Charles L. (Charles Larcom) Graves.

Mr. Punch's history of modern England (Volume 3) online

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chapters on "Cyclomania" in 1885, including an account of a
"spin " to Brighton ending in a smash, are largely burlesque,
but indicate that, though clubs were multiplying, the cult had
not yet outgrown its fashionable phase, or established itself on
a democratic basis.

Signs of advancing popularity, however, are manifest in
1887, when the old Scotswoman in Keene's picture observes :
"Ah dinna ken what's come ower the Kirk. Ah canna bide to
see our Minister spankin' aboot on yon cyclopaedy ! " The
publication of a new edition of Mr. Sturmey's Handbook of
Bicycling in the same year inspires a set of verses reviewing
the immense progress made since the days of the old "bone-
shaker," the expansion of the industry at Coventry, and the
exploits on the racing track of Keen and other professionals.
The safety bicycle associated with the name of J. K. Starley
dates from 1885, but it was not until the invention of the pneu-
matic tyre by Dunlop in 1888 that what had been a pastime
was revolutionized and became an universal mode of loco-
motion. Ptnich celebrates the coming of the "Safety" in
October, 1890, in "Breaking a record on the Wheel" (after
Tennyson's "Break, break"), but his admiration of the ex-
ploits of Messrs. Mecredy and Osmond is tempered by regret
for the heroes of the "ordinary" — Keen and the Hon. Ion
Keith Falconer. Punch was not aware that he was in the
presence of an epoch-making invention, the most wide-reaching


In the Sixties

In the Seventies

In the Eighties In the Nineties



Mr. Punch s History of Modern England

in its influence in our time between the railway engine and
the coming of the motor. The verses make no mention of the
pneumatic tyre; the present writer saw a bicycle race in 1891
at Eastbourne at which all the competitors save one rode on
the high model, and he proved the winner.


"Do you evah Wxn\, Miss Evangeline?"

"Do I ever whal, Mr. Smythe ?"


" What do you mean, Sir ? "

"Well, i\aiz, if you pwefer the expwession!"

In contrast with the ever-increasing speeding-up of life one
may note Punch's tribute in 1889 to the charms of caravan-
ning; its inevitable slowness being compensated by freedom
from hotel bandits and extortionate lodging-house keepers.

Rifle-shooting is a serious pursuit rather than a pastime or
sport, but may claim a word of notice in this survey. The
National Rifle Association came of age in 1881, and Pimch
celebrated the event in a cartoon in which he toasts a hand-
some young rifleman in a Jeroboam of Perrier-Jouet, 1859,
and in verses congratulating the. comrades of the rifle on their
long survival and triumph over official snubbing.


The Vicissitudes of Pastime

Lastly I may note that in the Jubilee number of Punch in
1891 the popular or rather fashionable recreations in the 'sixties,
'seventies, 'eighties and 'nineties are shown in four illustra-
tions of croquet, roller-skating, lawn tennis and golf. Of these
roller-skating has temporarily disappeared. In the 'seventies
"Rinkomania " was a short-lived but acute malady. It led to a
good many accidents and much speculation, mostly disastrous.
Much money was made and more lost by the financiers who
embarked on rink-building. At the end of 1875 Punch notes
a report that the Albert Hall was to be converted into a Grand
Skating Rink. At the moment the rumour was by no means
incredible; and the scenes of social and political revelry enacted
in that building of recent years must have often disturbed the
manes of its eponymous hero.

Lawn tennis and golf have become democratic, international
and spectacular pastimes; while croquet continues to hold its
own in a select, scientific and secluded circle of votaries.



MEN'S dress had already ceased to be decorative long
before the 'seventies were in their mid career. There
had been spasmodic attempts to introduce a note of
colour and picturesqueness into male attire, and a fresh effort
was made by the apostles of the aesthetic movement, but the
average man of fashion took no heed of these eccentricities.
His aim was to be unobtrusively well dressed, though in the
domain of pastime one may note an increasing addiction to
highly coloured hose and the multiplication of club colours and

As a chronicler and illustrator of the vagaries of Mode,
Pwich continues to pay far more attention to the costume of
women than of men. But here also one notes a change — a
tendency which warrants the labelling of this period as the
Age of Approximation, in which in regard both to material and
design women were more and more inclined to take a leaf from
the fashion books of their brothers. The increasing addiction
of girls to athletic pastimes was no doubt largely responsible
for a change which could not be better exemplified than in
Du Maurier's picture in 1877 of an old gentleman who mistakes
the Dean's three daughters for young men and is gravely
corrected by the verger. The mistake was venial, for the young
amazons in their ulsters and hard hats presented a decidedly
masculine appearance. In a word, they were "tailor-made " — a
word of vast and epoch-making significance.

