Tag Archives: Victorian lace

The Point-Lace Handkerchief: 1871

A reporter, who witnessed the re-opening of a great dry goods establishment in Chicago, which had been burned out on the 8th  of October—mentions that he saw a point-lace handkerchief sold to a lady for $59. This little commercial transaction has been much and severely commented on, and we are told that it is even a disgusting incident. We can’t see it, the exceeding sinfulness of the conduct of the lady who bought the handkerchief. All depends upon circumstances, whether she was right or wrong in investing so liberally in a “wiper.” If the money she gave for the handkerchief was honestly hers, she committed no sin whatever in exchanging it for point-lace, unless we are prepared to say that all expenditure save for the absolute necessaries of life is sinful. Is it more sinful to give $59 for a handkerchief than it is to give $10,000 for a horse? Yet there are men who spend thousands, yearly, on horses—and whose rings are many, and rich. Is it a greater offence to lay out money for lace than it is to lay it out in keeping a yacht? A veteran smoker, who consumes many cigars, and those of the best brands, expends every month more for tobacco than the Chicago lady expended once for a handkerchief—and her handkerchief may last for years, and even decades—perhaps for generations, and become the property of her granddaughter—whereas the man’s cigars must vanish in fumo, or they are worthless. In some old European families they have lace that was made and bought, and originally worn, hundreds of years ago. Lace, if it be really rich is an investment that endures, keeping its worth for ages, and growing more valuable as it gains in time. Cigars burn up, horses die, and yachts are lost, but lace lasts. Who knows but that the fair Chicagoan is a prudent, sensible woman, who was only making a sound investment of some of her floating capital? But, we are told, she should have given the $59 to relieve some suffers by the great fire. How do you know that she had not given liberally in aid of the sufferers in her city? It is going rather far to assume that she had given nothing for that purpose. If it be said that she should have given all she had to the sufferers, the obvious answer is, that she was no more bound to do so than were the men who gave something to relieve the persons who were burned out, but who did not give all their possessions. They have many articles in their possession quite as superfluous as her lace handkerchief, and yet they do not think of parting with those articles, because many persons want food or clothing, or both. Why should she not have her luxuries as well as they? It is not fair to censure her while extravagant men are allowed to pass uncensored.

Boston [MA] Traveller 16 December 1871: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Lace, although enduring enough to be heritable by another generation, is still more ephemeral than the poor and the suffering, who are always with us. It would have taken more than the cost of a point-lace handkerchief to restore the losses of victims of the Great Chicago Fire, although a gentleman’s outlay for his yacht might have aided a significant number of the displaced.

Mrs Daffodil considers that the lady in the example above was quite thrifty compared to  these titled and royal personages who paid sinful prices for their lace-edged handkerchiefs.

It took seven years to make a handkerchief for which the Empress of Russia paid $5,000.

New York American 20 October 1898: p. 8

and

The late Marquess of Angelsey owned three dozen handkerchiefs for evening dress wear. They were of the purest white linen, with his crest worked in human hair in the corners. They were made in Switzerland at a cost of $6 apiece. The late Duc d’Albe, Spanish grandee and uncle to ex-Empress Eugenie, was in the habit of ordering twelve dozen handkerchiefs at a time, for which he paid $120 a dozen. But the most expensive handkerchief is in the possession of the Queen Mother of Italy. It took three women five years to make it, and it is valued at $30,000.

Cleveland [OH] Leader 27 November 1913: p. 8

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 Bridal Veil: 1886

Brussels wedding veil 1890

THE BRIDAL VEIL.

A pretty, dark-eyed girl began to work it, whose lover was over the sea. She was a French girl, and came of a good family of lacemakers.

“I’ll work my own bridal veil in my leisure time,” she said. “So when Walter comes to marry me I shall be a gay bride.”

But she never finished the veil. Walter came too soon. She married her English lover—as poor as herself—and went with him to London, and the half-finished bridal veil went along, carefully folded away at the bottom of a trunk, and, for the time being quite forgotten.

It may have been forgotten in earnest, during twelve years, for aught I know; certainly it lay that long unnoticed. A lovely ten year old girl was the fairy that broke its long sleep at last. She had dark eyes, like the little peasant of twelve years ago, but Walter’s golden hair.

“Oh! the charming lace!” she cried, clapping her hands and dancing delightedly, as Elise shook it out of the folds. “Dear mamma, what is it‘? and who made it? and why is it but half done? Can I have it for a dress for my doll, mamma?”

The pretty, dark-haired matron laughed and shook her head, and half sighed, and she pressed the delicate fabric to her lips. Then she told her child the history of its making.

“Mamma, teach me to work it,” she said one day. “My fingers are much finer and tinier than yours.”

After that she would bring her little work-basket to her mother’s side and work at a veil for her doll. The facility with which she learned the graceful art was astonishing. At the age of fifteen so expert was she that Elise did not fear to let her take part in the creation of the bridal veil itself, but they worked at it now and then as fancy seized them.

* * * *

Louis Riviere was from France, like Adele’s mother—that had been a bond between them from the first —for Adele loved her mother’s country for her mother’s sake, though she herself was proud of being called English ; and she also loved the young Frenchman.

The happy weeks and months grew into years. Adele was seventeen; it was agreed and promised that when spring-time came she would be Riviere’s bride.

