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vations. For want of this standing dress, a man who takes a journey into the country is as much surprised as one who walks in a gallery of old family pictures; and finds as great a variety of garbs and habits in the persons he converses with. Did they keep to one constant dress they would sometimes be in the fashion, which they never are as matters are managed at present. If instead of running after the mode, they would continue fixed in one certain habit, the mode would sometime or
other overtake them, as a clock that stands still is sure to point 10 right once in twelve hours: in this case therefore I would ad
vise them, as a gentleman did his friend who was hunting about the whole town after a rambling fellow, 'If you follow bim you will never find him, but if you plant yourself at the corner of any one street, I'll engage it will not be long before you see him.'
I have already touched upon this subject, in a speculation which shews how cruelly the country are led astray in following the town, and equipped in a ridiculous habit, when they fancy themselves in the height of the mode. Since that speculation I
have received a letter (which I there hinted at) from a gentle20 man who is now in the western circuit.
MR. SPECTATOR, ' Being a lawyer of the Middle Temple, a Cornishman by birth, I generally ride the western circuit for my health, and as I am not interrupted with clients, have leisure to make many observations that escape the notice of my fellow-travellers.
One of the most fashionable women I met with in all the circuit was my landlady at Staines, where chanced to be on a holiday. Her commoden was not half a foot high, and her petti
coat within some yards of a modish circumference. In the same 30 place I observed a young fellow with a tolerable periwig, had it not
been covered with a hat that was shaped in the Ramillie cock. As I proceeded in my journey I observed the petticoat grew scantier and scantier, and about threescore miles from London was so very unfashionable, that a woman might walk in it without any manner of inconvenience.
'Not far from Salisbury I took notice of a justice of peace's lady, who was at least ten years behind-hand in her dress, but at the same time as fine as hands could make her. She was
1 See previous page.
MUFFS AND PERIWIGS.
flounced and furbelowed from head to foot; every ribbon was wrinkled, and every part of her garments in curl, so that she looked like one of those animals which in the country we call a Friezeland hen.
Not many miles beyond this place I was informed, that one of the last year's little muffs had by some means or other straggled into those parts, and that all the women of fashion were cutting their old muffs in two, or retrenching them according to the
little model which was got among them. I cannot believe the To report they have there, that it was sent down franked by
a parliament-man in a little packet; but probably by next winter this fashion will be at the height in the country, when it is quite out at London.
The greatest beau at our next n county-sessions was dressed in a most monstrous flaxen periwig, that was made in king William's reign. The wearer of it goes, it seems, in his own hair, when he is at home, and lets his wig lie in buckle for a whole half-year, that he may put it on upon occasion to meet the judges in it.
' I must not here omit an adventure which happened to us in 20 a country church upon the frontiers of Cornwall. As we were in
the midst of the service, a lady who is the chief woman of the place, and had passed the winter at London with her husband, entered the congregation in a little head-dress, and a hooped petticoat. The people, who were wonderfully startled at such a sight, all of them rose up.
Some stared at the prodigious bottom, and some at the little top of this strange dress. In the mean time the lady of the manor filled the area of the church, and walked up to her pew with an unspeakable satisfaction, amidst the
whispers, conjectures, and astonishments of the whole congre30 gation.
Upon my way from hence we saw a young fellow riding towards us full gallop, with a bob-wig and a black silken bag tied to it. He stopt short at the coach, to ask us how far the judges were behind us. His stay was so very short, that we had only time to observe his new silk waistcoat, which was unbuttoned in several places to let us see that he had a clean shirt on, which was ruffled down to his middle.
* From this place, during our progress through the most western parts of the kingdom, we fancied ourselves in king Charles the 40 second's reign, the people having made very little variations in
their dress since that time. The smartest of the country squires appear still in the Monmouth cock, and when they go a wooing (whether they have any post in the militia or not) they generally put on a red coat. We were, indeed, very much surprised at the place we lay at last night, to meet with a gentleman that had accoutered himself in a night-cap wig, a coat with long pockets and slit sleeves, and a pair of shoes with high scollop tops; but we soon found by his conversation that he was a person who
laughed at the ignorance and rusticity of the country people, 10 and was resolved to live and die in the mode. "Sir, if you think this account of
advantage to the public, I will next year trouble you with such occurrences as I shall meet with in other parts of England. For I am informed there are greater curiosities in the northern circuit than in the western ; and that a fashion makes its progress much slower into Cumberland than into Cornwall.
