« AnteriorContinuar »
As to the ladies of the Court, rank and title may compensate for want of personal charms; but they are, in general, very plain, ill. shaped, and ugly; but don't you tell anybody that I say so. If one wants to see beauty, one must go to Ranelagh; there it is collected, in one bright constellation. There were two ladies very elegant, at Court,Lady Salisbury and Lady Talbot ; but the observation did not in general hold good, that fine feathers make fine birds. I saw many who were vastly richer dressed than your friends, but I will venture to say, that I saw none neater or more elegant.
THE AMBASSADOR'S BALL.
[From a Letter to Miss Lucy Cranch.-London, 2 April, 1786.]
TO 10 amuse you then, my dear niece, I will give you an account of the
dress of the ladies at the ball of the Comte d'Adhémar; as your cousin tells me that she some time ago gave you a history of the birthday and ball at Court, this may serve as a counterpart. Though, should I attempt to compare the apartments, St. James's would fall as much short of the French Ambassador's, as the Court of his Britannic Majesty does of the splendor and magnificence of that of his Most Christian Majesty. I am sure I never saw an assembly room in America, which did not exceed that at St. James's in point of elegance and decoration; and, as to its fair visitors, not all their blaze of diamonds, set off with Parisian rouge, can match the blooming health, the sparkling eye, and modest deportment of the dear girls of my native land. As to the dancing, the space they had to move in gave them no opportunity to display the grace of a minuet, and the full dress of long court-trains and enormous hoops, you well know were not favorable for country dances, so that I saw them at every disadvantage; not so the other evening. They were much more properly clad ;-silk waists, gauze or white or painted tiffany coats decorated with ribbon, beads, or flowers, as fancy directed, were chiefly worn by the young ladies. Hats turned up at the sides with diamond loops and buttons of steel, large bows of ribbons and wreaths of flowers, displayed themselves to much advantage upon the heads of some of the prettiest girls England can boast. The light from the lustres is more favorable to beauty than daylight, and the color acquired by dancing, more becoming than rouge, as fancy dresses are more favorable to youth than the formality of a uniform. There was as great a variety of pretty dresses, borrowed wholly from France, as I have ever seen; and amongst the rest, some with sapphire-blue satin waists, spangled with silver, and
laced down the back and seams with silver stripes; white satin petticoats trimmed with black and blue velvet ribbon; an odd kind of head-dress, which they term the “helmet of Minerva." I did not observe the bird of wisdom, however, nor do I know whether those who wore the dress had suitable pretensions to it. “And pray," say you, “how were my aunt and cousin dressed?" If it will gratify you to know, you shall hear. Your aunt, then, wore a full-dress court cap without the lappets, in which was a wreath of white flowers, and blue sheafs, two black and blue flat feathers (which cost her half a guinea apiece, but that you need not tell of), three pearl pins, bought for Court, and a pair of pearl earrings, the cost of them—no matter what; less than diamonds, however. A sapphire-blue demi-saison with a satin stripe, sack and petticoat trimmed with a broad black lace; crape flounce, etc.; leaves made of blue ribbon, and trimmed with white floss; wreaths of black velvet ribbon spotted with steel beads, which are much in fashion, and brought to such per fection as to resemble diamonds; white ribbon also in the Vandyke style, made up of the trimming, which looked very elegant; a full-dress handkerchief, and a bouquet of roses. "Full gay, I think, for my aunt." That is true, Lucy, but nobody is old in Europe. I was seated next the Duchess of Bedford, who had a scarlet satin sack and coat, with a cushion full of diamonds, for hair she has none, and is but seventy-six, neither. Well, now for your cousin; a small, white Leghorn hat, bound with pink satin ribbon; a steel buckle and band which turned up at the side, and confined a large pink bow; a large bow of the same kind of ribbon behind; a wreath of full-blown roses round the crown, and another of buds and roses withinside the hat, which being placed at the back of the hair, brought the roses to the edge; you see it clearly; one red and black feather, with two white ones, completed the head-dress. A gown and coat of Chambéri gauze, with a red satin stripe over a pink waist, and coat flounced with crape, trimmed with broad point and pink ribbon; wreaths of roses across the coat; gauze sleeves and ruffles. But the poor girl was so sick with a cold, that she could not enjoy herself, and we retired about one o'clock without waiting supper, by which you have lost half a sheet of paper, I dare say; but I cannot close without describing to you Lady North and her daughter. She is as large as Captain C--'s wife, and much such a made woman, with a much fuller face, of the color and complexion of Mrs. C—, who formerly lived with your uncle Palmer, and looks as if porter and beef stood no chance before her; add to this, that it is covered with large red pimples, over which, to help the natural redness, a coat of rouge is spread; and, to assist her shape, she was dressed in white satin, trimmed with scarlet ribbon. Miss North is not so large, nor quite so red, but has a very small eye with the most impudent face you can possibly form an idea of, joined to manners so
masculine, that I was obliged frequently to recollect that line of Dr. Young's,
“ Believe her dress ; she's not a grenadier,"
to persuade myself that I was not mistaken.
