Wednesday, 21 December 2016

14 May 1881 - Useful Hints

CALVES' FEET JELLY. – Split four feet, and boil them gently in a gallon of water for four hours, skimming well when the broth is reduced to half that quantity. Strain the stock into a basin through a sieve, and when cold and in a firm jelly scrape off the grease, wash the surface with scalding water, wipe, and place it in a stew-pan, adding 2 lbs of sugar, the juice of 12 lemons, the rind of 6, a bruised stick of cinnamon, and 20 coriander seeds. Set on the fire, dissolve, and add the whites of 6 eggs well whisked with half-a-pint of water; continue whisking the jelly, while on the fire, until it commence to boil. Then add a pint of sherry, put on the lid, laying some live embers of charcoal upon it, and leave the jelly to simmer slowly by the side of the stove for about twenty minutes longer. Then pour through a jelly bag into a basin, returning it again through the bag, until it passes quite clear and bright-looking. It can be coloured with cochineal, or annatto, or other suitable preparations to be procured at a chemist's.

MACARONI CHEESE. – Cut the macaroni in two or three inch lengths, place in a stewpan with 3/4 lb of grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese, 4 oz of fresh butter, a spoonful of good b├ęchamel; season with pepper and salt, toss all well over the fire, pile it in the centre of a dish, bordered round with fried croutons of bread, covering also the bottom. Cover the top with equal parts of fine bread-crumbs and grated Parmesan, and pour over all a little melted butter through the holes of a spoon, and place the dish in the oven to be baked.

TAPIOCA CREAM. – Soak two tablespoonfuls of tapioca over night in just enough water to cover it. Boil one quart of milk with the tapioca in the morning; add a little more than half a tea cup of lump sugar, a pinch of salt, and the yolks of three eggs well beaten; stir them in the milk, then remove it from the fire. Flavour to taste with lemon or vanilla; beat the three whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and drop them on the cream when cold.

CURE FOR CHILBLAINS. – Bathe the parts affected in the water in which potatoes have been boiled, as hot as can be borne. On the first appearance of the blains this bath, affords relief, and in the more advanced stages repetition prevents breaking out, and generally results in a cure. One ounce of white coppers dissolved in a quart of water and applied occasionally is also considered efficacious.

A NICE WAY TO BAKE APPLES. – Choose good sour apples, dig out the cores, and fill the cavities with sugar, and, if liked, a small clove. Place the apples in a dish, or tin, with about a cup of water. Bake them in a quick oven. This makes a good dish for children, and is very cooling and pleasant for invalids.

AN EASY WAY TO MAKE AN OMELETTE. – Beat the whites and yolks of three eggs separately, add a teaspoonful of water and a pinch of salt to the yolks; beat and mix them with the whites lightly. Put about as much butter as will lie in the bowl of a teaspoon into the frying-pan, hold it over the fire till it melts, then pour in the egg. When the surface is nearly dry, fold one half of the omelette over the other, slide it gently off on a plate and serve quickly.

OATMEAL CAKES. – Mix a handful of fresh coarse oatmeal with a little water and a pinch of salt; rub in a little butter. Make the paste sufficiently moist to roll out the thickness of a shilling; put it on a girdle over a clear fire. When slightly brown on one side, toast the other side before the fire. Each cake must be mixed separately.

SCALDED BATTER PUDDING. – Four piled tablespoonfuls of flour, four eggs, a little salt, and rather less than a pint of ilk. Mix salt with the flour, and when the milk is quite boiling pour it gradually over the flour, stirring it with a fork until it is sufficiently mixed. Set it to cool, and in the meanwhile whisk the eggs very thoroughly and stir them in to the other ingredients when these are just warm. Boil for an hour and a half in a well-buttered cloth, leaving room  for the pudding to rise. It will be very light and delicate, a perfect pudding for an invalid; but in the preparation no spoon should be used, the mixing being done wholly with a fork. Serve with wine sauce, or, if this is objected to, plain melted butter and jam, or a little raspberry vinegar.


1. Soak a soft fig for about a week in pale brandy, and take half when the cough is troublesome.

2. Put a lemon in boiling water. Boil it for a quarter of an hour. Then press out the pulp into a jar, removing the pips, and mix it very thoroughly with a quarter of a pound of honey. Take a teaspoonful when required.

3. Dissolve 1 oz of gum Arabic and 14 lb of sugar candy in a pint of water. A little lemon juice and a chip or two of the rind, cut off very thin, may be added, and greatly improve the flavour. A teaspoonful of the mixture taken a bedtime will often allay the tickling and irritation of the throat, and secure a night's rest. It should be sipped very slowly. By sucking a little pure gum Arabic the same effect may be produced as it coats over the susceptible surface. The mixture is, however, more palatable, and especially for children.

4. Thin linseed tea, which should always be boiled, not merely infused, sweetened with sugar-candy and flavoured with lemon juice and rind, is also an excellent demulcient, and highly nutritious. Some black Spanish juice may be boiled with the linseed. This old-fashioned remedy is often undervalued, because it is extremely cheap, and may be used with only the limit of the patient's inclination.

5. For tickling in the throat a teaspoonful of the soft, cold pulp of a roasted apple often proves useful, especially in the night.

6. Put a large tablespoonful of black currant jam into half a pint of boiling water. Stir and bruise thoroughly; let it stand till cold, and drink of the liquor when the cough is troublesome.

7. Half a teaspoonful of Condy's fluid – crimson – mixed in half a tumbler of water is an excellent morning gargle for a susceptible throat. It is also a purifying wash for the mouth and teeth, but should not be swallowed.

See you next year! :)

Sunday, 18 December 2016

14 May 1881 - 'Our Mutual Friend, Puss' by Dr Gordon Stables - Part Two

Part one of this story can be found here. And as always when the G.O.P. starts giving out recipes for medicines: don't try this at home.

Anyone who had never seen a more highly-bred cat than the honest and faithful but common grey grimalkin, that lies on the cottage hearthrug, singing duets with the tea-kettle, or the half-wild mouse-catcher of the barn-door, would be greatly surprised if he happened to go to a large show of our favourites, at the wealth of feline loveliness and grace displayed upon the benches.

"Why," I have heard some people exclaim, "I couldn't have believed there were such beautiful cats in the world."

And I have made reply, "What you see is simply the result of care and kindness, proper feeding and housing, and attention to the pelage or coats of the animals."

Cats, especially the long-haired breeds, it will do my readers no harm to know, are becoming more fashionable every day as domestic pets, and people who care to keep good ones, and to rear them well and show them, get very large prices for them. I am acquainted with ladies who sell their kittens even for two and three guineas each, and who would not take twenty for many of their full-grown pussies.

Let us imagine now that we are taking a walk around the great cat show at the Crystal Palace, and that I am mentor. I feel sure I can tell you many things about the inmates of the pens that you do not know.

Well, then, first on the list of short hairs is a tortoiseshell male cat, a very rare animal; here are several tortoiseshell female pussies, not big, and very dark in their markings, with no white. In their nature they are brave and bold, good workers, loving, gentle, and jealous, and always faithful to mistress or master. Next come the tortoiseshell and white, the colours being yellow, red, black and white, artistically arranged in those who have won prizes. They are bigger cats than the former, and not so decided in their likes and dislikes.

Then we have the brown tabbies – splendid fellows everyone of them, some of enormous size. There is one yonder, blinking half asleep on his scarlet velvet cushion. Who weight twenty-two pounds, but is so very lissom withal that he can jump on to the top of any door in his master's house. Tabbies are *par excellence the Englishman's cat. They are good-natured, brave and noble, fond of children, and very fond of their offspring. They ought to be long bodies and graceful; though massive, somewhat short in the forelegs, with large round heads, small ears, and gentle, happy-looking eyes. The strips should be black on a brown ground, and very well defined, and there should be no white on them, else they would be classed as brown-tabby-with-white. There should also be one or two semi-circular bars across the chest. Eyes hazel preferably.

The silver tabby has somewhat longer ears, and a less blunt face with green eyes. Colour like Aberdeen granite, striped with deeply dark markings. They are very lovely and valuable. The red tabbies come next. They are splendid fellows, with green or yellow eyes, reddish in colour, marked with deeper red, and no white. Look at this one; he has been passed over by the judge because his colouring is neither deep enough nor distinct enough. This breed is very clever, and they make capital hunters, but are apt to wander a long way from home; however, unless they fall victims to the vile traps or the too ready guns of cowardly keepers, they never fail to come back again.

The red and white tabby is a gay and gallant fellow, and full of life and fun. In that pen is a spotted tabby. This cat may be any colour, only covered with stripes, composed of spots. I hope that is not an Irish bull. That gentlemanly-looking fellow there is a black and white cat. His coat is of jet, he wears white socks and gloves, and a front as spotless as the snow. He is as good and as aristocratic in his ways as he looks; indeed, he would hardly deign to catch a mouse, but he likes a good dinner, and when he is outside and wants to get in, he does not mew like a common mouser; no, he jumps up and lifts the knocker.

