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for the feeling of unusual exultation that comes over me
as I assume this one. Look at the skirts how they are
shining in the sun, with a delicate gloss upon them,
that evanescent gloss that passes away with the first
freshness of the coat, as the bloom does from the peach.
A friend meets you, he salutes you cordially, but looks
puzzled for a moment at the change in your appearance.
* I have it ! ' says Jones. l Hobson, my boy, I con-
gratulate you, a new coat, and very neat cut, puce-
coloured frock, brown silk lining, brass buttons, and
velvet collar, quite novel, and quiet and genteel at the
same time.' You say, * Pooh, Jones ! do you think so,
though ?' and at the same time turn round just to give
him a view of the back, in which there is not a single
wrinkle. You find suddenly that you must buy a new
stock ; that your old Berlin gloves will never do ; and
that a pair of three-and-sixpenny kids are absolutely
necessary. You find your boots are cruelly thick, and
fancy that the attention of the world is accurately divided
between the new frock-coat and the patch on your great
toe. It is very odd that that patch did not annoy you
yesterday in the least degree, that you looked with a
good-natured grin at the old sausage- fingered Berlin
gloves, bulging out at the end and concaved like spoons.
But there is a change in the man, without any doubt.

Notice Sir M O'D ; those who know that

celebrated military man by sight are aware of one
peculiarity in his appearance his hat is never brushed.
I met him one day with the beaver brushed quite
primly : and looking hard at the baronet to ascertain the
cause of this phenomenon, saw that he had a new coat.
Even his great spirit was obliged to yield to the power of
the coat, he made a genteel effort, he awoke up from
his habitual Diogenic carelessness ; and I have no doubt,
had Alexander, before he visited the cynic, ordered some
one to fling a new robe into his barrel, but that he would
have found the fellow prating and boasting with all the



MEN AND COATS 371

airs of a man of fashion, and talking of tilburies, opera-
girls, and the last ball at Devonshire House, as if the
brute had been used all his life to no other company.
Fie upon the swaggering vulgar bully ! I have always
wondered how the Prince of Macedon, a gentleman by
birth, with an excellent tutor to educate him, could have
been imposed upon by the grovelling, obscene, envious
tub-man, and could have uttered the speech we know of.
It was a humbug, depend upon it, attributed to His
Majesty by some maladroit bon-mot maker of the Court,
and passed subsequently for genuine Alexandrine.

It is hardly necessary for the moralist earnestly to
point out to persons moving in a modest station of life
the necessity of not having coats of too fashionable and
rakish a cut. Coats have been, and will be in the
course of this disquisition, frequently compared to the
flowers of the field ; like them they bloom for a season,
like them they grow seedy and they fade.

Can you afford always to renew your coat when this
fatal hour arrives? Is your coat like the French
monarchy, and does it never die ? Have, then, clothes
of the newest fashion, and pass on to the next article in
the Magazine, unless, always, you prefer the style of
this one.

But while a shabby coat, worn in a manly way, is a
bearable, nay, sometimes a pleasing object, reminding
one of 4 a good man struggling with the storms of fate,'
whom Mr. Joseph Addison has represented in his tragedy
of * Cato,' while a man of a certain character may look
august and gentlemanlike in a coat of a certain cut, it
is quite impossible for a person who sports an ultra-
fashionable costume to wear it with decency beyond a
half-year say. My coats always last me two years, and
any man who knows me knows how / look ; but I defy
Count d'Orsay thus publicly to wear a suit for seven
hundred and thirty days consecutively, and look respect-
able at the end of that time. In like manner, I would



372 VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

defy, without any disrespect, the Marchioness of X ,

or her Grace the Duchess of Z , to sport a white

satin gown constantly for six months and look decent.
There is propriety in dress. Ah, my poor Noll Gold-
smith, in your famous plum-coloured velvet ! I can see
thee strutting down Fleet Street, and stout old Sam
rolling behind as Maister Boswell pours some Caledonian
jokes into his ear, and grins at the poor vain poet. In
what a pretty condition will Goldy's puce-coloured
velvet be about two months hence, when it is covered
with dust and grease, and he comes in his slatternly
finery to borrow a guinea of his friend !

