Tag Archives: Victorian humor

Mrs Bungay and Undertaker Toombs: 1882

1870 hearse and horses

Bungay’s Experiment

By Max Adeler.

Bungay, the real-estate agent over at Pencader, suspected that Mrs. Bungay didn’t care as much for him as she ought to. So one day he went up to the city after leaving word that he would be gone two or three days. While there he arranged with a friend to send a telegram to his wife, at a certain hour, announcing that he had been run over on the railroad and killed. Then Bungay came home, and, slipping into the house unperceived, he secreted himself in the closet in the sitting-room, to await the arrival of the telegram and to see how Mrs. Bungay took it. After a while it came, and he saw the servant-girl give it to his wife. She opened it, and as she read it she gave one little start. Then Bungay saw a smile gradually overspread her features. She ran for the girl, and when the servant came Mrs. Bungay said to her:

“Mary, Mr. Bungay’s been killed. I’ve just got the news. I reckon I’ll have to put on black for him, though I hate to give up my new bonnet for mourning. You just go round to the milliner’s and ask her to fetch me up some of the latest styles of widow’s bonnets, and tie a bunch of crape on the door, and then bring the undertaker here.”

While Mrs. Bungay was waiting she smiled continually, and once or twice she danced around the room, and stood in front of the looking-glass, and Bungay heard her murmur to herself:

“I ain’t such a bad-looking woman, either. Wonder what James will think of me?”

“James!” thought Bungay, as his widow took her seat and sang softly, as if she felt particularly happy. “Who’n the thunder’s James? She certainly can’t mean that infamous old undertaker, Toombs? His name’s James, and he’s a widower; but its preposterous to suppose that she cares for him, or is going to prowl after any man for a husband as quick as this.”

While he brooded, in horror, over the thought, Mr. Toombs arrived. The widow said:

“Mr. Toombs, Bungay is dead; run over by a locomotive and chopped all up.”

“Very sorry to hear it, madam; I sympathize with you in your affliction.”

“Thank you; it is pretty sad. But I don’t worry much. Bungay was a poor sort of a man to get along with, and now that he’s gone I’m going to stand it without crying my eyes out. We’ll have to bury him, I s’pose, though?”

“That is the usual thing to do in such cases.”

“Well, I want you to ’tend to it for me. I reckon l the Coroner ’ill have to sit on him first. But when they get through, if you’ll just collect the pieces and shake him into some kind of a bag and pack him into a coffin, I’ll be obliged.”

“Certainly, Mrs. Bungay.  Funeral to occur?”

“Oh, ’most any day. P’rhaps the sooner the better, so’s we can have it over. It’ll save expense, too, by taking less ice. I don’t want to spend much money on it, Mr. Toombs. Rig him up some kind of a cheap coffin, and mark his name on it with a brush, and hurry him with as little fuss as possible. I’ll come along with a couple of friends; and we’ll walk. No carriages. Times are too hard.”

“I will attend to it.”

“And, Mr. Toombs, there is another matter. Mr. Bungay’s life was insured for about twenty thousand dollars, and I want to get it as soon as possible, and when I get it I shall think of marrying again.”

“Indeed, madam!”

“Yes; and can you think of anybody who’ll suit me?”

“I dunno. I might. Twenty thousand you say he left?”

“Twenty thousand; yes. Now, Mr. Toombs, you’ll think me bold, but I only tell the honest truth when I say that I prefer a widower, and a man who is about middle-age, and in some business connected with cemeteries.”

“How would an undertaker suit you?”

“I think very well, if I could find one, I often told Bungay that I wished he was an undertaker.”

“Well, Mrs. Bungay, it’s a little kinder sudden; I haven’t thought much about it; and old Bungay’s hardly got fairly settled in the world of the hereafter; but business is business, and if you must have an undertaker to love you and look after that life insurance money, it appears to me that I am just about that kind of a man. Will you take me?”

“Oh, James! fold me to your bosom!”

James was just about to fold her, when Bungay, white with rage, burst from the closet, and exclaimed:

“Unhand her, villain! Touch that woman and you die! Leave this house at once, or I’ll brain you with the poker! And as for you. Mrs. Bungay, you can pack up your duds and quit. I’ve done with you; I know now that you are a cold-hearted, faithless, abominable wretch! Go, and go at once! I did this to try you, and my eyes are opened.”

“I know you did, and I concluded to pay you in your own coin.”

“That’s too awful thin. It won’t hold water.”

“It’s true anyhow. You told Mr. Magill you were going to do it, and he told me.”

“He did, hey? I’ll bust the head off of him.”

“When you are really dead I will be a good deal more sorry, provided you don’t make such a fool of yourself while you’re alive.”

“You will? You will really be sorry?”

“Of course?”

“And you won’t marry Toombs? Where is that man Toombs? By George, I’ll go for him now! He was mighty hungry for that life insurance money! I’ll step around and kick him at once while I’m mad. We’ll talk this matter over when I come back.”

Then Bungay left to call upon Toombs, and when he returned he dropped the subject. He has drawn up his will so that his wife is cut off with a shilling if she employs Toombs as the undertaker.

The Elocutionist’s Journal. A Repository of the Choicest Standard and Current Pieces for Readings and Declamations.June 1882: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only imagine the hilarity when this was presented as a parlour recitation.

Jealous husbands shamming death are nothing new in the annals of fiction as we previously saw in “Mr Mathias Rises from the Grave,” And a very sick man thought, as Mr Bungay did, that his wife was utterly heartless because he overheard her discussing not wearing the appropriate mourning.

Perhaps the best we can say is that many wives lamented their late lords and masters rather less than those gentlemen expected.

Comforting.

Jones (sick): My dear, what will you do if I should die?

Mrs. Jones: Is your insurance all paid up?”

Jones: Yes, dear.

Mrs. Jones: I’d have the loveliest mourning gown that’s ever been seen on this street!

Barbour County Index [Medicine Lodge KS] 25 November 1908: p. 2

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.

Women in 1900: A letter from the future: 1853

The New Woman

Letter Written in 1900.

Mr. Editor: How the following letter came into my possession, I leave you and your readers to conjecture. It may have come through a “medium” from the Spirit of Prophecy, but this I only throw out as a suggestion. Meanwhile, rest assured, Mr. Editor, that should I be favored with any more communications from the same source, they shall be transmitted to you without fail.

Your friend and correspondent,

Annie Elton.

Washington City, Jan. 1, 1900.

