Indefinite Green Ones

Final post about The Garden Party: two great examples of real-life mourning practice:


"'Do you think we ought to have our dressing-gowns dyed as well?'

'Black?' almost shrieked Josephine.

'Well, what else?' said Constantia. 'I was thinking--it doesn't seem quite sincere, in a way, to wear black out of doors and when we're fully dressed, and then when we're at home--'

'But nobody sees us,' said Josephine. She gave the bedclothes such a twitch that both her feet became uncovered, and she had to creep up the pillows to get them well under again.'

'Kate does,' said Constantia. 'And the postman very well might.'

Josephine thought of her dark red slippers, which matched her dressing-gown, and of Constantia's favourite indefinite green ones which went with hers. Black! Two black dressing-gowns and two pairs of wooly slippers, creeping off to the bathroom like black cats.

'I don't think it's absolutely necessary,' said she." (89)

No waistcoats here: Men in Bangalore, India, 1910s. From here.

"Josephine made no reply. She had flown off on one of her tangents. She had suddenly thought of Cyril. Wasn't it more usual for the only grandson to have the watch? And then dear Cyril was so appreciative, and a gold watch meant so much to a young man. Benny, in all his probability, had quite got out of the habit of watches; men so seldom wore waistcoats in those hot climates. Whereas Cyril in London from year's end to year's end. And it would be so nice for her and Constantia, when he came to tea, to know it was there. 'I see you've got on grandfather's watch, Cyril.' It would be somehow so satisfactory." (105)



Both from "The Daughters of the Late Colonel", in The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, 1922.

I love that the first quotation questions the practice of wearing black in mourning: do you do it for yourself/the deceased, or for everyone around you? Would they wear black in the middle of nowhere? Does the servant "count"?

The second is so locked in its time: you cannot wear a watch if you do not have a waistcoat. And that her justification for doing what she really wants to do (give it to her darling nephew) is that their brother, in Ceylon, probably follows laxer customs.