Tag Archives: Victorian humour

A Touching Tribute to a Wife: 1872

A Touching Obituary

A disconsolate husband [who also happens to be the editor of a local newspaper] thus bewails the loss of his wife, and apostrophizes her memory:

Thus my wife died. No more will those loving hands pull of my boots and part my back hair, as only a true wife can. No more will those willing feet replenish the coal hod and water pail. No more will she arise amidst the tempestuous storms of winter, and gladly hie herself away to build the fire without disturbing the slumbers of the man who doted on her so artlessly. Her memory is embalmed in my heart of hearts. I wanted to embalm her body, but I found I could embalm her memory much cheaper.

I procured of Eli Mudget, a neighbor of mine, a very pretty gravestone. His wife was consumptive, and he had kept it on hand several years, in anticipation of her death. But she rallied that Spring and his hopes were blasted. Never shall I forget the poor man’s grief when I asked him to part with it. “Take it, Skinner,” said he, “and may you never know what it is to have your soul racked with disappointment, as mine has been!” and he burst into a flood of tears. His spirit was indeed utterly broken.

I had the following epistle engraved upon her gravestone: “To the memory of Tabitha, wife of Moses Skinner, Esq. gentlemanly editor of the Trombone. Terms three dollars a year invariably in advance. A kind mother and exemplary wife. Office over Coleman’s grocery, up two flights of stairs. Knock hard. ‘We shall miss thee, mother, we shall miss thee.’ Job printing solicited.”

Thus did my lacerated spirit cry out in agony, even as Rachel weeping for her children. But one ray of light penetrated the despair of my soul. The undertaker took his pay in job printing, and the sexton owed me a little account I should not have gotten any other way. Why should we pine at the mysterious ways of Providence and vicinity? (Not a conundrum.) I here pause to drop a silent tear to the memory of Tabitha Ripley, that was. She was an eminently pious woman, and could fry the best piece of tripe I ever flung under my vest. Her pick-up dinners were a perfect success, and she always doted on foreign missions.

Camden [NJ] Democrat 27 April 1872: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A touching tribute, indeed. It is not just any woman who can fry tripe to perfection, although Mr Skinner is ambiguous about whether the tripe was within his person or tucked under the vest until he could feed it to the dog.

Widowers were a pathetic lot. Sometimes they would go to any length to procure a monument for their lost loved one.

A Sorrowing Widower

A fellow living on the Indiana shore of the Ohio river, near Vevay, Indiana, having recently lost his wife, crossed in a boat to the Kentucky side, visited a grave yard there and stole a tombstone, which he placed over the remains of his lamented better half. Public Ledger [Philadelphia, PA] 19 June 1860: p. 1

This widower was late to the party, but better late than never…

THE TOMBSTONE

Meant a Good Deal and He Wanted It Right Away.

[New York Journal]

A countryman entered the office of a dealer in monuments.

“I want a stone to put at the grave of my wife,” he said.

“About what size and price?”

“I don’t know. Susan was a good woman. A trifle sharp, mebbe, at times, but she was a good woman and never got tired of working. Just seemed to sort of faded away. She brought me a tidy sum when I married her, and now I want to put up a stone that her children and me kin be proud of.”

“Did she die recently?” asked the dealer, sympathetically.

“Not so very. It will be five years next month. I thought to put up a stone sooner, but I’ve been too busy. Now I’ve got around to it, and want one right away.”

“Well, here’s a book of designs. Select what you think will suit you.”

