In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

“…that wretched instrument and revolting song…”


Ghostly Music (from the New York Times)

Spiritualism which is represented by those who believe in it to be vastly superior to Christianity, differs, of course, from the latter in its revelations as to the state of music in the other world. The church has always held that the angelic host sings and plays on the harp and trumpet in a way altogether beyond the reach of criticism…But Spiritualism, on the other hand, shows us that the state of musical culture among ghosts is no better than that which characterises an Indiana country town. The average ghost plays only the most execrable instruments, and sings only the most empty and aggravating songs. As for producing a decent note with a trumpet, or playing the simplest melody with the harp, the ghosts of spiritualism have never even ventured to make the attempt.

When a “materialising seance” is held, the medium always requests the circle of believers to sing; alleging that under the influence of music ghosts materialise with comparative ease. But what are the songs that are sung in spiritual circles? The “Sweet Bye and Bye” is a fair sample of them. They are invariably the illiterate sentimental songs popular among people who know absolutely nothing about music.

They are sung through the nose with the mechanical sameness of the barrel-organ, and with a dragging of the time that is simply maddening. One would think that if the singing of the “Sweet Bye and Bye” could induce any ghost to materialise it would be a large one with a heavy club, and a wild desire to brain the singers. Unfortunately, this is not what ordinarily happens. The singing is followed by the appearance of ghosts who are in the best of tempers, and apparently satisfied with the “music” which has lured them from the other world. Of course this is fatal to our respect for ghosts. If a ghost will deliberately come to earth to hear people whose voices are as cracked as their brains sing the “Sweet Bye and Bye” they are wholly unfit to be noticed by persons of any sort of musical culture.

This being the kind of musical taste which prevails in the other world we need not be surprised to find that not a single ghost has yet materialised who can play on any decent instrument. What is even worse is the fact that the entire ghostly world seems to be given over to the accordion. Occasionally a ghost will strike the strings of a guitar so as to produce a discordant noise, but the accordion is positively the only instrument which ghosts will play in public. If spiritualism is true, it is evident that the first thing a disembodied spirit does is learn to play on the accordion. Men who in this world would have smitten to the earth the wretch who should have tried to place an accordion in their hands will in their ghostly state, take up the instrument from the medium’s table, and proceed to encourage its asthmatic wheezing.

It is certainly very strange that we should thus deteriorate after death. The late Daniel Webster was confessedly one of the greatest men of any age. He never played on any instrument, and in fact, had no liking whatever for music, but his views of the accordion were such as become a statesman, a Christian and a gentleman. Yet, now that he is dead, he has devoted himself with much assiduity to the accordion, and when he condescends to materialise for the benefit of a roomful of spiritualists – as he frequently does – he is pretty sure to say, “Gimme that there accordion and I’ll play a little suthin,” whereupon he plays the “Sweet Bye and Bye”, “Mollie Darling”, or “Beautiful Spring”.

George Washington is equally bad, and even Shakespeare has repeatedly shown that he shares the ghostly fondness for accordions.

Inevitably this casts a gloom over the future world. If, when we are dead, we sink to the accordion and find pleasure in the “Sweet Bye and Bye”, we are decidedly better off here than we will be hereafter. So far as we can learn from materialised ghosts, there is not a harp nor a brass instrument in the other world, and if there were there is not a ghost who could play on them. Were we to adopt the hypothesis that only the ghosts of bad men had the power to return to earth and that their familiarity with the accordion is acquired while undergoing punishment, we might feel a little encouraged gyt it point of fact, the ghosts of the very best and noblest men play the accordion, so that the hypothesis suggested is clearly untenable.

Our best plan is to decide that spiritualism cannot be true. It is far more probable that mediums lie and that spiritualists are deceived than it is that Daniel Webster and Dante play the accordion. Let us cherish our old belief in celestial harps and angelic trumpets, and hope that in the future life we shall be free from the sight and sound of the accordion. Perhaps the fallen angels, having dropped and broken their harps, torment miserable sinners by singing the “Sweet Bye and Bye”, and accompanying themselves on the accordion but surely in any other part of the universe of ghosts that wretched instrument and revolting song must be unknown.
The Blackburn Standard: Darwen Observer, and North-East Lancashire Advertiser (Blackburn, England), Saturday, July 02, 1881; pg. 2; Issue 23804.
Gale Document Number: R3208205767
Image Source:


A Backward Relation

a backward relation


The Bradford Observer (Bradford, England), Thursday, July 08, 1858; pg. 7; Issue 1277
Gale Document Number: R3207901078

Should Women Follow Men’s Professions?

should women



Judy (London, England), Wednesday, July 10, 1867; pg. 129. New Readerships.
Gale Document Number: DX1901654013

The Bearded Man



Judy (London, England), Wednesday, May 01, 1867; pg. 12.
Gale Document Number: DX1901653729

A Mouse In The Pantry

a mouse


Father William’s Stories
 (London, England), Monday, July 01, 1867; pg. 55.
Gale Document Number: DX1901137325

Mrs. Hubbard’s Dog



Mrs. Hubbard was a well-preserved old lady of sixty-five. She was a widow. Her husband had been dead fifteen years. He was in the milk business, and had left her a nice little cottage in the village, and a yellow dog whose name was Dionysius.