In the next cage is a cat you scarcely see, so intensely ravenly black is he all over. But he can see you and me, and he is glaring at us with his green, green eyes, evidently in no very amiable temper. What he wants to know is, what has he been imprisoned here for, instead of roving wild and free in forest or field? But we must not judge him too harshly, for although he flew at the adjudicator of prizes this morning with tooth and nail, at home he is not naturally quarrelsome. These cats should be very large, with coats of glossiest black; even the whiskers must be black, and the eyes should be hazel if possible, but green is beautiful. Here we have a small but graceful puss, all one colour, namely, dark slate, not a light hair in her, not even in her whiskerets. These cats are rare, and seldom fail to win prizes in a mixed class. They are called Maltese cats. Pure white cats are no favourites of mine. They are usually dull and apathetic and often as deaf as a post. I should never expect a white cat to do anything *very clever.

There are many other strange, short hair cats, Manx, Abyssinian, &c., but we now pass on to the Long Hairs, only pausing for a moment at the cages filled with daft-looking kittens, brimful of folly and mischief and fun.

Now there are all kinds of colours of Long Hairs, but your real Persian is most graceful and elegant, especially in shape of head, which is somewhat sharp or peaked with shortish ears poised downwards, and an aural tuft in each. The expression of their eyes is singularly beautiful, and there is a certain languor of looks and manner about them that tells us their real home is not here, but in a far, far sunnier clime.

They do very well on the whole in England, however; but they ought not to be allowed to roam much, else they will assuredly be stolen, and their coats ought to be combed and brushed almost daily.

"What is the difference," you ask me, "between a Persian cat and an Angora?"

Well, I have been asked that question before, and the reply is that there is no appreciable difference in the size of the cats nor in the length of their coats, only the fur of the Angora is finer and flossier and woollier than that of the Persian, and probably the Angora cat is not so sharp in expression of features.

May I give you a word of advice as to showing a cat? If you have one good enough there is no reason why you should not let it have a chance at distinguishing itself and winning a prize. DO not be afraid that it will not get every attention as far as can be given at a show. Nevertheless, do not fail to go with your favourite yourself, if possible. Take with you some raw meat, and the sweetest of milk in a bottle, and attend to pussy's wants yourself.

And now a few lines about the ailments that cats are subject to. Veterinary surgeons, I fear, know little about them, and care less.

When a cat seems ailing and sick, and moping and sleepy-looking, and if at the same time she refuses all food, you had better give an emetic – half a teaspoonful of salt in a little warm water. Follow this up in an hour or two with a teaspoonful of castor oil.

Grass should be grown in a flower-pot in towns, where cats have not much fresh air and freedom. This flower-pot should be placed where she can easily see it and get at it. Or when you are walking in the country, you may cull some nice fresh green grass and place it in the corner of the kitchen, the ends being kept tight between two bricks. It is an excellent blood purifier. A kind of chronic inflammation of the stomach is common among cats, especially those who are not properly dieted, and are glad to pick up and eat anything they can find. The cat refuses food, gets thin and wretched-looking, and has frequent attacks of vomiting. Medicine – a grain and a half of the trisnitrate of bismuth, put on the tongue twice a day, and a dose of castor oil once a week. Food – sweet milk or cream, and fish. If much wasting, raw beef, chopped fine, twice a day.

To give a cat medicine, two people are required. Pussy is rolled in a rug and placed on some one's lap, while you pour the medicine very gradually down her throat. If it is a pill or bolus, dip it in oil, and put it well back against the roof of the mouth; but mind your fingers. You can hold the mouth open with one hand whilst you manipulate with the other. Bronchitis is often fatal to cats; it attacks badly fed and badly housed pussies very often. There is a rough, dry coat, perhaps fits of shivering at first, with cough. The cough is dry the first day or two, but soon becomes moist, and there is a distressing difficulty of breathing, whilst the tongue is often protruded. Give a little oil at first, and feed on arrowroot, beef-tea, milk, &c., little and often. Then give this cough pill. Extract of conium and compound squill pill, of each twenty grains; make into a bolus with bread crumb, and divide into twenty pills; dose, one every night. Keep up her strength, and give a small teaspoonful of cod-liver oil twice a day.

For laxity of the system, a little common chalk mixture should be given three or four times a day, with one drop of the solution of muriate of morphia in each dose. Or put two grains of trisnitrate of bismuth on the tongue three times a day. Food: only milk, or milk with arrowroot, and a little egg may be allowed, but no meat.

Lung disease, or consumption, is known by the general appearance of the poor cat. There is bad coat, emaciation, capricious appetite, and loss of all liveliness. Raw mat, careful housing, and cod-liver oil are needed. When the cough is troublesome I order the following prescription:- Tinct opii camph., 1 drachm; syr scille, 1 drachm; sol mur morphine, 15 minims; aquae 2 oz; mix. Label: a teaspoonful whenever required. 

Fits: these are common in cats, and are almost too well known to require much description. The puss must be caught and bled. With a lancet make a small incision at the lower part of the ear, and make the blood flow by sponging with hot water. Or slit the ear with a fine pair of scissors.

If the cat is subject to fits, order the following at a respectable chemist's – Bromid potass, 10 grains; iod potass, 5 grains; zinci sulph, 5 grains; mix. Make twenty pills with bread crumb, and give one night and morning.

If pussy is thin, give cod-liver oil. If the reverse, lower the diet, and give a little boiled sheep's liver twice a week

For skin complaints use carbolic lotion; pure carbolic acid one part, water forty. Well shake before using it, and apply once a day, but not all over. AS internal medicine, give a teaspoonful twice a day in milk of liquor arsenicalis, ten drops in one ounce of distilled water.

For eye inflammation, bathe frequently in warm milk and water, and use a lotion of three grains of sulphate of zinc t an ounce of water.

Never deprive a cat of all her kittens at once. Never keep kittens that you are not sure of getting a good home for.

Never let anyone persuade you that pussy is not one of the gentlest and most faithful pets we possess.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

7 May 1881 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

CISSIE K – Consult a doctor; he will probably discover the cause of your malady.

MINNIE HUFF  - We could not possibly inform you "how long it would take you to become a good violin player," for we do not know  either the present amount of your knowledge or your capabilities for learning. We should imagine from your note that it will take some time.

HEBE DAWSON – We consider it a possible case but not a probable one.

ANTONIA – Perhaps if you got up earlier in the morning you would have no difficulty in going to sleep at night.

VIRA – 1. There is nothing vulgar about wearing a flower in the street. 2. It would entirely depend on the amount of intimacy between you.

NANCY – We are much obliged for your offer, but we dread the prospect of reading "a very simple little story, written when you were thirteen." We remember too well what we did ourselves at that early and verdant age, and we take comfort in the idea that we shall never do the same thing again.

MARY MCELENY – In spite of much writing to the contrary, we fear there is no real reason to doubt that poor Joan of Arc was really burnt to death.

WHITE PUSSY thinks it worth while to write and inquire, "Do you like lemon? I do. There is another queston I forgot."

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

7 May 1881 - Button-Hole and Satin Stitch

Most of you girls have some knowledge of crewel work, the mania of the day, both from the instructions you have received and from your own practice, but I daresay that very few amongst you have ever tried your skill in the white embroidery, or white work, as it was once called. This style, however, should be quite familiar to young ladies who have any ambition to wear tidy and dainty linen, and more so now when there is such a return of worked muslin gowns, fichus, and collarettes of all kinds.

I will therefore give you a few hints on this branch of stitchery of modern introduction, specially when compared with the long stitch of almost unknown origin. To confine my remarks to the two fundamental varieties, button-hole and satin-stitch, I must first make you observe the great contrast between the formal regularity of their direction and the broken, dove-tailed surface offered by the embroidery stitch. This very uniformity of stitch prevents any shading, and to be set off at its best requires the richness of relief. The swelling or undulating appearance is obtained by padding or stuffing. Taking coarser cotton and needle than those intended for embroidery, you commence by running the outline of the flower, leaf, &c. Do not make the stitches too long,  for the nicety of curves and angles – indeed of the entire shape – rests on this careful outlining. Proceed to fill in the vacant space by row after row of long loose running stitches, piercing the needle through the merest trifle of the ground in order to leave nearly all the cotton above the surface. Guided by the shape you increase or decrease the rows at will, in such a way that they merge into one another (fig.1) and form a soft compact underlay.

Quicker modes of padding are resorted to when special rapidity is imperative, but these, like all other makeshifts, require the skill of an adept to manage them satisfactorily. Hence I will simply mention them: stuffing by chain-stitch, herringbone, tacked braid, and loose strands of cotton, guided by the hand whilst working. The chief object of the padding is to give the embroidery a slight convexity or gentle rise to the centre, and as a general rule the stuffing runs in a contrary direction to the overlaying stitches, as will be proved by a glance at our illustrations. So in fig.1 the running stitches are horizontal and the feston vertical in the spots, the filling is circular, whilst the sewing over crosses it. Again, in the leaf (fig.7) the padding runs lengthways, and the covering widthways. In the case of delicate scallops the tracing and stuffing reduce themselves to three, two, and even a single line, as seen in fig.2.

These preliminaries well understood and followed, you will have mastered the greatest difficulty and can proceed to the concealment of the underlay either by button-hole or satin stitch. The former is sometimes wrought in a straight line either for ornament or flat seaming so invaluable in patching, in hiding two overlapping edges, or in bringing two edges face to face, thus avoiding ridges or imparting a width of a few extra threads. It also shapes entire letters, leaves, and flowers; in the latter case padding is dispensed with. Edging, however, constitutes the real use of the button-hole stitch purposely called in France feston, i.e. festoon. The word at once explains itself and brings to your mind scallops, loops, semicircles, &c. The first three illustrations afford good specimens of the diversity in single festoons.