My Dear Friend: Writing to you, as I now do at the commencement of the twentieth century I am naturally led to speak of the wonderful changes which have taken place within the last half of the century just past. I remember very well when men were considered the lords of creation, when all the offices of honor and profit were in their hands. Women were at that time held in subjection by their haughty oppressors, and women’s rights were almost unknown. Now, thank Heaven! All this is reversed. Instead of lords we have ladies of creation.

Our navies do not now consist of men of war—they are all women of war. Now, happily, a woman occupies our presidential chair, while our halls of Congress are filled with a body of intelligent females, from all parts of the country. Formerly we had professional men—now we have professional women.

But, without further preface, let me give you a little sketch of Washington, which I am at present visiting. Everybody is praising the administration of Hon. Mrs. Betsey Jones, who has just assumed the reins of government. She has filled her Cabinet with some of the most distinguished stateswomen in the country. Where, for instance, could she have found a better Secretary of War than Gen. Abigail Chase, of Massachusetts, who covered herself with glory in our late war with the Sandwich Islands?

I went to the President’s levee, a few evenings since. Among the crowd who were present, I noticed Hon. Mrs. Jenkins, the distinguished Senator from the new State of Patagonia. The Russian Minister, Mrs. Orloff, had on a splendid fur cape, which attracted the attention of all the ladies present. I was sorry not to have seen the Secretary of State—but she sent word that her baby was sick, and she couldn’t come.

I called to see the Attorney General the other day, and found her husband setting the table for tea, and taking care of the children. He said his wife was so much occupied with the cares of office, that she had but little leisure for her family.

This morning arrived the steamer America, Capt. Betty Martin, commander—bringing the latest news from Europe. It seems that the Queen of Austria has just issued a womandate, ordering all the men in her dominions to have off their whiskers. In consequence of this very reasonable edict, an insurrection took place among the men, which, however, was soon quelled by the efforts of Gen. Polly Kosciusko.

I heard last Sunday an eloquent sermon, from the Rev. Sally Sprague, minister of the first Church in this city. I understand that it is to be published.

I see by the papers, that a man out west attempted to lecture on men’s rights recently, in which he foolishly insisted that men had a right to vote. I was glad to hear that he was pelted from the stage by a volley of stones from the females (dear creatures) whose rights he had assailed. Poor man! He quite forgot that, in the words of the poetess—

“Times aint now as they used to was been,

Things aint now as they used to was then.

Paulina Pry.

The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 5 February 1853: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, International Women’s Day. The article above is what passed for wit about women’s rights in the newspapers of 1853. It took 67 years after this article for women to receive the right to vote in the United States. In Switzerland, it took until 1971. There was one ingenious critic who said that the right to vote was unnecessary; that women around the world already wielded unlimited political power and that American women ought to seize that power:

Much as we may admire the conservatism that governs, or that should govern, the influence of women in the White House, we may wonder if the higher politics of America, what may be called the diplomatic politics, is not neglecting a potent weapon. It is not a little strange that women should be least powerful in republics and democracies and most powerful in monarchies. When one of the great Indian princesses was recently in America some of our prominent society women sought to interest her in the feminist movement and to stimulate the ambition of Indian women to a share in the government of the Indian provinces. The Maharanee was much amused. She said that the women of India might live in seclusion, but it was actually they who governed the country. Their husbands sat upon the thrones and filled the offices, but only to carry out the advice that came from behind the purdah curtains. The women of India, said the princess, were much more influential in politics than their sisters in America, no matter how many votes they might have.

Much the same is true in England, where women have no votes, but where they have a political power that our women have hardly dreamed of. It does not matter very much who is the wife of an American President or cabinet officer, provided always that she is a lady and is willing to be inconspicuous. But the English statesman is well-nigh a lost soul without his wife. She is expected to be minutely familiar with domestic, imperial, and international politics and to take a practical view of advancing the various causes with which her husband is identified. A ball by the wife of the prime minister may easily have wider reaching results than a meeting of the cabinet. Here it is that the most delicate webs of diplomacy are spun, and spun very largely by women, who have unsurpassed opportunities for exercising the clairvoyance of their sex. Some of the most remarkable political revelations that have ever been made are to be found in the published diaries of women….

The fault, if fault there be. is not with the American government, but with the American woman. If the American woman were capable of exercising a political influence she would exercise it, and nothing could prevent her.

Vanity Fair 1 July 1916

This post was originally published in 2017.

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 Society Reporter’s Christmas: 1893

society 1920

LITTLE EVA SWALLOWTAIL,

Or, The Society Reporter’s Christmas.

Early morn in the little parlor of a humble white cottage, where Susan Swallowtail sat waiting for her husband to return from the ball. It lacked but a few days of Christmas, and she had arisen with her little ones at five o’clock in order that William, her husband, might have a warm breakfast and a loving greeting on his return after his long night’s work.

Seated before the fire, with her sewing on her lap, Susan Swallowtail’s thoughts went back to the days when William, then on the threshold of his career as a society reporter, had first won her young heart by his description of her costume at the ball of the “Ladies’ Daughters’ Association of the Ninth Ward.” She remembered how gallantly and tenderly he had wooed her through the columns of the four weekly and Sunday papers in which he conducted the “Fashion Chit-Chat” columns, and then the tears filled her eyes as memory brought once more before her the terrible night when William came to the house and asked her father, the stern old house and sign-painter, for his daughter’s hand.

“And yet,” said Susan to herself, “my life has not been altogether an unhappy one in spite of our poverty. William has a kind heart, and I am sure that if he had anything to wear besides his dress-suit and flannel dressing-gown he would often brighten my lot by taking me out somewhere in the daytime. Ah, if papa would only relent! But I fear he will never forgive me for my marriage.”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of familiar footsteps in the hall, and the next moment her husband had clasped her in his arms, while the children clung to his ulster, and clamored for their early morning kiss.

But there was a cloud on the young husband’s brow and a tremor on his lips as he said: “Run away now, little ones; papa and mamma have something to say to one another that little ears must not hear.”

“My darling,” he said, as soon as they were alone, ” I fear that our Christmas will not be a very merry one. You know how we always depend on the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie for our Christmas dinner?”

“Indeed, I do,” replied the young wife, with a bright smile; “what beautiful slices of roast beef and magnificent mince-pies you always bring home from that ball! Surely, they will give their entertainment on Christmas-eve this year as they always have?”

“Yes, but — can you bear to hear it, my own love?”

“Let me know the worst,” said the young wife, bravely.

“Then,” said William, hoarsely, ” I will tell you. I am not going to that ball. The city editor is going to take the assignment himself, and I must go to a literary and artistic gathering, where there will be nothing but tea and recitations.”

