Tuesday, 30 December 2014

19 October 1901 - 'Pixie O'Shaughnessy' by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey - Chapter 3

Major O'Shaughnessy and his little daughter reached London on the following afternoon, after a comfortable and unadventurous journey.  Pixie had howled dismally all the way to the station, but had dried her eyes at the sight of the train, and brightened into the most hilarious spirits on boarding the steamer.  She ate an enormous dinner of the richest and most indigestible dishes on the menu, slept peacefully through a stormy passage, and was up on deck conversing affably with the men who were washing down, long before her father had nerved himself to think of dressing.  The journey to London was a more or less disappointing experience, for if she had not known to the contrary, she was not at all sure that she would have recognised that she was in a strange land.  What she had expected, it was impossible to say, but that England should bear so close a resemblance to her beloved land seemed another “insult to Ireland” as Pat would have had it, and that it should in some respects look better, more prosperous and orderly, this was indeed a bitter pill to swallow.  As the train neared London, and other passengers came in and out of the carriage, Major O'Shaughnessy became conscious for the first time what a dusty, dishevelled little mortal he was about to introduce to an English school.  He was not noticing where his children were concerned, and moreover his eye had grown accustomed to the home surroundings, but the contrast between these trim strangers and his own daughter was too striking to be overlooked. 

Pixie had wriggled about until her frock was a mass of creases, her hat was grey with dust, and she had apparently forgotten to brush her hair before leaving her cabin.  The Major was too easy-going to feel any distress at this reflection.  He merely remarked to himself whimsically that “the piccaninny would astonish them”, meaning the companions to whom she was about to be introduced, and decided then and there to take her straight to her destination.  This had been the only point upon which he and his young daughter had been at variance, for from the start Pixie had laid down as her idea of what was right and proper that her father should take her for the night to “a grand hotel”, introduce her the next morning to the Tower, the Zoological Gardens, and Madame Tussaud’s, and deposit her at Surbiton in the afternoon.  The Major’s ideas on the subject were, however, that an exacting little daughter was a drawback to a man’s enjoyment of a visit to London, and that there were other forms of amusement which he would prefer to a visit to the beforementioned historic resorts.  With accustomed fluency, he found a dozen reasons for carrying out his own wishes, and propitiated Pixie by promising that Jack should take her sight-seeing before many weeks were over.

“I’ll tell Miss Phipps that I wish you to go out with your brother on Saturday afternoon, and you’ll have a fine time together seeing all there is to be seen.  Far greater fun than if we tried to hurry about with not a minute to spare.”

“I like to do things now,” sighed Pixie pensively, but as usual she resigned herself to the inevitable, and a box of chocolates, bought at Waterloo, sufficed to bring back the smiles to her face and restore her lost equanimity.

The arrival at Kingston Station was a breathless experience, though it was a distinct blow to her vanity to find that no deputation from Holly House was in waiting to receive Patricia O'Shaughnessy with the honours she deserved.  No one took any notice of her at all.  Even the cabman, when directed to drive to Holly House, preserved an unmoved stolidity of feature, and had no remark whatever to offer on the subject.  How different from dear friendly outspoken Bally William, where each man was keenly interested in the affairs of his neighbour, and the poorest peasant upon the road felt himself competent to offer advice on the most intimate family matters!  Pixie felt a chill of foreboding as she drove through the trim Surbiton streets and noticed girls like herself walking demurely beside mother or governess with laced-in boots, gloved hands, and silky manes flowing down their backs in straight uninterrupted flow.  She looked down at her own new stout little boots.  Sixteen buttons in all, and only one missing!  Such a pitch of propriety made her feel quite in keeping with her surroundings, and she had kid gloves too – dyed ones – which looked every bit as good as new, and left no mark at all except round the fastenings and the lobes of the fingers.  She gave a wriggle of contentment, and at that moment the cab turned in at the gate of Holly House.

