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propensites of uncultured state; to afford us higbe enjoyments, and more worthy objects of pursuit :a overcome, not to encourage, nature's weakness.
Meditating all this, I lately set myself to set which way tend the education and habits of our females of the present day; and why, if to the righ: they have so little success in subduing this low taste I passed over, though not unobserved, the appear ance of this propensity in the lower, and more humble classes of society. It is cultured even there, and has ruined thousands. The foolish mother spend her ill-spared pence to purchase a bead necklace, and does not fail to impress on the child the pleasure of putting it on for the first time. The dirty school girl, uncombed, and unshoed, sticks a faded flower into a ragged bonnet, and exults over her companions in ideal splendour. A little older, and she spends her scanty wages in Sunday finery, and goes without decent and necessary clothing. A little older still, and her wages will not suffice the growing desire; and theft, and iniquity, and final ruin are in ten thousand cases to be traced to this ruinous propensity. But while it is the duty of every one, by every possible means, to discourage this ruinous inclination as far as they can have influence, I must confess, I find it not so surprising, in the uncultured minds, and low enjoyments of the ignorant, as among some in whom I am obliged to see it, who might be expected to know better things. So I passed them over hastily, to pursue my researches in a higher sphere.
I was on a visit, in what is termed a genteel neighbourhood, within ten miles of a large city where the society was sufficiently numerous to afford variety; and yet so small as to induce the congregating of persons very unequal in rank and fortune;
and also to enable me and everybody else to know who everybody was, what everybody did, and what everybody had to do it with. Among what were considered the visitable people of the neighbourhood, there were one or two persons of high rank and acknowledged fortune. Of these I have nothing to say. The splendid jewel that glittered on their bosoms, the pearl and the diamond, I saw no very strong reason why they might not wear them as they wear their titles, things of course, that cost them neither care, nor time, nor thought. So of their rich and varied dresses. I thought how many
thousand beings, who might else have starved, had gained in preparing them an honest and a cheerful mainten
While the willing finger plied the needle or twisted the swift bobbins, many a mother's heart was lightened at the thought that, now work was plenty, her babies need not starve. The cost of these superfluities, given without an exchange, would not have afforded such extensive benefit. While their charity fed the poor in vicious and destructive idleness, numbers now rising into opulence by successful trade, but for the superfluous expenditure of the rich, must descend to poverty, and share their alms. Here then the sin and folly of a love of extravagance in dress did not seem so very striking. These ladies spent on their dress what they thought they properly could spare. Of course, 'no debts unpaid, and just demands evaded, and claims of benevolence refused or injured fortunes, or impoverished families, or oppressed dependents ; of course, none of these things would have attested, had I inquired, that what I took to be the proprieties of station, was no other than the very weakness I had come in search of; a ruinous and excessive love of dress. Vol. II.
In restless and hopeless competition with these, there was a long list of persons, neither absolutely rich, nor absolutely poor, who, thanks to the knowledge of other people's affairs that circulated through this candid district, I was very certain could not pay the dressmaker to supply all the thought, and labour, and ingenuity, that were apparent in their wardrobe; more especially among the younger part of the community.
66 Whence comes it then ?" I thought. But in this sort of community there is little need to think, or even to ask, for all is quickly told. “ Your daughters were handsomely dressed last night,” said Lady A. “ Yes,” replied Mrs. B.;
66 and I assure you, the whole was the product of their own industry. They were up till two o'clock the night before to finish the dresses. These things cost my daughters much trouble; but we cannot afford to purchase such dresses.” I was beginning to consider what necessity there was for their having such dresses; for I remember that the Miss B.'s had been more elegantly dressed than most of the ladies in the room -when my gentle Mrs. B. answered this doubt also.
“Did you observe Miss C. last night? Though dressed so plainly, no one looked so lovely, or was so much admired. She tells my girls she has not time to make her dresses, and can only afford to purchase the plainest that can with propriety be worn in the company she keeps. But no ornament could have made her more engaging," So then, I considered, by this good-natured mother's own confession, and I remember to have thought the same, it had not been necessary for the Miss B.'s to lose their sleep in the service of their persons: and I resolved to observe further the habits and occupations of these parties; one of whom was obliged to make what she could
not purchase, and the other to go without what she had not time to make.
In my frequent visits to Miss C., I found her and her sisters always active and always well employed. I heard not a word about gowns, or bonnets, or trimmings, or flouncings, but I did frequently see them at work ; and by the form and texture of the garments they were making, I perceived they had time to work for others, if not for themselves. I did also, on many occasions, see them working for themselves; yet while doing so, they were usually conversing of other matters; there was an appearance of brevity, unconcern, and simplicity, in the performance of the task, which showed it was not that on which their hearts were fixed, or their thoughts engaged, but a duty or a necessity cheerfully acquiesced in. I never saw them slovenly in their appearance, or dressed in bad taste: but there was little variety in their dress, and little appearance of contrivance or ingenuity. I never saw five rows of trimming where two would have done as well, or an embroidered frill where a plain one was absolutely unobjectionable.
I found the Miss B.'s very little inferior in most respects to the young ladies with whom I was comparing them. They were sensible, amiable girls, with persons equally agreeable, and minds probably not less cultivated; for they had been brought up with the same care, and neither party had long had the disposal of their own time. But go when I might late and early, morning, noon, and night, the Miss B.'s industry was in full exhibition. And all their powers of—mind, I was going to say, but rather of taste and fancy, were in constant action in this interesting service. Such endless consultations, such debatings about shapes and colours, such eagerness
for new patterns and new fashions, such doing and undoing, planning and counter-planning-what could be thought, but that the Miss B.'s dress was the main object of their existence? We have heard of the industry of the ant and the bee; but the Miss B.'s might shame them all; for when the ant has built his little house, and laid up
his store, he reposes from his toil; when the bee has gathered honey through the summer, it passes the winter in idleness. The Miss B.'s labours were never at an end; the summer sufficed not to prepare the winter's stock; and the winter was too short to make ready for the summer. What they gained as the reward of their industry, I was not able to learn. They were better dressed, undoubtedly, than the Miss Co's; but I never heard that they gained one friend the more, that their society was the more desired, or that anybody loved them the better. What they lost, I know. They lost the invaluable hours of youth and life, so rapidly escaping from their hold to be no more reclaimed. They lost the pleasures of mental improvement, and rational and useful avocations. They lost the character of sensible, agreeble women
- for when the habits and pursuits are trifling, the mind will grow trifling too; and the conversation will not be above the level of the mind. Above all, they lost the “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” which is the rich reward of all who have rightly used the talents committed to their care.
If any think I have drawn an extreme case, I do not mean to say that all the young ladies in the neighbourhood of C- spent all their time, and all their thoughts, and all their money, upon their dress. Some found that out of threescore years and ten, twothirds, or the half, might be sufficient to provide for their body's habiliments. Some kept up an honour