“I don’t know much about such things, and you are in the business. I’d rather you would take $50 and do the best you can. I want sumthin’ showy. I’ll tell you how it is, and then you’ll know the kind. I want to marry the Widder Scroggs, and I heerd she said that I was too mean to even put a stone at the grave of my first wife, when she brought me all of my property. Put a stone that will catch the eye of a wider and write a nice verse on it. If $50 ain’t enough and you are sure a little more will help me with the wider put it on, and I’ll make it right soon as I marry her. She’s got a heap of property, and while it seems a lot of money to put in a stone, I reckon the chances are with it.” And the sorrow-stricken widower paid $50 and inquired where he could get a present cheap that would suit a widow. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 November, 1896: p. 12

Such little attentions to a late wife’s grave did not go unnoticed:

A Kansas woman fell in love and married a widower for no other reason, so she said, than that he took such excellent care of his first wife’s grave. Kansas City [MO] Star 2 April 1924: p. 26

One might do worse than to use a widower’s care-taking qualities as a benchmark when choosing a mate, although bedding plants and granite or slate slabs require a good less attention than a wife.

You may read more about widowers, tombstones, and mourning in The Victorian Book of the 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.

 

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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.

 

Sixteen-button Bouffants: A Chat with the Fashion Gazette Editor: 1888

A late 1880s ball gown with a shockingly long corsage hanging down at the back.

A late 1880s ball gown with a shockingly long corsage, ripe for dragging through the mud.

AN EXPERIENCE OF THE MANAGING EDITOR OF A FASHION GAZETTE.

The genuine fashions man was busy at his lunch. The editor-in-chief was lounging in his chair, devising ways and means of a financial character when she entered.

“Is the gentleman who knows everything about the fashions column in?” stammered a vision of golden hair and sea-blue eyes, as she stood timidly beside the managing editor’s desk.

“Every thing about what?” asked the editor, clawing around under his desk for his shoes, and trying to hide his stocking feet under him. “Upon which particular branch do you seek information?”

“I don’t exactly know what to do,” pouted the strawberry lips. “Pa says I can have one dress this spring, and I don’t know how to make it up. I thought the gentleman who answers fashions questions could tell me.”

“H’m,” muttered the managing editor. “He has gone up to Maine to find out why geese always walk in single file. An ‘Anxious Inquirer’ wants to know. What kind of a dress had you thought of getting?”

“That’s what I want to know. I want something that would look well with terra-cotta gloves.”

“Yes, yes,” murmured the editor. “Then you should get one of those green things with beads that turn all kinds of colours, and some fringe and fixings of that kind.” “Would you have it cut princess or wear it with a polonaise?” she inquired, looking at him searchingly. “You might have it princess around the neck and a row of polonaises at the bottom,” suggested the editor. “That’s going to be very fashionable, and a couple of hip pockets would set it off royally.”

“I don’t know,” murmured the beauty. “I haven’t seen any of that style. Do you know whether panniers are worn bouffant this season or whether the skirt is tight?” “Oh, certainly!” replied the editor. “They are made with all the bouffants you can get on ’em. Some have even sixteen-button bouffants, and there was a lady in here yesterday who had a pannier that came clean up to her neck. I should have it pretty bouffant if it was my dress.”

“Well,” stammered the blushing blossom, “would you box-plait the skirt or shirr it?”

“Shirr it, by all means,” exclaimed the editor. “Shirr it straight up and down, and fasten it with those loops of black tape.”

“You mean frogs?” asked the beauty.

“No, no. Those big loops that slip over two buttons. That sets off the shirrs and gives a sort of tout to the ensemble,” and the editor leaned back and smiled superiorly.

“Don’t you think revers of a lighter shade would look pretty?” she inquired.

“They’ll do to fix up the back, but I wouldn’t put ’em on the front,” answered the editor sagely. “Revers are very well to trim a hat with, but they don’t set off a dress front.”

“How would you have the corsage?”

“I wouldn’t have any at all. You would look much better without one.”

“Sir!” she exclaimed, rising.

“Oh, if you insist, you might have a small one, certainly not over three inches long, for short dresses are the style now.”

“You—you don’t seem to understand—-” she commenced.

“Oh, don’t I?” he retorted. “That’s what I’m here for. I think there’s nothing so lamentable as to see a young lady dragging her corsage through the mud and dust. Still, if you want one, you should have it so you can take it off when you go on the street and only wear it at home. They are hard to handle, and not one woman in a hundred can kick her corsage gracefully.”

