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THE HANDSOME CLEAR.STARCHER.
A LEGEND OF THE DAYS OF QUEEN ELIZABETH.
We talk of the Goddcss of Fashion; but where
Has her Goddesship deigned to be seen?
Though her taste is consulted cach day by the fair,
While men of all ages admiringly stare ?-
She can be no one else than The Queen.
So at least it was erst, When Eliza the Great
Of our isle was the pride and the pet;
For though dress form’d small part of her right royal state,
And she valued alike her proud foes' love and hate,
She was once pleased a fashion to set.
Her sole reason for choosing was what ladics give,
Twas her pleasure, and that was enough.
But when once it was seen, none without it could live,
Twould have been all the same if it were coarse as a sieve,
But the “set” was a fine stiffen'd ruff.
Twas a sort of a “chevaur-de-frise".looking thing,
Such as still in her portrait is drawn,
Encircling her neck in an odd zig-zag ring;
And the model, perhaps, was a church.cherub's wing,
Though twas form’d of crape, muslin or lawn.
Or of gossamer, gause, tissue, leno, blonde, lace,
If such elegant names were then known
For those air-woven textures that aye find a placo
In the toilet of beauty, and still add a grace
When with taste they o'er beauties are thrown.
But in those days no throwing was ever allowed,
Négligées" wer'n't admitted at court;
Where, stately and formal, the fair well-drest crowd
Moved rustling like peacocks or turkeys so proud,
And look'd even demure at their sport.
Somo wore gowns thickly broider'd like garlands of May;
All wore stomachers hard as a shield,
Standing upright and stiff, as in martial array,
Of the march of clear-starching it then was the day,
And all else but the face was conceal'd.
But the ruff! the white, well stiffen'd, well clear-starch'd ruff
More than lace, silh, er velvet was prized.
" Its edges,” they said, “ like a saw should be rough ;"
And slanderers declare they their handmaids would cuff
If it was not well starch’d, gumm’d, or sized.
Tis a pity when ladies so pretty allow
Themselves to fall into a pet,
And in their own boudoirs to “kick up a row,"
About things they're to wear, with thc what, where, or how.
Anger ne'er made a maid pretty yet.
But, alas! in those days some few fair ones were frail,
And their tempers would sometimes rebel :
Though perhaps the great breakfasts of beef-steaks and ale*
Might have heated the blood of the maid of our tale,
And caused what we've now got to tell. * The following is an extract from an order of King Henry the Eighth for a daily allowance to a maid of honour in 1522.
• First. Every morning at brekefast oon chyne of beyf at our kechyn, oon chete loff and oon maúnchet at our pantrye barr, and a galone of ale at our buttrye berr.
Her name we don't mention, because it may chance
That she yet hath relations at court:
Sufficc it, her beauty was such as romance
For all heroines claims,—she could sing, play, and danco
A merveille,-but to dress was her forte,
Or say rather her foible ; so when ruffs came in,
And good starch rose uncommonly high,
She assured her clear-starcher she cared not a pin
For the price, but her ruffs must be stiff as block-tin ;
And the clear-starcher said she would try.
So her ruffs were well starch'd, dried, and starch'd o'cr again.
And both cold and hot-ironed and prest,
And plaited, et cetera ;-but all was in vain,
For she spake naughty words, and declared it was plain
Her “artiste" was a fool like the rost.
Then she tried many others; but all fail'd alike
This most whimsical fair one to please.
Some pleaded their work-folks had "struck up a strikc;"
Some swore that the ruff's' points were stiff as a pike :
She declared they were soft as boil'd peas.
She was sadly provoked, and yet dared not rebel
Against fashion's impcrious decree;
So when next her handmaiden desired her to tell
Where her ruffs should be sent, she cried, “ Send them to h-
And the d—I may starch them for me!"
These were very bad words to escape from the lips
Of a lady so handsome and young.
But when passion's our tyrant, morality trips,
While the tempter keeps watch for such sad naughty slips
As our maiden had made with her tongue.
And scarce had she spoken, when suddenly came
An odd sort of “Rat! tat!" at tcr door.
Twas not loud enough quite for a lord or a damc,
Nor yet for her tradesfolk sufficiently tame.
She had ne'er heard such knocking before.