Fig.3, the "wolf's teeth," is decidedly the most difficult of execution on account of its sharp Vandyke, which has so much resemblance to the teeth of a wolf.

The crescent-shaped scallop of fig.1 can easily be drawn out, either with the help of compasses or a coin of the desired size. To make the stitch itself, begin on the left hand at the extreme point, and secure the thread by passing it through the few stitches of the stuffing, for remember no knot is ever allowed in any kind of embroidery, still less in delicate white work. Pass the thread downward and hold it firmly under your left thumb, while you pierce the needle just above the upper outline to slip it underneath, and bring it out just beyond the lower outline, opposite the thumb, and in the centre of the loop formed by the cotton. With the thumb and forefinger pull the needle straight towards you, gently raise the left-hand thumb and draw the thread to tighten the knot, at the same time inclining it to the left by the little finger. Practice alone will teach you how to turn your work and to regulate the stitches with the perfect evenness indispensible to the task; they must lie against each other, neither too closely nor too far apart, in order not to disclose a single under thread. The outline should be as bold and undeviating as if pencilled by an expert hand. Keep the work well stretched on the fingers of the left hand in such a manner that the embroidery itself rests on the forefinger. When the border is finished, with sharp embroidery scissors shave off the superfluous material, cutting into every crevice yet without snipping any of the stitches. If the work has to go to the wash before being worn I should advise you to leave this cutting out until it has returned from the laundress.

Often very large scallops are prettily pinked out into festoons of all shapes and sizes, some resembling the notches of a cock's comb, others peaked or gradually rounded, like the petals of a rose, &c. In olden times, when feston was very much used for the muslin embroidery employed on net, the worker had the trouble of making the picot or purl whilst button-holding; this she did by working round a long horsehair, which served as a mesh. Now industry spares us the most fidgety details, and ready-made purls are sold by yard.

I believe these few particulars on the button-hole stitch are all you require, so we will pass at once to the satin stitch, so called from its smooth sheeny surface. The previous remarks on tracing and padding apply equally to this stitch, but here only the darned stuffing, or occasionally the chain-stitched, is admissible. The satin stitch, in its origin, was invariably worked in horizontal lines; later on an exception was made  for the petals of the rose, wrought perpendicularly as shown in fig.4.

In many cases the two directions are combined, as in fig.5.

To execute this flower, pierce the eyelet-hole with a stiletto, and closely overcast it; then darn straight rows of padding, and cover them by sewing over, commencing at the widest part and carrying the cotton right round at the back to bring it up again in front. By this means the wrong side will be like the top one, except that the stitches will lie flat. Next shape the oval frames, previously stuffing them in the same way as in fig.6.

On the underlay I cannot put too much stress, and for this very reason I have taken care that you should have plenty of examples, which convey more than any description of mine. If nicely done, your embroidery will be softly rounded off, and the leaves, &c., will bear being bent without the stitches showing the least tendency to separate.

The veining of a leave is generally traced first, but is only marked out by the twist stitch as the finishing touch. See figs.7 and 8.

In delicate foliage you will find the lightest plan is to merely suggest the midrib by a furrow, produced by working the two sides of the leaf separately. Outline the veining, pad on each side, and start with the sharp point for a few stitches until you meet the midrib; then cover one side, only working from edge to centre, turn the work and proceed to the opposite side (fig.9).

It requires some knack to define the centre hollow, which is of frequent occurrence in satin stitch embroider, not only for veining, but also for Vandykes  such as figs.1, 3, 4 and 10.

The stitches must just meet without interfering or encroaching in any way with the opposite one, else the beauty of the line will be spoilt. When scallops are in this way fitted into one another, the outside one is properly padded, while the others, necessarily, are much less so or not at all. Another difficulty of this straight stitch lies in the proper shaping of the spikes of the leaves; some just out in triple leaflets as in fig.6, or in a series of teeth, as exemplified by fig.11.

This jagged edge you have all had the opportunity of noticing in the petals of the bluebottle and the foliage of the vine, the daisy, and the rose, &c. There is really no rule to give you as to the clear defining of the various dents; your eye will be the best guide  for the gradual increase and decrease of the stitch as well as its correct tightness. Here, too, I find the supporting touch of the little finger a great help when drawing out the thread.

To lighten the general effect leaves are often satin-stitched on one side, whilst the other is filled up with straight rows of back-stitch, the notches and midribs having beforehand been outlined by twist stitch (fig.12).

But a still lighter and truly artistic ornament would be to cut out this part and fill it up with lace-stitches, a variation which would charmingly enhance the centres of figs.4, 6, 10 and 13.

Long ago, in my schooldays, crewel stitch was little known, and all the attention was directed to satin stitch, or plumetis. My needlework teacher, a dear old maid, would have everything learned systematically, and never swerved from her established rules, which obliged the pupils to conquer each stitch in its own rotation. We first learned the twist or stem-stitch in all its meanderings, then we passed to the straight plain leaves, after this to the spots, next roses and all blossoms, &c., wrought with the perpendicular stitch, and last the efficient ones were privileged to venture upon the jagged foliage and a few elect pupils on the lace frilling. This routine was not completed in one year, I can assure you.

I just perceive that I have spoken very little of the spots. Their direction varies to harmonise with the annexed design. When very small they are termed "beads," or "dots," and need no filling; if very close together you had better not break your cotton at each, but pass from one to the other, not drawing the connecting thread too tight for fear of puckering the fabric.

Open spots are called eyelets, some being quite round, as I have already mentioned in figs.5 and 13, and others rather berry-shaped (fig.14).

These eyelets are button-holed all round, but the wide part alone has any padding, the narrow edge merely being worked over a double outline. To form the whole you slit the material with scissors, four times describing a cross, and with the needle you turn back the four underpieces, which will eventually disappear beneath the over-sewing. The ribs of the leaves are wrought in satin-stitch, but I will recommend you a much quicker mode, fitly named point de poste, or railway stitch. For this bring your needle out at the base of the stem, carry it across to the extremity of the rib, slip it underneath, to emerge again at the starting point, and before you draw it out coil the cotton ten or twelve times round; press the thumb on this, coiling sufficiently to keep it in place, yet not so tightly as to prevent the needle from sliding through; then with thumb and forefinger carefully bring the thread and coil up, along the place of the rib; again prick the needle into the point of this rib, and pull it out a thread above the first starting-point. This time draw needle and thread gently together, and your coil, if well made, will e a very good imitation of the real stitch. The needle is now ready  for the second ascending rib.

I hope you will thoroughly practise my instructions, because I intend to give you soon a nice collection of such pretty letters that will at once tempt you to immediately set to work and lavish your elegant stitchery on all your surroundings.

Friday, 9 December 2016

7 May 1881 - 'Soups, and How to Make Them' by Phillis Browne - Part One

It is astonishing what a prejudice roughish people have against soup. The objection is not so universal as it was a few years ago, but still it exists. I cannot but think that one reason of this is that the housekeepers who scorn it do not understand what soup really is. A friend of mine once told me that none of her girls would touch soup; they did not care for it at all. I was not astonished at this when I discovered that her only idea of making soup was to thicken the liquor in which meat had been boiled with prepared pea meal. Another lady, who sympathised with the first one in her want of appreciation of culinary delicacies, used to make it by thickening the liquor with oatmeal. On one occasion I was privileged to taste the latter preparation. I expected it would be insipid, but it was not; it was particularly tasty, for it was burnt. I sympathised with the young ladies who did not like it at all, for I decided that I could not have eaten much of that soup if I had been paid for it.

One erroneous idea concerning soup is that it is expensive, and that in order to make it good pounds upon pounds of meat must be obtained for it. If these are dispensed with the soup will not be worth drinking. Really, however, soup is an economy. It is a mistake to make it very rich and very strong. When, as is generally the case, it is succeeded by other dishes, it should be light and pleasantly flavoured, but not strong or nourishing enough to furnish a dinner in itself. People usually sit down to dinner tired, hungry and weary, and it is rather too much of a good thing to put a slice of roast beef or boiled mutton before them straight away. It is giving their digestive organs too much to do; they need to be set gently to work. To have light employment given them at first, and to be allowed to go on gradually to the heavy business.  Sir Henry Thompson, I think it was, pointed out a little while ago, in some papers he published on food, that light liquid food was most valuable as a restorative. Those who have been accustomed to take soup, and have noticed how quickly it takes away the feeling of exhaustion, and prepares the way for the enjoyment of dinner, would be very sorry to do without it. At the same time, they would be equally sorry to make it very strong and rich, unless they intended the family to dine upon it entirely.

When I said soup was an economy, I meant that it might be made the means of preventing waste; also that when used regularly it saves the joint, and partially satisfies the appetite before the most expensive part of the dinner is touched. I daresay you have heard of the housekeeper who said to her friend, "We never have soup; we cannot afford it;" to which the other replied, "Indeed, we always have soup; we cannot afford to do without it." I certainly think the second housekeeper was the more economical of the two.

However, it is not my business now to sing the praises of soup. But I may say that I believe it would be seen on our tables more frequently than it is if the girls in a house were able and willing to make it. The secret of our not having soup is that it takes time and trouble, which servants do not always care to give. But in the good time coming, when all the girls in our homes understand and practice cookery, when our daughters would rather prepare with their own hands a good dinner for their fathers than tire their eyes in making so many useless mats and antimacassars, things will be quite different; we shall enter upon a delightful period, and we shall all live twice as well as we do now, at half the present cost.