“We must finish the bridal veil,” cried Elise, eagerly. “I tell you, Monsieur Louis, no lady of your proud house ever wore a lace more exquisite and rich. Ah! shall I not be proud when I look at my beautiful child in her marriage robes, and think of the poor little peasant girl of long ago, who toiled at the lace to earn coarse bread so far away over the sea?”

Louis turned quickly at these words, a look of displeased surprise in his dark eyes.

“What peasant girl, madam?” he questioned, uneasily.

“Myself,” she answered, happily, not marking the look or the tone. “What was I but a poor little lacemaker when my generous young lover married me, the father of Adele?”

He answered nothing, and Elise went merrily chatting on, but Adele noticed his suddenly downcast air and gloomed eyes, though she was far from suspecting the cause of either.

His haughty family pride had received a blow. He conceived an absolute but violent dislike to the bridal veil.

“I detest the sight of it!” he cried one evening in a moment of self-forgetfulness, and when he and Adele were alone. “If, indeed, you love me, never work at it in my presence, Adele; and if I dared ask one special favor of you it should be__”

He paused suddenly. She was listening in great surprise.

“Well,” she said, “it should be ___”

“Wear any other veil in the world but that one to be married in!”

She folded her work and let her fair hands fall on it in her lap; one could see those little hands were trembling.

“You ask a singular favor,” she said, with forced quietness. “Are you not aware that my dear mother worked this veil?”

The hot, impulsive temper answered instantly, without a thought: “It is for that reason I hate it!”

“You did not know when first you sought me for a bride that mamma was a lace-worker in France; if you had, perhaps you would not have loved me. Since you have learned this fact you have regretted our engagement. You need not speak; I have seen a change in you—I feel that it is so! But there is no harm done,” she went on, with simple dignity, “since I have learned the truth before it is too late; and so,” she held out to him a little trembling hand, which he took mechanically—“and so I will grant you the favor you covet, my friend. Your bride shall not wear my darling mother’s bridal veil”—here he kissed the hand, and she drew it quickly away—“but that is because I shall not be your bride.”

No need to dwell upon what followed. His prayers, his protestations—humble at first, then angry his tears that had no power in them to sap the strength of her resolution.

Her parents questioned her in vain. She had quarreled with Louis; that was all they could learn. And before a chance for reconciliation came Elise was smitten with mortal illness and died in three days, and Adele, overwhelmed by the awful calamity, was prostrate with brain fever.

At this juncture a summons came to Louis from France, demanding his immediate presence there. Strange changes had taken place. Two of the three lives that had stood between him and the titles and estates of the Marquis de la Riviere had been suddenly swept away, and the third, a frail, delicate child, lay dying. The present marquis, himself a feeble old man, was also at the point of death, so they sent in haste for Louis, as the heir of the dying nobleman.

The news bewildered him. His heart swelled with exultation and delight, but it sank again. Adele! Had he lost Adele?

“I care not for rank or wealth, unless she shares them!” cried his heart. “I will go and implore her pardon.”

A few weeks later he wrote, informing her fully of his strangely altered fortunes and imploring her to pardon and accept once more as her true-love the love of the Marquis de la Riviere.

And the letter never reached her. The house to which it came was empty and deserted, the late happy home was broken up, and the little English girl, for whom a husband and title and fortune were waiting in sunny France, was earning a sorrowful living as lace-maker! Such are some of the strange realities of real life more wonderful than any fiction.

* * * * *

Many a gay belle and brilliant beauty had spread her net to secure the splendid prize of a titled husband. Foremost among the many, Rosalind Hale; she was the fairest and wealthiest of them all; and her golden hair was not unlike Adele’s. She arranged charades, tableaux, plays—in which he should sustain a part with her. It never occurred to her that he was at once too good-natured and too indifferent to refuse.

The tableaux were suggestive enough. One, upon which Miss Hale had quite set her heart, was that of a bridal—need it be said that Louis was the bridegroom, herself the bride‘?

“He will speak, now, surely,” she thought, as she blushed and trembled before him, While the curtain came slowly down. But no, he only bowed as he led her from the platform; and then one of the buttons of his coat caught in her bridal veil. As the marquis stopped to disengage the lace suddenly he uttered a strange cry. It was Adele’s bridal veil.

“I borrowed it of a lace-maker,” Miss Hale said, in reply to his anxious questioning. “I had ordered one like it; but her health is bad and she failed to have it finished in time. So I made her lend me this.”

“Oh, no? very thin and worn and sad,” she said in reply to another question of Louis’; “with fine eyes, but too dull and pale to be called pretty. But an exquisite lace maker. I shall be glad to give you her address if you have any work for her.” Yes, he had work for her—work that they would share together; the blessed work of binding up an almost broken heart, of restoring love and happiness to both their lives.

Pale and thin and somewhat careworn still was the bride of the marquis on her wedding day; but to his eyes—the eyes of faithful love—it was still the sweetest face in the whole world that smiled and wept beneath Elise’s bridal veil. And he kissed the old lace and blessed it, because through it he had found her again.

The Otago [NZ] Witness 2 January 1886: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Suggestive tableaux, indeed!  There is a bit of Blanche Ingram in Miss Hale, although fortunately there is no Bertha Mason Rochester to tear Elise’s veil. One hopes that the Marquis, who, we may observe, is no Mr Rochester, ate a good deal of humble pie before Adele took him back.

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.