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There is evidently a natural tendency in the female mind (with these remarkable exceptions) to disfigure the person. It may possibly have been implanted there for wise precautionary purposes, like the thorns upon the rose; and at any rate it is useless to contend against it. The follies and inconveniences of dress are plainly inherent evils in all human society, civilised or barbarous; and it would be almost sinful to rebel against the dispensation. Let us only hope that the anathema of the old preacher may never come true-that if men would not be content to shape their clothes to their bodies, it might please Heaven to let their bodies grow to fit their misshapen clothes; which process of transformation, if it were to take place in our days, would add in a very unfair manner to the weight of the fairer sex in society.
But to deal merely with minor inventions which have from time to time been introduced to add to human discomfort. Supposing even that the exigencies of a locomotive age do compel even a quiet man to travel by railway, was it necessary to inflict upon him such a travelling companion as Bradshaw?-to insist upon a respectable father of a family, past his grand climacteric, going in for a new science at that time of life, or ignominously having recourse to a "crib," in the person of a pert young station-clerk, to enable him to extract some sense from the text put into his hands? Was it necessary to run the trains of rival companies in such ingenious relation to each other, that he should reach the terminus of the one precisely in time to see the last train by which he can possibly reach his destination the same evening just starting from the other, distant not a hundred yards, but with a barrier between? Does it contribute to his comfort to have the hours of starting changed about every three months, apparently in order to keep up the sale of the company's time-tables, and to drive to the station to meet the five o'clock express, with a good
five minutes to spare, on the first of April, to find that it has been put ten minutes earlier an alteration which it was almost impossible to have ascertained beforehand? Must he have his nerves shaken at the important moment of starting, just as he has fought his way to the pigeon-hole where the tickets are given out, by having his attention drawn to a placard announcing "One Thousand Pounds in the event of DEATH OF MUTILATION ❞— "ONE person in every TWELVE injured yearly by ACCIDENT,"-and being exhorted to ask for his insurance ticket at the same time that he pays his fare? He is aware, of course, that accidents do happen even on the best regulated lines. But to have the truth thrust upon one in this cold-blooded formula Death or Mutilation!-the warning voice of the slave in the victor's chariot, even the skeleton of the Egyptian feasts -was a delicately-conveyed hint of mortality compared with this. And then, such an appraisement of one's value-One Thousand Pounds supposed to be a handsome equivalent in the event of "Death," and a few hundreds, probably, in a case of "Mutilation!" One Thousand Pounds! The Zoological Society give half the money for a desirable ape. Are my afflicted family to be consoled, to say nothing of the public loss sustained, by such an offer of compensation as that? And ought such torture to be permitted on a sensitive being at the moment of parting from his friends, as not only to hold before his eyes, in large capitals, the fate which probably awaits him upon his journey, but to prove to him at what a low figure they can afford to fill up the blank which he is about to leave in society?
And when an unfortunate passenger from the country, defying insurance companies, lands at last safe in the great metropolis, is it reasonable, in a land of civilisation, that he should be pelted, as he sits in his cab, by a man who is stationed for the purpose at the railway gates,
with small books insisting that he shall immediately order a coat at £1, 10s., or the sixteen-shilling trousers or that, if he prefer to walk, it is not enough for him to submit contentedly to the inevitable defilement of his boots, but that a little boy at every street-corner-a ragged regiment positively "brigaded" for that service-should be encouraged to point out the fact, which he would gladly ignore, to the ladies who have just recognised him from their well-appointed brougham, and to suggest that he should take his stand upon a pedestal erected for the purpose, and be cleaned down, like a horse, in public? True, the little boys in the Abyssinian villages gathered round Mr Mansfield Parkyns, when he travelled there, and pointed to his legs, and even proceeded to feel them: but then it was not to make any disparaging remarks, but to express approbation of their condition; they cried" Wah! wah!" "Good, good!" Legs, to those innocent beings-especially white and wellto-do legs were a highly-prized article of consumption; and they were perfectly justified in inspecting for themselves the condition of the meat-market. Can the weakest mind take it as a compliment to be addressed at every third doorway in a public thoroughfare, by a bankrupt-looking person, and invited to step up and have his likeness taken -and in that style? Is it because I have a benevolent face that, when I am going into the city on business which I hate, I should be additionally harassed by being requested, almost as if it were a duty which I owed to society, to purchase by the way, and carry with me, a globe full of gold fish, a shaking doll, and a Chinese spider? Do I look as if I wanted a Chinese spider?