One day Dionysius disappeared, and old Mrs. Hubbard got very anxious about him. She heard, however, that he had followed a butcher’s waggon, and knew that he would come back again. He walked into the cottage in the afternoon of the following day, and began smelling about for something to eat.

The old lady was very glad to see Dionysius, and went immediately to the pantry to get two mutton chop bones that she had put on one side for him. But they were gone. The girl who used to come in to do the odd jobs around the house had given them to a big bull-terrier in the adjoining yard.

Mrs. Hubbard felt angry; but Dionysius was a good dog, and had been trained to eat anything. She put on her hat, and went to O’Neil’s the baker, to get a loaf of bread, as there were only biscuits in the house, and she didn’t care to give them to Dionysius. She had a pleasant chat with Mr. O’Neil, and then came home. She had been absent about twenty-five minutes. She called for the dog. She looked behind the pantry door, and there lay poor Dionysius dead.

Old Mrs. Hubbard was almost prostrate with grief. She resolved that her favourite should have a decent burial. She called at once on the village undertaker.

“What is the matter, Mrs. Hubbard?” the coffin dealer asked, on noticing the grief stricken countenance of the old lady.

“My poor dog is dead and I want a casket for him.”

“Here is one,” said the undertaker; “It is a misfit, and I’ll let you have it cheap.”

“Send it round,” gasped Mrs. Hubbard.

When she reached home the rascal Dionysius was outside, wagging his tail as if nothing had happened. The undertaker was obliged to take back the coffin; but Mrs. Hubbard had to pay him to do it.

“You naughty dog,” said the old lady: “if you play any more tricks on me I’ll thrash the life out of you!”

It was now time to think about supper, and, as the old lady found that there was no wine in the house, she went to the grocery to get some. She was of French descent, and liked a little claret or Sauterne with her meals. She bought a bottle of St. Julien and a bottle of Haut Sauterne, and her surprise was great, on coming back, to find Dionysius standing on his head.

Each time she went out she found the dog doing stranger things on her return. Now he was dancing a jig; then he dressed himself up like a dude, using for the purpose all the clothes he could lay his paws on. He became such an accomplished dog that, much as Mrs. Hubbard loved him, she was at last induced to sell him.

He is in Barnum’s circus to this day, and is to preceded the white elephant in the procession on its arrival.

The Dart: The Midland Figaro (Birmingham, England), Friday, January 04, 1884; pg. 7; Issue 376.
Gale Document Number: DX1901186508
Image Source

The Three Gold-Fishes

A worthy man once had three Gold-fishes.


He kept them in a small clear pond and felt the greatest interest in them. He often sat on the brink of the pond, crumbling into the water small bits of bread, which they would come and eagerly devour. He would then say to them, “Fishlings! Fishlings! if you wish to live on as happily as you have hitherto done, beware of two things: never swim through the grating into the larger pond, hard by; and never sport on the top of the water, except I am close at hand.”

But the fishes did not enter into his admonitions. He then said, “I will try to impress my warning upon them.”

Accordingly, when one of them seemed as if it would swim through, he made such a splashing with his stick, that it was frightened, and went back. He did the same when one came to the surface, in order that it might dive downwards again. “Now,” thought he, “they may possibly understand what I mean,” and home he went.

The three fishes then met together, and were sorely puzzled as to what could be the reason of such prohibitions.

“He is above the water himself,” said one; “why should not we venture up a little higher?”

“And why should we be kept so close in this little pond?” said the second; “How can it hurt us to swim sometimes into the bigger one?”

“Certainly,” said the first again, “he is a tyrannical man, who has no love for us, and cannot bear to see us enjoying ourselves.”

“I won’t care for what he says,” added the second; “I will at once take a little trip into the large pond.”

“And I,” exclaimed the first, “will meanwhile play in the sunshine a little on the water.”

The third gold-fish alone was wise enough to think thus; “The good man must surely have his reasons for giving us such orders. That he loves us, and likes to give us pleasure, is certain, else why should he come so often, and give us crumbles of bread and be so pleased at our eating them up? No; he is surely not unkind and I will do what he wishes, although I don’t know the reason of it.”

The good little fish, therefore, kept below; the others did as they said they would: the one went through the grating, into the large pond; the other frolicked on the surface, in the sunshine; both ridiculed their brother for not enjoying himself like them. But mark the result!

The first had but just got into the great pond, when a pike darted upon him, and swallowed him up. The other, appearing above water, was marked by a bird of prey, which pounced on him and devoured him. The wise and obedient gold-fish remained alone. He lived contented and happy, and reached a good old age.                                              T.C


Kind Words for Boys & Girls (London, England), Thursday, January 25, 1866; pg. 31; Issue 4.
Gale Document Number: DX1901793173
Image Source

Kind Words by Josephine

kind words

Oh kindly words! How beautiful,
How passing sweet your tone!

