Charlotte Dolls

The classic parent line “you are not going out dressed like that” has true reverence in this tale of woe. As the dreaded “Beast From The East” is on the horizon and the UK fears it will be bringing with it snow, hail and all things nasty & cold for the second year in a row. It is a perfect time to remember that dressing for these conditions opt for function rather than fashion.
So what better way to reiterate this fact than a morbid tale of death and despair?
The mid 19th century poem written by Seba Smith was based upon an early 19th century tale that tells the tragic story of how poor Charlotte was too concerned with looking her best and how she met her demise en route to a ball.
This of course inspired macabre Victorian society to take the lesson to a whole new level. Charlotte dolls were small porcelain figurines that were kept in coffins until being baked in cakes for young ladies to find, a stark and morbid reminder that mother knows best.

Fair Charlotte by Seba Smith (1843)
Young Charlotte lived by the mountainside,
In a lonely, dreary spot;
No other dwelling for three miles round,
Except her father’s cot.
And yet on many a winter’s eve,
Young swains would gather there,
For her father kept a social abode,
And she was very fair
Her father liked to see her dressed,
Just like some city belle;
She was the only child he had,
He loved his daughter well.
Her hair was black as raven’s wings,
Her skin was lily fair,
And her teeth were like the pearls of white,
None with her could compare
At a village just sixteen miles off,
There’s a merry ball tonight,
Although the air is freezing cold,
Her heart is warm and light.
And there she watched with an anxious look,
‘Til a well-known voice she heard,
And driving up to the cottage door,
Young Charles in his sleigh appeared.
The mother to her daughter said,
“These blankets round you fold;
For it is a dreadful night, you know,
You’ll catch your death of cold.”
“Oh, no! Oh, no!” the darling cried,
She laughed like a gypsy queen,
“For to ride in blankets muffled up,
I never could be seen.”
“My silken cloak, it’s quite enough –
You know it’s lined throughout.
Besides I have a silk mantle,
To tie my face about.”
The gloves and bonnet being on,
They jumped into the sleigh,
And away they did ride o’er the mountainside
And the hills so far away.
There is music in the sounds of bells,
As over the hills they go;
What a creaking wake the runners make,
As they bite the frozen snow.
And away they then go silently,
‘Til five cold miles were passed,
And Charles with these few frozen words,
The silence broke at last.
“Such a night as this I never knew,
My lines I scarce can hold.”
With a trembling voice young Charlotte cried,
“I am exceeding cold.”
He cracked the whip, he urged his steed
Much faster than before,
Until at last five other cold miles,
In silence they rode o’er.
“How very fast the freezing air
Is gathering on my brow.”
With a trembling voice young Charlotte cried,
“I’m growing warmer now.”
And away they did ride o’er the mountainside,
And through the pale star light,
Until the village inn they reached,
And the ballroom hove in sight.
When they reached the inn, young Charles jumped out,
And gave his hand to her,
“Why sit you there like a monument,
And have no power to stir?”
He called her once, he called her twice,
She answered not a word;
He called all for her hand again,
But still she never stirred.
He stripped the mantle off her brow,
And the pale stars on her shone,
And quickly into the lighted hall,
Her helpless form was born.
They tried all within their power,
Her life for to restore,
But Charlotte was a frozen corpse,
And is never to speak more.
He threw himself down by her side,
And the bitter tears did flow,
He said, “My dear and intended bride,
You never more shall know.”
He threw his arms around her neck,
He kissed her marble brow,
And his thoughts went back to the place where she said,
“I am growing warmer now.”
They bore her out into the sleigh,
And Charles with her rode home,
And when they reached the cottage door,
Oh, how her parents mourned!
They mourned the loss of their daughter dear,
And Charles mourned o’er her doom,
Until at last his heart did break,
Now they both slumber in one tomb.

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