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SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER.

A MAGAZINE devoted tO LITERATURE, SCIENCE AND ART.

RICHMOND, SEPTEMBER, 1859.

LETTERS OF A SPINSTER.

Concerning the Inauguration of the 50th President of the United States, and the Public Affairs of the 21st Century.

LETTER XVI.

FROM MISS JANE DELAWARE PEYTON,

much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of heaven. After sitting through the long, silent hours of night

Presently at Washington, by the pillow of some haggard and

TO MISS MARY TIBERIN BOONE,

Rasselas, Oregon,

WASHINGTON, Quarter of the Senate, }
Feb.- D.,

I do not think, My Dear M., that there can be urged a stronger argument (I mean, of course, an argumentum ad hominem, for of others there is no lack) in favour of kindness and charity to the unfortunate, and self-denial to ourselves, than is to be found in the reflection which we have all made at one time or another, that the break of day comes always to the watcher, whether the night have been spent in necessary, though unwelcome, labour, or in the sick chamber of a fellow-creature, with a sensation more refreshing and happier than when the dark hours have been wasted in feast and revel amid the glare, heat and din of a crowded assembly. The fact has often recurred to me as a practical illustration of that general truth, so often enunciated from the pulpit, yet so little attended to: so much questioned and cavilled at by optimists: so constantly admitted in every-day life and experience: which is this, that the positive character of all our enjoyments depends always upon some antecedent of suffering or of pain; or, in the words of Holy Writ, that through

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feverish sufferer, it is like a hopeful assurance of good to come, to watch the lattice becoming distinct in the outer light; to hear the first twitter of the awakening bird; to lift the casement and listen to the rustle of the trees, pranking their foliage and preparing for another visit of the sun; to taste the morning wind rising from the earth like incense; and to feel with thankfulness that joy cometh in the morning.

:

How different the sensation when the early day, with all its freshness and promise, meets us as we drive from a prolonged and giddy revel through the silent streets the dark figures of the houses just beginning to rear their half-defined outlines, like shapeless giants, upon the grey sky, while here and there a dim light moves across their surface from window to window, as the sons and daughters of toil boune themselves to their appointed tasks. Onward you roll, giddy, feverish, and envious of those who are just awakening to the new day; the rattle of the carriage wheels, beating out, with its hoarse rumble, the hum of the music which would still keep time and cadence in the whirling brain; and you shrink to your darkened chamber, half expecting to find yourself there

you

had

asleep, feeling all the while as if been robbing the blessed heaven of somewhat, and were afraid of the light.

Some such sensations were mine as I drove, yesterday, from the grand ball masquè, of which I wrote to you in my last. You will find elaborate notices of it in all the newspapers, which are about as correct and as near the reality as Fontenelle's descriptions of the inhabitants of Saturn; for these people, which the facetious Frenchman made out to be tall fellows, with yellow beards and long arms, the learned have long since proved to be nothing less than huge centipedal shell-fish, who live as men of wealth and leisure do among us, upon the clams, oysters and snails furnished ready to their hands. In judging of such festal notices, there is one general rule to be observed, which is, that those which are worst written are always the most correct-a rule which will apply about as well to every species of official writing of the present times. The truth is, that in such cases, the description of the fete is always written out some days before it takes place. The manner in the present instance having been as follows. Every king, queen, knight, princess, flower-girl or gipsey, who designed themselves for the entertainment, had sent in advance their mercer's or milliner's note or certificate, describing their several equipments and regalia, with their stature, the length of their foot, and the color of their eyes, hair or beard. These documents were addressed to the reporters of the Mercury, the Times, the Press, the World, or such one of the editorial gentry as happened, for the time being, to be in the confidence of the several debutants. At a proper season, these officials met in grand conclave, produced each his bundle of invoices, and when they had been compared, they set about to devise tableaux, invent incidents, vamp up speeches, coin bon-mots; and when the whole material had been worked and kneaded into proper consistence, the bill of the play was laid before the lady of the feast for her approval. When her sanction had been obtained, the grand bulletin, with

some few characteristic flourishes to designate the proprieties of the several journals, was sent to press in the several publication offices, so that the affair was in print before the music had ceased playing. This arrangement has the great advantage that it makes the fete, with all its incidents, consistent and certain. It has also, indirectly, a moral tendency in another direction. It prevents adventurers and people of fashion merely from leaving their tailor's, milliner's or jew eler's bills too long unpaid, or making them unproportioned to their means and

revenue.

