By Jessica Kaspar
During the Victorian Era, many authors were writing stories about the concerns of society, in which they brought attention to the people living with less than enough money or food to live on. Like in the story “A Christmas Carol,” the story “Red Riding Hood’s Doll” does just that, from the perspective of a woman. This story brings to light the struggles that some women and children were facing during the Victorian Era, and how some better off families had enough money to live well, and help others. Jane C. Loudon, the likely author of this story, and an editor of the periodical Ladies’ Companion: At Home and Abroad, wrote in order to improve women’s knowledge of the world around them. Beginning with gardening articles, Loudon continued her writing with women’s literature, focusing on articles that bettered the minds of women. This story shows the ways that writing in this time could grab someone’s attention about societal issues, while still telling a story.
Biography of Author
Jane C. Webb Loudon was born on August 19, 1807 in England, close to the Birmingham City Centre, to her father Thomas Webb, Esq. and his wife. Both of Jane Webb’s parents died before she turned eighteen years old (Shteir). Jane met her husband, John C. Loudon through her writing of her first well known published article, The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century in 1828 (Shteir). This article was published anonymously by Henry Colburn, and was the first of her science fiction pieces, bringing out ideas of the future that most people have not published. She wrote about robots, new fashion, and a kind of Internet. Loudon’s second publication was Stories of a Bride, in 1829, which was one of her fiction articles, and lesser known than The Mummy, which brought the attention of John C. Loudon (Shteir). After greatly reviewing the article, John C. Loudon decided to contact the author, and found Jane in 1830, marrying her a year later. John C. Loudon was the author and editor of a garden magazine, as well as a garden designer, botanist and cemetery designer (Mrs Loudon & the Victorian Garden). Jane took the knowledge she had from her husband John and wrote many different magazines such as: Instructions in Gardening for Ladies; The Ladies’ Flower Garden; The Ladies’ Companion to the Flower Garden; Botany for Ladies; and, The Lady’s Magazine of Gardening, which circulated greatly in her time. Known in the literature world mostly as Mrs. Loudon, Jane wrote many things within the periodical Ladies’ Companion: At Home and Abroad, as well as editing it throughout many years of its publication. As well as writing, Jane was also known greatly for her artistic abilities, in the illustrations of her articles (Mrs Loudon & the Victorian Garden). Ten years after their daughter Agnes was born, in 1832, John Loudon died, leaving Jane alone to raise their family (Shteir). Jane continued to write, and greatly influenced her daughter, who became a children’s book author later in life. Jane died on July 13, 1858 at 3 Porchester Terrace (Shteir).
History of Periodical Publication
The periodical Ladies’ Companion: At Home and Abroad began its publication in December of 1849, with Red Riding Hood’s Doll in the first ever volume. The magazine was first sold for three pennies, and as it grew more popular it was sold for one shilling in 1851, according to the Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals. It was published by Bradbury and Evans, Rogerson and Co, and Rogerson Tuxford, throughout the years of its publications (Waterloo Directory). The magazine was started by John Coote and published by John Wheble. Loudon only edited and wrote in the first couple of volumes, and stopped before the periodical came to a close in 1891 (Waterloo Directory). The periodical is categorized as women’s periodicals, and published stories directed towards women. The three editors of this periodical included Henry Fothergill Chorley, Camilla Crosland, and Jane Loudon. Loudon was editor of this magazine from 1848-1851 and although she was not a feminist herself, the magazine was used to motivate mental cultivation, “Not to make women usurp the place of men, but to render them as rational and intelligent beings,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Major Themes and Concerns
The story of Red Riding Hood’s Doll brings together troubles of women as well as troubles of the poor. The doll directly speaks to a woman, discussing her creation, and how the woman could help the women and children who made the doll. The main character, Mrs. Baker, overcome with guilt from her overspending, decides she is going to help her own “Perdita” and sends money to help women get to Australia, for a better life. Mrs. Baker decides that she is going to call her friends, and have them help as well. This idea of the “rich helping the poor” is sort of mocked in the story, showing the middle class women that the upper class have so much money they have to be spoken to by a doll in order to see that they can help others. The story discusses the working conditions women and children have to deal with in other countries, but it is only conversed how to help the women, not necessarily the children. Loudon was known for her science fiction pieces, and elements of that show up in this story with the talking doll. During this time as well, dolls were very popular to children, making it more realistic to have a doll telling the story.
