Progress of the Nation page 13
We may form an idea of the dress of men of the middle class by the advertisement after a lost youth: - "He is of fair complexion, with light brown lank hair, having on a dark brown frieze coat, double-breasted on each side, with black buttons and button-holes; a light drugget waistcoat, red shag breeches, striped with black stripes, and black stockings."
The dress of the ladies for the greater part of the reign of queen Anne continued much the same as in the reigns of James H. and William III. The towering head-dress still flourished, and all the flounces and furbelows on gown and petticoat, so that the "Spectator" compared a lady in full dress, with everything in curl, to a Friesland hen, all of whose feathers curl upwards. In 1711, however, there was a sudden revolution. The towers fell, and the heads of the ladies resumed their natural dimensions. Powder, however, still disfigured the heads of many belles, though the queen set the example of leaving her chestnut locks unsullied by the abomination.
In public, the ladies now wore the sacque and hood. The hood, which, in the previous reign, had been generally black, was now of all colours; blue, yellow, green, and pink hoods were worn at the opera in 1711, and in the following year cherry-coloured hoods were all the rage. Spotted hoods were not unfrequent. Patches of black on the face, variously disposed, were becoming fashionable, and were soon used to denote the politics of the wearers. But the excrescence which had disappeared from the ladies' heads reappeared with fresh extravagance in their skirts. The monstrous hoop, which has reappeared in our time in the rear of crinoline, made its appearance at the suggestion of a fashionable mantua-maker named Selby. This was an old fashion, however, revived.
The ladies in their riding habits affected the costume of the gentlemen. The "Spectator," No. 104, describes a lady in a coat and waistcoat of blue camlet, trimmed and embroidered with silver, with a petticoat of the same stuff, by which alone her sex was recognised, as she wore a smartly- cocked beaver hat edged with silver, and rendered more sprightly by a feather; and her hair, curled and powdered, hung to a considerable length down her shoulders, tied, like that of a rakish young gentleman's, with a long streaming scarlet ribbon. They also assumed the male periwig on these occasions in addition to the coat, hat, and feather. The blaze of colours worn by both ladies and gentleman was dazzling, and by the ladies really gorgeous.
In George I.'s reign the fashions were much the same. The battle of Ramilies introduced the Ramilies cock of the hat and the Ramilies wig, which had a long plaited tail gradually diminishing, with a great bow at the top and a little bow at the bottom. The Ramilies wig continued to be worn till the reign of George III.
The ladies still continued their hooped petticoats, scarlet cloaks with hoods - called "cardinals" - the cloaks often edged with lace, the loose gowns - called "sacques" - the small frilled or puffed caps, and masks when walking. Black and white beaver hats were advertised in 1719, faced with coloured silks, and trimmed with gold or silver lace. The paintings of Watteau and of Lancret give a good idea of the dresses of this time.
In the reign of George II. we have the paintings of Hogarth as our instructors in the fashions. The general character of the dress continued the same; but the tie-wig and bob-wig were added to the other wigs; the bob sometimes worn without powder. The Ramilies tail was followed by the pig-tail, which appears in the prints of this reign as early as 1745. Young men wearing them wore their own hair powdered profusely. Grey and white hair were still most esteemed for perukes, probably as doing with little or no powder.
