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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, October 2, 1841   By:

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VOL. 1.




"The Wrongheads have been a considerable family ever since England was England."


[Illustration: M]Morning and evening, from every village within three or four miles of the metropolis, may be remarked a tide of young men wending diurnal way to and from their respective desks and counters in the city, preceded by a ripple of errand boys, and light porters, and followed by an ebb of plethoric elderly gentlemen in drab gaiters. Now these individuals compose for the most part that particular, yet indefinite class of people, who call themselves "gentlemen," and are called by everybody else "persons." They are a body the advanced guard of the "Tiptoes;" an army which invaded us some thirty years ago, and which, since that time, has been actively and perseveringly spoiling and desolating our modest, quiet, comfortable English homes, turning our parlours into "boudoirs," ripping our fragrant patches of roses into fantastic "parterres," covering our centre tables with albums and wax flowers, and, in short (for these details pain us), stripping our nooks and corners of the welcome warm air of pleasant homeliness, which was wont to be a charm and a privilege, to substitute for it a chilly gloss an unwholesome straining after effect a something less definite in its operation than in its result, which is called gentility.

To have done with simile. Our matrons have discovered that luxury is specifically cheaper than comfort (and they regard them as independent, if not incompatible terms); and more than this, that comfort is, after all, but an irrelevant and dispensable corollary to gentility, while luxury is its main prop and stay. Furthermore, that improvidence is a virtue of such lustre, that itself or its likeness is essential to the very existence of respectability; and, by carrying out this proposition, that in order to make the least amount of extravagance produce the utmost admiration and envy, it is desirable to be improvident as publicly as possible; the means for such expenditure being gleaned from retrenchments in the home department. Thus, by a system of domestic alchemy, the education of the children is resolved into a vehicle; a couple of maids are amalgamated into a man in livery; while to a single drudge, superintended and aided by the mistress and elder girls, is confided the economy of the pantry, from whose meagre shelves are supplied supplementary blondes and kalydors.

Now a system of economy which can induce a mother to "bring up her children at home," while she regards a phaeton as absolutely necessary to convey her to church and to her tradespeople, and an annual visit to the sea side as perfectly indispensable to restore the faded complexions of Frances and Jemima, ruined by late hours and hot cream, may be considered open to censure by the philosopher who places women (and girls, i.e. unmarried women) in the rank of responsible or even rational creatures. But in this disposition he would be clearly wrong. Before venturing to define the precise capacity of either an individual or a class, their own opinion on the subject should assuredly be consulted; and we are quite sure that there is not one of the lady Tiptoes who would not recoil with horror from the suspicion of advancing or even of entertaining an idea it having been ascertained that everything original (sin and all) is quite inconformable with the feminine character unless indeed it be a method of finding the third side of a turned silk or of defining that zero of fortune, to stand below which constitutes a "detrimental."

The Misses Tiptoe are an indefinite number of young ladies, of whom it is commonly remarked that some may have been pretty, and others may, hereafter, be pretty. But they never are so; and, consequently, they are very fearful of being eclipsed by their dependents, and take care to engage only ill favoured governesses, and (but 'tis an old pun) very plain cooks... Continue reading book >>

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