Sunday, 18 November 2012


Women are the great reformers of the world. Back as far as the memory of the oldest inhabitant runneth, they tackled the budge question, and down through the centuries, from the time poor old Noah filled up with booze, probably to keep him from catching cold after his long confinement in the ark, down to the present, they have made heroic warfare on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. They are not to be blamed, poor souls, for their zeal in this direction, for the curse of strong drink has robbed them of love and home and the comforts of life. A man may be an “ornery cuss” and be a teetotaler, but let the same fellow fill up with whiskey and he is ten times worse. Then when Susan B. Anthony, bless her old heart, came out for women’s rights, the world of women joined with her in demanding the protection of the law. And it was a good thing they did, for down to that time woman was like the negro slave, with no right to person or property. The lords of creation claimed everything, and when they laid down to die, they disposed by will the property the wife had helped create, often cutting her off with beggarly pittance. As the result of fifty years and more, of earnest, persevering work on the part of good old Susan B. and her associates, woman now rules the roost and perverse man has to go back and sit down. Miss Bloomer, another reformer, took up the question of dress and partly arrayed herself in men’s attire, and Lucy Stone thought the trousers, at least, were so comfortable, especially in windy weather, that she threw away her skirts and boldly advocated the Bloomer dress. The women were all right as long as they knocked whiskey and fought for equal rights before the law, but one day some dear creature was sickened by the smoke from tobacco, and at once there was an outcry against its use. This has continued till Sir Wilfred and his cabinet have made life miserable for them because they will not pass a law inflicting the death penalty on the maker or smoker of cigarets. If the dear women will just leave the smoker alone, he will puff his way out York street and find a resting place overlooking Dundas marsh.


          Now it is the women of Germany who are coming to the front as dress reformers, and all the reform associations on this side of the Atlantic ocean are watching with keen interest the result. And it is the ever-offending corset that is the whalebone of contention. It is not a new subject of attack, for it comes up two or three times in every generation. You cannot persuade a girl that a corset is unhealthy so long as it adds a charm and comeliness to her fine form. It is unfortunate that she will tighten up a little closer than is healthy, when she wants to look real captivating. Don’t you remember when the girls wore steel belts and held their breath while they pulled them up to the last notch? Of course, my dear lady, you do; but it is not the object of these Musings to tell tales out of school. The matrons of Germany, when they were young and weighed less than 125 pounds, no doubt wore belts, and steel ones at that; and now that they begin to turn the scale at 160 pounds and upward, and their waists are expanding so that the wearing of corsets becomes uncomfortable, especially after a delicious meal like unto that mother used to prepare, those good old ladies, who are now fair, fat and forty, are asking the German minister of education to issue a preemptory order forbidding the wearing of corsets in girls’ schools. Why not include girls who do not go to school? The minster is clothed with autocratic power, and if he says, “Simon, thumbs up!” up goes every thumb without question. BY a stroke of his pen he can direct the principal of every school where you ladies are being educated to prohibit the wearing of corsets; or, he might go still farther, and cut out any article of clothing. Great is the minister of education in Germany. No teacher may dare defy the minister; and if he so desires,  the symmetry of form and lines of beauty that add so much grace to the charming young frauleins of Emperor Billy’s domains can be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The German dames have probably reached the age where corsets are valueless in preventing a further spread of anatomical lines, and seem determined to make the girls as shapeless as their sprawling selves. The dress reformers the world over await the German minister’s decision with no little anxiety, and should the fiat go forth that corsets are doomed, it would not be surprising if Premier Ross might not be compelled to add corsets to the prohibition planks in his platform in order to secure the hearty support of the W.C.T.U.


          “The People’s Almanack, for the year of our Lord 1844, being leap year. The seventh of Queen Victoria, and the eighty-fourth of British rule in Canada. Containing besides the astronomical calculations and official lists, much useful information adapted to the circumstances of the country. By Andrew Marvel, Toronto: Leslie Brothers, Printers and Publishers.” On the last page of the cover is the advertisement of “E. Lesslie & Son, druggists, booksellers, &c., Dundas. Have at present for sale a few bales of excellent hops, growth of 1843; and of Spanish sole leather, coopers’ edge tools, carpenters’ tools, bar iron and cast steel, and a general assortment of light and heavy hardware.” That firm evidently must have been the advance agents of the department store system. It is the only advertisement in the almanac. The first 26 pages are devoted to the calendars for the year and official information pertaining principally to the city of Toronto. Sir Charles Theophilius Metclafe was Governor of Canada, and his salary was 7777 pounds, 15 shillings, 6 ½ pence. Queen’s counselors were not very numerous in those days, there being only seven in Upper Canada, Sir Allan Macnab being one of the number. Sir Allan was in luck, holding profitable offices, for his name appears in the year 1844 as agent for issuing marriage licenses and as county registrar. J. Wetenhall was warden of the Gore district; E. Cartright Thomas, sheriff and district clerk; A. Gifford, clerk of the peace; Henry Beasley, treasurer; John Wilson, judge of surrogate court; George Rolph, registrar of surrogate court. Hon. J. B. Robinson was chief justice of the court of Queen’s Bench, with a salary of 1666 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence and four judges lived sumptuously on $4,000 a year each. The collector of customs for the port of Hamilton was John Davidson.