There are three varieties of soup – clear soup, thick soup, and purees. For all these stock is required, and therefore the first thing we have to do is to learn how to make stock. For very nourishing, superior soup, and for clear soup, fresh meat is required; although it is quite true that clear soup may be made of weak bone stock, it is scarcely worth while to do so unless there was plenty of fresh meat left o bones, and to buy bones roughly trimmed would cost as much as to buy fresh meat. Ordinary stock, however, that will make excellent soup for daily use may be made of the trimmings of joints, the liquor in which meat and vegetables and fish have been boiled, and even of the bones, skin, and trimmings left after a joint has been served. For nothing of this kind should be thrown away until it has been stewed until every particle of goodness has been extracted from it.
I am quite prepared to hear that girls who tried to prevent waste in this way, and to make the most of things by stewing bones and trimmings for stock, would be laughed and sneered at by certain people. Let them never mind this. When we are doing right we can bear to be laughed at, and certainly we who try to be economical are in the right. It is wicked to waste good food while so many thousands are needing it. If we have more than re require let us give to those who want, not throw away. It is a great disgrace to English cooks that they act as though extravagance meant cleverness, and thrift meant incompetency. I have noticed again and again that as soon as ever a cook acquires skill she loses her respect for quantities and prices. We will not do this in our cookery class, for we all look upon waste as sin.

Therefore let us resolve that nothing containing nourishment shall be thrown away until it has been well stewed. We will put on one side all the trimmings, skin, bone, and fat that we can collect, and as soon as we have an opportunity we will render down the fat for frying and will stew the rest for stock.

Sometimes economical cooks advise that a stock-pot should be kept by the side of the fire, and that trimmings, pieces, and scraps should be thrown into it from time to time as they come to hand ; that water should be added when necessary, and thus a constant supply of stock should be provided. This plan I do not recommend. In the first place it leads to the ingredients being unequally cooked. Scraps which are thrown into the pot when the cooking is half through are not so thoroughly stewed as those which were in at the beginning. In the second place over-long simmering will spoil the flavour of our stock and make it taste unpleasantly of the pan. Whatever we have to stew should be put on freshly into a clean pan every morning; when the simmering has been continued five hours the contents of the pan should be turned into an earthen vessel and carried into a cool larder and left uncovered till wanted.

We will suppose that we have a quantity of bones and trimming, say, for instance, the bones left from a cooked joint which weighed eight or ten pounds before it was cut. Perhaps also we should have the bones of poultry or game, and two or three bacon bones; if so, we should of course make use of them, although we should do very well without them. How should we proceed in making stock?

We should look carefully over our ingredients, and trim away anything that was unsuited to our purpose. If it should happen that there was anything not quite pure and sweet we should put that aside at once. "Cleanliness is the soul of cookery," and it is particularly called for in economical cookery. We wish to avoid waste, but we are not willing to use everything. Having satisfied ourselves on this point, however, we put the bones into a perfectly clean saucepan and pour over them cold water, in the proportion of a quart of water to a pound of bones. I daresay it will be remembered that when we were speaking of boiling meat we said that when we wanted to keep the goodness in the meat we placed it in boiling water; when we wished to draw the goodness out we put it in cold water. On this occasion we wish to draw the goodness out, we therefore use cold water.

We now put the saucepan on the fire, and bring the liquid slowly to a boil. In a little while it will begin to simmer, and then we throw in a small quantity of salt, not as much as will be needed to season the soup, but a little to help the scum to rise. It is well to leave the seasoning until the stock is made, because we intend to boil the liquid down to about half its quantity, and if we add as much salt as is wanted now we shall find that our stock is too salt by the time the boiling is over, for salt will not fly away in steam, though water may. But salt will help to make the scum rise, and we particularly wish to remove the scum as soon as it appears, before it has time to boil down into the stock again. Therefore we throw a little salt in, and  for the same purpose we add a cupful of cold water two or three times after skimming, and after each addition heat again and skim once more.

When we have cleared away as much scum as possible, we draw the saucepan back, put on the lid, and let the liquor simmer very gently for five hours. If we wish to use it quickly, or if the weather is cold, we may at the end of three hours put in the flavouring ingredients, a carrot, a leek or an onion, a clove, a little celery, a bay leaf, a bunch of parsley, a sprig of thyme, six peppercorns, and half a blade of mace for each quart of liquid. We must remember, however, that if the weather is warm stock will keep better if vegetables have not been boiled in it, and that even if they are so boiled additional vegetables will have to be added when the stock is used in order to "revive the flavour;" otherwise our soup will not taste fresh.

Bone stock boiled without either vegetables or seasoning will not taste at all good when the five hours are over, and it is poured out, and carried into the larder. Nevertheless, it will contain goodness, and we can make excellent soup of it when the time arrives for us to do so.

Perhaps the bones do not appear to be sufficiently stewed after the liquor is strained from them. They ought to look quite clear and clean, and in such a condition that when dry we should have no objection to put them in our pockets If this be so, we may stew them again next day with a small quantity of fresh cold water, but we must on no account be persuaded to leave them in the saucepan all night.

When we want to make superior stock we take fresh meat. If we wanted three pints of stock we should need three pounds of meat – shin of beef for brown stock, knuckle of veal for white stock – and we must allow a point of water to a pound of meat and one pint of water over. The meat is to be cut into small pieces, the smaller the better, and covered with the cold water, then salted, boiled up, skimmed and simmered, exactly as recommended for bone soup. The vegetables, a carrot, half a turnip, a leek, a bunch of parsley, a sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, three or four sticks of celery, and twenty peppercorns, will be sufficient for three pints of stock.

In both these instances the liquor in which meat had been boiled, and especially the liquor in which "rabbit" or "chicken" or even rabbit bones or chicken bones had been stewed, would be much to be preferred to water if it could be had. If fresh meat were used any trimmings of meat or poultry that there might be should be thrown into the pan and stewed with the meat; they would make the stock stronger.

There is still another kind of stock which may be needed, and that is fish stock for fish soup. It may be made with the liquor in which fish has been boiled, and the bones and skin of the fish with an anchovy, an onion, and one or two cloves may be stewed in it afterwards. Fish soup should be very carefully skimmed, and it must be remembered that it will not keep as well as meat stock.

We now have our stock, which is the basis of soup, ready. The process of converting it into soup must be reserved for another lesson.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

30 April 1881 'The Difficulties of a Young Housekeeper and How She Overcame Them' by Dora Hope - Chapter Seven

Spring-cleaning, the most unwonderful time of the year. 

The time for Margaret's bete noir, the dreaded spring cleaning, had now indeed come; had it been longer deferred, its name would hardly have been applicable,  for the spring was passing swiftly away.

Margaret had borne in mind Mrs Trent's advice not to begin to clean till fires were done with; but a very cold and late spring indicated that fires would be necessary for some time to come, so that lady advised her no longer to put off the evil day, though, when practicable, fires should be given up first.

Having kept her house as clean as possible, taking every room and passage in turn, so that no part had been neglected, she felt justified in departing from the time-honoured custom of having a thorough upset. It is always necessary, however, even in a house the daily or weekly cleaning of which is rigorously performed, to have a sort of "wash and brush up"; for, in the cleanest house, the summer sun, penetrating into every corner and cranny, will discover a kind of dingy air, the result of long days of fog, and damp, and smoke.

Margaret's first step was to turn out all the cupboards and drawers in the house. Each drawer as it was emptied was carried out into the little yard at the back of the house, and thoroughly brushed out, then relined with large sheets of paper, which Margaret had bought  for the purpose, before being brought back into its place.

As the cupboards could not be treated in quite the same way, a dust sheet was spread at the bottom and in front of them, and Betsy, armed with a dusting brush, swept down the walls and every corner, while Margaret was looking over the contents. When both those operations were finished, everything was put back that was not condemned as rubbish, of which a wonderful stock seemed to have accumulated during Margaret's short reign.

The cretonne chair-covers and bedroom hangings were next looked over, two or three dirty ones sent to be cleaned, and a note made of the fact that directly the cleaning was over two new covers must be made for two drawing-room chairs to replace the very shabby ones, which would just do to cover the old chairs in the boys' bedroom.

The window blinds next called for attention. All the upper rooms of the house were fitted with white ones, while the sitting-rooms had venetian blinds. The bright sunshine showed very plainly that the white linen was getting very dirty, and Joanna had told Margaret that washing it did not answer, as it always hangs badly after that process. But, as Margaret was cherishing a scheme for wonderful improvement in the drawing-room, she was loth to spend the money on anything so uninteresting as new blinds. She concluded, however, that it was imperative to get them for the two front rooms; but  for the back of the house she simply took the off the rollers and turned them top to bottom; the upper parts, being rolled up all day, were hardly soiled at all, and looked quite nice and fresh.

Another day was devoted to the book-cases, and the labour of that devolved almost entirely upon Margaret. She allowed Betsy to help her at first, but found her simple mind quite incapable of perceiving the advantage of putting a magazine for 1880 next to one for 1879, nor could she understand why volumes of poetry, history and science should not be all put upon the shelves indiscriminately.

