Tag Archives: Victorian wedding

What a Key Unlocked: 1875

1874 lucretia crouch wedding gown gauze.JPG

What a Key Unlocked.

They were as handsome a couple as one would have wished; indeed, many persons who knew them both intimately, said that Mr. and Mrs. Vivian were samples of what true marriage ought to be. On this bitingly cold January morning they were standing in the elegant library of their residence in New York, numerous evidences of aesthetic tastes surrounding them on all sides; yet, to have looked in their faces, it needed only a glance to tell you of deep abiding trouble. She was a beautiful woman, this peerless Ethel Vivian, with a grave dignity about her that was perfection; with a rare, refined face, lighted by such winsome, violet blue eyes, framing the clear, pure complexion, pale cheeks and glowing scarlet mouth, with masses of pale, dead gold hair that had made her husband so madly in love only two years before. Now, two years, after one year of perfect happiness, when Ethel would tell her husband such bliss so unalloyed could not last much longer; after six months more of vague suspicion, founded on the most shadowy foundation ; then, after the last six months of gradual, then rapid distrust, jealousy, anger— it had all come to this horrible open rupture. And on that beautiful winter morning Ethel Vivian and her husband had met in the library of their home for the last time as man and wife.

And the ponderous document lying on the table where the two had so often read together, was a bill of divorce. Yes, it had come to that—open separation —and all because—why? Ethel Vivian could have told you of Laura St. John’s wondrous face; she could have drawn you a picture of her with such perfection of accuracy, that you would hardly need to see her. And this is how Ethel would have described the woman who lay at the bottom of her life-long misery. A face, witching as a Venus, with such a dainty, scarlet mouth, with the tiny, seed-pearl teeth peeping between her lips, just as the little dimple was called to her scarlet-tinted cheeks by the laugh that so often came.

Her eyes laughed, too—those sunshiny eyes, that sparkled as though they were varnished; wondrous eyes of amber red, with such magnificent red gold lashes, that lay like a heavy shadow on her cheek; perfect arched brows, and hair that seemed a fairy gift, so perfect it was in texture, colour and grace.

Sometimes when she wore it hanging, unbound and unbraided, just as nature had waved it, from the crown of her little, royally set head, to far below her waist, you would have taken Laura St. John for a sprite uncanny gnome, Ethel said; a nymph of rarest beauty, goodness and innocence.

Even after Edward Vivian learned how deceitful, how utterly unprincipled she was, he forgave it her, because it was himself she loved. So, now that this beautiful demoness had so worked her plans that Edward Vivian was oftener by her side of an evening than at his wife’s—now that Ethel had freely come to learn she was no longer necessary to her husband’s happiness, she had requested him to let her go away; let him be freed legally from the bonds that had grown so galling. Now, there the two stood, face to face, to coldly say good-bye. Ethel was deadly white as she took the pen her husband courteously handed her, to sign her name to that which, once signed, unwifed her forever. But was it not better thus? Had she a right to stay where she felt her presence was a burden—where she knew she was merely tolerated? Then rushing memories of the days when she came there in the flood-tide of happiness came surging over her sore heart; she trembled violently; her cold fingers refused to clasp the pen; and, with one swift, piteous look up in her husband’s face, Ethel bowed her head over the divorce bill and wept as only such a woman could weep at such a time. Mr. Vivian looked amazed, then surprised; then a sudden grave expression came into his eyes. He turned away from her, and began to promenade to and fro, walking with restless strides, the while flinging quick glances at the glorious head bowed in such mute agony on the table before him. Then half reluctantly, half angrily, he paused beside her.

“I am so astonished, Mrs. Vivian: I had not expected anything of this kind. I presumed you had arrived at your deliberate decision, and that thenceforth the past was only the past; the future—’

She raised her white face, with its haunting eyes.

‘Oh, the future! The awful midnight, trackless,  endless future that lies before me. Edward! Edward! This will kill me!”

She was trying to speak calmly; she sat folding and unfolding her nervous, chilly hands; but in her very attitude, her vain efforts at courage, was a dumb despair that touched his heart.  “Ethel”—he had not called her Ethel for so long before that  thrilled her to her very soul to hear it once more—“There was no actual need for this. “ and he lightly touched the document “It was at your own request that I had it procured.”

A little wailing cry interrupted him.

“I know, I know,’ she moaned; I wanted you to do this; I want it still, because you love me no longer; because you love Laura St. —’

‘Mrs. Vivian.’

He was stern and icy again, she knew by the curt, sharp way he interrupted her. ‘This is not the first time you have openly accused me of infidelity to you and loyalty to Miss St, John. Cannot a man express admiration for a beautiful woman without a jealous wife using it as a weapon to destroy her own happiness? Miss St. John would be insulted beyond measure did she for a moment suppose—’


It was a siren voice that startled them both; and then Laura St. John, herself, radiant in daintiest blue velvet and miniver costume, came laughing in, so sweet, so arch.

‘My dear Mrs. Vivian, I am so delighted to—why—’

For Ethel had arisen, cold and still, with no welcome on her white face, and only reproachful sorrow in her eyes.

‘Miss St. John has no reason to be delighted to see the woman whose life she has blasted—whose husband she has tempted,’

Ethel spoke very deliberately, looked Laura full in the face; then she turned to her husband, in whose eyes  there shone a red gleam that portended wrath,

‘Perhaps you will assure your friend she is in the way just now,’ she said, ‘I have only a quarter of an hour to attend to our business.’

And then Ethel consulted her watch with an air of quiet; but, oh, how, under that cold exterior, were her pulses leaping, bounding!

Laura stood motionless, with an ungloved hand resting on the library table, her scarlet lips quivering as if her heart was broken—her big, resplendent eyes slowly filling with tears, as she looked first at Ethel, then Mr. Vivian, as if to humbly beseech them to tell her what it all meant. She was very beautiful at that moment, and she thought Edward Vivian appreciated it to the full; she knew it when he turned towards her.

‘I am sure you will pardon us Miss. St. John,’ he said. At this moment Mrs. Vivian is particularly engaged.

Laura shot him a glance from her liquid eyes.

‘But I must come again and find out what she means! I must know why l am thus accused!’ But her mission was accomplished; and, with a thrill of gratification at her heart, she bowed to Ethel and gracefully departed. And Ethel Vivian, with icy-gleaming eyes, compressed. lip and unfaltering hand, now signed her name in full under her husband’s.

And so it was done—or undone.


Two years—twice a twelvemonth— and Laura St. John was standing before her dressing-table, earnestly peering at the splendid reflection she made, with her personal beauty heightened by the chastely-rare bridal attire she wore, that was faultless, from the floating tulle veil, fastened by an orange-blossom spray and a glittering diamond aigrette, to the tiny, white silken slipper, with its rosette scintillating with small jewels. She was beautiful; she was triumphant, for she was successful; and this, her wedding day, would crown her success.

She managed well; according to the chart she had drawn for herself, from the hour she first saw and loved Ethel’s husband, she had marched straight on, regardless of cost, regardless of anything but the ultimate result. Here it was, close at hand—not half an hour from accomplishment.

Down in the saloon Laura heard low, musical laughter at intervals; in the several dressing-rooms opposite she heard the wedding guests preparing to descend to the festivities, and she smiled at her own eyes in the glass, that at last she would marry Ethel’s husband.