          Andrew Marvel, the compiler of the almanac, was the nom-de-plum of John (or James) Lesslie, who was the publisher of the Toronto Examiner and afterward postmaster in that city. If the articles in the almanac are an index of his bitterness as a writer then he was certainly as bitter as they made them. In those days, Canadian editors wrote with pens dripped in gall, and they were not very choice in expressing themselves about their political opponents. Lesslie took advantage of his almanac to rip up the churches, especially the Anglican, Roman Catholic and the Presbyterian. Here is a specimen of his writings: “The government table is spread for all. The stern Presbyterian eats of the same dish with the haughty advocate of Prelacy, who hands him over to the uncovenanted mercies of God. The intolerant Episcopalian quaffs the wine of administration with the Roman Catholic, while they reciprocally charge each other as the agents of the most damnable heresy. And all three partake of the fruits of the hothouse of political iniquity with the Brahmins and Buddha priests of India, while they are professionally laboring for the conversion of the latter to the Christian faith.”


          Lesslie was well-known in Dundas to the settlers early in the 40s, for it is possible he may have located there for a time after the family came to this country. John Maclean, father of the editor of the Toronto World, lived in Dundas about that period and was employed in the Lesslie drug store. He was a man of some literary ability and was a contributor to the newspapers. Maclean made a special study along economic lines, and was one of the early advocates for a protective policy for Canada. Smiley and Lesslie and Maclean, and that class of vigorous writers looked far enough ahead to see that if Canada was ever to become a prosperous country it must come through manufacturing industries. It is interesting to study the characters of the men who blazed the way for a “Made in Canada” policy.


          As the almanac was evidently printed for circulation in Toronto, many items of interest pertaining to that city are given in it. The salary of a mayor at that time was $1200 a year. The assessors were allowed 5 per cent on the amount of taxes collected, which made it to the interest of those officers to see that the property owners were assessed high enough. There were eight constables to guard the city, who were paid $350 a year each, and the high bailiff’s salary was $500. It cost Toronto $2,530 a year to light its streets with gas, and $1,000 for water. The population of Toronto in 1843 was 17,305, and the assessed value of property was $316,618. The receipts from taxes were $67,807; the expenditures $64, 694. Each child had to pay 25 cents a month for the privilege of going to school. The Temperance Reformation society had a membership of 2,500, and the pledge was “To suppress by precept, example and unity of effort, the dangerous and injurious practice of drinking intoxicating liquors.”


          Dorothy Doubleday – that is not her name, but it will answer the purpose – was a dream of delight at a southend reception the other afternoon in a chiffon cloth gown of mignonette green, ornamented with point applique lace, and set off with a panne of a deeper shade. Do not fancy for a moment that it is the Saturday Musings man that conceived the description of the fair Dorothy’s toilet, for he has not the slightest idea of what a panne is. Dorothy made it plain that she intended to adhere to the shirring of which she was so fond, for the beautiful work of that kind about the hips was more pronounced than anything in which the southend girls had yet dropped on. It takes an expert to tip off the fine points in the perfect dressing of a beautiful girl, and rather than run the risk of blundering, we give the description as given by a celebrated modiste. The material of the skirt was cut off to disclose the gleam of lavender silk that lined it, and the shirt was decorated with lace medallions. A bolero effect was produced by the shirring of the bodice, which had a narrow yoke of lace. The upper sleeves were made of short puffs of dominant material, fitting snugly at the elbows with rich lace flounces falling almost to the wrists. Insertions of the lace medallions in the front of the bodice, with dainty velvet bows between, vastly improved the whole. Dorothy wore a black velvet picture hat – the same as she wore last Sunday morning in church – with six short, thick ostrich plumes caught in the front, and her muff and stole were of ermine. The charming Dorothy was a picture of loveliness, and there were none to compare with her at that afternoon reception.


          It is a rare thing to read in the telegraphic dispatches of a man committing suicide because he could not succeed in getting employment. Men become discouraged because of physical inability to provide for their families , and the suffering and want in their homes dethrones reason; and then the poison or pistol route is used to end it. In this busy, bustling world it seems almost impossible that there is not work for every willing hand; and yet it is true that even in a manufacturing city like Hamilton, there are times of enforced idleness for men who are not looking for holidays, but prefer to put in sixty hours a week in the workshops. Men with trades and men without trades crowd into the larger cities from the country, and nine times in ten, they do not better themselves. Young men leave the farm because they think the life one of drudgery and loneliness, and move into the cities to better their condition. Do they better their condition? When they leave the farm, they leave a life of independence to become the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for their city employers. Every young man can own a farm of his own, even if it is only fifty acres, and from it he can earn a good living for himself and family, and he is his own master. He may have to work long hours during a few months of the year while raising his crops, but there be many months of comparative ease. Every acre he adds to his farm makes him more independent, and when old age comes, he can sit down in comfort and say : “Soul, take thy ease.” The city toiler is fortunate if he can even buy a home, and it takes years of economy to do that. There is nothing as callous and cruel as the eternal grind of city life. Men and women die in cities and their next door neighbor neither knows nor cares. Out in God’s open country all the world is kin, and sickness and sorrow in one house draw sympathy from the whole township.

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