"Sure, Miss Margaret," she said, "mine looks the best, if you'll excuse me saying so, for I've put all the green books together, and you've got the colours all mixed up anyhow."

She was very useful, however, in dusting the books. Clapping them together to shake off the dust was an operation which she thoroughly enjoyed, and made such a noise over that Margaret, who was getting a violent headache with the repeated bangs, was compelled to go away and leave her alone to clap in peace, though she knew the books would be in a state of hopeless chaos on her return.

In this way every department of the house was looked over and examined, but Margaret wisely determined to postpone the shaking of carpets, and all the other branches of cleaning which tend most to the discomfort of the household, till they should all be away for their summer holiday.

When all else was done, the winter curtains were taken down, shaken, brushed with a soft curtain brush, and stowed away on the top shelf of the linen press. They were replaced by cream-coloured lace ones in the drawing-room, as that colour keeps clean much longer than white, and in the dining-room by plain book-muslin edged with a frill, and looped back with a broad band of ribbon.

Margaret could not but be amused at Betsy's utter want of thought in sweeping a room. She had never before happened to witness this performance, and was amazed to see her maid begin to sweep just inside the room, and sweep away from the door, leaving the corners till the last, when she would rake out of them all, or as much as she could get, of the dust she had just swept in. As she frequently left the windows shut during the performance, the result of all her labour was simply that the dust flew up from the carpet, and settled on the sheets with which she furniture was covered, till they, in their turn, were hastily taken off, when it was shaken back on to the floor again. By this process the dust was perhaps more evenly distributed over the room than it had been before, but certainly none of it was entirely removed.

The morning's dusting was conducted in much the same way, simply being a flapping of dust from one place to another.

Betsy was astonished at her own stupidity when it was pointed out to her, and saw at once the wisdom of brushing from the corners into the middle of the room first, when a good deal of the dust and flue could be collected in the dust-pan and thrown into the fire. The advantages of the wide open windows were so evident that they hardly needed pointing out. Margaret advised her also, instead of hastily dragging off the dust sheets, to fold them over carefully so that the dust which had been allowed to settle on them should not be shaken off again, and then to carry them straight out into the yard and shake them there. In finishing the room, all possible articles were quickly wiped over with a slightly dampened cloth, that being, as Margaret had often observed, the only way of really removing dust. Those which would not bear this treatment were done in the ordinary way, only that she insisted upon its being performed carefully, so as to, as far as possible, collect the dust into the duster, which was then shaken outside, instead of being slapped about in the usual style.

"Well, miss," said Betsy, "it do seem so simple when you just point it out to me, but then I never can think on these things unless I'm showed."

And Margaret felt thankful for a servant who did not mind being "showed." Another perplexity had lately been about the management of the linen press. This was placed in a small room, the rest of which was used for a box-room. Being against the outside wall of the house, it was somewhat damp, and now and then a few spots of mildew o linen would fill Margaret with dismay, especially as she felt powerless to prevent this evil. A letter from Joanna in answer to one telling of her difficulties contained some suggestions:-

"It is indeed a great trouble to have a damp linen press. Do you remember how capital mine is? Of course ours being a new house we have many nice arrangements that you do not meet with in old houses, and amongst them, our linen press is heated by a hot-water pipe from the kitchen. I cannot tell you what a comfort it is.

"In your case I should recommend you to have everything thoroughly dried and aired before putting away; take the linen straight from the fire to its place in the press. Then on any bright clear day you should open the doors of the cupboard, and also the window and door of the room in which is stands, so as to get a draught of air passing through. But never do this if there is any feeling of moisture in the air, that would cause further harm.

"If the things feel damp now, take them all out and spread them in the sun if possible, or before a good fire, and leave the press doors open wide for a couple of days, then replace the contents and start fresh on my plan of airing everything before putting away; if you do this, I think you will not be troubled with mildew again.

"To ensure using the linen in proper order, you should put the articles as they come from the wash, week by week, at the bottom of the pile, then of course you take from the top, and there can be no using out of turn.

"I should paste the inventory of the house linen inside the press door if I were you, so that it cannot possibly be lost again.

"If any tablecloths are really too far worn for use you might perhaps get a piece out of the middle large enough for a sideboard cloth, or at any rate for fish napkins.

"Apropos of napkins, you know that Arthur is very particular about having his potatoes quite hot, and yet it is impossible to keep the cover on the dish or they become sodden. Well now, I always have them brought to table folded in a napkin in the dish, then when you take one you just raise the napkin with the spoon; it keeps them beautifully hot, and dries them as well.

"I should think none of your white curtains will require mending if you repaired them before putting away last autumn; but if at any future time they need it, let Betsy rinse the starch out, and then mend them before they are sent to be got up. If any are too far gone for repairs they will be useful for many purposes; the large pieces will make short blinds  for the back windows, and the small pieces are useful for tying up herbs and spices when making soup – for straining and so on.

"Possibly it may not occur to you when putting away the winter blankets that they are highly attractive to moths; they are more likely to be attacked than almost anything, so do not forget to put plenty of camphor bags between them.

"You asked me in your last how to preserve eggs for winter use. I have never been able to buy them sufficiently cheaply to make it worth while doing it; but if you are more fortunate you can preserve them either by rubbing them over with butter, which closes up the pores, and so prevents evaporation; or a still better way is to put them when quite fresh laid into a tub of lime-water made in the proportion of one pint of unslacked lime, and one pint of coarse salt to a bucketful of water. If too much lime is put in it will eat away at the shells. The eggs should be covered with the solution, and kept in a cold place, and they must be new laid, or they will not keep.

"You say you find a difficulty in getting a sufficient supply of gravy for your various dishes, as the stock made from bones looks such a poor colour that you cannot serve it as gravy. That is easily overcome by simply colouring the stock. The flavour necessary can be added with herbs. You had better make a supply of 'browning' to keep always at hand. A very usual way is to put two ounces of powdered sugar into a stewpan over a slow fire; as soon as it begins to melt commence stirring it till it is of a good dark colour; then add half a pint of cold water. Another way is: on two tablespoonfuls of chicory pour a good half-pint of boiling water, and let it stand. These should be put into bottles well corked, and a few drops of either will be sufficient for a small tureen of gravy. Or, if you do not object to the flavour, the burnt onions which you buy at the grocer's do very well."

The letter then went on to other household topics upon which Margaret had been in perplexity. One weak point in Betsy's cookery was melted butter, so-called, for certainly the solid starch-like mass sent to table under that name was like anything rather than butter. Her way of making it remains a mystery, but after once adopting Joanna's plan she never turned to the former style. The recipe was as follows:-

Take two ounces of butter; cut up small, that it may melt more easily; put it, with a large teaspoonful of flour and two tablespoonfuls of milk, into a stewpan; mix these with a wooden spoon to a smooth paste. Then add about six tablespoonfuls of cold water with a small pinch of salt, and still less of pepper; put it on the fire, and stir one way till it is just about to  oil; then leave of stirring, and when it boils it is done. To make the butter thinner add more milk.

One evening soon after this, the boys sallied forth towards the country lanes which lay just outside the town. They had provided themselves with baskets, old gloves, and knives, and told their sister they were going in search of country produce.

What was her surprise when they returned with baskets full and brimming over with young nettletops!

"Oh, boys! What did you get all that rubbish for?"

"Now, Madge, don't call it rubbish till you know what it is used for. You've got to boil them or frizzle them or something, and then they will be just like cabbages," responded Tom, knowingly.

"But what ever made you think of such an absurd idea," asked Margaret, laughing.

"That's always the way with girls. You think nobody makes inventions but yourselves."

"Now, Made, he's telling stories," chimed in Dick excitedly, "we didn't think of it at all. Only to-day at school young Melrose made us guess what he had had for dinner, and I guessed hedgehog, and Tom guessed cat, and all the fellows guessed things, and then he said 'nettles,' and then we didn't believe him, and he said, 'Well, you try,' and his mate never told him what it was till they had eaten it all; and they kept on saying what nice spinach it was, and so we thought we'd have some too, and we only cut the young tops off, so they are sure to be good. Only, Madge, if ever you go gathering them, mind you go alone, for if there's another fellow with you, and he's stooping down getting them, you feel you can't resist tipping him over into them."

"Yes, that's what he did to me, only I went clean head over heels and alighted on my back, so I didn't get stung a bit, so it was a sell for Dick," remarked Tom

"Well, I'll try them to-morrow, certainly, though I don't know how to do them," said Margaret, resignedly.

Accordingly the next day this enterprising family enjoyed a dish of nettles, which were decidedly successful, tender and nicely-flavoured, in fact almost undistinguishable from young spinach. They were cut up small and boiled in exactly the same way as spinach.

Shortly after this, Dick's fourteenth birthday came round, and on this important anniversary he was to have the privilege of inviting a select party of his friends to tea and games. Margaret felt a little anxious concerning the entertainment in both branches. As to the tea, she wished to make it as far as possible agreeable to boy palates and yet substantial withal; and the arrangement of her small menu took her some time. In the end it was very simple; plates of white and brown bread and butter, with various kinds of jam, were a matter of course; then followed Dick's favourite dish, potato-cakes, which he had specially requested might be included in the banquet. They were made from a recipe given Margaret some time before by the mother of Dick's particular friend, Melrose. She was an enterprising lady who was very fond of trying experiments in cookery, as was proved by her dish of nettles, and as she was always ready to give anyone the benefit of her experience, Margaret found her a very useful friend. The recipe was as follows:- "Boil a few potatoes (or use any which have been left from dinner), mash them up with a little butter and a pinch of salt. Empty on to the paste-board, rub in a little flour, and mix to the proper consistency with milk. An egg beaten up and mixed with the milk or half a teaspoonful of baking-powder is an improvement; but is not absolutely necessary. Roll it out, shape it into small cakes, and bake. Then cut them open and butter them, and serve whilst quite hot."

