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From shore unto shore, made the shock'd nations wring---
But grandeur anew hail'd Italia's clime:
the proud ; And patricide
foes, and the Austrian and Gaul,
She is daily devour'd-what the palmer-worm leaves,
Joel, Chap. i. verse 4.
BY THE LITTLE UNKNOWN."
Things run to waste." SHAKSPEARE.
Though it occurs but once in the Dictionary, there is no word in more general acceptation, I believe, than that of Fashion. Hence we may justly suppose that every genteel individual, between the ages of eighteen and eighty, who considers himself as one of the world, must, in some measure, be acquainted with its meaning. We all know this-that it originates with the higher classes, and is " an “ article,” as Mr. Huskisson would say, “occasionally of home manu“ facture, but more frequently of foreign importation.” We all know, too, that by an established graduated scale in society, the fashion descends from superior to inferior, through all the intermediate shades and classes, till it ultimately affects the whole body polite ; which is a refutation of the old opinion, that “ fashion rises.” Fashion is always descending. We all know, too, that everybody now-a-days, who wears linen, belongs to a parish, and has had education sufficient to distinguish between a shilling and sixpence, considers himself a gentleman; and we know, that every gentleman necessarily subjects himself to the domination of fashion, to a more or less degree, in his habits, manners, pleasures, and desires. We are justified, therefore, in supposing that that portion of our metropolitan mankind, who consider themselves genteel, from the possession of qualifications not inferior to those above-mentioned, must be aware of the signification of the term-fashion.
Under this impression, it has certainly surprised me to hear asserted, by several shrewd people, that the contrary was the case, and that, in fact, that portion of the world living in fashionable subjection, were, of all others, the most ignorant of the power which subjected them. Fashion, they averred, being capricious, was therefore indefinable, (like the character of a stock-broker, for instance ;) and being despotical, (as we may say of the sublime Porte, or Justice Park, or Mr. Price, the Yankee manager,) was unreasonable and compulsive; from which causes, it exercised an influence over its subjects, to be respected, rather than questioned, and to be obeyed, whether comprehended or not. In addition to this, an ingenious juvenile, of my acquaintance, who occasionally perpetrates funnycisms on the deaf side of his maiden aunt, remarked to me, that fashion reminded him of the story of the “ Indian Philosopher " and his Tongue," who, go where he would, found it in everybody's mouth, but could get nobody to tell him what it was made of.--Now on the receipt of the reasoning above-mentioned, (the joke I pass
over,) I confess I was puzzled to understand it; it seemed to me too serious to laugh at, and yet too improbable to believe. It did not convince me, and, as Dr. Owen justly said to one of his churchwardens at St. Olaves, “ Í comprehended no more of the matter than
Fashion being Protean, and existing under a variety of forms, has thereby given rise to a variety of opinions ; but these opinions bearing merely on its form---such as the character of a hat, the position of a tie, the complexion of a glove, the longitude of a watch-ribbon, the latitude of a whisker, &c., &c., were by no means questions on its nature.
What is fashion? If my reader should unluckily be ignorant on this point, I will attempt the instructive, and give the best definition of it in my power.--- Fashion may be considered worldly religion; and with people of breeding signifies the temporal faith, in contradistinction to the spiritual. Every gentleman puts his trust in it, therefore, either in the proportion of the gentility of his education, or the strength of his finances. Fashion has its high priests ; these are professionally termed, Exclusives; and in conducting the rites and ceremonies of its worship, are found to be generally men well adapted to their office from birth and education, in their peculiar propensities, appropriate acquirements, long course of study and experience, and sometimes genius. It must be said of these people, that they are more practical than many priests, for they do not expound the faith so niuch to the “ world” by words, as they inculcate admirable lessons in their actions and appearances. Fashion has its places of assembly in town, such as the Opera, Almack's, and the Park in particular, and some others in general. Fashion, like other faiths, has also its seasons of the year for the meeting and dispersing of its votaries, as also for sending them abroad on a pilgrimage, or rusticating them at home on a penance. London is their point of concentration. Any reader, that is at all imaginative, may carry the simile on in his “mind's eye,” and suggest a comparison with Mecca, Jerusalem, &c., &c. Mankind, with respect to fashion, are divided, I consider, as with all other faiths, into two great classes, which may be thus denominated---orthodox, or fashionable; heterodox, or antifashionable. The oxthodox are sub-divided into numerous sects, agreeing on general principles, but at variance on particular points: these may be designed, firstly, the supreme, or ultras; secondly, the medium, or respectables ; thirdly, and lastly, the subordinate, or people in business. The heterodox may also be distinguished into three species, very different from each other, namely, sceptical malcontente, schismatic odd-bodies, and heretical vulgarians; to each of which fashion awards a proportionate punishment, for their crime; as, for instance-to the first, the pains of indifference; to the second, the tortures of ridicule; and to the last, the signal doom of excommunication.
