Tag Archives: Victorian satire

The Hyde Park Belle: 1851

Portrait of a Young Lady, John Emery (1802-1893) The Potteries Museum http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-a-young-lady-19847/search/keyword:young-lady/page/2

Portrait of a Young Lady, John Emery (1802-1893) The Potteries Museum http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-a-young-lady-19847/search/keyword:young-lady/page/2

LONDON LABOUR AND THE LONDON RICH.

[The interest excited by the details of the manner in which the London Poor don’t get their living, about the streets, has induced us to send a Commissioner forth to study the habits of an equally interesting and hard-working class of people—the- London Rich. We now have the satisfaction of placing his first experiences before our readers.]

No. I.—The Hyde Park Belle.

By the term ” Hyde Park Belle,” I mean to define a young lady living in the neighbourhood, rather than an habituee, of the Park. For the Hyde Park district is vast, and difficult to he defined; inasmuch, as new streets and squares are called Such and such a place, ‘ Hyde Park,’ which common people of practical minds would have denominated Paddington. But it is more agreeable to be associated with a patrician locality than a plebeian one; and therefore although ‘Westbourne Terrace,’ Edgeware Road, would be a correct address, yet ‘Hyde Park’ certainly has a prettier sound. In the same spirit, Mrs. Brown selects a godfather for her little boy with a good name. For John would answer all legal and social purposes, but Cleveland carries with it more ennobling thoughts.

In this pleasant region are produced charming young ladies: it is the realm of nice girldom. The one introduced to me, to give an account of her position and herself, was of middling stature, with oval face, chestnut hair, dark eyes, and very white and regular teeth. She had on a white transparent bonnet, and light muslin dress, all en suite. In answer to my questions, she replied as follows :—

“I shall be nineteen in August, and have been out two years and a half. Have I ever been engaged? Only once, and that was broken off, because I went on a drag to Richmond, with the officers of the —th. Lady Banner was inside,—it was all perfectly proper. She is a very nice woman—always ready to chaperone anybody anywhere, at a moment’s notice, if her share is paid; only sometimes she bores me dreadfully. Edmund went to India. I don’t know where he is now. I have not heard. I dare say he is somewhere. He bored me dreadfully at last. I work very hard,—oh, very hard indeed; that is, in the season. My maid always sits up to make tea for me when I come home. Her hours are very regular considering. She goes to bed every morning about four; but then she does not have to dance half the night. Yes, I like the Crystal Palace;—oh! I get so tired there—walking, and walking, and walking, you can’t think how far. I know the Crystal Fountain, and Dent’s Clock, and the Stuffed Animals, and the Envelope Machine. I don’t think I have seen anything else. I have never been out of the nave and transept. Nobody goes anywhere else. I did not know that there was anything to see upstairs, except large carpets. I am sure they would bore me dreadfully. We are engaged every night. Yesterday, after my singing lesson, I was at the Botanical Fete, and there were no seats; and mamma stood by the band for nearly two hours, because Lord Downless was there ordering the tunes. It was his regiment. He did not see us, and mamma was so cross. I am sure I did not want to see him: I was dreadfully bored. We had scarcely time to dress for the Grapnel’s dinner party; and then we went to Mrs. Crutchley’s, to meet the Lapland Ambassador. We could not get into the room, and stood for two hours more on the landing. Old Mr. Tawley was there, and would keep talking to me: he bores me always dreadfully. He is going to take mamma and me to see some pictures somewhere. I hate seeing pictures; they bore me dreadfully! After Lady Crutchley’s we went to Mrs. Owley’s amateur concert, which was nearly over. She only has classical music. I don’t know what classical music is: I only know it bores me dreadfully. Ashton Howard says, the same people who like classical music buy old china, and wear false hair. All the ice had gone, and the room was like a furnace. The ice had gone, because Mrs. Owley never has too much, and there was a new servant who did not understand her odd ways, and put large pieces in the plates at first. I had a dreadful headache. I wish people would give up classical music. It never amuses anybody—that is, anybody worth amusing. They played nothing but things they called Ops. There was Op 42 and Op 16, and something in F, but I don’t recollect what. It lasted half-an-hour, and began all over and over again. I don’t know whether the Huguenots is classical music or not, I only know, when they give it at the Royal Italian Opera nobody seems bored then. I don’t know that I am exactly.

