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FIND that I am so very unhappy, that while I am busy in correcting the folly and vice of one sex, several exorbitances break out in the other. I have not thoroughly examined their new fashioned
petticoats, but shall set aside one day in the next week for that purpose. The following petition on this subject was presented to me this morning.
“The humble Petition of William Jingle, coach-maker and
chair-maker of the liberty of Westminster, “ To Ifaac Bickerstaff, Esq., Censor of Great Britain, « Sheweth,
“That upon the late invention of Mrs. Catherine Cross-stitch, mantua-maker, the petticoats of ladies were too wide for entering into any coach or chair which was in use before the said invention
« That for the service of the said ladies, your petitioner has built a round chair, in the form of a lantern, six yards and an half in circumference, with a stool in the centre of it; the said vehicle being so contrived, as to receive the passenger by opening in two in the middle and closing mathematically when she is feated.
“ That your petitioner has also invented a coach for the reception of one lady only, who is to be let in at the top.
“That the said coach has been tried by a lady's woman in one of these full petticoats, who was let down from a balcony, and drawn up again by pullies, to the great fatisfaction of her lady, and all who beheld her.
“ Your petitioner therefore most humbly prays, that for the encouragement of ingenuity and useful inventions, he may be heard before you pass sentence upon the petticoats aforesaid.
" And your petitioner, &c.”
I have likewise received a female petition, signed by several thousands, praying that I would not defer giving judgment in the case of the petticoat, many of them having put off making clothes until such time as they know what verdict will pass upon it. I do, therefore, certify to all whom it may concern, that I do design to set apart Tuesday next for the final determination of that matter, having already ordered a jury of matrons to be impanelled for the clearing up of any difficult points that may arise in the trial.
Being informed that several dead men, in and about this city, do keep out of the way and abfcond, for fear of being buried; and being willing to respite their interment in consideration of their families, and in hopes of their amendment, I shall allow them certain privileged places, where they may appear to one another, without causing any let or molestation to the living, or receiving any in their own persons from the company of upholders. Between the hours of seven and nine in the mornings, they may appear in safety in St. James's coffeehouse, or at White's, if they do not keep their beds, which is more proper for men in their condition. From nine to eleven I allow them to walk from Story's to Rosamond's Pond in the Park, or in any other publick walks which are not frequented by the living at that time. Between eleven and three they are to vanish, and keep out of sight until three in the afternoon, at which time they may go to the Exchange until five, and then,
if they please, divert themselves at the Haymarket or Drury Lane until the play begins. It is further granted in favour of these persons, that they may be received at any table where there are more present than seven in number, provided that they do not take upon them to talk, judge, command, or find fault with any speech, action, or behaviour of the living. In which case, it shall be lawful to seize their persons at any place or house whatsoever, and to convey their bodies to the next undertaker's, anything in this advertisement to the contrary notwithstanding.
The court being prepared for proceeding on the cause of the petticoat, I gave orders to bring in a criminal who was taken up as she went out of the puppet-show about three nights ago, and was now standing in the street with a great concourse of people about her. Word was brought me, that she had endeavoured twice or thrice to come in, but could not do it by reason of her petticoat, which was too large for the entrance of my house, though I had ordered both the folding doors to be thrown open for its reception. Upon this I desired the jury of matrons, who stood at my right hand, to inform themselves of her condition, and know whether there were any private reasons why she might not make her appearance separate from her petticoat. This was managed with great discretion, and had such an effect, that, upon the return of the verdict from the bench of matrons, I issued out an order forthwith that the criminal should be stripped of her incumbrances till she became little enough to enter my,
house. I had before given directions for an engine of several legs, that could contract or open itself like the top of an umbrella, in order to place the petticoat upon it, by which means I might take a leisurely survey of it, as it should appear in its proper dimensions. This was all done accordingly, and forth with, upon the closing of the engine, the petticoat was brought into court. I then directed the machine to be set upon the table and dilated in such a manner as to shew the garment in its utmost circumference, but my great hall was too narrow for the experiment, for before it was half unfolded, it described fo immoderate a circle that the lower part of it brushed upon my face as I sat in my chair of judicature. I then inquired for the person that belonged to the petticoat, and to my great surprise was directed to a very beautiful young damsel, with so pretty a face and shape that I bid her come out of the crowd, and seated her upon a little crock at my left hand. “My pretty maid,” said I, “ do you own yourself to have been the inhabitant of the garment before us?” The girl I found had good sense, and told me with a smile, that notwithstanding it was her own petticoat, she should be very glad to see an example made of it, and that she wore it for no other reason but that she had a mind to look as big and burly as other persons of her quality ; that she had kept out of it as long as the could, and till the began to appear little in the eyes of all her acquaintance, that if she laid it aside people would think she was not made like other women.
I always give great allowances to the fair sex upon account of the fashion, and therefore was not displeased with the defence of my pretty criminal. I then ordered the vest which stood before us to be drawn up by a pully to the top of my great hall, and afterwards to be spread open by the engine it was placed upon in such a manner that it formed a very splendid and ample canopy over our heads, and covered the whole court of judicature with a kind of silken rotunda, in its form not unlike the cupola of St. Paul's. I entered upon the whole cause with great satisfaction as I sat under the shadow of it.
The counsel for the petticoat was now called in, and ordered to produce what they had to say against the popular cry which was raised against it. They answered the objections with great strength and solidity of argument, and expatiated in very florid harangues, which they did not fail to set off and furbelow (if I may be allowed the metaphor) with many periodical sentences and turns of oratory. The chief arguments for their client were taken, first, from the great benefit that might arise to our woollen manufacture from this invention, which was calculated as follows: the common petticoat has not above four yards in the circumference, whereas this over our heads had more in the semi-diameter; fo that by allowing it twenty-four yards in the circumference, the five millions of woollen petticoats, which (according to Sir William Petty) fuppofing, what
ought to be supposed in a well-governed state, that all petticoats are made of that stuff, would amount to thirty millions of those of the ancient mode. A prodigious improvement of the woollen trade! and what could not fail to sink the power of France in a few years.
To introduce the second argument, they begged leave to read a petition of the rope-makers, wherein it was represented that the demand for cords and the price of them were much risen since this fashion came up. At this all the
At this all the company who were present lifted up their eyes into the vault, and I must confess we did discover many traces of cordage which were interwoven in the stiffening of the drapery.
A third argument was founded upon a petition of the Greenland trade, which likewise represented the great consumption of whalebone which would be occasioned by the present fashion, and the benefit which would thereby accrue to that branch of the British trade.
To conclude, they gently touched upon the weight and unweildiness of the garment, which they insinuated might be of great use to preserve the honour of families.
These arguments would have wrought very much upon me (as I then told the company in a long and elaborate discourse), had I not considered the great and additional expense which such fashions would bring upon fathers and husbands, and therefore by no means to be thought of till some years
after a peace. I further urged that it would be a prejudice to the ladies themselves, who could never expect to have any money in the pocket if they laid out so much on the petticoat.
At the same time, in answer to the several petitions produced on that side, I shewed one subscribed by the women of several persons of quality, humbly setting forth, that since the introduction of this mode, their respective ladies had, instead of bestowing on them their cast gowns, cut them into shreds and mixed them with the cordage and buckram, to complete the stiffening of their under petticoats. For which, and fundry other reasons, I pronounced the petticoat a forfeiture; but to show that I did not make that judgment for the sake of filthy lucre, I ordered it to be folded up and sent it as a