too apparent to admit of a single doubt. A much more interesting inquiry at present is to know how to abolish him. The shotgun and the strong arm of the law have proved alike powerless, and the statesmen and philosophers of this country should bend their gigantic intellects to the task of devising some means to accomplish this necessary work. It may be suggested by way of beginning that young married men should be very chary of handsome boarders.

The Times [Philadelphia PA] 11 February 1883: p. 4


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

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

The “lionne pauvre:” Domestic Tragedy on the Mall: 1892


A handsome woman sits in her carriage. She stops her coachman at the point where the Mall debouches into the regular drive, and there a friend accosts her. We may whisper that the lady who kindly sat as a model to our artist is Mrs. Frank W. Sanger, the manager’s wife. She chats gaily of books, and pictures, and plays, and fashions, and the races, and all the topics of a pretty woman’s talk.

The carriages flow by her as she chats. Where in the world could so miscellaneous a throng be seen? There are the old families in their staid vehicles; the newly rich in their sumptuous equipages; the people who merely drive to keep up appearances; the breeder of trotting horses; the riding-school master and his class, who are crossing from the bridle-path; the saloon-keeper and his “lady, ‘ attired in all the colors of the rainbow; the spendthrift driving tandem; the young clubman in his dog-cart; the floor-walker and the object of his affections. Who is not there that can hire, buy, or beg a carriage?

And the type of the Mall?

One would say that the dominant element in the drive was what the French call the “lionne pauvre.” The whole thing is essentially a woman’s show, and the most noticeable of the women who take part in it is the wife of the poor man, bent on making a brave show with the rich. She has been bred in luxury, and cannot give it up. She dares not say to her old companions: “My husband is poor,” or, “My husband is ruined”; and add, “We are going to give up our carriage, and live at Harlem.” Feminine vanity, the wretched competitions of “society,” impel her to keep up the fight. She has to appear in her carriage on the Mall, and bow recognitions right and left, though the butcher be clamoring with his bill at home, and the baker be threatening proceedings at law.

How many of these rich equipages have rich people for their occupants? How many are there, not to see, but to be seen?

Young Mrs. lmpecune is always in the throng. She wears the prettiest hats, the most dashing costumes. Her turn-out is faultless. The roadside reporters note her as she passes, and print her name conspicuously next morning in the papers.

Her husband never appears. That is the mark of the “lionnes pauvres.” You never see their husbands.

But one afternoon, when the wife is driving in the park, a friend calls on lmpecune at home, and says: “My boy, how do you manage to keep a carriage and pair?”

“Oh,” says lmpecune, carelessly, “my wife does it by saving in other directions.”

“But,” urges the obtrusive friend—who does not know the obtrusive friend? —”your wife has enormous bills at the dress-maker’s and milliner‘s.”

“They are all paid,” replies the husband, getting a little restive.

“Not by you,” blurts out this foolish visitor.

The husband considers the advisability of strangling his friend. He hesitates, and, hesitating, is lost. He goes to the milliner, the dress-maker, the carriage-maker. He finds that his wife’s bills are all sent to young Lawless, whose name is never linked with that of a woman without contaminating her; and it is not long before the lmpecunes appear in the divorce court.

Innumerable are the domestic tragedies of the Mall.

The Illustrated American 13 August 1892: p. 601-3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Lionne pauvres!  This tragedy could have been avoided had Mrs Impecune made a more prudent marriage with a weathier, more indulgent gentleman—one who would have been hard at work at the office or on a business trip abroad when that obtrusive friend came to call. One who would not have expected his wife to economise in any direction whatever. And one who would have laughed at the suggestion that he was not the one paying his pretty wife’s bills (in addition to bills for one or more other adorable creatures.)

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.


The Milliner’s Shop, a Rhapsody: 1823

A Morning Ramble or The Milliners Shop, print from the British Museum

A Morning Ramble or The Milliners Shop, print from the British Museum

The Margaret Hunter Shop at Colonial Williamsburg is hosting a conference this weekend: “Millinery Through Time,” to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The milliners and mantua-makers of the shop have recreated the clothing in the print above.


I know of no situation more agreeable than that of a fashionable Milliner. Everything around her is seducing:–the gauze and lawn take whatever shape her fancy directs. She arranges those flowers fashioned by art, whose vivid colors dare to rival the brilliant productions of nature. This handsome hat, this aigrette, this bouquet, acquire triple value from her plastic hand!

