Tag Archives: Victorian mourning

An Awfully Handsome Thing: 1889

SENT HER A SHROUD

A Young Fellow Made His Girl a Present and Nearly Lost a Bride.

The number of packages left carelessly lying around in different places in the city and lost must run up into the thousands in the course of a year. According to Billy Meech, a railway ticket office in a prominent hotel is the great receiving basin of such truck. Many of the articles left are found to be trifles of no account whatever, but occasionally it happens that something of value is found. Billy Meech tells the following incident in this connection. Said he: “One day I found on my counter a package some one had left, and, as usual in such cases, laid it back, thinking the owner would call again and claim it, as is usually the case, but in this instance no one came. After it had been in our hands about two months my clerk one day suggested that we open it, and agreeing, the string was cut and enough of the contents exposed to satisfy us two fellows that it was an exceedingly handsome nightgown for a lady. The fabric was very fine and the lace upon the front would have made any woman’s mouth water with envy. Our curiosity satiated, the paper was readjusted and the package laid back on the shelf. My clerk was engaged to be married, his fiancée living down in Indianapolis.

“The wedding was to come off in a short time, and about two weeks before the time he said, referring to that package: ‘I wonder if it would do an harm if I sent that garment to my girl. It’s an awfully handsome thing and I can write a letter explaining why I send such a present; I don’t think she would care, do you, Billy?’ I told him no; to send it, and he did, with a long letter of explanation. The girl got the package all right, for about the right time the clerk received a letter. It was a stunner, I can tell you. By one of those mishaps that always occur when they should not, she failed to get the letter with the bundle. Her letter was short but sharp. It read: ‘What do you mean by sending me a shroud?’ Just think of it. The young fellow, with the best intentions in the world of sending his girl a beautiful present, had sent a garment for a dead body. I did not wonder she was angry about it. I shouldn’t like it myself. Well, she wrote a few lines about it not being much of a joke, and about bad luck and all that, and wound up by saying the match was off. But the young man wouldn’t have it that way. He got leave and down to Indianapolis he went flying. He squared things all right, for I got a dispatch from him saying, ‘All right; we are married.’ So it rather hurried the matter after all. It was a queer accident, though, and might have proved serious, but it did not, for the couple are living together now as happy as turtle doves, but I cannot help thinking what a chump a man is who can’t tell a woman’s night gown from a shroud.”

Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune [Knoxville TN] 19 April 1889: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written before of a verdant young man purchasing a widow’s cap for his sweetheart and of an elegant shroud being mistaken for a fashionable night-dress.  “Chump” is perhaps too strong a word. It was a natural mistake and certainly one easily made by an innocent unfamiliar with the niceties of  ladies’ nocturnal garb.

Still, Mrs Daffodil is troubled by a singular point of etiquette. A gentleman would never send so familiar a gift, even to a fiancee. Was the young groom-to-be truly that ignorant of the rules of decent society? Chocolates, a volume of poetry bound in limp mauve morocco, flowers, or (one blushes to relate it) a pair of gloves, were the only gifts permitted by etiquette. So, even if one grants that the Benedict was a chump, his eagerness to send a robe de nuit to an unmarried girl renders him a cad and Mrs Daffodil is sending censorious glances in his direction. One is dubious about how long such a union would last.

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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Dinnerware of the Dead: 1900

skull mug

Mrs Daffodil has been persuaded (well, “badgered” might be the mot juste) to offer a guest post by that Relentlessly Informative person over at Haunted Ohio, who has found what she feels is an interesting tit-bit about an unusual mourning custom from the United States. Without further ado, Mrs Daffodil introduces Chris Woodyard, author of The Victorian Book of the Dead. 

While working on a monograph on shrouds, I ran across this piece on memorializing the dead at the dinner table. It comes from Pennsylvania, a state particularly rich in interesting folklore and funereal practices. The resourceful Mrs Daffodil uncovered articles about that state’s “death drawer” custom, which also was reported in 1900.

What can we say about a custom that cherishes the tableware of the deceased as domestic relics and a family’s belief in an ongoing presence of the beloved dead?  Is it an expression of “complicated grief,” where the bereaved cannot let go of their sorrow, or a literal way to continue a connection with those lost?

IN MEMORY OF THEIR DEAD

“Oh, yes, I always keep our dead mother’s plate at her place at the table,” said the daughter of a rich eastern Pennsylvania farmer. “We will also keep her knife, fork, spoon, cup and saucer, and her napkin. I don’t know why we do it, only that it is the custom hereabouts among the large landowners. Whenever any grown person dies in the family, especially an unmarried daughter or the mother, her plate at the table is never taken away, save once a month, when it is washed. No one ever sits at that place no matter what the crowd is, no one uses anything belonging to mother. We hold the place sacred.

“Down at the farm of one of our neighbors they never remove the plate of their eldest daughter, who died 20 yrs. Ago. All the table article she used to use, are still there. An no one has ever occupied her narrow bed in her room. Her things are just as she left them, even to the chinaware on her bureau. Her dresses are faded and moth-eaten, and considerable had to be taken away, but a good many of her things are still as she left them.

“There is not so much regard shown for the boys. But when the head of the house dies his vacant chair at the table is never occupied. No one would dare to take that seat. At one large farm they kept his picture in a frame on his chair until one day the glass cracked and the frame split from some unknown cause. To this day they have an idea that the old farmer’s spirit came back and gave that picture a crack, because he didn’t like to see it there. Next they looked for the plate to be knocked off the table, but as that didn’t happen they take it for granted that the farmer thinks that’s all right. Over on another farm, where their oldest son died ten years ago, his room is closed forever, and kept just as he left it, with his gun, boots, clothes, and fishing rods in the corner. They still call it John’s room, and it will so continue until the farm passes into new hands. Not long ago the sale of a farm was nearly blocked when the owner wanted to stipulate in the deed that a certain room was not to be occupied until after the death of the seller.

“We know an aged lady who still pays for two seats in their church. Her husband died 11 years ago. She pays for his seat, and she occupies hers, never his, and no one else ever sits in that seat. Where a child over seven years of age dies, the plate is kept at the table a short time only. Where the child is 15, the plate is kept longer. Where the son or daughter dies, aged 21 or more, then the plate is never removed. I know one place where three grown daughters died within a year of diphtheria. Their plates in a row, are never removed, but fresh flowers are frequently placed near them. Their parents and brothers and sisters have long since ceased their weeping, and the table is no more sad, but everything is merry and happy, and they frequently chat with the dead people just as if they were present. It does no harm, even if it is foolish, as some people say.

