« AnteriorContinuar »
of Christian moderation ; such a degree of conformity to them, as is sufficient to preclude the appearance of particularity, is reasonable and becoming.
But let not this reasoning be misapplied. In the first place, it neither suggests nor justifies the practice of adopting fashions which intrench either on the principles of decency, or on the rules of reasonable frugality and Christian simplicity: Fashions of the former kind are not unfrequently introduced by the shameless, of the latter by the profuse; and both are copied by the vain and inconsiderate. "But de liberately to copy either, is to shew that delicacy, the chief grace of the female character; or that economy, the support not merely of honesty alone, but of generosity; or ibat a conformity to the temper which characterizes the followers of Christ, is deemed an object only of secondary importance. To copy either inadvertantly, denotes a want of habitual liveliness of attention to the native dictates of sensibility, or to the suggestions of equity and kindness, or to the revealed will of God. Among the modes of attire more or less inconsistent with feminine modesty, those which studiously ape the garb of the other sex are to be classed.* Their unpleasing effect is heightened by additional circumstances, which very commonly attend them, and are designed perhaps to strengthen the resemblance: a masculine air and deportment, and masculine habits of address and familiarity. To those whom higher motives would not deter from exbibiting or following, so preposterous an example, it may not be ineffectual to whisper, that she who conceives that to imitate the habiliments of persons of the other sex, is a probable method of captivating the beholders, is not a little unfortunate in her conjecture. Let her ask herself, in what manner she would be impressed by the appearance of a young man studiously approaching in his dress to the
From the account whicb Dr. Henry gives of English manners and customs at different periods, both sexes among our ancestors appear to have been as much at. tached to costliness, rariety, and I may add, absurdity in dress, as their contempora ries abroad, and each sex commonly as much as the other. From the two following passages, however, in bis history, it may be inferred that at one period, namely, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, the men exceeded the women in extravagance and fickleness. “ The dress of that period was costly, and in its fashions subject to frequent fuctuation ; so costly, that the wardrobes of the nobility in fifty years had increased to twenty times their former ralue; so changeable, that the capricious inconstancy of the national dress was quaintly represented by the figure of an Englishman in a musing posture, with sheers in his hand and cloth on his arm, perplexed amidst a multiplicity of fashions, and uncertain how to devise his garments." _“The attire of females was becoming and decent, similar io ita fasbion to their present dress, but less subject to change and caprice,"
model of her own'; and she will not be at a loss to estimate the repulsive influence of her accoutrements on those whoin she copies.
* In the next 'place it is to be observed, that the principles which recommend such a degree of compliance with established fashions of an unobjectionable nature as is sufficient to prevent the appearance of particularity, cannot be alledged in defence of those persons, who are solicitous to pursue existing modes through their minute rainifications, or who seek to distinguish themselves as the introducers or early followers of new modes. Fickleness, or vanity, or ambition, is the motive which encourages such desires; desires which afford presumptive evidence of feebleness of intellect, though found occasionally to actuate and degrade superior minds. It happens, in the embellishment of the person, as in most other instances, that wayward caprice, and a passion for admiration, deviate into those paths of folly which lead from the objects of pursuit.
-We have run
For monstrous novelty, and strange disguise. So preposterous and fantastic are the disguises of the human form which modern fashion has exhibited, tbat her votaries, when brought together in her public haunts, have sometimes been found scarcely able to refrain from gazing with an eye of ridicule and contempt on each other. And while individually priding themselves on their elegance and taste, they have very commonly appeared in the eyes of an indifferent spectator, to be running a race for the acquisition of deformity.
I have not scrupled to inculcate the duty of refraining from compliance with fashions in dress, which would be accompanied with a degree of expense inconsistent with the circumstances of the individual. Young women who accustom themselves to be lavish in matters of personal decoTation, easily proceed to think, that so long as they restrain their expensiveness within the limits of the resources supplied by their parents and friends, they are not chargeable with blame on the subject. If they pay their bills punc'tually, who is entitled to find fault? Those persons will discern just cause of reprehension, who do not consider the honest payment of bills at the customary times as comprising the whole of human duty with regard to the expenditure of money. The demands of justice may be silenced : but has benevolence no claims to be satisfied? The fact is, that an unguarded fondness for ornament has been known, in a multitude of examples, to overpower the native tenderness of the female 'mind; and to prevent the growth and establishment of dispositions pronounced in the gospel to: be indispensably requisite to the Christian character. If the purse be generally kept low by the demands of milliners, of mantua-makers, of jewellers and dealers in trinkets, and of others who bear their part in adorning the person; little can be allotted to the applications of charity, But charity requires, in common with other virtues, the fostering influence of habit. If the custom of devoting an adequate por. tion of the income to the relief of distress be long intermitted, the desire of giving relief will gradually be impaired. The heart forgets, by disuse, the emotions in which it once delighted. The ear turns from solicitations now become vowelcome. In proportion as the wants and griefs of others are disregarded, the spirit of selfishness strikes deeper and stronger roots in the breast. Let the generous exertions of kindness be tempered with discretion : but let a disposition to those exertions be encouraged on principles of daty, and confirmed, in proportion to the ability of the individual, by frequency of practice.
