Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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H4                Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
namely, to strengthen its powers of resistance to the blows of highwaymen (there were highwaymen in those days) or collision with mother earth. Men in those days, when they travelled, rode on horseback, like men, or in gigs, like travellers. Stage-coaches had not yet commenced their career and removed the responsibility of travelling singly in your own vehicle. Clio Rickman was a great traveller, and he owed his life more than once to the strength of that straw hat, which had been shattered to pieces by a fall instead of his skull.
But to proceed with my description of Clio's outer man. To match the blue coat there were the yellow leathern breeches, showing a section of the manly calf above a pair of top-boots, such as the old stage-coach men used to wear down to our times, but which, years ago, were worn by Dukes, Earls, Lords—nay, by Royalty itself. This was the garb, essentially English, which the Due de Chartres (afterwards Philippe Egalit6), Mirabeau, and other admirers of English institutions took back with them to France in the days of the first National Assembly, and it was adopted by the French patriots—by the Girondists especially—and is still to be seen in the French historical pictures of that day. Its adoption in France was a compliment to England and English freedom; but it passed away, like other fashions, with the stormy days that followed, when French Republicanism was swallowed up in Imperialism, and English Republicanism was at a discount under Pitt and Dundas. Clio Rickman and a few others of the old school (Cobbett was one of them, though he came later than Clio) were faithful to the old garb, in spite of the gibes of little boys in the streets and the staring looks of older people.
The impression left by this old English garb now-a-days is a vulgar one: it smacks of stage-coaches and old-fashioned farmers. But, ioo years ago, it was the dress of gentlemen and wits and men of letters and beaux; and Clio Rickman was all these except the latter. He was a thoroughly well-
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