And of course she felt curious to know what it meant,
So her handmaid immediately ran
To the window; and when o'er the casement she'd leant,
Exclaim'd, with an air of exceeding content,
“ A rernarkably handsome young inan!"
The young man, when shewn up, bow'd and smiled with much grace,
And soon, whispering, ventured to say,
“Gentle lady, excuse me, but such is my case
That indeed we must be quite alonc face to face.
Do, pray, send your handmaiden away!"
Some signal, no doubt often practiced before,
Caused her maid through the doorway to glide,
While the lady, embarrass'd, look'd down on the floor,
And blush'd, perhaps, for a moment, and when that was o'er,
Found the handsome young man at her side.
“ Item. At dyner a pese of beyi, a stroke of roste, and a reward at our said kechyn, a caste of chete brede at our panatyre barr, and a galone of ale at our buttry: barr.
Item. At afternoone a maunchet of brede at our panatrye barr, and a half a ga. lone of ale at out buttrye barr.
Item. At supper a messe of pottage, a pesc of mutten, and a reward at our said kechyn, a cast of chete brede at our panatrye, and a galone of ale at our buttrye.
Item. At after supper a chete loff, and a maunchet at our panatrye barr, and half a galone of ale at our seller barr.
The fine figure and face of that singular beau
All comparisons scem'd to defy;
And his dress at all points was completely "the go,"
Yet there still was a something not quite "comme il faut"
In the sly wicked glance of his eye.
But his manner was humble, and silvery the tone
Of his voice, as, in euphonic strain,
He said, “Pride of the palace! well worthy the throne !
If legitimate claim were with beauty alone,
All your rivals, pretensions were vain !"
Then, as then was the mode, he the lady compared
To the sun, moon, and stars, and their light:
Nor the heathen mythology's goddesses sparcd.
Any maiden of our modest days would have stared,
And some perhaps have run off in a fright. But she listen'd, and aye as the flatterer spake
Smiled and gracefully flirted her fan,
And much wondering what end to his speech he would make,
Sigh'd and thought, “Though I fear he's a bit of a rake,
He is really a charming young man!"
The gallant's peroration at length took a turn
That appear'd a most singular whim;
He found fault with her ruff, and declared he could carn
Her applause, since he'd travelled clear starching to learn,
If she would but entrust one with him.
The request was a strange one.
Yct wherefore refuse ? • Well,-pray take one!" she said with a laugh. “Do your best. It may serve your waste time to amuse. But it's really so odd! Have you learnt to black shoc3
In your travels ? or dye an old scarf ?” “I have learn'd many things,” was the stranger's reply,
“ And you'll soon find I know quite enough
To fulfil your commission, for certainly I
Can hotpress, et cetera ; and so, now, good b'ye,
Till I come back again with your ruff.”
The next drawing-room day our fair maiden began
Her court toilet; but all went so-so.
“Ugh!" she cried, “ I'm quite frightful, do all that I can !
There' nothing so fickle and faithless as man!
What's become of my clear-starching beau ?”
“Ah! my lady!” said Abigail, plastering her hair,
" That young fellow has play'd you a trick, And stole But her mistress cried, “ Phoo! I don't care! If I could get but only one ruff fit to wear,
I would don it, though brought by Old Nick.”
There's a proverb that says, “ If you speak of some folks
They are sure very soon to appear.”
And while Abigail call'd the beau's visit a hoax,
And his clear-starching one of young gentlemen's jokes,
His odd Rat! tat” proclaim'd he was near.
“ Then he has not deceived me!" the lady exclaim'd,
“Why don't some of 'em answer the door ? To doubt of his honour you're much to be blamed. But I can't see him thus! I should feel quite ashamed.
He must wait till I'm drest. What a bore !"
“Tako this box to your mistress, and make my respects,"
Said the starcher as fierce as a Don,
While he strode down the hall, “and observe she neglects
Not to put on the ruff as my paper directs,
And I'll settle the plaits when tis on.”
What that paper contained is a mystery still,
Since the chronicles only disclosc
That she said his request she would strictly fulfil,
And then smiling, exclaim'd, “What a moderate bill?
Well, he must see all right, I suppose.”
Thon-her toilet completed-her pride was immensc.
Twas “a love of a ruff!" she declared,
As it compass'd her neck with its firm triplc fonce.
