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Toilette Of The Hebrew Lady
by [?]




Sir,–Some years ago you published a translation of Bottiger’s ‘Sabina,’ a learned account of the Roman toilette. I here send you a companion to that work–not a direct translation, but a very minute abstract from a similar dissertation by Hartmann, (weeded of the wordiness which has made the original unreadable, and in consequence unread,) on the toilette and the wardrobe of the ladies of ancient Palestine. Hartmann was a respectable Oriental scholar, and he published his researches, which occupy three thick octavos, making in all one thousand four hundred and eighty-eight pages, under the title of Die Hebraerin am Putztische und als Braut, Amsterdam, 1809. (The Hebrew Woman at her Toilette, and in her Bridal character.) I understand that the poor man is now gone to Hades, where let us hope that it is considered no crime in a learned man to be exceedingly tedious, and to repeat the same thing ten times over, or even, upon occasion, fifteen times, provided that his own upright heart should incline him to think that course the most advisable. Certainly Mr. Hartmann has the most excellent gifts at verbal expansion, and at tautology, that ever came within my knowledge; and I found no particular difficulty in compressing every tittle of what relates to his subject, into a compass which, I imagine, will fill about twelve of your pages, or fifty, at the utmost, of the original work.

It was not to be expected, with the scanty materials before him, that an illustrator of the Hebrew costume should be as full and explicit as Bottiger, with the advantage of writing upon a theme more familiar to us Europeans of this day, than any parallel theme even in our own national archaeologies of two centuries back. United, however, with his great reading, this barrenness of the subject is so far an advantage for Hartmann, as it yields a strong presumption that he has exhausted it. The male costume of ancient Palestine is yet to be illustrated; but, for the female, it is probable that little could be added to what Hartmann has collected; [Footnote 1] and that any clever dress-maker would, with the indications here given, (especially if you could persuade Mr. Blackwood to adopt one or two of Mr. Hartmann’s seven outlines,) enable any lady at the next great masquerade in London, to support the part of one of the ancient daughters of Palestine, and to call back, after eighteen centuries of sleep, the buried pomps of Jerusalem. As to the talking, there would be no difficulty at all in that point; bishops, and other ‘sacred’ people, if they ever go a-masquing, for their own sakes will not be likely to betray themselves by putting impertinent questions in Hebrew; and for ‘profane’ people, who might like the impertinence, they would very much dislike the Hebrew; indeed, of uncircumcised Hebrews, barring always the clergy, it is not thought that any are extant. In other respects, and as a spectacle, the Hebrew masque would infallibly eclipse every other in the room. The upper and under chemise, if managed properly, (and either you or I, Mr. North, would be most proud to communicate our private advice on that subject,) would transcend, in gorgeous display, the coronation robes of queens; nose-pendants would cause the masque to be immediately and unerringly recognised; or if those were not thought advisable, the silver ankle-bells, with their melodious chimes–the sandals, with their jewelled net-work–and the golden diadem, binding the forehead, and dropping from each extremity of the polished temples a rouleau of pearls, which, after traversing the cheeks, unite below the chin–are all so unique and exclusively Hebraic–that each and all would have the same advantageous effect, proclaiming and notifying the character, without putting the fair supporter to any disagreeable expense of Hebrew or Chaldee. The silver bells alone would ‘bear the bell’ from every competitor in the room; and she might besides carry a cymbal–a dulcimer–or a timbrel in her hands.