be permanently disgraced who should That king or princess would bespeak his regalia, and get himself and his appointments properly inset in the tableaux of some favorite journalist, to whom the artist should, after all this, and at the last moment, refuse his furniture on account of an unpaid bill.

We were set down at the door of the mansion, amid a blaze of light; and though the entrance and vestibule were kept clear by a strong body of police, yet the street in the immediate vicinity was crowded with curious spectators, who, as the revelers alighted, ventured boldly at conjectures, not only of the personages, but at the characters they were best fitted to sustain. This was a good prologue to the play within, and the hits at individual peculiarities were sometimes so plain and so well put in as to produce shouts of merriment. We were received by a confidential servant transmuted for the night into a grey-bearded seneschal, with solemn step and silver wand, who scanned us in silence, received the cards containing our real and counterfeited designations, and consigned us to an usher, equipped a la Chinois, in a nankeen frock, with trowsers and peaked shoes, who marshaled us to the dressing-rooms. On our entrance here the magical design of the evening began to appear, and the real world had slipped from us altogether. The furniture of the apartments had been travestied for the occasion. The mirrors were held up by monstrous animals, winged-lions, dragons and hippogriffs. The lights issued from the mouths of serpents, ostriches, flamed

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from antique cressets, or were flaunted by fauns and bacchanals. The sofas and lounges had been transformed into huge crocodiles, seals and saurians, sphynxes, couchant leopards and hounds. The menials were the only realities in the apartment. They wore loose, puffed bodices, of a large-leaved, red and yellow pattern, concealing the bust up to the throat, leaving the arms bare from the elbow; from this depended light, close skirts, with an embroidered border, the foot gear consisting of blue stockings and red slippers. The hair was dressed close, with large, plain hoop ear-rings. They were excellently well chosen-"tended us i' the eyes, and made their bends adornings."

Here in this green-room of the playhouse, before the mask or domino had been fitted, or the character fairly put on, to which we were pledged for the evening, we exchanged civilities with our acquaintances, and as each new costume was relieved from its husk and wrappings, and came out for perusal, it was greeted with critical admiration, with applause, or with mirth, as the case required, or as the amiability of the party would permit. The great concern with the mummers was to know if there were duplicates of the same character; and while we were adjusting our own habiliments, there were developed two very excellent representatives of good Queen Bess, with high, starched ruffs, and long stays, projecting above the shoulders, like the wings of an eagle. Both the queens were stately and well equipped; but one of them being darker of hue than the other, and the auburn wig, which she wore out respect to history, suiting ill with the olive of her complexion, she, in the most perfect good humor, resigned throne and sceptre for the evening, and by help of some letting down and some trussing up, a pair of clouted shoes and a peeled poplar wand, was forthwith and amid much laughter, transmuted into a very good edition of Meg Merrilies. Here we found also an excellent semblance of Lady Macbeth, with large, ghostly eyes, thin and half open lips, watchful and merciless. She was snuffing her wax