During the time of the publication of this periodical, it was known as the Victorian Era, the era in which Queen Victoria was reigning. There were many different historical elements put into the story. In 1847, a new Factory Act is passed in Britain, limiting the working day of women and children to a maximum of ten hours (Oxford Reference). This could have been one of the main influences on one of themes of the story, with the working conditions of women and children in other countries. As well as laws or ideas that could have influenced the story, many people could have helped as well. The Loudon’s were known to be in the social circle with Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackery, who were both very prevalent within these years, both publishing stories before the publication of Red Riding Hood’s Doll (ODNB). As well as male authors of this time, many female authors were publishing works too. Both Charlotte and Emily Brontë published their first novels, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, adding to the growing amount of women authors (Oxford Reference).
This short story provides readers with a chance to look at something written by a woman aimed for other women of that time. The story shows the audience what problems people of this time were facing as well as ways there were to overcome these obstacles. This publication brings attention to the growing number of women writers, and what women of this time were reading about. It shows that women were thought to being reading fictional, or popular fiction, instead of politics or business news like the men of that time.
Works Cited [top]
“Mrs Loudon & the Victorian Garden.” Victorian and Albert Museum. Web. 30 March 2015. <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/mrs-loudon-victorian-garden/>
“Timeline: Victorian Era; 1837-1901” Oxford Reference. Web. 30 March 2015 <http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/view/10.1093/acref/9780191738012.timeline.0001?rskey=WPKXCb&result=1>
Shteir, Ann B. “Jane Loudon” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Web 30 March 2015 http://www.oxforddnb.com.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/view/article/17030
“Ladies Companion, The; at home and abroad” The Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals. Web. 30 March 2015. <http://www.victorianperiodicals.com.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/series3/title_search_start.asp>
Publication History [top]
“Red Riding Hood’s Doll.” The Ladies’ Companion. Vol. 1 No. 1. Dec. 1849: 1-3. Print.
Full Text [top]
Red Riding Hood’s Doll
The Hon. Mrs. Baker discoursed with her friend Mrs. Clarence, on the way to the –Bazaar. The Hon. Mrs. Baker was not in that placid mood that ordinarily made her the gentlest of gentlewomen. There was a shadow on her face, and her eyes that, like Gertrude’s of Wyoming,usually shone as though they loved all things they looked upon, were clouded in their “blue heaven.” The carriage rolled along, as over a carpeted road; and the Hon. Mrs. Baker, like a goddess on a cloud, reclined upon air-cushions. All things about her manifested wealth and luxury blended with extremest comfort: she was young, very handsome, and very—No; the Hon. Mrs. Baker no longer deemed herself very rich. Hence, the shadow,–hence, her look of sadness. For the first time in her life, the Hon. Mrs. Baker familiarised her thoughts with the possibility, the bare possibility, of straitened means. Want, like the colour of the negro, had appeared to her no more than an appointed inheritance; and the Hon. Mrs. Baker would, at one time, as soon have thought it possible to change the tint of her skin of pink and white to Ethiopian black, as to undergo any change of fortune. And now, strange misgivings—melancholy doubts played upon the heart-strings of the Hon. Mrs. Baker.
“What is it, my love? I never saw you under such a cloud before!” asked Mrs. Clarence, for the third time; and still Mrs. Baker made no answer; still from Mrs. Baker escaped a short, shivering sigh, significant of hidden grief. At length, much entreated, the unhappy Mrs. Baker revealed the causes of her woe.
“My dear, you know I never trouble myself about money matters—I always leave them to George; but really, things have now come to such a pass, that I should neglect the duty of a wife, did I not sympathise with the troubles that–“
“Troubles!” cried Mrs. Clarence. “Troubles in your house!” Mrs. Clarence would as soon have thought to hear of rattle-snakes.
“The money-market is now in such a state that, if things continue as they are, ‘twill be impossible for us to go on.” Thus spoke Mrs. Baker; with a certain majesty of woe.
“My dear Mary!” cried Mrs. Baker’s friend.
“Quite true, my dear. You are perhaps not aware that at this moment”—and here Mrs. Baker deepened her voice for the intelligence—“at this moment, there are in the Bank—I have dear George’s word for it—fourteen millions of money.”
“Fourteen millions!” cried Mrs. Clarence, and her eyes sparkled.