Then followed a heterogeneous collection of buns, toasted scones, and so on; amongst them some gingerbread cakes, which one of the epicures on the occasion pronounced to be "nice enough to make an old man young."

The recipe for them, as Margaret copied it for Joanna's use, was this:- 1 1/2 lbs treacle, 1/2 lb butter, 1 lb raw sugar, 3 eggs, 3 teaspoonfuls of baking powder, 1/2 oz ground ginger, 1 teaspoonful of salt. Mix the butter, melted, into the treacle, beat the eggs and pour them in; add the other ingredients, and [t as much flour as you can possibly mix into it. Make it into small cakes; put them a little distance apart on a tin. Bake in a moderate oven for a quarter of an hour.

And finally, as a delicate finish to the repast, there were two dishes of apples in custard. The apples were the dried chips, bought at a grocer's for sixpence a pound, stewed, sweetened, and flavoured with lemon.

As the family sat chatting round the fire the evening before Dick's birthday, Mr Colville mentioned that he would not be home till late the next night, and hoped Margaret would not find any difficulty in superintending the amusement of her guests.

"But they will not want amusing, I hope; boys generally seem to shake down and enjoy themselves when they get over their shyness.  And Mr Trent said he should very much like to drop in after tea, and play at being a schoolboy again, but I thought perhaps Dick might not like it; so, as it is his party, I did not respond very warmly."

"But I should like it very much, he is such a jolly fellow, and I'm sure the other fellows would like him, and we'll make him do those conjuring tricks he knows. I vote we ask him," cried Dick.

"Yes, Madge, I think you had better get him to come in," said Mr Colville. "If he really offered to look after the boys it would save you all the anxiety."

"I say, how awfully often Trent comes here lately!" said Tom, meditatively, from his post on the hearthrug, where he lay sprawling at full length.

He expected to be reproved for saying "awfully," but no one noticed it. Not choosing to have his remarks thus ignored, he went on, "I like him; he's an awfully good sort of fellow – don't you think so, Madge."

"I certainly see nothing 'awful' about him," replied his sister severely.

"I say, father, I don't believe he would come so often if one of us four was away, do you?" he went on, with that knowing air peculiar to budding youths, raising himself on his elbow and staring at Madge. Whereon she fell to blushing, whilst Mr Colville replied, unconcernedly enough –

"I don't perceive that he shows any particular partiality for any one member of the family above the others; but his father was a very old friend of mine, and he naturally feels at home among us. I am glad if you boys think he has taken a fancy to you; for he is a nice, intelligent sensible young fellow. Now, lads, off to bed with you, it is getting late."

"All right, father. Give us a hand up, Dick. Good-night, Madge. Why, how red your face is to be sure, and you're not near the fire either."

And with this parting shot the irrepressible boy departed.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

30 April 1881 - 'Seasonable Dress and How to Make It' by Dora de Blaquiere

This month, please wear warm underclothes even though the season has turned, the in colours of the season (blues and rich reds), and remember to pepper your furs before putting them away until next winter. 

Spring – with its violent and sudden changes, its storms and sunshine, which alternate so quickly as to render it most difficult to know "what to wear," even in our daily walks – is certainly the most treacherous and dangerous of all the seasons of the year. To young people, full of movement and life, it is especially so, as they more easily get overheated, and are more easily tempted to throw off winter clothing than their elders. A family physician of more than usual common sense, used to say in our hearing, years ago, that "flannel and merino underclothing should be left off on the 30th of June and put on on the 1st of July again," showing that in his experienced mind the wearing of warm underclothing must be the rule, not the exception. And so we advise all our young readers, even in summer, to wear some light-warm woollen material near the skin, and to adopt our old friend's advice about the non-dismissal of it at any time in the year.

We have spoken before now on the importance of an even temperature being preserved all over the body, and the great advantage the new combined underclothing gives in this way especially. All underpetticoats that are heavy and ungored should now be altered our dismissed, and others substituted which are light, warm, and well gored, and possess a deep well-cut yoke. The present excellent fashion of short dresses bids fair to prevail for some time, and there is a simple and very easy method of buttoning on a train below the flounce at the back, by which a morning dress can be turned into an evening dress with no trouble. Both dresses and sleeves, too, are wider, and so there is no need of endeavouring to preserve the ungainly, ugly fashion of extremely "tied back" skirts and skeleton arms.

In the methods of making there is extreme latitude allowed, for every style of bodice is worn – the polonaise, prettily draped, and buttoned or laced either at the back or the front; the cuirass bodice, and the coat bodice, which will be worn much as it was last year, as a sufficient to-of-door covering when the weather is warm enough. They are made in the same way, but the fronts are sometimes made in extremely long points, the back being something like a coat.

The three-figure illustration shows the present way of making girls' simple walking costumes. AT figs.1 and 2, the first wears a dress of serve, trimmed with velveteen, the colour of the serge being a golden brown, called *tete de faisan (pheasant's head), the velveteen being of a darker shade, and the woollen ball-fringe rather lighter, to match the serge. This figure wears a draped polonaise, with a scarf of velveteen below the waist, velveteen cuffs, and collar, and two leaf-shaped pieces of velveteen that fall below the polonaise over the two small flounces of the skirt. The hat is of dark brown felt, with trimmings o plush, and a feather tip of the lighter shade of the dress.

Fig.2 wears a dress of blue vigogne; the underskirt is of silk, or merino, with bands of galloon; the overskirt, which is of vigogne, opens in front, and is draped back on one side; the bodice has a plain long basque, edged with galloon, and buttoned down the front; the hat of blue straw, with a trimming of grey-green leaves to suit the colour of the blue, and a plush lining of grey-green, which shows above the forehead, where the bonnet turns up.

The third figure shows the new method of making the habit bodice this season. The fronts are pointed, the narrow basque being continued above the hips to the back, where it is pointed to match the front.

Fig.4 is a charming girl's dress, which is especially adapted to the altering and remaking of old dresses. The material of the illustrated costume was a basket-woven beige, the bodice and sleeves being trimmed with a plaid material of silk and wool; the "Black Watch" tartan, one of the new fancy French checks, being, any of them, very pretty. This idea may be carried out  for the mending and making up of old black dresses; the figured or checked material will then look best to be of old-gold and black, or red and black. The balayeuse, or kilting, should be either of old gold or red.

The bonnet illustrated at fig.5 is a small fancy straw, lined with a shaded silk, the strings being of the same. The flowers are those of the spring, which are peculiarly suited to the use of young girls – the daisy, the snowdrop, and the violet, to add a little colour to the group.

The new spring colours must not be forgotten. Yellows and browns, both together and alone, seem to be the favourite hues of the day, and a very pleasant mixture they prove. Then comes a lovely blue hue called *saphir, which, with *bleu de ciel and turquoise blue, will be much used all the summer. A beautiful red, called by many names, will be much worn; it resembles a cardinal, but is deeper and richer, and reminds one of the red which in those fierce and warlike days of the Franco-Prussian war the French introduced and named *sang de Prusse, with questionable taste. Then there are greys and drabs, without number, and a beautiful dark hue called *cassis, which is copied from the red currant and bears its French name.

All kinds of straw bonnets are worn, and all descriptions of shapes. Many girls choose the "grannie" bonnet, which was also worn last year, and indeed, Miss Kate Greenaway's pictures have pretty well used us to quaint old-fashioned poke shapes for young girls, and very pretty some of them look. There are plain white straws also, which exactly resemble some worn by our great-great-grandmothers, trimmed with plain blue ribbon which almost makes them into the bonnet of the little charity girls, or the queer shape worn at the Foundling Hospital.

Belts and bags of yellow leather and others of plush have been brought out for the use of young girls, and very useful and pretty they are. The fashion of wearing belts and buckles and gathered bodices is more becoming to young figures than to old ones, and they have one great advantage, they are easily made and fitted at home.

Capes of several shapes are to be worn, the prettiest of the new ones being the "Mother Hubbard, which is exactly like the top of the cloak of that name, cut off where the sleeves are put in, just at the elbow. The gathered top and the bow at the back with the high frill are all very graceful, and this cape, though small, gives much additional warmth in the chilly days of late spring. The cape and pointed hood of the Red River voyager and the Eskimo have also been copied for one o our new spring hoods, and very becoming they are. These little capes are easily made at home, and are much newer than the sleeveless jackets which have been worn so long.

Quantities of silk and thread gloves with many buttons are prepared  for the spring and summer.  For the benefit of those who do not know how to wash them, we will give an excellent way: Place the gloves on the hands and wash the hands with borax water or white Castile soap, as if you were really washing the hands. Rinse in fresh water, and dry as much as possible with a towel, keeping the gloves on until they are about half dry. Then take them off carefully, and fold them up so that they may look as nearly like new gloves as possible. Lay them between two clean towels, and press them under a weight.

