Man’s attire has changed for the better; and woman’s, with all its abbreviations and shortcomings, is, on the whole, more rational; though in the domain of Fashion her vagaries will last no doubt as long as—woman is woman; and if ever that shall cease to be, the charm of life will be over.
With man the jacket suit, the soft hat, the soft shirt, the turn-down collar, mark the transition from starch and stiffness to ease and comfort; and Time in his course has brought no greater boon than this; except, perhaps, the change that marks our funeral customs. In those days, hatbands, gloves and scarves were provided by the bereaved family to the relatives and friends who attended the obsequies; and all of kinship close or remote, were invited from far and near. Hearse and coaches and nodding plumes and mutes added to the expense, and many a family of moderate means suffered terrible privation from the costliness of these burial customs, which, happily, now are fast disappearing.
Beds, in those days, were warmed with copper warming pans, and nightcaps adorned the slumbering heads of both sexes. Spittoons were part of ordinary household furniture. To colour a meerschaum was the ambition of smokers, swearing was considered neither low nor vulgar, and snuffing was fashionable. Many most respectable men chewed tobacco, and to carry one’s liquor well was a gentlemanly accomplishment.
Garrotters pursued their calling, deterred only by the cat-o’-nine tails, pickpockets abounded and burglaries were common.
The antimacassar and the family album; in what veneration they were held! The antimacassar, as its name implies, was designed to protect chairs and couches from the disfiguring stains of macassar oil, then liberally used in the adornment of the hair which received much attention. A parting, of geometrical precision, at the back of the head was often affected by men of dressy habits, who sometimes also wore a carefully arranged curl at the front; and manly locks, if luxuriant enough, were not infrequently permitted to fall in careless profusion over the collar of the coat.
Of the family album I would rather not speak. It is scarcely yet extinct. A respectable silence shall accompany its departing days.
Perhaps these things may to some appear mere trivialities; but to recall them awakens many memories, brings back thoughts of bygone days—days illumined with the sunshine of Youth and Hope on which it is pleasant to linger. As someone has finely said: “We lose a proper sense of the richness of life if we do not look back on the scenes of our youth with imagination and warmth.”
In the year 1867, at the age of sixteen, I became a junior clerk in the Midland Railway at Derby, at a salary of 15 pounds a year.
From pre-natal days I was destined for the railway service, as an oyster to its shell. The possibility of any other vocation for his sons never entered the mind of my father, nor the mind of many another father in the town of Derby.