The name of the house seemed to have more appropriateness than is usually the case, for the garden was surrounded by a thick holly hedge, and the beds were planted with holly-trees so dark that they appeared to be almost black in hue.  To the eyes of the new pupil there was something awe-inspiring in the sight of the grim flowerless beds and the foliage which looked so stern and prickly – almost as bad as the pieces of broken glass which are laid on top of high walls to prevent escape or intrusion.  The house itself was big and square, with a door in the centre, and at the top two quaint dormer windows, standing out from the roof like big surprised-looking eyes.  “Dear, dear!” they seemed to say.  “If this isn’t Pixie O'Shaughnessy driving up to the door!  Wonders will never cease!”

The hall was wide and cold, and, oh, so clean – “fearful clean” thought the new pupil with a sigh as she stepped gingerly over the polished oilcloth and gazed awesomely at spotless wood and burnished brass.  The drawing-room had none of the splendour of that disused apartment at Knock Castle, but it was bright and home-like, with an abundance of pretty cushions and table-cloths, a scent of spring flowers in the air, and a fire dancing cheerily in the grate.  Pixie’s prejudices received a shock at the sight of so much frivolity in a drawing-room, and she could not echo her father’s admiration.  She seated herself on the edge of the sofa and began to paint imaginary pictures of the mistress of this fine house.  “She will be tall, with yellow hair.  She will have cold fingers and nose that looks thin and has a bump in the middle.  No, I don’t believe she will, after all.  I believe she’ll be fussy, and then they are small and dark – dark, with eye-glasses, and those funny red cheeks that are made up of little lines, and never get lighter or darker.  And she’ll have a chain hanging from her waist with a lot of things that jingle, like the lady in the train.  Oh, me dear, suppose she was old!  I never thought of that.  Suppose shew as old, in a cap and a black satin dress, and chilblains on her hands!” And then the door opened – it was really a most exciting occasion – and Miss Phipps came into the room.

She was not in the least like any of the three pictures which Pixie had imagined – she was far, far, nicer and prettier.  She was tall, and so graceful and elegantly dressed as to be quite dazzling to the eyes of the country-bred stranger.  She had waving brown hair, which formed a sort of halo around her face, a pale complexion, and grey eyes which looked at you with a straight long glance, and then lightened as if they liked what they saw.  She was quite young too, not a bit old and proper; the only thing that looked old were the little lines about the eyes, and even those disappeared when her face was in repose.  She came forward to where the Major was standing, and held out her hand with a smile of welcome.

“Major O'Shaughnessy!  I am very pleased to see you.  I hope you have had a good journey and a comfortable crossing.”  Then she turned and looked at the crumpled little figure on the sofa, and her eyes softened tenderly.  “Is this my new pupil?  How do you do, dear?  I hope we shall be very good friends!”

“Oi trust we may!” returned Pixie fervently, and with a broadening of the already broad brogue which arose from the emotion of the moment and made her father frown with embarrassment.

“Ha – hum – ha – I am afraid I have brought you a rather rough specimen,” he said apologetically.  “Pixie is the baby of the family and she has been allowed to run wild and play with all the children about the place.  I hope you will not find her very backward in her lessons.  She has had a good governess at home but -“

“But she wasn’t much good either!” interrupted Pixie, entering into the conversation with the ease and geniality of one whose remarks are in the habit of being received with applause.  “I didn’t pay much attention to her.  I expect there's a good deal I don’t know yet, but I’m very quick and clever, and can be even with anyone if I choose to try.”

“Then please try, Pixie!  I shall be disappointed if you don’t!” said Miss Phipps promptly.  Her cheeks had grown quite red with surprise, and she pulled in her upper lip and bit at it hard as she looked down at her new pupil and noted the flat nose, the wide mouth and the elf-like thinness of the shabby figure.  “Pixie!  That's a very charming little name, but a fancy one, surely.  What is your Christian name?”

Father and daughter gazed at each other appealingly.  It was a moment which they had both dreaded, and the Major had fondly hoped that he might escape before the question was asked.  He remained obstinately silent, and Pixie nerved herself to reply.

“Me name’s not suited to me appearance,” she said sadly.  “I’d rather, if you please, that ye didn’t tell it to the girls.  I am always called Pixie at home.  Me name’s Patricia!”

Miss Phipps bit her lip harder than ever, but she managed to control her features, and Pixie was relieved to see that she did not even smile at the mention of the fatal name.

