Page images
PDF
EPUB

and Dutch-oven ;

à propos
of that

passing allusion to the products of Holland, I may remark, that the Dutch young ladies have from the first repudiated crinoline and set its ordinances at naught, claiming, indeed, a remote and ancestral priority of natural rotundity over the Hottentot Venus, and placing their faith implicitly, when nature fails them, in the virtues of an extra half-dozen of linsey-wolsey petticoats, placed one over the other.

Those horsehair volutes below the puffs of the dress-improver grew, and grew, till they reached the feet, attained the entire circumference of the body, and burst upon the world as a complete undergarment of crinoline. I should have been well satisfied if the movement had stopped here. The crinoline, pur et simple, is an admirable supporter, amplifier, and draper, throwing the dress into those sharp, light, and shadow-giving folds that look so well in a picture. When I entreat you, my dear girl, to beware of and to avoid crinoline as it is at present used or abused, you must not for a moment imagine that I wish to raise my hand against the original cotillon of horse. hair. It has made, in its time, many appallingly awkward women look tolerable, and many handsome women more graceful still.

Girls of fifteen or sixteen are all the better for a little crinoline. Their figures are generally as unformed as those of

young
colts

or young seldom know how to walk, or how to carry their arms, or how to preserve

their centres of gravity when standing still ; and the sway and swell of the crinoline help and compensate for their undecided gait. A married woman is tionably benefited by cringline in moderation. down the sometimes too prominent self-assertion of her walk-many married ladies positively swagger ;—and, by a reflex action, it frequently lends her dignity and pose, when, as is sadly the the

woman has been bullied

case,

heifers; they

unquesIt tones

was

[ocr errors]

or neglected by her husband into a jaded, listless, dejected slattern.

Many a man spoils his wife's figure, and treads her shoes down at heel, before he breaks her heart. First, the shabby shawl, the bonnet all awry, the hair crammed into a net instead of being neatly "done,”—and then, separate maintenance and Sir Cresswell Cresswell, and all the rest of it. Finally, dignified old ladies may wear crinoline-tall old ladies, mind—just as they may wear diamonds or turbans. But for short and pudgy people to convert themselves into the likenesses of tombolas, is to me utterly egregious and preposterous. To see a dumpy woman in crinoline—there

one here yesterday for an hour and a half — reminds me of one of the “ cheeses” we girls used to make before the age of crinoline, in the school-room. Very young ladies, I have remarked, may occasionally stand in need of a little horsehair ; that is, if they have to go out into the great world to see and to be seen ; but to a well-grown girl from seventeen to twenty, I think crinoline is a detraction rather than an augmentation of elegance. She is in the pride of her beauty. She is as the three-year-old that can run but for one Derby in her lifetime. She feels her life in every limb. M like to see her paces; her canters and gallops. It is a positive sin and shame to prison her up in the diving-bell of crinoline. My dear girl, lay this well to heart : that when men see a young hạndsome woman{arrayed in exaggerated crinoline, they will, in nine cases out of ten, assume that she has some defect to hide, some deformity to bolster up; and, judging of the entirety by the part, believe, that even the real natural advantages she possesses are tricked and furbished up by adventitious means. Plenty of material in a dress, plenty of underskirts—a corded or a stout twill petticoat if need be, but an infinitesimal quantity

of horsehair or buckram-those are my prescriptions and recommendations to you, O my Louisa, in this most vital of matters.

Remember—I am an old woman, and may be prejudiced. My toleration of crinoline extends no further than the horse-hair garment, or, at the most, the thinnest barricading of watchspring, distending in progressive tiers the muslin petticoat. But I do most thoroughly and entirely denounce the hideous “skeletons” of tape and iron, the monstrous hoops of whalebone and basket-work, the lumbering bird-cages and hen-coops, and rat-traps and many-hooped casks that the vain, the dull, or the vicious are parading themselves about in. I care not whether these ultra crinolines are worn by duchesses or by the daughters of sin and shame; I say, that besides being ugly and absurd, they are revoltingly indecent. I tremble when I see them. I shudder when they turn the corner, and the hussies that wear them--hussies in carriages and hussies on foot-go by. Shanko Fanko, on days when I am comparatively free from pain, wheels the sofa to the window, and I can see them, and be amazed and ashamed. I grow into such a rage that I ring furiously for Shanko Faniko to pull the blinds down. I declare that the wearing of these monstrosities is a scandal and a disgrace to Englishwomen who call themselves virtuous and modest. I declare that crinoline-exaggerated crinoline-ought to be put down by Act of Parliament; and I promise you, Louisa, that if ever I hear, through the medium of any of the numerous little birds of my acquaintance, of your appearance in public with an undue amount of crinoline, that I will have you back to Pumpwell-le-Springs, and sentence you to pickling, preserving, and serious novelreading for the rest of your natural life.

But my dear girl will attend to her mamma's behests. She will remember that she is young and good-looking, and that she stands in no need of these imbecile figments. A ray of consolation breaks in upon me, too, when I read, towards the end of your letter, that the abuse of crinoline shows signs of diminution in the very best society. It is not nearly so much worn in London this autumn, you say, as it was at Pumpwell during the summer. Oh! goodness grant that such may be the fact; and may the Shadow of Crinoline grow small by degrees and beautifully less. Meanwhile, my darling, till bustles come in again, bless you! Remember, no stint of length to your dresses. Tell Madame Shickster to whom, I am delighted to hear, Mrs. de Fytchett has taken you—to make your dresses full. Plenty of skirt, my own one, but no metallic machines to break my heart and bruiseyour partner's shins in dancing.

CONSTANCE CHESTERFIELD.

54

LETTER THE FOURTH.

TREATS OF BOYS AND GIRLS, AND THEIR DIVERS METHODS OF

CARRYING ON.”

LOUISA! I am positively shocked at you. Your last letter runs but upon one subject—the gentlemen. The odious menfolk occupy more than three parts

of your epistle to me. You have been but three weeks under the kind custody of Amelia-Charlotte—she owes me a letter, and if she does not write to me soon I shall quarrel with her)—and your talk is only of the two-legged, whiskered creatures who drop in at morning calls and to lunch; whom you meet in Regent Street and at the Covent Garden Opera —(is this Mr. Harrison so handsome as I hear he is? and does Miss Louisa Pyne really so much resemble Her Majesty Queen Victoria as they say ?); who come to dinner, or to evening parties whither you go afterwards. Your heart, you say, is still entirely your own.

Is there not a tiny portion of it in the custody of the long-moustachioed gentleman with the gold locket and the fusee-box to his watchguard, whom you met in the railway train ? and did not the brougham and the Skye terrier run away with the affections of Louisa Chesterfield as rapidly as Pluto did with Proserpine, or Claude Melnotte with Pauline Deschapelles ? My dear, beware of love at first sight! As well buy a horse from seeing him canter along Rotten Row. He may have a vice, for all his sleek coat and arched neck, and be only fit for a riding.

« PreviousContinue »