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great men, does an orator often make at the British bar, holding up his head with the most insipid serenity, and stroking the sides of a long wig that reaches down to his middle ? The truth of it is, there is often nothing more ridiculous than the gestures of an English speaker. You see of them running their hands into their pockets as far as ever they can thrust them, and others looking with great attention on a piece of paper that has ing written in it; you may
see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands, 10 moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes
the lining of it, and sometimes the button, during the whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think he was cheapening a beaver, when perhaps he is talking of the fate of the British nation. I remember when I was a young man, and used to frequent Westminster-hall, there was a counsellor who never pleaded without a piece of pack-thread in his hand, which he used to twist about a thumb or a finger all the while he was speaking : the wags of those days used to call it
the thread of his discourse, for he was not able to utter a 20 word without it. One of his clients, who was more merry
than wise, stole it from him one day in the midst of his pleading; but he had better have let it alone, for he lost his cause by his jest.
I have all along acknowledged myself to be a dumb man, and therefore may be thought a very improper person to give rules for oratory; but I believe every one will agree with me in this, that we ought either to lay aside all kinds of gesture, (which seems to be very suitable to the genius of our nation),
or at least to make use of such only as are graceful and ex30 pressive.-0.
No. 435. On Extravagances in Female Dress; hats, riding-coats;
such fashions un-English.
Nec duo sunt, at forma duplex, nec fæmina dici
Ovid, Metam. iv. 378. Most of the papers I give the public are written on subjects that never vary, but are for ever fixed and immutable. Of this kind are all my more serious essays and discourses; but
there is another sort of speculations, which I consider as occasional papers, that take their rise from the folly, extravagance, and caprice of the present age. For I look upon myself as one set to watch the manners and behaviour of my countrymen and contemporaries, and to mark down every absurd fashion, ridiculous custom, or affected form of speech that makes its appearance in the world, during the course of these my speculations. The petticoat no sooner began to swell, but I
observed its motions. The party patches had not time to 10 muster themselves before I detected them. I had intelligence
of the coloured hood the very first time it appeared in a public assembly. I might here mention several other the like contingent subjects, upon which I have bestowed distinct papers. By this means I have so effectually quashed those irregularities which gave occasion to them, that I am afraid posterity will scarce have a sufficient idea of them to relish those discourses which were in no little vogue at the time when they were written.
They will be apt to think that the fashions and customs I attacked were some fantastic conceits of my own, 20 and that their great grandmothers could not be so whimsical
as I have represented them. For this reason, when I think on the figure my several volumes of speculations will make about a hundred years hence, I consider them as so many pieces of old plate, where the weight will be regarded, but the fashion lost.
Among the several female extravagances I have already taken notice of, there is one which still keeps its ground, I mean that of the ladies who dress themselves in a hat and feather, a riding
coat and a periwig, or at least tie up their hair in a bag or 30 ribbon, in imitation of the smart part of the opposite sex,
As in my yesterday's paper1 I gave an account of the mixture of the two sexes in one commonwealth, I shall here take notice of this mixture of two sexes in one person. I have already shewn my dislike of this immodest custom more than once; but, in contempt of every thing I have hitherto said, I am informed that the highways about this great city are still very much infested with these female cavaliers.
I remember, when I was at my friend Sir Roger de Coverley's about this time twelvemonth, an equestrian lady of this order
1 No. 434, omitted from this selection.
appeared upon the plains which lay at distance from his house. I was at that time walking in the fields with my old friend; and as his tenants ran out on every side to see so strange a sight, Sir Roger asked one of them who came by us what it was? To which the country fellow replied, “ 'Tis a gentlewoman, saving your worship's presence, in a coat and hat. This produced a great deal of mirth at the knight's house, where we had a story at the same time of another of his tenants who, meeting
this gentleman-like lady on the high-way, was asked by her 10 whether that was Coverley Hall? The honest man seeing only
the male part of the querist, replied, “ Yes, Sir’; but upon the second question, whether Sir Roger de Coverley was a married man, having dropped his eye upon the petticoat, he changed his note into 'No, Madam.'
Had one of these hermaphrodites appeared in Juvenal's days, with what an indignation should we have seen her described by that excellent satirist! He would have represented her in a riding habit, as a greater monster than the Centaur. He would
have called for sacrifices or purifying waters, to expiate the 20 appearance of such a prodigy. He would have invoked the
shades of Portia or Lucretia, to see into what the Roman ladies had transformed themselves.
