A DREAM IN ILLAWARRA
I had been reading the “Lady’s Letter” in one of the London papers, which gave an elaborate description of the different costumes worn by the ladies of the present day; some of them seemed so extravagantly absurd that I could scarcely keep by risible [?] faculties under control. I began to think of the many changes that had taken place during the last fifty years, not only as regards women’s dress, but also their education. I have always wished to see women educated up to the level of men, because I think they would be better fitted to become a help-meet for man as well as a help-mate. My only fear is, judging from what I have already observed, that they will be taking too long a stride (not a bodily one, for that would be impossible with the dresses now worn, which are so narrow and tight that it is with the greatest difficulty they are able to step over the smallest obstacle in their path); I mean into the affairs of men – becoming politicians, &c. Pondering over these things, I fell asleep and dreamed this dream: –
I thought I was in London in the mansion of an old friend of by-gone years; I had received a hearty welcome, been pressed to stay and dine with him [sic], and after dinner to accompany them [sic] to the House of Lords to hear the Honorable [sic] Lady Jacquilon S. make her maiden speech (that which I had feared had come to pass). I gladly consented, and they left the room to dress for the occasion. I took up a book to while away the time, but, on looking at it, found it to be “Kant [?] on Metaphysics”. Having a horror of [….] of any kind I laid it down, and began looking for something more suited to my mood, but I found they were all [….]es, isms, or physics, so I gave up, and waited patiently the return of the ladies. They soon made their appearance, magnificently dressed, but the style of dress was decidedly more masculine than feminine; a sort of hybrid costume – their beautiful hair given to them for an ornament, cut short – and on their heads they wore a “something” which resembled nothing so much as a black billy, minus the rim. I felt almost as much out of my element [among them as my grandmother] Eve in her fig-leaf dress would have done. However we were soon driven rapidly to the House. The place was crowded, and by some means or other I got separated from my companions, and began to feel nervous, but I soon got over that, as I became utterly bewildered with all around me. I saw very few gentlemen there, but quite an army of the other sex; they were all dressed much in the same style, some more extravagantly than others. I turned my eyes toward the [Woolsack], expecting to see some potent, grave and reverend siginor seated thereon, but to my astonishment, there sat a lady – as beautiful as an “Houri” wearing the Chancellor’s wig, which seemed in danger every moment of slipping over her nose. I was so intently watching her that I was not aware that a lady was addressing the House until my attention was called to it by an exquisite [sic] at my side remarking to his companion “fwend” that he “wealy thought that Jac (Lady Jacquilon) was wather too too.” I suppose he himself knew what he meant; I did not. I now tried to catch a glimpse of the Speaker, but I found it impossible, and although I could hear her voice (which was somewhat stentorian) I could not hear distinctly all she said. I just caught the words social evil, when I was startled by a deep groan beside me, and turning round I beheld the shades of Stuart Mill and Harriet Martineau; they looked horrified. I had seen and heard quite enough, so I made the rest of my way to the door. On nearing the lobby I heard loud voices, and not very refined language, with hisses and laugher, proceeding from a number of gentlemen there. I looked in to see the cause of this indecorous conduct, and saw Buchanan and McElbone engaged in a hand to hand fight. I was shocked, and, rushing out struck my head against what I supposed was an official’s baton, and awoke. I had come in contact with the scroll of the couch, and found myself still in the land of kangaroos, ‘possums, and pugnacious legislators (God save the [mark]).
(Illawarra Mercury, May 8, 1884)