“Three years ago an old farmer died five miles from here. He left seven grown children, two sons, and five daughters, all unmarried, and living at home. There is a rule in the family, and it has been so ever since the old gentleman died, that once a week each child shall spend a half hour in the old man’s big rocking chair, and think of him, commune with him, pray for him, ask his advice as to the farm management. They believe that he wants it to be thoroughly understood that he is still the master of that big farm. I guess he is, too, for the children are running the place on the co-operative plan, and they are getting along all right, apparently.

“People have to be very careful of the plates, cups and saucers of the dead. It is considered very bad luck if any piece is broken.”

Boston [MA] Daily Advertiser 13 July 1900: p. 5

This is very reminiscent of the ancient custom of equipping the dead with grave goods, brought to such perfection by the Egyptians, the Vikings, and the nomads of the Siberian steppes.  It also reminds me of the French family who stipulated that the bedroom of their son, killed in the Great War, should be kept as a shrine by the house’s owners “for 500 years” or the stories that Queen Victoria kept Prince Albert’s room as a shrine, commanding that hot water for shaving be brought daily and that the dead man’s clothes should be laid out for him. I haven’t been able to find any contemporary reports that the Queen really did issue orders to this effect, but she was acutely aware of the power of domestic relics, collecting locks of hair, casts of beloved relatives’ hands, and jewellery made from baby teeth. She also directed that a large number of sentimental objects be placed in her own coffin such as a dressing gown of Prince Albert’s and John Brown’s mother’s wedding ring.

In the article on “death drawers,” found by Mrs Daffodil, we find the following passage about a lady who also wanted to take it with her, although on a much more modest scale:

One most unusual request was that a plate, cup and saucer, knife, fork and spoon should be placed in an old woman’s coffin. She had used them for 70 years, and did not wish anyone else to use them when she was gone.

The Sun [New York, NY] 18 February 1900: p. 27

It appears that the custom of setting a place for the dead was not uncommon even outside Pennsylvania.

There is a woman in Atchison who sets a place at the table every day for her husband, who died over a year ago. In his plate she never fails to place a little bouquet of flowers. She believes the dead know what is going on on earth.

The St. Joseph [MO] Herald 19 January 1891: p. 4

At this historical distance, it is hard to know if some diners with the dead were merely trying to cope with their grief or had been driven mad by misfortune.

Sets Table for Dead Wife;

Police Take Him Away

Frank J. Nagle, forty-seven years old, a plate printer, of 457 I street southwest, is in Washington Asylum Hospital today for observation as to his mental condition. The police say he had his table spread for his wife, several months dead, and his two little children, who are in St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum. Nagle recently lost his job at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and this, with his other misfortunes, is believed by his friends to have resulted in temporary mental derangement.

The Washington [DC] Times 16 February 1914: p. 12

This gentleman seemed to have a more balanced attitude, perhaps as a result of his Spiritualist faith. Or perhaps his wealth kept him from being sent to the asylum “for observation.”

SET TABLE FOR THE DEAD.

Menasha Man Had Places for Deceased Members of Family.

Menasha, Wis., Dec. 28. After a final consultation with the spirits death closed the life of Joseph A. Sanford, a wealthy retired lumber dealer of this city. Mr. Sanford was 84 years of age, and had been a resident of Menasha for more than sixty years. He was connected with the Menasha Wooden Ware Company, now the largest plant of its kind in the world, during its infancy; and later attained extensive lumber interests. During the last ten years Mr. Sanford had not partaken of a meal or retired at night without first having the table set for the deceased members of his family. At the retiring hour a fresh baked cake was placed on the table for the spirit members and these were consulted in all matters of importance concerning Mr. Sanford’s life before any action was decided upon.

The Indianapolis [IN] Star 29 December 1907: p. 11

I wish I knew the ending of this story of an unfortunate mother trying to cling to hope.

SHE AWAITS MISSING SON.

Winsted, Conn, December 12. Mrs. Martin Doyle, Sr., of Harwinton, has set a place at the table each meal time for her absent son, Michael, ever since he disappeared on April 3, 1904. After having partaken of supper that evening he walked out and has not since been heard of, although everything possible has been done by his relatives to find him.

In the interval Mrs. Doyle has lost her husband, her home has been destroyed by fire, and her other son, Martin, has become insane and is now in an asylum, leaving her alone.

The Montgomery [AL] Times 12 December 1907: p. 6

In 1883 Engineer John M. Miller, of Ohio, died in a train wreck. Articles commemorating his life mentioned that he believed that the ghosts of a fellow trainman and of his little daughter came aboard his engine to keep him company. Poignantly, he had a place set at his table for the child.

A few years ago Miller lost by death a bright little girl, to whom he was greatly attached, and ever afterward she, too, would nightly and daily get on his engine at a certain place on the road, and ride and talk with him until his train neared Dayton, and then disappear. As in the former case, her seat was kept for her in the cab, and no one allowed to occupy it.

At his home a chair was always set up to the table, the crib in which the child had been rocked drawn near, and a plate and food placed on the table, just as when the little girl lived and prattled. It is even said that the father would look at the chair and talk to its supposed occupant just as he used to do during its lifetime, and what seems strange now is that the wife and mother, an intelligent and highly respected lady, entertained and does now, the same superstitious views in regard to the child, and had the utmost faith in all that her husband ever told her about the ghostly visitations on the road.

Cincinnati [OH] Commercial Tribune 12 February 1883: p. 3

In The Ghost Wore Black, I wrote about the young woman who “married” the ghost of her dead fiancé. She, too, would set the table and chat over dinner with the shade of the dear departed. Is such a thing morbid or “foolish;” does it do harm to the grieving?

There is something both sad and yet convivial about dining with the dead. Many cultures practice it; the Hungry Ghost festival, and Dia de los Muertos, for example, bring the living and the dead together once more through food. And we eat together after funerals, reminding ourselves over the funeral baked casseroles that life goes on, that we still live and hunger, until we too can join the Buffet Invisible.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil can only imagine what Cook would say to such a proceeding…  The custom gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase “coffin plate.”

 

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or 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.