” Yes.” said Susan, bitterly ; “and sandwiches so thin that they can be used to watch the eclipse of the sun. But what have you brought back with you now ? I hope it is something nourishing.”

“My darling.” replied William Swallowtail, in faltering tones, ” I fear you are doomed to another disappointment. I have done my best to-night, but this is all I could get my hands on;” and with these words he drew from the pockets of his heavy woolen ulster a paper-bag filled with wine jelly, a box of matrons glacis, and two pint bottles of champagne.

“Is that all?” said Susan, reproachfully. “The children have had nothing to eat since yesterday morning except patis de foie gras, macaroons, and hot-house grapes. All day long they have been crying for corned-beef sandwiches, and I have had none to give them. You told me, William, when we parted in the early evening, that you were going to a house where there would be at least ham, and perhaps bottled beer, and now you return to me with this paltry package of jelly and that very sweet wine. I hope, William ” — and a cold, hard look of suspicion crept into her face — “that you have not forgotten your vows, and given to another…”

“Susan!” cried William Swallowtail, “how can you speak or even think of such a thing, when you know full well that…”

But Susan withdrew from his embrace, and asked, in bitter, cold accents: “Was there ham at that reception or was there not?”

“There was ham, and corned-beef, too. I will not deny it; but…”

“Then, William, with what woman have you shared it?” demanded the young wife, drawing herself up lo her full height, and fixing her dark, flashing eyes full upon him.

“Susan, I implore you, listen to me, and do not judge me too harshly. There was ham, but there were several German noblemen there, too — Baron Sneeze, of the Austrian legation. Count Pretzel, and a dozen more. The smell of meat inflamed them, and 1 fought my way through them in time to save only this from the wreck.”

He drew from his ulster-pocket something done up in a piece of paper, and handed it to his wife. She opened the package, and saw that it contained what looked like a long piece of very highly polished ivory. Then her face softened, her lips trembled, and her eyes brimmed over with tears. “Forgive my unjust suspicions,” she exclaimed, as she threw herself once more into his arms. “The mute ham-bone tells me, far more strongly than any words of yours could, the story of the society reporter’s awful struggle for life.”

William kissed his young wife affectionately, and then sat down to the breakfast which she had prepared for him.

“I hope,” she said, cheerfully, as she took a dish of lobster-salad from the oven, where it had been warmed over, “that you will keep a sharp lookout for quail this week. It would be nice to have one or two for our Christmas dinner. Of course we can not afford corned-beef and cabbage like those rich people, whom you call by their first names, when you write about them in the Sunday papers; but I do hope we will not be obliged to put up with cakes and pastry and such wretched stuff.”

“Quail!” exclaimed her husband. “They are so scarce and shy this winter that we are obliged to take setter-dogs with us to the entertainments at which they are served. But I will do my best, darling.”

As soon as William had gone to bed, Susan took from its hiding place the present which she had prepared for her husband, and proceeded to sew it to the inside of his ulster as a Christmas surprise for him. She sighed to think that it was the best she could afford this year. It was a useful rather than an ornamental gift — a simple rubber pocket, made from a piece of an old mackintosh, and intended for William to carry soup in.

But Susan had a bright, hopeful spirit, and a smile soon smoothed the furrows from her face, as she murmured: “How nice it will be when William comes home with his new pocket filled with nice, warm, nourishing bouillon!” and then she glanced up from her work and saw that her daughter, little golden-haired Eva, had entered the room, and was looking at her out of her great truthful deep-blue eyes.

It was Christmas-eve, and, as Jacob Scaffold trudged through the frosty streets, the keen air brought a ruddy glow to his cheeks and tipped his nose with a brighter carmine than any that he used in the practice of his art. Entering the hall in which the ball of the Gilt-Edged Coterie was taking place, the proud old house and sign-painter quickly divested himself of his outer wraps and made his way to the committee-room.

Then, adorned with a huge badge and streamer, he strolled out to greet his friends, who were making merry on the polished floor of the ball-room. But, although the band played its most stirring measures and the lights gleamed on arms and necks of dazzling whiteness, old Jacob Scaffold sighed deeply as he seated himself in a rather obscure corner and allowed his eyes to roam about the room as if in search of some familiar face.

The fact was that the haughty, purse-proud old man was thinking of another Christmas-eve ten years before when his daughter Susan had danced at this same ball, the brightest, the prettiest, and the most sought-after girl on the floor.

“And to think,” said the old man to himself, “that with all the opportunities she had to make a good match, she should have taken up with that reporter in the shiny dress-suit! It’s five years since I’ve heard anything of her, but of late I’ve been thinking that maybe I was too harsh with her, and, perhaps…”

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a servant who told him that some one desired to see him in the committee-room. On reaching that apartment he found a little girl of, perhaps, eight years of age, plainly clad and carrying a basket in her hand.

Fixing her eyes on Jacob Scaffold, she said:

“Please, sir, are you the chairman of the press committee?”

“I am,” replied the puzzled artist; “but who are you?”

“I am the reporter of the Sunday Guff. My papa has charge of the ‘What the Four Hundred are Doing’ column, but to-night he is obliged to attend a chromo-literary reception, where there will be nothing to eat but tea and cake. Papa has reported your balls and chowder excursions for the past five years, and we have always had ham for dessert for a week afterward. We had all been looking forward to your Christmas-eve ball, and when papa told us that he would have to go to the tea and cake place to-night, mamma felt so badly that I took papa’s ticket out of his pocket when he was asleep and came here myself. Papa has a thick ulster, full of nice big pockets, that he puts on when he goes out to report, but I have brought a basket.”

The child finished her simple and affecting narrative, and the members of the press committee looked at one another dumbfounded. Jacob Scaffold was the first to break the silence.

“And what is your name, little child?” he inquired.

” Eva Swallowtail,” she answered, as she turned a pair of trusting innocent blue eyes full upon him.

The old man grew pale and his lips trembled as he gathered his grandchild in his arms. The other members of the committee softly left the room, for they all knew the story of Susan Scaffold’s misalliance and her father’s bitter feelings toward her and her husband.

“What!” cried Jacob Scaffold, “my grandchild wanting bread! Come to me, little one, and we’ll see what can be done for you.”

And, putting on his heavy ulster, he took little Eva by the hand and led the way to the great thoroughfare, on which the stores were still open.