“Yes, my dear,” answered the saddened Mrs. Baker. “Fourteen millions. Money’s quite a drug.”
“Well, but doesn’t some part of the fourteen millions belong to you? Is the plentifulness of money your grief?”
“My good creature,” said the Hon. Mrs. Baker, with a gravity that rebuked the ignorant vivacity of Mrs. Clarence, “is it possible that you cannot perceive what George has made so dreadfully clear to me?” Mrs. Clarence pulled herself up—all attention. “Do you not at once understand that if money be so plentiful—if there be such a glut of gold (glut, my dear, is the word) in the market, that the interest upon money must fall? Why,” said Mrs. Baker, with an appealing look at her friend—“why, we’ve already come to two per cent.; two per cent., my dear! Well, as we have always made it a point to live upon the interest of our money, never—never touching the principal—why, as George says, our income must fall too. Yes, my dear, if this glut continues, and George says it may increase, we must retrench—positively retrench. And, as I say, for this reason, –money’s a drug.”
“Dear me!” exclaimed Mrs. Clarence, raising her eyes as though to take in the whole picture of her friend’s impending woe. And at this moment the carriage stopt at the Bazaar.
We shall not follow Mrs. Baker and her friend from stall to stall. Suffice it, that Mrs. Baker seemed, under the influence of the scene—her fancy appealed to by so many beautiful objects—to forget the probability of an increasing glut of gold and its accompanying distress, — for she laid out her money with the large heart of an empress. But then, it was close upon Christmas, and she must make presents to all and every of her household—a weakness, if it be one, pardonable it he Hon. Mrs. Baker.
However, even the time of shopping must end, and Mrs. Baker, with her purse still in her hand, and her good-natured eyes still wandering from counter to counter, slowly made her way to her carriage.
Mr. and Mrs. Baker dined alone. Although Mr. Baker feared that the glut must increase, nevertheless he seemed to contemplate the prospect with manly fortitude; and, in very good spirits, prepared himself for a game of billiards at the Club; leaving his resigned helpmate alone at her hearth. No; not alone—for she sat with all her holiday treasures about her. As yet, Baker had not seen the Christmas gift purchased for him—the children had not beheld their dolls; the maids had no thought of the brilliant cherry-coloured ribands that, on Christmas eve, should send them happy to their beds. After a while, these beautiful gifts were duly put away for the hour of presentation, and Mrs. Baker sank in her easy chair, seemingly reading a thrilling novel—but really inquiring of herself who was the founder of clubs, at the same time visiting the unknown not with her most charitable wishes.
The Hon. Mrs. Baker leapt from her chair, turning very white. She looked around the apartment. She saw nobody,– and yet, she could not be mistaken, she had heard a slight, feeble cough—a cough as from a sickly babe. No; it must be her fancy—she would proceed with her book. Again the sound—again and again!
Mrs. Baker, paler than before, slowly laid down her book,–and with one hand grasping her chair looked at the rug; for it was thence the sound distinctly came. The hollow coal suddenly fell in, the flame leapt up in the grate and showed upon the hearth-rug, within a span of Mrs. Baker’s foot, –a Doll, a Doll, price one shilling; the price paid by the Hon. Mrs. Baker, despite the glut of gold, at the –Bazaar.
Mrs. Baker clutched both arms of her chair, and tried to scream. Terror tied her throat—she could scarcely breathe. Well might Mrs. Baker—who, though very beautiful, never asserted her claim to be nervous—well might Mrs. Baker be alarmed.
The Doll, a tiny thing by virtue of its price, was become a living creature. It stood a moment with its little feet buried in the luxurious wool of the rug—like a fairy in clover—and then bobbed a homely curtsey. Mrs. Baker tried to stretch her hand to the bell; but still like stone it held her chair.
“Don’t be afraid, ma’am,” said the Doll in a thin, clear silver thread of a voice, and though Mrs. Baker was at first more alarmed at the sound, there was something in it that carried confidence to her heart. In a few minutes, so very sweet was the voice of the Doll, and Mrs. Baker had subsided from dismay to wonder. The Doll—it had a very pretty delicate face, with more meaning in it than is commonly found in dollhood—smiled, but somewhat wanly; for its features, though so pretty, were a little pinched; and its eyes were lustrous—but not sparkling, happy.