And Ethel?

She had dropped suddenly from the social firmament. Like a meteor that comes flashing in dazzling light across the sky, and then plunges into black deeps of obscurity, so had Ethel dazzled delighted and disappointed the people. Now, after two years, she was to them as if she had never been.

To Edward Vivian, if memories of her haunting eyes and quivering lips ever came, he never gave a sign, but deliberately wooed and won Laura St. John.

Laura St. John herself?

In the desert silence of her chamber, as she stood drawing on her gloves—for, with a pretty wilfulness that was irresistible, she had driven her maids from her—a graceful, ebon-robed woman suddenly, silently, swiftly glided across the glaring carpet and confronted her, with upraised veil, and cold clear eyes.

‘It is even I, Miss St. John. Surely you will not despise my congratulations?’ Ethel’s sweet low voice it was, and Laura, after one slight start of great  surprise, bowed constrainedly, and waited.

‘ I will not detain you more than a moment, as Mr. Vivian, doubtless, is impatient for the moment when he may call you his wife. Under the peculiar circumstances, Miss St. John, and to assure you that I bear you no malice, may I present you with this?’

She quietly reached out a small rosewood box, that was mounted with silver.

‘The key is in the lock, you see, Miss St. John. Have I the pleasure of knowing you accept it?’ Ethel set the box on the marble bureau-top, and then awaited an answer.

Laura’s cheeks were flushing slightly; her hands trembled as she essayed to button her glove, and busy thoughts were speeding through her brain.

What did it mean, this sudden appearance of Ethel? Did it augur ill or peace as Ethel declared? Dared this stately, calm woman in black attack her there alone, and wreak a discarded wife’s just vengeance? The thought was natural, and Laura’s heart beat in tempestuous throbs.

‘ I will accept it, Miss Elmore, and thank you. And may I beg that you will allow me to finish my toilette? I would not care to be too late.’

This, with a wonder in her heart if Ethel observed her cowardice.

But Mrs. Ethel—Miss Elmore the law called her—smiled!

‘Assuredly I would not have you too late. I dislike these words, too late. To the superstitious they sound ominous. Adieu, Miss St. John; you will be detained no longer by me, or you might possibly be too late.’

She bowed regally and left Laura shivering with vague unrest at the repeated words. A moment later and from her window she saw Ethel going rapidly down the street, her black veil fluttering like a death pennant in the brisk breeze.

She drew a long breath of relief and then turned to the beautiful little rosewood box with a joyous laugh.

‘Natural curiosity tempts me to see what her present can be. Possibly some horrid snake bracelet, or a dagger for my shawl or something equally delightful.’

She lightly turned the little silver key, and bent her radiant face over the lid. She saw a tiny vaporous smoke wreath roll upward for an instant, and then—

The terrible noise of the explosion brought the horrified guests to her door, and they found her lying in her bridal robes, fresh in her goodness-like beauty, dead.

On the pink velvet carpet, her eyes fixed in a stare that was frozen horror, Edward Vivian bent over her, and knew for a surety what had wrought it, though no lip then, or afterwards, ever uttered a name in connection with the diabolical engine, whose silver key had unlocked the portals of death’s domains to Laura St. John.

Auckland [NZ] Star 25 September 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Miss St John belongs to that particularly odious class of woman who scorns the honourable addresses of unencumbered young men, but finds that the real sport in life lies in seducing married gentlemen away from previously happy homes, while feigning wide-eyed innocence. Sadly, her machinations are only crystal clear to the victim’s wife; never to the “mark” himself.

One wonders if the alimony paid by the bewitched Mr Vivian purchased the infernal machine in the little rosewood box. The creator of such a small, yet deadly, object must have been exceedingly clever. Perhaps the former Mrs Vivian found love with a young munitions expert, who–wittingly or unwittingly–helped her take her revenge.


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 anecdote

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.

Dressing the Bride: 1899


Miss Eleanor Burwell is a young woman who dresses brides. That is the way she makes her living, and a very good living at that.

The other day a friend of mine was married, and one morning, about two weeks before the eventful day, a card was sent up to her and I went down to see the caller, a Miss Burwell, whose name neither of us had ever heard before. She explained her business, and my friend engaged her.

Early on the morning of the wedding Miss Burwell appeared with her assistant. The entire trousseau, and, I might say, the bride, herself, was turned over to her. She first investigated the wedding outfit and saw that everything was as it should be.

She insisted on the bride’s remaining quietly in bed until 10 o’clock, the wedding not being until 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Then she had her out and tried on the wedding dress, gloves and slippers. Some alterations were necessary, a few stitches, and she took them. Next she turned her attention to packing the trunks, and in less than two hours the task was accomplished and a little book containing a complete inventory was put in the bride’s traveling bag. This inventory gave not only the list of articles but told exactly where they could be found. By this time the bride had finished her luncheon and was persuaded to take a nap and remain in bed until called by Miss Burwell, who, with her assistant, left the house to appear again promptly at 3:30 o’clock. Then a tepid bath was prepared; the bride awakened and while she was taking it they straightened up the room and laid out the bridal costume. The dressing of the bride was accomplished without the slightest hurry and in ample time. But best of all was the fresh, rosy face which shone through the bridal veil. It was so different from the haggard, nervous girl we all expected. She was not a bit tired or worried, and feeling that she was looking her very best, woman-like, she was supremely contented. Miss Burwell accompanied her to the church door, guarded against soiling her gown in the carriage, and gave the final touch to her veil and train as she entered.

After the ceremony she returned to the house, superintended the exchange of the bridal for the going-away gown, gave the final arrangements to the last trunk and the traveling bag; set the room to rights and left as quickly as the proverbial mouse.

The next day I saw her again and asked her to tell me about her work.


 “I began four years ago,” she replied, “by dressing a friend of mine, and I thought her mother, who was a very delicate woman, would never get through thanking me. She said I was just the right person in the right place on such an occasion, and as I had left school and was on the lookout for something to do to earn a living, I decided to try dressing brides as a profession. I came to New York as our nearest big city and affording the largest field. Of course I had a few letters of introduction and a small amount of money, less than $50, in my pocket.

“My first customer was obtained through the minister to whom I had come with a letter of introduction. The bride was quite young and without a mother, so she depended on me entirely. Her trousseau, quite an elaborate one, had been prepared, but she was as nervous as a girl could very well be and keep her reason about her wedding day. I treated her just about as I did your friend, only she insisted on my coming to her for two days instead of one, and everybody complimented me on the results. Soon after I had another engagement with a girl out of town whose trousseau I helped to purchase. My work gave satisfaction, and since then I have had my hands full.

“Many of my customers wish me to assist them with their trousseau, that is in its selection and by seeing that the dressmakers and tailors give them perfect fits; others wish me to do just what I did for your friend, while there are some who require me only to dress them and arrange their veils. Of course a well-trained, competent maid could give her mistress much assistance on such an occasion, but my customers, as a rule, are not the very wealthy girls who can afford to keep such an attendant.

“While they pay me well for my services they do not feel that they can afford to keep expensive servants. Of course I am compelled to keep up with the latest styles, and for that purpose I spent two months in Paris last summer.  August and September are the poorest months in the year for weddings, while October, February and June are about the most popular. Often during these months I have as many as two brides a day to dress, and several times 1 could have had as many as four, but was obliged to refuse many engagements for want of time.


