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“Did I ever tell you,” said my friend Ralph Ravenswood to me one evening, as we were sitting together in his library, “did I ever happen to tell you how I came to fall in love?” “Never breathed a word of it,” I replied. “Well, it was simply by having my fancy caught.” “I suppose that is the case about nine times out of ten.” “I dare say it may be,” and straightway Ralph fell to musing, as though he were intent upon solving the philosophy of the thing. But I was determined not to let him off so easily. He had raised my curiosity; and, at the risk of suffering a great deal of ennui from his usual discursive, rambling style of narrative, I resolved to have the story. “But you have not told me,” said I, “how your fancy came to be caught.” “Why it was by seeing a lady standing in a balcony.” “I do not see that there was any thing very remarkable in that. I have seen a hundred standing in balconies, in a great procession day, and never fell in love with any of them.” “Peradventure, that was the very reason. There were too many of them. - Your attention was distracted. My lady was all alone, surrounded by flowers, fanned by the free zephyrs, gazing on the beauties of a rich natural landscape. Her air and attitude too were worthy the pencil of the vol. xxvii.-13
most gifted artist. Her dress harmonized with her graceful form. Pearls were ent wined with her dark glossy hair, and her beauty was of the most striking and fascinating description. In short, there was every thing to captivate the fancy. As I stood in a bower near her, I drank in all the intoxication of passion.” “And all this came of your fancy being captivated.” “Just so; and this was the result of a combination of happy circumstances. I have philosophized about the thing a great many times since, in my cooler moments; and I was led to think of it and to mention it to you by reading some remarks in an English book which give, in better language than I could command, precisely the results which I have arrived at respecting those circumstances, which conspire to captivate the fancy in female attire, and its adaptation to persons, time, place, and circumstance. I shall read them to you?” “With all my heart.” “Well, then, here they are,” said he, opening a book and reading as follows:–
FEMALE ATTIRE. Some Frenchman has remarked, that no woman is ugly when she is dressed. This is a clever remark, intended to convey, after the French manner, that a skilful attention to the setting off what is best, and the suppression of what is worst in any lady's appearance, will at least take away 145
146 THE BAL CONY.
from her the reproach of ugliness. I do not consider this beneath the attention of the wise. I am well convinced that to direct my fair friends in general to pay more attention to dress would be a very superfluous piece of advice. I have reason to believe that, so far as exertion and devotedness go, they are quite unimpeachable on this head. There may possibly be some matters to which they give less earnest attention than they ought, but he must be little better than a calumniator who ventures to hint a doubt that, in respect to the affairs of useful or ornamental clothing, they are as earnest or as attentive as it is desirable they should be. It is, however, one thing to be industriously attentive to any matter, and quite another to direct industry by the rules of science, and to govern attention by the rules of taste. I have no desire to enjoin my fair friends to pay more attention to dress, but I may venture to think it within the limits of credibility that they might make that attention more valuable. As to the Frenchman's suggestion for the avoidance of ugliness, that is a point in which, upon their own account, I know they can have no concern, for let them apply or misapply art as they will, nature will not permit them to look ugly. But then, as nobody, but such as are quite shocking, agrees with the poet that beauty is when unadorned adorned the most, even beauty may have some interest in considering dress as an important article of the fine arts. And, again, even the beautiful may have friends who are not so, and to whom a little judicious advice now and then would be of no inconsiderable service. In short, which ever way we look at the case—either as they themselves are concerned, or as their friends may be, through their assistance—I would suggest that the artistical attention I refer to, is founded in benevolence. Whether it be directed to the proper framing and ajustement of their own beauty, which is so delightful to be. hold, or to the mitigation and veiling of certain defects in their friends, which are not delightful to behold, the end is the same, namely, the increase of the sum of the happiness of society. If any one doubts that this is virtue, let the heretical person read the philosophical works of Jeremy Bentham, in nine volumes large octavo. Now for a little practical application of the philosophy upon which I have had the rashness to touch; I would, in the first place—because I know my fair friends are persons of high spirit— advise them to dispute the absolute will of fashion. The same thing—the same mode of putting it on —will not suit every body. Yet it is to be feared that for the most part there is a rage for having the thing which is in fashion, without taking into account whether it be really suitable or be not. But deviation from the fashion, or rebellion against it, must be managed with discretion. It is not pleasant to be singular, but skill will show how much of the fashion may be adopted, so as to pay it a certain amount of deferential homage, without
going so far as to detract from those gifts of nature which it should be the object of dress to improve.
For example, it may be laid down as a positive —at least I suppose it may—that it is not allotted to every beauty in the world to look best with her head dressed a la Grisi, without a single curl. There is a certain grandeur, and a certain simplicity of expression, to which it is well suited; but there are several varieties of beauty which I humbly opine it has a tendency to spoil. Nay, I have doubts whether all the studious and meditative, are quite right in adopting this severity of headdress to its full extent. I think I remember some such lines as these, which I always thought made rather a pretty picture:
“As o'er that lake, in evening's glow,
Now, though a mere utilitarian might deduce from this, that curls are apt to be in the way, yet as I am not of those who pretend that the essential idea of beauty is derived from a sense of utility, I deny the force of such pleading, and contend that the Corinthian maid in question would not have been so happily dressed if she had not had descending curls, or curls liable to descend. I am sure, at all events, that the “ youthful sage” was of that opinion, and I very deferentially suggest that he was likely to know best.