“Do I like anybody better than another? I do not see what that is to you. I wish you would not ask me so many questions: it bores me dreadfully. I think Ashton Howard very agreeable; but they do not like him at home. I have seen mamma actually rude to him, but then he is a younger brother. No, I cannot dance with those I like when I go to a party. I always know by mamma’s manner to say whether I am engaged or no. Ashton waltzes beautifully, but he has never waltzed with me. I say ‘valse’ as often as ‘waltz.’ I should like to waltz with him very much. I think he sent a bouquet on the evening of the Cooper’s ball. Mamma would not let me wear it—she took it herself; and I don’t think I danced three times all the evening. Mamma said she never saw so few good parties—(the word was given with the French pronunciation, which is a small but essential difference)—I am sure I don’t know what she would have. Ashton was there, but he never looked at me after he saw mamma with my bouquet.

“I go into the Park every day with mamma, but it bores me dreadfully. I see nothing but the same people, and I know all the trees and rails by heart. I like Jouvin’s gloves as well as Fiver’s; they have got dearer lately—I don’t know why—there is not more in them. I ride sometimes: I like it better than the carriage; but papa don’t ride very often, and if he don’t I can’t, except with the Pevenseys and their brothers. John Pevensey is very stupid, and talks to me about farming. I get very tired, but I am obliged to go, because the Pevenseys know so many receivable people. But they bore me dreadfully;—in fact, I don’t know who or what does not. I long for the season to be over, and when I go into the country I long for it to begin again. And I am always tired; and I wish I could go about, and do as I pleased, like Marshall—that’s my maid—when she has a holiday. She is going to marry the man at the hair-dresser’s; and last Sunday they went down all by themselves to Gravesend. I see mamma’s face if Ashton Howard was to propose taking me to Gravesend next Sunday, and without Lady Banner! I wish sometimes I was Marshall. Now and then I would give a good deal for a good cry. I can’t tell you why—I don’t know; only that everything is a trouble, and bores me dreadfully.”

“I give seven-and-sixpence for a pair of satin shoes. I have worn them twice—oh! more than that, if there has been no dancing. A wreath costs a guinea, and gloves are three and sixpence. Do I have them cleaned? Certainly; but not for evening parties: the men’s coats blacken them in an instant. They do very well for the opera and evening concerts—nothing else. The Pevenseys wear cleaned gloves; everybody knows it; and Ashton Howard always asks, out loud, if a camphene lamp has not gone out, when they come into the room. You can get a nice bouquet for five or six shillings. Old Mr. Rigby, in the Regent’s Park, told me I might cut any flowers from his conservatory, but I don’t care for that—I would sooner buy them: he bores one dreadfully. I hope you are not going to print all that. I am always afraid of you authors.”

From the above particulars, we find that a young lady’s shoes, wreath, gloves, and bouquet, for an evening party, cost one pound seventeen shillings. Admitting that two thousand young ladies go out every night, we have the sum of three thousand seven hundred pounds spent daily, during the season, for these accessories.

The Month, A View of Passing Subjects and Manners, Albert Smith & John Leech, 1851

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While gently conceding that the young lady’s education may have been somewhat neglected, Mrs Daffodil cannot help but think of an expression often overheard from Nannies to their young charges: “Only bores are bored.”

To be Relentlessly Informative, Dent’s Clock was built by E. Dent & Co., who built the great clock at Westminster. Its dial was 40 feet in diameter; the dial of the Westminster clock was a mere 23 feet. The Crystal Fountain was the centrepiece of the main building of the Great Exposition. It was 27 feet high and consisted of four tonnes of pink glass.  The stuffed animals were in the vein of Mr Potter’s whimsical taxidermy: kittens taking tea, &c. &c.  They were the rather odd contribution of the German Customs Union.

