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dinner asked my friend Sir Roger in his ear if he was sure that I was not a Fanatic.
It gives me a serious concern to see such a spirit of dissension in the country; not only as it destroys virtue and common sense, and renders us in a manner barbarians towards one another, but as it perpetuates our animosities, widens our breaches, and transmits our present passions and prejudices to our posterity. For my own part, I am sometimes afraid that I discover the seeds of a civil war in these our divisions; and therefore cannot but bewail, as in their first principles, the miseries and calamities of our children.
IT is our custom at Sir Roger's, upon the coming in of the post, to sit about a pot of coffee, and hear the old Knight read Dyer's Letter; which he does with his spectacles upon his nose, and in an audible voice, smiling very often at those little strokes of satire, which are so frequent in the writings of that author. I afterwards communicate to the Knight such packets as I receive under the quality of SPECTATOR. The following letter chancing to please him more than ordinary, I shall publish it at his request.
MR, SPECTATOR, 1 You have diverted the town almost a whole month at the expence of the country, it is now high time that you should give the country their revenge. Since your withdrawing from this place, the fair sex are run into great extravagancies. Their petticoats, which began to heave and swell before you left us, are now blown up into a most enormous concave, and rise every day more and more.
In short, Sir, since our women know themselves to be out of the eye of the SPECTATOR, they will be kept within no compass. You praised them a little too soon, for the modesty of their head-dresses; for as the humour of a sick person is often driven out of one limb into another, their superfluity of ornaments, instead of being intirely banished, seems only fallen from their heads upon their lower parts. What they have lost in height they make up in breadth, and contrary to all rules of architecture, widen the foundations at the time that they shorten the superstructure. Were they, like Spanish Jennets, to impregnate by the wind, they could not have thought on a more proper invention. But as we do not yet hear any particular use in this petticoat, or that it contains any thing more than what was supposed to be in those of scantier make, we are wonderfully at a loss about it.
• The women give out, in defence of these wide bottoms, that they are airy, and very proper for the season ; but this I look upon to be only a pretence, and a piece of art, for it is well known we have not had a more moderate summer these many years, so that it is certain the heat they complain of cannot be in the weather. * Besides, I would fain ask these tender constitutioned
* It has been said that the pad, the ton of the present year 1793, was invented for a defence against the cold, as the hoops were then pretended to be against the heat, and that they were introduced in winter. The old ladies might perhaps have occasion for such assistance; but to the young, we apprehend, they are, for that purpose, totally unnecessary,
ladies, why they should require more cooling than their mothers before them?
• I find several speculative persons are of opinion that our sex has of late years been very saucy, and that the hoop-petticoat is made use of to keep us at a distance. It is most certain that a woman's honour cannot be better intrenched than after this manner, in circle within circle, amidst such a variety of outworks and lines of circumvallation. A female who is thus invested in whalebone is sufficiently secured against the approaches of an ill-bred fellow, who might as well think of Sir George ETHEREGE's
way of making “ Love in a Tub,” as in the midst of so many hoops.*
* Among these various conjectures, there are men of superstitious tempers, who look upon the hoop petticoat as a kind of prodigy. Some will have it that it portends the downfal of the French King, and observe that the Farthingal appeared in England a little before the ruin of the Spanish monarchy. + Others are of opinion that it foretels battle and bloodshed, and believe it of the same prognostication as the tail of a blazing star. For my part, I am apt to think it is a sign that multitudes are coming into the world rather than going out of it. I
• The first time I saw a lady dressed in one of these petticoats, I could not forbear blaming her in my own thoughts for walking abroad when she was so near ber time, but soon recovered myself out of my error, when I found all the modish part of the sex as far gone as herself. It is generally thought some crafty women have thus betrayed their companions into hoops, that they might make them accessary to their own conceal
* Pope, in his Rape of the Lock, very justly remarks the inefficacy of such fences to secure the fortress.
+ Viz. in 1558.
| How far the prominences in the female appearance, at present fashionable, may be forerunners of increasing population, time probably may shew.
ments, and by that means escape the censure of the world; as wary Generals have sometimes dressed two or three dozen of their friends in their own habit, that they might not draw upon themselves any particular attacks from the enemy. The strutting petticoat smooths all distinctions, levels the mother with the daughter, and sets maids and matrons, wives and widows, upon the same bottom. In the mean while, I cannot but be troubled to see so many well-shaped innocent virgins bloated up, and waddling up and down like big-bellied women.
« Should this fashion get among the ordinary people, our public ways would be so crouded, that we should want street room. Several congregations of the best fashion find themselves already very much straitened, and if the mode increase, I wish it may not drive many ordinary women into meetings and conventicles. Should our sex at the same time take it into their heads to wear trunk breeches (as who knows what their indignation at this female treatment may drive them to?) a man and his wife would fill a whole pew.
• You know, Sir, it is recorded of ALEXANDER THE GREAT, that in his Indian expedition he buried several suits of armour, which by his directions were made much too big for any of his soldiers, in order to give posterity an extraordinary idea of him, and make them believe he had commanded an army of giants. I am persuaded that if one of the present petticoats happens to be hung up in any repository of curiosities, it wil. lead into the same error the generations that lie some removes from us; unless we can believe our posterity will think so disrespectfully of their great grandmothers, that they made themselves monstrous to appear
amiable. • When I survey this new-fashioned rotunda in all its parts, I cannot but think of the old philosopher, who after having entered into an Egyptian temple, and looked about for the idol of the place, at length discovered a little black monkey inshrined in the midst of it, upon which he could not forbear crying out, to the great scan
dal of the worshippers, “ What a magnificen place is here for such a ridiculous inhabitant!"
• Though you have taken a resolution, in one of your • papers, to avoid descending to particularities of dress, I believe
you will not think it below you, on so extraordinary an occasion, to unboop the fair sex, and cure this fashionable tympany that is got among them. Iam apt to think the petticoat will shrink of its own accord at your first coming to town; at least a touch of your pen will make it contract itself like the sensitive plant, and by that means oblige several who are either terrified or astonished at this portentous novelty, and among the rest,
Your humble servant, &c.' C.
WOMEN in their nature are much more gay and joyous'than men ; whether it be that their blood is more refined, their fibres more delicate, and their animal spirits more light and volatile; or whether, as some have imagined, there may not be a kind of sex in the very soul, I shall not pretend to determine. As vivacity is the gift of women, gravity is that of men. They should each of them therefore keep a watch upon the particular bias which nature has fixed in their minds, that it may not