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wood. Sometimes there would be a relic of the elder ages, an old dining-table, slender and glistening black with the consecutive polishing of generations, as bright as a mirror and genuine all through, in the same room which contained the catafalque, to shame it; but as like as not this delightful piece of furniture was pushed out of the way to admit a massive square table with elephantine legs, fictitious size and weight being necessary to make the art of veneering practicable. I remember a bed in those days with solemn dark-red moreen curtains drawn round it, which a wicked wit somewhat profanely called "a field to bury strangers in," seeing it was in the special guest-chamber, the "best room " of the house. Such was the aspect of the dwelling in early Victorian days.
Our houses are now a little fantastic, over-decorated, too much under the dominion of Liberty and other "artistic" embellishers. The little drawing-room of a little bride who has "taste"-fatal endowment! -is often a marvellous sight with its little draperies which have no room to be graceful, its bits of strange colour in relation with nothing else, its dados, its friezes, and all the rest. The little flat which has become fashionable is often bedizened like a Parisian bon-bon box, and more like that than anything else. But now we have beautiful stuffs of all descriptions in place of our haircloth and moreen, and if our rooms are not bright and gay, why, it is our own fault. All the monstrosities are swept away, and we could not, were we to try, find a moreen curtain for love or money. Nobody is indifferent now to the fashion of the place in which he lives. We have Indian carpets and imitations of them, silken hangings, not necessarily expensive, hanging as
an artist would choose them to hang, and furniture which, if with a proclivity towards the "quaint," is nevertheless well made, well shaped, and good to live with, almost wherever we go. If the new houses we build, especially in the country, are too palpable copies from Mr Randolph Caldecott, and our great houses too brightly, glaringly modelled on some greater Renaissance original, it is at least certain that we now fully recognise that beauty is a quality we cannot safely do without, and that Art has a right to be consulted whatever else we may do.
The happiest thing we could think of in these elder days upon which to repose our wearied limbs was a feather bed supported upon a foundation of hard straw "palliasses," such as are still to be found in oldfashioned houses. It had not yet been thought of that such a thing as hard iron made into elastic springs could make a couch more soft than the poetical bed of down. Must we, alas! confess that in the early Victorian days bath-rooms were almost non-existent, and any kind of bath an occasional luxury not to be calculated among the needs of every day? It is true, though it seems impossible. We have been reminded of what our dinnertables were by the 'Reminiscences' of Sir Algernon West. Six sidedishes on the board, that authority recalls to us, a steaming joint at top and bottom, host or hostess (or at her end of the table an unfortunate but honoured guest) working hard and hot at carvingperhaps an epergne holding sweetmeats in the centre of the table to represent ornament, not a flower visible. The recollection calls a groan from our breast-for we too well remember that dreadful state of affairs. The coming in of the diner à la Russe, and the relief and comfort of the cool and pretty
table, was, however, considered a terrible innovation, and resisted, as most improvements are. All these changes have taken place in the most familiar details of life.
Dress can scarcely have been said to be more attractive than the houses in which its owners dwelt in those days. A large square of muslin or silk folded in many folds was swathed two or three times round every man's throat, the corners of the shawl, for such it was, being tied in a straggling little knot in front; or, what was still worse, he wore a stock as stiff as iron, which was less troublesome to put on, but of a much more appalling effect. The coat was shaped like those which we all abuse as insane in their construction, the swallowtail now only known in evening dress. Insane it is, looked at in the abstract as a garment intended to cover a man's body; but there must be qualities in it, since it has borne the stress of ages and critics. But it is the dress of women and not of men which distinguishes the generations from each other. And here let us say a word for the modes of an elder time.