Having thus given a concise but sufficient outline of what is generally signified by the term, fashion, to enter into a minute de.
tail, or to enlarge further on what I have said, would be uninteresting, and apart from my purpose.--Now in my character, as an observer of society, and one whose avowed intention, moreover, it is to publish his observations for the benefit of his fellow-creatures, it certainly is an important point to the public, that before I promulgate my opinions to the world at large respecting them, I should first declare my principles of fashionable belief. My reader, therefore, may with justice demand of me, " Are you, sir, Little Unknown'orthodox, “ or heterodox ?"---To this, to reply candidly, I must say heterodox ; for though possessing from nature a pure orthodoxical inclination, yet having derived from education, a style of thinking and judging, somewhat at variance with the “ true belief,” this occasions a daily contention of my wishes and my judgment, and I am unluckily thrown back into the anti-fashionable class, from the mastery which the latter is in the habit of getting over the former. Yet being neither a heretical vulgarian, nor a schismatic odd-body, my character perhaps approaches closer to that of a sceptical malcontent; but as that sounds too invidious for an agreeable and well-disposed personage like myself, I beg rather to assume the more appropriate title of a free-thinker. My reader will perceive the advantage in this, for as I have an admiration feelingly alive to all that is meritorious in fashion, so I have a few vulgar prejudices mingled with it, in the same mind, that are equally observant of all that is extravagant and extraordinary. With this explanation of my principles in regarding society, my reader will be better able to judge of me correctly, when I afford to the future pages of the Inspector, my monthly contribution of Metropolitan Sketches.
And now for my observation of the world in the year 1827.Fashion, it is said, is fond of proceeding to extremes; as in the present day, for instance, to the head and feet, a great deal of interesting conversation is engrossed daily upon subjects relating to them; for the first, namely, butterboat hats, bear's grease, phrenology, semicircular noses, and quadrangular whiskers; in the latter respect I may designate such as the best blacking, clogs, corn-plaisters, and the difference of public effect in a pointed or square toe. The observation above-mentioned is a just one, for when taking hold of a very medium object indeed, namely, the waist, fashion cannot help running into extremes with it. Most people are inclined to consider the waist as a less important part, or rather as occupying a less honorable situation in the human anatomy, than either head or heels, for the mere reason, I believe, because it comes less frequently into use or assistance; this may negative its utility, but, in my opinion, does not derogate from its consequence. The waist is certainly but part of a machine which is governed by one, and moved about by the other of the before-mentioned extremities ; and yet what would be the utility of either head or heels without it, if it was not for the isthmus of the waist, which connects the continent of the body to a pair of peninsular legs? Now, in the opinion of a mathematician, the waist must certainly be considered the most honorable part of the
body, being the centre, and the position, therefore, from which he would take a definition of the same, and ascertain the exact diaineter and circumference of the person with the number of superficial_ inches it affords; nay, I am induced to think that if the truth were known, Dame Nature, in our formation, begins at the middle, and works away to the extremities, clapping on a head to the animal trunk at one end, and fitting him (by way of appendage) with a pair of perambulatory instruments at the other. Having thus spoken of the waist in a light of honor and utility, I will maintain it in another, where its claims to attention will be even more attractivethat of beauty. In what does the whole beauty of the human form concentrate but the waist? It is the standard by which personal symmetry is determined. I question whether as clever a man as Čanova could have carved a good looking man or woman without
The women are aware of its beauty in themselves, else there never would have been such an invention as stays: and we are aware of its beauty in them as well, for though fine eyes are with me indis. pensable in a female, yet I must confess, that with my arm encircling a very pretty waist, I should overlook thick ancles altogether. Now, in my opinion, were there many such human Mammoths as Mrs. Million in existence (the periphery of whose waist, I have it from a most authentic source, exceeds that of a noble duke's shoulders), the ladies, from very shame and vexation of heart, would pine away and be buried, and ultimately occasion a scarcity of an article, that from Adam, or rather Eve, downwards, to use a trade term, has never yet“ failed its supply." But, as respects the gentlemen, with whom my pages are on this occasion more particularly concerned : Supposing it had pleased Divine Providence to have afflicted the earth with a race of such satirés on humanity as the deceased Jack Johnson, whose waist was of an even thickness with his chest, and respecting whose figure Sir Joseph Bankes once remarked, that “if
person were to measure across his shoulders and hips, and then “ the distance from his hip joints to his shoulder blades, he would “ describe an excellent oblong”-I say, that if the order of nature could be so outraged as to admit the existence of a race of such unchristianlike animals, that any man
der such circumstances, who at all held the dignity and fair proportion of the human form in estimation, might at such tiine covet death with propriety, and strap bis razors. On the three points, therefore, of beauty, honor, and utility, I should think that it must now be as apparent to my reader as myself, that the waist is a proper object of regard ; and if so, he has at once my reason, why in my present view of society I have selected it as the subject of the few ensuing observations.
To a spectator of the world like myself, and a lover of consistency, or to a man of small wardrobe, and “ not much of monies “ otherwise unappropriated,” as they say in Parliament, it has been both surprising and painful to contemplate within this last twelvemonth the very great lengths to which gentlemen go in their waists; more recently indicated in the persons of several individuals returned from