Eliza Haywood

An ugly accident occasioned by a ram

from The Female Spectator, Volume III, Book XV, pp. 179-187

A reply to a letter by a Leucothea; the letter described Leucothea's petticoat being torn by a large sword that a man was wearing; she writes:

I am a little angry with you, and so are several others of my acquaintance, that you confine all your satire to our sex, without giving a fling at the men, who, I am sure, deserve it as much to the full, if not more than we do.

and

If you are really as impartial as you would be though, you will add something of your own to make the men ashamed of appearing in a country which, thank heaven, is at present at peace within itself, as if they were in a field of battle, just going upon an engagement.

 

I own myself under an obligation to the good wishes of this correspondent; but must take the liberty to say she is guilty of some injustice in her accusation:—vanity, affectation, and all errors of that nature are infinitely less excusable in the men than in the woman, as they have so much greater opportunities than we have of knowing better.

If therefore I have directed my advice in a peculiar manner to those of my own sex, it proceeded from two reasons, first, because, as I am a woman, I am more interested in their happiness: and secondly, I had not a sufficient idea of my own capacity, to imagine, that any thing offered by a Female Censor would have so much weight with the men as is requisite to make that change in their conduct and oeconomy, which, I cannot help acknowledging, a great many of them stand in very great need of.

As to the grievance she complains of, it common observation, that in time of war the very boys in the street get on Grenadier caps, hang wooden swords by their sides, and form themselves into little Battalio’s:——Why then should she be surprized that boys of more years, but not older in their understanding, should affect to look like warriors for the Queen of Hungary, and equip themselves as much as possible after the mode of those who fight the battles of that famous German Heroine.

Many have already made a campaign in her service, and possibly it is in the ambition of others to do so, if the war continues, as in all likelihood it will, and they are now but practicing the first rudiments of fierceness, as the curtsy precedes the dance.

One of the distinguishing marks of a bad taste in either sex, is the affectation of any virtue without the attempt to practise it; for it shews that we regard only what we are thought to be, not what we really are:—a rough boisterous air is no more a proof of courage in a man, than a demure, prim look is of modesty in a woman.

These long swords, which give so much offence to Leucothea, might be, perhaps, of great service at the late Battle of Fontenoy, because each would serve his master for a crutch upon occasion; but here, at London, in my opinion, and according to my notion of dress, they are not only troublesome to others, but extremely unbecoming, because unnecessary to those that wear them.

I believe, however, that if the ladies would retrench a yard or two of those extended hoops they now wear, they would be much less liable, not only to the inconveniencies my correspondent mentions, but also to many other embarrassments one frequently beholds them in when walking the streets.

How often do the angular corners of such immense machines, as we sometimes see, though held up almost ,, to the arm-pit, catch hold of those little poles that support the numerous stalls with which this populace city abounds, and throw down, or at least indanger the whole fabrick, to the great damage of the fruiterer, fishmonger, comb and buckle-sellers, and others of those small chapmen.

Many very ugly accidents of this kind have lately happened, but I was an eye-witness from my window of one, which may serve as a warning to my sex, either to take chair or coach, or to leave their enormous hoops at home, whenever they have any occasion to go out on a Monday, or Friday, especially in the morning.

It was on one of the former of those unhappy days, that a young creature, who, I dare answer, had no occasion to leave any one at home to look after her best cloaths, came tripping by with one of those mischief-making hoops, which spread itself from the steps of my door quite to the posts placed to keep off the coaches and carts; a large flock of sheep were that instant driving to the slaughter-house, and an old ram, who was the foremost, being put out of his way by some accident, ran full-butt into the foot-way, where his horns were immediately entangled in the hoop of this fine lady, as she was holding it up on one side, as the genteel fashion is, and indeed the make of it requires:——In her fright she let it fall down which still the more encumbered him, as it fix’d upon his neck;—she attempted to run, he to disengage himself,—which neither being able to do, she shriek’d, he baa’d, the rest of the sheep echo’d the cry, and the dog, who follow’d the floack bark’d, so that altogether made a most hideous sound:—down fell the lady, unable to sustain the forcible efforts the ram made to obtain his liberty;—a crowd of mob, who were gathered in an instant, shouted. ___At last the driver, who was at a good distance behind, came up, and assisted in setting free his beast, and raising the lady; but never was finery so demolished:—The late rains had made the place so excessive dirty, that her gown and petticoat, which before were yellow, the colour so much revered in Hanover, and so much the mode in England, at present, were now most barbarously painted with a filthy brown;—her gauze cap half off her head in the scuffle, and her Tete de Mutton hanging down on one shoulder. The rude populace, instead of pitying, insulted her misfortune, and continued their shouts till she got into a chair, and was quite out of sight.

These are incidents which, I confess, are beneath the dignity of a Female Spectator to take notice of; but I was led into it by the complaint of Leucothea, and the earnestness she discovers to have her letter inserted.

It is not, however, improper to shew how even in such a trivial thing as dress, a good or bad taste may be discerned, and into what strange inconveniencies was are liable to fall by the latter.

Of this we may be certain that wherever there is an impropriety, there is a manifest want of good taste;—if we survey the works the divine Source and Origine of all Excellence, we shall find them full of an exact order and harmony,— no jostling atoms disturb the motion of each other,—every thing above, below, and about us is restrain’d. by a perfect regularity:—Let us all then endeavour to follow nature as closely as we can, even in the things which seem least to merit consideration, as well as in those which are the most allowed to demand it, and I am very sure we shall be in no danger of incurring the censure of the world, for having a bad taste.

(1745)

MLA Citation

Haywood, Eliza. “An ugly accident occasioned by a ram.” 1745. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 11 Oct 2007. 22 Nov 2017 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/haywood/ugly_accident/>.

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