“You had forgotten me,” said the Doll, “but then, I know—I’m so little; and little folks are apt to be forgotten: ‘tis that forgetfulness that does such mischief. Yes; the wax dolls, the fine lady dolls, they’re gone to bed in their silver paper—but as for poor little me,”—
“I’m sure,” said Mrs. Baker, and she wondered at her own voice, “I’m sure I had no wish to neglect you. I thought you were with the others. I had no wish”—
“I’m sure of that,” said the Doll. “You have no wish, no; ‘til only forgetfulness, but that’s it—that’s it,” said the Doll, with melancholy emphasis.
“Strange creature!” cried Mrs. Baker, trembling anew. “What are you? Whence come you?”
“Don’t be alarmed,” said the Doll, “indeed I wouldn’t frighten you.” Then with sudden vivacity, the Doll asked, “Will you hear my history?”
Mrs. Baker waved her hand—she would hear it. Whereupon the Doll, with a little jump, sat itself upon the edge of the velvet foot-stool before the wondering lady.
“I will tell you my origin and history up to the present time,” said the Doll, “but I wish I could see you smile, and sit comfortably, for indeed I didn’t come to distress you.” Mrs. Baker forced a smile, and leant back in her chair. The Doll began its history.
“I was manufactured by two little boys about seven years old. They put my limbs together, when I was sent away, and a little girl about nine painted my face, and another little girl, having curled my wig, put it upon my head, and another poor little child”—
“Nay, I know all about the making of dolls,” said Mrs. Baker, “you may skip that.”
“Ha, my dear lady,” cried the Doll with a deep sigh, “that is very true; no doubt; but did you never think how sad and very sad it was that children should be dollmakers for children? That for the little workers there should be no childhood—that what are toys to other happier children, beautiful toys calling forth their gentles, sweetest sympathies,– should be things of drudgery, with no other thoughts about them than miserable, uncertain food, certain rags, and wretched home? It’s beginning the tragedy of life a little early, isn’t it, when the actors are only seven or eight? A little early, isn’t it?” repeated the Doll.
“It is early,” said the lady, with a slight flush. “Go on.”
“Well, I’ll skip a good deal as you wish it, and come to the woman that drest me. I’m very fine, am I not?” asked the Doll. “Beautiful scarlet silk petticoat—charming velvet body. My apron, too, of such very pretty lace, and my hat and feather such taste in it! Why, many a lady might dress herself after me, and carry off all the hearts from a fancy ball,– all of ‘em,” – and the little thing laughed like the trill of a musical snuff-box.
“Proceed,” said Mrs. Baker, for she became more alarmed at the mirth of the doll, than at its earnestness. “Pray, go on.”
“And yet,” said the Doll, “you can’t believe the misery that drest me. You can’t imagine the anxious, wasted face of the lady—a lady in heart, and in that patience that makes poverty heroic—that for one long day, worked and worked at my finery. There was not a speck of fire in the grate, and my mistress—if I may call her so—would now and then warm her thin, chilled fingers at the candle-flame, and then with a long sigh, but still with patience—its holy seal upon her suffering face—work and work. One cup of thrice-drawn tea leaves, and one penny roll sustained my mistress in her twelve hours labour. And there she sat in her clean and empty room, with not a soul to comfort her—with nought but the thought of God to strengthen her, with no one but God’s angels—for they do come in emptiest rooms—beholding her!”
“Go on,” said the lady, “pray go on.”
“When my mistress had drest me fine as you see, she crept out to sell me. It was very, very cold, and I felt her tremble as she pressed me under her thin shawl, and glided along the pavement that chilled her almost shoeless foot. Well, fair lady,” said the Doll, “fair lady, so very fair and gentle, you seem more like a flower then” –
“No compliments,” said Mrs. Baker. “Facts, no compliments.”
“You shall have facts,” said the Doll, sharply. “Well, my mistress sold me. She parted with her labour of twelve hours. Work done on thrice-drawn tea leaves and penny roll. She sold me; and deducting money for petticoat and body, hat and apron, needle and thread, and such trifles—trifles that are to such workers giant miseries—she make clear profit out of me, me who was sold, price one shilling—she made profit,” – here the Doll paused, and clasping its little hands, and raising its little earnest face to the face of Mrs. Baker, asked very slowly—“How much do you think she made?”
“How much? I have not the least idea,” said Mrs. Baker. “How much was it?”
“Fourpence,” said the Doll.