London Mourns for Queen Victoria: 1901

in memoriam queen victoria mourning handkerchief

Mourning handkerchief for the late Queen Victoria 1901 https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18730001/

MISS COLONIA IN LONDON

CONFIDENCES TO HER COUSINS ACROSS THE SEA.

February 1. My Dear Cousins,—Many, many years ago the Great White Queen on one of her first public appearances was shown to her subjects by candle light. During a Royal visit to Leamington, when she was still a child, a great crowd gathered at night outside the Regent Hotel, where the Duchess of Kent and her daughter were staying, and to satisfy the people the Duchess of Kent held the little Princess at the window while Sir John Conroy stood behind with two wax candles.

THE CHAPELLE ARDENTE.

Once again the soft glow of tapers falls on the faces of her subjects, but oh! how changed the scene. The little Princess, having wielded England’s sceptre longer and better than any predecessor, lies at rest in her island home, while her subjects, sorrowful and silent, file slowly by the coffin. From the peaceful death-chamber six stalwart bluejackets bore the Mistress of the Seas to the dining room where Princess Alice was married, now transformed into a Chapelle Ardente with some of the pomp that befits a mighty monarch. The room in which the now closed coffin rests overlooks the terrace, with Whippingham Church half a mile away, set in a charming picture of woods, and meadows, and hills. It is no grisly, gloomy chamber that the late Queen’s tenants and servants, her Osborne visitors, the. officers of her army and navy, the mayors of the island, and the Press representatives have been privileged to enter. On the scarlet dais in the centre of the chamber is the Royal Standard in silk. The coffin rests on the banner, but it cannot be seen, being covered by a- great pall of white satin, on which lie the dead Sovereign’s robes of the Order of the Garter, crimson velvet outside and ermine within. Her crown stands on the head of the coffin, its diamonds flashing in the flood of illumination. Small electric lights line the walls, and in each of the four corners are two candelabras, the tapers in which are artificial, with electric lights. The coffin is flanked by three tall silver candlesticks; at its foot is an altar in front of the French window, which is concealed by rich tapestry. The sacred table is covered with cloth of crimson and gold, on which appears the letters I.H.S. A large Greek cross stands on the table, flanked by candlesticks in which arc lighted tapers, while two other candlesticks rise from the altar steps. Above hangs a sacred picture, and over the mantelpiece opposite is another of Christ and His mother. All round the room arc palms and wreaths of flowers, tokens of love and sorrow. In one corner a silken Union Jack hangs from floor to ceiling, caught with an immense wreath of arums and laurels from the Royal gardens at Frogmore and but with this exception and that of the tapestry the chamber is entirely draped with crimson. But for the black spots on the ermine lining of the Royal cloak there would not be a sombre note in the picture. At each comer of the coffin stand Grenadier Guardsmen, with heads bowed and rifles reversed, while the Queen’s faithful Scotch and Indian personal, attendants and her equerry still continue with her in the hour of death.

THE ROYAL COFFIN.

The body rests in a beautiful shell of cedar wood made at Osborne. Outside this there will be placed a leaden case, hermetically sealed, and the whole will be covered by a panelled oak coffin highly polished. The coffin is being made by a firm in London who have made the coffins of the Kings and Queens and Royal Princes since George I.’s reign. It will exactly follow the lines of the coffin made for the late Duchess of Teck. The furniture is of plain brass, with square handles. There will be eleven panels, three on either side, three above, and one at each end. In the upper of the three panels above will lie an Imperial crown in brass, and under this a recital of Her Majesty’s titles, her age, length of reign, and general escutcheon. The coffin is made to fit the sarcophagus in Frogmore. There, is, I think, a general feeling of relief at the announcement that there is to be no formal lying in state. The funeral is to be simple and stately, and the Queen is to be borne through the Empire’s capital, so that her subjects, through whom she has so often passed amidst acclamation, may do her reverence on her last journey. What a contrast it will be to that magnificent, jubilee pageant, three years ago! Then national rejoicings, now

NATIONAL MOURNING.

That legend one reads in all the drapers’ shops. How superfluous the announcement seems, as superfluous as the Lord Chamberlain’s order that, “all persons do put themselves into the deepest mourning. This said mourning to begin upon Monday, the 28th day of this instant January.” All people had already done so as soon as ever they heard the sad news with a. unanimous spontaneity that proved the genuineness of their grief. I saw the mourning for the Duke of Clarence, but that was but a passing slight shadow of black compared to the present aspect of our streets. Everyone, be he lord or laborer, has garbed himself in black. The navvy wraps a black cloth round his neck, the barrister wears a deep band on his hat and a black tie. Even the laundry girl, who loves to garb herself in hues that stagger humanity, has managed to don a black hat and a black bow. We women are attired in black from head to foot, unbroken save perhaps by a touch of white. Look up a crowded street and you will see one long line of unrelieved black on each pavement. I was in a picture gallery to-day, and all the women present were as much in mourning as if each had lost a member of her own family. The very few people who still retain bright color in their hats or consider violent violet or proud purple suitable hues for complimentary mourning are so rare that their bright tints in the midst of the array of black strikes the eye with a shock of incongruity. And yet the effect does not seem so dismal as you would imagine, my dears. Black has a wonderfully refining influence and becomes us all, as you must have often noted in the case of maids and shopgirls. The crowd seems chastened, the vulgarity subdued, the bad taste blotted out, plain women look pretty, pretty women beautiful. A period of national mourning will prove, too, a useful corrective to our growing tendency towards show and garishness. An Englishwoman used to be noted for the simplicity of her costume; last summer you saw her shopping or strolling in lace and lingerie more suitable for the theatre or the ball room than for a simple walking dress. But I mustn’t begin to moralise. That is the sole function of the editor of your ‘Women’s World.’

bank of toronto in mourning for Queen Victoria 1901

The Bank of Toronto, Montreal, draped in mourning for the late Queen, 1901 http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/large.php?Lang=1&accessnumber=MP-1977.76.108&idImage=153855

