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CHAPTER XXIX.

A Chapter on Hats.

We know not what will be thought of our taste in so important a matter, but we must confess we are not fond of a new hat. There is a certain insolence about it: it seems to value itself upon its finished appearance, and to presume upon our liking before we are acquainted with it. In the first place, it comes home more like a marmot or some other living creature, than a manufacture. It is boxed up, and wrapt in silver paper, and brought delicately. It is as sleek as a lap-dog. Then we are to take it out as nicely, and people are to wonder how we shall look in it. Maria twitches one this way, and Sophia that, and Caroline that, and Catharine t'other. We have the difficult task, all the while, of looking easy, till the approving votes are pronounced; our only resource (which is also difficult) being to say good things to all four; or to clap the hat upon each of their heads, and see what pretty milk-women they make. At last the approving votes are pronounced; and (provided it is fine) we may go forth. But how uneasy the sensation about the head! How unlike the old hat, to which we had become used, and which must now make way for this fop of a stranger! We might do what we liked with the former. Dust, rain, a gale of wind, a fall, a squeeze,-nothing affected it. It was a true friend, a friend for all weathers. Its appearance only was against it in everything else it was the better for wear. But if the roads or the streets are too dry, the new hat is afraid of getting dusty if there is wind, and it is not tight, it may be blown off into the dirt: we may have to scramble after it through dust or mud; just reaching it with our fingers, only to see it blown away again. And if rain comes on! Oh ye gallant apprentices, who have issued forth on a Sunday morning, with Jane or

Susan, careless either of storms at night-fall, or toils and scoldings next day! Ye, who have received new hats and boots but an hour before ye set out; and then issue forth triumphantly, the charmer by your side! She, with arm in yours, and handkerchief in hand, blushing, or eating gingerbread, trips on: ye, admiring, trudge: we ask ye, whether love itself has prevented ye from feeling a certain fearful consciousness of that crowning glory, the new and glossy hat, when the first drops of rain announce the coming of a shower! Ah, hasten, while yet it is of use to haste; ere yet the spotty horror fixes on the nap! Out with the protecting handkerchief, which, tied round the hat, and flowing off in a corner behind, shall gleam through the thickening night like a suburb comet! Trust not the tempting yawn of stable-yard or gate-way, or the impossible notion of a coach! The rain will continue; and, alas! ye are not so rich as in the morning. Hasten! or think of a new hat's becoming a rain-spout! Think of its well-built crown, its graceful and well-measured fit, the curved-up elegance of its rim, its shadowing gentility when seen in front, its arching grace over the ear when beheld sideways! Think of it also the next day! How altered, how dejected!

How changed from him,

That life of measure and that soul of rim!

Think of the paper-like change of its consistence; of its limp sadness-its confused and flattened nap, and of that polished and perfect circle, which neither brush nor hot iron shall restore !

We have here spoken of the beauties of a new hat; but abstractedly considered, they are very problematical. Fashion makes beauty for a time. Our ancestors found a grace in the cocked hats now confined to beadles, Chelsea pensioners, and coachmen. They would have laughed at our chimney-tops with a border though upon the whole we do think them the more graceful of the two. The best modern covering for the head was the imitation of the broad Spanish hat in use about thirty years back, when Mr. Stothard made his designs for the Novelist's Magazine. But in proportion as society has been put

into a bustle, our hats seem to have narrowed their dimensions: their flaps were clipped off more and more till they became a rim; and now the rim has contracted to a mere nothing; so that what with our close heads and our tight succinct mode of dress, we look as if we were intended for nothing but to dart backwards and forwards on matters of business, with as little hindrance to each other as possible.

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This may give us a greater distaste to the hat than it deserves; but good-looking or not, we know of no situation in which a new one can be said to be useful. We have seen how the case is during bad weather: but if the weather is in the finest condition possible, with neither rain nor dust, there may be a hot sunshine; and then the hat is too narrow to shade us: no great evil, it is true; but we must have our pique out against the knave, and turn him to the only account in our power :must write upon him. For every other purpose, we hold him as naught. The only place a new hat can be carried into with safety, is a church; for there is plenty of room there. There also takes place its only union of the ornamental with the useful, if so it is to be called: we allude to the preparatory ejaculation whispered into it by the genteel worshipper, before he turns round and makes a bow to Mr. and Mrs. Jones and the Miss Thompsons. There is a formula for this occasion; and doubtless it is often used, to say nothing of extempore effusions: but there are wicked imaginations, who suspect that instead of devouter whisperings, the communer with his lining sometimes ejaculates no more than Swallow, St. James's-street; or, Augarde and Spain, Hatters, No. 51, Oxford-street, London:-after which he draws up his head with infinite gravity and preparation, and makes the gentle recognitions aforesaid.