*******

It was a happy family party that sat down to dinner in William Swallowtail’s humble home that bright Christmas day, and well did the little ones enjoy the treat which their generous new-found grandparent provided for them. They began with a soup made of wine jelly, and ended with a delicious dessert of corned-beef sandwiches and large German pickles; and then, when they could eat no more, and not even a pork pie could tempt their appetites, Grandpa Scaffold told his daughter that he was willing to lift his son-in-law from the hard and degrading labor of writing society chronicles, and give him a chance to better himself with a whitewash brush. “And,” continued the old man, “if I see that he possesses true artistic talent, I will some day give him a chance at the side of a house.” — James L. Ford in Truth.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 January  1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does so like a happy ending. Society reportage, with its emphasis on “Upper Ten-dom” tittle-tattle, bore an ambiguous reputation. On one hand, etiquette proclaimed that a lady’s name should never be mentioned in the press except at her birth, marriage, and death. On the other, social columns were highly popular, both with the participants in cotillions, balls, kettledrums, and receptions, and with the “little people,” who thrilled vicariously to descriptions of fancy-dress costumes, champagne suppers, and cotillion figures and favours.

At the time of the writing of this piece, society journalism was becoming the purview of female journalists. Mr William Swallowtail, was fortunate to be rescued by his father-in-law from the hard and degrading labour of writing society chronicles before he was rendered redundant by a lady reporter who would be paid half his wages.

Still, it is a bit disappointing not to have seen the rubber pocket deployed.

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.

Cupid’s Court: 1907

cupid reading 1900

CUPID’S COURT.

An Adverse Decision, an Appeal and an Oral Argument.

The judge’s daughter was perturbed.

“Papa,” she said, knitting her pretty brow, “I am in doubt as to whether I have kept to the proper form of proce­dure. In law one can err in so many little technicalities that I am ever fear­ful. Now, last evening George”— The judge looked at her so sharply over his glasses that she involuntarily paused.

“I thought you had sent him about his business,” he said.

“I did hand down an adverse deci­sion,” she answered, “and he declared that he would appeal. However, I con­vinced him that I was the court of last resort in a case like that and that no appeal would lie from my decision.”

“Possibly the court was assuming a little more power than rightfully belongs to it,” said the judge thoughtful­ly, “but let that pass. What did he do then?”

“He filed a petition for a rehearing.”

“The usual course,” said the judge, “but it is usually nothing but a mere formality.”

“So I thought,” returned the girl, “and I was prepared to deny it without argument, but the facts set forth in his petition were sufficient to make me hesitate and wonder whether his case had really been properly presented at the first trial.”

“Upon what grounds did he make the application?” asked the judge, scowling.

“Well,” she replied, blushing a little, “you see, he proposed by letter, and his contention was that the case cannot be properly presented by briefs, but demands oral arguments. The fact that the latter had been omitted, he held, should be held an error, and the point was such a novel one that I consented to let him argue it. Then his argument was so forceful that I granted his pe­tition and consented to hear the whole case again. Do you think”—

“I think,” said the judge, “that the court favors the plaintiff.”—Chicago Post.

The Worthington [MN] Advance 23 August 1907: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One shudders to think of young George (after being issued a writ of habeas corpus) approaching the bench to plead his case with the judge, although his legal manoeuvres in re the judge’s daughter suggest a man not easily intimidated, and one with Blackstone at his very fingertips.  Mrs Daffodil imagines that the judge put the gentleman under oath for a full deposition, then subjected him to a stiff cross-examination. But if the defendant has withdrawn her objections, what can a judge do but rule in the plaintiff’s favour?

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 Haunted Bed: 1859

doll's tester bed

The Haunted Bed

Mark Lemon

‘Why, Betty, if there isn’t Mr. Ponsonby at the door with his baggage, I’ll be whipped!’ cried the head waiter at the ___ hotel, on the evening  preceding the regatta.

‘Mr. Ponsonby, you don’t say so! and I’d given him up, and just put that weak-minded gent as come at ten o’clock in Forty-two–Mr. Ponsonby’s room as I call it; and there’s not a bed to be had in Cowes for love or money.’

‘What’s that, you say, Betty?’ said the newcomer; ‘not another bed but mine,’

‘That it, sir,’ replied Betty; ‘I kept it for you till the last train; now as that has been in a hour, I gave you up, sir. What will you do?’

‘Awkward,’ exclaimed Ponsonby; ‘the old clock in the room will break its heart; but I must sleep on a sofa.’

‘Not one disengaged, sir,’ said the waiter.

‘No sir,’ added Betty, ‘not one sir. There are four small children put to bed in a chest of drawers now in Twenty-four. We let everything before we would let Forty-two.’

‘That’s the gent that’s got your room,’ whispered John, as he ushered Mr. Ponsonby into the coffee-room.

The person alluded to was a very mild, milky-looking young gentleman of twenty-one. His present position was evidently a new one, for he was constantly employed in pulling up his shirt collar and using his toothpick.

‘John,’ said Ponsonby, ‘I must have a bed. Bring me a broiled bone and a glass of brandy and water, and put them on the table next to the young gentleman, whilst I speak to Betty.’

What the nature of Mr Ponsonby’s communication to Betty was I don’t mean to reveal; but she laughed consumedly and was shortly afterwards seen entering No. Forty-two with a warming-pan, and then returning without it. The bone and brandy and water were duly served, and Mr. Ponsonby took his place at the table. The mild gentleman pulled his collar more frequently and plied the toothpick with increased, energy.   ‘Waiter,’ cried Ponsonby, ‘here–take this thing away.’

‘Capital bone sir,’ said John; somewhat astonished.

‘Don’t tell me a capital bone!’ exclaimed Ponsonby. ‘The ‘bus driver was complaining of the mortality among his horses. Take it away.’

The mild gentleman looking alarmed, and paused in the act of pulling up his left collar.

‘Wretched house, this, sir,’ said Ponsonby, confidentially; ‘never come here if I can avoid it; but at regatta time glad to get in anywhere!’

‘Yes, sir,’ said the mild one.

‘They served me a rascally trick once, and I shall never forget it. I wonder who sleeps in that room to-night–poor devil!’

‘May I inquire what the trick was, sir?’

‘Oh! Certainly,’ said Ponsonby, ‘though I hardly like to tell the story, in case you should doubt my veracity.’

‘Oh! Sir—‘

‘Well, it seems absurd to talk of haunted chambers in the nineteenth century;’ and Ponsonby paused.

‘Not at all, sir,’ said the mild one, encouragingly.

‘But that there is one in this house I am ready to swear,’ exclaimed Ponsonby; ‘a room with a large, old-fashioned clock in it.’

‘No. Forty-two!’ gasped the mild one; ‘that’s my room!’

