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A SERIOUS ARGUMENT
AGAINST THE USE OF
CLOTHING: ADDRESSED TO TAILORS.
Some were for the utter extirpation
I trust I shall not be suspected of the purpose,
in this paper,
of putting an insult upon the respectable fraternity to whom it is addressed. On the contrary, I have hopes, built upon the justice of my object and the purity of my wishes, to win them over to the view I intend to take, and to convince them that a refined and nice moral sense, as well as a lofty and philosophical comprehension of the fitness of things, requires at their hands an immediate abandonment of the profession in which they are at present engaged. I trust to be able to prove to them that it is their duty to break in pieces their lap-boards, take down their signs, give their iron geese the wing, and bid a long farewell to skein and needle.
Beside the urgent necessity resting upon them to restore themselves, physically, to that erect posture from which they have fallen, I shall bring before them reasons more purely addressed to their understanding.
It is clear, then, in the first place, that tailors came in with the fall. Adam, in his primitive condition, ennobled by the complete development of every power of the mind and nerve of the bodya profounder philosopher than Bacon — superior (in all probability) in imagination to Shakspeare— as a musician, sweeter than Mozart, and in fact, as a universal handicraftsman, to all the world since. Adam — what was the secret or at least the development of all his power ? HE WENT UNDRESSED ! If I may so speak, without irreverence to the founder of our family, he was the Great Shirtless.
His descendants degenerated. They were trowsered and coated. And this was the first sad symptom of the fall. Had not pantaloons been introduced, there had been hope for man.
The downfall was not complete — the destruction was not irremediable the last chain was not irrevocably bound upon us
_ 'till Adam drew on his first pair of indispensables. Of immorality
'the primitive tradition reaches
As far as Adam's first green breeches.' In making up the account of our depravity, we inust halt here. Farther backward we cannot journey.
Adam, before this, might have perpetrated the indecency of talking Dutch in the garden : but we have no records — no authentic history of that absurdity. We begin with the surmounting of the articles set forth in the couplet.
He drew them on, not like a modern juvenile, with exultant eyes and eager limbs, (though they were his first suit,) but with sorrowing and tears. Through the two narrow vistas down which his legs descended, as through the tubes of a telescope, he saw the degradation of his race. Bloody-visaged War and hypocritic Peace, Pestilence VOL. VIII.
and Famine, Disease and Death, peered at him through those twin openings.
Oh! had that fatal suit never been donned, how glorious a spectacle would this our world present! It would have swarmed with tall and pure intelligences, only less than the angels. But, mark the consequences ! Cain becomes a butcher, and Abel a huckster: afterward, the first a vagabond, the second a carcass.
Such were the disgraces which the first clothing put upon our humanity. Every age, since the ejectment of our first parent from his territories, has seen their renewal. If man had remained to this hour unclothed and unshirted, he had been still pure and happy. But misery and dress go together, they are natural yoke-fellows. Whenever I see a pair of breeches, I think of original sin, and small clothes remind me of total depravity.
A frock coat is to me the exponent of damnation, and a tight-bodied one the sign and token of eternal torture.
Is it not our duty, then, to put away from us these mementos of our shame? to cast to the winds these daily slaves of Phillip, whose ever business it is to babble in our ears - Thou must die!' Shall we endure these provocative monitors ? — shall we put up with these woollen impertinences !- manufactured disturbers of peace? these hangers-on? I think not. Better visions dawn
I see the Naked Age approaching. I see the time when tailors' bills shall be no more, or become mere matters of history-remembered, only to be classed with the witches and goblins which affrighted our ancestors.
The argument against clothing assumes (if possible) a still more serious aspect, when examined in its connection with the dignity of
It must be confessed, that all objects are pure, in proportion as they are free from contingents and adjuncts. The diamond only when cleaned from its imbedding earth exhibits its full lustre, and the pearl shines not forth in its clear, native whiteness, till disinterred from the coffining oyster. Sir Isaac Newton was of opinion that the only sorts of chaste matter on earth were certain fine particles, or impenetrable, finite atoms, and that all other matter was a mere mongrel. He considered the pure existence of atoms to be in a state of undress. I agree with the venerable author of the pippin (sometimes called the gravitating) philosophy. Man is among the corruptible the adulterated — the impure.