“I—I am very much obliged to you,” she murmured. “You are very good, I’m sure.”

“Don’t mention it,” replied the editor, politely. “I think when you get it shirred, and revered, and polonaised, and princessed, you’ll like it very much. You might get a sash and some big buttons to put on behind; or if you’d like another style better, you might trim the whole front with bouffants and wear the pannier for a hat.”

“Oh, thank you sir!” exclaimed the blushing bud, as she scuttled down stairs.

“Swipes!” roared the managing editor, with a complacent smile and a glance of approval at himself in the glass, “Swipes, you may tell the foreman to send me a proof of the fashion notes as soon as they come in. I have observed that a great many errors have crept in lately, and we should be strictly accurate in all our statements, or the public will lose confidence in us.”

The Two Worlds 26 October 1888

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The foregoing reminds Mrs Daffodil of an amusing parody of fashion reporting from that American savant of humour, Mr Mark Twain. And of this would-be seller of dress goods who mistook a polonaise for Appolinaris sparkling water.

The title refers to the anxiety many ladies felt over the correct number of buttons on their gloves. This excerpt gives some guidance on this important question:

 Twelve-button gloves are generally used with three-quarter length sleeves and sixteen-button gloves are intended for any sleeve cut just above the elbow, permitting a little fullness on the arm, while twenty-four button gloves are correct for full dress. Notions and Fancy Goods, Vol. 50, 1918

Of course, the indecorous suggestion that a young lady would look better without her corsage would have had the audience ’round the stove at the general store (Mrs Daffodil divines that this piece is for an American readership) guffawing and slapping their thighs.

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.

 

Christmas Bells and Prussic Acid: The Christmas Number: 1837, 1897

Mr Fezziwig's Christmas Ball, John Leech, 1853

Mr Fezziwig’s Christmas Ball, John Leech, 1843, The British Library

SEASONABLE LITERATURE

The Last Chapter Of A Christmas Number. (1837 )

“Harry,” said Sir Jasper, with a sob strangely foreign to his wonted lack of feeling, “you must forgive me. I don’t deserve it, I know. Through forty-seven pages my ingenious schemes have kept you and your Mary apart, and if that missing will hadn’t turned up, I should have won the game. But you won’t be hard on a poor old villain, Harry, my boy? There’s only a page or two more, so you can afford to be generous. And, if my words are weak, that sound will reach your heart— the sound of Christmas bells!”

He flung open the window as he spoke, and the chimes from the sweet old village church sounded merrily across the snow-covered fields.

“jasper,” answered Harry, in impressive tones, “I forgive you. If, indeed, I followed my natural inclination, I should throw you out of window. But no true hero in a Christmas number was ever yet unmoved by the sound of church bells in the last chapter. I forgive you, and Mary forgives me, and we forgive everybody else, and it’s away with melancholy, and up with the holly, and let’s be jolly. There’s only a page more to fill, and we’ll end the story in the proper way. To-night will the dear old Hall re-echo with mirth and happiness, and the elders will unbend and become young again. Excuse me now. We dine at six, and I must drink a gallon of milk-punch before then.”

“I thank you!” cried Sir Jasper. “Now that you’ve foiled all my schemes, I was sure you ‘d forgive me. My regards to Miss Mary, and after a few glasses of hot brandy-and-water, I’ll step round to the Hall.”

And that night they revelled in the most thorough-going style. All of them were there, the hero Harry, and the heroine Mary, and the villain Jasper, together with the old-fashioned uncle, the humorous mother-in-law, and lots of other characters who have been mentioned incidentally in the story, and lone since forgotten. Every one of them turned up for the old-fashioned Christmas revel. And there was roast beef, and mistletoe, and Sir Roger de Coverley, and snapdragon, and blind-man’s buff, and ghost stories, and love-making, and, above all, gallons and gallons of punch. Not till every drop of the latter was finished did the company disperse. Finally they left in pairs, to be married next morning, and to live happily ever after, which is the only proper way of finishing up an old-fashioned Christmas number.

