LARGE OBLONG SOUVENIR ALBUM OF CALLING CARDS COMPILED BY THE NOTED VICTORIAN CONCERT PIANIST Catinka Mackenzie de Dietz, containing over 400 calling cards, greeting cards, printed menus, invitations, mourning cards, and post cards, from friends, colleagues and associates from across European High Society. [n.p.], [n.d. but ca.
1890-1901.]. Large oblong album, 270 x 420 mm; ff. 33 leaves of thick paper 264 x 410mm; with 399 late Victorian calling cards, greeting cards, menus, invitations etc neatly mounted and organised, with a further 7 items loosely inserted, front and rear endpapers also used, four pages unused, and one calling card blank; a number of the cards signed or with manuscript messages of greeting, several of the mounted items with neat manuscript annotations penned below by Dietz; some light foxing, soiling throughout, with some offsetting and see-through caused by the glue, a few cards now a little faded, one or two slightly creased, and with a couple of small marginal tears; An extraordinary turn of the century personally compiled album of printed calling cards and correspondence, received over a number of years by Catinka [also Cathinka] Mackenzie de Dietz (1813-1901), noted concert pianist and former pianist to the Queen of Bavaria. As such, it throws a fascinating light upon her social circle, forming a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of European Royalty and High Society, and made even more appealing by her acerbic and often slightly scandalous annotations! in the original ribbed brown publisher’s cloth, ruled in blind with ‘Souvenir’ in gilt on upper cover, lower joint split at tail, spine somewhat sunned, small loss of cloth on upper cover, rear cover crinkled and stained at tail, with some wear along upper margin, corners a little bumped and worn. Dietz ‘made her Paris debut on 7 February 1836 at the Salle Pleyel with the first movement of Hummel's Concerto in A Minor and Kalkbrenner's staple debut piece - his Grand Duo in D for two pianos, Op. 128 - with Thalberg. Her career revolved around placements at royal courts. By 1840 she was pianist to the queen of Bavaria; the following year she played at the French court and was appointed pianist to the queen of the French in 1845. She composed salon pieces, played regularly for Queen Victoria, and was reported to have written an oratorio for which Queen Victoria accepted the dedication. Her pianistic style was Classical, firmly within the Kalkbrenner tradition. She sometimes published under her married name, Mackenzie von Dietz.’ (Katherine Ellis, "Female Pianists and Their Male Critics," Journal of the American Musicology Society Vol. 50 2/3, p. 359). She married William Mackenzie Shaw, Managing Director of the Antwerp and Rotterdam Railways, and they apparently divided their time between Paris and Saint Germain, no doubt entertaining quite extensively, if the present array of cards is anything to go by. Amongst the small number of loosely inserted additional material, are the two black-edged mourning invitations printed by Catinka for her husband after his death on December 7th 1890.
The souvenir album houses predominantly elegantly printed calling cards, though Dietz has also retained and mounted a handful of greeting and Christmas cards, invitations, menus, and clippings. European Royalty are well represented, with several cards given by Princes, Princesses, Counts and Countesses, Viscountesses, and Barons. A high percentage of the cards have been given by other women. Others reveal her various artistic relationships, and as a whole, the album provides a wonderful snap-shot of social connections and late Victorian high society. A number have been inscribed by the giver with messages of esteem, whilst of particular appeal, Dietz herself has frequently added a little note below the card (usually in French, though sometimes English), and which often prove to be quite humorous and sometimes a little acerbic, adding some delicious flavour to this Who’s Who of the Belle Époque.
Under the card for ‘Le Comte de Barck’ she has written ‘c'est dangereuse de s'embarquer avec lui?; Alderman Wilson of Beckenham apparently gave very good dinners; Mrs Crawford Bromehead apparently ‘found the tenors kinder than her husband,’; Mrs Baker ‘was a prim lady’; Mrs R. E. Hamer ‘Her pretty face greeted her two husbands’; under the card for Lady Caroline Murray ‘Sa famille ne payait pas ses dettes’; under the card for M. & Madame Ernest du Fresnel ‘Out of sight, out of mind’; for the painter James Frutier she notes that he ‘sells spinach’; E. Nathan, ‘miaule sur son violoncelle et fait le tendre auprès du beau sexe’, whilst Camille Philipp ‘est sourd et pourtant la déesse de la mélodie lui prodigue ses faveurs’ (is deaf and yet the godess of melody lavishes him with favours). The lawyer Malioche apparently ‘does business with lost funds’, whilst she describes Georges Stigelli as ‘a heavy German who made himself an Italian singer by adding an i to his name’; whilst Albert Anschutz, a professor of piano, ‘gives music lessons, cleans, composes lullabies and prepares baths for Madame’.
Increasing attention is being given to the study of Victorian card ephemera, including calling cards, of which the present album provides a comprehensive and unique example. As the 19th century progressed, rules of deportment became more rigid, and cards helped define the complicated new social code and express its growing sentimentality. Barbara Rusch provides some insight into their importance in her essay ‘The Secret Life of Victorian Cards’ on the Ephemera Society of America’s website. ‘Cards were the ambassadors of social convention, and their subtle, covert messages were well understood by those who used them as tools in the creation of an image of respectability in an increasingly demanding and judgemental world. Particularly noteworthy are cards of social and cultural significance such as the visiting card. In Our Deportment, published in 1890, John Young observes: “To the unrefined or under-bred, the visiting card is but a trifling and insignificant bit of social paper; but to the cultured disciple of social law, it conveys a subtle and unmistakable intelligence. Its texture, style of engraving, and even the hour of leaving it to combine to place the stranger, whose name it bears, in a pleasant or a disagreeable attitude, even before his manners, conversation and face have been able to explain his social position.”... The use of cards in 19th-century daily life represented and helped define class, breeding, and status. They were a form of social contract, a common language, and ideology through which the Victorians communicated with one another, maintained moral standards and disseminated popular culture’ (Rusch).