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BISHOPS' Sleeves. Upon no part of the female frame has Fashion exercised its sway with more caprice and whimsey than upon the arm. That which we value most, naturally engrosses our greatest care. The miser is constantly occupied with his gold, and we wonder that a fine woman's thoughts should run upon her arm. It is not merely the contour of a polished and beautifully rounded limb, and the delight excited by the contemplation of just symmetry and proportions, that are to be taken into account in an estimate of its merits. What interest and intelligence reside in a fine arm! Where should we find the harmony, the ease, the grace displayed in the movements of the accomplished female, if divested of this portion of her figure? The variety of its motions constitute a complete language. It is full of sense and meaning: it speaks unutterable things. Less eloquent and rapid than the expression of the eye, its motion is more distinct and intelligible. Whether it encourages, chides, or commends, you cannot mistake it. How the lover's heart sinks when her arm is withdrawn by his mistress! This single movement speaks volumes. Physical as well as intellectual associations of the deepest interest accompany it. In the economy of nature, a fine arm indicates a fine leg, and from thence we argue by analogy to the perfection of the whole female figure. The fair one who can boast fine legs and fine arms is seldom imperfect in the tout ensemble.
Formerly, ladies' arms were covered down to the elbow by a sleeve, to which were attached a pair of deep ruffles. These appendages consisted of several circumgyrations of different diameters made wholly of lace or the finest muslin trimmed with it; enveloped by this masse, the elbow was invisible. The ruffles bade the inquiring eye defiance. In those days the hostess sat at the head of the table, and plumed herself upon the skill and dexterity with which she carved the dish before her; and a young lady was not considered marriageable unless she could dissect a goose. The task of carving, thus imposed upon the lady of the mansion, was no easy one, as the largest dishes occupy the head and foot of the table. These ruffles appear to have been invented in utter contempt of this arrangement. It was a most inconvenient fashion, but what has fashion to do with convenience? The lady, in the exercise of this her dissecting prerogative, in the fair discharge of the duties of hospitality, while she helped the company, found herself dreadfully encumbered by the paraphernalia of the elbow. The ruffles would sometimes dip into the dish, and dipping into the dish they could not easily avoid the gravy. The arm drawn back next brought them in contact with the body of her robe, to which they communicated a portion of their newly-acquired liquid treasure, and, on the slightest lateral movement, her next neighbour's generally came in for a share ; it would have been a violation of the character of generous hospitality to keep it all to herself. The mortification of having three or four dresses thus spoiled at every entertainment, it would seem, was lost in the enjoyment of the fashion, for a most ingenious contrivance was devised to ensure the inconvenience. Small leaden pellets were introduced in the edge of the lower part of the circumference of the ruffle, to give it a decided direction, and maintain it in a pendent position, or as the fair owner would say, “ to make it sit well.” This device ensured the tendency of the ruffle to the dish. Composed of light and flimsy materials, there was a chance that it might remain in some degree buoyant : thus weighed down with lead, its escape from the gravy was impossible. But we have done with this fashion ; it disappeared with our grandmothers.
Soon after, naked arms became all the rage. This is the ordinary course; Fashion disdains a slow pace, it does nothing by degrees. The child of fancy, it has all the impatience of childhood, and jumps from one extreme to another. Thus, when the ruffle vanished, the arms, insensible alike to heat and cold, rejected all covering whatsoever. No matter the shape or colour, whether well or ill-proportioned, white or red, scraggy or smooth, the arm must be bare, if it would not be elbowed out of all fashionable company, and divested of all title to distinction. Well, it did not dip in the dish, it did not whisk the gravy about the table from its circumambient and multiplied folds; but if it did not this, it perhaps did worse. How many thousand twitches of rheumatism has the naked arm doomed itself to suffer! How ably has the naked fashion assisted consumption and decline to thin the ranks of female youth and loveliness! Was it the wife of some starving apothecary who introduced this fashion for the benefit of trade?