And now we must give a few lines to the important subject of taking care of the winter clothes that we are about to lay aside  for the summer months. Furs must be shaken and well beaten with a small rod, so as to get all the dust and dirt out, as well as the eggs of the moth, which may be laid in them already. When this is doe, pepper them well with strong white pepper, and wrap them in linen, putting them away, if possible, in a tin box.

In regard to winter clothing, it is absolutely needful that it should be put away clean, and well brushed and beaten, if it is to be preserved from moths. All the greasy and dirty spots should be taken out, and in folding up the utmost care should be taken. A tablespoonful of spirits of ammonia or of hartshorn added to a teacupful of boiling water, covered up and allowed to cool, is an excellent mixture for taking out grease. Apply with a bit of sponge or flannel before quite cool, rubbing the spot briskly, having first brushed the dust well out of it. Rinse with a little clean water, and rub dry with a piece of the same as the dress, if possible. Dry in the air or in a sunny window. If the grease has not disappeared, go over again in the same manner, being careful to rub the same way as the nap of the materials. This recipe will take out grease, sweet or sticky spots, or anything that has not taken out the colour of the fabric.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

24 April 1881 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

LITTLE MOLLY – Your name should be engraved or written on your mother's card. If the friends on whom you call be at home, your cards will not be needed. Tell your names to the servant who will announce you, and if your father should send his card, lay it on the hall table as you leave the house.

GREENWOOD – Your desire to devote your restored health to the service of the sick is a very commendable one; but in some cases such creditable desires cannot be carried out; and under the disappointment which you would naturally feel, you must remember that while David's intention to build the Temple was frustrated, his desire to do so was accepted and approved. "It is well that it was in thine heart," was the answer of God. Now in reference to your being a nurse, having been four years suffering from a severe pulmonary affection, we feel sure that you are quite unsuited to such an arduous life. Strong health and nerves are amongst the essential requirements in a nurse. Do not think of it further.

CELANDINE – Feed your puppy with a little sop of bread and milk and water, or porridge and dogs' biscuits. While very young feed him night and day.

CORAL NECKLACE – Gooseberries are not served as a dish for dessert in society. At home, you hold the gooseberry, and having pulled off the little terminal tuft at the end, you squeeze the contents into your mouth. In reference to grapes, which always appear at dinners in society, there is a fully acknowledged difficulty. It is a safe rule to notice what the best bred persons do who are present at table with you; but it is an undoubted fact that they usually make a cup of the left hand, place it close to the mouth, and so receive the stones and skins, and convey them as privately as possibly to the plate, while others swallow the whole in preference. But no one likes to do either; and the best plan is to restrict your indulgences in all such fruits to private dinners.

BESSIE – Your poems have merit and show good feeling likewise; and you write a pretty, well-formed hand; but we cannot always publish even good amateur productions. You are right in supposing that we are neither "bewigged nor bespectacled" nor at all disposed to find fault with your kind letter. We shall always be glad to hear from so good a friend.

CLEMENCE TAYLOR – You suffer from bad circulation, produced either by insufficient clothing and food, or those which are not suitable for your case, or else from too sedentary a life; or, again, you may have a feeble heart. Take exercise; use a flesh brush; eat warming food, such as lentils, beans, peas and so forth; and wear merino under-vests and warm stockings. If not sufficient to improve your state, consult a doctor.

ROBIN – Enclose a note in the parcel containing the wedding gift, only inscribing upon it:- "With all good wishes (or affectionate wishes) for your happiness – From 'Robin,'" giving your real name. Your writing is stiff and large, a more flowing hand would be prettier.

RUTH – Considerably more than a hundred letters come every day. It is necessary to make some selection for replies, although all letters are read. To many questions answers have already appeared  in previous numbers. Others will be met b articles soon to appear. Other questions are either trifling ones or could be answered by any person at hand, by an older girl or teacher, or by referring to common school books or dictionaries. Some scores of letters ask opinions about handwriting! If all letters were answered there would be no space left for other matters.

A.C. of E.H.S. GIRL – You give yourself much too long a name for our columns. Exercise a little strength of will and purpose, and resolutely keep your hands still when addressing anyone.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

23 April 1881 'How to Wash and Dress the Baby' by Ruth Lamb - Chapter 1 'About Little Nurses'

Before I enter upon the main subject of these chapters I should like to devote a portion of them to a very large class of helpful-handed little people. I mean young nurses. This class includes both boys and girls. Had it not been for this fact, I might perhaps call these youngsters "Little Mothers." But I see, almost daily, such pleasant pictures of small boy-nurses in the exercise of their vocation, that the class must be understood to include them also, if fairly treated.

Perhaps there is no place in which the genus "little nurse" can be studied in all its varieties and to greater advantage than in our public parks. On every fine morning especially, it is to be met with at almost every turn, and of nearly all ages above that of the actual baby in charge.

In the houses of well-to-do people, where there are experienced nurses to assist mothers in the care of their children, or sometimes – alas that it should be so! – to take the entire charge of them during infancy, the elder little people of the family generally have to beg to be allowed to "take baby."

The little lassie of eight or nine who is, perhaps, a baby worshipper, and whose ambition it is to be called a good nurse, is sometimes quite indignant at the amount of supervision to which she is subjected all the while baby is on her knee. She chafes at the continual charges, "Mind you don't hurt him, Miss Annie!" "He'll be off your knee if you're not more careful!" "Put your arm behind his back!" and so on, *ad libitum.

At the same time the vigilant eyes of nurse are so perpetually turned in the direction of her amateur assistant, that any sense of responsibility in that quarter is utterly destroyed, and Miss Annie herself waxes indignant under this persistent and irritating espionage.

True, the elder child's young arms lack the strength and dexterity of nurse's practised ones; but baby, if well, does not object to Annie's rather awkward mode of handling him. He likes to see her young, fresh laughing face close to his, and sister Annie's hair is delightful to pull and to bury his small fists in. He seizes it and tugs with all his might, and so retaliates on his little nurse for having so poked and tickled him into a fit of laughter, in which she joins as heartily. His real nurse's head-gear is much less attractive, her prim cap being carefully and necessarily kept out of baby's clutches, and her hair, tidily tucked beneath it, offers no such temptation to baby's roving fingers as to Miss Annie's soft flowing curls.

But nurse has perhaps just tidied Miss Annie for dinner, and the ruffled hair is an additional grievance. "You should not let baby pull your hair so," she says, in a tone of reproof. "I shall have it all to curl up again before you go downstairs."

It seems a pity to disturb such a delightful game, when baby brother and little sister are so innocently happy. But Annie is tired of such constant looking after, tired of the continual nagging and cautioning, and she would not hurt the chubby darling for all the world. So she sighs in a weary fashion, gives baby a hearty kiss on his dear little distended mouth, evading another grab at her curls as she does so, and resigns herself anew into the hands of nurse, who grumbles a good deal at having to put her right a second time.

Annie's mind is considerably exercised on the subject of nursing and of her assumed helplessness in comparison with the scores of little nurses whom she sees in sole charge of babies. None of the tiny creatures appear to come to any harm in consequence of the trust reposed in mere children by poor mothers who have no choice but to do this, if their household work is to be completed in anything like a reasonable time. She wonders why poor people's children may be trusted to do all sorts of things for and with babies; whereas she is looked after, watched and cautioned at every turn, just as if her little brother was made of egg-shell china, and she had made up her mind to break him with a touch.

Miss Annie looks at her round strong arms, very different from those of some little nurses she sees out of doors; she knows that her limbs are stronger, because she has good health, and is better fed and looked after than they are; she has the will to be useful, and she loves, with all the warmth of her young heart, the helpless darling in the nursery at home.

She feels half-angry, half-humiliated, and says to herself, "I wish I lived in a cottage where there are no nurses to bother and fidget, then mamma would be glad to let me have baby and take him out whenever I liked."

There are plenty of children like our "miss Annie," who grow up comparatively helpless, but who are only so because they are neither taught how to make themselves useful, nor trusted. As a hint both to mothers and children, let me point out a few of the valuable qualities which I have seen developed in little nurses. These have come under my notice as I have watched them in the streets and parks, far beyond the overseeing eye of the mother who was often toiling for their bread at the wash-tub or in the mill.

Carefulness, patience, unselfishness, endurance, good temper, tender love  for the little one, and trustworthiness. Perhaps I should notice the last mentioned quality before all the rest. The mother must believe in its existence when she trusts her infant to the care of a nine year old girl or boy. How seldom does the child fail her! How carefully is the baby held, just as a mother holds it! How watchful are those young eyes over the one, two, or three other children who play round the doorstep or near a eat in the park on which the little nurse sits with her sleeping charge.

As to patience, I do not know whether to yield the palm for this virtue to the boy or the girl nurse. Only a few mornings ago I noticed a boy patting, petting, kissing, and comforting a baby whose tearful eyes and pouting lips told of some little trouble. How he persevered in his efforts to pacify the child! He walked up and down, made droll faces and droller noises, until at last he won back a smile to the bonny round face, while his own looked the picture of happiness. The sound of a hearty kiss was the last thing I heard as I turned out of the park.

If you want to know whether these little nurses are interested in their charges, seat yourself near a couple of them and listen to their conversation. You can have a book in your hand, which will put them quite at their ease, though you need not read it.