The gentlemen at court wore chiefly brown flowered velvet coats, or dark cloth coats, laced with gold and silver; lord Castlemaine appeared in a rich gold stuff coat; and waistcoats of gold stuff, or rich flowered silks of a large pattern, with a white ground, were prevailing. Instead of swords at the court end, many young men carried huge oak sticks, with great heads and ugly faces carved on them. The fashions of the ladies varied very much during George II.'s reign; once the huge hoop was nearly discarded, but reappeared as monstrously as ever. The ladies still wore flowered silks of a large pattern, but mostly with a white ground, with wide, short sleeves, and short petticoats. Some had gold or silver knots on their petticoats, and to their facings and robings; and others gold and silver knots on their gown-sleeves, like flounces. In some cases their gowns were flounced from top to bottom of the skirt. They had fine scolloped lace hoods; some curled their hair down the sides; others pinned it close up quite short; but nearly all powdered profusely. Diamond buckles were much worn in the shoes of both ladies and gentlemen. In 1745 gipsy straw hats appeared, and little bonnets tied under the chin, almost of modern shape. Long aprons were worn in 1744, then short ones, then long ones again; and instead of the hoodi a covering called a " capuchin." Patching was in high yogue. The riding-habit of the duchess of Bedford, in 1748, gave rise to the naval uniform of England; for, until then, the navy had had no uniform distinct from the army; but George II., meeting the duchess in a riding-habit of blue, faced with white, was so struck with it, he immediately ordered that this should henceforth be the general dress of the royal navy. The sailors wore huge pigtails and cocked hats. At the close of this period they had their hat- brims uniformly tacked down to the crown, so that they looked as if they carried a triangular apple-pasty upon their heads.
The uniform of the army dates from the abandonment of armour. During the reign of queen Anne, the pike ceased to be carried, the socket-bayonet superseding it. The bandolin gave way to the cartouch-box, and every species of body armour was discarded, the gorget dwindling into the ornamental trifle now known by that name. The red and white feather was worn in the reign of queen Anne; the black cockade appeared about the time of George H., being probably used in opposition to the white cockade of the Jacobite party. The Prussian sugar-loaf cap was adopted with the Prussian tactics, and the uniform of the grenadiers of 1745 has been handed down to posterity by Hogarth in his "March to Finchley." That such grenadiers' caps, however, were worn in the reign of queen Anne, is proved by one of that date being preserved at, Goodrich Court. They were exchanged for the present preposterous bear-skin muff by George III.
Manners and Customs
It is impossible to note all the frivolities of fashion as it existed in the dress of both sexes of the wealthy, without perceiving that those who spent so much of their lives and substance in such show must be an empty, unintellectual, and far from a moral race; and the whole character of the society of the period bears us out in the inference. A more low, vulgar, and revolting tone never ran through, the life of England than during this period. Real religion had nearly died out, till revived by Wesley and White- field. Morals were at the lowest ebb, and people now seemed to live for nothing but parade and sensual folly and brutality. In these respects there was little difference in the two sexes. Women of the highest rank were remarkably ignorant, not even, in scores of cases, being able to spell decently; and the greater part of the upper classes of women spent their time in the merest emptiness - balls, routs, operas, visits to Ranelagh and Vauxhall, gambling, flirtations, assignations, and listening to and using language which would now disgrace the veriest Billingsgate women. The picture of society which we derive from the political contests, the party animosity, and the authors, especially the comedy writers of the time, is something astounding for its lack of all that is beautiful in spirit and pure and estimable in sentiment. Politics had become the universal passion. All classes entered into the discussions of the acts of the government with unprecedented boldness, and the fury of party spread through all ranks. The stage was especially made the arena of attack on government, and this grew to so intolerable a pitch, that Walpole, in 1737, passed a bill through parliament, prohibiting the acting of any play without the license of the lord chamberlain - a regulation which continues still to exist. Ladies entered into the rage of political conflict with the most intense fervour, and the patching we have mentioned was carried on in political animosity long after it would have died out as a fashion.
At the theatres, whig and tory ladies sat on the opposite sides of the house, and showed their party by their patches and the colour of their hoods.
As for the gentlemen, they met in their clubs, and coffeehouses, and chocolate-houses for the same purposes, and these places had wonderfully increased with the diffusion of that violent party spirit which raged through this period. Club-houses abounded in every parish of the metropolis, and were crowded at the west end with nobles and gentry, in the city with merchants and traders of all degree, who discussed the national affairs with all the warmth of the house of commons itself. The great chocolate-houses of the nobles and gentry were the " Cocoa Tree" and White's. The "Cocoa Tree" was the great tory house, as St. James's coffee-house was that of the whigs. The only charge for a cup of coffee and the perusal of the newspapers was a penny, so that crowds flocked thither to spend their time, and listen to the great oracles of political knowledge, or to indulge their own sense of discernment; and the "Tatler" tells us that a distinguishing mark of a deep politician at these places was a liberal display of snuff on his upper lip. Mug- houses, or beer-houses, were also established in all quarters of London for the lower race of politicians, and these were encouraged by the whigs in opposition to the tory coffeehouses at the commencement of the reign of George I. Politics, in fact, amazingly encouraged drinking, for in all these resorts, whatever was the name, strong liquors were sold, and the penny entrance was but a mere prelude to deeper expenditure. So riotous did the mug-houses become, that their frequenters often rushed out to attack their opponents in the streets, and they were obliged to be put down by act of parliament.
