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Dress Of Women - Toilet, Paints And Perfumes

( Originally Published 1902 )

IT is very difficult to realize the extensive use the fashionable women of the Eighteenth Century made of cosmetics. A lady's dressing-table exhibited an extraordinary array of paste-pots, scent-bottles, jars of pomatum, bags of perfume, pincushions, boxes of rouge, powder and unguents, washes, pastillios de Rocca to sweeten the breath, and dishes, bowls and spoons for mixing the various compounds considered necessary to improve the skin, eyebrows, lips, hands and hair. One English satirist aptly remarked that it took a whole morning to put on what it took a whole evening to put off. In 1730, Swift wrote :

"Five hours (and who can do it less in ?) By haughty Celia spent in dressing ; The goddess from her chamber issues, Array'd in lace, brocade and tissues."

The Lady Betty Modishes, Sir Fopling Flutters, Sir Courtly Nices, Lady Wishforts and Lady Teazles spent more than half their lives in dressing-rooms preparing to shine at assemblies, racquets, routs, card-parties, and theatres. No secret was made of the laying on of artificial beauty, and, indeed, sometimes, while at entertainments, gay coquettes would retire to make the roses in their cheeks bloom afresh. Horace Walpole, after taking his beautiful niece, Lady Waldegrave, and her friend Mrs. Ashe to Vauxhall, jots down : " They had just refreshed their last layers of red and looked as handsome as crimson could make them;" and at the coronation of George M. in 1761, when he " dressed part of Lady Suffolk's head," he tells us that " Lord B-- put on rouge upon his wife and the Duchess of Bedford in the Painted Chamber. The Duchess of Queensberry told me of the latter that she looked like an orange peach, half red and half yellow."

In the Georgian age, many women fell victims to over-indulgence in cosmetics. One of these was Lady Coventry, one of the beautiful Gunning sisters. Lord Harrington's daughter was another. The poet Cowper, condemning this practice in 1784, says if a London physician were allowed to blab, he "could publish a bill of female mortality that would astonish us." This use of cosmetics was carried to such extreme length, that, in 1770, an Act of Parliament was proposed prohibiting every woman, maid, wife, or widow, no matter what age, rank or occupation, trying to entrap any of His Majesty's subjects by the aid of perfumes, false hair, or crepon d'Espagne (a kind of woollen stuff impregnated with rouge). The penalty was that any woman using these aids to beauty would be treated as a sorceress and dealt with according to law. Her marriage would also be declared void.

The favourite bloom in the days of Queen Anne was the " Bavarian Red Liquor" which was even " taken inwardly ; " French red, Spanish red, Spanish paper, Chinese wool, and carmine were among the other rouges employed. Pearl and bismuth powders were popular ; and the soaps were legion. "Wash-balls," composed of rice powder, orris, white lead, variously marbled, or coloured, were also numerous ; and as for the waters and scents introduced or compounded by the famous Charles Lillie, their mere enumeration would occupy pages. One of the most popular was the " Princely Perfume " described as a delightful powder for the scenting of handkerchiefs, gloves, and linen, and which perfumed "the hands, the hair of the head and periwigs most delicately." Another was the famous " Hungary water," composed of rosemary, rectified spirits, and Jamaica ginger. Another was " King's Honey Water," by the use of which the Duchess of Marlborough was said to have kept the colour of her beautiful hair. Among other scents and waters, the favourites were : ambergris, musk, benjamin, bergamot, lavender, red spirit of lavender, attar of roses, sandal, citron, perfumed catchue, essence of jessamine, essence of orange flowers, oils of rhodium, roses, lavender, cloves, rosemary, coriander, marjoram, cinnamon, orange-flower water, myrtle, rose and Cordova water, can de carin, can de luce, and can sans pareil.

The beauties and coquettes, maids and matrons of New York, were no less eager than their London relatives to make themselves handsome according to the standards of the day. The milliners, the chemists, the hair-dressers and even the highly-respected printer and bookseller, Hugh Gaine, tempted them with every article that was to be found on London toilet-tables. These scents, waters, rouges, pomatums, hair-dyes, etc. must have met with a great sale since they were advertised among the goods in every cargo.

If we take a few instances of articles imported and recommended, it will be seen that this statement is not fanciful. The can de Luce, which Anstey numbered in his New Balk Guide in 1766 as one of the requisites every belle should carry with her to the fashionable watering-place, came in 1762 in " Bottles with cases, an excellent Remedy for the Head Ach, and very convenient for Gentlemen and Ladies to carry in their Pockets." Eau sans pared, mentioned by Anstey, was here in 1761. In 1762, Hugh Gaine is selling " Princely Beautifying Lotion, so much esteemed for its general Utility by Persons of all Ranks in Great Britain and Ireland." Two years later, he described it more in detail and even recommended that it be " taken inwardly." His appeal to the vanity of the ladies is worth quoting :

" The Princely Beautifying Lotion. It beautifies the Face, Neck and Hands to the Utmost Perfection and is in the greatest Esteem amongst Ladies, etc. of the first Quality. No words can sufficiently express its virtues, for it is not of the nature of paint, which puts a false unnatural gloss on the Skin, but is a true Remedy, that by its use really adds a Lustre to the most Beautiful by showing the fine features of the Face; and is so safe not having the least grain of Mercury in it, that it may be taken inwardly; and if smelled to, is really good against the Vapours, etc. in Ladies, the very Reverse of all other Remedies of this kind which raise the Vapours."