There are yet other consequences which attend an immoderate passion for the embellishments of dress. When the mind is fixed upon objects which derive their chief value from the food which they adıninister to vanity and the love of admiration ; 'the aversion, which almost every individual of either sex is prone to feel towards a rival, is particularly called forth. And when objects attainable so easy as exterior ornaments occupy the heart, there will be rivals without number. Hence it is not very unusual to see neighbouring young women engaged in a constant state of petty warfare with each other. To vie in ostentatiousness, in costliness, or in elegance of apparel ; to be distinguished by novel inventions in the science of decoration ; to gain the earliest intelligence respecting changes of fashion in the metropolis; to detect in the attire of a luckless competitor, traces of a mode which for six weeks has been obsolete in high life; these frequently are the points of excellence to which the force of female genius is directed. In the mean time, while the mask of friendship is worn on the countenance, and the language of regard dwells on the tongue, indifference, disgust, and envy, are gradually taking possession of the breast; until, at length, the unworthy contest, prolonged for years under confirmed habits of dissimulation, by which none of the parties are deceived, terminates in the violence of an open rupture.
The scriptures have spoken too plainly and too strongly respecting solicitude about dress, to permit me to quit the subject without a special reference to their authority. Our Saviour, in one of his most solemn discourses, warns his followers against anxiety“ wherewithal they should be clothed,” in a manner particularly emphatical, by classing that anxiety with the despicable pursuits of those who are studious “what they shall eat, and what they shall drink ;" and by pronouncing all such cares to be among the characteristic features by which the heathen were distinguished and disgraced. It ought to be observed, that these adinonitions of Christ respect men no less than women. St. Paul, in the following passage, speaks pointedly concerning female dress; “I will, in like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-facednessand sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but, which becometh woinen professing godliness, with good works.” In another passage, which remains to be produced from the New Testament, St. Peter also speaks expressly of the female sex ; and primarily of married women, but in terms applicable with equal propriety to the single: “ Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, and of putting on of apparel. But let it be the hid. den man of the heart,” (the ioward frame and disposition of the mind ;) “ in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, wbich is in the sight of God of great price." It would be too much to assert, on the one hand, that it was the intention of either of the apostles, in giving these directions, to proscribe the use of the particular kinds of personal ornament which he specifies. But, on the other hand, it was unquestionably the design of both, to proscribe whatever may justly be styled solicitude respecting any kind of personal decoration ; and to censure those, who, instead of resting their claim to approbation solely on the tempers of the soul, in any degree should ambitiously seek to be noticed and praised for exterior embellishments, as deviating precisely in that degree from the simplicity and purity of the Christian character.
THE BLACK VELVET PELISSE;
MR. BERESFORD was a merchant, engaged in a very extensive business, and possessed of a considerable property, a great part of which was vested in a large estate in the country, on which he chiefly resided.
Julia Beresford, his daughter, accustomed from her birth to affluence, if not to luxury, and having in every thing what is called the spirit of a gentlewoman, was often distressed and mortified at the want of consistency in her father's mode of living: but she was particularly distressed to find that, though he was always telling her what a fortune he would give her when she married, and at his death, he allowed her but a trifling sum, comparatively, for pocketmoney; and required from her, with teazing ininuteness, an account of the manner in which her allowance was spent; reprobating very severely her propensity to spend her money op plausible beggars and pretended invalids.
But on this point he talked in vain : used by a benevolent and pious mother, whose loss she tenderly deplored, to impart comfort to the poor, the sick, and the afficted, Julia endeavoured to make her residence in the country a blessing to the neighbourhood ; but, too often, kind words, soothing visits, and generous promises, were all she had to bestow; and many a time did she purchase the means of relieving a distressed fellow-creature by a personal sacrifice; for though ever ready to contribute to a subscription either public or private, Beresford could not be prevailed upon to indulge his daughter by giving way to that habitual benevolence, which when once practised can never be left off.
But though the sums were trifing which Julia had to bestow, she had so many cheap charities in her power, such as sending broth to the neighbouring cottages, and making linen of various sorts for poor women and children, that she was deservedly popular in the neighbourhood; and though her father was reckoned as proud as he was rich, the daughter was pronounced to be a pattern of good nature, and as affable as he was the contrary.
But wherever Beresford could have an opportunity of