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past, and read us a lesson on our degeneracy. I love to gaze on those antique views of St. James's Park and Kensington Gardens, where
“ Grove rods on grove-each alley has its brother,
And half the platforın just reflects the other;" drawn at a period when the innovating hand of taste had not spread devastation, and the rage for the natural and picturesque had not disfigured the graces of art. What delightful sprinklings of belles with lofty head-dresses, high-heeled shoes, and wide-spreading hoops ; and beaux, politely bowing, with gold-laced coats, bag-wigs, cocked-bats, and long swords! Here a little lap-dog is frolicking among the trees ; and there, an ebony page is attending the footsteps of a comely dame, sweeping along in all the pride of taffeta or brocade ; while Master Jacky, a very man in miniature, attired in a long skirted coat, spread out with whalebone, ample waistcoat, short breeches with buckles, clock stockings, and square-toed shoes, is riding a cockhorse on papa's gold-headed cane, or gamboling on the green with little miss, who sports her hoop, French shoes, stomacher, and fan, with no girlish distinctions in her attire to mark her juvenility.
I am as much pleased with Hogarth's pictures, for the insight they afford me into the costume of his day, as for their wit, character, or composition; and I fairly luxuriate in the contemplation of old prints, which, whatever their graphical merits, have perpetuated the apparel of our forefathers. Yes, I regret the extinction of a period, when Fashion was indeed a goddess, at whose altar all were worshippers. Comfort, convenience, and a sordid spirit, have diminished the glories of her shrine. No rich silks and satins, no embroidered velvets and gold lace, now glitter in her temple. She is no more the party-coloured deity, fluttering in feathers and finery, and adorned with all the skill of the jeweller, the goldsmith, the embroiderer, and the weaver; but a tawdry personage, thinly and meanly clad, and the mere Abigail of her former self. Let us take a retrospect of the old dress, and consider its component parts, seriatim. First, then, of
The Cocked hat, that noble appendage to the “human face divine.” “ I never admired a round hat,” says Geffery Gambado,~“ in truth, a most puerile ornament for the head of a sober man. In windy weather you are blinded with it; in rainy, you are drowned ; whereas a cocked hat will retain the water, and keep your head cool, having much the same effect upon it, that a pan of water has upon a flower-pot.” Besides its conveniences, it is unrivalled in gracefulness. What a martial air have the portraits of General Elliot and the Marquis of Granby, where the artist has drawn them (and I have seen them thus, though somewhat rare) with these noble coverings to the pericranium! It was a sneaking invention, to shrink up the goodly proportion of a beaver, with its gold-laced rim and sparkling loop and button, to the circular apology for a hat, with its unpretending binding and band, and diminutive buckle, that now covers the weak heads of our degenerate race. The Goths and Vandals of fashion have extirpated the triangular chapeau almost from our memories; and so great appears the modern abhorrence of every hat but a round one, that even the opera hat is now every where exploded, save at the orchestra of Vauxhall Gardens. I hope no silly predilection, on the part of the spirited proprietors, for modern usages, will abolish these sole-remaining records of good taste, or sacrilegiously remove the time-embrowned paintings of Hogarth, which adorn the supper boxes; an innovation, which rumour reports to be in contemplation.
The Wig too is defunct; that convenient auxiliary to the character of the human countenance; and a man is now utterly dependent for ex• trinsic reputation on the natural and undisguised lineaments of his
physiognomy. All adventitious aids have forsaken him, in the universal levity of modern fashion. Wit, gaiety, and gallantry; sobriety, gravity, and wisdom, can no more be imparted by the mechanical magic of tortured hair; and the pericranium, “shorn of its beams," exhibits the mere phantom of its past existence,-a plain, unsophisticated, unadorned matter-of-fact. Perruquiers exist no longer.' The hair-dresser's art, once a grave mystery, that required the grasp of a comprehensive mind, is frittered away into a few rapid flourishings of the comb, and brief clippings of the scissors; the curling-tongs, heretofore the symbols of a refined and intricate art, rust in ignoble desuetude; and powder-puffs, and pomatum, stripped of all their glories, are become mere dead letters in the frizeur's vocabulary. “Ah! sir," said a little old tonsor, to whose operative hand I submitted my caput a few summers since, and with whom I was sympathising on the abolition of queus, toupees, and pigtails, “ them were glorious times as you speak of. Why, I've had a gentleman's head under my fingers for hours together ;” and then he proceeded to describe, with the garrulity of the barber of Bagdad, how he erected stories of curls round the tower of Babel of the good man's noddle. “ There was some comfort in those days, and folks had their heads dressed like Christians. They took a pride in 'em, sir. Many's the time a gentleman would sit up all night in his