The Dressing of the Hair, Moustachios and Beard (10)Previous page
Though art's hid causes are not found, All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That raakes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me,
Than all the adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not mine heart."
BEN JONSON, The Silent Woman.
The apeing by the tradespeople of the manners of the great is amusingly told in the Lady's Magazine for August, 1782, in the form of a letter to the editor, purporting to be from a respectable greengrocer, who signs himself "Artichoke Pulse." He says: "I wish to God you would write something smart against fashion. My family is almost ruined by the article of dress." It appeared that his son Tom had worked himself into a gentleman's family as footman, and from this circumstance his troubles began. "You can scarcely conceive, my dear Sir, what an alteration this acquaintance with the great family has made. Sally, my eldest daughter, talks of taste and the mode, aye faith, and the dresses too. I will give you a description of her going to see the new comedy of the 'East Indian' the other night, in company with her brothers and sisters, and a lord's footman, who presented them with orders for the two-shilling gallery.
"Dick Dusty, the hairdresser's apprentice, who lives in a court near us, was sent for at two o'clock, and two pound of Sangwine's eightpenny-halfpenny powder being procured, with a proper quantity of grease, the operation of the head was begun among the cabbages, lettuces, turnips, carrots, peas, and beaus that surrounded us. Dick, who was but a novice at his business, cut and slashed away until he had left just as much hair as he could conveniently dress, and then, having worked the grease and the flour into a kind of paste, he plaistered over the head, using his hand as a trowel, until it was fairly encrusted so as to hide the colour of the hair, or to deceive the eye into a belief that the head was a pudding bag turned inside out!
"As it was summer, my daughters chose to go without caps, and an artificial bouquet was stuck in the front of those puddings. The gowns were silk; but being purchased at a pawnbroker's they were not properly cut for the fashionable hoop. Hoops, however, were to be wore, and even my wife resolved for once, to figure away in one of those oval pieces of nonsense."
"Perhaps in nature, there was never such a figure! Only fashion to yourself a greengrocer's wife issuing from her cellar in Drury Lane, with a monstrous hoop, exposing a pair of legs, the ankles as thick as the calf, and the calf as thick as the modern waist; her hair bepuddened, her cheeks bedaubed with red, her neck of a crimson hue, her arms bursting through a pair of white gloves, the contrast between the two skins being almost the very opposite to each other; a thick-flowered silk exposing the whole front of a quilted petticoat that once was white, and then you have the appearance of my wife! Her daughters made as ridiculous a figure, and Will, I do assure you, was not the least remarkable in the group."
This sally, recounting the woes of the hapless" Artichoke," provoked an indignant reply from a champion of the women, which duly appeared in the next number:
"I think it high time, then, for every female to exert the little knowledge she may be possessed of in the scribbling line, when the wits, under the characters of Green Grocers, dare to insult us, and speak of our hoops, and other parts of our dress, as freely as they exercise their authority over the ostlers at a country inn.
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