Her sole feeling was self-admiration intense,
While her handmaid admiringly stared;
And then cried, “La! I never saw nothing so nice:
What a clever young man that must bo!
I suppose, though, he'll charge an extravagant price?"
“No,” her lady replied, “twas a cunning device!
And he's no common tradesman, you'll see.
“The fact is, that he mention'd his charge and you know
That I've now no engagement at hand.
At least nothing-quite serious--or likely—and so-
After all-what's a kiss from a handsome young beau ?
Well—be silent-you now understand.
“When he comes to inspect that my ruff sets all well,
Just step out for a minute or two; Not mueh longer, because there's a proverb folks tell, "Give some people an inch and they'll soon take an ell.'
“I wish, Miss," said her maid, “I was you." Then with looks so demure as might Cerberus bilk,
The young gentleman bow'd himself in.
His dress was embroider'd rich velvet and silk,
His point-lace and kid-gloves were as white as new milk,
And jet-black was the tust on his chin.
“Faircst lady!” he said, “may I venture to hope
That you deign to approve of my work ?
This I'll venture to say, that such elear-starch and soap
Never stiffen'd a collar for queen, king, or pope,
Nor his most sublime-porte-ship, the Turk.”
“And I've got,” here he smiled, "a particular way
Which I'll show you, of finishing off.
Just allow me! Phoo-nonsense! You promised to pay"
But the lady drew back, frown'd, and said, “Not now, pray!"
And sent Abigail out by a cough.
All that afterward happen'd is dingy as night,
Though her maiden, as maids would of old,
Peep'd and listen'd, at first with a curious delight,
Then grew anxious,—and then was thrown into a fright.
And this was the story sho told.
She declared that the beau boasted his wonderful knack
Of full-dressing for banquet and ball;
And that, presently after she heard a loud smack,
And immediately after a much louder crack;
Then a shriek that was louder than all.
To her mistress' aid she accordingly ran,
Wondering much what the matter could be ;
Sincc a simple salutc from a handsome young man
Never caused such an uproar since kissing began.
But no mistress nor bcau could shc scc!
Both were gone! where and how it was fcarful to gucse,
As a sulphurcous odour remain'd,
While thick smoke still obscured the bay.window's rcccss,
And with burnt hoof-like marks, and a cindery mcss,
The best carpet was shockingly stain'd.
What occurr'd at thc window thc smokc might conccal,
Though the maid osten vowed that she saw
What was horrid enough all her blood to congeal,
A long black thing that twisted about like an eel,
And the tips of two horns, and a claw.,
But more certain it is, from that day nc'er again
Did that lady at court reappcar,
Nor amid the beau monde. All inquiries were vain.
So though how they eloped must a mystery remain,
What the clear-starcher was, secm'd too clear.
Now, ye ladies of England ! young, charming, and fair!
Pray be warn’d by this maiden's sad fate!
And whatever strange beaux, gay and handsome, may dare
To approach you with flattering speeches, bcware
Lest their falsehood you rue when too late.
Above all, while your hearts are warm, tender, and young,
Lct no art of the tempter prevail
To extort a rash promise ; since slips of the tongue
O'er fair prospects have often a gloomy veil flung,
And caused ladies' disasters in rhymes to be strung,
As hath chanced to the maid of our tale.
An! why thosc piteous sounds of woe,
Lone Wanderer of the dreary night ?
Thy gushing tears in torrents flow,
Thy bosom pants in wild affright!
And Thou, within whose iron breast
Those frowns austere too truly tell
Mild Pity, heaven.descended guest,
Hath never, never deigned to dwell.
That rude, uncivil touch forego,
Stern despot of a flceting hour!
Nor “ make the angels weep" to know
The fond " fantastic tricks" of power!
Know'st thou not “mercy is not strain'd,
But droppeth as the gentle dew,"
And while it blesseth him who gain'd,
It blesseth him who gave it too ?
Say what art thou ?-and what is he,
Ďale victim of despair and pain,
Whose streaming eyes and bended knee
Sue to thee thus--and sue in vain ?
Cold, callous man!-he scorns to yield,
Or aught relax his felon gripe,
But answers—“ I'm Inspector Field S
And this here Warmint's prigg'd your wipe in