‘Hush, for heaven’s sake!’ said Ponsonby; ‘had I know that, I wouldn’t have said a word for the world.’

‘My dear sir, don’t say that; pray go on sir. I’m not superstitious, neither am I foolishly incredulous,’ and the mild one wiped his forehead, and emptied his tumbler at a gulp.

‘Well, as you desire it, I will narrate my story,’ said Ponsonby. ‘It was exactly three years ago, this very day, that I and my luggage found ourselves in No. Forty-two, the last room, (so the chambermaid told me,) unlet in the house.’

‘Exactly what she told me—a cockatrice!’ interrupted the mild one.

‘I was tired by my day’s journey, and went to bed exactly as the clock struck twelve. Though fatigued, I felt no disposition to sleep, so I placed my candle on the bed-steps, and began to read. I had read about five minutes, when suddenly I received a most violent blow in the stomach, and the clock struck a quarter. I started up; there was no one—nothing to account for the phenomenon. At last I concluded it must have been fancy. I read on for another quarter of an hour, when I received two blows of greater violence than the former one! The clock chimed the half-hour.’

‘Another glass of brandy and water!’ cried the mild one.

It was brought, and Ponsonby proceeded:

‘I seized the bell-rope, but a sense of shame would not let me proceed. I therefore resolved to keep watch for a short time. As I set up in bed, my eyes fell upon the face of the old clock in the corner. I could not help thinking that was connected with the annoyance I had suffered. As I looked, the minute-hand gradually approached the IX on the dial, and the moment it arrived there I received three distinct and particularly sharp raps on the crown of my head. The clock struck the three-quarters. I was now convinced that there was something wrong. What was I to do? If I disturbed the house and told this story, I should be laughed at, and set down either as drunk or dreaming. I resolved to brave the worse. I got out of bed, and, gently opening the clock-case, stopped the vibration of the pendulum.

‘Come, that must prevent the striking,’ thought I and laid myself down with something like a chuckle at my own brilliancy.’

‘A chuckle!’ murmured the mild one.

‘I had not been in bed above five minutes,’ resumed Ponsonby, ‘when I heard the door of the block-case open slowly. I felt, I confess, a tremor—‘

‘I should think so!’

‘And I saw the pendulum throw a somersault on the floor, and deliberately hop—hop—hop towards the bed. It paused for a moment, and bending it round brazen face full upon me, said—‘

‘Spoke?’ gasped the mild one.

‘Said,’ continued Ponsonby: (not heeding the interruption,) “Sir, I am very much obliged to you for stopping my labors. People think I never want any rest, but that I can stand being perpetually wound up and kept on the go. With your permission, I’ll get into bed;’ and without waiting for an answer, into bed it got.

‘I suppose,’ continued the pendulum, you are not aware that this is our room.’

‘Our room!’ said I.

‘Yes; mine and the rest of the works. The man who made us, died in this bed, and left it to us as a legacy. You found something rather unpleasant, didn’t you?’

‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘very unpleasant.’

‘Ah! That was the striking weight; he always serves intruders that way when we are going. When we are not, and I come to bed, he is quiet enough. But as I am likely to be set going again in the morning, and it’s now nearly half past nine, I’ll wish you a good night.

‘Good night, sir,’ I replied, quaking from heat to foot. ‘So,’ thought I, ‘who ever sleeps in this bed must either submit to be thumped black and blue by the striking weight, or accept of this horrible monster for a bed-fellow. At this moment the pendulum, I suppose, fell asleep, for it commenced an innocent ‘tick-tick,’ ‘tick-tick,’ that rendered all attempts at forgetfulness of my part impossible.’

‘Another glass of brandy and water!’ cried the mild one.

‘No, no,’ said Ponsonby, ‘I would advise you not. Have your chamber candle and go to bed.’

‘Go to bed in No. 42!’ exclaimed the mild one. ‘Never!’

‘My dear fellow, matters may have changed since the period I have been talking of. Go to your room, and if anything occurs it is easy to ring the bell. Come, I’ll see you to the door.’

And, taking their candles, the pair proceeded to No. 42.

‘Here we are,’ said Ponsonby, ‘good night.’

The mild gentleman could only wave his head in valediction as he entered the haunted chamber. In a minute he uttered a shrill cry, and rushed into the lobby, his hair literally on end with terror.

‘What’s the matter, now?’ said Ponsonby.

‘It’s there!—in bed—fast asleep—I’ve seen it—the pendulum! I’d not sleep there for a thousand pounds!’

‘Good gracious! What will you do?’

‘Sleep on the stairs—if I but had my carpet-bag out of the room!’

‘I’ll fetch it for you. I don’t mind the pendulum; he’s an old friend of mine.’

And in another minute, the mild one was travelling down to the coffee-room, bumping his carpet bag from stair to stair, to the probable disturbance of the whole house.

‘Betty! Betty!’ said Ponsonby, in an undertone, ‘tell the porter to bring my baggage to No. 42. Ha! Ha! Capital, Betty!’ roared Ponsonby as he saw the cause of the mild one’s terror.

It was the brazen warming pan comfortably put to bed in No. 42, and which the M.G. in his terror had taken for a pendulum.

In the morning the mild gentleman did not show himself. He had drank three bottles of soda water, paid his bill, and gone off by the first train.

The Democratic Pioneer [Elizabeth City NC] 17 May 1859: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mark Lemon was the genial co-founder and long-time editor and writer for the comic magazine Punch.  He has a freshness and a modern strain to his writing that makes it amusing, even to-day, while a good deal of Victorian humour is lost on modern readers.

warming pan

Brass warming pan

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 Disappointed Lunchist: 1871

fly-trap

Fly Trap

A Disappointed Lunchist.

Every city that has been fortunate enough to attain the metropolitan proportions of Dubuque, has a species of the genus homo who subsist on the free lunches set out on the counters of the various saloons. Among saloon keepers they are known as the lunch fiends. They gravitate from one point to another, picking a bone here and a crust of bread there, and are generally disposed to hang around until some customer, taking pity on their woebegone appearance, invites them up to drink. And this brings us to tell how nicely one of these gentry got fooled the other day.

Heeb, the brewer, being much annoyed by flies, invested in one of Capt. Jack Parker’s patent fly catchers and placed the same up on the counter of his bar. The trap is of wire, the flies entering from the bottom and proceeding to the top, where they find themselves prisoners. In order to coax the flies into the concern the trap is placed over a plate, which is filled with a conglomeration of musty crackers, Limburger cheese, orange peel, stale beer and other delicacies, forming a dose not altogether palatable, but which appears to be well-suited to the stomach of the flies.