“Do I think it a work where other women can succeed? I see no reason why they should not. Here in New York there is certainly room for others, because, as I have just said, I have very often been compelled to refuse engagements. According to my observations there is a demand for just such a person, in all of our larger cities and a comfortable living to be earned. But the woman who undertakes it must be willing to perform her work not only as well as any one else, but she must do it just a little bit better. Many people can pack trunks very nicely, but I claim that no one can do it as well as I, nor can they drape a veil or place the bridal wreath as becomingly. I study and work out all the little details of every particular bride, and my time is entirely occupied, but I am well treated, well paid, live well and am saving money. So, naturally, I think my profession a good one.”


The Butte [MT] Miner 23 July 1899: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has much admiration for Miss Burwell’s ingenuity in making a profession out of what had hitherto been an unpaid duty of the sisters or friends of the bride. Her packing and cataloguing of the bridal trunks was alone certainly worth her fee. (We have previously heard of professional trunk-packers.) But one wonders why a haggard, nervous bride was expected? One hopes it was merely prenuptial nerves and exhaustion rather than uncertainty over the wisdom of her choice of groom….


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 Bride by Telegram: 1899

1875 Gaultier bride doll


By Mrs.Whitney.

 “Send me down bride in full dress for Friday evening.

H. Smith, Walkley Station.”

That was the tenor of the telegram, Miss Betsey Blythe knew, because she read it, over forty times, if she read it once. She picked it up on the step of the telegraph office, where the lucky recipient thereof must have dropped it —and, unluckily, the address was torn off the northeast corner of the folded paper.

But Miss Betsey Blythe had not been engaged in looking after her neighbors’ business all her life to be foiled now. She wiped the street mud off the telegram with her pocket-handkerchief, put it safely into her reticule and carried it home to her sisters, Miss Arethusa and Miss Pamela Blythe.

“There,” she said, “didn’t I tell you Harold Smith was going to be married on the sly.”

“Goodness me!” said Arethusa.

“It can’t be possible,” piped Pamela. “But who can the bride be?”

“That’s the question,” declared Miss Betsey, staring back at the poll-parrot’s cage in the window. “And Friday is to be the wedding day.”

“Which Friday, I wonder?” said Miss Arethusa.

“Why, this Friday, of course!” pronounced Miss Pamela. “The day after to-morrow, of course; or it would have been a deal easier and cheaper to write instead of telegraphing. Don’t you see?”

“Friday’s an unlucky day for a wedding,” groaned Miss Betsey.

“Just like Harold Smith to get married on a Friday,” said Miss Pamela. “He’s always making fun of what he calls ‘superstitious observances.’”

“Well, I never!” said Miss Arethusa. “Who is the bride, anyhow?”

“If she’s a girl of any spirit whatever,” whatever,” tartly observed Miss Betsey, “she won’t allow herself to be telegraphed around the country like a package of dry goods.”

“Some girls will do anything to get married,” said Arethusa, with vicious emphasis.

“It’s Jessie Mordaunt. of course.” decided Pamela. “She’s been flirting on and off with Harold Smith for these three years, but I didn’t suppose he was foolish enough to fall into her trap!”

“Or perhaps it’s Marian Shelton,” added Miss Betsey. “I know they’ve been making up a new white silk dress with tablier fronts and a trained skirt at Shelton’s. Miss Needlepoint told me so herself. And I can believe any amount of folly of the Shelton family since they changed that girl’s name from Mary Ann to Marian.”

“There’s the three Misses MacKenzie, every one of ’em crazy,” suggested Miss Arethusa.

“No,” said Miss Pamela, decidedly. ”You may be quite certain it’s Jessie! Jessie’s flighty enough for anything! I think she’d rather enjoy an escapade like that!”

“And I dare say,” vindictively added Miss Arethusa, who was the eldest sister of the three, and the least addicted to favorable views of human nature, “they think it’s an unfathomable secret!”

“Walkley Station is only three-quarters of an hour from New York,” said Betsey. “Let’s go to the wedding!”

“And,” added Miss Pamela, in a chuckle, “let’s notify all our friends to go!” For the three Misses Blythe were not pleased that Harold Smith should presume to take so important a step as that of matrimony without their consent and advice. Hadn’t they known him as a curly-headed lad before he ever went into college? Hadn’t he played many a practical joke upon them, in his wild, rollicking way—and didn’t they know perfectly well that he regarded them as three sour, ridiculous, disappointed old spinsters?

And now that they had come into possession of one of his choicest, dearest secrets, it was scarcely in human nature not to be revenged, fully and entirely.

“Do you suppose she’ll go out in the cars?” asked Arethusa.

“In full dress! What nonsense,” retorted Pamela. “She’ll drive, of course, in a carriage!”

“She’ll get her death of cold.” said Miss Betsey, with a shiver. “Driving fifteen miles in ‘full dress!'”

“The idea of Harold Smith ordering her around in that majestic fashion!” cried Arethusa. “But, girls, I’ll tell you what we will do; we’ll go and call on the Mordaunts.”

Mrs. Mordaunt, a pretty, full-blown rose style of matron, was doing crewelwork. crewelwork. Jessie, her daughter, who corresponded with the rosebud in the family, was painting a vase of purple pansies in watercolors. They did not appear in the least like custodians of an important secret; looked surprised when Miss Betsey alluded to the subject of impending marriages, and said they had heard of no wedding in the neighborhood; and they stared when Miss Arethusa asked if they hadn’t had a dressmaker in the house lately.

“We always do our own sewing,” said Mrs. Mordaunt. “Jessie can fit a dress as well as Madam Mondini herself.”

“But for such a very, very important occasion as this,” smirked Miss Arethusa.

“We never have any important occasions,” laughed Jessie. “Look, Miss Blythe, do you think my pansy petal as deep a purple as the original?” And when the three old maids had, last, taken their departure, Jessie looked at her mother in amazement mingled with mirth.

“”Mamma,” said she, “what do those old women mean?”

“I think, dear,” said Mrs. Mordaunt, “that they are the least bit unsettled in their minds–just a little crazy, you know.”

And the Misses Blythe went away, ex changing mysterious glances, and whispering to each other—

“They cannot deceive us!”

The Misses Blythe told everybody they could think of always in strict confidence,  of course. Everybody repeated it to everybody else, and by Friday evening the train to Walkley Station was full.

To Miss Betsey Blythe’s infinite disappointment, the Smith house, a pretty, old-fashioned mansion with a pillared front, a garden full of clipped box monstrosities, and an octagonal conservatory, built out from the south end, was not lighted up after any extraordinary fashion. Mrs. Smith, Harold’s mother, a dimpled old lady, in a white lace cap and gleaming gold spectacle-glasses, was knitting, half asleep, when the three Misses Blythe were ushered in, followed by a crowd of other acquaintances.

“Oh!” said she, rubbing her eyes to make sure that it was not a dream, “this is a surprise party, is it? I’m sure I’m delighted to see you! Only it’s a pity Harry isn’t at home!”

“My good soul,” said Miss Arethusa Blythe, shaking her finger, “it’s no use trying to deceive us. We know all about it!”

“All about what?” said Mrs. Smith.

“About the wedding!” cried out the company in chorus.

“Whose wedding?” demanded Mrs. Smith.

