Oh, how my heart once yearned to possess the skin of alabaster…

I ofttimes would heed Maude, Marchioness of Londonderry after a simple tidying up the parlour each morningtide. She would sit amongst her elixirsthe bottles awaited the Lady’s daily rite. She would reach for her bottle of ammonia and wash it over her face, mindful to restore the delicate glass stopper. Next, she plunged her forefinger into the ointments and powders of her toilet table. Ofttimes, she gravitated to the dazzling snowy paste, which she delicately painted over her countenance. It’s foremost that one evades twinkling because the ointment will set, and any sentiment will make it crevice unbeautifully.

She would promenade the Marquess across the estate with her parasol mocking me as I toiled daily in her gardens. She tittered time after time whilst hiding her fair face and rosy cheeks in a bouquet of yellow honeysuckle. My pale skin had bronzed from the merciless sun erstwhile— for many days spite swelled deep within me.

But then it happened.

The cough, her skin grew paler diurnally. Nevertheless, for languid and listless ladies donning pale complexions was fashionable—because vulgarity laid in health, activity and destitution.

These nincompoops believed looking tubercular was somehow becoming. Minute waists, visible clavicles, alabaster skin, and rosy cheeks spoke to the ladies as if they breathed beauty into their suffering.

A lingering pallor and a lack of appetite afflicted the Lady. It then degraded to an ungodly fever and croaking which brought about red blotches to her cheeks. I ask of you, how did this malignance become winsome?

Oh, how my heart once yearned to possess the skin of alabaster…

The consumption extinguished her life post haste and the whiteness she so chased brought her to the crepuscule. Droll, perchance my sun-kissed skin will be my saviour, after all.

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Juma
Juma(@juma)
10 months ago

Wow, Melissa. Once again you’ve touched on the topic of women’s vanity and the toxicity of some of the Victorian fads. I remember your story about arsenic poisoning and the color green in wallpaper and women’s dresses, and now this one. I know that everything you mention in this story really happened in those days. After that Victorian fad of the palest skin, we went through the fad of treasuring a golden/bronze tan, which now we know is also dangerous. I like your gardening girl, kissed by the sun. I just hope she’s not too kissed!

Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
Reply to  Melissa Taggart
10 months ago

This is an important topic, Melissa. Men have had some strange fashion fads over the centuries as well, but theirs don’t seem so dangerous! From foot binding to corsets to face paint to highly flammable crinoline skirts, we have to wonder what these women were thinking! Just wearing high heels, especially those with pointed toes, is bad enough. I so enjoy your stories, and the way you use words and expressions from the Victorian times. You do a lot of research, don’t you?

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
10 months ago

Hello, Melissa. I want to say thank you for sharing such a story in Victorian times. I admit there are many words that I have just read and figured out the meaning. I have a lot of new vocabulary learned from your story. Thanks.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Melissa Taggart
10 months ago

Yes. Thank you, Melissa.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
10 months ago

After having read your story, Melissa, I also read your comments. It’s interesting and fascinating to see what women have exposed themselves to in history for the sake of fashion. Thank you for putting our attention to it in this beautiful way!
We might think we are wiser today, but when I see women with shoes with very high heels, I wonder if its worth the effort to walk on them, and if it’s worth the risk of breaking their ankles.
Also, I have been wondering about your language, which is so varied, nuanced and rich. Now, I see that at least part of the explanation goes back to your mother and her literary interest. Lucky you!

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