Sweetmeat Addendum

Yesterday, when cruising the web curious for other instances of “sweetmeat motto” I stumbled upon a wondrous newspaper column from Australia. “FASHIONS. From Our London Lady Correspondent”, Western Mail, Perth, Saturday 23 April 1887. The column, reviewing the latest home décor baubles, must’ve been an exquisitely excruciating read for prim ladies dragged to the frontier by the gold rush (or whatever misadventure brought them to the arid edge of the empire). I’ll quote the whole article below because the language is as incredible & florid as the fashions described. Reporting from a visit to the stationery corner of a shop in Picadilly, our penwoman informs us unfortunates marooned in the Outback that “Letter-weights have given rise to all sorts of fanciful designs and grotesqueries—birds, bees, blossoms, and, to be alliterative, beasts in every vagary of nature are there”. To keep us abreast of this season’s trend in “surprise valentines” she tells of a ghastly excitement I can hardly believe she’d allow at her own table. “A melon is served at desert, with a fuse burning from the stalk end. At the right moment there is an explosion, the melon is in fragments, and the table is strewn with every kind of delicious sweetmeat, motto, and verse”. My dear woman, you have carelessly revealed that you are in possession of a wild side!

 

 

FASHIONS.

From Our London Lady Correspondent.

At the time when the decorations on the dinner table seem more important than the menu itself, and when the china glass, and silver pressed into the service are not only of the costliest description but fashioned according to the canons of high art, it is refreshing to be able to describe an arrangement—that word is so delightfully comprehensive—which, when producing a striking and really beautiful effect, costs literally only a few shillings. A certain hostess had taken a number of small dark green wicker baskets of the roughest manufacture, shaped somewhat like a tube lily, and had twisted them into a graceful form. These she filled with flowers of red shading, and placed them at intervals along the table. Small liberty scarves of various tones of red were formed in front into a sort of cornucopia, in which was the menu card; the remainder was gracefully draped. Between each card was a divided space, occupied by a fairy light of the faintest tone of red. The effect was soft and harmonious in the extreme. Speaking of menu cards, the new armorial stand seems likely to be the favourite of the season. As the name indicates, the coat of arms, or simply the crest, is reproduced in silver, and fixed on the base of a stand, behind which the card is placed. I saw at a large shop in Piccadilly a set of six in a handsome case just being sent off as a bridal gift. Another novelty I saw at the same establishment was a fitted writing tray on stand for use in bed. Every requisite for the pen was there in handy form. At a touch the legs of the stand fold under, and as the fittings are easy of removal, it can be used for other purposes. Her Majesty ordered 18 for Windsor. A soft leather-lined basket also attracted my notice and roused my acquisitiveness. This had everything a professional penman, or penwoman either, could desire—scissors, paste, pens galore, and all the little etceteras we of the craft require at our elbow. Letter-weights have given rise to all sorts of fanciful designs and grotesqueries—birds, bees, blossoms, and, to be alliterative, beasts in every vagary of nature are there.

I must find room for a word about the Rhys’ valentines in sweetmeats. You open a fancy box, and lo, a lovely fan, all of almond paste, carried out in every detail. Another box discloses a heart, with a flame issuing from the top, and on one side a tiny cradle with a Baby Bunting in it. But the surprise valentines are the greatest novelties. A melon is served at desert, with a fuse burning from the stalk end. At the right moment there is an explosion, the melon is in fragments, and the table is strewn with every kind of delicious sweetmeat, motto, and verse. A “bomb” is another surprise, and this I am told, explodes with a force that gives quite a shock. I interviewed the collection, and felt in the wonderland of a “Zoo.” From Bismark and his Kaiser, in chocolate, full length figures, to the useful porker in almond paste, the range was varied. I carried off a porker from mere admiration of his well-moulded parts. The best and prettiest model, however, was a Jubilee bust of Her Majesty the Queen, in white sugar. The likeness is perfect.

A very useful riding novelty is the Russia leather strap-bracelet, with a tiny watch in the centre.

 

Western Mail, Perth, Saturday 23 April 1887

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