Monday, 7 April 2014

1 April 1893 - 'The Evils of Hotel Life for Children

Well, this is news for Eloise. And I wasn't quite ready for the sudden swerve right at the end into how privileged working-class children are and how it's time someone thought of the rich children.

In the rush to the South, during this winter, whole families migrate – and it is a never-ending surprise to see how many discomforts and disagreeable these flocks of travellers will put up with in order to obtain the sunshine which they seem to think is unobtainable nearer home.  Of late years the custom of taking children on these yearly expeditions seems to have much increased, and these few notes on the evils of hotel life for children may be of interest to those who contemplate taking their little ones to spend some weeks or months in the Sunny South.  These notes were made during a long stay in many hotels on the Riviera, when I had endless opportunities of observing “the manners and customs” of large numbers of these unfortunate hotel children.

Children, at an age when they ought to be feasting on mutton and rice-pudding in their nurseries are, when on these travels, brought to a table d’hote dinner at least once, and often twice a day, or if not old enough to be promoted to this dignity, are banished with their respective nurses to the far-off regions where maids, couriers and children, have the equally unwholesome fare which their elders and betters are enjoying above.  Perhaps the unwholesomeness of the fare is compensated for in their parents’ eyes by the educational advantages they must gain from the conversation going on around them (In one case the subject under discussion was whether a certain lady – the mother of three children present – had, or had not, any pretensions to good looks!) and from the knowledge that at three or four years old they are cultivating a discriminating taste for champagne – couriers and maids being in this respect almost invariably better served than their masters.  In many cases it is probable that the mother is the last person who will find out of what the children’s dinner consists on these occasions, but surely, if misfortune obliges her to bring her children abroad, her duty would oblige her to see that they were cared for, both physically and men tally.  Rich people travelling with “children and suite” and engaging as often as not the best salons in the house for their private use, are quite awake to the fact that by sending the “suite” (including their children) to dine in company with other “suites”, a perceptible difference will be noticeable in their weekly bill without having themselves suffered any inconveniences from the economy.

A lady having written to the manager of a large hotel to arrange prices for a prolonged stay for herself, her husband, her little girl, and the governess, was surprised to find at the end of the first week that her bill was nearly twice as much as she had been led to expect.  Repairing to the bureau she interviewed the autocrat, who calmly replied, “You desired that your daughter and her governess should dine with you in the sale a manger.”  “Well,” said the lady, “and how does that affect the terms I arranged with you before I came?”  “I took it for granted that the governess and child would dine with the waiters and maids.”  Under these circumstances a rearrangement of terms was clearly the only way out of the difficulty for the amazed and indignant mother.  Were there a few more travelling mothers such as these, it might be worth a hotel manager’s while to add a third “salle”  to his public rooms, viz., a children’s dining-room, such as there is on most large steamers, where a good wholesome nursery dinner could be served to the children and their guardians; where a leg of mutton and simple puddings should take the place of a lunch or dinner of four or six courses, and where the children, at least inasmuch as eating and drinking is concerned, should continue to lead the wholesome life to which some of them are, we hope, accustomed at home.  But as long as parents are content to save a few francs a day at their children’s expense, and are avowedly unmindful of their wellbeing or comfort, why should the manager or owner of a hotel be “plus royalist que le roi.”

Of course there are so many ways in which money must b e spent upon children, that any saving such as we have mentioned must be considered.  The same children who are grudged the money which would secure for them wholesome food in wholesome surroundings are clothed in purple and fine linen for fear of any discredit being reflected on their owners, and there are few more pathetic sights than to watch a little group f smartly-dressed hotel children sent out to play in the garden, and watched not only by mamma and her friends, but also by a jailer or two in the shape of a nurse, who has her eye not so much on her charges as on the clothes of her charges.  “Baby, dear, you mustn’t pick up a stone, o you will soil your gloves – there, put it down, dear, and don’t sit down on the ground;” as baby, deprived of one amusement and thinking, no doubt, that nurse’s attention had now wandered to her brother’s white suit, bethought her of the harmless occupation of sitting down by the side of her little bucket and filling it with stones, scraped up with a diminutive spade, hands being forbidden.  But the white frock was now in danger, and baby was set on her legs and the spade confiscated.  Occupation number two was forbidden, and so it went on.  One thought of the time-honoured legend in Punch when Ethel is bidden to “go and see what baby is doing, and tell him he is not to,” and only wondered how long it would be before the temper of this fairy-like little apparition in white-silk frock and sun-bonnet would be ruined.  A few hours romping in unspoilable Holland smocks would be worth any number of weeks of this so-called “play” to these luckless and trim little mortals.

And how unchildlike they are – shyness is unknown, and they welcome new acquaintances in a manner which would make one smile were it not so pathetic.  To talk to these small people of dolls, or pet animals is to cause them to look at you critically as though they were wondering what manner of person you could be, and what language you were talking.  But ask them about their travels, where they have been, when they are “going on”, how they like the hotel, what they think of the food and the wine, and their tongues are unloosed.  How can they remain children when their lives are stripped of all that makes a child’s life worth living?  And what do they gain in exchange for the loss of a free life?  Not long ago talking to a small boy of ten, who ought to have been at school learning cricket, if nothing else, I ventured to inquire whether he had, during some months’ stay in Italy, learnt much of the language.  He replied that it was entirely unnecessary, whereupon I suggested that as he was to “make his money in business” such he had informed me was his intention – it might perhaps come in useful.  Also, I added, you may never have such a good opportunity again.  “I guess there's no Italian worth doing buzz with in New York, who can’t speak German or English,” he retorted.  These were the two languages with which he had been familiar from babyhood, and with the help of which he intended making his way in the world.  Months spent in France, and months in Italy had taught him not one word of French or Italian.

But so many tales are told of the independence and precocity of American children that one ceases to be surprised at fresh instances of it.

What comes upon us with a shock is to realise that as regards this precocity and unchildlikeness English children are becoming painfully like their American cousins.  In fact we, too, are in great danger of losing our children, and substituting for them these queer little puppets with the manners and tastes of men and women of the world.  What can be expected of a little girl who at three years old is brought down to a long seven o’clock table d’hote dinner, and who, in order to fit her for any gaieties, which may be going on afterwards, demands regularly her cup of black coffee “to wake me up,” as the poor mite explains in her prim little voice.  Night after night during a long stay u/ same roof have I gone upstairs at ten o’clock leaving this white-faced, white-frocked baby, still awake – still chattering among a crowd of grown-up people in the brightly-lighted salons.  Will she ever rest or ever have one hour of wholesome sleep of play.

People talk much of the unwholesome life led by the children employed in the pantomimes at Christmas-time.  The excitement of such a life, it is said, unfits them for settling down in after years to any more monotonous employment, the glamour of the stage blinds them for ever to the interest of ordinary occupations, and their lives are often ruined.  What a valuable comparison might be made between the months of stage life in one instance and the months of hotel life in the other.  In one case the children are taken from poor and cramped homes, they are subjected to discipline and healthy exercise.  Singing and dancing are natural pleasures to children, so that their work is their pleasure.  Their education is continued, in many cases at a theatre-school, whereby unnecessary fatigue is saved, and against these advantages are to be weighed the disadvantages of excitement and late hours.  Yet more advantage must be mentioned.  It is asserted by doctors that in cases of severe illness the theatre-children among the children of the poor have the best chances of recovery – the happiness and brightness brought into their lives doing more towards a cure than anything else.  So much for the months of stage life.  In the second case children are taken from comfortable and specially-arranged nurseries to hotel rooms where space is paid for almost by the inch.  I have heard of a small single room serving as day and night nursery for a nurse and her two little charges for months at a time.

They get, as we have seen, little or no play for their free time is often employed in being taken for excursions which they rarely care about, and which generally overtire and upset them.  Their education is neglected, inasmuch as lessons are given spasmodically instead of regularly.  In the garden, or in the public salons, children are often to be found “doing their lessons” under what, to both child and teacher must be almost insurmountable difficulties, perpetual coming and going, and ceaseless chatter.  At other times the poor little victim may be found fighting alone with French exercises or Latin verbs, while “papa” or “mamma” is having a walk.

Again, would be readers and lovers of quiet are distracted by the patient practising of scales and exercises in the public rooms.  The excitement and the late hours are equally applicable to both cases; but in the second case we must not forget that unwholesome living (especially accustom children to the habitual use of wine) is to be added to these two evils. 

If the months of theatre life strike some people as undesirable, how much more undesirable must the months of hotel life appear.  How will a quiet home life with its ordinary occupations strike girls brought up from infancy in the excitements arising from the public life.  They are blasé at six years old, and accomplished flirts at ten.  What will the discipline of school do for boys whose earliest ideas have been gathered from foreign waiters, valets and hotel managers, and who prefer claret to gingerbeer.