gestion of modesty, simplicity, a kind of virtue in apparel which was altogether new to the imagination of the costumière. Apparently the only thing that occurred to the bewildered genius of the mantuamaker as fit for this new age was the natural dress of extreme youth, a thing altering little, whatever are the fancies of the time, but for this once adapted as the mould of form. The short full skirt, the little puff of a sleeve, the little bodice shaped to the natural waist and surrounded by the primeval girdle, became the dress of the age. I dare not ask-such mysteries are beyond me
how a large and plump matron looked in this simple attire; but the young Queen, just after her accession, looked charming in it, as may be seen in her Majesty's picture, with pretty ankles visible and carefully sandalled with narrow ribbons above the little rational shoe, where there was room for all the toes and no heel to speak of. She looks as fresh as a rose, modest, simple as becomes her age. Let us hope that in these days most ladies were young. The intention, the meaning, was indeed very creditable to fashion. The impression left on one's mind was that, for once in a way, that old and battered Divinity which has presided over so many changes was overawed and struck dumb by an ideal of Innocence heretofore unknown to her, and that she gave her whole mind to the interpretation of that novel quality. Everything followed the model of this simplicity: the smooth young hair, glossy as satin, uncrimped, unfrizzed, untortured, was braided over the brow, behind or round the shell-like ear, all natural in the dazzle of youth, owing nothing to art. When not braided it might fall in ringlets supposed also to be natural, which hung on either side and half veiled
For we seem to see a kind of artless ideal in the forms of fashion in Queen Victoria's early days, which were not without their attraction, a little pathetic even, if properly considered. It was as if the happy thought of a young Queen, first to be considered in all such matters, had penetrated into the mind, if mind it can be called, of those mystic authorities who hold the female taste in fee. Fashion is not an intelligent nor highly educated spirit. It gropes its way blindly from one mode to another, and as often stumbles into as selects the variation which tells best. There came upon it, it would seem, in face of these unforeseen circumstances, a sudden sug
its part, he asks almost indignantly, in the universal song of praise?
"The crank-throws give the double bass,
the feed-pump sobs and heaves, And now the main eccentrics start their
quarrel on the sheaves;
Her time, her own appointed time, the rocking linkhead bides, Till-hear that note? the rod's return whings glimmering through the guides.
They're all awa'! true beat, full power, the clanging chorus goes, Clear to the tunnel where they sit, my purring dynamoes: Interdependence absolute, foreseen, ordained, decreed,
To work, ye'll note, at any tilt and
every rate of speed; Frae skylight lift to furnace - bars, backed, bolted, braced, and stayed, And singing like the morning stars for
joy that they are made; While out o' touch o' vanity the sweating thrust-block says, 'Not unto us the praise, or man-not unto us the praise !'
Now a' together hear them lift their lesson-theirs and mine, 'Law, order, duty, an' restraint, Obedi
Mill, forge, and try - pit taught them
that, when roarin' they arose, And whiles I wonder if a soul was gied them with the blows."
This new embodiment of life and power, this Jin, this Afreet, has been, perhaps, the greatest distinction, as it is the strongest vassal, of Queen Victoria's empire. It was not the creation of the age: it was but a feeble undeveloped creature, moving gingerly upon its few first errands, rustling with primitive paddle-wheels from one home port to another, making little runs here and there on land from one town to another, when this auspicious reign began. We were still as far from India, from America, from the ends of the
world in general, notwithstanding that we had colonies and possessions round all the circle of the Our children were conveyed inseas, as in the days of Elizabeth. deed in ships that perhaps sailed more swiftly, but were little more commodious, than those of Drake and Anson; and otherwise we were still as far away from them as when the Spanish galleons held the main and were the objects of pursuit instead of peaceful commerce and trade. The seas were brave with white sailed ships, great towers of swelling canvas, than those monsters of the deep far more graceful and beautiful with which we are so familiar now; but were we turned back again to the number and the capabilities of our navies, mercantile or national, then, Britain would be ruined, and have lost her empire of the seas. When the first steamer went away groping into the darkness of the great Atlantic, with what anxiety and wonder did all hearts beat. Would she ever reach that dim and distant shore? Would the sound of her rushing paddles and the pressure of her steam carry wonder and delight to the world of the West? or would they disappear among the icebergs and never be heard of more?
There seemed at first a kind of sanction out of the unknown to all terrors and alarms. The powers of nature rose against one at least of those strange pioneers. The President disappeared without a word into the dark, and her fate has been but conjectured, never known. This might have seemed to an earlier age a sign that heaven itself forbade such hazards: but Science, inaccessible to fear, indifferent to loss, counting human
1 Mr Kipling does his Scotch wonderfully well, as he does most things; but it should be gi'en (past participle), not gied (past tense).
life and interest no more than its iron and steel, or, perhaps, counting human interest in the longrun more important than the trifling sacrifices of to-day, never winced. And year by year this great Servant of the Queen has gone farther and farther, trampling and churning the stillest seas, marking out the most obscure seapaths, triumphing silently and steadily over every difficulty; and making our exiled children scarcely farther off from us than they would have been in the distant corners of the island when the reign began. The children of the Victorian age, now the mature men and women who carry on its business, have never known the other state of affairs. They cannot look back upon a time when the sea was silent, and no smoke on the horizon betrayed the quick-coming messenger, the punctual post, the ready service. The great Slave has been born in our household, like Abraham's steward: his feats are too familiar to cause us any surprise we confide our best to him without a fear of his fidelity. No Frankenstein, though fancy may still play with that thought and laugh at itself for the whim; but the chief servant in our father's house, the strongest and surest messenger of the Queen.