So far, and remember that I am writing at the beginning of the week, the mourning on our buildings has not yet assumed what I call a grisly shape, in which loyal grief is supposed to be in direct proportion to the extent of gloom that hangs over the shop front. At Windsor, at all events, there is to be no gruesomeness, no sombreness. The way to the altar in St. George’s Chapel will be carpeted with grey drugget, and there will be no sable drapery in the Chapel, hangings of royal purple taking its place. The Queen’s pew is even now draped with purple. It is to be hoped that the Royal example will be followed by the loyal Londoners. There are signs, however, that dismal draperies will be much more in evidence as the week draws to its close. In Fleet street one large furniture shop has already overshadowed itself by two huge sable curtains, caught up with white. Other establishments have hung from their balconies dark black cloth, fringed with white cord. Opposite our house an artistic potter has hung out a black banner bearing a silver crown and “V.” and violet letters” “R.I.P.” In one window the Queen’s portrait bordered by white heathery sprays is lit by two candles, while from the top of the building depends a black canopy, in the centre of which appears a shield with inscription: “We mourn our Queen and Mother.” Most shops content themselves with mourning shutters, a black plank placed perpendicularly in the centre of each window, and with flying the Royal Standard and Union Jack half-mast high, thus introducing a touch of color into the scene. With violets, purple and white, as well as black; available for the decoration of shop windows, you would have expected some simple and yet harmonious effective arrangement of the mourning goods displayed. I made a little tour of the fashionable dressmakers and drapers yesterday, but was disappointed in the lack of system—the absence of any dominant idea scheme in the windows. Black hats and toques and bonnets succeeded each other in unorganised monotony, black gowns and blouses were mixed with white in aimless array: and rolls of black cloth lay side by side with the uniformity of soldiers on parade. Occasionally someone, more enterprising than the rest, festooned the windows with black and white and violet muslin. In this respect the men’s shops made a more effective show than ours. With white shirts, white handkerchiefs, and black ties and scarves they contrived some striking combinations. One man hung alternately long full black scarves and white cambric handkerchiefs, over the top of which fell narrow black ties, such as men tie in bows. Another had arrayed his shirts in rows, with a wide black band diagonally across each shirt.

Prince of Wales feathers at Queen Victoria's funeral flowers

The florists made little difference in their usual display, giving perhaps more prominence to violets and white flowers than to brighter-colored ones. One Regent street shop displayed a Royal Crown in gold mimosa on a cushion of purple violets. Others showed wreaths of laurels or palms tied with white ribbon. Fuller’s confectionery windows were filled with puffed violet nun’s veiling, in which nestled dark chocolates. A stationer’s was full of black-edged and grey writing paper, and menu cards and ice case’s ornamented with sprays of violets. The hairdressers’ models were robed in black bodices. Everywhere are displayed portraits of the Queen draped in black, and these the people throng to buy. In the way of mourning jewellery there is little to be seen. No one has yet produced a cheap medallion or other memorial of the Queen that can be universally worn as were the buttons of the various generals at the war. The people would eagerly wear a simple, artistic memorial and treasure it in remembrance of their good Queen. One industry has received a strong impetus —that of Whitby jet, the demand for which had much declined. Jet is a fossil substance found in beds of lignite or brown coal, and there are large veins of it near Whitby, which port, in anticipation of a revival of the trade, had stored a large quantity of the best local jet, Many hundred pounds’ worth have already been despatched to London and the big provincial towns. In the jewellers’ windows here you see jet muff chains and hair combs. Whitby jet brooches and French jet waist buckles, jet aigrettes, jet and beaded bags, purses, safety pins and hat pins, jet necklaces and cut jet collarettes, initial safety pin mourning ‘brooches, jet necklets with pendant hearts of jet. Gun metal, too. is being utilised for mourning card cases, studs and sleeve links, and purses. Oxydised brooches of heart’s-ease or four-leaved clover, set with two or three diamonds or pearls, are also fashionable. Diamonds and .pearls, of course, are mourning wear, and the trade in these jewels will not suffer substantially. Those who like those bead necklaces and chains so fashionable now will no doubt be able to get them in amethysts and crystals, such as Miss Cockerell sent Princess Henry of Battenberg. The late Queen herself ordered some of jet and onyx for her own wear, so I daresay a good many people will be seen with similar necklaces in remembrance of her.

It. is at present hard to estimate the effect of the nation’s mourning upon trade in general. For the moment, there has, of course, been widespread loss in many directions, making the blow all the harder after the period of depression caused by the war. Entertainments, banquets, and other public functions have been abandoned. The value of thousands of pounds’ worth of flowers for table decorations has been lost, singers and society entertainers find their vocation for the present gone, and the decision of the managers of the principal theatres to close until after the funeral will cause distress to thousands who at this time of year depend on the pantomimes for their livelihood. Home managers, to prevent their employes being suddenly reduced to starvation, are keeping open their theatres every night save on that of the funeral. It is one thing to keep open a theatre and another to get the people just now to come to be amused, so that in all probability the opening of the theatres will simply mean that the employes, who only get paid for the nights they perform, will benefit at the cost of their managers.

While the drapery establishments for the time being will be largely drawn upon for mourning materials, it is evident that their general business will largely decrease. In the first place, black lasts so much longer than lighter colors, and many little fancy fal-lals that we should purchase for our adornment, at other times will be dispensed with. Again, a large proportion of the middle class still make their old things do for the occasion, and content themselves with cheap black blouses and scarves, and retrim the black hats that have been so fashionable of late.

Although the Court is directed to go into mourning for a whole year it is unlikely that the people will go garbed in solemn suits of black for so long, nor will crape be at all generally worn except by those in close connection with the Court.  In all probability, after a couple of months, as the winter draws to a close, (and, en passant, it is evident, that at no other season could the loss caused by the sudden transformation have been less), the black will be relieved by touches of white, and as the summer approaches subdued shades will gradually come, into wear—greys, lavenders, violets, purples. mauves–brightening steadily until Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra establish their Court definitely in the metropolis. The re-establishment of Court gaieties and functions in London in 1902 should lead to a, great revival of trade, that will more than compensate for the present year’s gloom. The King and Queen will appear more often among their subjects, Drawing Rooms will be held at night instead of in the afternoons—in fact, there will be some Court life and brilliancy such as has been practically lacking ever since the Prince, Consort’s death.

Tales of her sympathy and reminiscences of her kindly acts are legion….Prince Albert had just died, and when the bereaved Queen reached Balmoral, a few weeks after his death, she found the blinds of one of her cottages drawn. The master of the home had gone where prince and peasant are equal, and in his cottage the Queen sat with his widow. Together they wept, all earthly distinctions lost in their common sorrow. “I cried and the Queen cried,” said the cottager; “and when I begged her to pardon me for crying so bitterly, she said to me: ‘I am so glad to have someone to cry with who knows just how I feel.'”

