« PoprzedniaDalej »
TEA-PARTIES IN NEW YORK. The company commonly assembled at three o'clock, and went away about six ; unless it was in winter time, when the fashionable hours were a little earlier, that the ladies might get home before dark. The tea-table was crowned with a huge earthen dish, well stored with slices of fat pork, fried brown, cut up into morsels, and swimming in gravy. The company, being seated around the genial board, and each furnished with a fork, evinced their dexterity in lanching at the fattest pieces in this mighty dish ; in much the same manner as sailors harpoon porpoises at sea, or our Indians spear salmon in the lakes. Sometimes, the table was graced with immense apple-pies, or saucers full of preserved peaches and pears; but it was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called dough-nuts, a delicious kind of cake, at present scarce known in the city, excepting in genuine Dutch families.
The tea was served out of a majestic, delft tea-pot, ornamented with paintings of fat, little, Dutch shepherds and shepherdesses tending pigs, with boats sailing in the air, and houses built in the clouds, and sundry other ingenious Dutch fantasies. The beaux distinguished themselves by their adroitness in replenishing this pot, from a huge, copper tea-kettle, which would have made the pigmy macaronies of these degenerate days sweat merely to look at it. To sweeten the beverage, a lump of sugar was laid beside each cup; and the company alternately nibbled and sipped with great decorum, until an improvement was introduced by a shrewd and economic old lady, which was, to suspend a large lump directly over the teatable, by a string from the ceiling, so that it could be swung from mouth to mouth.
At these primitive tea-parties, the utmost propriety and dignity of deportment prevailed. No flirting nor coquetting, no gambling of old ladies, nor hoiden chattering and romping of young ones; no self-satisfied struttings of wealthy gentlemen, with their brains in their pockets, nor amusing conceits, and monkey divertisements, of smart young gentlemen, with no brains at all.
On the contrary, the young ladies seated themselves demurely in their rush-bottomed chairs, and knit their own woolen stockings; nor ever opened their lips, excepting to say, “Yes, sir,” or “ Yes, madam,” to any question that was asked them ; behaving, in all things, like decent, well educated damsels. As to the gentlemen, each of them tranquilly smoked his pipe, and seemed lost in contemplation of the blue and white tiles, with which the fire-places were decorated.
The parties broke up without noise and without confusion. They were carried home by their own carriages, that is to say, by the vehicles nature had provided for them, excepting such of the wealthy as could afford to keep a wagon. The gentlemen gallantly attended their fair ones to their respective abodes, and took leave of them at the door.
ON TASTE AND BEAUTY IN DRESS.
In no way have civilized beings played more fantastic tricks, than in the matter of dress. The influence of fashion is so strong in corrupting the eye, and perverting the taste, that it has led some persons to doubt the existence of any true standard of beauty in costume.
There are, however, some forms of dress which appear beautiful to us, after they have ceased to be the reigning mode. These are in general simple and unpretending. The occasional triumph of good taste over fashion is shown by the frequent return of pretty shapes. I would have young people look at every thing with an eye of taste, and so modify their compliance with the prevailing mode, as not to sacrifice to it their sense of beauty.
Mere fashion should never be allowed to triumph over common sense or good taste. Neither do I mean to recommend a wide departure from it. Ingenuity should be called up to invent a modification, which shall combine beauty with fashion. I have seen two young ladies with equal pretensions to personal beauty, one of whom was arrayed in a French embroidered cape, that cost twenty-five dollars; while the other was dressed in one made of plain cambric, edged with embroidery, that cost two dollars; and any person who had an eye for beautiful forms, would have preferred the latter, because the proportions of the lady's cape and figure were suited to each other, whereas the former had chosen a cape so much too large for her, that she seemed encumbered by her finery.
Conversing, one evening, at a brilliant party in one of our southern cities, with an ingenious gentleman, who had devoted much time to the fine arts, having studied architecture and practiced modeling, and who was also a close observer of female attire, I was amused to hear him compare the different modes of dress to the different styles of architecture. When he saw a lady dressed with great simplicity, and her hair naturally arrayed, he called that style of dress, Grecian. One more elaborately attired, but still in good taste, reminded him of the ancient Roman style. Anything cumbrous, however rich its material, or grand its form, was called Gothic. And when a lady approached us covered with finery, that looked as if it had been showered upon her from a band-box held over her head, he exclaimed, “Here is a specimen of the florid Gothic."
He never could bear to see bows that tied nothing, rows of buttons that fastened nothing, and little appendages that had no real or apparent use.
He insisted, that in dress, as well as in architecture, all beauty was founded in utility, and asked me if I did not think, that columns which supported nothing would look very badly. He said, he liked to see borders to papered walls, because they hid the terminating edge, and he liked to see ladies gowns trimmed round the bottom of the skirt, because the trimming hid the hem, and was a handsome finish to the figure. “ But,” he continued, “inasmuch as I should condemn the taste that made a paper bordering so wide as to cover half the walls, so do I denounce the fashion of extending trimmings half way up the skirt. They have no longer the effect of a border, but form an overload of ornament, which cuts up the figure, and spoils any dress."
Nothing can be truly beautiful which is not appropriate. All styles of dress, therefore, which impede the motions of the wearer, which do not sufficiently protect the person, which add unnecessarily to the heat of summer, or to the cold of winter, which do not suit the age and occupation of the wearer, or which indicate an expenditure unsuited to her means, are inappropriate, and therefore destitute of one of the essential elements of beauty. Propriety, or fitness, lies at the foundation of all good taste in dressing. Always consider whether the articles of dress which you wish to purchase are suited to your age, your condition, or your means, and then let the principles of good taste keep you from the extremes of the fashion, and regulate the form so as to combine utility and beauty.
Some persons seem to have an inherent love of finery, and adhere to it pertinaciously. They cannot reason upon this preference. They can only say, that what others condemn as tawdry, looks pretty to them. No plainness of dress can ever be construed to your disadvantage; but ornamental additions, which, in their best state, are a very doubtful good, become a positive evil, when defaced, or soiled, or tumbled. "Shabby feathers, and crushed or faded artificial flowers, are an absolute disgrace to a lady's appearance; whereas their total absence would never be remarked. Cleanliness is the first requisite in a lady's dress.
THE CROW TURNED CRITIC.
In ancient times, tradition says,
'Tis strange to tell, this subtle creature, Though nothing musical by nature,
Had learned so well to play his part,
Once when the birds assembled sat,
Quoth he, the solo which ye heard