Too much Christmas cheer, 1856

Too much Christmas cheer, 1856

The Same Chapter. (1897.)

At the window of the foulest garret in the slums of London (for full description, vide previous pages), Harry the hero stood and twiddled his thumbs. With a languid interest he watched a cat in the yard lick its paw, and miaow twice. Then he turned to his companion and regarded him curiously.

“Jasper,” he said, with a yawn, “don’t you think we might as well end somewhere here?”

“Just as you like,” answered Jasper, who was sitting on a dust-heap in the far corner. “It really doesn’t matter where we stop in a story of this kind, one place does as well as another.”

“There isn’t much to go on with,” replied Harry, thoughtfully chewing a piece of string. “Now that you’ve murdered Mary, and all the others are disposed of, it’s about time to finish. I can’t go on talking to you for many more pages.”

“Why not?” Jasper replied. “We can always fill up the gaps with ‘dreary silences.’ Surely you don’t hate me?”

Harry sighed. “Nobody hates in modern stories—that is far too strong an emotion. But, as you’ve killed my fiancee, besides murdering three other characters, and driving five more to suicide, I do slightly dislike you. Here’s the poison bottle, and there ‘s just enough left, for us both. You’re sure none of the others are left out by mistake? How about that costermonger mentioned on the second page?”

“Sent to penal servitude,” responded Jasper. “And his wife has gone mad in Consequence, and killed off three minor characters who weren’t accounted for. As you say, we may as well stop; we’ve provided a splendid story for a modern Christmas number. Pass the poison bottle when you’ve taken your share. And don’t forget to make a vague remark just before you die—readers expect it.”

Harry nodded, and having consumed a pint of pure prussic acid, handed the remainder to Jasper, who quickly swallowed the rest.

For a few moments there was silence. Then Harry sat up.

“Why didn’t he boil the butter?” he murmured.

Then there was a dreary silence.

Punch 18 December 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is undecided as to which era of Christmas Number fiction is more odious: the Dickensian or the Decadent.  One surfeits on the aggressive heartiness of Mr Dickens, while the Decadents make Mrs Daffodil want to spray the pages with carbolic acid.

Sir Roger de Coverley was the quintessential Christmas dance, or made so by being immortalised thus by Dickens. Snapdragon was a game requiring participants to snatch raisins or other preserved fruit from a shallow bowl of flaming brandy. Mrs Daffodil has looked on indulgently as footmen and parlour-maids scorched their fingers and their tongues and has laid in a discreet supply of dampened blankets under the sideboard when tipsy young officers visiting the Hall for Christmas demanded a blazing bowl of spirits. Mrs Daffodil is pleased to say that she has never lost a visitor to a flaming raisin.

 

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 Commercial Adonis: 1893

A Travelling Salesman or "Drummer," 1904

A Travelling Salesman or “Drummer,” 1904

THE COMMECIAL ADONIS

Joys by the Way That Enliven the Drummer’s Life on the Road

Chicago News-Record

He was in the seat in front of me reading a yellow book that had been loaned to him by the train boy. He knew the train boy, and seemed to know most of the people at the stations. When the train stopped he would raise the window, push out his head and yell at the agent or operator. They would respond with hearty surprise and joyous profanity. It was at Pegasus, I believe, where the operator came out and shook hands through the window.

“Know any new stories, mac?” he asked.

“Say, I’ve got a bird, but it’s too long to tell now. I’m goin’ to the house to spend Sunday, but I make you some time next week. How’s the fairy?”

“She was askin’ for you at the house yesterday.”

“Get out!”

“I’m givin’ it to you straight.”

Then it was at Mount Carmel where he leaned out of the coach as we drew up to the squatty station and waved his hand at a white-aproned figure in a window of the occidental hotel across the street. She did not seem to recognize him until the train had started, and then her response was frantic. She shook a pillowcase at the retreating train and motioned for some one to come. Just as the view was shut by a red elevator I saw two capped heads hanging from the window.