taper, and perfuming the hand from which the imaginary spots were to be rubbed out. She wore the peculiar head gear, in which Retzsch had delineated the Lady many years since, with the folds of the drapery plaited over the forehead, giving the outline of an imperfect and unstable regal crown. By the way, what a genius the great outliner must have had? He is comparable only with the english Hogarth, and the difference between the one and the other is, that the creatures of the Englishman were, in almost every instance, exemplars of common, nay, even of the lowest life, while those of the German range through all possible forms of humanity, connecting themselves on the one hand with the celestial above, and on the other with the animal beneath. There is certainly no power or faculty belonging to our race which, when closely regarded, is so wonderful as that which makes the painter and the musician the sculptor and the poet; and there is none, the capacity for which is so decidedly born with us, or which is so palpably the result of organization and independent of culture. That a man, with a simple stick, armed only with a bit of pigment at the end of it, should be able to produce such combinations on a smooth surface of plane and curved lines, as shall represent every distinct phase of human life and passionshould, by the inflexion of an outline made instinctively, and in so delicate a curve as to defy the measurement of the highest power of the microscope, produce determined expressions of human feeling which can neither be misconstrued nor misunderstood, is surely a most wonderful endowment. Nor is the power of the artist less miraculous, who can bring from a hollow reed or a few strained wires or thrums sounds that make us deem the full choir of heaven is near! These capabilities have always seemed to me more astonishing than the powers of reason which we are so fond of referring to, as the dominant and distinguishing characteristic of our race. For which reason I always place Shakspeare, Raphael and Mozart higher than Newton, Kepler or Galileo.

Here we found ourselves among many light fancies, coming in and going outSwiss girls, Scotch Girls, Italian girls. Fenellas not mute, and Floras not yet in blossom. But, as we were nearing the door, there swept by us a majestic shade, which it will be well to describe before it fades from my remembrance. This was a nationality-a personification of the great State of New York, the Empire as she is sometimes called. The lady was tall, fully developed, and rather massive in her proportions, with a head such as we would give to the mother of Coriolanus or of the Gracchi. The face was beautiful, quiet and queenly, as if it had never encountered the disagreements which writhe and solidify the features. Over it rose a tiara, which we at first thought represented the head gear which the ancients gave to Cybele, but on a more close observation we discovered the design to be more suggestive and cognate. The circlet at the lower rim was of chased silver, over which rose in high relief, and in or-molu, a chain of alternate paddlewheels and helices, the two great movers of the sea. This was surmounted by a dark band, representing very perfectly the bulwarks of a large ship; and at the intervals, where the usual regal crown has crosses or fleurs de lis, there were mast-heads, made life-like by the stays or rigging by which they were supported. The lady wore about her neck a curious necklace of little blocks and sheaves, and above a broad zone, on which were embroidered seals, dolphins and marine productions, and in the hollow of the corsage was seen emblazoned the arms of the great State, with the modest and hopeful motto, "Excelsior." The bodice and tunic were of piled and mottled silk, the color of autumn woods. In her hand she carried a bundle, very artistically tied, of wheat-stalks, inset among tufts of fir and leaves of oak.

Leaving this imperial lady, we threaded our way towards the reception room—as we neared which there appeared, leaning on one side of the entrance, and looking alternately at the company within and those without, a gigantic ape, with a knotted stick in one of his long, lean

hands. As we started at this untoward apparition, it very courteously mopped and mowed at us, and gave us to understand in apeish dumb show that we might safely enter the apartment. An animal of similar proportion stood on the inside of the door, and, by signs and gibberish, motioned us towards a group of maskers standing near by, and who seemed to be the principal personages of the fete. As we advanced to pay our homage and salutation to this party, a suppressed and unearthly chatter from the ape behind gave notice that something was about to happen, when a slight pull on the sleeve of St. Bridget, whom you know I am to represent for the evening, made me turn suddenly, and the lady hostess stood before me. Her good-humored and really handsome face looked out from a halo of broad ruffles, such as tufted the tab capes ordinarily worn about the year seventeen hundred and something by English landladies. The corsage was that of the merry wives, Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page. The dress of common calico, very capa cious, and with an extensive train, which was drawn through the pocket holes. In front she wore a white apron, fitting close like armor-a bunch of antique keys at her girdle. Her hands were folded before her, and over each arm hung a snow white napkin. Her short courtesy and salutation of "what lacks the reverend mother?" came from her much more naturally than our studied "Pax vobiscum" and "Benedicite"-the latter being more removed from the original character. When, with a slight toss of the broad ruffles and a deep inclination towards the folded hands, our merry land-lady bade us be of good cheer and turned to receive other maskers who had already passed the apes-the pillars of Hercules to this fairy world of pleasure. We were met immediately and welcomed by the lord of the mansion, who, as all husbands ar or should be on such occasions, was quite a secondary personage, disdaining all disguise, of which he is, indeed, incapable, and giving to the pleasures of the evening only his great wealth, set off with a wealth of kindness of infinitely greater value.