References to this approximation recur throughout the
'eighties. In 1880 Sambourne, taking for his text an article
in the Journal des Modes, gives us a design of evening dress
entitled, "Man or Woman — a Toss Up," and in the same year
Du Maurier, in a picture of the " Ne Plus Ulster," represents
a customer expostulating with the shop-woman, "But it makes
one look so like a man," only to be told, "That's just the beauty


The Divided Skirt

of it, Miss." Within limits Punch applauded the change.
When short dresses for dances were said to be coming in, in
the same year, he dilates in verse on the salutary innovation.
To the year 1881 belongs the foundation of the "Rational Dress
Society." "Bloomerism," as I pointed out in an earlier volume,
never appealed to Mayfair. But the Rational Dress Society


Old Gentleman (shocked beyond description) to Verger : "Don't you think
those youths had better be told to take their hats off ? "

Verger : "Take their 'ats off t Bless you, Sir, those are the Dean's young
ladies ! "

claimed a live Viscountess — Lady Harberton — as its President,
and recommended the adoption of a "dual garmenture " or
"divided skirt " as its cardinal tenet. Punch declared that the
"divided skirt" was simply the old Bloomer costume slightly
disguised, and saw in the movement only a fresh proof of
woman's conscious inferiority : —

True that another skirt hides this insanity
Miss Mary Walker in old days began ;

Yet it should flatter our masculine vanity,
For this means simply the trousers of Man I

U-3 305

Mr. Ptmchs History of Modern England

The Rational Dress reformers were tremendously in earnest,
but they entirely failed to convert the fashionables, and Punch,
who refused to take them seriously, ridiculed the movement
in a burlesque cut of "United Trousers v. Divided Skirts," in
which retaliation effects a reductio ad absurdum. An exhibi-
tion of Rational Dress was held in Prince's Hall in the summer
of 1883, but Punch remained unconvinced, and even obscurantist
in his comments : —

We look at the models — they puzzle our noddles —

Regarding- them all with alarm and surprise !
Each artful customer revives Mrs. Bloomer,

And often produces an army of guys.
The costume elastic, the dresses gymnastic,

The wonderful suits for the tricycle-ess —
Though skirts be divided, I'm clearly decided,

It isn't my notion of Rational Dress !

See gowns hygienic, and frocks calisthenic.

And dresses quite worthy a modern burlesque;
With garments for walking, and tennis, and talking.

All terribly manful and too trouseresque !
And habits for riding, for skating, or sliding.

With "rational" features they claim to possess;
The thought I can't banish, they're somewhat too mannish,

And not quite the thing for a Rational Dress !

Note robes there for rinking, and gowns for tea-drinking.

For yachting, for climbing, for cricketing too;
The dresses for boating, the new petticoating,

The tunics in brown and the trousers in blue.
The fabrics for frockings, the shoes and the stockings.

And corsets that ne'er will the figure compress;
But in the whole placeful there's little that's graceful

And girlish enough for a Rational Dress !

'TJs hardy and boyish, not girlful and coyish —

We think, as we stroll round the gaily-dight room —
A masculine coldness, a brusqueness, a boldness.

Appears to pervade all this novel costume !
In ribbons and laces, and feminine graces,

And soft flowing robes, there's a charm more or less —
I don't think I'll venture on dual garmenture,

I fancy my own is the Rational Dress.


Punch the '' Anti-RafiouaUst''

Strong-minded women, in Punch's view, only emphasized
their angularity by the masculinity of their attire — witness his
"Aunt Jemima," an uncompromising Blue Ribbonite, in an
ulster and hard felt hat, explaining to a French cab-driver that
the extra half-franc is a "pour-manger " and not a " pour-boire."
The allusion to corsets in the lines quoted above may be
supplemented by a paragraph which appeared early in 1891
showing that the "rationalizing" of dress had spread to the
Dominions. At Sydenham, Ontario, corsets had been declared,
in a memorable phrase, to be "incompatible with Christianity."
To the end of this period Punch discourages the extremes of
the "Rational" school. His wittiest criticism is the para-
doxical remark put in the mouth of one girl who disapproves
of the mannish costume of a friend in a covert coat with a man's
hat : " It makes you look like a Young Man, you know, and
that's so effeminate ! " The small deer-stalking cap worn by
the lady, salmon fishing with a formidable gillie, in 1885, is
identical with that worn by the male sportsman. The ulsters
and "golf-capes," worn by women when travelling, and the
narrow-brimmed felt hats shown in 1891, are practically identical
for men and women; and in 1892 Punch laments (after Herrick)
the introduction of the loose "sack " coat, in imitation of the
masculine model : —

Whenas my Julia wears a sack,
That hides the outline of her back,
I cry in sore distress. Alack !