“It’s rather a long name for such a small person, isn't it?” she said seriously.  “I think we will keep to Pixie.  It will make school more home-like for you than if we changed to one to which you are not accustomed.”  Then turning to the Major, “I am sorry my head mistress, Miss Bruce, is not at home today, as I should have liked you to see her.  She is very bright and original, and has a happy knack of bringing out the best that is in her pupils.  She directs the teaching, and I am the housekeeper and sick nurse of the establishment.  Would you like to come upstairs and see the room in which Pixie will sleep, or shall we wait perhaps until after tea?”

The Major declared that he could not wait for tea.  He had kept the cab waiting at the door, and was all anxiety to get the parting over as quickly as possible and return to the fascinations of town, so he discussed a few business matters with Miss Phipps, and then took Pixie’s hand and accompanied her up the staircase to the third floor bedroom which she was to share with three other pupils.  Two windows looked out on to the garden in front of the house, and an arrangement of curtains hung on rods made each little cubicle private from the rest.  Pixie’s handbag had already been laid by her bed, and she felt quite a swelling of importance as she surveyed her new domain, wherein everything was to be her very own, and not shared with someone else, as had always been the case at home.  The Major gushed over all he saw, and professed himself as more than satisfied, but he was plainly ill at ease, and after walking twice round the room was all eagerness to make his escape.

“I’ll say good-bye to you now, Pixie,” he said, “for your bag is there, I see, and you would be much the better for a wash and a bush.  It’s no use coming downstairs again.  Be a good girl, now, and Jack shall come often to see you!  I’m happy to have you in such good hands and it’s a lucky child you are to have such a school to come to!  It will be your own fault if you are not happy.”

“I’ve no doubt I’ll be very comfortable, thank you,” Pixie said pleasantly, lifting her cheek to receive his kiss, with little sign of the emotion dreaded by the two onlookers.  Her father had never been as much to her as the other members of the household, and her mind was too full of the new excitements to allow her to realise his departure.  He hurried out of the room, followed by Miss Phipps, and Pixie withdrew into her little cubicle, pulled the curtain closely around her and felt monarch of all she surveyed.  A dear, little white bed, so narrow that if you turned, you turned at your peril and in instant dread of landing on the floor; a wonderful piece of furniture which did duty as dressing-table, washstand and chest of drawers combined; a single chair and a hanging cupboard.  Everything fresh, spotlessly clean, and in perfect order; absolutely, if you can believe it, not a single broken thing to be seen1  Pixie drew a quick breath of admiration, and wondered how long it could possibly be before she succeeded in cracking that lovely blue and white china, and exactly what would happen if she spilt the water over the floor!  She was so much occupied in building castles in the air that ten minutes passed by and she had not moved from her seat, when suddenly there came the sound of footsteps running up the stairs, the door was pushed open, and tramp, tramp, in came her future companions, hidden from sight, but talking volubly to each other as they took off hats and jackets after the afternoon walk.

“The new girl has arrived!” cried number one in a tone of breathless excitement.  “I saw her box as I came through the hall.  I peeped at the label, but hadn’t time to read it properly.”

“I did though!” cried another.  “A funny name.  O’ something or other.  Shog-nessie, or something like that.  Such a shabby old trunk1  Looked as if it came out of the Ark.”

“It will be rather fun having an Irish girl, don’t you think?” number two suggested.  “They are untidy and quarrelsome, of course, but it is funny to hear them talk, and they make such droll mistakes.  I shouldn’t like to be Irish myself, but it will be a pleasant change to have a Paddy among us!”

“Well, I hope she isn’t quarrelsome in this room, that’s all,” said a third speaker, who had hitherto been silent, “because if she is, I shall feel it my duty to give her a taste of Home Rule that she may not appreciate.  And if she snores I shall squeeze my sponge over her, so you may tell her what she has to expect.  There’s nothing like training these youngsters properly from the beginning!”