As I write I have in my mind a scene I witnessed only last year, evening after evening, for several weeks.  Between his parents at the dinner-table sat a little boy not yet promoted to knickerbockers.  Solemnly he went through the long dinner, duly demanding a tooth-pick to be handed to him after the joint, and alas! having his champagne-glass duly looked after by the admiring waiter.  Night after night was he carried from the room at the end of dinner, after having vainly attempted to walk alone, and on more than one occasion have I come across him lying half-stupefied on the stairs or fighting violently with the nurse who was endeavouring to get him to bed. 

But enough examples have been given to prove that cruelty to children may take a form which cannot be dealt with by any society, but which may yet effectually destroy the present happiness, and ruin the hereafter of many of the children who are supposed to be living in the lap of luxury.  “Charity begins and ends abroad,” is the nineteenth-century version of the old saying that “Charity begins at home”.  Much thought and more money are expanded in schemes for the wellbeing of the “ne’er-do-weel” and to be thoroughly wicked or thoroughly disreputable is to possess the “open sesame” to all the good things of this world.

Meanwhile much thought as to the welfare of many of the children of these same charitable folk is an impossibility – the poor demand all one’s time.  Children who happen to be the property of poor or improvident parents clearly deserve the first consideration.  These children are to be forcibly taken from the sphere into which, as we used to be taught in an old-fashioned catechism, “it has pleased God to call them” and to be boarded out or received in institutions where they will have a happy and child-like education, together with a liberal allowance of toys and cakes and holidays in the country or at the seaside.  The wherewithal to provide all this for other people’s children is generally asked for in “the name of your own little ones”.  So while on the one hand the lot of the children of the “masses” is being made every day more happy and luxurious, while endless new schemes are forthcoming to relieve their parents from all responsibility connected with them (for the mere fact that such and such parents possess more children than there is any possibility of being able to keep alive, let alone clothe and educate, is the surest passport to the favour and the purse of these sentimental beggars of other people’s goods); on the other hand the children of the richer classes seem to be every day less considered.

The children of the lowest classes are eagerly sought for, and to pay for their maintenance and education is fast becoming a fashionable craze.

The children of parents well-off, from a monetary point of view, often have far less thought and no more care expended on them than these little arabs.  Once more it must not be forgotten that unless the welfare of the latter is looked after by their lawful guardians it will be looked after by no one.  In this respect they are decidedly worse off than the former.

No – the children of the well-to-do are equally dependent on their parents, and surely a very little thought and a very little experience would prove that if the children of the street must have their toys, and their games, and their “child-like life”, so also ought the children of the well-to-do, who are now so often defrauded of their childhood and made old and terribly wise by the publicity and unwholesomeness of their lives.  Hotel life, above all else, kills child-life as surely as the hot-house kills the wild roses.
 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

28 July 1900 - 'The Law of Order and How Beryl Came to Observe it' Chapter 4 - Letter-Writting, Etiquette for a Fiancee

“Aunt Hester, I have a good many questions I want to ask you, and if there are other things besides the answers to them which I ought to know, you will tell  me, I am sure.  What made me first think of asking you about it all was that May bought some new letter and note paper the other day and I did not like it at all.  Some of it had little bunches of flowers and orchids embossed in the corner, and the others had views, and I did not like it.  It struck me that I had never noticed nice people using anything so fanciful.”

Mother smiled.

“For a school-girl like May it is really of no consequence, Beryl, but for an older girl it is not in good taste.  A girl may have her Christian name on her paper – never on the envelope – and she may sometimes use coloured paper if it happens to be the fashion at the time to do.  For older people it is not considered in good taste to have a Christian name on paper, but they may have coloured paper.  As a rule though, plain paper and envelopes is considered in the best style, and you should use that of a good quality.  Paper is cheap in these days, and a lady should be careful not only to se what is good, but she should always get paper and envelopes to match exactly.  It looks very untidy to see large paper folded several times into a small envelope, or a large envelope used for small paper.”

“Should the address be printed or stamped on one’s paper?”

“Yes, in clear letters, either in white or coloured.  If people are in mourning, the stamping should be in black.  By the way, Beryl, I think I need hardly tell you that letters should never be crossed.”

“I do cross mine sometimes,” admitted Beryl, and mother pretended to look severe.

“Crossed letters are extremely difficult to read,” said mother, “and I hardly think that one should inflict the trouble of doing so upon the receiver of the letter.  In the olden days, when postage was so dear, there might possibly be some excuse for it, but in these days there is none.”

“I had not thought much about it before,” said Beryl.

“Another bit of advice I must give you is, never to answer an annoying letter when you are still angry.  Always sleep over the matter, Beryl, and do more than that – ask guidance in the matter from the One Who will most assuredly give it to those who seek it.”

Later on, when Beryl became engaged to Ernest Trevor, I remember Beryl saying, “Clare, dear, what about letters declaring an engagement?”

“If a girl has a mother she is the person who tells people of the engagement,” I answered.  “I know mother did it in my case and said it was correct to do so, but as you have not the blessing of a mother, your father can tell them.”

“But he is out all day and never pays visits; he will not come across the people.”

“Can I be of use, as I am your cousin?”

“Oh do, Clare, please, that will be lovely,” said Beryl.  “I haven’t told you yet – Mr and Mrs Trevor called on us yesterday.”

“Then, dear, you must return the visit very soon, and you will also get letters, I am sure, from his sisters and brother.”

“Yes.  Ernest said they would write.”

“Those letters must be answered at once.”

“The Trevors were so nice to me,” said Beryl.  “They have actually brought Ernest up, as he lost his parents when he was a child, and his brother and sisters were brought up by other relations.  I think I shall like my ‘in-laws’ from all I have heard of them.”

“I am always so glad that the old-fashioned ideas which obtained about engaged people have been somewhat modified nowadays.”

“What do you mean?” inquired Beryl. 

“When mother was engaged to my father, they were never allowed to be together without a chaperon.”

“How dreadful!” exclaimed Beryl.  “They must have hated it.”

“Yes; but as most engaged people in their class of life were subjected to the same restrictions, they made the best of it.  They never rode, drove or walked out together either.  Many people even nowadays cling to this plan, and a very absurd one it seems.  People who are to spend their lives together as husband and wife must have a good deal to say to each other in private and every right, I should say, to claim a certain amount of liberty in these respects.”

“I am very glad, I am sure,” said Beryl, “for of course I want to see all I can of Ernest, and yet I  know father would strongly object to my doing anything that was not usual amongst gentlepeople, nor should I wish it myself.”

“You should not, however, go to places of public amusement without a chaperon,” I said; “that you will remember.”

“Yes.  Ernest and I are very likely to meet often as we know so many of the same people.”

“If you meet at a dinner party, you will be sent in together,” I remarked, “but at parties you must be careful, Beryl, not to make yourself conspicuous by sitting very much together.”

“I have been told that engaged girls do not go out much.  Is that the case?” inquired Beryl.

“It all depends upon the length of the engagement.  If it is a short one, then it is better to go out as little as possible; if a long one, then of course they are more free to go out.  But in either case if an engaged couple meet often in general society, they should remember that good taste required that they should make themselves as little conspicuous as possible.”

“I am sure that I should naturally shrink from being conspicuous,” said Beryl, and I was sure that she meant what she said.

Beryl seemed very happy, and we were all very much pleased at her engagement to Ernest.  He was such a high-principled young fellow, and his aunt and uncle were as devoted to him as he was to them.  I think, from what Beryl said afterwards, that it was his manifest affection for his uncle and aunt and his charming manners when with them that attracted her at first.  Whoever might be there, he never neglected them, and never seemed to find it a trouble to play chess with his uncle or listen to Mrs Trevor’s stories, which, I most confess, are sometimes rather tedious, as she repeats herself over and over again.

Carelessness in regard to the small observances of social life, the inattention to details of courtesy, the brusque manner, are all very offensive.  Much of it may be caused by want of thought certainly, but it is a thing greatly to be deprecated.  Many girls in these days show little or no respect to their elders; their way of speaking to their parents is offensive in the extreme.  They contradict them, assert their own opinions, ignore them just as they please, never showing them all those little attentions which parents have a right to expect from their children of whatever age.

I have seen homes where the daughters never forgot the deference due to their parents.  They were ready always to spare them all trouble, get what they wanted, open the door for their mothers, carry things for her and render her every service in their power, and it has been very charming.  Brothers and sisters too, among themselves should cultivate polite manners to each other, and not think that their close relationship dispenses them from courtesy and civility towards each other.  Sisters ought to let their brothers wait upon them, not vice versa, and the manliest of boys and young men are often the most careful of their sisters, eager to pay them the very same attentions that they would pay to their own friends.

12 October 1901 - 'Pixie O'Shaughnessy' by Mrs George de Horne Valzey- Chapter 2



The morning rose clear and fair, and the sun shone as cheerfully as if no tragedy were about to be enacted, and Pixie O'Shaughnessy would presently run out of the doors to sit swinging on a gate, clad in Esmeralda’s dyed skirt, Pat’s shooting jacket, and the first cap that came to hand on the hatstand, instead of starting on the journey to school in a new dress, a hat with bows and two whole quills at the side, and her hair tied back with a ribbon that had not once been washed!  It was almost too stylish to be believed!

