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When a man applies himself soberly to
reflect upon the fitness of things in general,
and of their several tendencies towards the
great End, of what a whirligig of vanity and
inutilityof waste and glitterthe Great
World seems to consist! All these flounces
and furbelows; all this crenoline, bergamot,
paste and jewellery, wax-chandlery, Brussels
lace and Sèvres china; all those jobbed
horses, silken squabs, double and triple
knocks, tags and embroideries and fripperies
of the Heralds' College, what are they good
for?—what end do they serve? All these
mountebank bowings and reverences; these
kissings of hands and backing out of rooms
of lath and plaster; these clatterings about
streets for the purpose of bandying pieces of
printed pasteboard; these grinnings to your
fellow worm of five feet long across a glass
of grape juice; these bawlings out of names
by lacqueys; these posturings and jumpings,
and agonies of etiquette; and turning day
into night and night into day, and eating
when we are not hungry, and drinking
when we are not thirsty; all these, the life-
chords of the Great World, to what end are
they? Who commanded them? Who
promulgated the statutes that regulate them?
If Fashion were a tangible idol with a frontal
protuberance and a golden head, squatting
on his hams in a pagoda like Juggernaut,
we should not need to wonder at his
votaries wearing absurd dresses and passing
their lives in the performance of more absurd
ceremonies. We might set down the
worship to be a delusion; but we might concede
the dresses and the ceremonies to be
the offspring of a sincere though mistaken
superstition, and to be typical or symbolic of
something. But my lady Azalia, the Queen
of the world of Fashion, is a member of the
Church of England, and she would be indignant
if you were to ask her whether she
worshipped a protuberant idol. Besides,
Fashion is not tangible or palpable. No one
ever saw Fashion, or drew his (or her?)
portrait, or promulgated the conditions of his
(or her?) creed, or taught what is heterodox
or what orthodox; except one vulgar
pretender who wrote a Handbook of Etiquette;
which, for any authority it was grounded on,
might as well have been a handbook to the
Bear Garden.

What are the laws of Fashion, and who
made them? Who regulates their absurdities
and their proprieties? It was the height of
fashion in Charles the Second's time to display
about four inches of white shirt between the
waistband and the vest: now, if I were to
enter a ball-room with my shirt bulging from
the bottom of my waistcoat I should be
bowed down stairs. Why should fashion in
sixteen hundred and sixty-three be beauty,
and be impropriety in eighteen hundred
and fifty-three? Can anything be more
absurd than the present chimney-pot hat?
Nothing. Yet, if you were to meet me in
Regent Street with a hunting cap, a shovel
hat, a sombrero, or a fur porringer like that
which Henry of Lancaster worewould you
speak to me? The day after to-morrow velvet
sculls, shovel hats, flip-flaps, or rabbit-skin
porringers may be the only wear. Why should
the bishop have refused to ordain Oliver
Goldsmith, because he wore scarlet breeches?
What are wigs, boots, colours, fashionable
virtues, fashionable vices, bon ton, high breeding,
worth, after all? Will they save "the
sprightliness of youth, the fair cheeks and
full eyes of childhood, the vigorousness and
strong flexure of the joints of twenty-five,"
from the "hollowness and deadly paleness,
the loathsomeness and horror of a three
days' burial?" Will they avail us one jot
in the day when you and I and all the world,
"nobles and learned, kings and priests, the
wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor,
the prevailing tyrant and the oppressed party
shall all appear to receive their symbol?"
Will Fashion and Madame Devy and the
Red-book keep the "storm from the ship or
a wrinkle from the brow, or the plague from
a King's house?" Is the world any better
for Fashion, and could it not move towards
its end without Fashion, do you think?

"A man," says a divine I love to quote,
"may read a sermon the best and most
passionate that ever man preached, if he shall
but enter into the sepulchre of kings *    *    *
where our kings have been crowned, their
ancestors lie interred, and the king must walk
over his grandsire's head to take the crown."
Now what a homily might a man read over
second-hand court dresses, over a Court