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2006-07-28 18:51

  On the whole, I think that it cannot be maintained that dressing has in this or any country risen to the dignity of an art.  At present men make shift to wear what they can get.  Like shipwrecked sailors, they put on what they can find on the beach, and at a little distance, whether of space or time, laugh at each other's masquerade.  Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.  We are amused at beholding the costume of Henry VIII, or Queen Elizabeth, as much as if it was that of the King and Queen of the Cannibal Islands.  All costume off a man is pitiful or grotesque.  It is only the serious eye peering from and the sincere life passed within it which restrain laughter and consecrate the costume of any people.  Let Harlequin be taken with a fit of the colic and his trappings will have to serve that mood too. When the soldier is hit by a cannonball, rags are as becoming as purple.

  The childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns keeps how many shaking and squinting through kaleidoscopes that they may discover the particular figure which this generation requires today.  The manufacturers have learned that this taste is merely whimsical.  Of two patterns which differ only by a few threads more or less of a particular color, the one will be sold readily, the other lie on the shelf, though it frequently happens that after the lapse of a season the latter becomes the most fashionable. Comparatively, tattooing is not the hideous custom which it is called.  It is not barbarous merely because the printing is skin-deep and unalterable. I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may get clothing.  The condition of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad,but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched.  In the long run men hit only what they aim at.  Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

  As for a Shelter, I will not deny that this is now a necessary of life, though there are instances of men having done without it for long periods in colder countries than this.  Samuel Laing says that "the Laplander in his skin dress, and in a skin bag which he puts over his head and shoulders, will sleep night after night on the snow …… in a degree of cold which would extinguish the life of one exposed to it in any woollen clothing."  He had seen them asleep thus.  Yet he adds, "They are not hardier than other people."  But,probably, man did not live long on the earth without discovering the convenience which there is in a house, the domestic comforts, which phrase may have originally signified the satisfactions of the house more than of the family; though these must be extremely partial and occasional in those climates where the house is associated in our thoughts with winter or the rainy season chiefly, and two thirds of the year, except for a parasol, is unnecessary.  In our climate, in the summer, it was formerly almost solely a covering at night.  In the Indian gazettes a wigwam was the symbol of a day's march, and a row of them cut or painted on the bark of a tree signified that so many times they had camped.  Man was not made so large limbed and robust but that he must seek to narrow his world and wall in a space such as fitted him.  He was at first bare and out of doors; but though this was pleasant enough in serene and warm weather, by daylight, the rainy season and the winter, to say nothing of the torrid sun, would perhaps have nipped his race in the bud if he had not made haste to clothe himself with the shelter of a house.  Adam and Eve, according to the fable, wore the bower before other clothes.  Man wanted a home, a place of warmth, or comfort, first of warmth, then the warmth of the affections.







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