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models, of the most ancient manner of writing the sacred books among the Jews. The Indian morocco roll in the Buchanan Collection is certainly an important acquisition. I am, &c.
Cambridge, Feb. 7, 1810.
body: and he instances by calling religion a cloak; honesty, a pair of shoes worn out in the dirt; selflove, a surtout; vanity, a shirt; conscience -But I must conclude with a dash, which those who know our author will understand, and proceed to my own case, and the ose I mean to make in it of the fore
To the Editor of the Christian Observer going observations. My conclusion
I FEEL Some apology to be necessary for the trouble I am about to give in offering to your attention a case, which without sonie preliminary observations will scarcely appear to fall within the scope or design of your excellent work. The subject of my complaint (for it is a case of complaint) is the extraordinary conduct--I beg pardon-of a tailor. And I have thought again and again before I could fall upon any method of making such a persou, homunculum istum, a fit object for your manly, and masterly animadversions. But, fortunately, I have found something at length more to the point than I could possibly have hoped for, in the writings of an eminent divine of the last century, who has made upon dress in general, in my humble opinion, the most important observations to be met with in any writer ancient or modern. He has, in fact, out-run me even in my own previous notions upon the subject; and seems to entertain so high a sense of the dignity of dress, as to consider man hunself as little more than a mere habiliment; whilst, the utmost variety that takes place between man and man he attributes only to a certain diversified configuration of gold and red cloth, ermines and furs, lawn and black satin.
It is true, he speaks more to my present purpose when he compares only certain acquirements of the mind to certain articles of dress, and thinks it would be possible to furuish out a complete suit of mental qualifications, answering exactly to an exterior equipment of the
is, that if dress, so apparently beneath the notice either of a philo sopher or a divine, yet bears about it so important, so hidden, mysti cal, and hieroglyphical a meaning i I cannot but think a person standing in a relation to dress not more distant than that of cause and effect, should also on his part lay some claim to the respect or consideration of his neighbours. I must be allowed, I say, to hold, that if a coat or a cloak be in fact construa ble by any process into religion, a man who makes or furnishes me with a coat or cloak holds no such very subordinate rank in society. Without offence, I should presuine I might see the professor of the yard and the needle shadowed out in the most important members of society; those, I mean, to whom the care of its morality is entrusted. I might, perhaps, even call a clergyman a tailor; a bishop, a master workman, qualifying understrappers for the trade; the humbler race of vicars and curates, a set of journeymen working slipsbod for no very high wages; the church itself, in fact, an incorporated body of merchant tailors; the universities, their seminary; and their whole apparatus of theology and morality, contained in many dusty folios, an assortment of raw materials-if you please,
huge bales of British cloth," the best in the whole world-to be made up as occasion should serve, or fancy dictate, both for use and ornament.
Having said thus much, then, Sir, by way of preface and apology, I shall without further ceremony open my aforesaid case, being that of an eminent tailor and habit-maker, who has lately begun business in our parish.
down with him from London an entire assortment of ready-made clothes; accompanied by an assurance that he was neither able, nor, if he had been so, could presume to make up for himself the clothes he was to sell.
But here again indulge me in a few moments of recollection, to the honour of our old tradesman who preceded him. Old, indeed, he was, in years, and in the length of time he had been established in our neighbourhood and, to say the whole truth, where it would do so I shall be tempted, before I conlittle injury, he was latterly some- clude, to repeat to you some of the what infirm and tottering. For arguments on which he has attemptsome years he worked in spectacles; ed to defend this most preposterous and before he died, his clothes did arrangement, in order that he may not quite so well fit his new cus- hereafter profit by some accidental tomers; owing, I believe, to his ina- view of the remarks you may throw bility so accurately and well to ob- out in reply. But permit me, Sir, serve their figures, as he made a in the mean time, to relate only a point of doing in his inore active days. few of the many inconveniences But mentioning this, I have told his which in point of fact have flowprincipal defect: and otherwise, I ed from this newfangled pracassure you, for the goodness of his tice. In the first place, this man's cloth, the firmness of his sewing, clothes seldom or ever fit those to the great civility of his manner, whom they are sent. Men's bodies, and extreme punctuality in all his you must know perfectly well, Sir, engagements, he was the same man are very generally like that head to the end. Nay, I assure you, that mentioned by some one, on which if as a kind friend and most respecta- mitres, or caps, thick as hail were ble neighbour, no less than an up- rained by accident, not one of them right and unblemished tradesman, would fit it. And be the cause what we have to lament in him a loss, it may, or the apology, the fact is, which in modern times is not so we were never so ill fitted in our easily repaired. So, at least, we lives. One man you would see have found it. For, to begin at much given to strong muscular exerlength the history of my complaint, cise, with a coat so distressingly a new tailor and habit-maker has narrow in the sleeve that his first come into the place of the deceased: feat burst through every thread of but, "quantum mutatus ab illo Hec- the seam: and another person, tore." We understand he was ap- again, having an asthmatic comprenticed out of the seminary before plaint, really more than half stifled alluded to, under every possible ad- with compression, or in danger of an vantage, and had indeed every testi- ague by unbuttoning to the blast. I mony that could have been expected observe most of the defects arise from the master that had the breed- from the narrowness of the cut, ing of him; nay, we found from his which does not augur favourably for conversation that he knew and could the original makers. But this only talk much of the principles on which by the bye, for a similar inconve his art depended; and as he had nience might flow from a contrary given a considerable sum for the make; as once appeared, Sir, in a good-will of the business, we con- book we all respect, where a certain cluded bis exertions would not be stripling had assuredly lost an imwarring to procure also the good- mortal victory, had he persisted in wil of his customers. But, Sir, wearing a large unwieldy cuirass, 9ess our astonishment, when the made only to fit a full-grown, towerfing measure we heard of his adopt-ing patron.
