But, worse than that, this folly is an intellectual depletion. This endless study of proprieties and etiquette, patterns and styles, is bedwarfing to the intellect. I never knew a man or a woman of extreme fashion that knew much. How belittling the study of the cut of a coat, or the tie of a cravat, or the wrinkle in a shoe, or the color of a ribbon! How they are worried if something gets untied, or hangs awry, or is not nicely adjusted! With a mind capable of measuring the height and depth of great subjects; able to unravel mysteries; to walk through the universe; to soar up into the infinity of God’s attributes,—hovering perpetually over a new style of mantilla! I have known men, reckless as to their character, and regardless of interests momentous and eternal, exasperated by the shape of a vest-button!
What is the matter with that woman—wrought up into the agony of despair? O, her muff is out of fashion!
Worse than all—this folly is not satisfied until it has extirpated every moral sentiment, and blasted the soul. A wardrobe is the rock upon which many a soul has been riven. The excitement of a luxurious life has been the vortex that has swallowed up more souls than the Maelstrom off Norway ever devoured ships. What room for elevating themes in a heart filled with the trivial and unreal? Who can wonder that in this haste for sun-gilded bawbles and winged thistle-down, men should tumble into ruin? The travellers to destruction are not all clothed in rags. On that road chariot jostles against chariot; and behind steeds in harness golden-plated and glittering, they go down, coach and four, herald and postilion, racketing on the hot pavements of hell. Clear the track! Bazaars hang out their colors over the road; and trees of tropical fruitfulness overbranch the way. No sound of woe disturbs the air; but all is light and song, and wine and gorgeousness. The world comes out to greet the dazzling procession with Hurrah! and Hurrah! But, suddenly, there is a halt and an outcry of dismay, and an overthrow worse than the Red Sea tumbling upon the Egyptians. Shadow of grave-stones upon finest silk! Wormwood squeezed into impearled goblets! Death, with one cold breath, withering the leaves and freezing the fountains.
In the wild tumult of the last day—the mountains falling, the heavens flying, the thrones uprising, the universe assembling; amid the boom of the last great thunder-peal, and under the crackling of a burning world—what will become of the fop and the dandy?
He who is genuinely refined will be useful and happy. There is no gate that a gentleman’s hand cannot open. During his last sickness there will be a timid knock at the basement door by those who have come to see how he is.