Your next general observation here will refer to the class of persons who visit the establishment as customers. In England the persons who particularly interest themselves about horses, consist of three distinct classes, the individuals of each of which have as marked and peculiar an air about them, for those who are quicksighted in such matters, as if they wore a distinct costume. The first of these classes consists of the young bloods of family and fashion, chiefly military, with whom an acquaintance with horses is only one (though the principal) among their many personal accomplishments. , The second class consists of those of various ranks in life, from the highest to the secondary part of the middle, whose passion for horses absorbs and supersedes all others. , The third class consists of those truly knowing hands, who live by administering to the fancies and inclinations of the two former.
You’ll find that the company at the Horse Bazaar consists almost entirely of the above three classes; and when you’ve been half as long “about town” as I have, you’ll be able to distinguish an individual of each of them by his mere air, as well as if you could look into his heart or his pocket-book. The two last, indeed, have an express costume, that is scarcely at all amneable to the decrees of fashion, and has undergone very little change as long as I can remember , none at all indeed, with a single exception appertaining to the apparel of the legs , which we shall have occasion to notice hereafter. , The first class, however, is much too fanciful to answer the above description. It does not keep in the same mind for more than a season together, even in regard to the class of animal it chooses to patronize, or the mode in which it should be used; , now running all upon bony hunters , now scorning to be borne by any thing but full blood , and now infinitely contemptuous towards any thing but the managed graces of an ambling Arabian or a Spanish Jennet. These high-bred persons are scarcely less fickle, too, in the affair of horsemanship , patronizing the hunting seat, the military seat, and the knowing or slang seat by turns, , just as the leader of the season happens to be affected at the commencement of it. We can scarcely expect, then, that they should be less fanciful in regard to the attire of their own proper persons.
As you do not pretend to be a Londoner as yet, Frank, and as these Letters are intended to be London ones exclusively, and to meddle with those matters alone which cannot be learned elsewhere, , suppose I instruct you a little as to the distinguishing characteristics of each of the above classes of persons, by pointing out to your attention the best specimen we can find of each of them. , Look at that stable-door on the left, which has just opened to emit from within that sprig of English nobility. But let us not use any epithets in regard to him that can be construed contemptuously; for contempt is the last feeling his mere appearance is calculated to excite; and it is that alone about which
we are concerning ourselves. In fact,
“His port I love , he looks as if
He ‘d chide the thunder if at him it roar’d.”
The truth is, that our young nobility of the present day are very noble-looking persons, and that their mariners and habits, as well as their appearance, have undergone a striking change for the better, within a very few years: with their morals, of course, you and I have nothing to do: those we leave to their mammas. It was the fashion, a short time ago, to tax them with effeminacy; and is so still among a certain class of inquirers, , as if that were not the very last fault that can fairly be laid to their charge. Why even you, Frank, will be surprised, and perhaps pleased to learn, that a soft hand is a mere vulgarism now-a-days, and that the real thing is to ride on horseback without gloves!
But let us return to our example of the first class of company who frequent the Horse Bazaar. With what an air he stands , looking down upon the man he is addressing , (for it is the fashion to be six feet high , his little earlship of U—e nevertheless notwithstanding) , yet without the slightest assumption of superiority; for why should he “assume a virtue” which he possesses? And with what an air of half-assumed, half-sincere deference the man who is listening to his orders looks up to him. I would bet odds, by the air of each, that a bargain has been struck between them, and that both know that the buyer has been taken in. Not that the horse is a bad one; for the lord is likely to know pretty nearly as much about that matter as the jockey. But he has given a score or so of pounds more than if he had chosen to wait for the public sale. But what matter? He has a fancy for the horse, and he will have it. And as for the price, that will only enable him, if he shouldn’t happen to like it, the better to oblige his young friend from Oxford, who wants “exactly such a horse!” But we are digressing. Observe his head , you shall not see a finer in a long summer’s day; and you shall not see the like of it any where but in England, and in this class of English life. True, there is not, in the face, the elevation of the poet, or the thoughtfulness of the sage, or the piercing sagacity of the statesman and philosopher. But there are the rudiments of all these; and (what is worth them all) that fine placidity which cannot consist with them, and which results from that truly philosophic indifference which nobody has ever found out the secret of so fully as our modern English men of pleasure. You’ll say I ‘m getting sententious, Frank. The truth is, I’ve a real respect for the class of persons I’m describing, and think them as superior to the “men of pleasure about town” in the time of Charles and Anne, as the entire want of pretence and petit-maitreship is to the presence of these. They think that they might have been any thing that they had pleased: in which they are pretty right; , for most of them have fine natural capacities. And they think that they are just what they wish to be, because what they think best; and in this they are pretty right too. Why, then, should they pretend to be other than they are? I mean they are right for the present, while their high blood is in its full heat and heyday. They are destined to become distinguished statesmen, hereafter, perhaps; and if so, Heaven knows they had need enjoy themselves a little while thev may. But I’m sacrificing the costume to the character; which is against all rule. The dress of the class of persons I am now describing was never better adapted to its purpose than now; , that purpose being to enable the wearer to look entirely different from all other classes of people, without any one being able to point out from what that difference arises. And this, you are to know, is the criterion of a well-dressed man. He shall have on apparel of exactly the same description as that worn by fifty other persons, who shall meet him in the course of the morning; not one of which fifty shall doubt that he is the best-dressed man they have seen; and not one of them shall observe that he is, in fact, dressed the same as they themselves are. What is there conspicuous in a perfectly plain blue frock coat, buttoned up to the throat, a black silk handkerchief, with scarcely any of the white collar seen above it, and a pair of almost black trowsers, cut off straight round the boot, and strapped tight under it? This is the costume of the person I am describing. And yet there is an air distingué about it, which not all ihe ruffs, velvet, and point-devices of Charles’s time could give. You will tell me, perhaps, that it is the wearer makes all the difference. But here you are mistaken. I do not mean to say that if you take as fine a mere person as the one before us out of the ranks of the Life Guards, and put these very clothes upon him, he will look like a man of fashion; any more than the man of fashion would look like a life-guardsman in his clothes: for each has a knack of putting on and of wearing his things “with a difference.” But I must insist that the chief and almost the entire merit of the mere appearance of the former (leaving his air and mode of moving out of the question) depends on the artists he employs. There is something about a coat of Stultz, that no one else can achieve; and that no one acquainted with such matters can mistake, whether he sees it on the back of a boor or a Brummel. It is the same with the boots, hat, &c. In short, the only article of dress which depends entirely on the practical skill of the wearer, is the neckcloth: for the ready-formed French stock , which is probably by this time beginning to penetrate to those “uttermost parts of the earth” which you inhabit , has long since been exploded here, and is now the very climax of cockney vulgarity.
Quoted from: Terence Templeton: “London Letters to Country Cousins. No. II” In: The New Monthly Magazine. VOL. IX No. 50. London, February 1, 1825.