Beyond that glazed partition behold that assemblance of young beauties; they hold the needle and the scissors—how happily employed! Taste, or rather Fashion, directs their labor. The Graces preside over their dress; coquetry beams in their eyes;

Here on the right are the three Graces; this is the freshness of Hebe, the gait of Juno, and the beauty of Venus. There, on the left, is a sprightly brunette, a wood nymph, whose furtive glance inflamed the satyr. At the further end is a fair damsel with blue seducing eyes: it is the Queen of Cypress, who holds even the most rebellious hearts in subjection. In the morning the fashionable milliner resembles the artificial flowers around her; –at night she is the rose in all its lustre! Her worshippers increase as the star of day proceeds in its course; when Phebus has completed his career she enjoys her greatest triumph. She is the finest production of nature—the most desired.

Corinna holds the needle with grace; Victoria forms the bonnet with delicious taste; Agale plaits the gauze! What a charming occupation! Oh! That I were a milliner, or a milliner’s girl—happy young beauty, who in the closet of love preserves a heart as pure, as fresh, as the color of the flowers! What coquetry in her gait!—what a divine waist!—it is a young milliner who walks before me; she carries a light bandbox full of ribbons and roses—what grace!—what attractions!—all eyes following this charming object!—they cannot lose sight of her!

Amiable modesty! May you be ever the favorite virtue of the young milliner’s girl!  Paris paper

Dutchess Observer [Poughkeepsie, NY] 13 August 1823: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is enchanted–as who would not be?–by this seductive encomium to the coquetry of the fashionable milliner.  The 18th-century print at the head of the post shows just what was reputed to go on at the average millinery shop: flirtation and intrigue with young ladies who were no better than they should be. Amiable modesty be d_m’d, the young gentlemen might respond. Yet, should we condemn the young milliner-girls for taking advantage of their youth and beauty, so soon fled or drudged away?

Mrs Daffodil previously wrote about milliners in this history of a gauze hat, in the story of a ghost who ordered a hat, and in the pathetic tale of the umbrella girl.

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.

The Insidious Poison of the Opera: 1871

The Opera Box, Henry Nelson O'Neil, 1859

The Opera Box, Henry Nelson O’Neil, 1859


It may be mentioned as illustrating still further, the false tendencies in music, that it takes a brave man to ask for a sweet, simple song. I tried it the other night. I asked a Flora McFlimsey to give us “Way down upon the Swanee River.” The words, it will be remembered, are singularly pure, sweet and pathetic.

Many of the Italian songs just now so fashionable, are couched in language, listened to by pure-minded people, only because they don’t understand it.

When I said, “Please sing ‘Way down upon the Swanee River,'” Miss McFlimsey replied, “Excuse me, I never sing that class of music. I haven’t sung one of those simple airs, I don’t know when.” I know, by the way the girls looked at me, that their respect for my musical taste vanished at once and forever. If I had asked her for “Ah, que faime les militaire,” or “Une Poule sur la mur,” insufferable trash, both as to music and words, utterly beneath contempt, she would have eagerly screamed the bald bosh, and the weak ones would have declared it ineffably exquisite.

[Since the above was in type, Mile. Nilsson has several times sung “Way down upon the Swanee River” at her concerts.]


If you understand Italian, I need not explain; and if you do not, purchase a libretto, with English translation, of almost any of the operas, and read. 

Among those most popular on the American stage, I cannot recall more than two, that I should be willing to have my daughter read. But the music pupil must study every word, often every syllable of a word.

The lascivious suggestion, the sly inuendo, the bold challenge, — they are all exhausted in the language of the opera.

One of the charms of much of this class of music is similar to that of a new dance introduced into this country last winter; and it came, too, from the land of Italian opera. Of this dance I will only say that I overheard a buxom lass telling her lady friends “that the new dance was perfectly glorious; but,” said she, “it’s of no use to put flowers or bows in your bosom, for they get pressed flat enough, long before the first dance is over.”

Is it not a simple fact that operatic songs are popular just in proportion as they are indelicate? I have asked this question of more than a score of devotees of the opera. Half of them, perhaps, have said yes, the other half have said that the finest music happened to be associated with naughty words. Read the words of “Un mari sage” without the music. Where, outside of a brothel, could there be found a company of girls, who, with men present, would keep their faces uncovered, and listen.

