London, June 17th, 1782.
Notwithstanding the constant new appetites and calls of fashion, they here remain faithful to nature--till a certain age. What a contrast, when I figure to myself our petted, pale-faced Berlin boys, at six years old, with a large bag, and all the parade of grown-up persons, nay even with laced coats; and here, on the contrary see nothing but fine, ruddy, slim, active boys, with their bosoms open, and their hair cut on their forehead, whilst behind it flows naturally in ringlets. It is something uncommon here to meet a young man, and more especially a boy, with a pale or sallow face, with deformed features, or disproportioned limbs. With us, alas! it is not to be concealed, the case is very much otherwise; if it were not, handsome people would hardly strike us so very much as they do in this country.
This free, loose, and natural dress is worn till they are eighteen, or even till they are twenty. It is then, indeed, discontinued by the higher ranks, but with the common people it always remains the same. They then begin to have their hair dressed, and curled with irons, to give the head a large bushy appearance, and half their backs are covered with powder. I am obliged to remain still longer under the hands of an English, than I was under a German hair- dresser; and to sweat under his hot irons with which he curls my hair all over, in order that I may appear among Englishmen, somewhat English. I must here observe that the English hair-dressers are also barbers, an office however, which they perform very badly indeed; though I cannot but consider shaving as a far more proper employment for these petit maitres than it is for surgeons, who you know in our country are obliged to shave us. It is incredible how much the English at present Frenchify themselves; the only things yet wanting are bags and swords, with which at least I have seen no one walking publicly, but I am told they are worn at court.
In the morning it is usual to walk out in a sort of negligee or morning dress, your hair not dressed, but merely rolled up in rollers, and in a frock and boots. In Westminster, the morning lasts till four or five o'clock, at which time they dine, and supper and going to bed are regulated accordingly. They generally do not breakfast till ten o'clock. The farther you go from the court into the city, the more regular and domestic the people become; and there they generally dine about three o'clock, i.e. as soon as the business or 'Change is over.
Trimmed suits are not yet worn, and the most usual dress is in summer, a short white waistcoat, black breeches, white silk stockings, and a frock, generally of very dark blue cloth, which looks like black; and the English seem in general to prefer dark colours. If you wish to be full dressed, you wear black. Officers rarely wear their uniforms, but dress like other people, and are to be known to be officers only by a cockade in their hats.
It is a common observation, that the more solicitous any people are about dress, the more effeminate they are. I attribute it entirely to this idle adventitious passion for finery, that these people are become so over and above careful of their persons; they are for ever, and on every occasion, putting one another on their guard against catching cold; "you'll certainly catch cold," they always tell you if you happen to be a little exposed to the draught of the air, or if you be not clad, as they think, sufficiently warm. The general topic of conversation in summer, is on the important objects of whether such and such an acquaintance be in town, or such a one in the country. Far from blaming it, I think it natural and commendable, that nearly one half of the inhabitants of this great city migrate into the country in summer. And into the country, I too, though not a Londoner, hope soon to wander.
Castleton, June 30th.
Within this coach there was another young man, who, though dressed in black, yet to judge from the cockade in his hat might be an officer. The outside was quite full with soldiers and their wives. The women of the lower class here wear a kind of short cloak made of red cloth: but women in general, from the highest to the lowest, wear hats, which differ from each other less in fashion than they do in fineness.
Fashion is so generally attended to among the English women, that the poorest maid-servant is careful to be in the fashion. They seem to be particularly so in their hats or bonnets, which they all wear: and they are in my opinion far more becoming than the very unsightly hoods and caps which our German women, of the rank of citizens, wear. There is, through all ranks here, not near so great a distinction between high and low as there is in Germany.