« PreviousContinue »
proper place, had started, like the hoops of a staved cask, and was ' seen loose upon its top; it was covered partly with powder and partly with dirt, half brushed, and had several little cuts on the crown. I easily discovered the owner, though his place was a good way off ; a tall stout-looking young man, who sat near the bottom of the table, with his arm thrown negligently over the back of his own chair, and his leg, on which was a rumpled boot, resting on the cross-bar of the chair next him; from which attitude he was only moved by our toast-master's frequent calls for a bumper, which command he very religiously obeyed. I was too distant to profit by his conversation, of which, however, he seemed very sparing, being of that order of Bucks who have been taught to drink long before they have learned to speak. After this there was a blank, the
immediately adjoining being occupied by no hat whatever. On looking below I discovered the person whose hat should have filled it. He was dressed in a shining suit, his waistcoat splendidly embroidered, at the breast of which appeared a quantity of rich laced ruffle. He sat erect in his chair, and seemed moved by no intrusive idea, except when sometimes he shrunk with fear, if perchance a bottle tripped on the joinings of the table, or a glass was spilled by an awkward neighbour. His hat was only a bit of black silk, of which I discovered the corner sticking out of his pocket, his foretop being too nicely dressed to admit of any covering. But I believe I suffered nothing from the want of any distinguishing mark of his character or disposition. The man is in reality nothing; 'tis his coat only that makes a figure in the world. As for emotions, passions, virtue, or knowledge, he puts them, like his hat, into his pocket.
After this survey, at which, perhaps, some of my readers will smile, I amused myself with considering
how in this slight particular of dress we may be apt to discover our character, and even upon the bit of beaver with which we cover our heads to stamp somewhat of the image of our minds. I was pleased with thinking, that however men may wrap themselves up in artificial disguise in the greater actions of life; yet even amidst all their concealments, there are circumstances to be found where nature will discover itself, and by which an attentive and diligent observer may be able to read the real character of the man.
I have often thought of discovering amongst the ladies some circumstance which might lead me to distinguish their characters in the same way that the hat discriminates those of the gentlemen. But I found them so little free agents in this matter, so much the uniform creation of milliners and hair-dressers, that it was impossible to trace any characteristical mark about them. All my efforts, therefore, have hitherto been baffled; and I was about to have abandoned the thing as impossible, till a lady who has lived much in the world, to whom I mentioned my difficulty, very lately assured me, that she can furnish me with a pretty remarkable particular which will perfectly answer the purpose, and that she will impart to me a set of observations which she herself has made, to confirm the certainty of the test. When she is pleased to favour me with these, they shall be communicated to my readers.
No. 13. SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 1785.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE LOUNGER.
SIR, I INHERITED from my ancestors an estate of about 10001. a year;
desire for figuring in the world, I married, early in life, the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman, and till of late
years lived at home, satisfied with the society of my friends and neighbours. I found my fortune fully sufficient for my purposes; and was in hopes that I might provide decently for my younger children, who are four in number, without its being necessary to part with an estate, which, as it had been some centuries in our family, I had an old-fashioned inclination to preserve in it.
I am sorry, however, to add, that from the circumstances I am now to take the liberty of mentioning, those hopes have given way to prospects of a very different kind, prospects unspeakably mortifying to me, and which ought to be still more distressing to the rest of my family,
My eldest son, as he possessed but a very limited genius, and showed no propensity to any particular profession, I wished to follow my own example, and become a country gentleman. But a winter in your city, after having passed a few years at one of our universities, taught him that this was a plan quite unfit for a young man of spirit. As he had there acquired a taste for what he was pleased to call genteel life by hunting, drinking, wenching, and
gambling with all the idle young men about town, at a greater expense than what supported all the rest of the family at home, I was persuaded to purchase for him a cornetcy of horse, in compliance with his own earnest desire, and in hopes that, by a removal from his present companions, 'he might learn to retrench his expenses, and be gradually reclaimed from the dangerous habits he had contracted in their society.
While my son was thus learning to be a gentleman, my wife thought it no less necessary that my daughters should learn to be ladies.
Accordingly, when the eldest was about thirteen, and the other about twelve years of age, they both left my
house in the country, and were placed in a boarding-school of the first reputation in Edinburgh.
At home they had passed their time, as I imagined usefully, in learning to read, to write, to work, to keep accounts, and to assist their mother in the little cares of our household. They had been taught to dance; and they sung, not perhaps with much art or skill, but in such a manner as most people listened to with pleasure. These attainments, however, were of very
inferior kind to what it was now thought necessary they should acquire. They were quickly provided with masters for all the polite and fashionable branches of education. They were taught dancing (for they would not allow what they had learned in the country to deserve that name), drawing, French, Italian, and music; and a female relation, who was kind enough to take some charge of them, sent us the most flattering accounts of their progress in those various accomplishments.
When I received the bills of the boarding-mistress, even for the first season, I was, I must confess, somewhat out of humour; and it required all the eloquence of my wife, and the flattering accounts of
her kinswoman, to persuade me that the
expense was quite so well bestowed as they seemed to imagine. It was, however, a trifle, compared to that which followed. In a few years my young misses were transformed into young ladies; and as the kindness of our female friend procured them an introduction, as she told us, to all the genteel families in town, what between private parties and public places, where they now began to figure, they very seldom found leisure to be at home. The expense which this occasioned, added to that of their education (for they still continued to improve themselves), was such as I could by no means afford to bestow on two members of my family; especially as it now became necessary to fit my two younger boys for the professions they chose to follow; Jack, the elder, being destined for the bar, and Bob for the East Indies, where, under the protection of an uncle, it was hoped he might one day become a nabob.
The beauty and accomplishments of my daughters had now become a favourite topic with my wife and other friends of my family; and to have buried them in a country retirement would have been deemed the height of folly and barbarity. For their sakes, therefore, as well as the education of my sons, I was now told it was absolutely necessary we should pass a considerable part of the year in Edinburgh. The separate board I must otherwise bestow on my boys and girls was supposed to render this a plan of economy; and the few objections I made to it were silenced by telling me of many gentlemen, from all parts of the country, who had found this the only method of giving their children a genteel education, without the absolute ruin of their fortunes.
To these reasons, though not altogether satisfied, I gave way. We provided ourselves with a house in