A friend of the writer's once made him a present of
two very handsome gold pins ; and what did the author
of this notice do ? Why, with his usual sagacity, he
instantly sold the pins for five-and-twenty shillings, the
cost of the gold, knowing full well that he could not
afford to live up to such fancy articles. If you sport
handsome gold pins, you must have everything about
you to match. Nor do I in the least agree with my
friend Bosk, who has a large amethyst brooch, and
fancies that, because he sticks it in his shirt, his atrocious
shabby stock and surtout may pass muster. No, no !
let us be all peacock, if you please ; but one peacock's
feather in your tail is a very absurd ornament, and of
course all moderate men will avoid it. I remember,
when I travelled with Captain Cook in the South Sea
Islands, to have seen Quashamaboo with nothing on him
but a remarkably fine cocked-hat, his queen sported a
red coat, and one of the princesses went frisking about
in a pair of leather breeches, much to our astonishment.

This costume was not much more absurd than poor
Goldsmith's, who might be very likely seen drawing
forth from the gold-embroidered pocket of his plum-
coloured velvet a pat of butter wrapped in a cabbage-leaf,
a pair of farthing rushlights, an onion or two, and a bit
of bacon.



MEN AND COATS 373

I recollect meeting a great, clever, ruffianly boor of a
man, who had made acquaintance with a certain set of
very questionable aristocracy, and gave himself the air
of a man of fashion. He had a coat made of the very
pattern of Lord Toggery's, a green frock, a green
velvet collar, a green lining : a plate of spring cabbage
is not of a brisker, brighter hue. This man, who had
been a shopkeeper's apprentice originally, now declared
that every man who was a gentleman wore white kid
gloves, and for a certain period sported a fresh pair
every day.

One hot, clear, sunshiny July day, walking down the
Haymarket at two o'clock, I heard a great yelling and
shouting of blackguard boys, and saw that they were
hunting some object in their front.

The object approached us, it was a green object, a
green coat, collar, and lining, and a pair of pseudo-white
kid gloves. The gloves were dabbled with mud and
blood, the man was bleeding at the nose, and slavering
at the mouth, and yelling some unintelligible verses of a
song, and swaying to and fro across the sunshiny street,
with the blackguard boys in chase.

I turned round the corner of Vigo Lane with the
velocity of a cannon-ball, and sprang panting into a
baker's shop. It was Mr. Bludyer, our London
Diogenes. Have a care, ye gay dashing Alexanders !
how ye influence such men by too much praise, or
debauch them by too much intimacy. How much of
that man's extravagance, and absurd aristocratic airs, and
subsequent roueries and cutting of old acquaintance, is to
be attributed to his imitation of Lord Toggery's coat !

Actors of the lower sort affect very much braiding and
fur collars to their frock-coats ; and a very curious and
instructive sight it is to behold these personages with
pale lean faces, and hats cocked on one side, in a sort of
pseudo-military trim. One sees many such sauntering
under Drury Lane Colonnade, or about Bow Street,



374 VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

with sickly smiles on their faces. Poor fellows, poor
fellows ! how much of their character is embroidered in
that seedy braiding of their coats ! Near five o'clock, in
the neighbourhood of Rupert Street and the Haymarket,
you may still occasionally see the old, shabby, manly,
gentlemanly, half-pay frock : but the braid is now
growing scarce in London ; and your military man,
with reason perhaps, dresses more like a civilian ; and,
understanding life better, and the means of making his
half-crown go as far as five shillings in former days, has
usually a club to dine at and leaves Rupert Street eating-
houses to persons of a different grade, to some of those
dubious dandies whom one sees swaggering in Regent
Street in the afternoon, or to those gay spruce gentlemen
whom ye encounter in Saint Paul's Churchyard at ten
minutes after five, on their way westward from the City.
Look at the same hour at the Temple, and issuing
thence and from Essex Street, you behold many scores
of neat barristers, who are walking to the joint and half
a pint of Marsala at the Oxford and Cambridge Club.
They are generally tall, slim, proper, well-dressed men,
but their coats are too prim and professionally cut.
Indeed, I have generally remarked that their clerks, who
leave chambers about the same time, have a far more
rakish and fashionable air ; and if, my dear madam, you
will condescend to take a beefsteak at the * Cock,' or at
some of the houses around Covent Garden, you will at
once allow that this statement is perfectly correct.

I have always had rather a contempt for a man who,
on arriving at home, deliberately takes his best coat
from his back and adopts an old and shabby one. It
is a mean precaution. Unless very low in the world
indeed, one should be above a proceeding so petty.
Once I knew a French lady very smartly dressed in a
black velvet pelisse, a person whom I admired very
much, and indeed for the matter of that she was very
fond of me, but that is neither here nor there, I say I



MEN AND COATS 375

knew a French lady of some repute who used to wear a
velvet pelisse, and how do you think the back of it was
arranged ?