If I stay in the country (I have a little place in the country) matters are just as bad; I am constantly having some little innocent pleasure or convenience done away with by the ruthless hand of civilisation. They have run a branch railway
line through that pretty little wood that used to be my favourite walk, and was as good to me as part of my own estate, though it did not belong to me so that I have not even the melancholy satisfaction of handling the compensation-money. There is a station built just by the little waterfall, and it is called a great public convenience. It brings down, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, a band of choice spirits, male and female, from that manufacturing town whose smoky chimneys used to form an object in my landscape distance. The enchantment which distance lent is gone. Philanthropists tell us these people bring out their wives and children for a little fresh air. That's all stuff; I am not a philanthropist, and Í know better. They bring down their bull-dogs, and their gamecocks, and there are women with them occasionally, and I daresay they are their wives, though they don't look at all like the model mechanic's wife in Cruickshank's pictures. I see no children. I saw a notice that the “Sloggerton Infant" was expected down one evening, and his friends were specially requested to meet him; but, from what I can understand, those who went found a young man of seventeen, with preternatural bone and muscle, open to fight any man of his weight and age in England. They have built a mill on my pet trout-stream (I don't know what they make there-very likely artificial trout); and poor little Jim, who used to lie all day on the bank watching my proceedings with intense delight, and rejoicing in the chance of wading in for a penny to release my fly from any embarrassment amongst the fringe of hazels, works there now, he tells me, from six to six, "yearning his living" as he calls it-I should say, selling his young life for pottage. I would rather have seen him take to poaching, so long as he kept out of my water. I used in former days to take pleasure in my garden, and had a tolerably honest fellow to take care
of it, who was intensely ignorant, but would do as he was told; he has now become a member of a Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society, and left my cucumberframes unclosed (one of those nice May evenings we had this year, with the thermometer down at anything) in order to attend an adjourned debate on the Feudal System. He has unhappily "improved" himself to that extent, that he makes the most dashing experiments, by the help of scientific horticultural publications, at my expense and that of my favourite fruits and flowers. I have a weakness for gooseberries; he has destroyed all my excellent old favourites, Hairy Bobs and Golden Farmers, and replaced them by improved varieties of enormous size, which I honestly believe are not gooseberries at all, which never ripen, and are too big to put into one's mouth if they did. I find all the peaches except three stripped off my best tree, and those three I dare not touch, as they are in training for a prize which I am happy to say they never get. I strongly suspect my groom (a member of the same society) of giving my horses arsenic to produce that fine polish on their coats which is properly obtained by honest rubbing and whistling; and have serious thoughts of testing him by making him eat a feed of oats: it could not hurt him, unless he has been medicating them; for we have taken to bruise them, in deference to Mrs Mary Wedlake's repeated pathetic inquiries.
I have no children myself, but I can sincerely pity my friends who have. I don't mean because they have children-that may be all very well; but that they should be-persuaded to pack them into perambulators and baby-jumpers, in order to enable the nurse-maids to do their crochet undisturbed. To see an unhappy infant-or a couple of them-wriggling their heads about in one of the former machines, instead of being properly carried, or
set down to do a little wholesome toddling, would have been a sight for Herod. Need parents wonder at pale faces, and undeveloped muscles? We call it barbarous in the Indian mothers to pack their piccaninnies like mummies, and carry them about as if they were bags of old clothes; or in the women of Australia, who throw a child over their shoulder hanging by one leg; yet after all, for a lively specimen, the latter position is at least favourable for the kicking and sprawling which is the delight of all children, black or white.
I have already observed that the opinions of one's childhood, on certain points of social observance, undergo considerable modification. Although there is every reason to believe that fingers were made before forks, still it must be allowed that in most cases forks have proved a cleanly and convenient substitute for fingers. But modern ingenuity has not been content with giving nature merely this legitimate assistance. Having done something to make the road to the mouth easy, we have next proceeded in our wisdom to raise artificial difficulties; just as it was the fashion, a century ago, for gentlemen of taste to level all the natural inequalities in their pleasure - grounds and parks, and then proceed to throw up composition rock-work and construct formal slopes. A knife had been a very handy thing to cut butter with; it was resolved to improve upon it. An instrument was invented, in shape between a scoop and a small scimitar, whose peculiar properties are to take up a portion of butter, wildly uncertain in its dimensions, and generally ridiculously disproportioned to your requirements, and to retain it pertinaciously, owing to its peculiar form, against every attempt to deposit it upon the plate. The secret of doing this last successfully is to take a real knife, and to scrape the butter out again with this; but this is a process in which it is desirable to escape the eye of the lady who presides over the establishment,
