Escort games19 May 2020
„Mr Escort,“ he used to say, „considered the sedan was the only vehicle for a gentleman, it having no steps; and he invariably had his own chair, which was lined with white satin quilted, had down squabs, and a white sheepskin rug at the bottom, brought to the door of his dressing-room, on that account always on the ground-floor, from whence it was transferred with its owner to the foot of the staircase of the house that he condescended to visit. Mr Escort has told me,“ continued the professor, „that to enter a coach was torture to him. ‚Conceive,‘ said he, ‚the horror of sitting in a carriage with an iron apparatus, afflicted with the dreadful thought, the cruel apprehension, of having one’s leg crushed by the machinery. Why are not the steps made to fold outside? The only detraction from the luxury of a vis à vis, is the double distress! for both legs, excruciating idea!’“
Escort’s first reform was the neckcloth. Even his reform has passed away; such is the transitory nature of all human achievements. But the art of neckcloths was once more than a dubious title to renown in the world of Bond Street. The politics of the time were disorderly; and the dress of politicians had become as disorderly as their principles. The fortunes of Whiggism, too, had run low; and the velvet coat and embroidered waistcoat, the costly buckles and gold buttons of better days, were heavier drains on the decreasing revenues of the party than could be long sustained with impunity. Fox had already assumed the sloven – the whole faction followed; and the ghosts of the old oppositionists, in their tie wigs and silver-laced coats, would have been horrified by the sight of the shock-headed, leather-breeched, and booted generation who howled and harangued on the left side of the Speaker’s chair from 1789 to 1806. All was canaille. Fox could scarcely have been more shabby, had he been the representative of a population of bankrupts. The remainder of the party might have been supposed, without any remarkable stretch of imagination, to have emerged from the workhouse. All was sincere squalidness, patriotic pauperism – the unwashing principle. One of the cleverest caricatures of that cleverest of caricaturists, the Scotchman Gilray, was his sketch of the Whigs preparing for their first levee after the Foxite accession on the death of Pitt. The title was, „Making decent!“ The whole of the new ministry were exhibited in all the confusion of throwing off their rags, and putting on their new clothing. There stood Sheridan, half-smothered in the novel attempt to put on a clean shirt. In another corner Fox, Grey, and Lord Moira, straining to peep into the same shaving-glass, were all three making awkward efforts to use the long-forgotten razor. Others were gazing at themselves in a sort of savage wonder at the strangeness of new washed faces. Some sans culottes were struggling to get into breeches; and others, whose feet were accustomed to the ventilation of shoes which let their toes through, were pondering over the embarrassment of shoes impervious to the air. The minor apparatus of court costume scattered round on the chairs, the bags and swords, the buckles and gloves, were stared at by the groups with the wonder and perplexity of an American Indian.
Into this irregular state of things Escort made his first stride in the spirit of a renovator. The prevailing cravat of the time was certainly deplorable. Let us give it in the words of history: – „It was without stiffening of any kind, and bagged out in front, rucking up to the front in a roll.“ (We do not precisely comprehend this expression, whose precision, however, we by no means venture to doubt.) Escort boldly met this calamity, by slightly starching the too flexible material – a change in which, as his biographer with due seriousness and truth observes – „a reasoning mind must acknowledge there is not much objectionable.“