Pixie entered the breakfast-room with much the same stride as that with which the big drum-major heads the Lord Mayor’s procession, and spread out her dress ostentatiously as she seated herself by the table. The armholes stuck into her arms, the collar was an inch too high, and the chest painfully contracted, but she was intensely proud of herself all the same, and privately thought the London girls would have little spirit left in them when confronted with so much elegance. Bridgie was wiping her eyes behind the urn, Esmeralda was pressing the mustard upon her, the Major was stroking his moustache and smiling as he murmured to himself – “Uglier than ever in that black frock!  Eh – what!  Bless the child, it was a mistake to let her go!  The house will be lost without her!”

Pat and Miles were conversing together in tones of laboured mystery – a device certain to arrest Pixie’s vivid attention. 

“On Sundays – yes!  Occasionally on Wednesdays also.  It does seem rather mean, but I suppose puddings are not good for growing girls!  Two a week is ample if you think of it!” 

“Good wholesome puddings too!” said Pat, nodding assent.  “Suet and rice, and perhaps tapioca for a change!  Very sensible, I call it.  Porridge for breakfast, I think they said, but no butter of course!”

“Certainly not!  Too bad for the complexion, but cod liver oil regularly after every meal.  Especially large doses to those suffering from change of climate!”

The major was chuckling with amusement; Bridgie was shaking her head and murmuring, “Boys, don’t!  It’s cruel!”  Pixie was turning from one to the other with eager eyes and mouth agape with excitement.  She knew perfectly well that the conversation was planned for her benefit, and more than guessed its imaginary nature, but it was impossible to resist a thrill – a fear – a doubt!  The bread-and-butter was arrested in her hand in the keenness of listening. 

“Did I understand you to say no talking allowed?” queried Pat earnestly.  “I had an impression that on holiday afternoons a little liberty might be given?”

“My dear fellow, there are no holidays!  They are abolished in modern schools as being unsettling and disturbing to study.  ‘In work, in work, in work always let my young days be spent!’  Pass the marmalade, please!  The girls are occasionally allowed to speak to each other in French, or, if they prefer it, in German or any other Continental language.  The constant use of one language is supposed to be bad for the throat.  I hope, by the way, father, that you mentioned distinctly that Pixie’s throat requires care?”

Pixie cast an agonised glance round the table, caught Bridgie’s eye, and sighed with relief as a shake of the head and an encouraging smile testified to the absurdity of the boys’ statements. 

“There’s not a word of truth in it, darling.  Don’t listen to them.  They are trying to tease you.”

“I’d scorn to listen!  Ignorant creatures, brought up at home by a lady governess!  What do they know about schooling?” cried Pixie, cruelly for this was a sore point on which it was not safe to jest on ordinary occasions.  Miles rolled his eyes at her in threatening fashion, and Pat stamped on her foot, but she smiled on unabashed, knowing full well that her coming departure would protect her from the ordinary retributions.

After breakfast it seemed a natural thing to go a farewell round of the house and grounds, escorted by the entire family circle, and a melancholy review it would have been to anyone unblessed with Irish spirits and the Irish capability of shutting one’s eyes to unpleasant truths.  Knock Castle sounded grandly enough, and a fine old place it had been a century before; but for want of repairs it had now fallen into a semi-ruinous condition pathetic to witness.  Slates in hundreds had fallen off the roof and been left unreplaced; a large staircase window blown in by a storm was still boarded up waiting to be mended “some time”, though more than a year had elapsed since the accident had taken place; the walls in the great drawing-room were mouldy with damp, for it had been deserted for many a day, because its owner could not afford the two big fires necessary to keep it aired.  Pixie sniffed with delight when she entered the gloomy apartment, for the room represented the family glory to her childish imagination, and the smell of mildew was irresistibly associated with luxury in her mind.

The dining-room carpet was worn into holes, and there was one especially big one near the window, where Esmeralda, who was nothing if not artistic, had painted so accurate a repetition of the pattern on the boards beneath that one could scarcely see where one ended and the other began!  The original intention had been to disguise the hole, but so proud was the family of the success of the imitation that it became one of the show places of the establishment.  When the hounds met at Bally William, and the Major brought old Lord Atrim into the house for lunch, he called the old gentleman’s attention to it with a chuckle of enjoyment.  “My daughter’s work!  The second, Joan here – Esmeralda, we call her.  She’ll be an artist yet.  A real genius with the brush.”  And the old Lord had laughed till he cried, and stared at Esmeralda the whole time of lunch, and when Christmas-time came round, did he not send her the most beautiful box of Winsor and Newton paints, the very thing of all others for which she had been longing, so that it seemed after all that it had been a good thing when the terriers Tramp and Scamp had scratched the thin web into a hole!  The ceilings were black with the smoke of fire and lamps, but the silver on the oak dresser would have delighted the heart of a connoisseur, and the dinner-service in daily use would have been laid out for view in glassed-in cabinets in most households, instead of being given over to the care of an Irish Biddy who tried to hang cups upon hooks with her head turned in an opposite dir, and had a weakness for sitting on the corner of the table to rest herself in the midst of washing the china. 

Outside the house the garden was an overgrown wilderness of vegetation, for the one gardener, realising the impossibility of doing the work of the six who would have been required to keep the place in order, resigned himself to doing nothing at all, or as little as was compatible with the weekly drawing of wages.  The stables were empty, save for the two fine hunters which were necessary for the Major’s enjoyment of his favourite spot, and the rough little pony which did duty for all the rest of the family in turns.  The row of glass-houses looked imposing enough from a distance, but almost squalid at a nearer view, for as the Major could not afford to keep them in working order, broken panes greeted the eye in every dir, and flowers were replaced by broken pieces of furniture, and the hutches and cages of such livestock as white mice, guinea-pigs and ferrets.

Pixie had many farewells to bid in this quarter, and elaborate instructions to give as to the care to be lavished on her favourites during her absence.  The ferret was boarded out to Pat, who had no idea of doing anything for nothing but for the fee of a half-penny a week to be paid “sometime” in happy O'Shaughnessy fashion, was willing to keep the creature supplied with the unsavoury morsels in which its soul delighted.  The white mice looked on coldly with their little pink eyes, while their mistress’s own grew red with the misery of parting from them, and the rabbit seized the opportunity to gnaw Bridgie’s skirt with its sharp little teeth; but for Pixie the keenest pang of parting was over when she saw no more the floor with its scattered cabbage leaves, and the door closed behind her, shutting out the dear mousy, rabbity smell associated with so many happy hours.

Outside on the gravel path old Dennis was sitting on a wheelbarrow enjoying a pipe in the sunshine.  He made no attempt to rise as “the family” approached, but took the pipe out of his mouth and shook his head lugubriously.





“This is the black day for us, for all the sun’s shining in the skies.  Good luck to ye, Miss Pixie, and don’t forget to spake a good word for ould Ireland when the opportunity is yours.  The ould place won’t seem like itself with you and Mr Jack both going off within the same month.  There's one comfort – one frettin’ will do for the pair of you.”  And with this philosophic reflection he stuck the pipe back in the corner of his mouth and resigned himself to the inevitable.

“Pixie, darling,” said Bridgie nervously, “I think we must go back to the house.  It’s time – very nearly time that you were getting ready.  Father is going to drive you over in the cart, and he won’t like to be kept waiting.” 

“Aren’t you coming too?” queried Pixie eagerly.  There was a look on Bridgie’s face this morning which reminded her of the dear dead mother, and she had a sudden feeling of dread and longing.  “I want you, Bridgie.  Come too!  Come too!”

“I can’t, my dearie.  Your box must go, you know, and there's not room for both.  But you won’t cry, Pixie.  It’s only babies who cry, not girls like you – big girls, almost in their teens, going away to see the world like any grand lady.  You may see the Queen some day!  Think of that now!  If you ever do, bow to her twice, once for yourself and once for me, and tell her Bridget O'Shaughnessy is hers to the death.  I wouldn’t cry, Pixie, if I were going to see the Queen!”

“Is it cry?” asked Pixie airily, with the tears pouring down her face and splashing on her collar, which had been manufactured out of the strings of an old bonnet, with only three joins at the back to betray the fact that it had not been cut out of “the piece”.  “It’s not likely I’ll cry, when I’m going on a real train and steamer, and meals on the way right up to tomorrow night!  You never had lunch on a train, Bridgie, and you are eight years older than me!

“ ‘Deed I didn’t, then.  No such luck!” sighed Bridgie regretfully, making the most of her own privation for the encouragement of the young traveller.  “That will be a treat for you, Pixie, and there are sandwiches and cakes in the dining-room for you to eat before you go.  Come straight in, for I brought down your coat before going out.  You must write often, dear, and tell us every single thing.  What Miss Phipps is like, and the other teachers, and the girls in your class, and who sleeps in your bedroom, and every single thing that happens to you.”

