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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1308, p. 311.

April 1, 1865


...Private letters from New York bring me two or three echoes. First, the great sensation in the Empire City at present is the Rev. Dr. Bellows, who, Sunday after Sunday, is uttering thundering philippics against the reigning luxury and extravagance in ladies' dress. An old, old text. Did not the Hebrew prophet of old inveigh against the sumptuary follies of his countrywomen--their bracelets and their bangles, and their "round tires like the moon?" Dr. Bellows is a Unitarian clergyman, a most learned, pious, and eloquent divine, who first attracted public notice by standing up boldly in defence of Shakspeare and the drama, and has recently been doing the good work of the American Sanitary Commission at San Francisco. As a preacher, he is worth a hundred Beechers and Cheevers, for it is a peculiarity with Dr. Bellows that he always preaches charity, and peace, and brotherhood among all men. I fear, however, that the Doctor will take but little by his motion in re ladies' dresses. The fair ones of Gotham flock to him by hundreds and listen complacently while he denounces "cataract" curls, small bonnets, hoop skirts, and draggling trains; but they have not the slightest intention of abating the excess in their apparel. Withal, let me hasten to remark that the American ladies, in their wildest exuberances of dress, have always been moderate in their patronage of crinoline. An American hoop, in comparison with the shocking hen-coop worn here, is as a wineglass to a diving-bell.

Another New York echo tells me of a curious reform meditated by Mr. Hiram Cranston, the proprietor of the New York Hotel, and which, if properly carried out, will effect a thorough revolution in the eating and drinking customs of our cousins. Mr. Cranston is about to abolish the monster table-d'hôte, formerly held in his hotel, and where from five to six hundred guests could be fed at one time, very much after the fashion of wild animals, at scrambling, uncomfortable meals, delusively termed breakfast, dinner, and supper. For this wolfish system of arrangement is about to be substituted a coffee-room, arranged on the European principle--that is to say, a quiet and well ordered salle à manger, where, at your own table, you may order your own meal, and breakfast, dine, or sup à la carte, in peace and tranquillity. The New York Hotel is mainly frequented by ladies and gentlemen who have lived in Europe, and who have enjoyed comfort and luxury enough there to be disgusted with the roaring, jostling "feeds" at the St. Nicholas and the Fifth Avenue....

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