I have heard in particular, that the Steenkirk” arrived but two months ago at Newcastle, and that there are several commodes in those parts which are worth taking a journey thither to see.'—C.
No. 135. On English taciturnity ; the genius of our language, ever tending to abbreviation, favours it.
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia.
Hor. Sat. i. 10. 9.
I have somewhere read of an eminent person, who used in his private offices of devotion to give thanks to heaven that he was born a Frenchman : for my own part, I look upon it as a peculiar, blessing that I was born an Englishman. Among many other reasons, I think myself very happy in my country, as the language of it is wonderfully adapted to a man who is sparing of his words, and an enemy to loquacity.
As I have frequently reflected on my good fortune in this particular, I shall communicate to the public my speculations upon the English tongue, not doubting but they will be acceptable to my
other European nation, if the remarks which are made on us by foreigners are Our discourse is not kept up in conversation, but falls into
and intervals than in our neighbouring countries; as
it is observed, that the matter of our writings is thrown much closer together, and lies in a narrower compass than is usual in the works of foreign authors : for, to favour our natural taciturnity, when we are obliged to utter our thoughts, we do it in the shortest way we are able, and give as quick a birth to our conceptions as possible.
This humour shews itself in several remarks that we may make upon the English language. As first of all, by its abounding in
monosyllables, which gives us an opportunity of delivering our 10 thoughts in few sounds. This indeed takes off from the elegance
of our tongue, but at the same time expresses our ideas in the readiest manner, and consequently answers the first design of speech better than the multitude of syllables, which make the words of other languages more tuneable and sonorous. The sounds of our English words are commonly like those of string music, short and transient, which rise and perish upon a single touch ; those of other languages are like the notes of wind instruments, sweet and swelling, and lengthened out into variety of modulation.
In the next place we may observe, that where the words are not monosyllables, we often make them so, as much as lies in our power, by our rapidity of pronunciation; as it generally happens in most of our long words which are derived from the Latin, where we contract the length of the syllables that gives them a grave and solemn air in their own language, to make them more proper for dispatch, and more conformable to the genius of our tongue. This we may find in a multitude of words, as liberty, conspiracy, theatre, orator, &c.
The same natural aversion to loquacity has of late years made 30 a very considerable alteration in our language, by closing in one
syllable the termination of our preterperfect tense, as in the words drown'd, walk'd, arriv’d, for drowned, walked, arrived, which has very much disfigured the tongue, and turned a tenth part of our smoothest words into so many clusters of consonants. This is the more remarkable, because the want of vowels in our language has been the general complaint of our politest authors, who nevertheless are the men that have made these retrenchments, and consequently very much increased our former
scarcity. 40 This reflexion on the words that end in ed, I have heard in
conversation from one of l the greatest geniuses this age has produced. I think we may add to the foregoing observation, the change which has happened in our language by the abbreviation of several words that are terminated in eth, by substituting an s in the room of the last syllable, as in drowns, walks, arrives, and innumerable other words, which in the pronunciation of our forefathers were drowneth, walketh, arrivethn. This has wonderfully multiplied a letter which was before too frequent
in the English tongue, and added to that hissing in our language, 10 which is taken so much notice of by foreigners; but at the same
time humours our taciturnity, and eases us of many superfluous syllables.
I might here observe, that the same single letter on many occasions does the office of a whole word, and represents the his and her n of our forefathers. There is no doubt but the ear of a foreigner, which is the best judge in this case, would very much disapprove of such innovations, which indeed we do ourselves in some measure, by retaining the old termination in writing, and in all the solemn offices of our religion.
As in the instances I have given we have epitomized many of our particular words to the detriment of our tongue, so on other occasions we have drawn two words into one, which has likewise very much untuned our language, and clogged it with consonants, as mayn't, can't, shan't, won't, and the like, for may not, can not, shall not, will not, fc.
It is perhaps this humour of speaking no more than we needs must, which has so miserably curtailed some of our words, that in familiar writings and conversations they often
lose all but their first syllables, as in mob. rep. pos. incog. 1 and 30 the like; and as all ridiculous words make their first entry into
a language by familiar phrases, I dare not answer for these, that they will not in time be looked upon as a part of our tongue. We see some of our poets have been so indiscreet as to imitate Hudibras's doggrel expressions in their serious compositions, by throwing out the signs of our substantives, which are essential to the English language. Nay, this humour of shortening our language had once run so far, that some of our celebrated authors, among whom we may reckon Sir Roger L'Estrangen in particular, began to prune their words of all super
1 Dean Swift.