Why, pelisses are worn, as you know, very full
behind ; and Madame de Tournuronval had actually a
strip of black satin let into the hinder part of her dress,
over which the velvet used to close with a spring when
she walked or stood, so that the satin was invisible.
But when she sat on a chair, especially one of the cane-
bottomed species, Euphemia gave a loose to her spring,
the velvet divided on each side, and she sat down on the
satin.

Was it an authorised stratagem of millinery ? Is a
woman under any circumstances permitted to indulge in
such a manoeuvre ? I say, No. A woman with such
a gown is of a mean deceitful character. Of a woman
who has a black satin patch behind her velvet gown,
it is right that one should speak ill behind the back ;
and when I saw Euphemia Tournuronval spread out
her wings (non usitates pennte^ but what else to call
them ?) spread out her skirts and ensure them from
injury by means of this dastardly ruse, I quitted the
room in disgust, and never was intimate with her as
before. A widow I know she was ; I am certain she
looked sweet upon me ; and she said she had a fortune,
but I don't believe it. Away with parsimonious
ostentation ! That woman, had I married her, would
either have turned out a swindler, or we should have
had bouilli five times a week for dinner, bouilli off
silver, and hungry lacqueys in lace looking on at the
windy meal !

The old coat plan is not so base as the above female
arrangement ; but say what you will, it is not high-
minded and honourable to go out in a good coat, to
flaunt the streets in it with an easy dbgagk air, as if you
always wore such, and returning home assume another
under pretext of dressing for dinner. There is no harm



376 VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

in putting on your old coat of a morning, or in wearing
one always. Common reason points out the former
precaution, which is at once modest and manly. If your
coat pinches you, there is no harm in changing it ;
if you are going out to dinner, there is no harm in
changing it for a better. But I say the plan of habitual
changing is a base one, and only fit for a man at last
extremities ; or for a clerk in the City, who hangs up
his best garment on a peg, both at the office and at
home ; or for a man who smokes, and has to keep his
coat for tea-parties, a paltry precaution, however, this.
If you like smoking, why shouldn't you ? If you do
smell a little of tobacco, where's the harm ? The smell
is not pleasant, but it does not kill anybody. If the
lady of the house do not like it, she is quite at liberty
not to invite you again. Et puis? Bah! Of what
age are you and I ? Have we lived ? Have we seen
men and cities ? Have we their manners noted, and
understood their idiosyncrasy ? Without a doubt !
And what is the truth at which we have arrived ?
This, that a pipe of tobacco is many an hour
in the day, and many a week in the month, a
thousand times better and more agreeable society than
the best Miss, the loveliest Mrs., the most beautiful
Baroness, Countess, or what not. Go to tea-parties,
those who will ; talk fiddle-faddle, such as like ; many
men there are who do so, and are a little partial to music,
and know how to twist the leaf of the song that Miss
Jemima is singing exactly at the right moment. Very
good. These are the enjoyments of dress-coats ; but
men, are they to be put off with such fare for ever ?
No ! One goes out to dinner, because one likes eating
and drinking ; because the very act of eating and drink-
ing opens the heart, and causes the tongue to wag.
But evening parties ! Oh, milk and water, bread and
butter ! No, no, the age is wiser ! The manly youth
frequents his club for common society, has a small circle



MEN AND COATS 377

of amiable ladies for friendly intercourse, his book and
his pipe always.

Do not be angry, ladies, that one of your most ardent
and sincere admirers should seem to speak disparagingly
of your merits, or recommend his fellows to shun the
society in which you ordinarily assemble. No, miss,
I am the man who respects you truly, the man who
respects and loves you when you are most lovely and
respectable, in your families, my dears. A wife, a
mother, a daughter, has God made anything more
beautiful ? A friend, can one find a truer, kinder, a
more generous and enthusiastic one, than a woman
often will be ? All that has to do with your hearts is
beautiful, and in everything with which they meddle, a
man must be a brute not to love and honour you.

