Early Writing in Canada
Love a La Mode
30th Apr 2014Posted in: Early Writing in Canada 0

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“LOVE, A LA MODE:”
A SLIGHT SLAP AT
THE NEAT LITTLE ELOPEMENT,
AT TORONTO.
A VERY MORAL DISSERTATION.


“My verdict for the White Rose side.”—Shakspeare.


LONDON, CANADA WEST:


1863.
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PART I.


AN EPISTLE
FROM THE
FAIR MARY ANNE,
TO HER
AUNT IN THE COUNTRY.
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LOVE, A LA MODE.


Upper Tendom is thrilled by a wondrous commotion,
     The flutter of gossip and scandal is heard;
“Sweet sixteen” is seized with a trembling emotion,
     A wail greets the downfall of Fashion’s gay bird!
Dear Aunty, the Captain who often I spoke of
     In letters to you as being such a sweet creature—
     A model of neatness, good manners and rank,
(Though I changed my opinion so soon as he broke off [unnumbered page] 
     The little flirtation which he and I had,
     For I hate to make love just to suit a man’s prank;
In fact I’d have died had it been a civilian—
His position the highest—his fortune—a million!)
     Well—to cut matters short—the Captain has cleared
     With a simpering female, just on eighteen—
An heiress—no beauty—a passable lass,
Just fit for—allow the expression—AN ASS!
     The Captain—I formerly told you—was feared
     By his comrades in arms and his rivals in love.
The Ensigns were “no where”—Lieutenants were naught— [page 4] 
With eloquent missiles the Conqueror fought,
     Using no fists as a weapon of war,
(In this plebean manner no gentleman fights;)
     And the Captain one evening thus candidly swore,
He believed in retreating on very dark nights,
     As muscular feats were a terrible bore!

The first night on which Sassey whilst here met Miss Lavish,
I was sitting quite near them at Tallowhide’s ball;
     The Captain was full of soft whispers and graces;
      (I could fathom this matter by watching their faces)— [page 5]
His conduct was exquisite, tender, and knavish,
     And I heard with my own ears, the saucy girl call
     Him the handsomest man she had seen at the ball
I blushed for my dignity—this to his face!
Sufficient to herald eternal disgrace!
     He grew bolder, caressing her hand in his own,
     And whispered, “I’ll give you my heart as a loan,
To see how you’ll keep it;” while she in return
Said—“I’ll keep it forever;” I felt my cheeks burn!
At that moment the gallant young Captain Allears
     Tripped up to implore me to dance the next sett, [page 6] 
Or he’d “dwown all the guests in the room with his te-ahs”—
     I consented, and left the poor Captain in net!

I know, dearest Aunty, that temptation oft
Lingers where melody, soothing and soft,
     Floats on the ear with a trembling bliss,
And sound of rich gaiety, pleasure and joy,
Combine to make earth appear free from alloy.
I know that the pale stars of Heaven have power,
     A strange magic strength to allure us to love; [page 7] 
To make us believe life a fair blooming flower
     As sacred and pure as the glories above!
And thus in surveying those forms in that room
All my rapture of soul passed away into gloom.
So very mysterious—so very—well, you see,
If I go on to describe—it will answer to jealousy!
Well, resuming my seat with an air of fatigue,
I could not but notice the Captain and she
Who sat by his side; for they both seemed to be
Equally smitten and equally sure
That the ripening passion would always endure. [page 8] 
A number of eyes were inspecting them now,
     And I noticed old ladies—yes, those who had daughters,
     Gaze on the two with such very strange looks,
That I inwardly blushed; though the Captain’s calm brow
Retained its composure—his whiskers and hair
Presenting the self-same immaculate air—
As he leant with soft confidence over her chair,
     Conversing on flowers, foreign countries, and books.
Just then Mrs. Peachblossom said to a neighbor,
“The Captain don’t seem to grow tired of labor—
He’ll retain that girl’s heart in his faithless possession [page 9] 
Until it’s convenient to seek for a fresh one.”
Her friends on the left appeared very much pleased,
And Mrs. P.’s satire each minute increased;
Indeed I considered it almost a miracle
That the dropsical lady did not grow hysterical.
This continued without intermission, until I
Concluded that Mrs. P.’s language was silly;
So when Captain Allears laid claim to my hand
I gladly forsook this gossiping band. 