The other day a lunch fiend entered Heeb’s establishment, and beholding the fly trap for the first time, and the plate under it, he naturally concluded that the same was set out for a free lunch, and that the wire arrangement had merely been placed over it to protect it from the flies. The lunch fiend concluded that this was his opportunity for breaking a somewhat prolonged fast. He waited patiently until the bar keeper’s back was turned, and then he pounced upon that plate as eager as a greedy hound, and had half the fly bait down his gullet before he discovered his mistake. We have only to add that the savory morsel came up again as quickly as it went down, and the last seen of the lunch fiend he was taking a bee line for Dunleith. He don’t hanker after any more of that kind of food.

Dubuque [IA] Daily Times 1 July 1871: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One really can find nothing to add….

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 Ladies’ University (As it Should Be): 1875

THE LADIES’ UNIVERSITY.

(AS IT SHOULD BE.)

SceneThe Examination Room of the University.

Professor Punch seated at table, writing. Enter Candidate for Matriculation.

Professor. My dear young Lady, pray take a chair. First let me saу that I am glad to see you have adopted a very proper costume in which to present yourself before the Authorities. A plain stuff gown, a neat cap, and a brown Holland apron. Nothing could be better.

Candidate (seating herself). I am delighted to have gained your approbation, Professor. My choice was regulated by the reflection that I intend to work and not to play.

Professor. Well said! And now, are you desirous of becoming a Member of this University?

Candidate. I am. I covet the honour.

Professor. It is necessary to ask you a few questions. What do you consider to be the “Rights of Woman”?

Candidate. She has but one right, which involves many duties— the right to be the Sweetness and Light, the Grace and Queen of home.

Professor. Very good. You would not wish to sit in Parliament?

Candidate. When my household duties were over, I should not object to an occasional seat in the Ladies’ Gallery—that is, supposing my husband were a Member of the House fond of addressing the Speaker.

Professor. A very proper reply. You do not wish to be a doctor or a lawyer?

Candidate (laughing). Certainly not. My ambition would be quite satisfied were I a good nurse and an efficient accountant.

Professor. An efficient accountant?

Candidate. Yes—that I might be able to check the butcher’s book.

Professor. Very good, indeed! Now do you know the chief object of this University?

Candidate. I believe so. It is to elevate the art of Cooking into a Christian duty. As Mr. Buckmaster said the other day at York,

“Our health, morality, social life, and powers of endurance depend very much on our food, and if it be a Christian duty to cultivate the earth, and make it bring forth food both for man and beast, it is equally a Christian duty to make that food enjoyable and wholesome by good cooking.”

Professor. You are quite right. I too will quote from Mr. Buckmaster’s very excellent speech. He said—

“So long as people prefer dirt to cleanliness and drink to food, and who know nothing, and don’t care to know anything, of those processes and conditions or laws which God has ordered as the condition of health, and without health there can be no happiness, so long as this ignorance and the prejudices which flow from it exist, all efforts except teaching will be comparatively useless. No law can prevent people from eating improper and unwholesome food, or accumulating heaps of filth in the dark corners of rooms, or compel them to open their windows or wash their bodies. Nothing but knowledge or a better education in common things will ever bring about these desirable results. It is for these and many other reasons that I am most anxious about the education of girls. The future of this country depends on their education. Every girls’ school should have a kitchen, with such appliances as they would be likely to have in their own homes, and every young lady should bе able to prepare, from first to last, a nice little dinner.”

Do you agree with Mr. Buckmaster?

Candidate. Most cordially. I think Mr. Buckmaster deserves the thanks of every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom.

Professor. And so do I. What classes do you wish to join?

Candidate. The Cooking Class, the Dress and Bonnet Class, the Furniture-Judging Class, and the Domestic Economy Class. After I have passed through these, I should very much like to finish my University career by undergoing a final course of Music, Painting, and Modern Languages.

Professor (signing certificate). I have much pleasure in informing you that you are now a Member of the Ladies’ University. You have passed your preliminary examination most creditably.

Candidate. A thousand thanks, Professor.

[Rises, curtsies, and exit to join the Cookery Class.]

Professor. A sensible girl that!

[As the Scene closes in, Professor Punch smilingly returns to his work.]

Punch 20 March 1875: p. 123

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As Mrs Daffodil’s readers will ascertain from the citation, this is cutting satire for 1875, when university education for women had scarcely begun to be bruited in public discussion and when Mr Patmore’s poem, “The Angel in the House,” was the pattern for feminine behavior. To be Relentlessly Informative, Mr J.C. Buckmaster, a chemist and  associate of a number of scientific societies and the Royal Polytechnic Institute, was the author of Buckmaster’s Cookery, Buckmaster’s Domestic Economy and Cooking. He lectured on cookery at the Great Exhibition.

Punch seemed fond of using culinary references in their barbs directed at women’s education. In 1894, under the heading “The Girton Girl, B.A.” it was announced that a female student at Girton, Miss E.H. Cooke, was on the list of Wranglers for Cambridge University. (This means that she placed in the first class in the very difficult Mathematics Tripos, even though, at this time, women were still not yet allowed to officially take the Tripos.) Punch commented:

Bravissima Miss E.H. Cooke. No difficulty in securing a first rate-place for so excellent a chef. Of course, so admirable a Cooke will at once receive the cordon bleu!

Punch 23 June 1894: p. 297

Really, it is enough to make one slip a little undetectable poison into that “nice little dinner.”

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.

 

Women in 1900: A letter from the future: 1853

The New Woman

Letter Written in 1900.

Mr. Editor: How the following letter came into my possession, I leave you and your readers to conjecture. It may have come through a “medium” from the Spirit of Prophecy, but this I only throw out as a suggestion. Meanwhile, rest assured, Mr. Editor, that should I be favored with any more communications from the same source, they shall be transmitted to you without fail.

Your friend and correspondent,

Annie Elton.

Washington City, Jan. 1, 1900.

My Dear Friend: Writing to you, as I now do at the commencement of the twentieth century I am naturally led to speak of the wonderful changes which have taken place within the last half of the century just past. I remember very well when men were considered the lords of creation, when all the offices of honor and profit were in their hands. Women were at that time held in subjection by their haughty oppressors, and women’s rights were almost unknown. Now, thank Heaven! All this is reversed. Instead of lords we have ladies of creation.

Our navies do not now consist of men of war—they are all women of war. Now, happily, a woman occupies our presidential chair, while our halls of Congress are filled with a body of intelligent females, from all parts of the country. Formerly we had professional men—now we have professional women.