“And remember to write every second letter to your brothers, for if you don’t they won’t write to you.  Girls get all the letters, and it isn’t fair.  Tell us if you can play any games, and what sort of grub they give you, and what you think of the English as a nation,” said Miles, helping himself to sandwiches and turning over the cakes to select the most tempting for his own refreshment, despite the young housekeeper’s frowns of disapproval.  “Stick up for your country, and stand no cheek from the English.  You understand, of course, that you are to be the Champion of Ireland in the British metropolis?”

“I do!” said little Pixie, and her back straightened, and her head reared itself in proud determination.

“And if any English upstart dares to try bullying you, just let them know that your name is O'Shaughnessy and that your ancestors were Kings of Ireland when theirs were begging bread on the streets!  Talk to them straight, and let them know who they are dealing with!”

“I will so!” said Pixie.  She chuckled gleefully at the anticipation, but alas! Her joy was shortlived, for at that moment the shabby dog-cart passed the window, and the Major’s voice was heard calling impatiently from the hall.

“Ten minutes late already.  We shall need all our time.  Tumble in now, tumble in!  You have had the whole morning for saying good-bye!  Surely you have finished by now!”

The children thought they had hardly begun, but perhaps it was just as well to be spared the last trying moments.  Bridgie and Esmeralda wrapped their arms round the little sister and almost carried her to the door.  Pat and Miles followed with their hands in their pocket, putting on a great affectation of jollity in their anxiety to disguise a natural regret; the two women-servants wailed loudly from the staircase.  Pixie scrambled to her seat and looked down at them, her poor little chin quivering with emotion.

“Bridgie, write!  Esmeralda, write!” she cried brokenly.  “Oh, write often!  Write every day.  Pat, Pat, be kind to my ferret.  Don’t starve it.  Don’t let it die.  Take care of it for me till I come back.”

“I’ll be a mother to it,” said Pat solemnly. 

And so Pixie O'Shaughnessy went off to school. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

5 October 1901 - 'Pixie O'Shaughnessy' by Mrs George de Horne Valzey - Chapter 1 (and an Introduction to YA in the G.O.P.)

I have thought for ages about whether I would include one of the serial stories in this blog and have ultimately decided that yes, yes, I will. The YA is a very important part of the paper, and out of the 20-odd years of papers I've collected 'Pixie O'Shaughnessy' is one of my favourites, thus earning it a position in a blog entitled, um, Highlights from 'The Girl's Own Paper'. It also serves as a hat trick because the three main genres of GOP serials stories are (1) school stories and (2) family dramas and (3) romances, and 'Pixie O'Shaughnessy' has a bit of all three!

'Pixie O'Shaughnessy' is interesting in that the main character, Pixie, is a child as opposed to a young woman, and the plot doesn't end with her marrying someone. Believe me, this makes it stand out from the crowd. She is also Irish and ugly as sin, which unfortunately is supposed, I think, to be hilarious to the GOP's loyal readers.

Pixie, a.k.a. Patricia Monica de Vere O’Shaughnessy, is the youngest of the O’Shaughnessy brood. Father is a benevolently negligent retired major deeply in denial about his family's financial straits, mother is (SPOILER ALERT) dead at the end of Chapter One. The large family live in genteel poverty in a castle in the Irish countryside. It’s decided that because Pixie will never marry well - because she’s ugly, see - that she should be sent to an English boarding school where she can be educated and set up to have a reasonable chance at life, as per her mother's dying wish. 


Look, if you’ve read any kind of old-fashioned English-boarding-school YA, you have an idea of how the first half of ‘Pixie O’Shaughnessy’ pans out. Pixie’s Irish, ugly and poor, but she’s also smart, sociable and spunky as shit, so she turns the prim and stuffy school upside-down and everyone ends up loving her, but there are, of course, disasters along the way.

The second half of the story takes place back at Castle Knock when Pixie returns home for the holidays, with a friend from school in tow. Pixie’s big brothers play lots of pranks. Pixie’s older, beautiful blonde sister is sweet and patient. Pixie’s older, beautiful brunette sister is tempestuous and wilful. Being so poor the O’Shaughnessys have to make their own fun, and there’s one chapter with a fancy dress party where everyone has to make their costume out of a bed sheet. (Toga parties! So 1901!) And then handsome stranger moves in next door. OH WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT??

Like I say, the fact that Pixie O’Shaughnessy’s being Irish is a joke in and of itself is pretty typical of the era and the middle-to-upper-class English demographic the ‘Girl’s Own Paper’ is slanted towards. But Pixie is a singular character in that she is distinctly unattractive - and genuinely so, not in a Bella Swan “Oh, I tell you how ugly I am, but I describe myself as ‘pale’ and ‘slender’ as opposed to ‘pasty’ and ‘scrawny’ and every boy in the universe wants me” way - and is unashamed of it, and is not punished for it by the author. She just bounces her way through the story, causing chaos and leaving a trail of mayhem in her wake, and teaches everyone salutary lessons about how it's what’s on the inside that counts - not through painful sermonising or being annoyingly saintly, but just through the mere act of being.


So without further ado here is Chapter 1 of 'Pixie O'Shaughnessy'. Enjoy.



Pixie O’Shaughnessy was at once the joy and terror of the school. It had been a quiet well-conducted seminary before her time, or it seemed so, at least, looking back after the arrival of the wild Irish tornado, before whose pranks the mild mischief of the Englishers was as water unto wine. Pixie was entered in the school-lists as ‘Patricia Monica de Vere O’Shaughnessy’ but no one ever addressed her by such a title, not even her home people, by whom the name was considered at once as a tragedy and a joke of the purest water.

Mrs O’Shaughnessy held stern ideas about fanciful names for her children, on which subject she had often waxed eloquent to her friends. “What,” she would ask, “could be more trying to a large and bouncing young woman than to find herself saddled for life with the title of ‘Ivy’, or for a poor anaemic creature to pose as ‘Ruby’ before a derisive world?”

She christened her own first daughter Bridget, and the second Joan, and the three boys Jack, Miles and Patrick, resolutely waving aside suggestions of more poetic names even when they touched her fancy and appealed to her imagination. Better err on the safe side, and safeguard oneself from the risk of having a brood of plain awkward children masquerading through life under names which made them a laughing-stock to their companions.

So she argued; but as the years passed by it became apparent that her children had too much respect for the traditions of the race to appear in any such unattractive guise. “The O’Shaughnessys are always beautiful,” quoth the Major, tossing his own handsome head with the air of supreme self-satisfaction which was his leading characteristic, “and it’s not my children that are going to break the rule.”

And certain it is that one might have travelled far and wide before finding another family to equal the O’Shaughnessys in point of appearance. The boys were fine upstanding fellows with dark eyes and aquiline features; Bridgie was a dainty little lady, petite and delicate as a French miniature; while Joan (Esmeralda for short, as her brothers had it) had reached the superlative of beauty, so that strangers gasped with delight at the sight of the exquisite little thing, and the hardest heart softened before her baby smile.

Well might Mrs O’Shaughnessy waver in her decision! Well might she suppose that she was safe in relaxing her principles sufficiently to bestow upon baby number six a name more appropriate to prospective beauty and charm. The most sensible people have the most serious relapses, and once having given rein to her imagination nothing less than three names would satisfy her - and those three the high-sounding Patricia Monica de Vere.

She was an ugly baby.

Well, but babies are often ugly. That counted for nothing. It was really a bad sign if an infant were conspicuously pretty. She had no nose to speak of, and a mouth of enormous proportions. What of that? Babies’ noses always were small, and the mouth would not grow in proportion to the rest of the features. In a few months she would no doubt be as charming as her sisters had been before her; but, alas! Pixie disappointed that expectation, as she was fated to do most expectations during her life.

Her nose refused to grow bigger, her mouth to grow smaller, her small twinkling eyes disdained the lashes which were so marked a feature in the faces of her brethren, and her hair was thin and straight, and refused to grow beyond her neck, whereas Bridgie and Esmeralda had curling manes so long that, as their nurse proudly pointed out to other nurses, they could sit on them, the darlints! and that to spare. There was no disguising the fact that she was an extraordinarily plain child, and as the years passed by she grew ever plainer and plainer, and showed less possibility of improvement. The same contrariety of fate which made Bridget look like Patricia, made Patricia look like Bridget, and Mrs O’Shaughnessy often thought regretfully of her broken principle. “Indeed it’s a judgment on me!” she could cry, but always as she said the words she hugged her baby to her breast, and showered kisses on the dear, ugly little face, wondering in her heart if she had ever loved a child as much before, or if any of Pixie’s beautiful sisters and brothers had had such strange, fascinating little ways.

At the age when most infants are content to blink, she smiled accurately and with intent; when three months old she would look up from her pillow with a twinkling glance, as who would say, “Such an adventure I’ve had with these cot curtains! You wait a few months until I can speak, and I’ll astonish you about it!” And when she could sit up she virtually governed the nursery. The shrewdness of the glance which she cast upon her sisters quite disturbed the enjoyment of those young ladies in the pursuance of such innocent tricks as making lakes of ink in the laps of their clean pinafores, or scratching their initials on newly-painted doors, and she waved her rattle at them with such an imperious air that they meekly bowed their heads, and allowed her to tug at their curls without reproach. The whole family vied with each other in adoring the ugly duckling, and in happy Irish fashion regarded her shortcomings as a joke rather than a misfortune.