And how are we to keep her memory green in our hearts? Someone suggests that we should retain her portrait on some of her stamps, another that we should ever improve the morality of the nation, and follow the example set us by her own virtuous We; a third— that we should have an annual holiday, a “Victoria Day,” in her memory. May 24 here is not celebrated as a public holiday, and, it is said, is too close to the Whitsun festival. In the colonies, however. “Queen’s Birthday” has become an institution, and will surely remain so in remembrance of one who at all events to all of us out of our teens, will always be referred to as the Queen.

Evening Star 11 March 1901: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is the anniversary of the State Funeral for Queen Victoria, held in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. The letter above was written by a New Zealand correspondent resident in London and gives an evocative look at mourning in the Capital for the beloved Queen.  The descriptions of shop windows and florist displays are particularly interesting, describing as they do, the long-lost ephemera of national mourning.  While no doubt the window-dresser at Fuller’s confectionery had the best of intentions,  Mrs Daffodil must challenge the assumption that dark chocolates are suitable for mourning.

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.

How Mrs Stum Arranged a Funeral: 1875

mourning ladies Quad's Odds 1875

ONE IN A THOUSAND

How Mrs. Stum Arranged the Details of the Funeral.

If all women were as cool and matter-of-fact as Mrs. Stum! But she is one in a thousand. She was over at Mrs. Moody’s, on Macombe street, the other day, her iron-gray hair combed down flat and her spectacles adjusted to gossip range, when she suddenly arose and said:

“Mrs. Moody, be calm. Where do you keep the camphor bottle?”

“Why?” asked the surprised Mrs. Moody.

“Because they are bringing your husband through the gate on a board! I think he’s smashed dead, but be calm about it! I’ll stay right here and see to things!”

Mrs. Moody threw up her arms and fell down in a dead faint, and Mrs. Stum opened the door as the men laid the body on the porch.

“Is he dead?” she asked in an even tone.

“I think so,” answered one of the men; “the doctor’ll be here in a minute.”

The doctor came up, looked at the victim and said life had fled, adding:

“His back and four or five of his ribs are broken.”

“That’s sensible, that is,” said Mrs. Stum, gazing at the doctor in admiration. “Some physicians would have said that his vertebrae was mortally wounded, and would have gone on to talk about the ‘larynx,’ the ‘arteries,’ the ‘optic nerves,’ and the ‘diagnosis.’ If he’s dead it’ll be some satisfaction to know what he died of. Well, lug in the body and send a boy after an undertaker.”

The men carried the body through to a bed-room, and Mrs. Stum went back to Mrs. Moody, who was revived and was wailing and lamenting.

“Don’t, Julia—don’t take on so,” continued Mrs. Stum. “Of course you feel badly, and this interferes with taking up carpets and cleaning the house, but it’s pleasant weather for a funeral, and I think the corpse will look as natural as life.”

“Oh! My poor, poor husband,” wailed Mrs. Moody.

“He was a good husband, I’ll swear to that,” continued Mrs. Stum; “but he was dreadfully careless to let a house fall on him. Be calm, Mrs. Moody! I’ve sent for one of the best undertakers in Detroit, and you’ll be surprised at the way he’ll fix up the deceased.”

When the undertaker came in Mrs. Stum shook hands and said that death was sure to overtake every living thing sooner or later. She mentioned the kind of coffin she wanted, stated the number of hacks, the hour for the funeral, and held the end of the tape-line while he measured the body.

Several other neighbors came in, and she ordered them around and soon had everything working smoothly. The widow was sent to her room to weep out her grief, doors and windows were opened, and as Mrs. Stum built up a good baking fire, she said:

“Now, then, we want pie and cake and sauce and raised biscuit and floating islands. He’ll have watchers, and the watchers must have plenty to eat.”

When the baking had been finished the coffin and undertaker arrived, and the body was placed in its receptacle. Mrs. Stum agreed with the undertaker that the face wore a natural expression, and when he was going away she said:

“Be around on time. Don’t put in any second-class hacks, and don’t have any hitch in the proceedings at the grave!”

From that hour until two o’clock of the second day thereafter she had full charge. The widow was provided with a black bonnet, a crape shawl, etc., the watchers found plenty to eat, a minister was sent for, eighteen chairs were brought from the neighbors and everything moved along like clock-work.

“You must bear up,” she kept saying to the widow. “House cleaning must be done, that back yard must be raked off, and the pen stock must be drawed out, and you haven’t time to sit down and grieve. His life was insured, and we’ll go down next week and select some lovely mourning goods.”

Everybody who attended said they never saw a funeral pass off so smoothly, and when the hack had landed the widow and Mrs. Stum at her door again, Mrs. Stum asked:

“Now, didn’t you really enjoy the ride, after all?”

And the widow said she wouldn’t have believed that she could have stood it so well.

Detroit Free Press.

Macon [GA] Weekly Telegraph 4 May 1875: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil hopes that, should she ever find herself in a similarly worrying situation, she would be as resourceful as Mrs Stum, (the name means “silent,” in the Germanic tongue) if not quite so painfully candid.

There were, in point of fact, a thousand-and-one little duties to consider when organising a funeral; Mrs Stum’s quiet efficiency touches on several of them: providing the widow with black clothing without her having to leave the house; opening doors and windows, presumably under the “superstitious” belief that it would aid the the dear departed in departing; baking plenty of food for the “watchers,” who would sit up all night to ensure that the dead were not left alone—such vigils were thirsty (and hungry) work. The “hacks” ordered were the carriages to carry the family and friends to the grave and a successful funeral was often judged by the number of carriages following the hearse to the grave.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of “fiends for a funeral,” who relished the rare treat of a carriage ride to the cemetery, while that funereal person over at Haunted Ohio has appropriated the same title for a post about individuals with a peculiar taste for attending the funerals of total strangers.  Undertakers ultimately had to resort to special cards and tickets of invitation to keep away the interlopers. One feels instinctively that Mrs Stum would have instantly spotted these funeral fanciers and turned them out of the cemetery.

For more on Victorian mourning customs in a (mostly) more sombre vein, see The Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodyard.

 

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.

Funeral Drill: 1912

Hearse and Mourning Coaches, William Francis Freelove http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_220846/William-Francis-Freelove/page-1

FUNERAL DRILL.