But, without further preface, let me give you a little sketch of Washington, which I am at present visiting. Everybody is praising the administration of Hon. Mrs. Betsey Jones, who has just assumed the reins of government. She has filled her Cabinet with some of the most distinguished stateswomen in the country. Where, for instance, could she have found a better Secretary of War than Gen. Abigail Chase, of Massachusetts, who covered herself with glory in our late war with the Sandwich Islands?

I went to the President’s levee, a few evenings since. Among the crowd who were present, I noticed Hon. Mrs. Jenkins, the distinguished Senator from the new State of Patagonia. The Russian Minister, Mrs. Orloff, had on a splendid fur cape, which attracted the attention of all the ladies present. I was sorry not to have seen the Secretary of State—but she sent word that her baby was sick, and she couldn’t come.

I called to see the Attorney General the other day, and found her husband setting the table for tea, and taking care of the children. He said his wife was so much occupied with the cares of office, that she had but little leisure for her family.

This morning arrived the steamer America, Capt. Betty Martin, commander—bringing the latest news from Europe. It seems that the Queen of Austria has just issued a womandate, ordering all the men in her dominions to have off their whiskers. In consequence of this very reasonable edict, an insurrection took place among the men, which, however, was soon quelled by the efforts of Gen. Polly Kosciusko.

I heard last Sunday an eloquent sermon, from the Rev. Sally Sprague, minister of the first Church in this city. I understand that it is to be published.

I see by the papers, that a man out west attempted to lecture on men’s rights recently, in which he foolishly insisted that men had a right to vote. I was glad to hear that he was pelted from the stage by a volley of stones from the females (dear creatures) whose rights he had assailed. Poor man! He quite forgot that, in the words of the poetess—

“Times aint now as they used to was been,

Things aint now as they used to was then.

Paulina Pry.

The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 5 February 1853: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, International Women’s Day. The article above is what passed for wit about women’s rights in the newspapers of 1853. It took 67 years after this article for women to receive the right to vote in the United States. In Switzerland, it took until 1971. There was one ingenious critic who said that the right to vote was unnecessary; that women around the world already wielded unlimited political power and that American women ought to seize that power:

Much as we may admire the conservatism that governs, or that should govern, the influence of women in the White House, we may wonder if the higher politics of America, what may be called the diplomatic politics, is not neglecting a potent weapon. It is not a little strange that women should be least powerful in republics and democracies and most powerful in monarchies. When one of the great Indian princesses was recently in America some of our prominent society women sought to interest her in the feminist movement and to stimulate the ambition of Indian women to a share in the government of the Indian provinces. The Maharanee was much amused. She said that the women of India might live in seclusion, but it was actually they who governed the country. Their husbands sat upon the thrones and filled the offices, but only to carry out the advice that came from behind the purdah curtains. The women of India, said the princess, were much more influential in politics than their sisters in America, no matter how many votes they might have.

Much the same is true in England, where women have no votes, but where they have a political power that our women have hardly dreamed of. It does not matter very much who is the wife of an American President or cabinet officer, provided always that she is a lady and is willing to be inconspicuous. But the English statesman is well-nigh a lost soul without his wife. She is expected to be minutely familiar with domestic, imperial, and international politics and to take a practical view of advancing the various causes with which her husband is identified. A ball by the wife of the prime minister may easily have wider reaching results than a meeting of the cabinet. Here it is that the most delicate webs of diplomacy are spun, and spun very largely by women, who have unsurpassed opportunities for exercising the clairvoyance of their sex. Some of the most remarkable political revelations that have ever been made are to be found in the published diaries of women….

The fault, if fault there be. is not with the American government, but with the American woman. If the American woman were capable of exercising a political influence she would exercise it, and nothing could prevent her.

Vanity Fair 1 July 1916

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 Family Budget: 1875

THE FAMILY BUDGET.

A Meeting was held in the library of the mansion belonging to John Smith. Esq., on Tuesday last, to consider the annual financial statement of Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith occupied his usual chair, and Mrs. Smith was accommodated with a seat on the sofa. Amongst those present were the Misses Smith (4), John Smith, Esq., Jun., and Masters Tommy and Harry Smith. Charles Dashleigh, Esq. (nephew of Mrs. Smith), was also in attendance.

Mrs. Smith opened the proceedings by explaining that the holding of the Meeting had been strongly opposed by the Chairman (Mr. J. Smith).’ She regretted to say that she had been compelled to resort to force to gain admittance. (” Shame!”) But skill had overcome power. (“Hear, hear!”) The library fire had been purposely allowed to expire; and when the Chairman rang for fresh fuel, an entrance had been secured under cover of the coal-scuttle. ( Cheers.) However, there they were; and they were well satisfied to let matters rest. She would explain as briefly as possible the position of affairs. This year the grant for Millinery would have to be materially increased, as trains were growing longer and longer day by day. Moreover, full evening dress was beginning to be worn again at the Opera. Meat was never dearer, and, in spite of the “Stores,” grocery of all kinds was excessively expensive. The Meeting would remember that twelve months since an additional grant had to be made to pay for the brougham; but this sum would not be saved this year, as it had already been expended in purchasing a box at Covent Garden. (“O! O!”’ from the Chairman.) There was also a great increase in the item, “&c.” Last year “&c.” amounted to £874 5s. 6d. ; this year “&c.” had increased to £1,202 4s. 7 1/2d.

The Chairman said he would like to have a list of the items included in the term ” &c.”

Mrs. Smith had no doubt but what he would. (Laughter.) She could only say that ” &c.” meant lots of things. (“Hear, hear!”) For instance, the children’s schooling, bouquets, subscriptions to the Circulating Library, and, in fact, a lot of other things she could not remember at the moment. It saved a great deal of time and trouble to put the things down in a round sum. (“Hear, hear.'”) To meet this expenditure, she looked, as usual, to the cheque-book and banking account of Mr. Smith—the gentleman now occupying the Chair. (Cheers.)

Miss Smith complained of the small grant allowed for pin-money. False curls had greatly increased in value during the past year, and really the sum she received scarcely sufficed to pay the bill of the hair-dresser. She must have some more money, to avoid appearing in the character of  “a perfect fright.”

(“Hear, hear.”)

The Misses Angelina and Laura Smith corroborated the statement of their elder sister.

Mr. Smith Junior said he must have an additional fifty pounds a year allowed to him, as flowers in the button-hole were coming into fashion again.

