Social New York under the Georges, 1714-1776: Houses, Streets, and Country Homes, with Chapters on Fashions, Furniture, China, Plate, and Manners

By Esther Singleton | Go to book overview

VI
EXTRAVAGANCE AND A RETURN TO SIMPLICITY

THE luxury and frivolities of some of the wealthy sometimes caused grave offence to the staid old-fashioned class, and the voice of the censor and moralist was frequently heard. If we may believe a writer in 1739, society in New York was going to the dogs. It seems that a cousin of his had rudely passed him in the street without acknowledging his salutation:

"Let us then consider the reason why there is so much pride to be found in most of the young ladies of this town, which may be inquired into by looking into the manner of their education on from their infancy to years of discretion. This may be done by looking into that of my cousin's, who may pass as a sample of the rest.

"This young woman is now in her 18th year; during her infancy till the age of five years, young miss was not to be teased with learning, as being of an age too tender to undergo the hard task of A. B. C. Mama pretends that loading her memory when so young may be of dangerous effects to the child, that the dear little creature must have her will in everything. The maids must be drubbed, the great booby of a brother hold his head in his mother's lap to let his little sister twitch his hair, the lap dog must be beaten and turned out of doors, the monkey cuffed, and, in short, the father called dog and good for nothing.

"Miss is now past 5 years and sole mistress of her father's house. If she can be taught to read, story books, in Mama's opinion, are now proper to tickle her little fancy. Prayer books 'tis true ought to be read by children, but her daughter's

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