One will perhaps tell, with anxious face, of some narrow escape that her baby had had through getting cold when he had measles. The other will speak with exultation of a new frock which mother is making for hers. They will compare ages, count and exhibit the wee ivories just peeping, and tenderly rub the little gums to help the next one through. And is not that small nurse a proud individual if her baby, being the same age as the other, or perhaps a little younger, has actually cut a tooth or two more, or has a less bald pate under its woollen hood.

Then what beauty they see in their baby's face! You and I might think it a poor skinny elfish-looking creature, but the little nurse does not. Love gives beauty, and the helpless thing is perfectly lovely in the eyes of its young guardian. You will hear all sorts of admiring epithets showered upon it if you listen.

You know the little nurse's arms ache, and you wonder how she goes on holding it, hour after hour, without a word of complaint. Many a mother would think she had done a great thing had she held her child for half the time.

I write especially in the hope of attracting the thoughtful attention of the girls who will be the mothers of the next generation.

If you, dear girls who read this paper will look around you, you will see many an exhibition of those fine qualities of patience and uncomplaining endurance amongst the little nurses in whom I feel a deep interest. Conscience will, perhaps, tell you that untaught, ignorant, as many of them are, you might yet learn many a lesson from them as you pass along the highways in town or country.

The little nurses are unselfish and brave. Often I Have seen one take off the little woollen shawl, which was doing duty as a bonnet on her own person as well as being her only out-door covering, and wind it round the baby lest the cold wind should reach him.

Fancy, too, the temptations that have to be resisted. Do you not think those two bright lads would like a game at marbles, as well as their neighbours who are unfettered by baby or perambulator? Of course they would, and, depend on it, the faithful nurses, whether girls or boys, fight and bravely win a hard battle when they turn from ball, skipping-rope, hoop, or marbles, and remain the spectators of games in which they long to join, because they will not neglect the helpless infants entrusted to their care.

They have their pleasures as well as trials. In the warm, summer weather, when the grass is dry and the sun shining, the little ones will kick about and sprawl on the ground, enjoying the bustle that is going on around them. But often, when the day we glorious for active play, and the sky is bright and clear, there is a cold wind and the grass is damp. Baby could not be laid down safely, and then the courage and self-denial of the little nurse are called into operation. Then great victories are won of which the world knows nothing.

Little nurses, as a rule, have their reward in the growth, progress, and increasing strength of their babies. What joy and exultation do the first tottering steps cause to their guardians! How proud are they when the wee thing can run alone!

And far beyond even these rewards are the approving smile and word, the whispered blessing, the loving kiss of a good mother, with whose cares and anxieties their children sympathise, and whose toil their young hands have lightened.

There are such animals as crabby, impatient little nurses. I have seen such that could scold and even strike the help.ess and unfortunate babies with which they had to do. But, thank god! There are few instances of this kind and so many of the opposite.

There are mothers, too, who are apt, probably because they do not think about it, to speak lightly or not at all of their children's services. They take their loving labours as a matter of course, and hardly care to cheer and encourage them on the path of duty. So the children gradually become indifferent, and look upon that as an irksome task which should be a pleasure. But it is not with such as these that I am specially dealing in this paper. I wish to picture, as I o often see them manifested, those high and noble qualities which are drawn out in the characters of children by the very fact of trusting them.

We cannot help contrasting the helpful children of the cottage and the streets with those who do nothing, simply because they have so many people to care for them that they are neither called on to think for themselves, nor for others. Watched, waited on, thought for in everything, they grow up helpless, because they have never been exercised in self-reliance; and selfish, because they have not been taught the blessedness of giving, or giving up anything  for the sake of others.

There is one sad drawback in the case of little nurses who are trusted too much and too early. They seem almost weighed down with family cares whilst they are but children. Theirs is the growing "old too soon." But in the homes of well-to-do parents, there is little fear of the children being overburdened, whilst it would surely be worth their while to draw out such qualities in their young people as are daily exercised in the houses of their poorer neighbours.

Children who never have to do with babies are often, I was going to say amusingly, awkward in handling an infant. Better, however, say pitiably awkward; because it is a pity that the "future mothers" of our race should have no training in this most important part of woman's work. Boys of this class usually consider it *infra dig to notice babies in public. If they condescend to kiss them they manifest a strong objection to open-mouthed salutes, and touch the little velvet cheek with their lips much as they might approach a red-hot poker. It is a touch-and-go process, which makes mothers and grown-up nurses smile pityingly at the urchin who does not know how delightful is a genuine baby kiss.

Happily, there are lots of little mothers "to the manner born" in every station f life. I fancy I see one of these as I write. From her very infancy she loves her doll as a true mother loves her child, and should an accident befall her wooden or waxen darling, she grieves and moans over it, not as a broken toy, but a wounded baby. Its eruptions – of sawdust – cause her all the anxiety incident to measles. Her tears are real tears, and it is of no use to intimate that the broken arm, over which she is weeping causes Dolly no pain.

A matter-of-fact child laughs contemptuously at the idea of a doll being able to feel, and points to the wooden fragments as proof of her being in the right. She means well, doubtless, but her calm indifference only adds to the grief of the loving-hearted little mite, who presses her injured darling to her breast and loses hours of sleep in weeping.

There is neither rest nor comfort for her until somebody sets to work and restores the limb as far as possible, and then she sleeps; but even then she sobs at intervals as if the trouble could not be forgotten.

As the little mother grows older she wins everybody's admiration by the "handy" way in which she nurses a real baby, and when she has shot up into a slender slip of a lass, as tall as her own mother, she is a greater infant-worshipper than ever. She bestows a perfect wealth of love on the wee things, and the younger they are the better she likes them; because they want the most care and nursing.

If the little mother is missing from her own home circle, her mamma sends a message of inquiry to the nearest friend's house, where she is made free of the nursery, or perhaps to some cottage in the neighbourhood, where a nice clean baby is to be found. Perhaps her attentions are least acceptable to children beyond babyhood. She plagues them a little by wanting to wash and tidy them more frequently than they like, because she is so fond of the work and delights in making them look nice. But she generally coaxes them to submit by offering bribes in the shape of wonderfully got-up dolls, of which she always has a store ready, dressed by her nimble young fingers.

Bless the loving little woman! She is not without a reasonable liking for school work, and loves reading as well as most. But her great charm is her delightful motherliness, even as a child, a quality which is, I fear, insufficiently cultivated at home, and never thought of at all in schools, or supposed to have any place in the so-called "Higher Education of Women."

Yet when I see these sweet feminine qualities in the lassie, I often think to myself that if I were a youth - a good one, mind – I should watch the growing into womanhood of such a "little mother" as I have described. I should value the development of these heaven-bestowed womanly instincts as something more precious than any amount of certificates won for Latin or advanced mathematical knowledge. And though I might have a choice between such a little damsel as I have described and a feminine senior wrangler, I would do my best to win the little mother as the mistress of my future home.

Just another picture of little nurses and I will finish. Some years ago I was in the Peel Park Museum, Salford, and was much edified at the sight of a number of these small people standing before the cases of gaily-plumaged, stuffed birds. They were spelling out the names and repeating them to such of their companions as were above baby age, thus doing their best to improve their minds as well as care for their bodies. I felt rather put out when a policeman conducted them to the door and told them, not unkindly, to "Go play in the park," probably for fear the clatter of their clogs should offend the ears of some well-dressed grown-up folk in the museum The longing, lingering looks they cast behind them quite spoiled my enjoyment, and I felt sorry that in this "People's Museum" well-behaved poor children should have been sent out, because their feet were clogged instead of shod, and necessarily made a clatter on the floors.

I went out almost immediately, and as I drew near the entrance gates I met a picnic party coming into the park – a little girl nurse with a disproportionately large baby in her arms, and quite a train of attendant youngsters, who were evidently going to have "a day out." They were nearly all barefoot, and their clothing was poor and scanty, though the baby was well bundled up in all sorts of odds and ends of garments.

There was a provision basket, containing a bottle of blueish-tinted milk, thick lunches of bread and dripping, a few green apples, and some indescribable scraps of other food. The party did not live in the immediate neighbourhood, as was evident,  for the young leader glanced around in some bewilderment and then said to me, "Please will you tell me the way to the swings?"

I directed her to the girls' playground adding, "There were plenty of swings at liberty a few minutes since."

This information gave new vigour to the youngsters. The little nurse thanked me, hitched the baby a little higher on her shoulder, gave her free hand to the toddler next in size, saying, "Come on, Georgie. The lady says there's plenty of swings ready for us."

Away went the bare feet pattering over the hard gravel path, and this humble picnic party was soon lost to my view. With all my heart I wished them a happy day, a safe return, and a good rest  for the little nurse in charge when the evening shadows should begin to fall.

Many a time since then, when I have seen over-indulged, helpless girls satiated with too many pleasures, almost wishing they had a want, and not knowing how to spend their time and use their strong limbs, I have thought of that half-clad, barefooted group, and of the almost awful responsibility of the mere child who was charged with the safe conduct of the rest.

When I began this chapter I did not intend to let little nurses occupy so much space, but they came before my mind's eye in such crowds, and I have long felt such a deep motherly interest in them as a class, that I have permitted them to push the baby itself out of sight for a time.

Yet I am truly anxious to interest both mothers and girls in this most important subject – namely, whatever concerns the care of the comfort and well-being of the baby. I am going to write out some simple instructions for its management, which I hope may be of use to young nurses who are willing but unskilful, and who are therefore afraid to offer help in washing, dressing, or nursing the baby.