“Twelve years old!  I call it mean to put a child like that in this room!  You are fourteen, I’m fourteen, Ethel is fifteen; we ought to have one of the older ones with us.  We will make her fag for her living.  She shall get the hot water, and fold up our nightgowns, and pick up the pins.  All the same I shall be kind to her, for the credit of the country, for Irish people are always imagining themselves ill-used by England.  If I had thought of it I would have drawn a picture for her cubicle as a delicate little mark of attention.  An Irishman with his – what do you call it? – shi-lee-lah!”

The speaker stopped suddenly as she pronounced this difficult word, for a curious muffled sound reached her ears.  “What’s that?” she asked quickly, but her companions had heard nothing, so she retired into the cubicle next to Pixie’s own to brush her hair, slightly raising her voice so as to be heard more easily by her companions.

“She lives in a castle!  I heard Miss Phipps telling Miss Bruce when she was sending the labels.  ‘Knock-Kneed Castle’ or something like that.  Every second house in Ireland is called a castle, my father says.  It’s no more than a villa in England, and all the people are as poor as Job, and have hens in their parlours and pigs on the lawn.  They don’t know what it is to keep order.  What are you grunting for, Ethel?  It’s quite true, I tell you!”

“Dear me, I’m not grunting, I’m only washing my hands,” cried Ethel, aggrieved.  “What’s the matter with your ears this afternoon?  I don’t care where she lives so long as she behaves herself, and knows how to respect her elders.  I wonder what she is like!”

“Irish girls are mostly pretty.”

“Who told you that?”

“Never mind, I know it.  It’s always raining over there, and that is supposed to be good for the hair, or the complexion, or something.  And they are so bright and vivacious.  If an author wants to make a specially lively heroine in a book, the father is Irish and the mother is French.  Perhaps she’ll be the beauty of the school and then won’t someone we could mention tear her hair with rage?”

“Well, I don’t know about being pretty,” said Pixie’s neighbour reflectively.  “We have had lots of Irish servants, and they were plain enough.  But the name sounds interesting – ‘Miss Shog-nessie – The Castle – Ireland’.  It certainly sounds interesting.  I’d give something to know what she’s like.

“If ye’ll step inside the curtain, ye may judge for yeself,” said a deep rich voice suddenly from behind the curtain which was furthest from the door.

There was silence in the bedroom – a silence which might be felt!

12 October 1901 - 'The White House Class' by Lina Orman Cooper - Chapter 1

Another educational serial story, in which a saintly invalid teaches three girls the finer points of middle-class cookery.

There was great excitement at Merton House.  The master and mistress were going out to dine.  This in itself was no extraordinary thing.  But as it was a vice-regal dinner-party to which they had been bidden, this particular feast excited much interest.  First of all, the dress proper for such an occasion had to be thought of; feathers and lapels arranged according to the Chamberlain’s order; ancient buckles fished out of a grandmother’s chest; diamonds burnished up and fresh flowers begged, borrowed or stolen.

It was early when Mrs Merton set forth in the festive chariot, it was late when she returned.  It was very late when she showed her face next morning, for the dinner had been heavy and her sleep deep in consequence.

Now, I should not have mentioned this dinner-party save that it determined Mrs Merton to give all her growing-up daughters a course of cookery lectures.  It came about in this way.  Mrs Merton went, as usual, to a certain little white house ro7und the corner to tell a certain invalid, there resident, of how the grand dinner-party had gone off.  It had not been a success in one way: though a cook had been hired for the occasion at one hundred pounds for the week, the dinner was sadly lacking in many points.  The lemon sponge had been lemon rock, the ice pudding full of lumps, the soup cold, the entree uneatable.

“It has determined me, dear Miss Benson,” concluded Mrs Merton, as she finished the recital of all the deficits as well as the pleasures of the last night’s entertainment, “to have Linda and Lucilla and Eva taught the rudiments of cookery at all events.  If Lady Canforth had known anything about it, she would never have allowed her guests to go hungry away from the table.”

“Probably not,” answered little Miss Benson calmly.  “Such a thing as housewifely training amongst the ‘upper suckles’ as Jeames Yellow Plush called them, is almost unknown.”