“Why, Harold’s, to be sure!” they responded.

“But Harold isn’t going to be married,” said Mrs. Smith. “He isn’t even engaged! Good gracious! What can have put such a thing into people’s heads?”

“It’s the telegram,” said Miss Pamela.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Mrs. Smith in despair.

“Well, if you won’t believe me, you will, perhaps, believe your own eyes,” said Miss Betsey Blythe, with dignity, as she drew the telegram from her pocket, and, carefully straightening out its creases, held it up before Mrs. Smith’s spectacle glasses.

“Dear me!” cried Mrs. Smith, at last comprehending a little of this curious network of cross-purposes, “it’s Bella Smith’s big doll!”

“What!” shrieked Miss Arethusa, Miss Pamela and Miss Betsy in chorus.

“What!” more wildly echoed the rest of the assemblage, crowding eagerly around.

“Mrs. Helena Smith’s little daughter across the street,” explained Mrs. Smith. “It’s her birth-night party, and an immense doll, dressed as a bride was forwarded by express this afternoon! I saw it myself –a perfect beauty, with veil and wreath, white satin boots, buttoned by knobs of pearl, and long-wristed white kid gloves, entirely complete! And you thought–you really imagined that my Harold was going to be married secretly and had telegraphed to New York for his bride!”

The old lady broke out into a fit of soft, sweet-sounding laughter, which shook her as if she had been a mold of jelly. Everybody else laughed, too, except the three Misses Blythes. They only looked blank.

“But now that you’re here,” added hospitable Mrs. Smith, “you’ll stay to tea, all of you? But you must! The down train doesn’t leave until ten, and you’ll be half starved, now that there is no wedding feast for you. Oh! I insist upon your staying to tea.”

The biggest tea-kettle in the house was put over to boil at once; seven pounds of coffee were put into the pot, and the maids ran, one to the muffle and crumpet store and cake bakery, the other to the oyster stand, which, luckily, was not yet shut up for the night. And kind Mrs. Smith entertained her unexpected guests with gracious politeness.  But there was no wedding and no bride, except little Bella Smith’s wax bride across the street, and the three Misses Blythe went back to New York sadder and wiser women. And what was perhaps the most desirable result, they resolved to adhere, thenceforth, to the eleventh commandment.

The Daily Herald [Delphos OH] 21 September 1899: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Eleventh Commandment, in case Mrs Daffodil’s readers’ theological educations have been neglected, is “for every one to mind his (or, more aptly, her) own business.”


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 Cashmere Shawl: 1840

[From the London Journals.]


Everybody knows the vast importance which our Parisian belles formerly attached to the possession of a cashmere shawl; and although their value is considerably decreased since the Empress Josephine gave fifteen thousand francs for one, they are still objects of desire to all female hearts; I mean married ones, of course, for the cashmere is rarely worn by a demoiselle, at least until she begins to despair of ever being called Madame. Indeed, these shawls play a very important part in matrimonial arrangements; many a match has been brought about by the lady’s impatience to possess them, and many a ménage has been rendered unhappy by a husband’s obstinate refusal to buy one. I do not, however, recollect any adventure in which the cashmere has played so singular a part as the one I am about to narrate.

Monsieur de M. began some time ago, notwithstanding his large fortune and very handsome person, to be set down by his acquaintance as a decided old bachelor; this opinion might be thought too hastily formed, as he was only thirty-six, had not his mode of living given color to it—for it was well known that he did not spend half his income; and he would certainly have been set down as a miser, had not circumstances revealed that instead of hoarding his riches, he dispensed them in charity, but it was charity without ostentation. He mixed in the world, enjoyed its pleasures with moderation, was generally liked, and when at last determined upon committing matrimony, his proposal for Mademoiselle de V. was warmly received by her widowed mother, a perfect woman of the world, who had for some time had her eye upon him, and spread her net by a skillful exhibition of those qualities in herself and daughter, which, though they were very far from possessing, she knew he would look for in a wife. The bait took, to her great joy; for she almost began to despair of getting a match for Sophie, whose own fortune was too small to entitle her to a good one, and who being all of twenty-four, was fast verging on what we in France consider an old maidenism.

The young lady had played her part so well that, without it at all transgressing the rules of propriety, De M. had reason to believe his proposal would be perfectly agreeable to her before he made it to her mamma; his explicitness on one point was, however, far from pleasing to either lady; that was his intention of devoting the same amount as usual to charitable purposes, in which he had no doubt he should be assisted by his dear Sophie. A few timid words of acquiescence from the young ladies, and an eloquent harangue from mamma on the pleasure it must give her daughter to participate in his benevolent plants, settled the matter to De M.’s great delight.

The preliminaries of the marriage were arranged—De M.’s family jewels, which were really very handsome, were sent to be new mounted, and he requested his belle fiancée to make choice of a cashmere. No task could be more agreeable to the fair one, who showed that her taste was equally elegant and magnificent, for she selected a superb long shawl, bleu turquoise ground, and a border of matchless beauty. Nothing could be handsomer, but unfortunately, there was one objection that the bridegroom elect could not get over—it was double the price he intended to give.

Now here I find myself in a strait. I wish to please all my readers, and if I mention De M’s price, I have no doubt that some of the gentler sex will say, “Oh, now mean!” while several of those in unmentionables will call him an extravagant fellow. In order then to avoid drawing upon my hero the displeasure of any party, I shall avoid specifying the sum, and shall, merely, in justice to him, declare that the price he intended to give, would be considered by the generality of the people as a handsome one. He requested Sophie to make choice of another, and several were shown to her, but she had some decided objection to each; and in spite of the significant looks, and even hints of her mother, she shewed so much ill temper and ill nature, that she fairly frightened away all the little cupids that were dancing about the heart of her intended; in  short, the cashmere was not chosen that morning, and the evening brought not the devoted lover, but a letter, in which he made his adieu in a very decided manner.

We have no trials in France for breach of promise; but I think even in England the ladies would not, all the circumstances of the case considered, have got damages, unless indeed she was allowed to have a female jury. The matter passed off, and De M., perfectly recovered from his love fit, went on his usual quiet way for some time.

One morning he called on an old woman, to whom he had been a constant benefactor for some years, and as he mounted to her dwelling on the fourth story, a lady passed him on the stairs, plainly dressed, and with a black veil down. As he made way for her respectfully, he observed that her figure, though petite, was elegant, and her features, from the slight glimpse he had of them, agreeable. On entering Manette’s apartment, he found her in tears, and a handsome cashmere shawl lying on a chair.

“What is the matter, my poor Manette?” cried he, in a pitying tone. “What are you crying for?”

“Oh, it is nothing, Sir,” said the old woman, wiping her eyes; “there is nothing amiss, indeed.”

“But what are you in tears for?”

“Why I could not help crying while I was telling poor Jeannette’s story to that dear good lady, Madame de ___.”

My readers will easily believe that De M. insisted upon hearing Jeannette’s story, which we shall tell more briefly than Manette did. She was a friend of the old woman, recently left a widow with several small children, reduced by the death of her husband to the greatest distress, she was in danger of perishing for want, when an offer was made her, if she could raise six hundred francs, of going into a business that would support both her and her children creditably. “But,” continued Manette, “where could she raise six hundred francs? Bah! One might as well have asked her a million; and so I said to Madame de__ who found me crying just as Jeannette left me.”