ing, and that indeed which princi- But a second consequence of this pally prompts me to the present practice is, that our tailor, though communication, was that of bringing he does not make-up the clothes
which he sells, ab oro, as one may say, is still obliged, upon occasion, to alter suits for the accommodation of his customers: which, indeed, has been attended with effects as ludicrous as the others were serious: for, whether through want of practice, or natural dimsightedness, our gentleman happens to be very inaccurate in his judgment both of colours and the just symmetry and proportion of parts. He will consequently often send you home a coat of half a dozen different complexions. Clothes, I assure you, Sir, I have seen made up by this man, resembling the coat of many colours worn by Joseph, in every thing, indeed, but the love of the maker whilst a less ceremonious neighbour declared positively his clothes to be no better than the patching of an harlequin; wanting, as he said, even that regular disposition of colours, which would then but have fitted them for a livery servant. And as to symmetry, and the just proportion of parts, with their relative importance, you would easily guess what notions he must have formed on that subject, when you saw him come out, perhaps in the hurry of the moment, with a cape, or a cuff, or some trivial part of the coat, absolutely smothering all the rest, and not improbably neither loop nor fastening of any kind to fix it on the wearer. Judge, Sir, of the figure a parish is likely to make but too soon, if this system continues in a business, on which at least the external appearance of its inhabitants so exclusively depends.
Nor is this all; for a third inconvenience we find in this practice is, that our tailor's clothes are all made of the same cloth. It is true, all cloth should be the best of its kind; and I know some persons have doubted whether our tradesman's materials be exactly always what a certain incorporated body, mentioned before, ought to approve. But grant his cloth to be all as glossy and smooth as a crow's back, what is a labouring man, or a little shop
keeper up to his neck in sugar and sand all the week, to do with a fine broad-cloth suit, only fit for his betters on a Sunday? What! Sir, is my man of all-work to be laced like a courtier; my coachman to dress like a baronet; my jobber about the house, like a member of parliament; or my ploughman, working for his family, like a Bond Street lounger? And yet this truly must be the case on these new principles. For if a coarser suit would serve the turn for such persons, either our professor must infringe his rule of modesty, which forbids him to make for himself; or he must own himself unequal to a task which any neighbouring rustic son of the yard would finish in a twinkling. Besides I know, he met with a man the other day, who told him, "Always use the highest-priced cloth on all occasions: for though it may not suit, when new, all your customers equally well; yet, by lasting longer, it will do admirably at second-hand for the poorer classes, who are dependent, upon the rich *" But more of this reasoning presently.
The last inconvenience I can trouble you with mentioning, or rather many in one, is, that our neighbours are fast coming to that pass, that they care but little whether or not they wear our said gentleman's clothes at all. I say nothing here of a certain opposition tailor lately set up in a dark alley, who has the knack of making-up cheap, and with wondrous expedition, dresses of a very inferior stuff; and decoys away to his shop, daily, many of the lower orders, by the great fame and repu tation of his condescension. My business is with our regular-bred tradesman, who, amongst other qualities, is marvellously gifted with the art of flattery. By this art he talks over his customers, who still stick by him, into buying his motley commodities, whether wearable or no; assuring them at the same time, that an easy negligence of dress, particularly with their own natural beauty of figure,
* Vid. Selden's Table Talk.
which he does not fail to commend, is sometimes in better ton than the warmest surtout "close buttoned to the chin." Accordingly, I have seen strange sights of this kind. A man, thought to be of the first property among us, but the other day, paraded the street literally out at elbows. Our mayor, though usually deemed moderate in his diet, at the last corporation meeting looked, I am sure, as if every button had parted its hold during the operations of the feast. And our principal tradesman, though known to be often pinched by the rheumatism, upon my remonstrating against his imprudence in facing the last easterly wind that ever blew, clothed, or rather unclothed, more like a prizefighter than an invalid, assured me, with a smile of complacency, turning towards the blast, that he was perfectly warm; and at the same time cast a look to the muscles of his arm, which convinced me our tailor had persuaded him they were a study for the Academy.-Surely, Sir, it is not now a question, whether our "naked, shivering nature" be of itself sufficient for its own protection; and if this new speculatist has not the grace to counsel these men to bay clothes" that they may be warm," and to induce them to do so by suiting carefully his make to their necessities, what are we to expect, but the worst effects on the health, as well as decorum, of our parish?"