“Seen that youngster of mine?” the Major would cry genially to his friends. “She’s worth coming to see, I tell you! Ugliest child in Galway, though I say it that shouldn’t.” And Pixie’s company tricks were all based on the subject of personal shortcomings. “Show the lady where your nose ought to be, darling,” her mother would say fondly, and the baby fingers would point solemnly to the flat space between the eyes. “And where’s the Mammoth cave of Kentucky, sweetheart?” would be the next question, when the whole of Pixie’s fat fist would disappear bodily inside the capacious mouth.

“The Major takes more notice of her than he did of any of the others,” Mrs O’Shaughnessy would tell her visitors. “He is always buying her presents!” – and then she would sigh, for alas! the Major was one of those careless, extravagant creatures, who are never restrained from buying a luxury by the uninteresting fact that the bread bill is owing, and the butcher growing pressing in his demands. When his wife pleaded for money with which to defray household bills, he grew irritable and injured, as though he himself were the injured party.

“The impudence of the fellows!” he would cry. “They are nothing but ignorant upstarts, while the O’Shaughnessys have been living on this ground for the last three centuries. They ought to be proud to serve me! This is what comes of educating people beyond their station. Any upstart of a tradesman thinks himself good enough to trouble an O’Shaughnessy about a trumpery twenty or thirty pounds. I’ll show them their mistake! You can tell them that I’ll not be bullied, and indeed they might as well save their trouble, for, between you and me, there’s not a five-pound note in my pocket between now and the beginning of the year.” After delivering himself of which statement he would take the train to the nearest town, order a new coat, buy an armful of toys for Pixie, and enjoy a good dinner at the best hotel, leaving his poor wife to face the irate tradesmen as best she might.

Poor Mrs O’Shaughnessy! She hid an aching heart under a bright exterior many times over as the pressure for money grew ever tighter and tighter, and she saw her children running wild over the country-side, with little or no education to fit them for the battle of life! The Major declared that he could not afford school fees so a daily governess was engaged to teach boys and girls alike – a staid old-fashioned maiden lady, who tried to teach the young O'Shaughnessys on the principles of fifty years ago, to her own confusion and their patronising disdain. The three boys were sharp as needles to discover the weak points in her armour, and maliciously prepared questions by which she could be put to confusion, while the girls tittered and lazed, finding endless excuses for neglecting their unwelcome tasks. Half-a-dozen times over had Miss Minnitt threatened to resign her hopeless task, and half-a-dozen times had she been persuaded by Mrs O'Shaughnessy to withdraw her resignation. The poor mother knew full well that it would be a difficulty to find anyone to take the place of the hard-worked, ill-paid governess, and the governess loved her wild charges, as indeed did everyone who knew them, and sorrowed over them in her heart, because she saw what their blind young eyes never noticed – the coming shadow on the house, the gradual fading away of the weary, overtaxed mother.  Mrs O'Shaughnessy had fought for years against chronic weariness and ill-health, but the time was coming when she could fight no longer, and almost before her family had recognised that she was ill, the end drew near, and her husband and children were summoned to bid the last farewell.

The eyes of the dying woman roamed from one to the other of her six children – twenty-two-year-old Jack, handsome and manly, so like – oh, so like that other Jack who had come wooing her nearly thirty years ago; Bridgie, slim and delicate – so unfit, poor child, to take the burden of a mother’s place; Miles, with his proud overbearing look, a boy who had especial claims on her care and guidance; Joan, beautiful and daring, ignorant of nothing so much as of her own ignorance; Pat, of the pensive face and reckless spirit; and last but not least, Pixie, her baby – dear, naughty loyall little Pixie, whom she must leave to the tender mercies of children little older than herself! The dim eyes brightened, the thin hand stretched out and gripped her husband by the arm.

“Jack!” she cried shrilly – “Pixie! Give Pixie a chance! Take care of her – she is so young – and I can’t stay. For my sake, Jack, give Pixie a chance!”

The Major promised with sobs and tears. In his own selfish way he had adored his wife, and her last words could not easily be put aside.

As the months passed by, he was the more inclined to follow her wishes, as the few thousands which fell to him at her death enabled him to pay off his more pressing debts, and enjoy a temporary feeling of affluence. Jack went back to his office e in London, where he had betaken himself three years before to the disgust of the father who considered it more respectable for an O'Shaughnessy to be in debt than to work for his living in the City among City men. Pat and Miles remained at home ostensibly to help on the estate, and in reality to shoot rabbits and get into mischief with the farm hands. Miss Minnitt was discharged, since Bridgie must now be occupied with household duties, and Joan was satisfied that her education was finished. And the verdict went forth that Pixie was to go to school.

“Your mother was always grieving that she could not educate your sisters like other girls, and it was her wish that you should have a chance. I’ll send you to London to the best school that can be found, if I have to sell the coat off my back to do it,” said the Major fervently, for there was no sacrifice which he was not ready to make – in anticipation, and he hoped to discover a school which did not demand payments in advance. He patted the child on the shoulder in congratulations, but Pixie was horrified, and opening her mouth, burst into howls and yells of indignation.

“I won’t! I shan’t! I hate school! I won’t go a step! I’ll stay at home and have Miss Minnitt to teach me! I won’t! I won’t! I won’t!”

The Major smiled and stroked his moustache. He was used to Pixie’s outbursts, and quite unperturbed thereby, although a stranger would have quailed at the sound, and would certainly have imagined that some horrible form of torture was being employed. Pixie checked herself sufficiently to peep at his face, realised that violence was useless, and promptly changed her tactics. She whimpered dismally, and essayed cajolery.

“It will break me heart to leave you. Father darlin’, let me stay! What will you do without your little girl at all?”

“I’ll miss you badly, but it’s for your own good. That brogue of yours is getting worse and worse. And such a fine school, too! Think of all you will be able to learn!”

“Me education’s finished,” said Pixie haughtily. “I know me tables and can read me books, and write a letter when I want, and that's all that's required of a young gentlewoman living at home with her parents. I’ve heard you say so meself – a hundred times if once.”

It was too true. The Major recognised the argument with which he had been wont to answer his wife’s pleas for higher education, and was incensed, as we all are when our own words are brought up against us.

“You are a very silly child!” he said severely, “and don’t understand what you are talking about. I am giving you an opportunity which none of your brothers and sisters have had, and you have not the decency to say as much as ‘thank you’. I am ashamed of you. I am bitterly ashamed!”

Such a statement would have been blighting indeed to an ordinary child, but Pixie looked relieved rather than otherwise, for her quick wits had recognised another form of appeal, and she was instantly transformed into an image of penitence and humiliation.

“I am a bad, ungrateful choild, and don’t deserve your kindness. I ought to be punished, and kept at home, and then when I grow older and had more sense I’d regret it, and it would be a warning to me. Esmeralda’s cleverer than me. It would serve me right if she went instead.”

It was of no avail. The Major only laughed and repeated his decision, when Pixie realised that it was useless fighting against fate, and resigned herself to the inevitable with characteristic philosophy.

Her outbursts of rebellion, though violent for the time being, were of remarkably short duration, for she was of too sunny a nature to remain long depressed, and moreover it was more congenial to her pride to pose as an object of envy rather than pity. On the present occasion she no sooner realised that go to school she must, than she began to plume herself on her importance, and prepare to queen it over her sisters.

Unfortunately my copy of this paper is missing the last page of the issue, with the final few paragraphs of the chapter and this week's Answers to Correspondents. There is an illustration on the penultimate page which I have scanned and added below. Filling in the blanks between the above and the start of Chapter 2, it looks like Pixie first gloats over her coming adventure, and then just as she's about to be sent off dashes into sister Bridget's arms for a final hug and vows to do her best. Or something.

 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

1 June 1889 - 'Our American Sale and How We Worked It' by T.B.W.

TL;DR (although as the banner image for this blog points out, there was no such thing in The Olden Days): an 'American Sale' is a jumble sale in which the donated goods are sold directly to the poor of the local parish, the proceeds of which sale go towards continued work for the good of said poor.

To those whose lot it is to work among the poor in London or any large city, it becomes a very pressing problem – How, with strictly limited resources, are we to meet the constantly increasing demand for aid in cases of sickness or poverty?  I am sure that all who do work of this kind – district visitors, Sunday-school teachers, and others, of whom there are many among the readers of THE GIRL’S OWN PAPER – have often wondered how they are to meet the demands made upon them. The visitor – the “visiting-lady” – as the poor call her – when she goes her rounds, finds that the cases of sickness or want caused by the bread-winner being out of work are, as a rule, far more than the slender monthly allowance for relief will enable her to help as she would like to do, and she feels that it is very hard to have to go on in the work without enough of money to supply the sick and needy. And then in every parish and district there are sure to be very deserving objects in want of funds. The “Mothers’ Meeting” may be in debt; the Sunday-school library may sorely need some new books; the Temperance Society may find it hard to make both ends meet; the day schools may want help of one kind or another. It does not always do to look to the same people over and over again for support, and it is always desirable to extend the circle of money-givers, and make all who possibly can help in good works.