This satirical series, by the way, was inspired by Henry Mayhew’s 1851 publication, London Labour and the London Poor.

An excellent overview of the Exhibition, with illustrations, may be had here.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about the arduous life of Society Beauties here.

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.

 

A Royal Nursery Contretemps: 1841

Victoria, the Princess Royal, and her Papa, the Prince Consort.

Victoria, the Princess Royal, her Papa, the Prince Consort, and his favourite greyhound, Eos.

THE ROYAL BABY

We are betraying a confidential private correspondence in making public the following important event which took place in the royal nursery, and very much fear we shall lose our correspondent at the palace by so doing, but, being in possession of so interesting a fact, we cannot resist the temptation to treat public curiosity with the gossip.

It seems that young Albert had been dining late and sitting long, and as he drained his draughts of Rhenish down, he very innocently became slightly oblivious of sublunary affairs. Paternal fondness induced him to seek the nursery before retiring to rest, where great consternation was occasioned by his unfortunately upsetting the cradle and tumbling the little heiress out upon the floor. There was instantly a great screaming and running about of the maids of honor, and in rushed her Majesty, presenting a picture much like the tragic heroine in the Critic, when she enters raving mad in white satin! Seventeen nurses and nine of the maids of honor were endeavoring to lift the young husband of the Queen onto his legs, while all the rest of  the royal household were stuffing towels and various other things into the infant’s mouth to stop its squalling.

“You!” said the Queen, upon seeing the condition of her lord and subject.

“My love!” replied the nice young man, speaking somewhat thickly, while twenty-three ladies were holding him upon his feet.

Man!” exclaimed Victoria, casting an indignant and withering glance at the unfortunate Albert. BY this time twenty-seven surgeons, the same number of physicians, upwards of seven royal apothecaries, and the whole sixty-nine nurses, all of whom had been summoned in hot haste, had assembled in the nursery. For a long time a breathless and solemn silence prevailed, contrasting awfully with the wild uproar which preceded it, and broken only by the sobs of the infant and the hic-coughs of Prince Albert. The physicians and surgeons deliberated, while the afflicted Queen stood by in anxious solicitude. At length the chief surgeon opened his lips and declared that the child was not dead, upon which the child opened its mouth and gave a lusty squall. Dr. Lacock then proceeded with a prolonged examination of little Regina, giving it at last as his settled opinion that no bones were broken and no internal injury suffered; upon which the three hundred ladies of the royal bed chamber and nursery, lifted their eyes to the ceiling, crossed their hands upon their breasts, and gave a simultaneous aspiration of gratitude. Here was a remarkable instance of the profound skill of the extraordinary Dr. Lacock, as  the child had sunk into sweet and placid slumber when his decision of “no bones broken” was made.

The Queen was now leaving the apartment when there was a bustle among the thirty-nine ladies who were holding up Prince Albert. An angry spot appeared in Victoria’s cheek, which it seems the ladies understood, for they all scattered instanter, and the Prince went staggering along after his royal bride. Our informant states that the last thing heard as the royal chamber door closed, was Albert inquiring of the Queen, “How is the blessed baby?” after which sounds followed as of one person beating another with a shoe, but they were so indistinct that none could determine whether or not such an operation did occasion the noise. The whole affair has been hushed up and confined within the palace, so that the London papers have not got hold of the story.

Connecticut Courant [Hartford, CT] 13 February 1841: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Dr Lacock” was probably Dr Thomas Laycock, a distinguished brain and nerve specialist. The Critic or The Tragedy Rehearsed was a satirical play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, first staged in 1779. It ridiculed the exaggerated theatrical conventions of the time.

“Miss Pope, as Tilburina, was hailed with great rapture; every one, in a moment, recognised the heroine they had been accustomed to see whining, raving, and killing herself and her lover, in the last act of every tragedy that had been produced for a quarter of a century. Her entrance in white satin, stark mad, according to custom, was the signal for a loud and long burst of applause; ‘nobody could ever desire to see anybody madder.'” The Dramatic Works of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, With a Memoir of His Life, G.G.S., 1864