Now, reader, let us change the scene and bring before you one with which you are probably not unfamiliar. Place—A muddy crossing near a parish school. Time—Play hours. Dramatis personae—An old lady and twenty school-boys. Scene—The old lady comes sailing along the footways, doing for nothing that for which sweepers are paid; arrived at the crossing, a cold shudder comes over her as she gazes in despair at the sea of mud she must traverse; behold now the frantic efforts she is making to gather up the endless mass of gown, petticoats, and auxiliaries with which custom and fashion have smothered her; her hands can scarcely grasp the puckers and the folds; at last she makes a start, exhibiting a beautifully filled pair of snow-white stockings; on she goes, the journey is half over; suddenly a score of urchin voices are heard in chorus, “Twig her legs, twig her legs.” The irate dame turns round to reprove them by words, or wither them with a glance; but alas! in her indignation she raises a threatening hand, forgetful of the important duties it was fulfilling, and down go gown, petticoats, and auxiliaries in the filthy mire; the boys of course roar with delight—it’s the jolliest fun they have had for many a day; the old lady gathers up her bundle in haste, and reaches the opposite side with a filthy dress and a furious temper. Let any mind, unwarped by prejudice and untrammelled by custom, decide whether the costume of the Rochester Bloomer or of the old lady be the more sensible.
I grant that I have placed before you the two extremes, and I should be as sorry to see my fair friends in “cut o’ knee” kilts, as I now am to see them in “sweep-the-ground gowns,” &c. “But,” cries one, “you will aim a blow at female delicacy!” A blow, indeed! when all that female delicacy has to depend upon is the issue of a struggle between pants and petticoats, it will need no further blow: it is pure matter of fashion and custom. Do not girls wear a Bloomer constantly till they are fourteen or fifteen, then generally commence the longer dress? And what reason can be given but custom, which, in so many articles of dress, is ever changing? How long is it since the dressing of ladies’ hair for Court was a work of such absurd labour and nicety, that but few artists were equal to the task, and, consequently, having to attend so many customers, ladies were often obliged to have their hair dressed the day before, and sit up all night that the coiffure might remain perfect? Or how long is it since ladies at Court used to move about like human balloons, with gowns hooped out to such an extent that it was a work of labour and dexterity to get in and out of a carriage; trains, &c., to match? Hundreds of people, now living, can not only remember these things, but can remember also the outcry with which the proposal of change was received. Delicacy, indeed! I should be glad to know what our worthy grandmammas would think of the delicacy of the present generation