Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/550

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532
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

magnificence in male attire and the development of feminine finery among civilized races, is more interesting to the zoölogist, the anthropologist, or the moral philosopher.

To the first of these it is a perplexing departure from the scheme of Nature, where it is a rule that any marked difference between the sexes confers greater splendor upon the male. The peacock and peahen, the lion and lioness, the stag and the hind, are common examples of a principle which, among the higher animals, finds its only exception among certain falcons.

As for our moral philosopher, his opinion does not count for much in matters of dress, or its substitute—tattooing. He probably wears a shocking bad hat, with marks of ancient rain-drops, which, like those on the Corncockle flags in the New Red Sandstone, having once been allowed to dry, are practically indelible. His umbrella is robust enough to shelter three abreast, but, honest man, he had left it in the stand at the British Museum, or his mind was too busy with a complicated train of thought to allow him to put it up at the right moment. His theory of feminine dress finds no favor with the wife of his bosom or his daughters; they bewilder him by the mutability of their fashions, for no sooner has he found a parallel in dress-improvers to the worship of Venus Callipyge, than lo! they have melted away, and an unaccountable protuberance appears somewhere else. He prepares unanswerable arguments against the cruelty of adorning hats with feathers and the bodies of little birds, but, before he can produce them, ribbons and flowers are all the mode.

Perhaps women devote themselves to the details of millinery all the more because we men have allotted to them more than a fair share of the dull things of this life. We have left them comparatively little on which they can occupy themselves agreeably. They have books, of course, but books only serve as a whet to active employment. The daily round of household duties, the weekly discharge of bills, the tedious routine of morning calls, visitation of the sick—everything, in short, that bores a man is cast upon his wife; no wonder if her thoughts attach themselves to matters of toilet, which we despise as being beneath our dignity. And thereby we, who are the oppressors, derive unmerited advantage, for we are free to feast our eyes on the pretty things in which the fair sex go pranked.

Not that our enjoyment is without alloy. Feminine costume is subject to the most sudden and excruciating variations. No sooner have we learned to delight in a simple, becoming fashion, than instantly the Evil One, whose dwelling-place is in Paris, contrives some mock deformity, and every woman of spirit hastens to adopt it. There is nothing in the human frame more pleasing to the eye than the sweet lines of a woman's shoulder; yet this is