“And it is almost as sealed an art in our middle-class circles as well,” moaned the mother of five.  “It ought to be one of the courses in our elementary schools.  Isn't it Mr Ruskin who writes, ‘The education of girls should begin in learning how to cook’.”

“Yes,” answered Miss Benson.  “And he says even more than this.  He considers a knowledge of cookery to imply a pretty extensive acquaintance with most other things.  Give me my commonplace book, dear, and I will look it up.”

Mrs Merton brought the thick strongly-bound volume to her old friend, for, alas, Miss Benson was tied to her couch with an incurable disease.  From that couch, however, radiated more light and wisdom than from most of the scholastic centres in our midst.  Mrs Merton, at least relied almost more entirely on the old lady’s sound sanctified common-sense than on anything else in this world.  So near the veil of futurity lived Miss Benson that she seemed to have drunk in a sibylline spirit, and to have a stock of good advice on almost every subject.  The quotation she was looking for was quickly found.  She bade Mrs Merton read it aloud.

“A knowledge of cookery means the knowledge of all herbs, and fruits, and balms, and spices, and of all that is healing and sweet in fields and groves, and savoury in meats; it means carefulness, and inventiveness, and watchfulness, and willingness and readiness of appliance; it means the economy of your great-grandmothers and the science of modern chemists; it means much tasting and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art, and Arabian hospitality; and as you are to see imperatively that everybody has something pretty to put on so you are to see yet more imperatively that everybody has something nice to eat.”

Mrs Merton was silent for a while.  This extract had altogether raised the subject into a higher realm than that of an ordinary kitchen.  Then she broke on.

“If cooking is indeed all that Mr Ruskin claims it to be, however are we foolish enough to leave it to the ignorant women called ‘plain cooks’?”

“I think, my dear, we do not leave it as much as we used to do.  Kensington has done much towards making it into a fine art.  It trains its students on a sound principle; it supplies reasons for each act of the culinary calling.  For instance it tells its students why potatoes are peeled thinly and why turnips are peeled thickly; it gives rules about the proper course of events in a kitchen – why onions should be shred before potatoes are cut if we wish to eliminate their particular flavour from a knife; it teaches economical habits, it insists on cleanliness.”

“I had thought I might teach the girls myself,” said Mrs Merton hopelessly, “but you and Mr Ruskin show me how little I know myself after all.”

“You know enough to teach your young fry,” answered Miss Benson firmly.  “All the same, I think you had better not do so.  The fact is, one of the chief moral lessons taught by learning how to cook is self-reliance.  It is far better that too much help should not be given at the commencement.  For this reason I, who seem a useless log lying on this sofa –“ Mrs Merton made a gesture of denial, “- am a far more competent teacher than an active mother could ever be.  Lucilla and Linda will have to cultivate their powers of memory because I cannot get off my chair to fetch forgotten ingredients fo them.”

Miss Benson looked quite pleased at the prospect of her cooking lectures, and Mrs Merton gave in gratefully.  A somewhat lengthy conversation followed the compact.  In it Miss Benson spoke of the observation required by cooking, of the self-control cultivated by preparation of dainties which might never be tasted save in the preliminary stages, of the accuracy indispensable, of the alertness acquired even by the most lethargic young persons when a few minutes may turn a light sponge into a piece of lead, of the deftness and delicacy of touch so valuable; lastly, but by no means leastly, of the habits of tidiness and cleanliness engendered by the culinary art when properly understood.  Mrs Merton went away from the White House thinking more of the moral than the economical side of the classes to be given to her young fry.  She felt that Miss Benson would raise the subject even higher than Mr Ruskin had done, that her three daughters would understand more forcibly by means of her instruction than by any other the sacredness of food and our responsibility in connection to it.

His wife enlarged on all these points to Mr Merton when he came home from the City that night.  Manlike he thought more of the physical than of the spiritual side of the question. 