“Fourpence!” echoed the Hon. Mrs. Baker.
“Fourpence,” repeated the Doll, “there is such a glut of money.”
“Are dolls the children of such misery?” said Mrs. Baker, musingly.
“Misery!” cried the Doll, “why the word is stitched and stitched in this glorious city—daily stitched by twenty thousand needles. Stitched in thread, scarlet with the heart’s-blood—though it may show no such colour to the eye of trade, –but scarlet, no lighter than scarlet to the eye of heaven! Misery!” cried the Doll, “I tell you the word is worked almost wherever the needle passes. In silks, in satins, — in ball-room skirts—in funeral hoods; in the coat the soldier marches in—in the jacket the felon works in – in the livery that badges the lackey, the waistcoat that warms the calculating heart of ‘the poor man’s friend.’ Still misery—misery in millions of stitches—though voiceless, still misery.”
“What’s to be done?” said the lady in a despairing tone.
“I’ll tell you,” said the Doll.
“Oh, do! Pray do,” cried the Hon. Mrs. Baker.
“There are some thirty thousand helpless women, it is calculated,” said the Doll, very earnestly—“thirty thousand, starving, withering—worse than withering. Let them depart and let them be carried where food is plentiful—where comfort, and the best dignity of domestic life await them.”
“Thirty thousand; but it is not possible”—
“Much, very much is possible,” said the Doll, its manner becoming elevated with its theme. “Almost everything is possible that is for human good, if human energy so wills it. Attend. You can remove these thirty thousand forlorn creatures—sisters in a common humanity and in the tremendous future. ‘We are all equal before the throne of God!’ said a good queen a few days since—a queen, now crowned with everlasting stars]”—
“Go on,” said the lady.
“And that you, the rich, may in the great future be equal with the poor—that you may not be below them, the martyrs of poverty, who, by heroic patience here, shall win the bright hereafter, –see that you descend to them now; that you avouch common affection with them, vindicate common sympathy, and show, and take delight in showing, noblest sisterhood!”
“But how—but how?” cried the lady vehemently. “How aid so many thousands?”
“The meanest may do something. For fifteen pounds a suffering sister may be carried beyond the sea to a region of plenty. Say that five, ten, twenty, if you will—nay, fifty, –a hundred, –put together fifteen pounds; select their one sister emigrant. In this way, how many ones may be preserved and lastingly comforted?”
“I see—I see,”—said the lady.
“Take a single case,” said the Doll. “Here is poor Perdita—a miserable needlewoman, striving with her best heart against temptation, — and with hunger and want of every kind, with clothing insufficient to fence her from the elements, still heroically good. In the misery that devours her, she pays the noblest tribute to the shrine of chastity. She withers, but she withers pure. You are a rich lady—take Perdita. Pay her fifteen pounds. Send your offering to the Antipodes—a noble one in a chaste, and kind, and striving heart. ‘Twill be something when you go to rest, to think that your Perdita, now a wife and mother, it may be,– is stirring in her happy home; preparing, in the Bush, her good man’s mid-day meal. It will be pleasant, good as a romance, and then true, in fancy to follow from month to month the progress of Perdita, and now and then to receive from her a written assurance, a real paper document, telling her happy fortune, and with it the happiness of your own rewarding conscience.”
“Indeed, there is something in this,” said the lady.
“Try it,” replied the Doll. “If you’re not rich enough to ship at your own cost, Perdita, have a friend—two, three—in the venture. The venture is a holy one, for it is God’s own merchandise, snatched from misery—it may be, pollution, and freighted for happiness and peace.”
“I’ll have a Perdita all to myself!” said the Hon. Mrs. Baker, leaping from her chair.
“My dear!” cried Mr. Baker, returned from his Club.
It was plain that the Hon. Mrs. Baker had fallen asleep over the thrilling novel—the novel of the season—the novel of absorbing interest, that, once opened, it was impossible to put down. Nevertheless, she could almost have vowed that she had had an interview with shilling doll that lay, like any other doll, price twelvepence, on the hearth-rug, where it had fallen, unnoticed, from her heap of Christmas presents.
Suffice it—Mrs. Baker has selected her Perdita; and in a few days will ship her noble—her solemn venture. Not unprofitable, even in a dream, was the short sermon of what called itself
Red Riding Hood’s Doll.
Loudon, Jane C. The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century. London: Henry Collburn, 1828. Print.