Two stories are told quite seriously by a contributor to London ‘Truth, which it is difficult to accept at face value. The first relates a system of funeral drill to which a wife in the shires declares she has been subjected. She writes:

“Sir,—Some months ago I married ___, who is a well-known but eccentric man. After the honeymoon we retired to his estate, when began the annoyance of which I complain.

Every Wednesday a hearse and several mourning coaches are driven up to the front door, and mutes carry down from my husband’s bedroom a coffin which is supposed to contain his remains!

Draped in widow’s weeds, and accompanied by several of the servants, I have to follow this, my husband marshalling the procession, and directing the proceedings generally!

‘Be careful; do not ram the rails,’

‘Bend your head more reverently, dear,’

‘Slower, please,’

‘Keep your distances; it looks so slip-shod.’

The coffin is raised into the hearse, and I and several of the householders occupy the coaches, whilst the gardeners and others follow on foot, my husband drilling us until the funeral service is completed, even to the lowering of the coffin into the grave!

I can scarcely hope that this letter will not be intercepted, but should it reach you, will you publish it, that your readers may know to what length a man will go in indulging his peculiarities?”

Mataura [NZ] Ensign, 26 February 1912: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: That gentleman’s eccentricities were not as singular as one might think. The Divine Sarah was celebrated for allegedly sleeping in her coffin, or, at the very least, posing for photographs in it:

Sarah Bernhardt posing in her coffin.

A certain lady who is not over-religious, in the usual acceptation of the term—Madame Sarah Bernhardt—has her whole life toned and seasoned and solemnised by the presence of the grim, even if dainty, case in which her mortal remains are to be interred. She has got a new coffin to replace the old one, which some time ago, along with her other personal effects, was seized by her relentless creditors. The present coffin is daintily lined with blue silk, and at the head has a soft little pillow trimmed with Valenciennes lace. It is Sarah’s grim humour to sleep in her coffin sometimes; and, to be quite consistent, she dresses herself in something not unlike a shroud. But usance dulls the edge of appetite, and this funeral fad of the Divine Sarah has a tendency to make the coffin a joke and the grave a jest.

Roses and Rue: Being Random Notes and Sketches, William Stewart Ross, London: W. Stewart & Company, 1890: p. 168

Returning to Mr Funeral Drill’s eccentricities, “peculiarities” is perhaps the kindest euphemism for such tastes. The lady’s statement about the note being intercepted suggests alarming and sinister possibilities. If this were a Gothic Novel written by a lady with three names, our heroine would be a great heiress, wooed in a whirlwind courtship and married before she could discover her husband’s morbid fancies. Then, one day, the funeral drill would go on without her and the coffin would be buried, the lady’s absence explained by an indisposition which would shortly lead to a permanent residence in the South of France for her health, despite no one seeing her en route. Her tragically early death in France would be announced and shortly thereafter Mr Funeral Drill would remarry….

Mrs Daffodil suggests that after the first few repetitions of this macabre ritual, the lady should have taken steps to ensure that the next funeral was no drill, but the genuine article.

For more on Victorian funerals and mourning, please consult The Victorian Book of the Dead by Chris Woodyard, also available in a Kindle edition.

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 Little Children’s Watches: 1882

The Little Children’s Watches.

Yesterday an old man entered a Little Rock store, and taking from his pocket an old buckskin pouch he emptied two coins on the counter, and the, after regarding the silver for a few moments said; “Mister, I want to buy some goods to make a dress.”

“That money is mutilated, old gentleman. This twenty-five-cent piece has notches filed in it, and this fifty-cent piece has been punched. You see they have been abused. I can’t take them.”

“Abused,” said the old man. “Abused,” and he took up the fifty-cent piece and looked at it tenderly. “And you won’t take it on account of the holes. Heaven grant that I did not have to offer it to you. Years ago, when my first child was a little girl I punched a hole in this coin and strung it around her neck. It was her constant plaything. At night when she went to bed we’d take it off, but early at morning she would call for her watch. When our John—you didn’t know John, did you? No. Well, he used to come to town a good deal.”

“Where is he now?” asked the merchant, not knowing what to say, but desiring to show appreciation of the old man’s story.

“He was killed in the war. I say that when John was a little boy I strung this quarter around his neck. One day his watch got out of fix, he said, and he filed these notches in it. He and his sister Mary—that was the girl’s name—used to play in the yard and compare their watches to see if they were right. Sometimes John wouldn’t like it because Mary’s watch was bigger than his, but she would explain that she was bigger than him and ought to have a bigger watch. The children grew up, but as they had always lived in the woods they were not ashamed to wear their watches.

When a young man came to see Mary once she forgetfully looked at her fifty cents. ‘What are you doing?’ asked the young man, and when she told him she was looking at her watch, he took it as a hint and went home. After this she did not wear her watch in company.

Well, Mary and the young man married. John went off in the army and got killed. Mary’s husband died, and about two years ago Mary was taken sick. When her mother and I reached her house she was dying. Calling me to her bed, she said: ‘Papa, lean over.’ I leaned over, and, taking something from under her pillow, she put it around my neck and said: ‘Papa, take care of my watch.’”

The old man looked at the merchant. The eyes of both men were moist. “Do you see that boy out there on the wagon?” he said. “Well, that is Mary’s child. I wouldn’t part with this money, but my old wife, who always loved me, died this morning, and I have come to buy her a shroud.”

When the old man went out he carried a bundle in one hand and the “watches” in the other.

Little Rock (Ark.) Gazette.

The Abbeville [SC] Press and Banner 22 March 1882; p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Shrouds, strangely enough, could be purchased from one’s local dry-goods store. Here is a more light-hearted account of such a purchase: The Trousseau Night-dress.

Mrs Daffodil’s readers will, she hopes, excuse her from further comment, as she has something in her eye.

 

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 Crown of Flowers: 1873

1908 Crown and shield funeral arrangement.

1908 Crown and shield funeral arrangement.

A CROWN, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.

It was a busy day with the florist. His counters were filled with bouquets, crosses, wreaths, and filling baskets. The florist, Karl Breitman, was at work himself superintending even his wife was pressed into service, and was making a bridal bouquet of fragrant orange blossoms. Presently a carriage stopped, and a tall, elegantly dressed young lady came into the shop. Karl stepped forward to take her order.

