Friday, January 20, 2012

to mourn in velvet

The following was deemed amusing by yours truly under the influence of a good liter of ginseng tea late at night. Quoted in Victorian London, originally penned by satirist Thomas Hood about Victorian funeral dress...

The Squire and his lady cross over the road and enter the shop, 
where ebony chairs are placed for them by a person in a full suit of sables. 
A young man, also in black leans across the counter with the solemn air 
and a tone of a clergyman at a funeral 

May I have the melancholy pleasure of serving you, madam? 

Lady. I wish, sir, to look at some mourning. 

Shopm. Certainly, by all means. A relation, I presume? 

Lady. Yes; a widow, sir. A poor friend of mine,
 who has lost her husband. 

Shopm. Exactly so — for a deceased partner. 
How deep would you choose to go, ma'am ? Do you wish to be very 

Lady. Why, I suppose crape and bombazine, unless they're gone out of fashion. 
But you had better show me some different sorts. 

Shopm. Certainly, by all means. We have a very extensive assortment, 
whether for family, Court, or complimentary mourning, including the 
last novelties from the Continent. 

Lady. Yes, I should like to see them. 

Shopm. Certainly. There is one, ma'am, just imported — 
a Widow's Silk — watered, as you perceive, to match the sentiment. 
It is called the " Inconsolable ; " and is very much in 
vogue in Paris for matrimonial bereavements. 

Squire. Looks rather flimsy, though. Not likely to last long — eh, sir? 

Shopm. A little slight, sir — rather a delicate texture. 
But mourning ought not to last forever, sir. 

Squire, No, it seldom does ; especially the violent sorts. 

Lady, La ! Jacob, do hold your tongue ; what do you know about fashionable affliction ? 
But never mind him, sir, it's only his way. 

Shopm, Certainly — by all means. As to mourning, ma'am, 
there has been a great deal, a very great deal indeed, this season, 
and several new fabrics have been introduced, 
to meet the demand for fashionable tribulation. 

Lady. And all in the French style ? 

Shopm, Certainly — of course, ma'am. They excel in the funebre. 
Here, for instance, is an article for the deeply afflicted. 
A black crape, expressly adapted to the profound style of mourning, 
— makes up very sombre and interesting. 

Lady, I dare say it does, sir. 

Shopm, Would you allow me, ma'am, to cut off a dress ? 

Squire, You had better cut me off first. 

Shopm, Certainly, sir -r- by all means. 
Or, if you would prefer a velvet — ma'am — 

Lady, Is it proper, sir, to mourn in velvet ? 

Shopm, O, quite ! — certainly. Just coming in. 
Now, here is a very rich one — real Genoa — and a splendid black. 
We call it the Luxury of Woe. 

Lady. Very expensive, of course? 

Shopm. Only eighteen shillings a yard, and a superb quality
in short, fit for the handsomest style of domestic calamity. 

Squire. Whereby, I suppose, sorrow gets more superfine 
as it goes upwards in life ? 

Shopm. Certainly — yes, sir — by all means — at least, a finer texture.
The mourning of poor people is very coarse — 
very — quite different firom that of persons of quality. 
Canvas to Crape, sir ! 

Lady. To be sure it is ! And as to the change of dress, sir, 
I suppose you have a great variety of half-mourning ? 

Shopm. O, infinite, — the largest stock in town ! Full, and half, 
and quarter, and half-quarter mourning, shaded off, if I may say so, 
like an India-ink drawing, from a grief pronounced to the slightest 
nuance of regret. 

Lady. Then, sir, please to let me see some Half Mourning. 

Shopm. Certainly. But the gentleman opposite superintends 
the Intermediate Sorrow Department....


  1. When we get damoclesed, I'm applying to the Intermediate Sorrows Department. Customers will, bien sûr, be somber, but with fewer tears, work won't be too stressful.

  2. And you'd finally have an excuse to get that top hat!

  3. Verily I shall sport such a nattily-clad cranium when hugging the Peter Steele tree.