“Don’t say that, Manette,” cried she, “we shall make up the money somehow. I have very little by me now, but I think you could sell this shawl for that, or at any rate for nearly as much, and I will make up the rest,” and before I could say a word, Monsieur, she had thrown off her beautiful shawl, and telling me to do the best I could with it, and to let her know as soon as it was sold, she hurried away just as you came.”

“What an excellent creature!”

“Excellent indeed! I don’t believe there is her equal in the world. Why, Monsieur, though she is young, aye and very pretty and lively too, she thinks of nothing but doing good. You would not believe how sparingly she lives, and how many things she denies herself, that she may have it in her power to assist the unfortunate.”

My readers will not be surprised that De M. bought the shawl, first swearing Manette to secrecy. His next step was to obtain an introduction to Madame de ___, who was still a young and really very pretty widow. He declares that he had no other intention of doing so than to form a friendship with a woman of a congenial mind, but—“Friendship with woman is sister to love.”

And so it proved in this case, for within three months the well-assorted pair were united. When he purchased the shawl, it was with the intention of sending it back to her anonymously, but he delayed doing so for some time, lest through it his share of the affair might be discovered, and he lose the pleasure of her acquaintance. When he sent the usual marriage presents, there was no cashmere among them. Whatever the widow thought of the omission, she said nothing about it, but on the very evening before the ceremony was performed, he asked her to choose one, which she did; and this time he had no fault to find with his fiancée on the score of extravagance. The morning after marriage he said to her, as they were seated at breakfast.

“Were you not surprised, chere amie, that you did not sooner receive your cashmere?”

I thought you had forgotten it.”

“No, I delayed out of prudence, that you might not have an opportunity of selling it.”

At these words Amelie’s face became scarlet!

“Dearest! Best beloved!” cried the happy husband, unsealing a packet, and presenting the shawl—“receive again the offering you made to charity; an offering dear and sacred in my eyes, for it has led to a felicity which I despaired of finding—that of a wife whose heart was in perfect unison with my own.”

And so in truth it is, and will I hope remain, notwithstanding that the acquaintance—the female part of it, I mean—of Madame de M. thinks she pays a very bad compliment to her husband’s present; for while his rich cadeau de Noces is seldom seen on her shoulders, she is observed to be excessively fond of a cashmere that she was known to have some time before her second marriage, and which is very inferior to the one De M. presented her with.

The Gloucester [MA] Telegraph 25 December 1841: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The cashmere shawl, indeed, had the power to transform lives. Mrs Daffodil has written before about the plague carried in a cashmere, and how the Empress Josephine’s life was “saved by a shawl.” We have also seen delectable descriptions of the cadeau de Noces of an aristocratic French bride, in which she tells of her delight that her fiancé was thoughtful enough to give a red-ground cashmere to her dear mamma.

Monsieur de M. is to be congratulated on his good sense in making his adieu so decidedly. Mrs Daffodil shudders to think of what perils would have marked his married life: extravagance, recriminations, forged notes, money-lenders, and, perhaps, scandal, divorce, or even murder. One need only examine the ending chapters of Madame Bovary to see what the harvest might have been, had it not been for a cashmere shawl….

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.

“They had a little job they wanted me to do:” A wedding story: 1870s

unknown artist; Newlyweds; The American Museum in Britain; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/newlyweds-40963



By a Frontier Missionary

He was of Quaker extraction and education. But during the border troubles he had “fallen from the grace” of non-resistance, and had been “dropped from the roll.” He was therefore no longer in “good and regular standing” in that communion—if that can be called a “communion” where they do not observe the communion. He retained, however, very much of the plainness and bluntness and downright honesty for which that people are proverbial. Everybody knew him and everybody respected him, as an industrious, plain-spoken, honest man. He owned a fine farm three miles from town, where he lived with a family who helped him to carry it on. His farm was devoted mostly to the dairy business. He also had an ice house, and supplied the heated denizens of the city with that luxury. He was a bachelor, and it was the general opinion that whatever else he fell from he would surely illustrate the “ perseverance of the saints” in this. But his friends were reckoning without their host in this matter, or rather without their hostess. In fact, they did not know that there was a hostess to be counted in.

One day he drove up to my door on his way home. He wanted to know “if I still kept up my Sabbath afternoon appointment at the schoolhouse west of his place, and, if so, at what time I should pass his house on my way home.” I replied that “I still kept up the appointment, and should return past his house about five o’clock.” “He did not want to put me to any trouble, but if I could as well as not, he wished I would call in as I passed. They had a little job they wanted me to do.” I guessed at once what was wanted, and told him I would surely call.

So the next Sabbath, about five o’clock, I turned up the lane that led to his house, tied my horse to the fence, and went to the door. I was admitted by the housekeeper and seated. The house-work was going on just as usual—just as in any farmhouse—and I was received just as any stranger would be. There were evidently no unusual preparations going on. I asked for my friend.

“He was out in the yard milking. Should they call him?” I replied “I could wait, but I wanted to see him.” I began to feel a little cheap about the blunder I had made in supposing it was a wedding I was called to. Had it been some men, I should have suspected it was a hoax. But I knew my friend had too much respect for me to play a joke on me in such a matter, so I supposed it must be something he wanted to consult me about and I had entirely misunderstood him. In a few minutes he came in. He was in his shirt sleeves and overalls, and was carrying a brimming pail of milk. He set the milk in the pantry, and the “women folks” proceeded to strain it. He greeted me very heartily, “was sorry to detain me, but would soon be ready.” He then introduced me to a bright looking young woman whom I had noticed before, and presented her as the expectant bride. With that they two disappeared in different directions, and I was alone again. In a few minutes they returned, neatly dressed, and announced themselves as “ready.” I stripped the ceremony of all needless ornament, and made it as businesslike as possible, so as to correspond with the surroundings. The house was quiet during the service, but there was no gathering of the family in the room, and the interruption to the regular course of affairs was very brief indeed. I caught the business-like spirit of the occasion, and excused myself and departed. As I mounted my horse and turned down the lane I saw the new made bridegroom emerge from the house, reclad in the overalls before mentioned, and carrying the aforesaid milk pail, and going out towards the barn to finish “that milking.” The cows had probably never known such an interruption before. They had been kept waiting not less than twenty minutes. No doubt they wanted “dreadfully” to ask him what the matter was. But I doubt if ever there was a wedding in which less precious time was wasted, and where the regular course of events was less disturbed.

The coolest part of the proceedings is yet to be mentioned. After the ceremony the bridegroom came up, and in a frank, business-like way spoke of the fee. He said “if it would be just as satisfactory to me, he would like to give me my summer’s ice.” This was “perfectly satisfactory to me,” as it was quite a liberal sum, and the coolness of the operation was quite refreshing. No artist could have finished the picture better. There would have been an incompleteness without this final touch. With this added, the whole scene seems like an inspiration of genius.

New Outlook, Volume 14, edited by Alfred Emanuel Smith, Francis Walton, 1876: p. 196

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Such insouciant nuptials were more the exception than the rule, but here is another:


Man Hadn’t Time to Come to Surface, So Bride Descends and Ceremony Is Performed.

South Paris, Me., “Come up out of the pit and be married,” shouted Miss Alena Wantman to Andrew Lakestrom, who was drilling at the bottom of a stone quarry, 200 feet below the earth’s surface.