At home, the same patient Vassal, not standing upon his dignity, goes our errands night and day, stands and spins webs enough to cover the earth, beats out ever new creatures of his own kind, multiplying his race for almost every practical purpose under the sun. In 1837 the steadiest mind still doubted whether a cow astray on his lines might not wreck his going, and declared it as easy to ride to the skies on a rocket as to cross the country at the rate of twenty miles an hour. We believe
there were great searchings of heart when the young Queen first set foot at Slough on the train that was to carry her from Windsor to London. Now she confides herself, and is confided cheerfully by us, which is more to the purpose, in one which sweeps across the Continent, and sleeps as if in her bed at home, while her Servant carries her lightly towards the sunshine and the flowers.
But there is another magic henchman holding the other side of the gate of life, a being more mysterious still, invisible, inhabiting a thread, a wire not so thick as your finger. It is curious to know that this second Gnome or Afreet waited for the just moment to have its first patent made out in the name of Victoria-triumphant and symbolical name, expressive of all the victories. had been playing about the surface of the world in dazzling yet capricious glances, but rose and put itself in kindly fetters instantly, to obey the mandates of the young Queen. At first we were shy of this strange, silent, invisible Slave, and only ventured to employ him upon solemn messages, making him rather the messenger of death than of life, feeling it a sort of profanation to charge him lightly with words of little meaning, or acknowledge him as the cheerful servant of the house. When telegrams began first to fly about the world, simple folk regarded them with terror, feeling that internal conviction, which is so near to every one of us, that sorrow and trouble were the most likely things to arrive upon us thus suddenly out of the unknown. But there are few who are fluttered out of their composure now by any such familiar reason. This wonderful Agent is at once more and less impressive than his brother Genius
of Steam. His spiritual part, the swiftness, the silence, the invisibility, thrill the mind when we find ourselves by his means almost touching the hand of a friend thousands of miles away; but the tools by which he reveals himself are singularly unimpressive, and possess nothing of the tremendous material being which awes and overwhelms the mind when we see a great engine clanging, and plunging, and whirling his wheels through the daylight. It is said that the wires were twice removed from the side of the first enterprising line that set them up, because they were so ugly! Think of that among all the contented ugliness of the early Victorian age! There is more possibility of being fanciful about them now, when they stretch like a blank score of music across the sky everywhere, shrilling by times an Eolian note of their own, waiting for the music to be breathed into them, and in the meantime playing with the little birds who find a momentary repose, a sort of rest-andbe-thankful perch, high amid the airs of heaven! Now there are all sorts of whimsical and cheerful associations gathering about them. We hear sometimes of an expected birth, by a freak of time and space, before it has occurred, so to speak, and drink the health of the newborn by a clock which has not yet sounded his birth - hour on the other side of the world!
We feel half ashamed of ourselves for proclaiming these wonders. Is not this the sphere of the penny-a-liner, who daily to the listening earth proclaims the story of these triumphs, with much shedding of adjectives? It is very well to laugh at the penny-a-liner, but what can the soberest narrator do but shed adjectives also, when he has to record the wonders of a
reign which has brought forth so many? When the Queen came to the throne the world was wrapt in perennial silence, as when Columbus sailed into the unknown. Now it thrills with sound around all the spheres, and in the twinkling of an eye your friend's voice comes back, in keen or kind response, from the end of the world. Is not this something to rave about? When we were young- But you cry out, Oh, no more, please, about the Electric Telegraph; don't we know everything that can be said on that subject? It puts a girdle round the earth, &c. It brings news of the son to the mother, the husband to the wife; also of the precise moment to sell out your shares at an advantage; please, no more of it! And we submit: we are of that opinion, too, in ordinary circumstances. Can anything be so vulgar and ugly, filling the air above us and the earth beneath us with its odious wires: how careless the little clerks are at the side offices, too much taken up by their gossip to attend to you: what a bore it is to be pelted with yellow envelopes by all sort of insignificant people, explaining how they cannot dine with you (as if you ever wanted them, save for civility!), or how sorry they were not to see you when you called (a circumstance for which you yourselves gave thanks to Providence). Well! we leave this second Afreet to commend himself, as he does in almost every new combination of circumstances, to everybody's business and bosom. It would be a dark day for us all were we to be deprived of the aid of this Servant of the Queen.
Other "easements," like those which Jeanie Deans recorded gratefully on her long and terrible journey into England, have come to us along with the greater aids