arm-chair, because he wouldn't disturb his curls, seeing he was engaged to a dinner-party next day; and many's the pound of good powder I have worked into one head at a sitting. Ah ! that confounded powder-tax! It has been the ruin of us." Hapless frizieur ! he had grown grey with grief at the decline of his art; and went creeping through the world venting bootless exclamations against the decay of taste, and uttering vain wishes for the return of the halcyon days and golden age of wiggery. Lamenting as I do this gross degeneracy from the good old times," I experience a grateful pleasure in the reflection, that a few relics of wiggism are yet left amongst us, viz. at the bar, and on the bench, episcopal and judicial. Many a glorious minute of retrospective felicity have I passed in the contemplation of my friend Ravencroft's stock of frizzled gravities, at his emporium near Lincoln's Inn, where they are exhibited in glorious profusion, from the petulent tie-wig of the barrister to the grave full-bottom of the lord chief-justice, and the snug bird's nest of the right reverend bishop. What pictures of the past float upon my fancy as I encounter, in my way to the Chancery Court, some pleader in his black gown, with his blue bag and perriwig, and whose romantic appearance, associating with my predilections for the ancient costume, bursts upon me like an organic remain of a former world. I haunt courts of justice, that I may contemplate at least one set of beings unchanged from the pristine garb of their ancestors; and I reverence their black-patched occiputs and sallow faces, for their commendable pertinacity in adhering to antique customs.“ The wisdom's in the wig," says the old song ; and deny it who dare. Give me a sermon from a bishop, and a speech from a barrister, before all the unmitred homilies, and unwigged orations that were ever delivered. A fig for the eloquence that derives not its inspiration from the wig. Fine preaching and good speaking are clean out of repute (“except as before excepted”) since they were abolished.
Cravats.-I care nothing for the multitudinous ties and diversely fashioned folds of the present day. Neither French stiffeners nor purple stocks have charms for me, while busy memory reverts to the embroidered neckcloths and laced frills of our ancestors ; and to the costly ruffles of point-lace washed in coffee grounds, to impart to them the fashionable tinge. Thuse were times indeed, when a bandage for the throat and the decorations for the wrists cost more money than modern penuriousness will expend on a whole suit.
The Coat, the prince of garments, was then in reality a coat ; mot yielding in importance even to the Roman toga. Body ome! when I cast my indignant eyes on the scanty jackets of our modern beaux, and compare them with the flowing skirts and ample sleeves of our forefathers, I am confounded with shame. Where are the massy buttons, larger than crown pieces ; the embroidered button-holes, the silk linings, the broad gold lace? Where the richly decorated velvet, the striped silk,--the maroons, the purples, the scarlets, the Poinpadours, that delighted the eye with their luxuriant splendour, and coinmanded a respect never paid to the wearer alone ? Alas! for ever faded from the view ;-except (welcome, yet mournful thought!) when they glare upon us in degraded majesty from the mercenary doors of the oldclothesmen of Monmouth-street or Russell-court. There, like a captive monarch, a stray vestige of the old dress may occasionally be seen; serving, at least, to remind us that “such things were, and were most dear to us." The eye, indeed, is sometimes refreshed with a vestige of the olden time, in the revival of a musty comedy; and the costume of old age, as represented on the stage, remains a faithful mirror of past days. These are classical indications of a time-hallowed era, which yet maintain their ground, in despite of modern innovation ; but the eye is no longer delighted with the sight of a stray bachelor of eighty adhering with laudable pertinacity to the fashions of his youth, with coat “of formal cut,” shaming the flimsy occupants of a world in which he is doomed to linger ; a phantom like this has long since become a “ rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno.”
Waistcoats were articles of suprenie luxury and taste. Here the skill of the weaver, the embroiderer, and the tailor, were tasked to the uttermost. Cloth, satin, velvet, richly figured silk, and shining gold lace, were all in requisition. Waistcoats were truly waistcoats in those days; not a scanty three-quarters of a yard of striped or spotted cobweb; but a substantial waistcoat piece, fashioned to the shape, and which defied cabbaging. Good comely pockets, too, of capacious depth and amplitude, where a man might rummage his hands among his coins with comfort, and jingle his consequence in the ears of poorer folk, to the full conviction of their own insignificance.
The Stockings of those days deserved the name of hose. They VOL. X. No. 57.-1825.
shrunk not, as in our time, from observation, beneath the ignoble concealment of Wellington boots and Petersham trowsers. No ; they shone gaily forth in glittering glory, with embroidered clocks for gallants, or comfortably rolled over the knees for your ancient gentry; such as aldermen, sheriffs, burghers, and justices of the peace.