You may easily guess, Mr. Observer, it was an object of no small curiosity with many, to hear the arguments on which our ingenious friend, who was generally allowed, like most of his trade, to be very free of his tongue, defended his strange practices. And by what I could learn from others, I found his notions in general were, that clothes ready-made, and carefully looked over, and altered, if necessary, by tailors of celebrity, must necessarily be in all respects superior to rade articles, sewn hastily together in the short time which customers
usually allow for their orders;-that as to the credit of the maker, it was not for a moment to be put into competition with the conveniency of the wearer;—that many excellent and useful tailors are not gifted with the talent of making an original suit of clothes; whilst others labour under unequal spirits (the uneven posture in which that unfortunate class is doomed to work, not a little contributing thereto), by which they are at some seasons incapacitated for the task at which they thus sit;-and that, in truth, the time necessary for original work would be incompatible with the necessity of going about, and redressing the inconvenience (which I could almost believe) continually occurring from this new mode of dressing the world.
Sir, the man may talk as he pleases of his time, but I know him to be as leisure a man as any in his parish: his spirits, too, are about as good as those of his neighbours: and by this new practice, the convenience of his customers is just as much promoted as the credit of the trade. And so I had a mind to tell him, the first time we met, which I contrived very soon to do; when, to my great surprise, he turned short upon me, with a thundering proof that the. clothes he sent home to his customers were as original, and as much of his own make and formation, as any that I could shew him made up at first hand by any man in the trade. "What!" said he, "did not your sheep grow the wool which was afterwards to hang on your back in the shape of a coat; and did not that wool successively pass through. the hands of the spinner, and the weaver, and the dyer, and the mercer? And was it only because mine went through still another hand, before I received it fit for my customers' wear, that therefore it has suddenly lost all claim to origina lity? I say, Sir, we are none of us originals. We are all of us but borrowers, copyists, filchers, and poachers from dame Nature and her works;
you, if you please, from your
of his native shores. But I learn much from the economy of a ship in this very particular: and when the gravest and most experienced of the crew are alone entrusted with the care and use of that important instru ment of navigation, why is every up start novice of a tailor, or any tai lor not born with a genius for it, to prick his fingers a hundred times a day, in vain attempts to rank him self with those, to whom nature evi dently gave the exclusive patent for original workmanship? I do no like these new ways of handling one's needle. And if I am only after all, to handle it like other folks why not at once let them handle i for me? And as to following one's own ideas, or acting merely on one' own judgement in suiting our customers-why, I shall next be told, to take my own measure, and make every body's clothes to my own size."
sheep; your sheep, from its grass; the grass, from the clouds and rain." -I bowed assent (what could I less?) to the climax, and began almost to think myself Apollo flaming in a cloud, instead of plain John Bull in a broad-cloth suit. He proceeded: "Sir, but the other day, a man, who had been many years in the trade, told me that at first he had had the folly to make clothes on his own bottom; but on a sudden, recollecting his egregious mistake, in pretending to the impossible character of an original tailor, he laid aside his bare, raw, formless, undigested materials, and ordered in just such an assortment as I have done, of prime goods, ready-made, from the very first makers. This he had no sooner done, than (noble undertaking!) he fell to work, and demolished every article he had got; tore them, like another Polypheme, limb from limb, and made a deep hole for them, which his neighbours in derision called a common sewer: I know not why, for it was the cleanest and best-furnished place about his premises. Into this hole, which, however, nobody knew of at first but himself, he crammed all the remnants, piece by piece, as he dragged them from the ruin-arms and legs, cuffs and collar, loops, linings, and pockets, tape, silk and thread, and buckram, altogether, without form or ordering how a plain tale will set down to be ready for use, and answer at call every demand of his customers. This was truly noble, Sir; disinterested; taking trouble for the best of purposes, to avoid it: labour itself was a pleasure to him; and though I, to be sure, prefer sending a coat home whole as I have received it" of the two, so should I,' I silently muttered, as I hurried him by my looks to finish his harangue. "The needle," he continued, "Sir, is a discovery, I confess, of the first magnitude. It is to the tailor all it is to the mariner: and conducts the former, when well used, to the peaceful fruits of an honourable toil in age; as it does the latter, when duly consulted, to the tranquil haven
Such an argumentum ad hominem, how could I withstand? Nor was 1 more proof against the former conclusive weapon of argument, his si mile. In the mean time, his customers passed and re-passed, some in their harlequin dresses, and some with scarce any at all; to which my companion was as wholly insensible as I, of course, was eager to attract his attention. At length, recollect
the proudest sophist, I summoned all my powers for a last forcible appeal to "experience and the evidence of facts;" when, just as the tip of my tongue was labouring with the weighty charge, the poor man set off with a flourish and a strut peculiar to persons in his unfortunate situa. tion; and I have now but two hopes left to redeem our parish from absolute nudity, or worse: one is, that the next waistcoat he orders down for himself may arrive with arms each a dozen yards long, for some kind friend to slip upon him unawares: the other, that you, Sir, in your wisdom (which I know to be supreme in all cases you venture upon), may apply some wholesome