who is apt to have a prejudice against scratching her silver. Of course common sense would use the common knife to begin with; but the beautiful theory connected with the invention is that the steel disagrees with the butter; the fact that they get into much more intimate relations afterwards, when the butter is spread upon the toast by the ordinary implement, being conveniently ignored. Common-sense did indeed attempt a compromise, by introducing a silver butter-knife of plain shape; but society in general has stuck to its misshapen favourite. Another similar invention of the enemy, still to be found in orthodox establishments where innovations upon the old stock of family plate are sternly forborne, either from conservatism or convenience, is a weapon called a fish-slice, on the lucus a non lucendo principle. Its shape is much like that of the butter-knife, only on a larger scale, and it has eccentric perforations of various patterns, whether for use or for ornament seems uncertain. Its real use, indeed, has never been discovered. If it was a secret ever known, it has long perished like the learning of the Egyptians. To watch an unfortunate host manoeuvring with it in the vain attempt to slice-say a crisp fried sole, for instance, in the days when soles came to table au naturel was a very painful contemplation, especially if the guest were hungry. The desperation with which the knife was seized at last as the only master-key of such difficulties, and the other curious implement degraded into a mere shovel, and a very poor shift even for that, put one forcibly in mind of the Irishman who found the snuffers (quite a new invention to him) "mighty convanient" as a place of deposit for the snuff when he had performed the old operation upon the candle with his fingers. But even fashion could not stand the fish-slice for ever; the flat knife and small Neptune's trident which have succeeded it do their duty better. If a specimen of the previous invention should escape
the crucible and turn up five hundred years hence, what discussions it will furnish for the archæologists who shall then be sitting! There is a third inconvenience still patronised by the dining public, or rather by their butlers and silversmiths, known and hated by all lovers of asparagus. It is called an asparagus-tongs. It takes up a very uncertain number of the heads-depending a good deal upon your luck-say it takes up nine, which is a very fair haul. It drops three out on one side and three on the other-into the dish, if you are tolerably expert-on the carpet or on the lady's dress who sits next to you, if you are nervous and a bungler; and if you are very sharp, you get the remaining three on to your plate, and feel that it is scarcely worth while to trouble the man who follows with the melted butter. It is, in fact, an abominable implement, adapted for the suppression of asparagus altogether, and I always long to get hold of it, and treat it as the Oxford undergraduates of my day used to treat a freshman's sugar-tongs, then considered too lady-like a luxury-twist it into any shape that will disqualify it from appearing as a tongs thereafter. Dr Krapf, in his travels, tells us of an African chief to whom he made a present of a silver fork, and who immediately stuck it in his woolly head, and wore it there as a compliment to the doctor during the whole of his visit. I wish I could get some enterprising traveller to go the round of my friends' tables with me, taking one of this black aristocracy with him as a lion, and giving him a private hint that such an appropriation of the asparagus-tongs would be felt by the company present as a very delicate attention.
Of all the mortifications which our patient age inflicts upon itself, none is more remarkable than the eagerness with which it adopts all inventions for spoiling its coffee. Good coffee is so easily made-that is, by airy cook who will take the pains to learn the method and keep
to it afterwards-that every effort has been made by human ingenuity to complicate the process so as to avoid the proper result. Coffee, fit for the Sultan, may be made either by plain boiling, or the old "percolator." A good article, plenty of it, and a careful hand, are the secrets. But go into any hardware shop, and you may see a counter covered with specimens of the most extraordinary machinery with classical names, all on different principles, and all professing to be the only true coffee-makers, and all-as you will find, if you are seduced into buying one-miserable failures. A fluent young gentleman is probably in attendance, who goes off at once into a lecture on chemistry and mechanics, and is prepared to give you every information and instruction as to their management; he will do everything but make you a sample cup of coffee-he knows better than that. I once bought, in my bachelor days, when I was not so well acquainted with the wicked ways of men (or of women either, for that matter), a patent article that to look at was a wonder in itself. It was the elaborate nature of the machinery that tempted me. It had, I remember, a small windlass, an airpump, and tubes and pipes and screws innumerable. Make coffee! of course it could, I thought to myself; it looked as if it could make anything. I forget its name now'; it was Pan-something. My own impression at this moment is that it could have made almost anything -except coffee. I am not much of a mechanician; but I have no doubt that very slight adaptations would have fitted it to serve as a very respectable electrifying machine, or a portable printing-press, or anything of that kind. I have a strong suspicion now that it was the work of some inventive genius, who had originally intended it for some other operation, and finding it a failure, had added it to the list of patent coffee-machines; feeling a justifiable confidence that, do what it would in that line, it could hardly do worse than some of
its rivals. The machine was bought and sent home; and in the pride of my new possession I invited a friend to breakfast. The coffee was to be made on the spot by the gentleman or lady requiring it; that is always the special advantage held out to tempt the purchasers of these new inventions; to make your own coffee seems supposed to be the ultimate end of human actions. Just as if a new broom were patented, the speciality of which consisted in the great fact that it would enable you to sweep out your own apartment. Well, my friend came, and found me in my dressing-gown, working away at my new apparatus, and really hard work it was, winding up the windlass which I mentioned, against a considerable power of suction produced by the air in some way below. It was very wholesome morning exercise, however, and calculated to increase the performer's enjoyment of the excellent beverage which was to follow. Twice I failed altogether; and once there was a sudden eruption which scalded my hand considerably; but I am quite willing to confess that this was rather my own fault than that of the machine; for although I thought I had pretty well mastered the theory of the science from the instructions of the fluent young gentleman who sold it, I found that I had reversed some of the processes in order of time, and thereby of course deranged the whole plan of operations. At last, with the printed instructions before me, I brought matters to a successful termination, and had the pleasure of presenting my friend with a breakfast-cup full of a very dark and viscous fluid, and retaining about half the quantity for myself— coffee of my own making, and such as I trust never, to drink again. There was good cream and sugar; and my friend, who was a few years younger than myself, and rather a well-behaved person, with a vigorous morning appetite, was good enough to drink it without open remonstrance. My own share having been small, and highly unsatisfactory in