There is something to me ludicrous in the very physical structure of man. He is a “forked radish. It always seemed to me some strange error or accident in his formation, that he was divided and cleft at the bottom. It would better fulfil my notions of symmetry, if he were fashioned column-like, and progressed with one leg. By having two, it would seem as if, in some convulsion of nature, he had split up
My notions of a perfect being, gentle reader - to let thee a little into some new mysteries — is (abandoning the columnar doctrine,) as a shapeless and invisible cloud, containing in itself the power of motion, and floating about, guided by mere impulse. I would have it possess a full source of harmony, and capable of breathing music and
sweet sounds at will. It should journey to and fro, in company with the seasons; it should rest under the shadow of a mountain in Greece, and melt into crimson and golden hues in our own far west. Sometimes it should glide noiselessly amid the flowers, the rare and pleasant flowers of England, or over the famed war-fields of old France. It should possess the perfect power of metempsychosis or transition; at one time it might cool, far up in the ether, into all the delicious freshness of snow, and at another dissolve in all the sweet, summer tenderness of rain.
But mark me: it should be no common cloud, this perfect creature, this paragon, this phænix of mine. It should bear about in the heavens no semblance of garments. It should figure forth to the clown or the school-boy's brain no rude monster bedighted in fantastical apparel; no celestial Dutchmen; no well-breeched harlequin; no valorous chieftains, with black cocked hats, made of wind, with swords of vapor. No: But there, pillowed on the air, my human cloud, my immortal fragment of ether, my animate and beautiful substitute for man, should sit and become intellectual with thought.
'Beautiful cloud! I would I were with thee
In ihy calm way o'er land and sea :
On earth as on an open book !! Enough of this rhapsody of a theorist. By looking at your next neighbor, you will soon see that he is no such thing as my perfect and symmetrical being. You will not only see that he is a little toy, moulded of clay, but that he is also tricked out in that inhuman absurdity styled dress. From the chin to the heels, he is a tailor's ape. What an abasement !- how desperate a degradation !
Man, it seems, cannot be man without this pitiful adjunct; he is a tree that blooms not without this foliage. And yet it irks him : it is a bondage to him, to be cased up thus within wooden walls. His soul lives in a double prison; it is egg within egg; first a shell of clay, and next an outer covering upon that of cloth. How is it possible for orators and divines to reach this doubly-defended nucleus ? Can a refined sentiment make its way through broadcloth ? - or will a pointed thought or fierce denunciation pierce the solidity of a Petersham?
Man goeth about bearing his own shame as a burden upon his back; and yet he aspires to mate with the angels. Think you they stoop to these appendages ? That they walk the 'starry pavement of the skies,' cultivating the cock of a hat, or staking the happiness of their immortal natures on the roll of a collar ? No: the higher we ascend the scale of intelligence, the less do we find of this vain incumbrance.
Even the brute has a lesson for us here. The horse - does he wear aught over his leathern jerkin? And have I not seen Sir Goat strut forth with only his mohair cloak cast over his shoulder, with much of native and dignified simplicity ?
Let us sift our notions nicely, then, and with candor, and we shall speedily learn that we have an instinct within us which preacheth against clothing - at least against the modern modification of that vileness.
Perhaps we may conceive, with some show of reason, of Alcibiades promenading our Broadway with a cane and whiskers, or the Emperor Otho arranging his curls in faultless mirrors; but what say you, reader, to Socrates in the Portico philosophizing in a round-about, or Cicero walking the Forum (forecasting an oration against Cataline) in a pair of top-boots - or Plato in nankeens? - or Pythagoras in a swallow-tail ? — Hercules in small-clothes ? - or Homer (pauper though he was) in a dicky? It is beyond you
is it not? Post SCRIPTUM. When I had laid the first timbers, as it were, of the above essay, I mentioned my views (such as I expected to set forth, and have set forth here,) to a bosom friend of mine, confidentially. I think he must, in some failing moment, have broken his trust. It appears the tailors have got wind' of the forth-coming argument, and are beginning to take steps to prevent the dissemination of its doctrines. The following I take from an evening paper:
Notice. To Tailors. The tailors of the City of New-York are respectfully invited to attend a meeting of the trade, to be held at Jefferson House, on Monday evening next, when business of importance will be laid before them.'
The mark at which this points is palpable. I am farther corroborated in the belief that some movement is on foot among the Thimbles, from the circumstance that when the other day I was taking my customary afternoon's walk, I was met by a tailor's journeyman, who, in the usual hobbling style, was hurrying home with a coat on his left arm.
As I passed him, the fellow, who by some mode or other had become acquainted with my person, put his unemployed hand into his 'hind pocket, and shook out his coat-tail deliberately in my face!
Was ich ohne dich ware, ich weisz, es nicht.'
My soul is ead within me! Come once more,
'What would I be without thee, Pöesy ?' Charleston, (S. C.,) 1836.
M. E. L.