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Jazmine Butterfly
10-17-2006, 11:54 AM
I was looking through a neat old book (circa 1840) and I found this clipping of a poem pressed neatly between the pages, I thought I would share it with you.
It's titled
"Dressing for Church" (the author was not noted)
Has any body heard the bell?
You have? Dear me, I know full well
I’ll never dress in time,
For mercy’s sake, come help me, Jane,
I’ll make my toilet quite plain,
(this is for the sake of rhyme.)

Here – lace this gaiter for me - do;
“A hole,” you say? Plague take the shoe?
Please, Janey, try and hide it.
I know its Sunday, but, my soul,
I cannot wear it with a hole!
The men will surely spy it.

They’re always peeping at our feet,
(Though, to be sure, they needn’t peep,
the way we hold our dresses)
I’ll disappoint them, though, to-day,
“And cross myself,” pray, did you say?
Don’t laugh at my distresses.

How beautifully this silk will rustle,”
(Please hand my “self-adjusting bustle,”
my corset and my hoop.)
There, now, I’ll take five skirts or six;
Do hurry Jane, and help me fix –
You know I can not stoop!

“How shall I say my prayers to-day?”
As if girls went to church to pray!
How can you be so foolish?
Here, damp this ribbon in cologne;
“What for?” to paint, you silly one-
Now, Janey, don’t be mulish.

It’s no more harm than “Lily White”
(Please, see if this cheek’s painted right,
and hand my box of chalk,)
Now, damp the towel, Janey, dear,
And wipe this eyebrow- much I fear
I shall be late to walk,

Now then my bonnet, if you please –
The thing’s as big as all out doors,
The frightful sugar scoop!
Thank heaven, my mantle’s handsome tho’
It cost enough to be, I know,
(straighten this horrid hoop.)

My handkerchief and gloves you’ll find,
Just in that drawer- you’re very kind,
(does my dress trail?)
It’s all the fashion, now you know,
(pray does the paint and powder show
through this lace and veil?)

Thank you, my dear, I believe I’m dressed,
The saints be praised! The day of rest
Comes only once in seven;
For if on all the other six
This trouble I should have to fix,
I’d never get to heaven.

Delia Godric
10-17-2006, 12:30 PM
Thank you for posting this poem. Could you add the book's information so I can look through the rest?

A friend was recently asking me about dressing for church. While this isn't exactly what she had in mind, I think she will find is just as amusing.

Now, my question is this.... How seriously do we take author? I normally think of proper dress for church to be nice, modest, best in many cases such as a simple black or blue or such silk or wool or wool/silk dress with a modest bonnet and nice shawl. I fully admit I have not put due research into proper apparal for church. This poem suggests more of a "dress to impress" attitude than what I picture. How prominate would this be?

Puzzled and amused,
Anna Worden

Catherine Kelly
10-17-2006, 12:44 PM
Hi Anna,

as I read the delightful poem.. I get the impression that it dates to the 1900s when ladies did dress to impress with their large bonnets, bustles and Gibson girl hair style...

Edit to add ... the book is 1840 but the cliping was pressed in the pages and could be much later.

Catherine

Delia Godric
10-17-2006, 12:53 PM
Edit to add ... the book is 1840 but the cliping was pressed in the pages and could be much later.

I don't know how I missed the clipping part. I saw the 1840, read the poem, wondered about a few things. That's why I asked about the book info. Thanks for pointing out the clipping part.

Do we have any good period references to dressing for church? After the conversation I mentioned above, I looked in the guide books I had to find less then I wanted. I didn't pick up looking after that.

Anna Worden

hanktrent
10-17-2006, 01:08 PM
Dressing to impress at church seems to have been a widespread cliche in the period. I'm sure it didn't occur among all sects, but generally, it's hard to believe so much emphasis would be placed on it in humor and average conversation, if it wasn't a well-known phenomenon.

I recall another joke--in Harper's maybe?--about a woman who was sick and couldn't attend church. Someone asked if she missed attending, and she said no, she had her servant sit at the window and describe the fashions on the women walking by on their way to church, and it was almost the same as being there.

Fanny Fern had this to say in 1857 (in Fresh Leaves):

On Sunday morning, the New York woman taketh all the jewelry she can collect, and in her flashiest silk and bonnet, taketh her velvet-bound, gilt-clasped prayer-book out for an airing. Arrived at Dives' church, she straightway kneeleth and boweth her head; not, as the uninitiated may suppose, to pray, but privately to arrange her curls; this done, and raising her head, she sayeth, "we beseech thee to hear us, good Lord!" while she taketh a minute inventory of the Hon. Mrs. Peters's Parisian toilette.

A couple newspaper examples from Vicki Betts' archives, from the Charleston Mercury, Jan. 24, 1863:


Her brother belonged to one of the batteries, and hearing that he was wounded, she started out alone and on foot for the battle field; and, against the remonstrances of all who saw her, walked along the line of entrenchments and across an open field, swept by a murderous fire of musketry, grape and canister, as if she had been going to church to show her new bonnet, to the point where his battery was.

And Sept. 14, 1860:


Piety, per se, is omnipotent, or would be if it could thus exist; but, while Fashion holds the sceptre, Piety must perforce succumb. Who would go to church en dishabille? Where would be the profit of a new fall hat if not to swell with envy rivals in church?

Just a few of dozens and dozens of examples.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Delia Godric
10-17-2006, 01:37 PM
Thank you Hank. Those examples are very helpful. I will go look through Vicki's site as soon as I get off the phone with the computer tech trying to solve a classroom computer problem.