“Why, my dear, I shall be able to retire from business years sooner than I had contemplated, for Lucilla and Linda and our little Eva will require about half the dot I had thought would be necessary for them!  Any man will jump at the chance of such virtuous and educated wives.  They have each a certificate for swimming, haven’t they?”  Mrs Merton nodded.  “Well, if any suitors come, I had intended to meet them armed with that fine piece of parchment.  ‘Here,’ I would say, ‘is a wife who will help you out of deep water whenever you get into it.  Is not she a valuable person?’  But if Miss Benson teaches my girls all she intends, I shall wave a far more important document in my right hand.  ‘Here,’ I shall say, ‘is the hallmark on Lucilla and Linda, and the rest of them which shows that any of them are capable of keeping you out of deep water’.”

Mrs Merton smiled.  Her husband would have his joke, as she knew.  But there was truth in what he said, nevertheless, for by teaching the girls cooking her old friend was giving them a good dowry of commonsense and usefulness. 

Not many days after this a small group were gathered in Miss Benson’s kitchen.  It was a “lovely” one, if loveliness consists of perfect adaptability to a purpose; it was long and rather low, with thick rafters intersecting its ceiling.  Originally a barn-like excrescence from the house, these rafters could not be hidden, but were found useful for hanging up flitches of bacon and the home-cured hams Miss Benson delighted in.  The windows were two; in one of them was placed a solid square table, in the other a small couch on which lay the mistress of the house.  Behind it on a writing table – Miss Benson supplied her housemaidens with many luxuries not usually given to servants, and had cheerful willing service rendered in consequence – rested a cookery-book, a ledger and pencils.  Ranged on the walls were cover-dishes and jam-pans in silver and copper and block-tin.  Roses peeped into the two windows, and God’s sunshine permeated the room, lighting up its comfortable corners and allowing no place for dust or debris of any sort.  A tile patterned linoleum was on the floor, pretty prints bound with red braid, and therefore easily replaceable when an annual turn-out called for spotless prints, a bookcase full of intelligent readable volumes, a bright steel range and a glowing fire.  These were some of the object lessons which surrounded three demure apron-clad figures on the morning of Miss Benson’s opening lecture.  What was taught thereby I will tell in our next paper.

25 April 1885 - 'Dress, in Season and in Reason'

 The changes in dress-making and draping this spring are seen more in small details than in any general outlines of absolutely new creations.  The full effect of the back drapery is increased, but no dress improvers nor crinolettes are worn by well-dressed people, and the full appearance seems only the clever effect of drapery much bunched-up.  But where this effect is not liked it seems equally good style to allow the tunic to hang straight and bag-like in the same way that it did last year.  The basques are short and cut quite round, about two inches below the waist, with no back-trimmings nor folds in many cases.  The edges of the whole bodice, when cut in this way, are often edged with bead passementerie, or a kind of silk bead, which is a Parisian novelty this year.  The front darts are now cut very high indeed.

Flounces are still used; most of them have four or five tucks run in at the edge, and they are kilted in various ways in wide and narrow plaits, and these are fastened down flatly, so as to prevent their giving the least bouffant or full effect.  In dresses made for young people flounces are less used, and all kinds of flat trimmings are in vogue – folds, tucks, braiding, and also the new woollen yak laces, which are so plentifully used for every description of dress.  These laces will form one of the very distinguishing marks of all year’s fashions.  They appear to wear very well, so far as can yet be seen, when used with care, and they are not more expensive than the different kinds of imitation laces that have been so much employed during the last two or three years.

All skirts of dresses, costumes, etc., follow the same styles, having plain foundations over which the tunics and draperies are arranged in long folds, the puffy ones being reserved for the back.  Young ladies’ summer dresses will very probably be made with narrow flounces to the waist, with perhaps small panier-like overskirts, or only back drapery.

Two or even more materials will continue to be used for all dresses to be worn on all occasions.  In an ordinary gown the bodice and tunic are of the same material, and the cuffs, collar, and front plastron would match the skirt.  If there be a jacket, it would match the upper skirt, while a waistcoat would be like the lower.  Tunics are worn very long, and nearly all are arranged so as to hang on one side of the dress.  A very generally used model has a shawl point in front, or rather at the side front, and very full folds at one side, while at the right the end of the drapery is caught by an ornament of passementerie and jet.  Some of the new tunics hang quite straight, without any folds, and are open on one side quite to the waist, showing the under-petticoat its entire length.