Later on in the same poem his clothes philosophy is summed
up in six lines : —

Although men's clothes are always vile —
The coat, the trousers and the " tile " —
Some sense still lingers in each style.

But women's garments should be fair,

All graceful, gay, and debonair,

And if they lack good sense, why care?

In the last three lines we find the whole essence and spirit
of Du Maurier's method. He proved to demonstration again


Now that fashionable skirts are worn so tight that the fair wearers thereof
can neither stoop nor sit down, it might be worth somebody's while to devise
a chair suited to the peculiar exigencies of the positions.


Lady {speaking with difficulty): "What have you made it round the waist,

Mrs. Price ? " ^ . . i ■ l i ••

Dressmaker: "Twenty-one inches, ma'am. You couldn't breathe with less!

LadY: "What's Lady Jemima Jones's waist?"

Dressmaker: "Nineteen-and-a-half just now, ma'am. But her Ladyship's
a head shorter than you are, and she's got ever so much thinner since her
illness last autumn ? " ^^

LadY: ."Then make it nineteen, Mrs. Price, and /'// engage to gel into it!


Slaves of Fashion

and again that women could dress in the fashion of the moment
and be dehghtful to looic at, so long as they were the judicious
interpreters and not the Slaves of Mode. If he saw no beauty
in the designs of the "Rationalists," and habitually ridiculed
the sprawling attitudes, the shapeless garments, and unwhole-


Jones {lo himselj, as he offers Miss Vane a cup oj tea and some strawberries) :
"By Jove! She takes 'em — she's going to swallow 'em! But where she'll put
'em — goodness knows ! "

some languor of the female "aesthetes," he did not spare the
monstrosities and barbarities of the ultra-fashionables. The
age of lateral expansion had given place to a craze for compres-
sion, to the "eel-skin " model. Skirts were so tight in 1875
that Du Maurier suggests that upholsterers should devise a
special sort of chair suited to the peculiar exigencies of ladies
who can neither stoop nor sit down. Three years later a lady


Mr. PwicJis History of Modern Englmid

and a hussar officer at a dance are depicted as both equally
unable to depart from a rigidly perpendicular attitude. Tight
lacing was again in fashion but met with no approval from
Pu7ich. In 1877 Du Maurier depicts a lady resolutely deter-
mined to lace down to the waist measurement of a rival, and
Punch quotes with approval Miss Frances P. Cobbe's indict-
ment of the causes which led to the "Little Health of Women."
Besides tight lacing the list includes the neglect of exercise,
the discouragement of appetite, sentimental brooding over dis-
appointments, the lack of healthy occupation for mind and
body, false hair, bonnets that don't protect the head, heavy
dragging skirts, high heels and "pull-backs " — a tolerably com-
prehensive catalogue. Punch renews his attack on tightly-
laced pinched-in figures in his Horatian ode to "A Modern
Pyrrha " in 1880, and in 1889 Jones, after offering the wasp-
waisted Miss Vane tea and strawberries at a garden party,
remarks to himself: "By Jove! she takes 'em — she's going to
swallow 'em I But where she'll put 'em — goodness knows ! "
The crusade against wearing birds' wings is an old story.
The Baroness Burdett-Coutts' efforts in 1875 — cordially sup-
ported by Punch — were prompted by the cruel practice of
obtaining rare feathers by plucking birds when alive. The
Baroness had approached Mme. Louise, who was sympatlietic
but pointed out that there was an increasing demand for this
kind of decoration. Punch repeatedly protests against the
practice, and in 1889, when flowers were once more in fashion
as hat trimmings, expressed his delight at a change which
checked wholesale bird slaughter : —

When lovely woman stooped to folly,
And piled bird plumes upon her head,

She no doubt fancied she looked jolly,
But filled the woodland choirs with dread.

His delight, however, was short-lived, and in 1892 he was
again moved to denounce the "Modish Moloch of the Air,"
and pillory, under the tide of "A Bird of Prey," the woman
of fashion who decked herself out in feathers.