The joke you are recalling reminded me of a journal I was reading last week. She recorded with frequency instances of not making it to church for what ever reason. She didn't have a servent to watch out the window. I do remember one passage mentioning a friend or relative coming to share all the gossip with her.

Anna Worden

Jazmine Butterfly
10-17-2006, 02:27 PM
I am delighted to hear that you are enjoying the poem!

To answer your question the book was Ulyses S Grant and it was a first editon published in 1868 (my bad, wrong circa date in the original thread) The clipping gives no clues as to when the date was. It is a heavier bond paper then what was used for newsprint (I believe) because it is not brittle, nor terribly fragile or thin. I wonder if it was clipped from a magazine, or perhaps an almanac. On the back of the clipping there is some pollitical chatter, and the most that I can get from it is this (and please forgive the "..." there were word fragments missing on the back, evidently, the humorous poem was more attractive to the "clipper" than the politics on the reverse side :)

" said that had it been his privelege to choose the candidate for the Republican party in 1860, he should have selected as did the Convention at Chicago, Abraham Lincoln. He regarded Mr. Lincoln as a man eminently fit for the great c... upon which he was destined to enter. He not only possessed abilities of most most distinguished order, but, beyond ..... man that he (Mr.S.) knew in the country at this time, he was reliable.

Seward's remarks upon Lincoln were recieved with the most enthusiastic cheers.

At the conclusion of his brief speech he fell into conversation with his hear... addressing them with questions which drew out hearty responses, and appeared to afford him much satisfaction. He had promised, he said, 60,000 majority from New-York for old "Abe," wanted to know if his promise would be redeemed. The reply was a roar of various affirmations- "We'll do it"--"We'll do it"- "We'll double it".
"Seventy-five thousand,"- "You di....put it large enough," &c.&c.

Then he asked about Erie County, what the Republicans here were going to do for Mr. Spaulding. Again there were a hundred varying shouts. "We will elect him by 3,500 majority," "5,000 majority", "1,500 in the city," "2,500 in the city," Haven hasn't a sho... "Fusion won't work," etc. etc.

As Mr. Seward made a motion to retire, some one asked him about Kansas, Said he, "When your city of Buffalo .... a population of 100,000, as virtuous, brave, as sterling in quality, as energ... and as enterprising as those who peo... the plains of Kansas, then will the "irrepressable conflict' have come to an end. Saying this, he bowed and hastily withdrew from the stand, while the crowd cheered tremendously.



Maybe this will give us another clue as to the date of the mysterious poem.

hanktrent
10-17-2006, 04:25 PM
" said that had it been his privelege to choose the candidate for the Republican party in 1860, he should have selected as did the Convention at Chicago, Abraham Lincoln. ...

Seward's remarks upon Lincoln were recieved with the most enthusiastic cheers.
...

Then he asked about Erie County, what the Republicans here were going to do for Mr. Spaulding. Again there were a hundred varying shouts. "We will elect him by 3,500 majority," "5,000 majority", "1,500 in the city," "2,500 in the city," Haven hasn't a sho... "Fusion won't work," etc. etc.

Sounds like it's talking about this situation, from http://freenet.buffalo.edu/bah/h/spauld/index.html


Spaulding... was re-elected [to congress] in 1860, with 53% as against 47% for Solomon Haven, who had become a Democrat. He attended the Republican convention in 1860, where he was a strong supporter of Governor Seward for the presidential nomination. Nevertheless, when Seward was not nominated, he became an equally strong supporter of Lincoln.


However it's hard to tell if it was written exactly at that time, or was a later recollection of what happened.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

MissMaggie
10-17-2006, 10:25 PM
I recall reading an instance a few years ago of a lady who would always wear her new bonnets to church on Sunday. Then, the following week a lady she did not like would be seen wearing a similar bonnet. The lady solved the copy-cat problem by wearing a new bonnet one sunday and then allowing her maid to wear it the following week. Could you imagine the poor women being seen at church in the same bonnet as a maid!

vmescher
10-18-2006, 12:49 AM
Hi Anna,

as I read the delightful poem.. I get the impression that it dates to the 1900s when ladies did dress to impress with their large bonnets, bustles and Gibson girl hair style...

Edit to add ... the book is 1840 but the cliping was pressed in the pages and could be much later.

Catherine

I found three versions of this poem. One was in the _The New York Evangelist_ June 28, 1860 but only had three verses. It was originally from the Mobile Register. The second version was from the _Constitutional_ of Alexandria, LA for Oct. 13, 1860 (http://www.uttyl.edu/vbetts/) and had eight verses. The next version was one verse longer with nine verses. It was found in the _Prairie Farmer_ March 24, 1866.

I did not find a later version of the poem but did find quite a few articles on dressing for church and debates on whether best dresses should be worn or if plain dress was best.

Delia Godric
10-18-2006, 08:34 AM
I have been able to spend part of the morning looking at church references on Vicki Betts’ site. It’s been enjoyable.

Very interesting how the poem may have progressed over time. I think I now have a question for the English teachers here.

If anyone is interested, I found that this newspaper contained multiple detailed descriptions of church proceedings.
http://www.uttyler.edu/vbetts/tennessee_baptist.htm
This newspaper has a collection of writings from “B.Sharp” attending different churches with a focus on music and choir. Interesting comparisons. http://www.uttyler.edu/vbetts/peoria_mail.htm


Anna Worden