The perfectly plain, or “housemaid” skirt, is still favoured by the young and very slight in figure, but it is undoubtedly hard in effect, and trying, and has been worn by persons to whom it was eminently unsuitable.  The other day I met a widow lady, of not much under fifty summers, who had made herself a perfect guy by adopting a rough foule dress, with a “housemaid skirt”, a style which would have suited her daughter, aged seventeen, but which was a most ungraceful garment on the mother.  After all, dress consists not half so much in its richness as in its suitability to the wearer, and also to the time and place in which it is to be worn.  I hold each day more firmly to my ancient belief that the really well-dressed woman or girl will aspire to have as few dresses as possible, and to wear them out, as far as she can, before making fresh purchases.  Three dresses for an ordinary woman’s use seems quite enough; in having more she only runs the risk of having a sorry-looking collection of old and useless garments, difficult to wear out.

The great material for the present season is, without contradiction, “canvaserie”, or canvas-cloth, as it is called by some people.  It is what may be described as semi-transparent, and is made up over coloured silk or satin skirts, viz: a dark blue over scarlet satin, brown over yellow or red, and black over red also; the red showing through it, particularly on the bodice.  There are several descriptions of canvas-cloth, variously named. Some have the appearance of being plaited, others are woven in plain and fancy stripes, and others are plain, with very coarse meshes; all, however, being of wool, give fair promise of good wear, so doubtless they well deserve their popularity.  The skirts made up in these semi-thin materials are all wider than they have yet been worn, some of them measuring as much as three yards round.  The canvas-cloth is always loosely draped over the foundation, and from all I can see, the favourite colour will be ecru, or rather a light shade, that will go well with the favourite red with which it is so often mixed.  These thin black canvas-cloths will be a very useful and economical addition to the dress of this year, as they will make up over old silk and satin skirts, and even over sateens and cashmere foundations.

Black, the favourite colour of the Englishwoman, will be more worn than ever, but it will generally be relieved with some colour.  Black silks will be more popular than they have been for some time back.  They are trimmed with velvet, and much ornamented with beads, not only in the form of fringes and passementerie, but in elaborate designs carried out in very fine cut bugles on net, which is then laid over velvet and satin, and the net becoming invisible the designs have the appearance of being carried out on the richer material.  Black and white too have become popular, and black lace and insertion is now frequently laid over a white foundation of white silk or satin as the trimmings of black dresses.  Black and white “Pekins”, in stripes of varying breadths, will also be popular again; in fact stripes are quite the order of the season, as spotted materials were last year.  Sometimes the striped materials are made to run horizontally instead of vertically, a change which is not becoming to the wearer.

I cannot say that I much admire the striped wincey skirtings, which it is so fashionable to turn into underskirts at present, made quite plainly, the over-tunic and bodices being of some unpatterned woollen material such as serge of vigogne.  I have recently seen one in the street, the stripes being two inches wide, of black and yellow, and the black bodice having a waistcoat of the same, but I did not like the effect; it seemed staring – too gaudily bright.  It seems likely, however, that this style will be very much used for making up sateens and zephyrs when the season is more advanced.

Many gay striped patterns are amongst the new materials, some of them in canvas-cloth; and as yet they are made up in entire dresses, without any relief from the admixture of other materials.  The stripes are of coarse lines or threads thrown up to the surface.  I do not know whether this plan of making up will last, nor do I know how the quantities of Roman sash-like materials will be used – probably for sashes and trimmings.  Ginghams and zephyrs will be both striped and embroidered; and a new material will probably replace nun’s veiling in public favour.  It is called “oriental crepe” by some houses, by others only “crepe”, but all these crinkled crepe materials are made in woollen and cotton under many names, and are one of the season’s novelties.  Silk is very much mixed with all the woollen materials of the year; and even Scotch tweeds, when striped, have a glistening thread running through them, which makes them look lighter and more glossy.