Thus, my dear girl, you have an account which perhaps may amuse you a little. You must excuse my not copying; I fear, now, I shall not get nearly all my letters ready,-my pen very bad, as you see; and I am engaged three days this week,—to à rout at the Baroness de Nolken's, the Swedish minister's, to a ball on Thursday evening, and to a dinner on Saturday. Do not fear that your aunt will become dissipated, or in love with European manners; but, as opportunity offers, I wish to see this European world in all its forms that I can with decency. I still moralize with Yorick, or with one more experienced, and say, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
WASHINGTON, IN THE SECOND PRESIDENCY.
[From a Letter to her Daughter.- Washington, 21 November, 1800.] I
ARRIVED here on Sunday last, and without meeting with any accident
worth noticing, except losing ourselves when we left Baltimore, and going eight or nine miles on the Frederick road, by which means we were obliged to go the other eight through woods, where we wandered two hours without finding a guide, or the path. Fortunately, a straggling black came up with us, and we engaged him as a guide, to extricate us out of our difficulty; but woods are all you see, from Baltimore until you reach the city, which is only so in name. Here and there is a small cot, without a glass window, interspersed among the forests, through which you travel miles without seeing any human being. In the city there are buildings enough, if they were compact and finished, to accommodate Congress and those attached to it; but as they are, and scattered as they are, I see no great comfort for them. The river, which runs up to Alexandria, is in full view of my window, and I see the ves. sels as they pass and repass. The house is upon a grand and superb scale, requiring about thirty servants to attend and keep the apartments in proper order, and perform the ordinary business of the house and stables; an establishment very well proportioned to the President's salary.
The lighting the apartments, from the kitchen to parlors and chambers, is a tax indeed ; and the fires we are obliged to keep to secure us from daily agues is another very cheering comfort. To assist us in this great castle, and render less attendance necessary, bells are wholly
wanting, not one single one being hung through the whole house, and promises are all you can obtain. This is so great an inconvenience, that I know not what to do, or how to do. The ladies from Georgetown and in the city have many of them visited me. Yesterday I returned fifteen visits,—but such a place as Georgetown appears-why, our Milton is beautiful. But no comparisons;—if they will put me up some bells, and let me have wood enough to keep fires, I design to be pleased. I could content myself almost anywhere three months; but, surrounded with forests, can you believe that wood is not to be had, because people cannot be found to cut and cart it! Briesler entered into a contract with a man to supply him with wood. A small part, a few cords only, has he been able to get. Most of that was expended to dry the walls of the house before we came in, and yesterday the man told him it was im. possible for him to procure it to be cut and carted. He has had recourse to coals; but we cannot get grates made and set. We have, indeed, come into a new country.
You must keep all this to yourself, and, when asked how I like it, say that I write you the situation is beautiful, which is true. The house is made habitable, but there is not a single apartment finished, and all withinside, except the plastering, has been done since Briesler came. We have not the least fence, yard, or other convenience, without, and the great unfinished audience-room I make a drying-room of, to hang up the clothes in. The principal stairs are not up, and will not be this winter. Six chambers are made comfortable; two are occupied by the President and Mr. Shaw; two lower rooms, one for a common parlor, and one for a levee-room. Up stairs there is the oval room, which is designed for the drawing-room, and has the crimson furniture in it. It is a very handsome room now; but, when completed, it will be beautiful. If the twelve years, in which this place has been considered as the future seat of government, had been improved, as they would have been if in New England, very many of the present inconveniences would have been removed. It is a beautiful spot, capable of every improvement, and, the more I view it, the more I am delighted with it.
Since I sat down to write, I have been called down to a servant from Mount Vernon, with a billet from Major Custis, and a haunch of venison, and a kind, congratulatory letter from Mrs. Lewis, upon my arrival in this city, with Mrs. Washington's love, inviting me to Mount Vernon, where, health permitting, I will go, before I leave this place.
The Senate is much behindhand. No Congress has yet been made. 'Tis said
is on his way, but travels with so many delicacies in his rear, that he cannot get on fast, lest some of them should suffer.
Thomas comes in and says a House is made; so to-morrow, though Saturday, the President will meet them. Adieu, my dear.
Born in Haddam, Conn., 1744. Dies at New Haven, Conn., 1815.
THE FAMILY BLOOD.
"Genus et proavos, et quod non fecimus ipsi
And govern, each in turn, my brains.
The name of CLEVELAND I must wear,
Such is my heterogeneous blood,