But the political phase was but one in the many under which the fashionable man exhibited himself. His whole day was one regular round of folly and vice. We find him first holding a levee in bed, where he lay from ten till twelve o'clock in state, having his periwig, superbly powdered, lying by him. At twelve he rose, and betwixt the arduous labour of his toilet and the dallying with the volumes of amatory poetry on his table, and the empty tattle of his equally empty associates, he finished that business by three. He perfumed himself and descended to dinner, whence he adjourned to the coffee-house, and thence to the theatre. His business there was not to see the play, but to be seen himself; and, as it was the particular criterion of superior taste to pay no attention to the play, he moved from place to place in the house to gossip with his friends, and to display his clouded cane, his gold snuff-box, within the lid of which was generally some indecent picture. Having shown his contempt of the play, and paraded his fine clothes and diamond rings, he drove thence to the park or to Ranelagh, where he flirted with the equally empty, equally foolish women of the time. The comedies of Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Cibber retail to us the disgusting colloquies of these odious beaux and belles, in which the violation of all decency is only equalled by the pompous inanity of the language, larded by scraps of French and Italian.
This general class of fashionable lounger was varied by the bully beau and the literary and sentimental ones. The bully beau reported greatly to the Tilt-yard coffee-house, which was the military resort, and they were desirous to pass for military men. On this supposition they took upon them to hector and insult peaceably-inclined people, pulled, the noses of those at the theatres who wore no swords, broke the heads of the drawers at taverns, and the box-keepers at theatres. There is no character so odious and contemptible as that of the hectoring beaux of these times, as portrayed in the comedies and novels of the age ….
Thus it is certain that, in whatever respects the country had advanced, it had made no progress in morals, decorum, or sound intelligence' and solid mind from the so much denounced days of Charles II. Duller life had become, but not more decent or more intellectual. How should it? The Georges brought no such refinements, no such progress with them from Hanover. Heavy and ignorant, despising all learning, and still more all genius and activity of idea, they as debauched as Charles himself, and infinitely more gross and stupid with it.; They still maintained their concubines in the face of the country, as a matter of established custom in the case of royalty; and whilst the sacredness of the marriage tie and the purity of domestic life were thus set at open defiance by them, how were these virtues likely to flourish amongst their subjects? The nobles imitated their sovereign, and the people the nobles. It was not likely that, under such circumstances, the female part of the community could be superior in information, or in that highest of attractions, the possession of a pure mind, full of religious and domestic grace and love. Women of rank and fortune were without education, and therefore without the means of making home delightful. They, like the gentlemen, sought coarse pleasures in public places, and the scenes which shock us in the theatres, fashionable, parties, and places of public resort as detailed in novel and play, give us a fearful idea of the vacuity and corruption of the female mind of that time. Ill educated, with nothing but ill examples and conversation around them, they passed their time in the most frivolous show and conversation. It was unfashionable to be religious, and the ladies spent their Sundays in the parks, and adjourned thence to card-parties in the evening. If they went to church, it was to see and to be seen. At home they received the visits of the most profligate of the opposite sex, and listened to the most filthy talk without blushing. Abroad, they appeared with four lacod and powdered footmen standing behind their carriages. They spent their time amongst opera singers, and French milliners, and hair-dressers; amongst monkeys, parrotß, and lap-dogs. They spent vast sums in old china and Indian trinkets; and lost still greater sums at play, which they were sometimes reduced to pay at the expense of their honour.
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