But Miss Rudge in blue crape, squeaking romances at
a harp, or Miss Tobin dancing in a quadrille, or Miss
Blogg twisting round the room in the arms of a lumber-
ing Life-guardsman what are these ? so many vanities.
With the operations here described the heart has nothing
to do. Has the intellect ? O ye gods ! think of Miss
Rudge's intellect while singing

' Away, away to the mountain's brow,
Where the trees are gently waving ;

Away, away to the fountain's flow,

Where the streams are softly la-a-ving ! '

These are the words of a real song that I have heard
many times, and rapturously applauded too. Such a
song, such a poem, such a songster !

No, madam, if I want to hear a song sung, I will pay
eight-and-sixpence and listen to Tamburini and Persiani.
I will not pay, gloves, three-and-six ; cab, there and
back, four shillings ; silk stockings every now and then,
say a shilling a time : I will not pay to hear Miss Rudge
screech such disgusting twaddle as the above. If I want



378 VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

to see dancing, there is Taglioni for my money ; or
across the water, Mrs. Serle and her forty pupils ; or at
Covent Garden, Madame Vedy, beautiful as a houri,
dark-eyed, and agile as a gazelle. I can see all these in
comfort, and they dance a great deal better than Miss
Blogg and Captain Haggerty, the great red-whiskered
monster, who always wears nankeens because he thinks
his legs are fine. If I want conversation, what has Miss
Flock to say to me, forsooth, between the figures of a
cursed quadrille that we are all gravely dancing r By
heavens, what an agony it is. Look at the he-dancers,
they seem oppressed with dreadful care. Look at the
cavalier seul ! if the operation lasted long the man's hair
would turn white, he would go mad ! And is it for
this that men and women assemble in multitudes, for this
sorry pastime ?

No ! dance as you will, Miss Smith, and swim through
the quadrille like a swan, or flutter through the galop
like a sylphide, and have the most elegant fresh toilettes,
the most brilliantly polished white shoulders, the blandest
eyes, the reddest, simperingest mouth, the whitest neck,
the in fact, I say, be as charming as you will, that is
not the place in which, if you are worth anything, you
are most charming. You are beautiful ; you are very
much d'ecolletee ; your eyes are always glancing down at
a pretty pearl necklace, round a pearly neck, or on a
fresh fragrant bouquet, stuck fiddlestick ! What is it
that the men admire in you ? the animal, miss, the
white, plump, external Smith, which men with their eye-
glasses, standing at various parts of the room, are scan-
ning pertly and curiously, and of which they are speaking
brutally. A pretty admiration, truly ! But is it possible
that these men can admire anything else in you who
have so much that is really admirable ? Cracknell, in
the course of the waltz, has just time to pant into your
ear, 'Were you at Ascot Races?' Kid winter, who
dances two sets of quadrilles with you, whispers to you,



MEN AND COATS 379

* Do you pwefer thtwawbewy ithe aw wathbewy ithe ? '
and asks the name of * that gweat enawmuth.fat woman
in wed thatin and bird of pawadithe ? ' to which you
reply, ' Law, sir, it's mamma ! ' The rest of the evening
passes away in conversation similarly edifying. What
can any of the men admire in you, you little silly
creature, but the animal ? There is your mother, now,
in red and a bird of paradise, as Kidwinter says. She
has a large fan which she flaps to and fro across a broad
chest ; and has one eye directed to her Amelia, dancing
with Kidwinter before mentioned ; another watching
Jane, who is dancing vis-a-vis with Major Cutts ; and a
third complacently cast upon Edward, who is figuring
with Miss Binx in the other quadrille. How the dear
fellow has grown, to be sure ; and how like his papa at
his age heigho ! There is mamma, the best woman
breathing ; but fat, and even enormous, as has been said
of her. Does anybody gaze on her? And yet she was
once as slim and as fair as you, O simple Amelia !

Does anybody care for her ? Yes, one. Your father
cares for her ; SMITH cares for her ; and in his eyes she
is still the finest woman of the room ; and he remembers
when he danced down seven-and-forty couples of a
country-dance with her, two years before you were born
or thought of. But it was all chance that Miss Hopkins
turned out to be the excellent creature she was. Smith
did not know any more than that she was gay, plump,
good-looking, and had five thousand pounds. Hit, or
miss, he took her, and has had assuredly no cause to
complain ; but she might have been a Borgia or Joan of
Naples, and have had the same smiling looks and red
cheeks, and five thousand pounds, which won his heart
in the year 1814.