At the second stop after that, while the man in front was getting deep into the chapters of his book, a girl with one of those flat, masculine hats, and a feather boa came tripping down the aisle. Her brown hair was lifted into defiant curls, and she chewed gum with serious vigor and a lateral motion of the jaw. She caught the eye of the traveling man, who immediately dropped his book and straightened up in the seat to make room for her.

Said he: “Hello, Min! Which way?”

“Why, hod-do-Mac? Why, I’m goin’ to Frankfort. How air ye, anyway?”

“Oh, so so; how are you comin’ on?”

“Oh, all right. Y’ain’t been to Flory for a long spell, have ye?”

“That’s right. Aw, I quit makin’ these whistling posts. They ain’t no business in my lien there. An’ say, that’s the bummest hotel old Sanders keeps I ever see.”

“That’s right.”

“Well, I should say so. Say, I had a kick comin’ six months before I quit puttin’ up there. Say, he had the freshest lot o’ dinin’ room girls I ever see. You knew Kate Mahaffy?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, say, Min, honestgawd, one day I seen her set a plate of soup down in front of that little feller that sells notions out o’ Terry Hut, an’ one of her hairpins dropped into the soup. He kicked like a steer, and what d’ye think? Kate up and says to his nibs: ‘Wire noodles to-day, mister; no extra charge.’ What d’ye think of that, eh?” Got her nerve with her?”

“That’s right,” responded Min, without relapsing her busy features.

When the train stopped at Frankfort, she flounced down the aisle, calling back, “S’long, Mac; take keer of yourself.”

“Good by, Min; you do the same.”

“Don’t get killed on the cars and spile your beauty,” she said to him after she had reached the platform, and he had again raised the window.

“Ha, ha! That’s right,” laughed Mac.

As the conductor came along for the tickets he gravely winked at the man in front. The brakeman went through with a red flag and he stopped to say something about a “bute.” The train boy, when he came for his book, grinned exceedingly, but failed to learn her name.

As the train came to a stop in the pretentious little city at the end of the run, I saw the man who had been sitting in front gather up two telescope grips and join a little woman in black, whom he kissed rapturously.

“Great Scott!” said I to the friendly brakeman, “he has one in every town.”

“No,” he replied, “that’s his wife.”

Dallas [TX] Morning News 10 January 1893: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a sprightly slice of Americana is this little account! One can only admire the drummer’s stamina and hope that he is never, like the travelling salesman in the smoking-room stories, caught with the farmer’s daughter.

A Bill for Services Rendered: 1898

A 1915 image of Cupid delivering chocolates.

A 1915 image of Cupid delivering chocolates.

“Let by-gones be by-gones,” said she, after she had managed to quarrel with him on the way home from the circus.

He reflected awhile: “And is this the end?”

“It is, sir; all is over between us.”

“Last Sunday night you said you loved me.”

“I did then; I do not now.”

“And you want by-gones to be by-gones?”

“Yes.”

“Who’s to pay for all the ice-cream?”

“Leave me, mercenary wretch! Name your price for your valuable services, and I will see it paid.”

Next morning’s post brought her the following:

Miss Smith to Mr. Simpkins, Dr.

Dr.

 

To 6 rides, $4 each $24.00

15 oyster-soups at church festivals $7.00

15 suppers at church festivals, $15.00

15 hacks at church festivals, $22.50

42 tickets to theatre $42.00

Librettos (10), 25 cents $2.50

Suit of clothes (per intimation) $50.00

Boots blacked and shaved (say) $20.00

46 broken promises .25

1 broken heart $500.00

60 ice creams $15.00

Raising my hopes, etc.  $5,000.00

Firing me out after circus $1.20

Total $5.699 .95

Cr.