We were now fairly naturalized and entitled to the privileges which our vestments denoted, and were borne onwards towards the heart of the assembly by a full tide of gay revelers. The whole of the very spacious mansion had been thrown open to the company. The courts, corridors and piazzas having been temporarily enclosed for the occasion, by light metal and canvass partitions, thus affording every variety of temperature and of light, and producing here and there nooks and cross-alleys, which had been curiously converted into grottoes or shrines, where masks might exchange gibes, confidences or explanations. The lower floor was, however, the stage for the principal persons of the drama. From these lower apartments the moveables had been gathered and arranged in the corners and recesses. The walls had been also decorated for the occasion, by bold frescoes, and hung with wreaths and tapestry. In the middle court, the floor of which is Mosaic of a large pattern, were arranged beauffets and sideboards, spread with light delicacies, fruits, ices, conserves, sherbet, wine and punch; which restoratives were administered by swarthy Nubians and Abyssinians-adebts in their mystery, and studious to please. In this apartment there had been contrived several miniature fountains, which sent up a combination of tiny jets, trained by the Engineer to represent different forest trees, of which the most successful imitations were those of the willow and the fir. These fountains not only cooled and purified the air, but kept clear the passages most likely to be crowded during the evening. Opening from this, by narrow entrances, were on one side the supper-room and on the other the saloon for dancing, where many of the gayer fictions of the evening had already been conjured into the mystic mazes of waltz, coranto and cotillion.

Into this apartment, however unsuited to our religious habit, we were not altogether unwillingly flooded, and the scene here had already approached to enchantment. The variety of costume, the fantastic character of some of the masks, and the ever fluctuating colors of the

tableaux were quite sufficient to fascinate the simple St. Bridget, who could only tell her beads to the cadences of the music, and was now perfectly aware of the charms such entertainments possess, and their power to steal away the senses of the old as well as the young. Many of those in costume wore also masks or dominoes-a resource which gives to the masker greater boldness and self-possession. So you have heard of the lawyer, afterwards so distinguished, whose first speeches in court were made from behind very dark spectacles, giving him, by this expedient, the confidence, or, I should rather say, the abstraction of a blinded horse.

The costumes were contrived with the utmost propriety and historic correctness, and generally at an immense and unnecessary expense-the mimic queens being robed in material of nearly the same value, and in some instances, I think, of even greater value than had ever fallen to the lot of their prototypes. There were a great many standard antiquitiesan Othello, whose moorship was signified by his ear-rings, although a ring in the nose, aided by all the brown unguent in the world, would have been powerless to negrofy the bold saxon outline of his features. A beautiful Titania, in a cerulean tunic, and diadem set with glowworms. A gigantic knight, in real steel armor, and a shield bearing the motto, 'Arma togis cedunt.' A Palmer, with

"His cockle hat and staff,
And his sandaled shoon."

This latter personage being, like myself, unmasked, we held brief colloquy. He told me that the cockade, for a long time, and indeed at present, a mere military or political decoration, was derived from the cockle which, in the fighting times of the Crusaders, looped up the slouched hat of the Pilgrim from Holy Land. This wicked Palmer also informed me that the beads of a rosary were originally a Mahomedan invention, used by the Dervishes, who carried coffee-berries, strung in this manner at their girdles, eating one now and then as stimulants in their long vigils, and that from this sensible origin, which in

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