An “American Sale” provides a most excellent method of raising money, and it has the advantage of drawing it from other than the ordinary sources of parochial revenue; and the poor have a direct interest in making it a success, as the larger the receipts are they directly or indirectly benefited.

Now some of my readers may naturally ask, “What is an American Sale?”  Well, the answer, shortly, is this: - An American Sale is a sale of all kinds of clothing, household requisites, furniture, carpets, etc., etc., which are contributed by kind friends to be sold to the poor of a parish. I do not mean new articles, but the clearing out of wardrobes and houses of many things which their original owners would never either wear or use again, but which prove very acceptable to their poorer neighbours. Why this should be called an “American” sale I know not; perhaps the idea originated there; but the scheme is a most excellent one, as our experience will show. It has been tried, I believe, in several places with very great success, and it is with the idea of making its usefulness more widely known, that I venture to describe it in this article. Some people may object, and say that the poor are not likely to buy these kind of things, or that it is only in certain places that it may succeed. All I can say is, just try it, and if your district is anything like the one I have in my mind, where our experience is gained (a parish within ten miles of London), I do not think you will find it fail.

Let me now describe how we set to work, and what success attended our efforts. First and foremost, it is necessary to get someone to act as secretary, who must be exact and methodical in the work; it will not do to go about it in a slipshod way. We were most fortunate in securing the services of a gentleman who entered into it most zealously and systematically. A committee of ladies, nearly all district visitors, was then formed to collect articles for the sale. Then a circular was drawn up by our secretary, stating the things most likely to sell well, and this, as you will see, was a most exhaustive one. Here is the substance of it. It began by stating that an American sale would be held on such a date, and in such a place, and requested contributions from friends of any of the following articles:

“Upper and under clothing for men, women and children, especially cloth clothes and flannel garments, socks, stockings, collars, scarves, handkerchiefs, gloves, neckties, boots and shoes (especially women’s and children’s slippers), hats, caps, bonnets, bed-linen, table-linen, umbrellas and parasols, pieces of floor-cloth and linoleum, and carpet in strips (if not too large to be sent in a parcel), mats, rugs, curtains and fittings, articles of furniture if in fair repair (but not large ones if sent from a distance), perambulators, bedding, and blankets; toys of all kinds, children’s picture books, Christmas, birthday and other cards (if not written on), pictures in frames or mounted on cardboard; razors, scissors, smoking pipes, purses, etc., etc.; crockery, china, glass (but not jam pots or ordinary bottles), old dinner, breakfast, and tea services, or parts thereof (but crockery and brittle goods should not be sent from a distance), hardware, kitchen utensils, brushes etc., kettles and scuttles, but these should all be in good repair (leaky saucepans are of no use); knives, forks, spoons, etc. N.B. – Iron or other heavy goods and very bulky things should not be sent from a distance. Small contributions of money will be gladly received from those members of _____ Parish and congregation who are unable to help in other ways.”

Such was the circular we sent out, and I think the reader will admit that it was of a fairly exhaustive character, and that there are few households which could not furnish some articles, useful or ornamental, to place upon the stalls.

In most places it would not be difficult to get together enough articles to attempt a sale, at least on a small scale.

When we had sent out our circular a reasonable time was allowed to elapse, and then the exact date was fixed. The next question which arose was with regard to the tickets of admission. We found that the poor in all the districts were very ready and willing to secure them. At our first sale we had two classes of tickets; those at twopence admitted the holders in the sales half an hour before the holders of tickets at a penny each; but we found after the first experiment that this did not answer, and we have since then only issued tickets at twopence each, and opened the door to all at the same hour. These tickets were bought up most eagerly by the people; the only restriction to the district visitors (through whom the tickets were sold) was that they should not sell them to any persons who had shops for the sale of “old clothes”.

A few days before the sale the things begin to come in, and they are received by various kind friends in the parish, who take care of them until the day of the sale.

When that important occasion arrives, the heterogenous collection of goods, consisting of all kinds of clothing, carpets, books, pictures, crockery, ironmongery, lamps, etc., which had been sent to the various centres, was collected and brought to the parochial schools, where the sale was held. This was done early in the day, and then the various stallholders came and commenced the work of pricing those things which were allotted to them. To this they were guided on the first occasion by an experienced hand in these matters, but the sellers quickly learned what the things were worth. As a rule to each stall we appointed two or three ladies and one or two gentlemen, whose duty it was to protect the sellers when the rush came. We generally divide our goods among the following stalls:-

1. Men’s clothing
2. Women’s clothing
3. Hats, bonnets and umbrellas (at this stall remember to have a looking-glass)
4. Fancy articles (this includes pictures, books, ornaments, toys, etc.)
5. Carpets and curtains
6. Crockery and china of all kinds
7. Ironmongery
8. Underclothing for women and children, and men’s collars and ties, etc.
9. Boots and shoes of all kinds
And last, not least, a refreshment stall where for a penny a cup of tea and biscuits or cake could be procured. This stall was very fairly patronised when our numerous clients had exhausted themselves and their purses, and met together to discuss their bargains.

These various stalls were ranged round the walls of the school rooms, and in front of them a stout barrier of timber and rope was fixed to prevent the crowd getting in the way of the sellers. It was found desirable to secure the services of two stalwart policemen, to prevent a rush at the first opening of the doors, and to watch over the proceedings generally.

Our hours were from 5 to 8 p.m., and, as we always hold the sales upon a Saturday, it seems to answer very well, it has never, however, been of so long continuance, as we are generally pretty well cleared out in a little over an hour. When the moment of opening draws near, every stallholder has to be at the post assigned to him or her. The moment the doors are opened the crowd, which has assembled outside some half hour previously, comes in with a rush. Like eagles upon their prey they swoop down upon the stalls, and the sellers have at first a very warm time of it.

The stalls which are at once most fiercely attacked are men’s clothing, women’s clothing, and the carpets. The last named is generally cleared out in about half an hour, which leads us to suppose that we, as a rule, price these things too low. Around a fairly good bit of carpet the battle of the purchasers rages very fiercely, and those whose duty it is to protect the fair saleswomen have no easy task of it. The rush on the men’s clothing stall is also very great, and in a marvellously short time it follows the example of the carpet and curtain stall, and the sellers are free to help others. It is quite a novel experience for those who are accustomed to ordinary bazaars, where every effort has to be made by the stallholders to attract oftentimes unwilling purchasers, to find themselves surrounded by a crowd who are only too anxious to buy, and whom it is necessary to repress in order that those who are not first in the field may have a chance of getting something.

The stall for hats, bonnets and umbrellas often affords no small amusement, and the looking-glass has a busy time of it, as all who try on the hats or bonnets must have a look to see how they suit the would be purchaser’s style of beauty. Among the men’s hats we found that silk hats were always a drug in the market; the British workman does not seem to care for such things, and often very good hats would not be taken on any terms. Felt or soft-cloth hats went very fast, but it is a curious thing that it was very difficult to find one to fit the working-classes. In almost every case the hats sent in by gentlemen were much too large. Whether this is due to a superior education and more reading, or not, it is hard to say, but in dozens of instances we found this was the case.

The boot and shoe stall is one which is much patronised; the articles there are often of a very miscellaneous kind, including wading stockings (sent in by some enthusiastic salmon fisher), dress boots, pumps, slippers, shooting boots, etc. Here there is apt to be a considerable congestion of purchasers, as it takes time to try on the boots, and it is necessary to have some space round the stall and some chairs or forms near at hand.

The ironmongery does not, as a rule, find so many customers, nor do we generally get in so many articles for this department, the reason being, I suppose, that while the things are fit for use, the owners do not part with them, and after that, it is not easy to find purchasers for a saucepan which, although it may be very clean and bright looking, yet refuses to hold what is put into it; and the same remark applies to kettles, coffee pots, tea urns, etc.

The refreshment stall generally gets a good many supporters when the people have spent what they have on clothing, for then they repair with their very miscellaneous bundles to refresh themselves with the harmless cup of tea, and to discuss their purchases before carrying them off in triumph.

It takes usually about two hours to clear out our stock, and at the very end of that time empty stalls and weary stallholders are to be found. We made a rule that no small children (except those in arms) should be admitted, but somehow this rule gets broken, and in the rush in at 5 p.m. we find that the wary mothers often manage to bring in a small boy or girl with them, and the sad boy or girl as often gets temporarily lost in the crowd, but quickly is brought back to the mother by either the kindly policeman or one of the staff of helpers.