I wish you would go to the opera with me; I will show you something which will impress you more deeply than any words I can write.

Here we are, so placed, that we can look into the faces of a part of the audience. Let us select a couple, and, with our glasses, watch them.

There is a beautiful black-eyed girl, — the one with that fat, red-faced gentleman. She is about sixteen, and he about thirty. I know him. He is a regular roué, although he has the entree of many of our best homes. His companion seems a modest, sweet girl.

The opera is “Faust,” one of the most unclean of the whole unclean batch.

They are both using one and the same libretto, with an English translation. This gives him an opportunity to put his arm behind her, but of course he is careful not to touch her shoulder. But we shall see, when we come to certain parts of the opera.

Now look at them. See the red spots on her cheeks; they tell us of struggling modesty and innocence. The story proceeds; the lascivious gestures, the lecherous gaze of the men and half-naked women on the stage, are beginning to tell upon the whole audience. See our girl. That arm is pressing her against his side, and her eyes are busy with the words, as if she were completely absorbed. When she returns to her home to-night, her mind will be filled with thoughts, of which she will not speak to her mother.

God alone knows the number of pure souls that have been ruined by the insidious poison of the opera.

Our Girls, Dio Lewis, 1871

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Dio Lewis” was “Dr.” Diocletian Lewis [1823-1886], homeopathic physician, educator, temperance and physical culture advocate. He ran several schools and has the dubious distinction of having invented the “beanbag.” The articles in Our Girls, on such subjects as purity, deep breathing, and hygiene were taken from his popular lecture tour. A “Flora McFlimsey” was a young lady obsessed with fashion and appearances. She first appeared in 1857 in a poem called “Nothing to Wear,” a satire on New York society extravagance.

Un mari sage, “A Husband Wise,” is from La belle Heĺeǹe by Jacques Offenbach. The song suggests that a prudent husband, returning from a trip abroad, will give advance notice of his advent so there are no unpleasant surprises. “Eprouve du désagrément.”

Ah, que faime les militaire,” (“Oh, how I love the military!”) is from La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, also by Offenbach. The soprano sings of her love of all soldiers: their smart uniforms, moustaches, and plumes and of how she longs to be a camp-follower.

Une Poule sur la mur,” “A Hen on the Wall” is a French song, supposedly for children, but with slightly suggestive lyrics

Une poule sur un mur

Qui picote du pain dur

Picoti, picota

Lève la queue

Et puis s’en va.

“lifts the tail,” indeed…

Faust, of course, tells of the seduction and betrayal of the innocent Marguerite.

One rather sees what Dr Lewis was driving at, although Mrs Daffodil must censure severely any Mama who would allow her sixteen-year-old daughter to go to the opera unchaperoned with a fat, red-faced “gentleman,” no matter what entree he has or what is playing on stage. Without a vigilant Mama en suite, a roué will find a way, whether at Faust or at a week-day matinee. Mrs Daffodil, who always tries to think the worst of her fellow-humans, wonders if the “gentleman” was very rich and the young lady was being used as bait on the matrimonial hook. Or if the sweetness and modesty was merely feigned for commercial purposes.

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.


The Umbrella Girl and the Quaker: 1820s

An 1820s umbrella

The Umbrella Girl

‘A Young girl, the only daughter of a poor widow, removed from the country to Philadelphia to earn her living by covering umbrellas. She was very handsome; with glossy black hair, large beaming eyes, and ‘lips like wet coral.’ She was just at that susceptible age when youth is ripening into womanhood, when the soul begins to be pervaded by ‘that restless principle, which impels poor humans to seek perfection in union.’

‘At a hotel near the store for which she worked, an English traveller, called Lord Henry Stuart, had taken lodgings. He was a strikingly handsome man, and of princely carriage. As this distinguished stranger passed to and from his hotel, he encountered the umbrella girl, and was attracted by her uncommon beauty. He easily traced her to the store, where he soon after went to purchase an umbrella. This was followed up by presents of flowers, chats by the way-side, and invitations to walk or ride; all of which were gratefully accepted by the unsuspecting rustic; for she was as ignorant of the dangers of a city as were the squirrels of her native fields. He was merely playing a game for temporary excitement. She, with a head full of romance, and a heart melting under the influence of love, was unconsciously endangering the happiness of her whole life.