Long before this, however, we find fine lavender water and King's Honey water, constantly advertised, as well as Hungary water, Damask rose-water, scent-eggs, lip-salve, cold-cream, sticking-plaster, patches, court-plaster, pomatum, hair-dyes, marble wash-balls, powder-boxes and puffs.

In 1753, Barak Hayes in Bayard Street, was selling among other commodities, at the lowest prices, fine perfumes, marble wash-balls in cases, lavender-water, King's honey-water, Royal milk-water which took all spots, scurfs, pimples and freckles off the face, fine British oil for the gout and rheumatism, Greenough's tincture for preserving the teeth and gums, essence of bergamot, essence of lemon, good Capilier, Hungary water, soap-boxes and brushes for shaving, fine scented powder, tooth-powder and brushes for the teeth, lip-salve, tooth-pickers, patch-boxes, snuff, pomatum, etc. In 1754, we note all sorts of perfumes ; "the right Persian soap in boxes for lathering the head and face with all sorts of brushes for the same ; true French Hungary water ; the very best double distilled lavender, nuns tooth-pickers, and double and single pins for the hair." Mint and pepper-mint water become popular about 1762.

In 1765, Thomas B. Attwood in Broad Street, had a long list of toilet and medicinal wares including, James's powders, Fraunces's elixir, Squire's elixir, Bostock's elixir, Blois's lozenges, Chace's balsamic pills, Pectoral balsam of honey, Hill's tincture of valerian, Jesuit's drops, Bateman's drops, Godfrey's cordial, Balsam of health, Boerhaave's balsam, Cold cream, Vitriolic ether for headache, corn plaster, Ryan's sugar plumbs, paste for the teeth, shaving machines, powder puffs, hair-powder plain and scented, grey pow-der for mourning, smelling-bottles, Eau de luce, Eau sans pared, and such simple and compound waters as peppermint, Hungary, lavender, rose, orange flower, honey, bergamot, elder flower, Pyrmont and Spaw waters, oil of cinnamon, oil of nutmegs, oil of cloves, and Rhodium.

For many years, the ladies and gentlemen of fashion patronized a chemist named Edward Agar, who lived near the Coffee House. Among his wares in 1 765 were Royal Cream Wash Balls, Imperial ditto mar-bled, Ditto Cold Cream, or the Royal Cosmetic Beautifying Lotion and " Italian Red for the Ladies, which gives a beautiful florid Colour to the Skin, where Nature is deficient not to be distinguished from the Natural Bloom of Youth." About the same time, there was a Grecian Liquid for changing the hair from any colour to a beautiful black."

Hugh Gaine continued to sell similar articles during these years. In 1771, he imported :

" The Beautifying Ointment, which was sold by Dr. Con-stable in Chapple Street, some years ago with great success, in curing all carbuncles, pimples or cutaneous eruptions, rendering the face smooth and of a good colour, may now be had of the Printer hereof : 'Tis innocent and may be used with great safety by either sex."

He also advertised " Lady Molineux's Italian Paste for enamelling the hands and neck of a lovely white," and " The Venetian Paste," which rendered the skin " as, soft as velvet," in 1774.

The following was a novelty and was doubtless purchased in generous quantities :

" Now first imported to North America. The Bloom of Circassia. It is allowed that the Circassians are the most beautiful women in the world. However, they derive not all their charms from nature. A gentleman long resident there in the suite of a person of distinction, well-known for his travels thro' Greece, became acquainted with the secret of the Liquid Bloom, extracted from a vegetable, the produce of that Country, in general use there with the most esteemed beauties. It differs from all others in two very essential points. First, that it instantly gives a rosy hue to the cheeks, not to be distinguished from the lively and ornamental bloom of rural beauty, nor will it come off by perspiration, or the use of a handkerchief. A moment's trial will prove that it is not to be parallelled."

It is to be hoped that the " Bloom of Circassia" was not identical with the " Balm of Mecca," which Lady Mary Wortley Montagu applied when she visited the East and which she said made her face red and swollen for three days. All through these years, many dressing-cases had been sold made of shagreen, morocco, straw and mahogany, well equipped with every needed article. Perhaps the most attractive was advertised in 1774, by James Rivington, who had "dressing-boxes for the toilet of Sacharissa" for sale.

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