For my own part, I am for treating the sex with greater tenderness, and have all along made use of the most gentle methods to bring them off from any little extravagance into which they are sometimes unwarily fallen : I think it however absolutely necessary to keep up the partition between the two sexes, and to take notice of the smallest encroachments which
the one makes upon the other. I hope therefore that I shall 30 not hear any more complaints on this subject. I am sure my
she-disciples who peruse these my daily lectures have profited but little by them, if they are capable of giving into such an amphibious dress. This I should not have mentioned, had I not lately met one of these my female readers in Hyde Park, who looked upon me with a masculine assurance, and cocked her hat full in my face.
For my part, I have one general key to the behaviour of the fair sex; and when I see them singular in any part of their dress,
I conclude it is not without some evil intention; and therefore 40 question not but the design of this strange fashion is to smite
more effectually their male beholders. Now to set them right in this particular, I would fain have them consider with themselves whether we are not more likely to be struck by a figure entirely female, than with such an one as we may see every day in our glasses: or, if they please, let them reflect upon their own hearts, and think how they would be affected should they meet a man on horseback, in his breeches and jack boots, and at the same time dressed up in a commode and a nightrailen
I must observe that this fashion was first of all brought to us from France, a country which has infected all the nations of Europe with its levity. I speak not this in derogation of a whole people, having more than once found fault with those general reflexions which strike at kingdoms or commonwealths in the gross: a piece of cruelty, which an ingenious writer of our own compares to that of Caligula, who wished the Roman people had all but one neck, that he might behead them at a blow.
I shall therefore only remark that, as liveliness and assurance are in a peculiar manner the qualifications of the 20 French nation, the same habits and customs will not give the
same offence to that people, which they produce among those of our own country. Modesty is our distinguishing character, as vivacity is theirs: and when this our national virtue appears in that female beauty, for which our British ladies are celebrated above all others in the universe, it makes up the most amiable object that the eye of man can possibly behold.-C.
No. 457. On Whispered News and Scandal ; Peter Hush and
Multa et præclara minantis.
HOR. Sat. ii. 3. 9. I shall this day lay before my reader a letter written by the same hand with that of last Friday), which contained proposals
printed newspaper that should take in the whole circle of 30 the penny-post.
SIR • The kind reception you gave my last Friday's letter, in which
1 No. 452, omitted from this selection.
I broached my subject of a newspaper, encourages me to lay before you two or three more; for, you must know, Sir, that we look upon you to be the Lowndes 1 of the learned world, and cannot think any scheme practicable or rational before you have approved of it, though all the money we raise by it is on our own funds, and for our private use.
'I have often thought that a News-letter of whispers, written every post, and sent about the kingdom after the same marner
as that of Mr. Dyer, Mr. Dawkes, or any other epistolary his10 torian, might be highly gratifying to the public, as well as
beneficial to the author. By whispers I mean those pieces of news which are communicated as secrets, and which bring a double pleasure to the hearer; first, as they are private history, and, in the next place, as they have always in them a dash of scandal. These are the two chief qualifications in an article of news, which recommend it in a more than ordinary manner to the ears of the curious. Sickness of persons in high posts, twilight visits paid and received by ministers of state, clandestine
courtships and marriages, secret amours, losses at play, applica20 tions for places, with their respective successes or repulses, are
the materials in which I intend chiefly to deal. I have two persons that are each of them the representative of a species, who are to furnish me with those whispers which I intend to convey to my correspondents. The first of these is Peter Hush, descended from the ancient family of the Hushes: the other is the old Lady Blast, who has a very numerous tribe of daughters in the two great cities of London and Westminster. Peter Hush has a whispering hole in most of the great coffeehouses
about town. If you are alone with him in a wide room, he 30 carries you up into a corner of it, and speaks in your ear. I
have seen Peter seat himself in a company of seven or eight persons, whom he never saw before in his life; and, after having looked about to see there was no one that overheard him, has communicated to them in a low voice, and under the seal of secrecy, the death of a great man in the country, who was perhaps a fox-hunting the very moment this account was given of him. If, upon your entering into a coffeehouse, you see a circle of heads bending over the table, and lying close by one
another, it is ten to one but my friend Peter is among them. I 40 have known Peter publishing the whisper of the day by eight