Shall I tell you of all the gay drives and soft meetings
     Which followed the night of the glorious ball? [page 10] 
Shall I tell of the tender significant greetings—
     The coy invitations—the hour to call?
Shall I tell of the missives—exchanging of pictures—
How hearts in return appeared permanent fixtures?
Shall I tell how the dandies and belles of the city
Gazed on the flirtation with well-assumed pity;
How Miss Gayboots expressed herself wholly disgusted,
And vowed that till then she had never mistrusted
The rich Captain’s honor, or question’d his right
To mingle in circles as high as polite! [page 11]

Every one wonder’d—a good many sneer’d,
     The ladies indignantly turned up their noses—
     Or pouted their lips to the size of spring roses;
The “subjects,” however, would drive and would talk
     Though the whole of creation had been at their heels;
They went to the Theatre, flirted and danced
     From the giddiest waltz to the gayest of reels—
Nature herself was amazed—and entranced
With the festive young couple who never appeared
To notice sly whispers or pay much attention
To stories of scandal unworthy of mention. [page 12]

Dear Aunty, its really a matter for wonder
     That those who lay claim to be leaders of fashion
Should glory in pulling good manners asunder,
     Encouraging those who spread gossip and scandal
     Instead of contemning and laying the lash on!
I truly believe that more evil finds vent
     From the mouths of the “upper-ten”—those who can cook
     The vilest sensations by means of a look;
Whose minds, by their living, are easily bent
     To favor the cause which seems the safest to handle.
Those gold-blinded hypocrites—puff’d with pretence—
     Their very high standard, importance, and pow’r, [page 13] 
Who scorn the true principle moulded by sense,
     And nip honor’s bud ere it blooms to a flower.

There’s Flora Macfarlane, society’s belle—
     Caressed by the fashion and “ton” of the city
Whose dresses and rings, and frivoltytell
     So much in her favor; she’s clever and witty
And judges esteem her decidedly pretty;
Still no one is really in love with Miss Flora,
She numbers admirers; no special adorer
Is found at her shrine, for that cold selfish heart
Knows not the true rapture which love may impart.
No story of gossip is lost on her ear; [page 14] 
No rumor which she in her rounds will not hear,
For she lives to spread scandal’s most pertinent curse,
By the strength of her tongue and the strings of her purse.
Who could tell by the clasp of that hand the deceit,
     The falsehood of life, and the sin and the pride?
Who could pierce through that smile to the heart’s deep retreat;
     And fathom the follies that therein abide?
Who could tell by the frank and dispassionate air—
     The delicate carriage—the beautiful face—
That the flame of true virtue had vanished from there,
     And the soul was not perfect in Heavenly grace? [page 15] 
Ah! few know that only the classical form
     In redolent calmness remains to be seen;
The angelic mind could not brave the world’s storm,
     And emerge from temptation in beauty serene:—
And the tottering beggar who stoops to receive
     The alms which Miss Flora is pleased to bestow,
Looks up and in rapture, can scarcely believe, 
     That a being so beautiful lingers below.
Thus from the highest to lowest, the world can deceive
     By an exquisite form and a dazzling show. [page 16]

I know you will smile at my earnest address,
Which startles myself—this I freely confess—
Though it is not the cant of a crusty old maid,
Whom society’s mandate has cast in the shade;
Nor is it the grumbling epistle which burns,
With sentences moulded in passion or spleen;
Cringingly servile and bitter by turns,
For whatever I pen, dearest Aunty, I mean.
Society’s manners are easiest reformed
By those whom its roseate pleasures have warned,
Who, possessing an infinite knowledge and skill,
Can prune these shortcomings and follies at will! [page 17] 
Well, leaving the failings of Fashion at large,
And giving her vot’ries an honest discharge,
Allow me to turn to the primitive cause
Of my virtuous discourse on Etiquette’s laws.
The Queen City was thunder-struck—Gossip now told,
How the maiden had flown with the Captain so bold;
How that delicate girl, without license or bann,
Had eloped with a dashing and wealthy young man. [page 18]

The milliner’s stared; they had scented afar,
The day when Toronto’s most promising star,
Would prepare for a bridal—and then, with success,
Their plebeian fingers would fashion her dress;
And the tailors, in sorrow, droop’d over work,
     The dreams of the future transform’d into mist;
The elopement produced the ninth part of a jerk
At their heart-strings—the poor fellows couldn’t resist,
A few imprecations on one who would thrust ‘em
Away from his door to give Yankees his custom:
And the jewellers too—those artists of gold, [page 19] 
     Shook their heads in despair—for their wisdom had built,
     The most wonderful castles in diamond and gilt,
But instead of selling—the dealers were sold.