So much, then for our sale, and its various incidents. Now it may be asked what profit is likely to be made by such efforts? That depends, of course, very much on the resources of the place, and the number of kind friends who will help in the matter of sending in articles for sale. There need be no fear of not getting buyers if the thing is properly made known in the parish. Ours is probably a very typical parishof which there are hundreds about London and any other big town, and we find the people most eager to purchase tickets to admit them, and ready, only too ready, to buy when they get there. There aer in every household heaps of things which the owners do not need, and which must be got rid of some way, and as a rule we have not found any difficulty, if the work is begun in time, and sufficient notice of the sale given (say three months or thereabouts) in getting articles sent in. The expenses need not be very heavy. Printing is the chief item, and the necessary help in getting the room ready on the day of the sale, and hte hire of, say, cups, etc., if the parish has not got a supply, as most parishes have. The expense of police and a mean to take tickets at the door complete the list, except where the carriage of articles has to be paid, but this will not always happen.

We have had three American sales, and we find that the net profit of these, after the payment of all expenses, comes to 118 pounds. This sum was taken from the people themselves, in a parish of under 8,000 in ten months!

Almost all of this money went back again to the people in the shape of extra relief, to the district visitors to meet cases of sickness, and to deserving people in misfortune. Some of it was given to mothers’ meetings, some to school repairs, and all, as I have said, to the direct benefit of the working people. It would not be wise to attempt these sales more than twice a year; there were exceptional reasons for our having had three in one year.

I hope what I have said in this paper, in calling attention to this means of raising money to help the poor, may be useful to some interested in that work, and that they (if they attempt an “American Sale”) will meet with the same success as we have done. 6

Friday, 7 March 2014

c. October 1899 / 23 December 1899 - 'The Trousseau of Today' by Dora de Blacquiere

I am unsure of the date of issue of this article, as my volume is missing the front pages. But it is some time late October. Puzzlingly, the body of illustrations of the articles described doesn't appear until a much later issue, on 23 December. Go figure. I have transcribed and scanned everything here for coherency. But anyway, as the title suggests this is an article about what a Nice Young Lady's trousseau should ideally constitute. Miss de Blacquere is cheerfully aware that the purses of the vast majority of her readers will not stretch as far as she proposes. So it's nice to know that fashion articles haven't changed very much.


The amount allowed for the purchase of a trousseau differs with the circumstances of the family and the number of it, and is governed also a good deal by the kindly generous nature of the parents. To some cases where a marriage is in prospect which is remarkably good in a worldly point of view, the parents will probably desire to provide more handsomely than they would otherwise do were the prospects less brilliant. The amount of dress needed will be far more considerable in one case than the other; although the number of dresses may be the same, the style of them will be more expensive.

We will take a family of fair position with comfortable means, the daughter marrying an officer in the army or the navy, or a professional man of good position; and here we shall find that the sum set aside for the bride’s trousseau will will range from 100 pounds to 150, up to 200, the latter being a very usual sum, especially when a girl has no fortune, or very little to take with her to her new home.

The cost of the trousseau of today may be rated rather higher, I think, than it was ten years ago; that is, so far as regards the purchasing power of the amount allowed, which is not so great as it was; or rather, perhaps, I should say that we have advanced in our ideas of what is required and thus dresses cost more than they did formerly. On the other hand we can manage to do with fewer of them; for we unquestionably think it wiser to have less than we did. This rule seems to apply even to the trousseaux of Royal ladies. The number of unmade gowns in them is very large, which shows that the varying moods of fashion are taken into account; and it is evident that there are many materials which can be purchased and laid aside for a time without injury, and also without becoming old-fashioned. But here the commonsense view of the matter steps in and inquires
"Why buy them before you need them, if you are not ‘A Royalty’? In their case we can comprehend the necessity - there are so many people, institutions and nationalities that must be patronised on the occasion of a Royal wedding.”

Well, the true answer seems to be, I am sorry to say in that well-known phrase “Take it while you can get it” - in other words, while people are in the mood for giving. There is also something in the fact of the fixed sum which is laid aside to be spent on the one object. It is best to use it. Perhaps if any of it be laid aside, circumstances may require it elsewhere. Life is uncertain, and the father and the mother alike know human nature, and as it is their own money, and a kind of last gift to their child, they prefer it to be used as it is intended. To avoid having too many made-up things laid by which may grow out of date, it seems better to purchase the materials which may be useful in the future, and which are excepted by ever-varying fashions.

Now, serge, blue and black, is one of these materials, and a little consideration will give us others: white-dotted muslins and other thin materials, if our steps were likely to be turned to India or any other hot climate; or they would be useful even in England if we continued to have the hot summers of the last three years; and more especially if the heat were to extend into August, we would require quite a stock of clothing.

Perhaps, for the sake of argument, it is well to say that our trousseau allowance consists of 200 pounds. Of course there are very many girls who do not get more than half or a quarter of this sum, but still there are certain things that every girl must have and every trousseau must contain, and so one sum is as good as another; for where one girl would be entitled to afford ten guineas for a gown, another would need the same, but would only be entitled to pay five pounds.

Certain fashions obtain in one class which do not in another, it is true; but there are many girls who have to look as well as their richer sisters on half the annual income. This is done at the expense of personal thought and exertion, and of a patient determination which carries all before it. It is done by calculation and attention to the minor details of expenditure, by a knowledge of where to buy, and how to buy in the cheapest market. One girl will look smart and stylish, where another, with far more money, will look dowdy and plain; her gowns will have mysteriously lost their freshness as soon as worn, and nothing will be at its best in her wardrobe.

That mysterious thing what we call style seems to be both a personal attribute and an acquired virtue, as some girls have it by nature, and from their earliest days we know they will look well in whatever they wear - with a touch here, a pull there, and under the magic touch of their deft fingers, the most untoward garments look well. It is also acquired by many observant girls in a suitable environment, and I think it means that they have the initiative faculty strongly developed.

It is a great thing to find out your style and what suits you, and stick to it. Many girls look their best in a coat and skirt, and they appear smart and well set up, while we all know the other girl, who looks and feels untidy and messy and comes unscrewed at her waist. Perhaps really good style consists in an exquisite tidiness, a dainty sweetness and cleanliness which is never forgotten or omitted: bathing and brushing, and a strictness in mending all the tears, and sewing on all the buttons and [illegible because of tear and stain on page] …

The sum we have selected, first, must be divided into two parts; the first hundred pounds must be applied to the dresses of the trousseau, and the second to the underclothes and the numberless other accessories - bonnets and hats, boots and shoes, stockings and gloves, etc. - which go to make up the complete outfit of every woman. So we will begin with what seems to be an ordinary amount of gowns for any girl who is in society and therefore requires a certain amount of going out clothes of one kind or another.

In making a list of the gowns we put down the wedding gown, veil and wreath, the going-away dress, evening gowns and tailor-mades, as for a wedding at any season these will be needed, and if in the winter, a mantle, jacket, or coat, in addition, and probably some furs.

Just at present the wedding gown is almost always made of ivory satin, with a Court train, this latter being so long and ample that it is nearly another dress. Of course, if the bride intends to be presented on her marriage, this is a very wise arrangement, for it will thus answer for two purposes and do for two events. Otherwise, having a Court train strikes me as a clever way of obtaining a second white satin gown, which, if you are to go out much, will be useful. But there is no need of the Court train, and you can have a very handsome wedding gown without it.



It quite depends on your after use of your wedding-gown how much you spend upon it. Thirty-five guineas, if made of the best satin at about 15 shillings a yard, would be a handsome sum; but out of your hundred pounds it would be quite excessive. So I should advise you to look carefully at the satins, and if you can get the rightly-coloured ivory - the true hue of old ivory - in the linen-backed kind, do not take a silk one, as the former will wear quite as well and will look very nearly the same. About 7 shillings or 8 shillings a yard would be enough to give at a really good shop. If you have any old lace, use it for your wedding-gown, at least for the neck and sleeves. The tulle veil and wreath together will cost about 2 pounds and after this you need to consider the shoes and stocking, petticoats and gloves.

What is called the going away gown is, next to the wedding gown, of the most importance in a trousseau, for this reason - that it will be for most women the out-of-door piece de resistance for the summer or winter trousseau. A fair sum should be allowed for it, and it should be carefully chosen. I have seen two this season which have pleased me very much. The first was a summer gown of mauve voile, lined with a slightly darker silk, and trimmed with a flat garniture of white lace with an edging of narrow black velvet. On the skirt there were two rows of this, and the same was on the bodice, which had a white lace vest and revers, and one of the new lace collars that are quite transparent and stiffened by means of whalebones at the sides, back and front. A hat to match this gown was intended to be worn with it, but I should have preferred a black hat as the wearer was fair and the contrast would have been effective. A petticoat was made to match of the same silk, which is just now a very usual thing.

The other gown was what is called a tailor-made. It was of the palest grey cloth, the bodice being also simple, with a front of white satin and lace, and revers of the satin, which were braided with black and white. The hat worn with this was one of those gathered ones of chiffon or tulle in the prettiest pale blue, with a petticoat of the same.

It will be seen that either of these gowns were of a character to be useful afterwards. Perhaps, instead of the blue hat or toque, one might have preferred one of the grey-coloured tulle, or a white one. These two are specimens of what is required in the going away gown of summer and the conditions vary but little in winter, for the cloth may be slightly heavier and some fur may be used. But the gown is a smart and dressy one and, if needful, additional warmth may be procured by means of a cape or mantle: or the gown itself may be cool, and the skirt handsomely fur-trimmed, but suitable for afternoon wear.