The system of evening parties, then, is a false and
absurd one. Ladies may frequent them professionally
with an eye to a husband, but a man is an ass who takes
a wife out of such assemblies, having no other means of



380 VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

judging of the object of his choice. Your are not the
same person in your white crape and satin slip as you are
in your morning dress. A man is not the same in his
tight coat and feverish glazed pumps, and stiff white
waistcoat, as he is in his green double-breasted frock, his
old black ditto, or his woollen jacket. And a man is
doubly an ass who is in the habit of frequenting evening
parties, unless he is forced thither in search of a lady to
whom he is attached, or unless he is compelled to go by
his wife. A man who loves dancing may be set down to
be an ass ; and the fashion is greatly going out with the
increasing good sense of the age. Do not say that he
who lives at home, or frequents clubs in lieu of balls, is a
brute, and has not a proper respect for the female sex ;
on the contrary, he may respect it most sincerely. He
feels that a woman appears to most advantage, not
among those whom she cannot care about, but
among those whom she loves. He thinks her beauti-
ful when she is at home making tea for her old
father. He believes her to be charming when she is
singing a simple song at her piano, but not when she is
screeching at an evening party. He thinks by far the
most valuable part of her is her heart ; and a kind
simple heart, my dear, shines in conversation better than
the best of wit. He admires her best in her intercourse
with her family and her friends, and detests the miser-
able twaddling slipslop that he is obliged to hear from
and utter to her in the course of a ball ; and avoids and
despises such meetings.

He keeps his evening coat, then, for dinners. And if
this friendly address to all the mothers who read this
miscellany may somewhat be acted upon by them ; if
heads of families, instead of spending hundreds upon
chalking floors, and Gunter, and cold suppers, and
Weippert's band, will determine upon giving a series of
plain, neat, nice dinners, of not too many courses, but
well cooked, of not too many wines, but good of their



MEN AND COATS 381

sort, and according to the giver's degree, they will see
that the young men will come to them fast enough ;
that they will marry their daughters quite as fast,
without injuring their health, and that they will make a
saving at the year's end. I say that young men, young
women, and heads of families should bless me for point-
ing out this obvious plan to them, so natural, so hearty,
so hospitable, so different to the present artificial mode.

A grand ball in a palace is splendid, generous, and
noble a sort of procession, in which people may figure
properly. A family dance is a pretty and pleasant
amusement ; and (especially after dinner) it does the
philosopher's heart good to look upon merry young
people who know each other, and are happy, natural,
and familiar. But a Baker Street hop is a base invention,
and as such let it be denounced and avoided.

A dressing-gown has great merits, certainly, but it is
dangerous. A man who wears it of mornings generally
takes the liberty of going without a neckcloth, or of not
shaving, and is no better than a driveller. Sometimes,
to be sure, it is necessary, in self-defence, not to shave, as
a precaution against yourself that is to say ; and I know
no better means of ensuring a man's remaining at home
than neglecting the use of the lather and razor for a
week, and encouraging a crop of bristles. When I
wrote my tragedy, I shaved off for the last two acts my
left eyebrow, and never stirred out of doors until it had
grown to be a great deal thicker than its right-hand
neighbour. But this was an extreme precaution, and
unless a man has very strong reasons indeed for stopping
at home, and a very violent propensity to gadding, his
best plan is to shave every morning neatly, to put on his
regular coat, and go regularly to work, and to avoid a
dressing-gown as the father of all evil. Painters are the
only persons who can decently appear in dressing-gowns ;
but these are none of your easy morning-gowns ; they
are commonly of splendid stuff; and put on by the artist

2 B



382 VARIOUS ESSAYS, LETTERS, ETC.

in order to render himself remarkable and splendid in
the eyes of his sitter. Your loose-wadded German
schlafrock, imported of late years into our country, is
the laziest, filthiest invention ; and I always augur as ill
of a man whom I see appearing at breakfast in one, as of
a woman who comes downstairs in curl-papers.

By the way, in the third act of ' Macbeth,' Mr.
Macready makes his appearance in the courtyard of
Glamis Castle in an affair of brocade that has always
struck me as absurd and un-Macbethlike. Mac in a
dressing-gown ( I mean 'Beth, not 'Ready) Mac in list
slippers Mac in a cotton -nightcap, with a tassel bobbing
up and down I say the thought is unworthy, and am
sure the worthy thane would have come out, if suddenly
called from bed, by any circumstance, however painful,
in a good stout jacket. It is a more manly, simple, and
majestic wear than the lazy dressing-gown ; it more



Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 28 of 31)