“I wish to leave an order for a crown of white flowers for a funeral to-morrow morning,” she said.

“I am so sorry, madam, but as madam sees, we are so busy. A wedding to-night, a funeral to-morrow, half a dozen parties, and so many baskets ordered—it is quite impossible,” answered the little German, politely.

The young lady looked disappointed, but as she turned to go Mrs Breitman stopped her. “I will see to it, miss, that your order is filled. Only leave it with me. He’s so busy,” pointing at her husband. To speak truthfully, Mrs Breitman was a miserly soul, and could not bear the thought of losing the prospective money, for she saw by the carriage at the door and the young lady’s appearance that this was a wealthy customer.

“Thank you,” said the lady. “It is kind of you. I want a crown of pure white flowers.” “That will come very expensive, miss,” observed the florist’s wife, anticipating the ready answer—”never mind expense. I want it just so, and as handsome as you can make it.” “Perhaps a little cross of violets on the top would suit you, we make so many;” suggested Mrs Breitman, her eyes sparkling as the lady assented, for violets were just coming into season and very expensive.

“Yes, that will look well. Here is my card, which you must tie on it, and shall I write my address?” Being supplied with a card for that purpose, she drew off her glove, displaying a shapely white hand, on which glittered diamonds, and wrote the name and address. “The funeral is to-morrow at ten, and I shall expect this to be very handsome. Mind, I shall be there and see it.”

“Yes, miss,” replied Mrs Breitman, glancing at the book. “Oh, in Thirty fifth street! I thought, maybe, it was for Mrs Willis’ funeral; that is to-morrow morning, and we have a large order for that.”

“Yes,” said the lady, drawing on her glove, as she carelessly looked, “I see you are very busy. Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon, miss. Shall I send you the bill?” inquired Mrs Breitman, following the young lady to the door.

“No I will call and pay you.” Then as she went out and got into the carriage, the florist’s wife heard her order the coachman to drive to No.__ Fifth Avenue and as she went back to her work of arranging the flowers, she picked up the card, saying,”I wonder who she is?” On the pasteboard she read in old English letters the name, “Mary Lester, Fifth Avenue.”

“Ha, Karl,” she called, I have gained a customer—one who does not care for expense.”

“Thou wilt have to arrange the flowers thyself, Katrine,” answered he crossly. “We will be up half the night before.”

Katrine nodded. When the bridal bouquet was disposed of and her husband had gone off to superintend the floral decorations of the church, where the marriage was to be, she began to make the crown. “Life and death.” she muttered, as her deft fingers wove the creamy roses and the snow white ones, arranging the odorous sprays of lilies with dentzia. “Brides and corpses! We florists deck them both, and flowers serve for one as well as for another.”

Then she fell to thinking of the lady, Mrs Willis, who was to be buried to-morrow. “Four crosses, six wreaths, a crown and loose flowers,” said she to herself. “He loved her well. It’s not two years since I made her bridal bouquet. Dear heart, I wish tonight’s bride a longer life.” When the cross of violets was made, surmounting the crown Mrs Breitman surveyed her handiwork with true artistic pleasure. It was beautiful indeed. The absence of the stiff japonicas and heavy tuberoses gave it less of a funeral look and more the semblance of a heavenly crown. After tying Miss Lester’s card on, her work was complete, and she had time to assist with the other crosses.

It was with a sigh of relief that Miss Lester threw herself back in the coupe beside a portly matron in black velvet “Oh, mamma,” exclaimed she, “I do hate this unreal, foolish fashion of sending flowers to dead people. They have a large order for a Mrs Willis’ funeral there at the florist’s, and our flowers might just as well go to her as to Cousin Marianne’s. We didn’t know George; we don’t know Mrs Willis.”

“No, love,” replied Mrs Lester, “but it is expected of us in one case and not in the other, and Marianne would be hurt and vexed if we sent no flowers for her husband’s funeral, and although I deprecate the custom as much as you, still it is well to do as all the world does.”

“The world shall never lay down laws for me,” said Mary energetically. “I think for a friend to strew flowers on the person of a loved one who has gone is beautiful; but, oh, this reduction of poetical sentiment to fashion’s edicts,” and she smote her little palms together so violently as to make her mother start.

“Don’t do that, Mary. It’s not lady-like. Tell me did you order the crown made as I desired?” Then they drifted off into a conversation upon the quality, style and flowers. “Making up orders for Mrs Willis’ funeral?” observed Mrs Lester at last, “I wonder if that is Clara Spencer, who married about two years ago to Williard Willis. You have seen them at church, Mary! Their pew is three ahead of ours?”

“Yes, I remember,” answered Mary, thoughtfully. She spoke little on her way home, and was rallied by her mother for her absent air. “I am thinking,” said she briefly. She did not like to say that her thoughts were full of that tall handsome man, with his little blonde wife, who had sat just before them in church. Sunday after Sunday. Mary had seen them together, and she was wondering if he had loved her much; if he grieved sorely for the lost.

How sorely Mary did not know.

Williard Willis was bowed in grief for the loss of his wife, his little Clara. He felt deeply too, now that she was gone, that he had not valued her enough, had treated her too much like a child, had been often impatient with her waywardness. Now that Death has laid his cold seal upon her, all her faults were forgotten and only the winning, loving ways remembered which had won his heart before marriage. It was the morning of the funeral. The air was heavy with the scent of flowers. His sister, Mrs Carr, was arranging the floral devices about the fair marble figure in its last resting place.

“How many beautiful flowers there are!” said she, through her sobs, to some of the other relatives. “Look, Sarah, what a beautiful cross James Hubbell has sent her. You know people said he wanted to marry her. And this crown—l never did see anything so perfectly beautiful! Look! All roses, and none of those horrid japonicas, See these violets in the little cross.”

“It is handsome,” said Helen Willard, turning the card over, “Mary Lester! Who is she, Sarah?”

Sarah Spence, the sister of the departed one, shook her head. “I never heard Clara speak of her.”

“She ought to be either a very intimate friend, or a relative, to send anything so handsome as this. It never cost less than forty dollars.”

“I’ll ask Willard,” said Mrs Carr, starting forward with the crown in her hand.

Helen pulled her dress. “Not now.’ It is almost time for the funeral services to begin, and he feels so bad, and I wouldn’t if I were you.”

