‘Crinolinemania’ and Oscar Wilde’s Tragic Half-Sisters

Published October 31, 2016 by kitlat

Huh. Reminds me of the death in the 1840s of ballerina Emma Livry, who died from burns incurred when she danced too close to the gaslamps.

This was a thing.  I found this as I read about ballet dancers in the mid-19th century.

Beside Every Man

Today, I came across a fascinating article on ‘Crinolinemania’, which mentioned the danger of fire and suggested that 3,000 British women died in a ten year period when their crinoline dresses caught fire. Included in the fatalities from crinoline fires at this time were Oscar Wilde’s half-sisters, Emily and Mary.


On Halloween night, 31 October 1871, Emily and Mary Wilde, half-sisters to Oscar, attended a ball at Drumaconnor House in County Monaghan. Towards the end of the evening, Andrew Nicholl Reid, their host, invited Emily to take a last turn around the floor. As they waltzed past an open fireplace, Emily’s crinoline dress brushed against the embers and caught alight. When Mary rushed to her sister’s aid, she managed to set her own dress on fire in the attempt.

Eyewitness reports suggest that Reid wrapped his coat around Emily and attempted to extinguish the flames by rolling her on the ground…

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