The square-toed Shoes, with capacious buckles, sparkling with all the magnificence of paste, completed the pedestal of man, and formed a worthy base for the image of the gods. Shoe-strings (ignoble makeshifts !) degraded not the feet even of the poorest citizen. Chimneysweeps and tinkers,-nay, the very mendicants, would have shuddered at the thought. And then for the other ornamental appendages : think on the diamond, the gold, the silver, and the cut steel hilted swords, “more for show than use,” shining at the side, with the valiant blade reposing in the peaceful scabbard : reflect too on the richly mounted snuff-box, the gold-headed cane, and the spiendid kneebuckles; forming a tout-ensemble of sterling grandeur.
In those times, dress was the ostensible indicator of rank and consequence. The man of wealth carried a fortune on his back, that set the competition of the vulgar at defiance. Men's stations in life were marked by a garb peculiar to their profession. Parsons, doctors, and lawyers, had their distinct and appropriate costume, and stood apart from the common inass. Alas ! for our sober-coloured times! All distinction of rank is levelled by the universal assumption of one common livery. You shall jostle a pickpocket in the streets, and beg his pardon, mistaking him for a gentleman, and tread on the heels of a peer without offering an apology. A friend of mine, who officiated as steward at the anniversary dinner of a charitable institution, observed among the guests a mean, dirty-looking man, with muddy boots and spurs. Conceiving he must have gained admission through some improper means, or, as the phrase is, that he had been smuggled in, he consulted a brother steward on the propriety of requesting him to with
“ Bless your soul!” exclaimed his colleague, “why that's the Duke of
As Dick Cypher has it in his song,
You cannot tell the difference, excepting by the name;" and were it not for the laudable attachment of the ladies for silks and satins; feathers, laces, and gay coloured ribbons; and the public spirit of a few of the males, who occasionally treat us with an exhibition of the grotesque in the eccentric cut of their garments, we might be set down for a nation of Quakers. Even his Majesty, I have been told, occasionally wears a plain blue coat, round hat, and Wellington trowsers ! Dreadful degeneracy!
I read an account in one of the Paris papers, the other day, that verily thrilled me with horror. A man in dishabille, attired in a loose coat, dirty boots, and black silk kerchief, presented himself at the Duke of Wellington's levee, and insisted on immediate admission. The attendant demurred (as well he might) at suffering him to enter his Grace's presence, and required his name. Credite ANTIQUI?
'Twas the Emperor of all the Russias ! !
Fair ladies ! I have so selfishly spun out the detail of the grievances of my own sex, that I have little space left to expatiate on the glories
that once embellished yours. Yet think not I am insensible to your Joss. No; I hear, I sympathize with the sighs of regret that escape from your lovely lips, when your grand-mammas are describing their grand-mammas sacques, and josephs, and mantuas. I mark the inspiring recital stirring up all the energies of your bosoms, all the sensibilities of your nature, all that dear admiration of your sex for bewitching dress and enviable extravagance. Tell me, ve sair ones, have ye not listened with breathless interest to the delightful descant of some venerable dame on the hoops, flounces, and furbelows ; the patches and paints ; the stomachers, the caps, the storied head-dresses and high-heeled shoes of her youth? Has not a description of her bridal suit induced the mournful contrast of your own ? And has not the sensitive muslin that thinly envelopes your fair form, shrunk with instinctive consciousness into less than its own petty insignificance at the recital ? To descend to lesser objects,,let me ask you, if, when a stray remnant of taffeta or brocade, wrought into a pincushion, or dovetailed into a piece of patchwork, by chance meets your eyes, have you not grieved to think that they weave no such silks now-a-days ?. And could you avoid forming invidious comparisons with the cobweb sarsnets and satins, and lustrings of modern millinery ?
Woe to thee, Spitalfields ! Diminished is thy splendour ; silent are thy looms ; spent are thy shuttles. No more thy gay artisans embellish the fair forms of beauty. No more the Park, the Mall, the Ring, glitter with thy glories. Your warpers, your windsters, your weavers, an impoverished race, no longer flourish and fatten in gay prosperity, but “ peep about to find themselves dishonourable graves.” The silkworm hath perished. Your streets are deserted : Alas! the Genius of Dress hath for ever Aled our isle ; and even the once propitious shores of France welcome her no more. Dissolved are all her spells ; faded all her charms ! Her empire is lost ; her throne subverted; her sceptre broken!
ULLA, OR THE ADJURATION.
“Thou 'rt gone! thou 'rt slumbering low
With the sounding seas above thee,
But a haunting dream to love thee!
To greet the sunny hours,
The white spray up in showers.
'Twas Ulla's voice ! --alone she stood
In the Iceland summer night,
From a dark rock's beetling height.
" I know thou hast thy bed
Where the sea-weed's coil hath bound thee,
But the depths are hush'd around thee!