“Well, I’ll put it aside, and after the service I can ask him. Here comes the Bishop;” and up went Mrs Carr’s handkerchief to her eyes, as she sailed forward in her new mourning to meet the venerable prelate.

When the last sad rites were over, Willard Willis returned mournfully alone. The first thing he saw was the crown standing upon the mantle, where his sister had placed it, All his loss rushed over him at the sight of it, and scalding tears filled his eyes. Who can despise his weakness? None that have known grief such as death brings.

Willard found his once pleasant, cheerful home now so lonely and desolate without its presiding genius that he could no longer bear it, and about six weeks after his wife’s death he left for Europe, seeking oblivion and interest in new scenes of interest. At first he grieved much, but his wife had been really childish, foolish and frivolous. His greater intellect was caught by her extreme beauty and winning ways, but these charms were beginning to lose their power before her death, and he felt now a sort of freedom for which he often reproached himself. After a year of absence he returned to America and re-opened his house. Mrs Carr had kindly consented to take charge of it for him, but the offer had been declined. One day as he entered the long unused and darkened parlors, he saw on the mantle the wire framework of the once fresh and lovely crown with the faded flowers hanging from it. Detaching the card, he rang for the maid to remove it, and he stood by the window, in the flood of sunshine he had just let in, watching her. She was shocked. “To think of dear missus only gone a year, and he ordering that crown, which she was sure he had been keepin’ as a soveney, away to the ash heap!” Willard was trying to analyze his feelings. Were they grief or regret or relief? Which was uppermost he could not tell. Then he glanced at the bit of pasteboard be was toying with, and read, “Mary Lester.” All at once he remembered his sister writing to him of the mystery attached to the crown, which he had just ordered away, how neither his wife’s family nor his knew Miss Lester, and how very singular it was for a young lady to send s widower funeral flowers for his wife! Yes, he was a widower? He smiled, and looked in the long mirror. The title had been associated in his mind with grey hairs and old age, and he saw the reflection of a man still young and handsome,

His reverie was interrupted by Mrs Carr. “Oh, Willard, I am glad you are at home. Now, do be a good brother, and take Helen to Mrs Hubbell’s party this evening, I cannot go, and she has set her heart on it, Don’t disappoint the child. Oh, I know you are in mourning,” seeing him glance at his dress, but Clara has been dead over a year now. Sarah Spencer is going, and she was Clara’s own sister. Don’t disappoint your little Helen.” Willard was just going to say “No”— the word was trembling on his lips, when Helen herself came running into the parlor, and looked up appealingly at her brother, with tears in her eyes. He could not refuse his favorite little sister, and promised he would go, although he feared he would be out of place in a gay assembly. But when, once more clad in evening dress, with his pretty sister on his arm, he entered Mr. Hubbell’s parlors, and met with gentle greetings on every side, he felt as if he were again in his element.

After supper, as he was leaning against the parlor door, watching the waltzes of the German, his hostess captured him, saying, “Mr Willis, I am going to introduce you to a lovely young friend of mine who does not dance,” and leading him to a lady in pink she pronounced the cabalistic words, “Mr Willis allow me to present you Miss ___.” The name was lost in the crash of the band.

Willard gave her his arm and led her to a little reception room on the other side of the hall. “Here at least we can talk without splitting our throats in trying to overtop the band,” said he, and talk they did, until Helen, a most exhaustless dancer, came for her brother to take her home. Willard found the young lady a most delightful conversationalist, witty, piquant, intellectual, and original, and could hardly believe they had been talking two hours until convinced by his own watch.

The next Sunday Willard joined his new acquaintance coming out of church, and accompanying her home, received an invitation to call, which he availed himself of very soon. He discovered her name to be Miss Lester, and soon found himself identifying her with the lady who sent the crown. One evening bearing her mother call her Mary, these suspicions grew stronger, and they were confirmed when he compared the address on the card in his possession with her residence.

He found Miss Lester occupying a large share of his thoughts. If he was pleased with a book, she must read it; no plan was undertaken without her approbation; and as Willard knew all the symptoms, he soon knew he was in love, deeply in love with Mary Lester.

“It is all those flowers!” thought he, “If she had never sent them I would never have thought of her again after our casual meeting, but I wonder—-” Then he asked himself for the thousandth time. “Why did she send me this crown?” Finally he concluded to ask her, which was, after all the wisest plan. To his great disappointment, she denied all knowledge of it; but when convinced by her card, she recollected sending a crown to her cousin Marianne on her husband’s funeral.

“It was some fearful mistake of the florist,” said she at length. “Oh, Mr. Willis, what must you have thought me capable of! Setting my cap at you the moment you were available!” and she buried her face, suffused with blushes, in her hands.

“To speak truly, I did not put that construction on, but it does look like it. Oh, Mary, how could you do it! And I, a poor, helpless innocent man, have walked right into the snare, for you have caught me. Mary, my darling, I love you truly,” taking her hands down. “Don’t hide your pretty face, or, if you must, hide it here,“ drawing her head to his shoulder.

Need the rest be told? Mrs. Willis, No. 2, thinks widowers very bold wooers, but her husband says she encouraged him at first before he ever dreamed of marrying again, and this is the only rock on which the happy couple split. And in their happiness the dead is not forgotten for a pretty rosy-cheeked little girl bears the name of Clara Spencer.

Press, 14 March 1873: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There was a delicate art to the etiquette of funeral flowers. In many communities the floral tributes were listed in the newspapers with the donor’s name so that everyone might see how generous they had been.  A crown–or wreath–was perhaps the most common floral tribute, although they came in all shapes and fancies: crosses, sheaves of wheat, urns, pillows, and shapes representing the deceased’s profession or fraternal affiliations, or perhaps a phrase from a hymn such as “the gates ajar.” These tributes became more and more elaborate until they were ridiculed as vulgar in the very press that had, shortly before, listed them reverentially.

Miss Lester was quite right to be mortified; if she as a single woman had sent a floral crown to a widower, it would have been unspeakably forward, as she rightly observed. But a happy ending, we hope, all round. Mrs Daffodil was struck by the delicate insinuation that Mr Willis was not so much mourning his childish, foolish, and frivolous wife as his own foolishness in his “greater intellect” being “caught” by her beauty and “winning ways.” One hopes that he did not regret being “caught” a second time by a woman to whom, he admits, he would not have given a thought except for that crown of flowers….

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.