This was the age of the fringe, another of Punch's pet


Fringes and Bustles

aversions, whether worn by 'Arriet or the maidens and matrons
of Mayfair. Du Maurier lent his aid in the triple cut headed
"Alasl" representing "Pretty Grandmamma Robinson" as
she was in 1851, as she is now in 1880, in a tight dress cut
low in front with a monstrous frizzed fringe, and finally as


"What does t'lass want wi' yon Booslle for? It aren't big enough to Smoggle
things, and she can't Steer herself wi' it!"

she might and should be — altogether a most instructive sermon
on the art of growing old gracefully and the reverse.

It is interesting to note, by way of contrast, that caps were
still worn in the house by quite young married women. The
affectation of perennial youth was not universal in 1880. The
popularity and drawbacks of the jersey are attested in the same
year, when we are shown the fearful struggles of Jones in his
efforts to help his lovely wife to divest herself of this garment.
In 1881 reference is made to the agitation against a revival of
the crinoline. The successful stand made against the "crino-
lette " by the Princess of Wales in 1883 is alluded to elsewhere.
Punch declares that the very large fans used at this time were
almost as great a nuisance in the stalls as crinoline had been,


Mr. Punch s History of Modern England

but this is obviously a ^ross exaggeration. The red veils
which were introduced in 1884 were to him a sheer abomination.
"It makes girls look blear-eyed and red-nosed. It gives them
the appearance of just recovering from the measles."

In the same year the ultra-smart ladies are shown wearing
hats, while others still have bonnets. In 1886 Du Maurier
shows ladies in a brougham specially built to match the fashion
of hats with high conical crowns. The small fur capes of a
few years back give place in 1887 to long fur boas — so long
that one picture shows a lady walking between two men with
the ends of her boa round their necks.

A more formidable monstrosity of these years was the
"bustle," admirably criticized by the fisherman in Du Maurier's
picture. By 1889 Punch celebrated its departure along with
other excrescences in a parody of Browning : —


The hideous bustle at last is dead.

Come and talk of the beast a minute !
Never again will it flourish, it's said;

What on earth we women saw in it,
Or why we liked it, is hard to discover;

Only the world is a nicer place.
Now that the pest called a "dress-improver"

Is improved, by Fashion, right off its face.

There's the tall hat, too, which they say is doomed.

One rather liked it, or view^ed it with awe,
Till one sat in a theatre, and far away loomed

A rampart of feathers, frilling, and straw,
Hiding the stage, the footlights, and all.

Save perhaps the top of a paste-board tree;
Oh, then one's fingers did certainly crawl

To fling a book at the filigree !

But, some day, in Fashion's whirligig.

The monstrous bustle, the Eiffel hat.
May arise once more, even twice as big.

For our great-grandchildren to wonder at.
Well, that's Posterity's matter, not mine.

The one thing now is to put up a hymn
Of praise, and of hope that, when new suns shine,

Good taste may flourish instead of whim !


Aisfhcfic Chi Id re }i

In 1891 a new fashion of dressing hair in the "tea-pot
handle " style arose and was pronounced by Punch to be "fright-
ful," and the epithet is at least justified by Punch's caricature.

Throughout this period the children in Du Maurier's
pictures, however dressed, are a joy to look at. The fashion of
arraying them in "aesthetic " costumes meets, however, with no


Mamma : " Who are those extraordinary-looking children ? "
Effie: "The Cimabue Browns, Mamma. They're Esthetic, you know!"
Mamma : "So I should imagine. Do you know them to speak to?"
Effie : "Oh dear no, Mamma — They're most exclusioe. Why, they put
out their tongues at us it we only look at them! "

favour. It is even implied that such a garb impairs their
manners and conduces to arrogance, witness Du Maurier's
picture of the young Cimabue Browns putting out their tongues
in derision at ordinary normally clad children in the park. In
1 88 1 we read : —

The poor little Guys who have been compelled by unthinking
parents to walk about in long- skirts, antique cloaks, and coal-scuttle
bonnets, have caused so much laughter that the dress is now called
"The Grinaway Costume."


Mr. PimcJis History of Modern England

It may have been by Punch; but against his churlish con-
demnation must be set the enthusiastic approval of Kate Green-
away's illustrations by leading art critics, including Ruskin,

throughout the
world; and the ex-
traordinary success
of her revival of
old-fashioned cos-
tumes for children.
In spite of Punch,
and in virtue of the
exquisite charm of
her designs, she
went a long way
toward justifying
the verdict of one
of her admirers
that "Kate Green-
away dressed the
children of two

Allusions t o
men's attire in this
period are few and
far between, and a
careful study of
Punch's illustra-
tions reveals little

Awfully nice Dance at Mrs. Masham's last

night ?"

