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great railway stations have thrown the small
streets quite into a state of bewilderment
the Maze has become a maze in more ways
than one.

Here endeth our Overland Tour to
Bermondseythe Ey or Ei or Marsh of


FLAX is the only perfectly unexceptionable
fibre for a shirt. A silken shirt, which sounds
so well in an Eastern tale, always makes me
think of the Spanish Princess Isabella's vow
(whence the once fashionable colour of
Isabelle-yellow), and it also revives the libel
which some traveller has published about the
Persian gentry, namely, that though they
bathed ever so often in the day, they were
never clean, except while they were in the
water. Flannel shirts partake too much of
the vest, whether outer or inner, to allow a
linen shirt to be dispensed with. As to
flimsy, low-price-ticketed, cotton articles, run
together with hot needle and burnt thread,
indelibly stained with the tears of
three-quarters-starved seamstressesthey ought
to be torn into shreds, tossed into the streets
on the first symptom of a hurricane, to be
borne away for ever into empty space, like
ephemeral and unreal phantoms as they are.
In temperate language, they are abominable
and unwearable. No argument shall ever
persuade me to the contrary

" 'Odious! In cotton! 'T'would a saint provoke!'
Were the last words that poor Scriblerus spoke.
'One would not, sure, be seedy when one's dead;
So, Betty,' "——

"please let the remains of poor Scriblerus be
wrapped in a fair linen shirt, when they are
laid out to take their last long repose."

"Linen" is a word derived from the French
lin, or the Latin linumwhichever you
pleaseboth meaning "flax." Our "lin-seed"
springs from the same etymological root. We
have seen that the courtesy of housewives
admits hempen cloth into the catalogue of
linen, but, granting all the merits of hemp,
the indulgence is contrary to strict etiquette.
By "linen," here, we understand "flaxen"
and nothing else, while we are taking a
cursory glance at the early history of a linen

All clothing is a something of which we
have selfishly despoiled something else. Skins,
furs, and feathers, are stripped from off other
fellow-creatures, living or dead; vegetable
garments are plunder taken from, or wheedled
out of the earth. The shepherd shears the flock
which he has fed and tended, to make him
coats of wool; the husbandman feeds, and
tickles, and currycombs the land, to induce
it to send forth a sort of herbaceous hair and
bristle, which he then rapaciously plucks up
by the roots, to furnish himself with nether
vestments. The natural history of a lady's
muff, or the personal adventures of an Alpaca
paletot, are subjects not devoid of interest;
and, wishing that some clever hand may
undertake them both, I will at once open the series
by the Story of a Shirt.

Flax unadulterated is the only permissible
fibre, both for warp and woof; but flax must
be grown before it can be so employed. Flax
may be seen growing and in preparation in
various parts of the world; but, to avoid
confusion, I will now confine myself to what I
have lately been beholding in the northern
provinces of France.

I have not seen it mentioned in any treatise
on the subject, but have observed the fact
with my own eyes, that the best flax is grown
on perfectly level ground. A flax field should
be like a bowling-green or a billiard table.
The reason is the exact converse of that
which makes hilly and mountainous ground
the best adapted for forest land. The great
object in flax culture is to obtain a long,
straight, unbranching stem, delicate rather
than robust in its proportions. Wherefore
the seed is sown broadcast, with a liberal
hand, that the plants may shoot so thickly
from the ground as almost to choke each
other. They are thus drawn up, thin and
wiry, without a lateral branch, like oaks too
closely planted in a wood. Not a single flax
plant should overtop another; the whole crop
ought to rise from the earth as level as if it
were clipped with a gigantic pair of shears
during the entire period of its growth. But
on unlevel ground, plants of unequal height
do overtop each other, in exact proportion to
the steepness of the ground. They individually
catch more light and air; they shoot
out a greater number of side branches; and
their woody fibre becomes firmer. The same
conditions which bring the oak to perfection
spoil the flax plant for our domestic uses. A
crop of flax is an exceedingly beautiful
object when it has obtained the height of two
or three inches. The hue of its green is
more delicate than that lovely colour which
wheat displays in early spring, "when
hawthorn buds appear;" and the texture of the
living down with which the earth is covered,
exceeds everything that one can imagine
in the way of velvet, plush, or Turkey carpet.
Only there is no pattern on the ground
or ought not to be. The tint throughout the
field should be as uniform as the blue of the
sky above it.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold, close to
Guines, and not far from Calais, is well suited
for flax-growing, and is consequently strangely
altered since it was the scene of the rival
display of finery between Francis I. and
Henry VIII. Three hundred and thirty-three
years, interposed between ourselves and
any distant event, form a wonderfully clear
medium through which to behold the vanity
of vanities. The spot on which stood the
palace-like tent of the big wife-killing bully,
is now ploughed up for next year's crop,