So far as colours go, very pale and delicate are the hats as yet produced for the washing dresses of summer – pale blues, greens, buffs, and pinks, the patterns being small, and pretty Watteau-like flowers and bouquets.  We shall see many combinations of colours, such as scarlet and blue, yellow braiding on blues and browns, and blue and white in stripes.  Yellow and black also promises to be a favourite mixture.  The popular shades, so far as we have yet advanced, are Noisette, almond, cafe, chamois, tan and ripe corn.  These, as my readers will see, are all of the same family of yellowish wood-colours, and they promise to be more used than anything else for the early days of spring.  They are economical, too, for they do not show the dirty very much, although they may be considered light.  Meerschaum, chaudron, and two greys called “smoke” and “elephant” are also new colours, and to my surprised eyes a whole family of reds are visible, of the dark handsome Pompeian or Venetian order.  Terra-cotta, too, and dark browns are all to be seen, and also an ugly idea, which has been invented by someone without taste, to my mind, viz., that of trimming them each and all with black yak lace.  In satins and silks all the last hues I have named will be popular.

The new spring mantles do not show much change, but are only the mantles we have latterly been wearing; in the “Visite” and “Dolman” shapes all the newest ones are very short in the back, with long fronts and high shoulders.  The backs are certainly less ornate, less full and bunched up, and have fewer ornaments added to them.  Coloured mantles of cloths, plushes, and velvets are very much worn; in plush, I think grey is the popular hue.  I cloth, red seems preferred, the cloth being thick and coarse-looking.  I imagine from this that later in the season we shall have a majority of coloured mantles; but I fear that people to whom economy is an object will have to confine themselves to brown, and not stray into the more inviting pastures of red or grey, bothof which are too remarkable for the adoption of those who have only one mantle, or at most two, during the year.  It is never wise to choose any article of dress that is fashionable enough to show age within the year.  This is especially the case with mantles, which have to be selected with great care.  The one chosen should always be of the latest style, but should never be of a kind or shape to be remarked for its special peculiarities.  To do this requires a very observant eye, and the expenditure of some thought.  This thought the more conscientious of my readers, if they agree with me, will not object to give, always bearing in mind that the right and honest expenditure of money is a duty, that much of our rightful share of personal influence in this world is derived from our outward appearance, and that here is one, at least, of our duties to our neighbour.

I must not leave the subject of outer garments without a mention of the small Zouave, Corsair, Spanish, Prussian and Giaour jackets, which promise to be much worn, and also to be rather a useful addition to our dress.  I have put down all the list of names, for they seem to be called almost indiscriminately by all, and, indeed, in most instances they really do form a part of the national dress of the country named. They are made without sleeves, are fastened at the throat, and are either cut round at the corners at the waist, or else fall over it in square corners.  Some of them have hanging sleeves, but the majority have none. They are edged with beads, and lined with a colour, and they are sometimes very richly embroidered and braided.

The stiff ungraceful bouquet of many years’ duration will be soon superseded by the Elizabethan posy, and at the March drawing-rooms ladies were seen with natural flowers in bunches, just as they were gathered.  The true posy has no wires, and spreads out its leaves and flowers at its own sweet will.  The stems, as of old, are tied with ribbon, a bunch of daffodils, with daffodil-coloured ribbon, and white lilacs with pale green.  Being thus very simply prepared, they are easily carried in the hand, and their scent and beauty can be really enjoyed and admired.  Real flowers will be used instead of artificial ones to decorate Court dresses this year, and one cannot help rejoicing at every change that brings so charming an industry as gardening into requisition, for it is one that ladies, young and old, can follow; and it is, moreover, remunerative and not too fatiguing.

Our illustrations this month represent the private view of a separate picture and the public view of a large London picture gallery.  The gowns shown are suitable for the spring days before the warmer ones come in.  Velveteen, serge, and Scotch tweed are the general materials, and they are made up with the straight cut tunics, simply draped and trimmed, which we have endeavoured to illustrate.  The bonnets shown in the larger illustration are both of the same order, jetted fronts and lace backs, the lace being laid over a colour, the pompon of feathers matching it, the strings being of black velvet.  For the paper pattern this month the pattern of the black velvet bodice worn by the figure with her back toward us will be given.  Though made in velvet it will be suitable for any material or dress.  The front is pointed and buttoned up plainly, but one of the many plastrons illustrated may be worn with it.