Well, then, I would have persons to consider how much of the ajust ment à la Grisi becomes them. If altogether —very well—so let it be. But, if not, why allow the mere novelty of the mode, or what is called the fashion of it, to induce you to discard the finest ringlets in the world, or to bring too much out, features which nature formed with a far more lovely expression than that of boldness.
By the way, whatever the Frenchman may say of the impossibility of his country women looking ugly when they are dressed, there is undoubtedly a fashion now of disfiguring French children, which is called dressing them, and which makes them look fifty times uglier than nature has made them, though the exertions of nature in that respect have been tolerably considerable. The poor little creatures look as if all their hair had been grasped up by some horrible straining engine, and dragged, as nearly as possible, off their head, in order to be screwed down in a knot at the back. It is as bad as a shaved head, with the addition of suggesting, by sympathy, a sense of pain from the violent dragging of the hair which is made perceptible. It is plain, that there is something not exactly as it should be in the
government of the French, or this hideousness would ere now, have been suppressed by statute, or by ordonnance. Now as to the very, very long gowns, which sweep not only ball-rooms, but promenades in these times, it must be confessed that such as have unproducible ankles show a good taste in adopting them, and a laudable perseverance in encouraging their adoption by others. When the fox lost his tail in a trap, he persuaded all his friends that to be in the fashion they should get rid of their tails. Doubtless, had his misfortune been that of having another tail stitched on to his own, he would have brought tails into fashion as long as the trains of 1839. I propose that any lady having a certificate from her doctor that the exposure of the smallest portion of instep or ankle would not be for the good of her health, should have a license to bury them in the oblivion of several yards of velvet, satin, or muslin, as the case may be; the license, however, not to extend so far as to give them an action of damages against trespassers upon their garments, if not approaching nearer than within three feet six inches of the wearers thereof. It is not by any means my wish to see the liberality of some years ago imitated now, and I think all persons should so accommodate themselves to the fashion as to wear gowns which come down at least within sight of the ground; but assuredly the length to which these garments are now carried cannot be said to be necessary to more than a few, nor are they becoming to all. As touching the important and highly interesting article of bonnets, it is not to be questioned, that to some charming little heads, with faces radiant and brilliant as an opening rose on a bright June morning, the bonnet of the present day is extremely becoming; but it is equally certain that some countenances are more bewitching when shaded in the delightful mystery of a deep bonnet, destructive though it be to the prospects of collateral inquisitiveness. In brief—for were I to touch upon all the points which dart up before me, and not inappropriately either, to the present theme, I might talk on for hours—in brief, I would have my fair friends to proceed, in respect to dress, according to the analogy of Mr. Pope's advice about building and garden making—
“Consult the genius of the place in all.”
Let those who dress consult the genius of the face in all, and not only this, but the figure, and the natural air and disposition. But let us have a few lines more of Mr. Pope—
“To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
Alas! no: the analogy stops there; time may add to the beauty of gardens, but there is another sort of beauty in which we disclaim his aid.
And this puts me in mind of a class of persons whose attention to dress is any thing but skilful. They are generally on what is termed (perhaps erroneously) the wrong side of thirty-five, and being of an arithmetical or mathematical turn of mind, are betrayed into the following error. They know that the drawing-room beauty of a person of eighteen is made up partly of that freshness and brilliancy which belongs to youth, and partly of the dressing which is appropriate to that rosy time of life. Knowing also, that with respect to themselves, one of the component parts of this beauty, to wit, the youthfulness has unfortunately gone away, they think to wake up the same whole, by adding to the youthfulness of dress. This may be very good arithmetic, but it is unquestionably bad dressing. The extremes meet, but they do not blend. They stand out in offensive contrast. The better plan would be to dress beyond “a certain age,” rather than below it, as those of a dark complexion think it prudent to wear still darker clothes. As a point of art, therefore, the youthful dressing of those who are no longer youthful is an unmitigated mistake—as an affair of mental taste it is excessively odious —but one must not be too didactic. I am not quite sure, that I ought to have ventured to talk about dress at all: mais n' importe; 'tis done now, and here is a stanza which any one may sing at me who is in the humour:
“But reason his head-dress so awkwardly wore,
That Beauty now liked him still less than before,
And twisted the leaves in a cap of such ton,
She liked him still better in that than his own.”
Here I began to yawn. “I hope you are not tired,” said Mr. Roundabout.
“Not in the least,” replied I, “but it strikes me very forcibly, that this is not exactly fulfilling the expectation which you have raised in my innocent and unsuspecting mind, of hearing the story of your loves.”
148 GIVE NOT W A Y TO
SORRO W. —T WILIGHT.