“I can’t spare the time,” the man shouted back. “I need the money.”

The couple had been engaged a long time. Miss Wantman sent a messenger to Rev. W.M. Strout, and when he arrived the two went to the bottom of the quarry. Lakestrom slipped a sweater over his working jacket, and while the other workmen stood around as witnesses, the ceremony was performed.

“Nothing like making a man do as he agrees,” said Mrs. Lakestrom, as she and the preacher got back to the top of the earth. Lakestrom continued work during the night.

The News-Herald [Hillsboro, OH] 1 June 1905: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil can only wish the couples much joy. It seems a case of exalting “sense” over “sensibility,” but costly and sentimental ceremonies do not necessarily make for happy unions. Our worthy  Vicar has stated (in confidence) that he has observed that the larger the wedding party, the shorter the marriage.

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 Poodle Marriage: 1897


Latest Fad Among Members of French Smart Set.


All the Members of the Four-Footed Aristocracy in Attendance Are Dressed in the Most Appropriate of Costumes for Such an Occasion.

All in Evening Suits.

There is a brand new fad in swelldom. It is the dog marriage. To be thoroughly fashionable nowadays one must own two dogs of opposite sexes, and they must have been duly married by the staid and respectable canine selected by the fashionable community to act as the representative of the cloth.

Of course, it is from France that this new idea has come. When it is necessary to discover something particularly eccentric, French genius always comes to the rescue. The fashionable to whom fell the honor of introducing this new and rather remarkable step for the advancement of canine creation was none other than Mme. Ephrussi, daughter of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, the wife of the multi-millionaire, Maurice Ephrussi. Mme. Ephrussi is an inveterate lover of dogs, a taste which she inherits from her mother, the Baroness de Rothschild, and so, when seeking new amusements, during what is just now in France the dull season, she turned to her canine friends for aid, and behold the dog wedding is the result.

This initial wedding of dogs in high society is so novel as to be well worth description. In the first place, Mme. Ephrussi sent out formally engraved invitations to several hundred of her friends, announcing the approaching nuptials of Diane, her favorite poodle, and La Petite Major, a handsome poodle, the property of the Baron Alphonse de Rothschild. Not only were the recipients of these invitations asked to come themselves, but requested to bring their dogs also.

It is recorded that not a single invitation to this most singular wedding was refused. It is also a matter of social history that not one of the guests who owned a dog, from the tiny, four-ounce black and tan to the giant St. Bernard, left it at home. Such a gathering as it was no one had ever seen before, and it is doubtful if the like will ever be visible again. It is often remarked at any particularly swell gatherings of humanity that a given number of millions are represented by the guests present. At least the same might be said of these dogs, when it comes to the thousands. There were dogs there which were valued anywhere from $50 up to $20,000. They all looked with open-eyed wonder at the strange fate which was apparently befalling the two charming poodles.

Not the least odd and attractive feature of the whole affair was the fact that many of these visiting dogs—in truth, the majority of them—were in full evening dress. Not evening blankets, but if the dog was a male, in the swallow-tail and trousers of the human, together with the standing collar, dress shirt and unspeakable tie. The paws were adorned with patent leather evening shoes; and, in fact, the gentlemen guests, even though canine, were a credit to their respective tailors.

As for the feminine dogs, their costumes were simply ravishing. Of course, the dresses were in all instances decolletté. Trains and demi-trains were worn by these specimens of canine aristocracy with exceeding grace, and, strange as it may seem, many ofthe lady dogs carried bouquets securely fastened in the most up-to-date bouquet holders. With all this gorgeousness on the part of the guests, what must have been the worldly splendor that surrounded the bride and groom! Diane, who is described as a poodle of rare grace and beauty, wore a white satin dress trimmed with beautiful lace; a long tulle veil decorated with orange blossoms, and white kid shoes. Major, the bridegroom, wore full evening dress, swallow-tail coat, low-cut vest, trousers not creased, because it is not fashionable to crease the trousers at weddings; patent leather shoes and gloves of the appropriate shade. On the buttonhole of Monsieur Major’s very swell coat was a dainty orchid. Gleaming from the centre of his immaculate front was a diamond of the purest ray serene. Could anything be more swell?

Presently all the guests have arrived, human and canine, the latter, of course, being given the preference. All is in readiness. If the carriage did not wait, the ceremonies did. Everyone was on tiptoe of expectation, even the dogs, for it dawned on even the canine mind that something tremendous was about to happen. The word was given that the hour approached, and Mme. Ephrussi’s magnificent ballroom, unquestionably the finest of all those of rare beauty to be found in the residences which adorn the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, was thrown open to the assembled guests.

There every one repaired, everybody and his dog, or possibly it is more correct to say, her dog. A moment later, and there softly floated through the air the strains of the ever-familiar, ever-beloved wedding march from “Lohengrin.” Mincing up the aisle, along which it had been arranged that the wedding procession was to pass, walked three small poodles, each in evening dress and semi-harnessed together with white ribbon. Following these came the bride, languishing upon the arm, or rather hand, of her most charming mistress, while behind them walked on his hind feet and without support, accompanied by Baron Rothschild, came Monsieur Major, modestly reflecting the glory that shone around.

Then came the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the former wearing white silk dresses, and long veils; the latter in full dress and adorned with embroidered white satin coats. All these advanced upon their hind legs. But behind them came a host of canine guests, who were permitted to walk as nature had originally intended they should.

Away down at the further end of the ballroom the wedding procession was met by the stanch and sober bulldog of Comte de Berteux. Upon his head this honored canine wore a tall silk hat, and about his waist was tied the tricolor sash. his badge of office, for he was representing none other than that most distinguished of officials, Monsieur le Maire. After greeting the procession, the bulldog Maire advanced on his hind legs in a dignified manner, and then seated himself upon his haunches, upon a magnificently embroidered cushion.

Now all was in readiness for the ceremony. The Maire looked solemnly at the fair young couple whose destinies he was about to unite, and then barked distinctly three times. The bridegroom gave a short bark. The bride barked low and impressively. Then the Maire barked several times in quick succession, and there was a series of responsive barks, in which some of the rude and unthinking in the audience joined without request. A gold ring with a diamond setting was then slipped over the paw of the fair Diane, the Maire barked gleefully, and the procession moved to the adjoining room, where the marriage register was signed, in this instance the owners of the dogs having to act for them.

Following the signing of the register came the reception and supper. Every dog was given a seat at the table, and a regular course supper served. It is not stated that there was any reprehensible conduct on the part of the canine guests to any greater extent than is witnessed at a wedding supper at which only human beings are in attendance. And so passed off the first dog wedding of which Dame Fashion ever acted as chief guest. It is among the probabilities that the United States will see a repetition of the event before many weeks.

The Morning Times [Washington DC] 10 January 1897: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has served the noble and the wealthy far too long to be surprised at any of their little fads and fancies, but really, a simple notation in the stud book would have met the case.

The English are fond of their dogs, but Mrs Daffodil is certain that no well-bred Englishman (or woman) would have countenanced anything like the excesses of this marriage between two Rothschild poodles. One wonders if the French learned anything from their Revolution.

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.

Saturday Snippets: 22 June 2013: Satin shoes filled with flowers, an 1858 honey trap, a bride killed by lightning

A victorian bride in veil

Celebrating wedding fads and fancies and the battle of the sexes in today’s Saturday Snippets.