Another, and directly opposite, fashion now prevails. The arm is confined in a bag. Confined, did we say? Yes, as Ulysses confined the winds, in a bag, confined to make a great blow out for the purpose of the adventurer. Two bags of huge dimensions, of the same material as the body of the robe, envelope the arms. They are called “ Bishops' sleeves," from their resemblance to those worn by the dignitaries of the Church. Fashion, in its wildest flight, might have some determinate object in view. The ruffle might have been considered ornamental to a fine arm. It might be compared to the capital of the Corinthian column. The naked fashion might have originated in female vanity, ambitious to display the symmetry of a beautifully rounded limb; but how shall we account for this hideous fashion of bishops' sleeves ? It is deformity personified. The finest figure, thus encumbered, loses all trace of human proportions, and might be mistaken for two pillow-cases hanging on a stick, so small is the space into which the waist is compressed between these appendages. A cry was lately raised that the Church was in danger. Have the fair mounted bishops' sleeves as a signal of their determination to use their arms in its support ? Our countrywomen have been reproached with coldress and reserve ; any body now may, without difficulty, creep into their sleeve. Pity has its favourite dwelling in the breast of women. In that abode distress is ever sure to meet with sympathy, and the heart susceptible of love will beat responsive to the call of charity. After long meditation, I fancied I had found in this amiable disposition of the sex a solution of the mystery, Sir Isaac Newton, on the discovery of one of the most abstruse secrets of Nature that ever came within the reach of that extraordinary man, did not feel more pleasure. Oh! amiable woman, I exclaimed, you have heard the cause assigned by our statesman for the distress now prevalent in the manufacturing districts; you have heard it ascribed to excessive production, and Ministers declare their inability to supply, a remedy. What the wisdom of Parliament could not achieve, you
have accomplished: your sagacity has discovered that the consumption of the immense stock on hand would remove the evil, and your humanity has applied the proper and certain cure. To your honour and glory you have adopted bishops' sleeves, in order to relieve the stores of the manufacturers of the masses of goods with which they are bursting: for this humane, generous, and patriotic purpose, you have imposed a great expense upon your husbands and fathers, and inflicted upon yourselves a cruel injury in the disfigurement of your persons. It is the sacrifice of female vanity to a sense of public duty; a generous devotion, that puts the loftiest and most disinterested of our patriots to the blush. The chaste nuns of Quedlinberg, who slit their noses in defence of their virginity, were not actuated by a purer spirit than you have evinced in the cause of the distressed. When Curtius leaped into the gulf, did he display a more patriotic ardour than the female who plunged her white arm into the wide-yawning bishop's sleeve to be swallowed up in the deep and dark abyss? It was a spirit like this that inflicted with her own hand the mortal wound upon Arria, and drew from her the expression—“ It does not pain, my Pætus." A spirit like this forced the burning coals down the throat of the wife of Brutus, the virtuous daughter of Cato. The bishop's sleeve operating in consumption like the power-loom in production, the surplus inanufacture, thought I, will speedily disappear : every fair purchaser will now tell in the market equal to three of former times; and in the prophetic language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I exclaimed, “The transitory cloud that now lowers upon the country will pass away, leaving the sun of its prosperity to shine out in all its original resplendent lustre.” These were the reflections produced by my discovery, as I dived into the mysteries of fashion. But my joy and triumph were not long without alloy. A conversation with a smart milliner, in a steam-boat, on a trip to the Nore, dissipated in a moment all my pretensions to sagacity, and converted my fancied wisdom into folly. Who shall dispute the law when laid down by Coke or Blackstone? From my fair companion, this high authority in the laws of fashion, I learned that the bishop's sleeve, which I foolishly ascribed to pity, actually originated in pure pride; that neither love of the Church, nor pity for the poor, had any thing to do with its shape or dimensions; that the whole was designed, cut out, and fashioned by pride, and pride alone.