Now, there’s no earthly reason why I should relate,
All that Scandal and Gossip were ready to tell;
The man and the maiden had chosen their fate
In the hour of temptation, and—human-like—fell!
It is not for mortals to centre the blame
On one or the other; the venomous flame [page 20] 
Of sin has left furrows and scars on each heart,
Which are moulded by Error—though hidden by Art!
Still, I feel no compassion for one who would dare
     To subject her sex to a blot of disgrace;
Who’d allow the eighth part of a dandified stare,
     Without teaching the lord of Creation his place!
“Woman’s Rights” in the social scale need much reform,
     And, though not a Bloomer, I know just the line,
     Over which a brazen-faced being may breathe;
And I find that where plumage appears to be fine,
     There often dwells something suspicious beneath— [page 21]
And the longer the face and graver the eye, 
     In man or in woman, but makes me thus feel,
     That the Demon of Humbug is burning to steal
Humanity’s Right, by acting a lie. 

Dear Aunty, I know you will deem this discourse,
     Not exactly the thing for a girl of my age—
And doubtless be somewhat amazed at the force,
     Of your dainty young niece in the garb of a sage,
But, believe me, I realize Fashion’s mistake, [page 22] 
     In turning her smiles from the laboring poor,
Whilst the wealthy and proud by the hand she will take,
     And, forgetting their sins, lead them in at her door;
Where a calm rosy sweetness steals into the heart,
     And bloom and soft murmurs wreathe garlands of bliss,
Where poesy’s charm, and the painter’s soft art, 
     Combine to cast beauty o’er Fashion’s abyss!
Where the passions are roused by this dream of delight,
     And a thrill of temptation burns into the heart,
While the senses of Reason, and Honor, and Right,
     In a flood of treacherous pleasure depart! [page 23] 
Now I’ve done for to-night, dearest Aunty, and close
     With a hope that you’ll answer this gossiping letter,
By something whose wisdom will give me repose,
     And make us poor mortals seem wiser and better.
Love in your days, dear Aunty, was somewhat the same,
Though a little platonic—and rather too tame;
But this present feature from Cupid’s abode,
Keeps up with the standard of “LOVE, A LA MODE.” [page 24]

AUNTY’S REPLY

TO THE

FAIR MARY ANNE.

 

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MY DEAR MARY ANNE, with a thrill of delight,
I read your most welcome epistle last night, 
     For there I could see that the lessons I taught
You in youth had not faded beneath Fashion’s glow;
That your mind was not made up of tinsel or show,
     And against the world’s follies had skillfully fought!

You cannot imagine my sorrow to hear,
     The false step which your friend Miss Lavish has taken—
     A step which most bitter regret will awaken,
          And one which true virtue would fearlessly spurn. [page 27] 
To be sure, the temptation, to one whose young heart,
     Was weak from its very simplicity—came 
In the form of staunch manhood, and acted a part
     With the hypocrite’s smile and in friendship’s pure name!
Still, in days of fast stories—fast mothers and schools,
Amongst girls of eighteen there are very few fools; 
And I’m prone to believe that a maiden with sense
To make love to a man—is her own best defence—
If she wishes to baffle his skill and his art,
The battery lies in her brain and her heart. [page 28]