‘Lord Henry invited her to visit the public gardens on the Fourth of July. In the simplicity of her heart, she believed all his flattering professions, and considered herself his bride elect; she therefore accepted the invitation with innocent frankness. But she had no dress fit to appear in on such a public occasion, with a gentleman of high rank, whom she verily supposed to be her destined husband. While these thoughts revolved in her mind, her eye was unfortunately attracted by a beautiful piece of silk, belonging to her employer. Could she not take it, without being seen, and pay for it secretly when she had earned money enough? The temptation conquered her in a moment of weakness. She concealed the silk, and conveyed it to her lodgings. It was the first thing she had ever stolen, and her remorse was painful. She would have carried it back, but she dreaded discovery. She was not sure that her repentance would be met in a spirit of forgiveness.

‘On the eventful Fourth of July, she came out in her new dress. Lord Henry complimented her upon her elegant appearance, but she was not happy. On their way to the gardens, he talked to her in a manner which she did not comprehend. Perceiving this, he spoke more explicitly. The guileless young creature stopped, looked in his face with mournful reproach, and burst into tears. The nobleman took her hand kindly, and said: ‘My dear, are you an innocent girl?’

”I am, I am,’ she replied, with convulsive sobs. ‘Oh! what have I ever done, or said, that you should ask me such a question?’

‘The evident sincerity of her words stirred the deep fountains of his better nature. ‘If you are innocent,’ said he, ‘God forbid that I should make you otherwise. But you accepted my invitations and presents so readily, that I supposed you understood me.

‘What could I understand,’ said she, ‘ except that you intended to make me your wife?’

‘Though reared amid the proudest distinctions of rank, he felt no inclination to smile. He blushed and was silent. The heartless conventionalities of the world stood rebuked in the presence of affectionate simplicity. He conveyed her to her humble home, and bade her farewell, with a thankful consciousness that he had done no irretrievable injury to her future prospects. The remembrance of her would soon be to him as the recollection of last year’s butterflies.

With her, the wound was deep. In the solitude of her chamber she wept in bitterness of heart over her ruined air-castles. And that dress, which she had stolen to make an appearance befitting his bride! Oh I what if she should be discovered? And would not the heart of her poor widowed mother break, if she should ever know that her child was a thief?

‘Alas! her wretched forebodings proved too true. The silk was traced to her; she was arrested on her way to the store and dragged to prison. There she refused all nourishment, and wept incessantly. On the fourth day, the keeper called upon Isaac T. Hopper, and informed him that there was a young girl in prison, who appeared to be utterly friendless, and determined to die by starvation. The kind-hearted Friend immediately went to her assistance. He found her lying on the floor of her cell, with her face buried in her hands, sobbing as if her heart would break. He tried to comfort her, but could obtain no answer.

‘Leave us alone,’ said he to the keeper. ‘Perhaps she will speak to me, if there is no one to hear.’ When they were alone together, he put back the hair from her temples, laid his hand kindly on her beautiful head, and said in soothing tones: ‘My child, consider me as thy father. Tell me all thou hast done. If thou hast taken this silk, let me know all about it. I will do for thee as I would for my own daughter; and I doubt not that I can help thee out of this difficulty.’

‘After a long time spent in affectionate entreaty, she leaned her young head on his friendly shoulder, and sobbed out: ‘Oh! I wish I was dead. What will my poor mother say when she knows of my disgrace?’

”Perhaps we can manage that she never shall know it,’ replied he. Alluring her by this hope, he gradually obtained from her the whole story of her acquaintance with the nobleman. He bade her be comforted, and take nourishment; for he would see that the silk was paid for, and the prosecution withdrawn.

‘He went immediately to her employer, and told him the story. ‘This is her first offence,’ said he. ‘The girl is young, and she is the only child of a poor widow. Give her a chance to retrieve this one false step, and she may be restored to society, a useful and honored woman. I will see that thou art paid for the silk.’ The man readily agreed to withdraw the prosecution, and said he would have dealt otherwise by the girl, it he had known all the circumstances. ‘Thou shouldst have inquired into the merits of the case,’ replied Friend Hopper.  ‘By this kind of thoughtlessness many a young creature is driven into the downward path, who might easily have been saved.’