By going with another fellow (4) $ 8.00

Healing broken heart (3) .45

Hugging me (400) $400.00

Sitting on my lap (20). . . $1,000.00

Extinguishing hopes .75

First kiss $2,000.00

229,200 kisses and hugs, 1c. each 2,292.00

Total $5,699.20

Balance due .75

Will call to-morrow night and collect balance due.

She met him at the door. ” Come into the parlor,  Chawley,” she said, “and I’ll pay you.”

An hour afterward she was contracting a fresh debt at the ice-cream saloon near by.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 7 February 1898.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One does so like a happy ending, although Mrs Daffodil wonders if a gentleman with such a head for figures (in the mercenary sense) is a wise investment. Such persons would always want to go over the dressmaking accounts–something no woman of spirit tolerates.

To read of an 18th-century version of a lover’s bill for services rendered, see this post, on Valentine’s Day.

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.

 

Fiends for a Funeral: 1875

wreath and coffin

That amiable Mrs. Harkins stopped in yesterday as she was on her way home from the funeral. She said the corpse didn’t look a bit natural, and she was almost sorry that she went. Mrs. Harkins makes it a business to attend funerals, and what she says can be relied on. As soon as she hears that any one is likely to die, she pays them a visit, and if death ensues she can get a chance to “sit up with the corpse,” she is there on time, and she never leaves until she has seen the grave filled up.

And Mrs. High is another. She doesn’t take the least interest in the spring styles or neighborhood scandals, but let any one die and she is all attention. She wants to know what they died of; whether they were prepared; whether they mentioned anything about her as they went off; whether they kicked around or died quietly; and if they requested to be buried in white or black. Then she visits the house of mourning. As she enters by the back way she commences to get her mourning look on, and by the time she gets through to the front room one would think she had lost five children at once.

“How very natural—seems as if he was sleeping,” she whispers, as she bends over the dead.

Then she takes off her bonnet and assumes charge of the house, sending word to her family that they must get along without her as best they can until she has performed her duty. And Mrs. Jobkins is another. If any one dies without her having heard that they were likely to go she can’t forgive herself for a month. On the day of the funeral she sends her children away, has Jobkins take his dinner to the shop, and she puts on black and attends. She commences to shed tears when she leaves home, and only ends when she returns. She always secures the best seat in the best hack, is the first one at the grave, remembers all about the sermon, and five years from that day she can tell who cried and who didn’t; whether the corpse looked natural or otherwise; how many carriages were out, and in fact all about it.

Once when I was down with fever the old ghoul heard that I was going to die. She came over on the gallop, and as she sat down by the bed she said to my wife:

“Of course you’ll have a black velvet coffin, trimmed with silver nails, and real lace around the inside.”

Then she wanted to know if I was prepared; if I wanted to request my wife not to marry again; if I had ever cheated anybody and wanted to ask their forgiveness, and she promised me one of the largest funeral processions of the season. She was awfully disappointed when I began to mend, and she said to one of her friends:

“It’s another o’ them cases where he was so wicked he couldn’t die.” 

“Quad’s Odds,”  M. Quad, 1875

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was a moral imperative that someone must “sit up with” a sick person, or, if things went badly, with the corpse until burial. The busy-body’s questions about being prepared stem from the mediaeval notion of the “good death”: one should have all one’s affairs in order and no regrets. Death-beds seemed to involve a good bit of badgering of the dying. Yet the dying badgered back, sometimes extracting promises that the surviving spouse would not remarry. This might go horribly wrong–a chapter in The Face in the Window called “The Death-Bed Promise: Revenge from Beyond the Grave in Coshocton,” tells the lurid story of an unfaithful woman haunted by her dead husband.  Happily for the literary world (and, one hopes, for his wife) “M. Quad,” survived to write another day. “M. Quad” was the pseudonym of Charles Bertrand Lewis, an extraordinarily inventive journalist with an elastic sense of the truth.

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 will find other stories of funerary enthusiasts in The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available in a Kindle edition.