Those politicians are greatly mistaken who suppose the revolutionary spirit in England has been arrested by the fall of the democracy in France. There are few families which do not bear internal evidence to its present existence in full vigour. It is a long time since the master has condescended to imitate his men. They dress in the same style, and ride cheek by jowl in the same carriage. To Joan, indeed, it has been always conceded that she is as good as her lady in the dark, but it is only of late years that Joan has presumed to rival her mistress in the light. The high price of silks and satins protected the mistress against this usurpation of her servant in the broad day. Clad in these, she was safe, as in a coat of mail, from the attack of the domestic aspirant, who was seldom able to obtain possession of the outworks of fashion beyond an Irish poplin or a Norwich crape. The silks and satins were a wall of separation, as impenetrable as the lines of Torres Vedras, or the Court hoop and petticoat of a drawingroom in the reign of George III. The new liberal commercial system
has entirely changed the position of the parties. The cheapness of French silks, and other articles of dress, has placed female finery within the reach of even moderate wages, and a kitchen-wench will not condescend to sweep the room in any thing less than a robe of gros de Naples or batiste. Something must be done on the part of the mistress to arrest the progress of invasion, and assert the vested rights of the superior classes of female society. Invention is the first quality of genius, and to woman it is granted in a high degree. Thus gifted, the mistress, in a happy moment, conceived the idea of Bishops' sleeves, an article of dress which precludes all hope or chance of imitation in the kitchen. A muffled cat might as well attempt to catch mice, as a maid-servant to go about the business of the house in bishops' sleeves. She could not remove the tea-equipage from the table without the risk of sweeping the china upon the floor : if she handed her master a plate, he must submit to have his head wrapped up in her sleeve; and what a figure must the cook present after preparing her soups and sauces! The female servant thus accoutred might, indeed, perform the office of a flapper, and disperse the flies ; but although this was an office of importance among the ancients, it is dispensed with at a modern table. With the introduction of bishops' sleeves, the rivalry on the part of the maid must cease, and the mistress remain in undisturbed possession of her pre-eminence. Every friend of good order, every one who would retain each individual female in her proper place in society, and prevent its members from trespassing on each other, must, therefore, rejoice in bishops' sleeves; and devoutly pray, that differing from every other fashion that ever preceded it, the fashion of bishops' sleeves may endure for ever.
He turn'd quite round
SKETCH OF BRUSSELS IN 1829. No city on the Continent is making more rapid strides to improvement than the capital of Belgium, since the accession of the House of Orange to the throne. It was before surrounded by a dilapidated brick wall, which had been formerly a rampart, but become so ruinous as hardly to exclude the smuggler, so that the Regence was defrauded of its dues ; for every article of life pays a certain duty on entering the gates : an unjust and abominable tax which falls heavy on the poorer classes.
The ramparts were demolished in 1820, which is an immense improvement, admitting a free circulation of air, and being a great embellishment to the city. A boulevard, like that of Paris, surrounds it, planted with rows of linden trees, forming rides, walks, and drives, which would have been one of the most delightful promenades imaginable, had they been laid down with a chemin serré, instead of an execrable pavement of calcareous stones, already displaced and decomposed by frost and rain, leaving holes and inequalities, so that it is any thing but pleasure to take an airing on them in a carriage. This is the more inexcusable, as nowhere is the principle of road-making better understood on the plan called Macadamising, than in the Pays de Liege, of which the highway from Dinant to Liege is an example that cannot be surpassed. Such, however, is the pitiful economy of the Regence of Brussels, that though they put into their pockets an enormous sum by the sale of the ground for building, they would not be at the expense of breaking up the material, which could be procured from the Meuse by the canal ; and the same niggard feeling prevents the Park from being gravelled, though the banks of that river afford excellent material.
Economy is commendable in public bodies, but here it is carried too far.
Side pavements in the streets are not to be expected where little attention is paid to the conveniency of the citizens ; yet the Austrians,' sixty years ago, with a better taste, ordered the monks to make trottoirs round the Place Royal and the Park; and the citizens, residing in the fashionable streets Montagne de la Cour, and Rue Madelaine, lately subscribed to a side pavement, which, however, they limited to thirty inches wide!
Parsimony in lighting a part of the town with gas, induced the contractors to make the pipes of so small a calibre, that the lamps only “ render darkness visible."
Many excellent houses have been erected beyond the gates, but there are no pavements leading to them, and the consequence is, that they are impassable for six months in the year. .
The fine buildings on the boulevards have but here and there a glimmering lamp, and though there is a great command of water, no attempt is made to water the rides and walks, nor is the dirt ever scraped from them. It is singular the dislike which the Brusselois have to keep the sun from their houses, for though the south-east boulevard is exposed to the burning rays of 120° of the thermometer, there is but one verandah in the whole city, and that erected by an Englishman.
As German glass is cheaper than bricks and mortar, the architects Sept.-VOL. XXVI. NO. CV.