As a general rule, three tailor-made gowns would be a fair allowance in such an outfit as this, including, of course, the going away dress, if that were of cloth, and tailor-made.  We must consider the exigencies and requirements of our daily life, and these would demand a knockabout, everyday coat and skirt of a tweed, serge, or homespun, and another slightly better and more dressy, but not so dressy as the one I have mentioned. The tailor-made gowns may be classed as good, better and best, and therefore it is well to look about us and try to find such models for each as we may like. The cost would vary from three guineas, for the everyday one, up to six or even seven, for the best. The tailor you employ would of course make a difference in charge. if extremely fashionable or of a more quiet order.

After the tailor-mades would come the consideration of summer piques, drills, and flannels, with the muslin blouses to wear with them. Most girls have a stock of these already, and there is nothing to prevent them making such additions as will bring them up to the mark. These piques and drill dresses can be purchased at very moderate prices during the sales, and so they need not be considered as expensive. Indeed, most of the girls I know have the skirts and muslin blouses either made at home or done, by some “little dressmaker” to whom they supply patterns and materials. A pique skirt, however, it is better to purchase, unless your little dressmaker can manage the strapped seams, for which there is an obligation at present if we would be in the fashion.

As regards the coats of these white gowns, I do not think we, any of us, find them of great value, and we wear out ten skirts to one coat. Frenchwomen wear them sometimes with black or coloured skirts, and I have noticed that they are worn in this way in England; but if you must have a jacket, or do not know what to do with those you have, I should advise you to have something between an Eton and a Bolero made of them. You can purchase a shape to suit you, and have the transformation carried out by any good dressmaker who works by the day, or who will undertake such small renovations and alterations.

The next important question is, I think, the gown for functions or for dinner parties and small evening reunions; and my experience leads me to say that black satin is the best for these, and that a black satin with three bodices is the most useful. We illustrate two of these made this season for a trousseau. [I will not be scanning and uploading one of these pictures. I inherited this volume from my mother, and her brother drew boobs on it at some point during their childhood.]


The first had a yoke and sleeves of white lace; the second, an evening bodice with a white lace top; the third bodice was in black, and could be worn out of doors. It was trimmed with sequins and chiffon. A good quality of black satin should be selected, and you must be guided as to price, and whether it should be a silk or linen backed one also, by how much you are likely to require it, as a black satin shows wear rather more than a white one. The less trimming on the skirt the better, as trimmings so often mark the date of a gown, and you will be anxious that your trousseau gowns should render you as long service as possible.

So you must be careful only to select designs that are not of an extreme character; and both materials and patterns should be fashionable, but not too “loud”. In this you will need wisdom and if you patronise a good shop they would help you. The extreme of style one year will often become the special fashion of that which follows.

The next gown is one which, while suitable for a dinner at a hotel or restaurant, could also be made suitable for a very smart garden party. It is of white silk and chiffon, with white lace over it. The bodice was a square with transparent lace sleeves. These lace gowns were much worn this year, and I have always thought them perfect epitomes of smartness and beauty. The gown illustrated cost about ten guineas, I believe, but this expense could be lessened in various ways, as the shop was a very fashionable one, and nothing was grudged in its construction as to the material.

The other gown which was prepared for the trousseau, was a white, satin-faced foulard, with a tiny mauve design on it of leaves and spots. This was an afternoon visiting and concert gown, and was not very costly, only about six guineas. It was made with a painted double skirt, and the trimming was tiny gathered ruchings of white silk. In the winter the place of it would be taken by a handsome tailor-made gown of cloth. I think that, taking into consideration the garden parties of summer, the trousseau of the winter would probably be less expensive. But still, if you were wise, something would be laid aside, or some preparation made for the summer gaieties that are sure to follow.

The next thing that I must dwell upon here is the hats and bonnets. The fashions of this present season seem to require a hat or a bonnet for every costume; but, on the other hand, we never had such a year for black hats, and they were quite correct for any costume, so the law was abrogated in its original sternness, which spelt ruin for some moderate allowances. Still, the going away hat or bonnet looks better when not black; and it seems more suitable, too, that it should either match the dress or contrast with it. This year the drawn chiffon hats were so much in vogue that they were often chosen. Otherwise, a white hat is the prettiest possible choice for a youthful bride. The tailor-made travelling gown must be considered in the choice of a hat or bonnet, which would be of a quieter style, and one that would be afterwards the ordinary walking headgear. The bonnet and hats for this trousseau would cost from seven to eight pounds.

In the matter of gloves we are very fortunate, for it seems to be the fashion now to wear white for every toilette. I see some black worn, however, as well as grey and lavender and for the evening Swede are still used. White are to be obtained as low as 1s 11d a pair, and if you are to go to a well known shop they are very good, and can be cleaned two or three times, but they must be kept mended and the buttons sewn on. Of course your evening gloves cost more, but with care they can be made to last. Of gloves you would need - one kind and another - perhaps two dozen; and you should select a supply of all those suitable for the various purposes you may need - riding, driving, cycling, ordinary walking in the country, best, second best and evening, and when you have got them please remember that you must see to their preservation and keeping and find a suitable basket or box and a dry place to keep it in.

Veils, parasols, waterproof, en tout cas, umbrella, pocket handkerchiefs, neck ties, feather boa, and endless small lace additions to dress - all of them cost money. IN fact, one of my recent brides, on going over these last things, declared that her trousseau consisted of sundries; and that, when she added the boots and shoes and stockings, she might as well have 25 pounds at once. This was the girl I have always admired for her straightforward consideration of the subject, as she said that it was the only time in her life she was sure to have all she wanted - a regular outfit - and she meant to have it.

"If I were only one of the boys!" she said. "They always have outfits for somewhere, if not Ashanti, it is India. And just see what they want. Bullock trunks and theodolites; and if the War Office changes a button or a tag, there is a new uniform at once. Oh, you don’t know about boys! Their millinery is so excessive!”

And after this outburst the boys assured me with groans that it was really dreadful.

[That is the end of the October article. Here is the 23 December article, with all the illustrations.]
 




The very best thing for ordinary wear is a tiny kind of Bolero jacket (see Fig.1) made of muslin and lace, which meets with a button or ties in front over the chest, and is long enough to cover the stays to the waist at the back. Fine nainsook for ordinary daywear, and a good strong muslin for best, with a Valenciennes edging round it, and an insertion too if you like to go to the trouble and expense it will occur. With this little addition you will look quite presentable when you go to your dressmaker’s. No one knows what some women look like when they go to be "tried on" at their long-suffering couturiere’s. The French call them cache-corsets, a far better name than ours, and much more descriptive.


The model in Fig.2, with crossover fronts, is a useful one, for if you do not like it as is, you can remodel it into a Bolero, with rounded fronts, by merely standing in front of your glass, and pinning it into shape. In silk, some of these are really beautiful, being made of pink, pale blue, or white, with insertions of lace, and trimmings of pink baby-ribbon. This, however, is also to be seen as an additional ornament to the batiste and cambric ones. In fact, there is no extent of luxury to which you cannot go, in the extravagance of your linen, and I must not omit in this article to illustrate and to tell you all about these beautiful things.


At Fig.3 we find the drawers to match, the upper pair being of white China silk. All are wide at the knee, and cut in the French style, without bands at the waist.






Fig.4 represents three chemises, made of fine flowered batiste, lace-trimmed, with baby ribbon runnings and bows. The designs and trimmings are novel.





Fig.5 shows three more chemises, made of cambric linen, embroidered in flat embroidery and pink silk, with a lace flouncing round the shoulders. Wide lace is mostly used for silk underclothing, and tucks ornament it in great abundance, but not much insertion.




In Fig.6 we find some examples of fine longcloth petticoats, edged with both lace and embroidery.


 


At Fig.7 there are some beautiful flounced and laced skirts, some of these with an upper and under flounce, which makes the effect fuller and more transparent.





"The three nightgowns shown at Fig.8 are severally of nainsook and of silk. The one at the top, on the left, is of white silk, with wide lace, and a narrow insertion; the one below it, of fine nainsook and very fine embroidery, is cut square at the neck. A large proportion of our newest nightgowns of superior quality show a tendency to this style, and are either half-high or low; and in several instances I have seen short sleeves, with a sailor collar, opened in a pointed shape. The third model here is of white silk, with frills of silk, embroidered, and edged with real lace."




Fig.9 shows the very pretty new night-dress cases that are often supplied on the Continent with the night-gowns themselves. A very genteel practice prevails, however, of making them of white satin, of a very large size, and edging them with deep lace. In England these ideal sachets have become a favourite wedding present for those young ladies to make who are clever with their fingers, and do not desire to enter into any great expense.





The small dressing jacket so much used will be seen in Fig.10 where three are shown. They are made of batiste, nainsook, and silk, the latter having a tiny Bolero jacket as an additional ornament. These little jackets are extremely useful, when we do not require a larger covering, and have only to smooth our hair and wash our hands before dressing.