Mr. Charles Dashleigh said he had looked in on the chance of his uncle being able, or, rather willing, to do something for him.

The Chairman was understood to say that he was neither able nor willing to do anything for his nephew—an announcement that was received with much cheering.

Mr. Charles Dashleigh observed that, after that statement, he need not stay any longer. (“Hear, hear!”) He would merely add that he had always managed to live at the rate of £2000 a year on an income something under £200. How he managed to do this was as great a mystery to himself as it was to the rest of the civilised world. The speaker then withdrew.

Mrs. Smith said, that the business of the Meeting being over, she merely had to ask the Chairman for a cheque. (Cheers.)

The Chairman, after observing “What must be must,” (a remark which caused some merriment,) retired from the Library, avowedly to get his cheque-book, which he said had been left in the Dining-room.

After waiting patiently for half an hour for the return of the Chairman, the Meeting ascertained that that gentleman had treacherously left his home for his Club.

Upon this discovery being made, the Meeting passed a vote of want of confidence in the absent Chairman, and separated angrily.

When our parcel was made up, Mr. John Smith was still dining.

Punch 24 April 1875: p. 180

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It has often been said that if the government would find itself in a solvent condition, it would do well to adopt the budgetary methods of the prudent and thrifty housewife.  This popular idea may have been overstated as it does not allow for the naturally improvident or the purchase of false curls and boxes at Covent Garden.

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.

 

Mr Hoofnackle Tells the Truth: 1897

Yankee home-spun philosopher, 1911

Yankee home-spun philosopher, 1911

The Hoofnackle Letters.

Translated from the St. Louis (German) “Laterne,” for ” Texas Siftings,” by Alex. E. Sweet.

Mr. Editor,—l read very often that lying in every-day life is getting to be more common every day, that even the children are instructed in lying, &c.

This thing has got to stop. “Jackson,” said I to myself, “you must make an effort to see if in this free country you can’t get along without lying. You must set a good example. Try to live one day, anyhow, without telling a single lie. Be perfectly candid and truthful, no matter what the consequences may be.”

Having thus made up my mind, I determined to make a beginning with Sarah. I began to regret this as soon as we sat down to breakfast, as she was very amiable, something quite unusual with her. I verily believe I would have spared her feelings if she hadn’t asked me if I wanted another cup of coffee. Of course, I couldn’t back down, so I said:

“As far as I know, Missus Hoofnackle, I have not had any coffee yet, unless you call this dishwater coffee. This hogwash is so weak, I don’t see how it manages to crawl out of the pot.” Whew! Talk of cyclones. However, it subsided, because she really thought I had lost the use of my mental faculties, and she had pity on my mental condition.

“What is the matter with you, Jackson, anyhow? Are you not feeling well?”

“No; I’ve got a headache.”

“How do you come to have a headache?” she asked anxiously.

Remembering my vow to tell the truth under all circumstances, I answered boldly:

“My headache is caused by intemperance. I am more or less drunk every night Last night I drank fourteen glasses of beer, seven glasses of wine, four more classes of beer, two schnapps, and three cocktails that I know of. I expect I’ll have delirium tremens before long.”

“Merciful heavens!” cried Sarah. “Is that the kind of a slop-barrel I’ve got for a husband?” After she had called me a tank, &c., she put on her new hat and sailed out of the house.

“This thing starts out fine,” I remarked to myself confidentially. When I got out on the street the first man I met was my landlord. l am owing him several months’ rent, but he has always treated me with consideration. I was sorry to meet him, but Hoofnackle never backs down. During the brief conversation we had I called him a Shylock, and he told me that I never expected to pay him a cent for back rent. He struck a dog-trot for a lawyer’s office and I passed on, happy in the thought that thus far I had told nothing but the truth.

As luck would have it, I met Mrs. Shroud, wife of Undertaker Shroud. She had a market-basket on her arm. She admires me very much, and always takes my part when Sarah abuses me in the coffee klatsch.

“Good morning, Mister Hoofnackle,” says she, smiling pleasantly. “You are looking younger than ever.”

“That’s a blamed sight more than I can say for you, Mrs. Shroud. Your face is all shrivelled up, and if you don’t buy a new set of false teeth you’ll lose those you’ve got in your month. Judging by your looks, you’ll be the next subject that drunken bum of a husband of yours will have to attend to.”

“O, you brute,” she shrieked; and dropping her market basket she turned up her mug and howled like a dog that has been tied up without anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. Then she started on a keen run for her husband’s place of business.

“I’m getting along finely,” I remarked to myself.

The next man that I met was a broker named Grabber. He has always treated me very politely, and I hated to insult him; but I made up my mind not to yield, so when he asked me why I refused to drink with him, I replied candidly.

“I am very sorry, Mr. Grabber, but I do not wish to help you squander the money you have gouged out of the widow and the orphan, you rascally old cheat. You ought to be run in.”

Grabber went off, swearing like a trooper, and then I had the difficulty with Shroud.

When I came to I was at home. There was a note from Sarah, informing me that she had brought suit for divorce, I being a common drunkard. All communications to be addressed to her lawyers, Gougem and Cheatem. She had gone to her mother.

There was another official document in regard to the rent, and still another from Grabber, who wrote that if I did not pay up there would be a personal in that morning’s papers that would make my eyes bulge out when I saw it.

That was glory enough for one day. My advice is, not to be reckless telling the truth. The best way is to keep on lying the same as usual. That is much the healthiest plan. Of course, Mr. Editor, you do not need any such advice, for with you lying has long since become second nature—Your old friend,

JACKSON P. HOOFNACKLE.

Pelorus Guardian and Miners’ Advocate 24 September 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Hoofnackle follows in a long line of whimsically vernacular characters from the American press. They comment on politics and the topics of the day and are alleged to be specimens of genuine home-spun American humour. Some rely heavily on poor orthography and painfully-transcribed regional dialects. Others include “Mr Dooley,” an Irish publican from Chicago; “Petroleum V[esuvius] Nasby,” a “Copperhead” exponent of slavery; and shrewd Yankee “Josh Billings.”  A sampling of Mr Billings’s wit and wisdom:

Luv iz like the meazels, we kant alwus tell when we ketched it and ain’t ap tew hav it severe but onst, and then it ain’t kounted mutch unless it strikes inly. [This is frequently rephrased to suggest that love is like the measles: best caught when young or the consequences are dire.]

I often hear affekshunate husbands kall their wifes “Mi Duck,” I wunder if this ain’t a sli delusion tew their big bills?

If yu don’t beleaf in “total depravity,” buy a quart ov gin and studdy it.

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.