Alas, for the world! Nature’s model has gone,
And the Children of Fashion create a new dawn! 
The science of flirting is driven to grief, 
And sentiment utters a sigh for relief;
The Poets—those blazing supporters of youth—
     Are robbed of each fiery sentence to give
Expression to feelings dictated, forsooth,
     By a whimsical passion, whose strength cannot live,
But exists on the beauties and sweets which environ
The thoughts of proud songsters like Shelley or Byron!
A wonderful virtue exists in the form
Of her Majesty’s servant’s;—the ladies believe
     Them the pink perfection—while each one is keen [page 29] 
     To net the sharp victim, who laughs in his sleeve
At the racy young maiden, grown reckless and bold
In order to share his position and gold!
And I declare, for everyone must know’t,
That all this virtue lies in the red coat.
His simplest “hum” or “haw” may echo flat,
The Queen’s commission counteracts all that;
And half the daughters of a Christian nation,
Forget the fool whilst worshipping his station;
Beaming their honey’d smiles—enough to kill a 
Common man—but not a trained Gorilla!
Now dear Mary Anne you must not detest [page 30]
Philosophical discourse—for, doing my best
I cannot resist putting in a sly word,
Whilst viewing the “downfall of Fashion’s gay bird.”
I was once, like yourself, very foolish and giddy,
For flirting or dancing—eternally ready;
And, indeed, to be candid, was rather too partial,
To anything scarlet—I mean anything martial.
However, I learned in the days of my youth,
To be guided by principle, justice, and truth,
And—keenly observing—I declare, to my knowledge,
There are men cooped in Barracks who should be at College.
Commissioned to shew how an army’s arrayed— [page 31] 
Pomaded and plastered for Ball-room parade; 
Full of soft nonsense—devoid of meaning,
And spouting the English which sadly needs cleaning.
In short, they imagine their fame so prodigious,
That they would not for worlds be considered religious:
Their creed is summed up in a few words like these—
“Who flatters the highest is surest to please;”
And she who can gabble—wear hoops and a bodice,
Is made to esteem herself more than a goddess,
And this by a spooney young sprig out of place,
Whose fortune consists of the brass on his face! [page 32] 
Yet this bitter-sweet model, ‘twixt hum, haw, and stutter,
By his simplest advances makes woman’s heart flutter!
Take for instance the life of a modernized Miss,
Whose course appears one of unparalleled bliss;
Her mind stored with gems from the words of romance,
Whilst “exclusive circles” these rare gifts enhance—;
The rules of “her own sex” are strict in their aim
Of teaching the worth of position and fame;
In leading the mind to a climax of pride,
And seething the heart with a burning desire—
Till virtuous love is no longer the guide— [page 33] 
And the victim’s ambition mounts higher and higher,
While the beams of pure womanhood meekly expire.

‘Tis true that the “Upper-ten” open the way
     To sins which the poor are unable to know,
That their hearts are too prone passion’s voice to obey
     And that souls are seduced by their splendor and show;
But withal this hard-hitting at Fashion’s gay throng
     There is one class of people who seldom receive
A proper reward for the sins and the wrong
Which their vile impositions so often achieve:—[page 34] 
I allude to the class which the varying wheel
     Of fortune has lifted above their estate—
Who too stupid to know, and too selfish to feel,
     Are seduced by the charms of position and state,
As they come from the garret, or out of the hovel,
To be fann’d whilst they read the last sensation novel,
To tread on soft carpets and loll at their ease,
And gratify fancies too num’rous to please.
For as pride and ambition grow daily immense
They’d rule all the world—if endowed with the sense;
And seek by attractions of money and dress
To win the soft solace of Fashion’s caress!
With envious passions traducing the one [page 35] 
Whose form does not bask in “Society’s” sun;
And first to lend cunning and crafty support
     To the slanderous tale and the libellous sneer,
If breathed by the “circles” whose pleasures they court,
     With an eloquent smile and a cowardly fear.
By these the fair banners of union and trust
Are dragged to the earth till they trail in the dust,
And the virulent poison of worldly deceit 
Proves Honor a shadow and Fashion a cheat. [page 36]

But my pen is not trimmed for much writing to night,
Through the heavens are brilliant with beauty and light;
And Nature still breathes of a calmer abode
When the soul passes safely o’er life’s thorny road:
And the langour, and sorrow, and trouble of earth
Glide calmly through death to a purified birth,
Where the flutter of fashion, and scandal and sin
Are unknown to the spirits who enter therein.
And the burning temptation and passionate wiles
Of earth pass away in contentment and smiles;
Not a vision of terror glides over the heart,
     Not a dream which could mar the perfection of love, [page 37] 
Not a feature is glossed by the radiance of Art—
All is Nature, as viewed in the regions above!
There the tinsel, and humbug, and power of gold, 
And the cant of the hypocrite fail in their aim;
No position by trickster’s is bartered or sold,
But the rich and the poor are considered the same:
And the weight of the heart and the truth of the soul
Are passports to Heaven’s most purified goal;
And the cant of the world and the scandalous lie
In throes of deep anguish and misery die.
Whilst those who have turned from the virtuous course [page 38] 
Of life, are left wailing in bitter remorse,
And a mandate from Heaven can only release
The Destroyer of Innocent Graces and Peace!
And thus whilst we feel all humanity’s woes,
In the dim dreary midnight one kindly beam glows;
And the downfall of Fashion, and follies of youth
Convince us of Heaven’s most glorious Truth—
That Happiness, Safety, and Pleasure are found
By those whom the laurels of Virtue surround:
God grant then that mortals may seek the true road,
And shun the vile meshes of LOVE, A LA MODE! [page 39]
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