Kind Words for Boys & Girls (London, England), Thursday, January 04, 1866; pg. 4; Issue 1.
Gale Document Number: DX1901793136

The Roaring Girl: How the RSC failed to convince me that Moll Cutpurse was a Victorian drag king

Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

I went to see the RSC’s The Roaring Girl, directed by Jo Davies, recently – and was rather unimpressed by its assertion that this Jacobean play – and petty criminal heroine – was more about Victorian gender-bending than the society in which it was originally set.

Moll Cutpurse

Moll Cutpurse

Moll Cutpurse was a 17th century pickpocket, an infamous member of the London underworld, a woman who revelled in her reputation, swearing, smoking a pipe, and being the subject of plays even within her own lifetime.

She undoubtedly challenged gender conventions of the time, and was punished for it, being charged with dressing indecently in 1611 and having to do penance a year later for ‘evil living’. She accepted mens’ bets to dress as a man, acted as a pimp, and was infamous for her actions.

Yet she was also seen as rather a glamorous creature. She performed in public…

View original 989 more words

Starvation Of An Idiot Child


Yesterday morning an inquest was resumed, at the Earl of Ellesmere Tavern, Bromley, respecting the death of William Conde, aged 12 years.

The boy’s death took place at No. 7, North Street, Bromley, on Saturday fortnight. The body presented a most horrible appearance of emaciation. The weight was only 20lb. 12oz. ; the girth round the chest was but 17 inches, that round the abdomen 14 inches, and that of the thigh 6 inches. The father endeavoured to account for the size of the body by swearing that the age of the deceased was only 8 ½  years, but he ultimately had to admit that the real age was 12 years. The father also admitted that the deceased had not been out of the house for six months, nor out of the room for eight weeks before his death; but he maintained that the boy “ate more than three of the other children.”

Lavinia Rios said that she lodged at No.7, Upper North Street. The first she saw of the deceased was a week after Christmas, when at six o’clock one morning he slipped into her room and asked her for a bit of bread. He stared about with a frightened air, and witness would have been terrified, but that she remembered having heard something about a boy being kept in one of the rooms. She gave him a bit of bread, and then he asked her to take him to live with her, because his mother beat him so. She never saw him again till he was dying. She often heard some child beaten.

The landlady of the house said that the Conde family came to lodge with her about a year and eight months ago. She never saw the deceased until eight months ago, and not again till he was dying. About eight months ago a disturbance took place, when the neighbours insisted on the child being shown to an inspector of police. Witness often heard the cry of some child that Mrs Conde was beating, but she could not tell which child it was; it was a weak cry, and used to get weaker and weaker. There were four children in all. She did not think the boy was an idiot.

Mrs Murray, another lodger, gave similar evidence. She only saw the child once during several months. He stole some fish once out of her cupboard and ate it.

Mrs. Rios, recalled said that the cry which she used to hear was very peculiar; had heard it no more since the boy died. she had no doubt it came from the deceased.

The landlady said that she remembered that she had seen the deceased three times altogether; on each occasion he asked her for bread; she gave him some, and he ate it ravenously. He also asked for water. He appeared very frightened, and he ate the bread as if starved. The cry she used to hear was generally loud at first, as if from a blow, and then it used to grow faint and weak.

Dr. Kernott, of Poplar, said that he was called in to the deceased when he was dying. There were bruises on the body and arms, as if from being beaten. The body, which was 41in. long, weighed only 20lb. 12oz. There was no fat whatever in the system. There was some slight disease of the lungs, but not sufficient to cause death. The cause of death was starvation. The organs in general, the brain, &c., were in a healthy condition. Syncope, from want of nourishment, was the immediate cause of death. No doubt exposure and general hardships would tend also to produce the fatal syncope.

When all the witnesses had been examined the coroner briefly summed up the case, and said that the evidence seemed to point clearly to the conclusion that the boy was deprived of life by systematic starvation, and the case was therefore one of murder.

The jury unanimously returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against John Conde and Mary Conde, his wife.

The coroner then issued his warrant for the committal of the father and stepmother of the deceased to Newgate to await their trial at the ensuing sessions of the Central Criminal Court.

When the two accused persons were being removed to prison considerable uproar took place. The mob, which was composed principally of women, made a determined effort to get at them, and the groans and yells were frightful. The police escorted the man and his wife towards the cab which had been procured, but the crowd, closing in, seemed bent on tearing the supposed culprits to pieces. Conde struck out savagely at the women, and so, with the assistance of the police, he kept them at bay, and got off pretty well; but his wife was not so fortunate, her bonnet and clothes were torn, and the police had to struggle hard to save her. With great difficulty the prisoners were got into the cab and driven off to Newgate.

The Morning Post, Thursday, March 07, 1867; pg.7; Issue 29091
Gale Document Number: R3210467265

For readers interested in the outcome of the trial, the transcript is available from the Old Bailey Online.
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 31 August 2014), April 1867, trial of JOHN GEORGE CONDE (40) MARY CONDE (39) (t18670408-404).

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