“Oh, I was coming to that—” “By rather a circuitous route, I think.” “Not at all, not at all, when you come to reflect and remember that my purpose in telling the story was merely to establish my theory.” “Pray what was the theory? for, (you will excuse me) but I declare I have entirely forgotten.” “Simply this, that in order to captivate the fancy, it is necessary for a lady to consult in her dress, her attitudes, and all the “surroundings' of time, place and circumstance, a certain fitness— an adaptation, a kind of a-'' “Oh yes, I comprehend you perfectly; but I believe you had not set it forth so lucidly before.”
GIVE NOT W A Y
“Well, then, to proceed. When the fancy is captivated, the battle is half won—and only half. For a lasting union of hearts something more is required. Once interested the admirer is led to examine, to inquire, to pursue, to become, if possible, intimately acquainted, to offer his heart, to woo, to win, to marry, just as I did—” “You don't mean to say, that my friend, the amiable and accomplished Mrs. Ravenswood was the lady.” “Yes, indeed she was. I never fell in love but once in my life; and that was with the lady of the Balcony.” “Oh! well, then the story is told.”
TO SORRO W.
Of the infinite number of Caves which distinguish the calcareous regions of the United States, but very few are even so much as mentioned in the books of the curious; and only two of them — Weyer's Cave, in Virginia, and the Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky — have had the good fortune to become places of fashionable resort. The former is a small cave, comparatively —that is, its whole extent does not exceed a few hundred yards, as the surveyor's map shows; though visitors, when left to their own imaginations, and reckoning extent from the number of wonders and the length of time necessary to inspect them, very readily compute it at two or three miles: but it is extremely beautiful, from the great number and variety of stalactitic formations, (though all these, unfortunately, are of a ferruginous colour;) and one of its chambers, Washington's Hall, or the Hall of the Statue, is, from its vastness of dimensions, of a truly grand appearance. The Mammoth Cave, on the contrary, is not so remarkable for beauty as for extent and grandeur — the latter quality depending on its spaciousness, the length of its huge galleries, the magnitude of its cities, (prodigious halls, strown with rocks that seem the ruins of Pelasgian Babylons,) its formidable pits, its recently discovered Tartarean river and lake, in which the wondering voyager fishes up cat-fish without eyes, showing their want of relationship to the fish that swim the rivers on the upper earth—and above all, the inexpressibly awful gloom and solitude which invest every nook and corner of this world of darkness. The Mammoth Cave is the great curiosity of Kentucky—I might say, of the West; in which it is proclaimed as a sort of rival, almost, of Niagara. It is convenient of access from the great interior route from Louisville to the South: and so —notwithstanding the Americans are not a sightseeing or wonder-loving people — as all persons have more or less curiosity to know what a cave looks like, and as the idea is that he who has seen the Mammoth Cave has seen every thing the cave-world has to show, and need never trouble himself in future about other caves, it is not remarkable it should be favoured by a continual throng of visitors, who go down into its darkness, are extinguished for a while, as if lost to the world for ever, come back, bless their stars that they are again in the land of the living, and depart to give place to other visitants. As for me, I have died the death—or lived the life — of the cave a good many times; having 13 *
made several visitations which were always prolonged beyond the period usually assigned to a Mammoth Cave campaign. And as I made myself sufficiently acquainted with it to ramble about at will, without the assistance of a guide, and no companions but my torch, jar of lard, and box of matches, and, sometimes, a cold dinner, to be despatched at any distant pool or dripping waterfall, I could enjoy all the pleasures of such a solitude as cannot be had, or even conceived of, in the world of day, besides laying myself open to such adventures as might be expected to befall a solitary rambler in a vast cave. Yet I must confess, after some personal experience and much general inquiry, that adventures are of very rare occurrence in the Mammoth Cave. People will not fall into the pits, because they are always on the look-out for them; on the same principle that stage-coach accidents never happen so frequently on extremely bad as on extremely good roads. Nobody will get lost; for none but a veteran visitor of the cave will suffer his guide to step to the right or left, without following him: nobody loses his light, for every one provides a superfluity of lard and matches. Accidents are unknown; and perils, or adventures of any kind, arising, as they do in the world above, from the action of man on man, the effects of human passions, are quite out of the question: because, here, in the darkness, that seems a demideath and opening eternity, human passions are extinct, and man feels extremely kind and amiable to all his fellows. And, therefore, my fortune as to adventures in the Mammoth Cave was never very great. I once, indeed, fell down a pit; but it was only two feet deep, and so no bones were broken. Another time, I lost my jar of lard, and had the comfortable prospect of being left in darkness in the remotest part of the cave; but I had the good fortune to find it again, before my torch had burned out. On one occasion, however, I came very near an adventure; for passing through a very solitary place in the grand gallery, as it is called, or main cave, amusing myself, as I stepped from rock to rock, watching my flitting shadow on the wall, rendered the more gigantic because I carried my torch low near my feet, on a sudden I was startled with the appearance of another colossal shadow on the wall beside my own; a spectacle that brought me to a stand, with some such sensations as Robinson Crusoe felt when he stumbled on the print of the human foot on the sea149