He: "Yaas. Were you there?'

She: "H^as / there? Why-I danced with you substantial diverg-
1 hree 1 imes !

He: "Really! So glad!"

ence between the
fashions of 1880
and 1920. The only approach to a crusade or campaign in
which Pimch engaged was directed against his old enemy
the "chimney pot." When Dr. Carpenter in 1882 declared
that Englishmen "would rather suffer martyrdom than give
up its use," Punch enlarged on this text in an "anti-sanitary
ballad." He reverts to the theme in "All round my hat" in
1889: —


The Demon ** Topper

Incarnate ugliness, bald, tasteless, flat.

My stove-pipe hat !
A rigid cylinder that engirts
My cranium close, and heats, and hurts

My head most frightfully.
It cuts, it chafes, it raises lumps.
Each vein beneath it throbs and thumps

Fiercely and spitefully ;
An Incubus of woe, and yet I wear it

And grin and bear it.

Its pipy structure, black and hollow.
Would make a guy of bright Apollo,

Clapt on his crown.
It takes one's top-locks clean away.
And turns the scanty remnant grey.

Once thick and brown.
And oh ! how terrible its torrid tether

In sultry weather !

Ever the same, though fashion's whim
Wide-bell the body, curl the brim,

Or more or less ;
Play little tricks with shape or size,
And Vankeefy or Quakerize

Design or dress,
Long, short, broad, narrow, curled this way or that,

'Tis still a hat!

The centenary of the tall-hat (according to the 'DaWy News)
arrived in 1890, and Punch heaped scorn on this unlovely-
centenarian : —

Mad was the hatter who invented
The demon "topper," and demented
The race that, spite of pain and jeers.
Has borne it — for One Hundred Years !

For holiday or sporting wear Tyrolese hats came into vogue
in the late 'eighties, and the picture of two "chappies" at
Monte Carlo in what is presumably the height of the fashion
presents them in check tweeds, spats and Austrian jciger hats.
The Homburg hat belongs to a slightly later period.

Mr. A. C. Corbould, in an illustration of the correct costume


Mr. PuncJis History of Modern England

for Rotten Row in 1885 and 1889, shows that for men the tall
hat and frock coat had yielded in the latter year to the bowler
and tweeds. The dress of the ladies shows less change, but
the tall hat has gone and the skirts are grey not black. Short
tailless coats for morning wear were coming in, and Punch
welcomes in 1889 the introduction of brown boots as a relief
from "that dual despotism, dreadful grown, of needless nigri-
tude and futile polish." Whiskers were still worn, but, amongst
young men, were severely restricted in length, and shorn of
the ambrosial exuberance of the 'fifties and 'sixties.

"-Esthetes " were once described as a set of long-haired men
and short-haired women, and Du Maurier's pictures justify the
summary, but these peculiarities were confined to a coterie;
they never seriously affected the usages of Mayfair or involved
any revision of the "petty decalogue of Mode." Spats were
generally worn, and the "mashers" of the 'eighties carried
very slim umbrellas when they took their walks abroad in the
park for Sunday parade. Evening dress presents few and
negligible differences from that in vogue to-day. One of the
very few references to military uniforms in these years indicates
the reaction against "useless flummery." A military corre-
spondent in The Times had said, in 1890, that the day of cocked
hats and plumes was gone, and Punch availed himself of the
saying to design a new and rational uniform for general officers,
so that they might be mistaken by the enemy for harmless
gentlemen farmers.




4 S I ventured to remark in an earlier volume, a literary
/% critic's acumen and flair are better shown in his estimates
of writers whose fame is as yet unassured, or who are
just emerging above the horizon, than of authors of established
reputation. No special credit attaches to Punch for writing
with reverence of Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Scott or
Charles Lamb, whose centenary evoked a charming tribute in
1875, when the Headmaster of Christ's Hospital appealed in
The Times for support in erecting a memorial to Elia in his
old school. A better test is furnished in his references to
Browning and Swinburne, Matthew Arnold, Charles Reade
and Trollope, JefTeries and Stevenson and Thomas Hardy,
George Eliot and Mrs. Humphry Ward, and, to come down
to the end of this period, Kipling and Barrie. Yet all estab-
lished reputations were not respected by Punch. When
Rabelais was included in Professor Henry Morley's series of

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Online LibraryCharles L. (Charles Larcom) GravesMr. Punch's history of modern England (Volume 3) → online text (page 22 of 27)