The Balloon Case Decided. CINCINNATI, April 26. Judge Evans has decided the divorce suit of Sam. C. Young against Laura Schwarzel by annulling the marriage. They are the people who were parties to a mock marriage in a balloon at Pittsburg. The judge decided that inasmuch as marriage is a civil contract in which the consent and intent are both necessary, the ceremony was not binding. The couple had no intention of marrying, did not consummate the union, and were as strangers after the mock proceedings. Although the person performing the ceremony was qualified by law, the marriage had the force of an illegal contract and he therefore annulled it by desire of both the principals. Newark [OH] Daily Advocate 26 April 1888 

A peculiar and romantic episode occurred recently at a wedding ceremony in Cleveland. Above the bride’s head was an elaborate device, with her name in small electric lights. Above the groom appeared a similar decoration, save that it was his name that sparkled there. All through the ceremony the lights burned brilliantly, but at the words: “I pronounce you man and wife,” the bride’s name was “turned off.” Omaha [NE] World Herald 10 November 1900: p. 11


Fiancée Killed By Lightning – Midst of Trousseau

Geneva, Sept. 25. Sophie Gugnite, aged 22, the pride and beauty of the village of Chatillens, near Lauzanne, was seated in her room at home alone in the midst of her trousseau, presents and jewelry yesterday when she was killed by lightning during a violent thunderstorm. Her parents were unharmed in a neighboring room. They found their daughter dead, with her head resting on her table, with love letters from her fiance, and her wedding gown on fire.

The girl was to have been married to a Geneva lawyer, who is heart-broken. The church had been decorated and the bridesmaids appointed.  St. Albans [VT] Daily Messenger 25 September 1919: p. 1 

The Latest Wedding Fad

London life

The latest novelty at fashionable weddings is for the bridesmaids to carry satin shoes filled with flowers, and the result is charmingly pretty. At one wedding the shoes were of eau de Nil satin and were filled with blush-pink roses. At another there was a very effective combination of pink satin and maize-colored roses, while the delicate structure depended from the bridesmaid’s arm by pink satin ribbons, like a veritable miniature hanging garden. At a third the shoes were pink satin and the flowers were golden-brown chrysanthemums, toning from dark brown to pale yellow. In some cases these shoe bouquets take the place of ordinary posies; in others they are merely supplementary to huge clusters of flowers carried in the hand; sometimes, however, by way of intensifying the novelty of the innovation, the bridesmaids are divided into two detachments, half carrying shoes filled with flowers, and the other half being supplied with bouquets of the regulation pattern. Kansas City [ MO] Times 24 January 1889: p. 6

 It is alleged that a London  money lender has a $2,500 note which he lends to aristocratic brides to be exhibited as a wedding gift along with other presents. The Stark County Democrat [Canton, OH] 9 June 1899: p. 7

 Singular Marriages.—When the Rev. J. Clark, late master of the charter house in Hull, was curate of St. Trinity there, four couple were married by him at the same time, and the following odd circumstances attended each, viz. With regard to the first couple, the bridegroom had forgot to bring a ring, in consequence of which he was obliged to borrow one; the bride of the second had lost that finger upon which the ring is commonly put; a man, violently shaking the iron gates leading into the choir, said aloud, that the third bride had already a husband; and with regard to the fourth, one of the bridegrooms implored the parson to be quick, as the bride was in labour! Sporting Magazine, Vol. 41, 1813, p. 132


Winsted, Conn., May 27. When Civil War Veterans decorate graves in New Milford Memorial Day they will not overlook that of Miss Elvira Morehouse. When she was buried a few days ago her shroud was the wedding gown she had made before the war. Her fiancé went to the front and never came back. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 28 May 1916: p. 3

 “INTERESTING CASE OF CRIM. CON. IN DECATUR.—The Decatur correspondent of the Springfield Journal gives the following account of a little affair that recently occurred in that miniature city, the parties being a well known ex-hotel keeper, and the wife of a saloon keeper”:

One night last week the husband of this woman, returning home from his saloon at an earlier hour than usual, was startled by his wife’s screams, proceeding from within the house. On endeavoring to open the front door, he found it locked, and rushing around to the back door, forced it open, and succeeded in making his entrance. On entering, he found the personage aforesaid in back room, and his wife in the front, who proceeded to inform him how the grain dealer had forced his way into the house, and endeavored by his threats, force and persuasion, to accomplish his object. The “infuriated husband” immediately caught the gentleman by the coat collar, and drawing out an extremely disagreeable-looking and most provokingly-sharp knife, proceeded to inform him that if he did not pay him for his wounded honor, he would cut his throat, and chop him up into mince meat. Whereupon a note for $2,000, payable six months after date, was drawn up and handed over to the husband, and the gay Lothario allowed to depart with a whole skin, but nearly frightened to death.

But the drama does not end here. The grain merchant, not feeling quite willing to pay this little amount of $2,000, has brought suit against the saloon keeper for conspiracy to extort money from him. The case will be before our Circuit Court at its next session. Weekly Vincennes [IN] Gazette 10 February 1858 

What is the sort of paper to write love-letters on?


[You ought to have known that, you folio!]

More Puniana, Hugh Rowley, 1875

Wedding Gifts a Source of Worry: 1870

Glass and metal "bride's baskets" were a popular Victorian wedding gift.

Glass and metal “bride’s baskets” were a popular Victorian wedding gift.

WEDDING PRESENTS are a source of much mental worry both to their givers and receivers. So-and-so is going to be married, and all her friends and relations, down to her ninety-ninth cousins, are supposed to be called upon by that fact to make her a present. When the bride belongs to a rich family, she receives bracelets, lockets, necklets, and rings innumerable. Several opera glasses, and, of late, several fans, are also included, and there are presents of Dresden, and Sèvres, and other famous porcelains, enough to stock a shop of moderate size. In homelier circles, where presents that are not of quite so personal a nature are given, there is sometimes quite an embarras de richesses in the way of teapots, cruet-stands, butter knives, and cake baskets. We have known three cake baskets and six butter knives to be presented to a lady, in whose establishment one would have been sufficient for all needs. The question is, what can be done? Would it not be convenient for a lady about to enter the holy estate of matrimony to make out a list of what she wanted, and to send it round to her friends, requesting each person to make a mark against the article which he or she would desire to present? In this way, as the list went round, people would see what had been chosen, and there would be no such unfortunate repetitions as those we have indicated. This plan is, however, open to the objection that it savors somewhat of the begging-letter system, and that people might find themselves the subject of forced contributions under such an arrangement even more directly than they are under the present system. Perhaps the wisest plan would be to follow a late example. This gentleman’s present was a box containing five hundred dollars, which, of course, the happy bride could lay out as suited her own taste. It would be a change from the present style of bridal gifts for a lady about to be married to receive from her friends checks for the amount of the money they meant to expend on her behalf. The checks are quite as capable of being shown as are the usual presents, and a drawing-room table would be very interesting on which were exhibited a large number of autographs appended to orders to “pay the bearer” sums up to any conceivable amount. Humble people who have not got bankers might employ the medium of post-office orders. If actual coin were preferred, small heaps of eagles would make a fine show. Wedding presents are undoubtedly a relic of the old fashion of presenting to the newly-married couple something in the way of household goods with which to commence housekeeping. In the ranks of Scottish peasant life, it is not very long ago since all persons who attended a wedding feast made actual presents in kind or money to the bride or bridegroom, with the avowed object of giving them a start in life, and all the guests were admitted on condition of giving a present. A New York lady received, among her wedding presents, three sewing machines, six large family Bibles, and ten ice pitchers. A Boston lady had twenty-one pairs of silver salt-cellars among her bridal presents. Wedding presents of our own day are generally more ornamental than useful, and there is a certain monotony about them. We think we deserve some credit for having done away with wedding presents altogether. 