‘The kind-hearted man next proceeded to the hotel, and with Quaker simplicity of speech, inquired for Henry Stuart. The servant said his lordship had not yet risen. ‘Tell him my business is of importance,’ said Friend Hopper. The servant soon returned and conducted him to the chamber. The nobleman appeared surprised that a stranger, in the plain Quaker costume, should thus intrude upon his luxurious privacy. When he heard his errand, he blushed deeply, and frankly admitted the truth of the girl’s statement. His benevolent visitor took the opportunity to ‘bear a testimony’ against the selfishness and sin of profligacy. He did it in such a kind and fatherly manner, that the young man’s heart was touched. He excused himself, by saying that he would not have tampered with the girl, if he had known her to be virtuous. ‘I have done many wrong things,’ said he, ‘but, thank God, no betrayal of confiding innocence weighs on my conscience. I have always esteemed it the basest act of which man is capable.’ The imprisonment of the poor girl, and the forlorn situation in which she had been found, distressed him greatly. When Friend Hopper represented that the silk had been stolen for his sake, that the girl had thereby lost profitable employment, and was obliged to return to her distant home, to avoid the danger of exposure, he took out a fifty-dollar note, and offered it to pay her expenses.

‘Nay,’ said Isaac. ‘Thou art a very rich man, I presume. I see in thy hand a large roll of such notes. She is the daughter of a poor widow, and thou hast been the means of doing her great injury. Give me another.’

‘Lord Henry handed him another fifty-dollar note, and smiled as he said: ‘You understand your business well. But you have acted nobly, and I reverence you for it. If you ever visit England, come to see me. I will give you a cordial welcome, and treat you like a nobleman.’

‘Farewell, friend,’ replied the Quaker. ‘Though much to blame in this affair, thou too hast behaved nobly. Mayst thou be blessed in domestic life, and trifle no more with the feelings of poor girls; not even with those whom others have betrayed and deserted.’

‘When the girl was arrested, she had sufficient presence of mind to assume a false name, and by that means her true name had been kept out of the newspapers. ‘I did this,’ said she, ‘ for my poor mother’s sake.’ With the money given by Lord Stuart, the silk was paid for, and she was sent home to her mother well provided with clothing. Her name and place of residence forever remained a secret in the breast of her benefactor.

‘Years after these events transpired, a lady called at Friend Hopper’s house, and asked to see him. When he entered the room, he found a handsomely-dressed young matron, with a blooming boy of five or six years old. She rose quickly to meet him, and her voice choked as she said: ‘Friend Hopper, do you know me?’ He replied that he did not. She fixed her tearful eyes earnestly upon him, and said: ‘You once helped me when in great distress.’ But the good missionary of humanity had helped too many in distress, to be able to recollect her without more precise information. With a tremulous voice she bade her son go into the next room for a few minutes; then dropping on her knees, she hid her face in his lap, and sobbed out: ‘I am the girl who stole the silk. Oh! Where should I now be, if it had not been for you!’

‘When her emotion was somewhat calmed, she told him that she had married a respectable man, a senator of his native State. Being on a visit in Friend Hopper’s vicinity, she had again and again passed his dwelling, looking wistfully at the windows to catch a sight of him; but when she attempted to enter, her courage failed.

‘But I must return home to-morrow,’ said she, ‘and I could not go away without once more seeing and thanking him who saved me from ruin.’ She recalled her little boy, and said to him: ‘Look at that gentleman, and remember him well; for he was the best friend your mother ever had.’ With an earnest invitation to visit her happy home, and a fervent ‘God bless you!’ she bade her benefactor farewell.’

Isaac T. Hopper, L. Maria Child, 1853

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:

Isaac Hopper [1771-1852] was a Quaker, philanthropist, abolitionist, and worker for prison reform. His 1853 biography, which has a link above, is full of amusing and affecting incidents and anecdotes of his cleverness in outwitting slavecatchers and corrupt officials.

Other versions of this story add the information that Lord Henry Stuart’s “visit to this country is doubtless well remembered by many, for it made a great sensation at the time. He was a peer of the realm, descended from the royal line, and was, moreover, a strikingly handsome man, of right princely carriage. He was subsequently a member of the British Parliament and is now dead.” 


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.