But wherever there is a crowd, the new hat is worse than useless. It is a pity that the general retrenchment of people's finances did away with the flat opera hat, which was a very sensible thing. The round one is only in the way. The matting over the floor of the Opera does not hinder it from getting dusty; not to mention its chance of a kick from the inconsiderate. But from the pit of the other theatres, you may bring it away covered with sawdust, or rubbed up all the wrong way of the

nap, or monstrously squeezed into a shapeless lump. The least thing to be expected in a pressure, is a great poke in its side like a sunken cheek.

Boating is a mortal enemy to new hats. A shower has you fast in a common boat; or a sail-line, or an inexperienced oar, may knock the hat off: and then fancy it tilting over the water with the tide, soaked all the while beyond redemption, and escaping from the tips of your outstretched fingers, while you ought all to be pulling the contrary way home.

But of all wrong boxes for a new hat, avoid a mail-coach. If you keep it on, you will begin nodding perhaps at midnight, and then it goes jamming against the side of the coach, to the equal misery of its nap and your own. If you take it off, where is its refuge? Will the clergyman take the least heed of it, who is snoring comfortably in one corner in his night-cap? Or will the farmer, jolting about inexorably? Or the regular traveller, who, in his fur-cap and infinite knowledge of highway conveniences, has already beheld it with contempt? Or the old market-woman, whom it is in vain to request to be tender? Or the young damsel, who wonders how you can think of sleeping in such a thing? In the morning you suddenly miss your hat, and ask after it with trepidation. The traveller smiles. They all move their legs, but know nothing of it; till the marketwoman exclaims, "Deary me! Well-lord, only think! A hat is it, sir? Why I do believe,-but I'm sure I never thought o' such a thing more than the child unborn,—that it must be a hat then which I took for a pan I've been a buying; and so I've had my warm foot in it, Lord help us, ever since five o'clock this blessed morning!"

It is but fair to add, that we happen to have an educated antipathy to the hat. At our school no hats were worn, and the cap is too small to be a substitute. Its only use is to astonish the old ladies in the street, who wonder how so small a thing can be kept on; and to this end we used to rub it into the back or side of the head, where it hung like a worsted wonder. It is after the fashion of Catharine's cap in the play: it seems as if

Moulded on a porringer;

Why, 'tis a cockle, or a walnut-shell,

A knack, a toy, a trick, a baby's cap;

A custard coffin, a bauble.

But we may not add

I love thee well, in that thou likest it not;

Ill befall us, if we ever dislike anything about thee, old nurse of our childhood! How independent of the weather used we to feel in our old friar's dress,—our thick shoes, yellow worsted stockings, and coarse long coat or gown! Our cap was oftener in our hand than on our head, let the weather be what it would. We felt a pride as well as pleasure, when everybody else was hurrying through the streets, in receiving the full summer showers with uncovered poll, sleeking our glad hair like the feathers of a bird.

It must be said for hats in general, that they are a very ancient part of dress, perhaps the most ancient; for a negro, who has nothing else upon him, sometimes finds it necessary to guard off the sun with a hat of leaves or straw. The Chinese, who carry their records farther back than any other people, are a hatted race, both narrow-brimmed and broad. We are apt to think of the Greeks as a bare-headed people; and they liked to be so; but they had hats for journeying in, such as may be seen on the statues of Mercury, who was the god of travellers. They were large and flapped, and were sometimes fastened round under the chin like a lady's bonnet. The Eastern nations generally wore turbans, and do still, with the exception of the Persians, who have exchanged them for large conical caps of felt. The Romans copied the Greeks in their dress, as in everything else; but the poorer orders wore a cap like their boasted Phrygian ancestors, resembling the one which the reader may see about the streets upon the bust of Canova's Paris. The others would put their robes about their heads, upon occasion,after the fashion of the hoods of the middle ages, and of the cloth head-dresses which we see in the portraits of Dante and Petrarch. Of a similar mode are the draperies on the heads of our old Plantagenet kings and of Chaucer. The velvet cap which succeeded, appears to have come from Italy, as seen in

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