Friday, May 19, 2006

With dress disgusting as a hideous dream

Here's a selection from the Liberator, one of William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspapers, although poor aid and temperance are related concerns. Once in a while, the editors turned their eye to women's health and fashion and we get something like this awful poem. It was probably not reprinted among the pre-Raphaelites later in the century.

Memento Mori
from the Liberator, 1831

I've seen some females, (there are many such)
Who strive to look thin, delicate, and pale;
Whose fragile forms, scarce palpable to the touch,
Seem strange and frightful as a goblin tale;
Who pride themselves in seeming weak and frail,
In going thinly clad and tightly laced;
Who tread the streets, rejoicing to reveal
A ghost-like visage and portentous waist,
The mournful witnesses of morbid taste.

And when I meet such images of wo [sic],
A sudden tremor rushes o'er my frame:
Such wasp-like figures conjure to my view
The fabled hourlgass in the hand of Time;
And when I see them swim through fashion's stream,
With dress disgusting as a hideous dream,
And features mournful as a cypress wreath,--
Methinks I hear them shriek--Remember Death!