Godey’s Lady’s Book October, 1870

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Some of the more memorable wedding presents that Mrs Daffodil has seen in the press:

The bridal presents at a recent wedding in Washington, Ind., consisted of a dime’s worth of candy and a plug of tobacco. Albany [NY] Evening Journal 15 February 1870: p. 2

It is alleged that a London  money lender has a $2,500 note which he lends to aristocratic brides to be exhibited as a wedding gift along with other presents. The Stark County Democrat [Canton, OH] 9 June 1899: p. 7

A Queer Wedding Present.

Among the bridal gifts to Mlle. Henrietta de Charotte, on her recent marriage was one from the Dowager Duchesse de Fitzjames—a copy of the funeral oration delivered over James II of England, recovered and preserved for grateful posterity by the Baron de Maynard at Lisbon. How this precious document came to be considered cheerful enough for a wedding cadeau surpasses conjecture, for there is not the least ground to assume that it was a mariage de convenance,  and therefore peculiarly solemn and need of homiletic consolation. One service the relic may perform, should the happy couple ever fall into the estranging straits of poverty—if sold by auction at the Hotel Drouot the document would fetch a little fortune. Kansas City [MO] Times 27 October 1887: p. 4

Saturday Snippets: 7 June 2013 A parson’s perplexity; love found in a pair of men’s drawers; wedding gown box fad

Bride and very dapper groom.

Bride and very dapper groom.

More snippets today about weddings, courtship, and the relations between the sexes.

The Wedding Gown Box

The wedding gown box is a recent fad for the well-to-do bride to adopt, and it bids fair to have quite a vogue. That every bride possessed of any sentiment wishes to keep her wedding gown in a state of preservation is a foregone conclusion, and this elegant receptacle is admirably suited to the purpose of which it was designed, says the Philadelphia Telegraph. It is made of light wood, enamelled white, and having the bride’s initials in silver letters on the outside. A lining of tufted white satin is revealed on opening the box and locks of silver and white leather straps fasten it. A photograph of the wedding gown is often taken by the modiste before sending it home, and making a collection of the photographs of wedding gowns or any other distinctive costumes is one of the present fads, the idea being to preserve the pictures as mementoes for future generations and also as illustrations of present day fashions. Boston [MA] Herald 1 June 1902: p. 32

A Singular Occurrence. An exchange paper says that a young lady moving in the upper circles at Chicago was betrothed at the beginning of the war to a lieutenant in the army. He was killed in battle, and his body taken home and buried by his nearest friend and comrade, who was with him when he fell. To this young man the lady’s affections were very naturally transferred in time, and she engaged to marry him. When the happy day arrived, and just as the clergyman was about to pronounce them man and wife, the lady fainted, and being revived forbade any further procedure, as she said she had seen the spirit of her former lover, and he was opposed to the match. She persisted in her decision, and has since retired to a convent. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

There is a rich man in the Black Hill,s says the Bismarck Times, who dates the beginning of his fortune from the day when he sold his wife for $4,000. Osgood Ripley [IN] Journal 14 April 1887: p. 6 

 Not Her Husband After All. A young married woman has just lost her life at Lyons by a curious mistake. She was returning from Vaise, where she had been to spend the day with a young man, when, in passing the quay, she exclaimed, on seeing a person approach: “Heaven, here is my husband!” and running to the river, jumped in and was drowned. The man who had unintentionally caused her alarm was a stranger to her Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 19 July 1885: p. 11. 

News comes from Vienna of a new idea at weddings—the wearing of a wreath of roses by the mother of the bride. Upon arriving home after the ceremony, the bride’s mother removes her hat and puts on a half circle of roses, composed of buds with silver petals and foliage. The Van Wert [OH] Daily Bulletin 5 November 1909: p. 7


Judge C., a well-known, highly respectable Knickerbocker, on the shady side of fifty, widower with five children full of fun and frolic, ever ready for a joke to give or take—was bantered the other evening by a miss of five and twenty for not taking a wife. She argued that he was hale and hearty and deserved a matrimonial mess-mate. The Judge acknowledged the fact, admitted that he was convinced by the eloquence of his fair friend that he had thus far been remiss, expressed contrition of the fault confessed, and ended with offering himself to the lady, telling her she could not certainly reject him after pointing out his heinous offense. The lady replied that she would be most happy to take the situation so uniquely advertised, and become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, but there was one—to her—serious obstacle.

“Well,” said the Judge, “name it. My profession is to surmount such obstacles.” “Ah! Judge, this is beyond your powers. I have vowed if I ever married a widower, he must have ten children.”

“Ten children! Oh, that’s nothing,” says the Judge. “I’ll give you five now and my notes on demand in yearly installments for the balance.” Iowa State Reporter [Waterloo, IA] 18 September 1872: p. 7 

Hired altars for use at home weddings is one of the more recent fashionable fads of the upper ten-dom of New York society. Fashion has some queer freaks.Western Kansas World 23 July 1892: p. 5 

A Singular Death-bed Scene [Montreal Dispatch to New York Times]

At a late hour last night a man named Alphonse Mousset went to the Civic Hospital, rang the door-bell, and on being asked who was there answered that it was a new patient. As soon as the door was opened by a nun he rushed into the hospital and upstairs into the women’s ward. There he knelt by the bedside of his dying wife and implored her before leaving him forever to sign some sort of a contract by which after her death he should be recognized as the sole possessor of some $500 she owned in bank shares. The gardener was called in, and by his aid Mousset was very quickly shown outside the door. The woman died to-day. The couple had been married only six weeks. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 19 July 1885:  p. 11. 

Three years ago a young woman in Nashua wrote a few sensible words of devotion to the Union and put the paper with her name in a pair of soldiers’ drawers she was making for the Nashua Manufacturing Company. The soldier who drew the drawers wrote to her, and the correspondence was kept up. He was promoted to a Lieutenancy, and was lately discharged; and later still the couple were married. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

ANECDOTE A certain Macaroni bien peudre et bien frize, with a feather hat under his arm, perfumed like an Egyptian mummy, and who had all the appearance of a modern puppy, went to church with his bride, to receive the nuptial blessing, when the Parson, struck with wonder at the strange apparition, for fear of a mistake, thought proper to ask before the ceremony, which of the two was the Lady? Spooner’s Vermont Journal [Windsor, VT]  7 April 1784: p. 3 

“Never write letters, young man, that you’ll regret in after life.” “You speak as from experience.” “I do. In early correspondence with her who is now my wife I signed myself, ‘Your obedient servant.’” The Day Book [Chicago, IL] 6 January 1913: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A previous post for this week contained18th-century suggestions for choosing an agreeable husband. You might also enjoy a post from last Valentine’s Day on vintage advice to select a worthy spouse.