Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Word About Mourning..

Quoted from 'Victorian Mourning Customs from Collier's Cyclopedia published in 1901'

"Who breathes must suffer, and who thinks must mourn," and we have perforce to turn our minds to the inevitable and share "the common lot of man." In times of mourning it seems doubly hard to arouse ourselves, and allow the question of what to wear? ....It will be as well to consider in succession the different degrees of mourning, and their duration.... The first mourning is worn for twelve months. Second mourning twelve months also (different depending on the relationship to whom has passed)....Widow's first mourning lasts for a year and a day. Second mourning cap left off, less crape and silk for nine months (some curtail it to six), remaining three months of second year plain black without crape, and jet ornaments. At the end of the second year the mourning can be put off entirely; but it is better taste to wear half mourning for at least six months longer...exchanging black for light grey or lilac."

* * * * *

"..it was some time before we grasped the fact that Father was dead. Snivelling a little, we crept out and found Mohter and Auntie in the laundry where they were poling with long sticks at a copperful of black dye into which every garmet Mother possessed with the possible exception of her corsets, had just been thrown." Eugenie McNeil - Melbourne Hawthorn Press, 1972, p.4

5 comments:

sunvalleysally said...

I have often thought that one of the purposes of so-visible mourning (the colors, the fabrics, the refraining from "entertainments") were to let others in the community know to tread lightly around the mourner. We have no such luxuries, if you will, today. No outward sign that we have been devastated by a recent loss. I have often thought that a tasteful pin should be created and marketed, such as a ribbon shape (though perhaps that has been overused for too many things already) in black with gold lettering and border, or grey with black lettering and border, with something simple such as "In Memory of C-Horse 1988-2004." Although, come to think of it, we have become such a care-less and un-caring society as a whole, perhaps no one would notice. I would like to think there is some way to let others know to back off and be respectful, but perhaps not (channeling my inner cynic today). I'd like to know what others think.

Interesting that the Victorians thought that deep mourning should be a "year and a day" for a spouse; I think it was Queen Victoria herself who never actually did put away her "widow's weeds." I believe there were other conventions for other losses and some interesting strictures on activities such as dancing and going "out." In any case, sometimes I think it does take "a year and a day" to begin to be able to cope with a terrible loss and go "out" into the world again with some semblance of composure.

Julie said...

I did read that women over a 'certain' age who were widowed, continued to wear their mourning clothes until their own death.

Oregon Equestrian said...

Which explains why Scarlett's behavior was considered scandalous in GWTW.

This is the first I've heard the definitive periods for mourning, having come across references in books to dying clothes black, and half-mourning. But never knew the length of time for these states. Wonder if it was the same during the Regency period?

I like the idea of a black ribbon to mourn a loved one, since folks no longer wear black arm bands or place a black crepe wreath on the front door. Nothing worse than a cheery "Have a nice day" from someone when one is struggling to cope with loss.

Anonymous said...

I read an old novel where a young lady and a married man were in love with each other. Of course, they behaved with the utmost propriety, they never spoke to each other of their feelings. The young lady did not like the idea of wearing black mourning, she thought white mourning was better.
The man drowned during a flood, ironically, believing he had to rescue his son, who was completely safe in anouther location. Within a month of his death, the young lady entered a convent where everyone wore a white habit. It sounds corny, but was actually a very touching story. Yup, they don't write stories like that anymore.

Killi said...

My friend stayed in black for a year after her husband died tragically young. She wondered if she ought to come out of mourning after a year as she had no idea of modern conventions on the subject. I told her that if she felt happier in black for longer, do so, but it was dependent upon how she felt after the year. (She's in her early 30's with 7 childer)