Bustles!–what are bustles? Ay, reader, fair reader, you may well ask
that question. But some of your sex at least know the meaning of the
word, and the use of the article it designates, sufficiently well,
though, thank heaven! there are many thousands of my countrywomen who are
as yet ignorant of both, and indeed to whom such knowledge would be quite
useless. Would that I were in equally innocent ignorance! Not, reader,
that I am of the feminine gender, and use the article in question; but my
knowledge of its mysterious uses, and the various materials of which it
is composed, has been the ruin of me. I will have inscribed on my tomb,
“Here lies a man who was killed by a bustle!”

But before I detail the circumstances of my unhappy fate, it will perhaps
be proper to give a description of the article itself which has been the
cause of my undoing. Well, then, a bustle is…

But the editor will perhaps object to this description as being too
distinct and graphic. If so, then here goes for another less laboured and
more characteristically mysterious.

A bustle is an article used by ladies to take from their form the
character of the Venus of the Greeks, and impart to it that of the Venus
of the Hottentots!

That ladies should have a taste so singular, may appear incredible; but
there is no accounting for tastes, and I know to my cost that the fact is

I made the discovery a few years since, and up to that time I had always
borne the character of a sage, sedate, and promising young man–one
likely to get on in the world by my exertions, and therefore sure to be
helped by my friends. I was even, I flatter myself, a favourite with the
fair sex too; and justly so, for I was their most ardent admirer; and
there was one most lovely creature among them whom I had fondly hoped
to have made my own. But, alas! how vain and visionary are our hopes of
human happiness: such hopes with me have fled for ever! As I said before,
I am a ruined man, and all in consequence of ladies’ bustles.

In an unlucky hour I was in a ball-room, seated at a little distance
from my fair one–my eyes watching her every air and look, my ears
catching every sound of her sweet voice–when I heard her complain to a
female friend, in tones of the softest whispering music, that she was
oppressed with the heat of the place. “My dear,” her friend replied,
“it must be the effect of your bustle. What do you stuff it with?”
“Hair–horse-hair,” was the reply. “Hair!–mercy on us!” says her friend,
“it is no wonder you are oppressed–that’s a _hot-and-hot_ material
truly. Why, you should do as I do–you do not see me fainting; and the
reason is, that I stuff my bustle with hay–new hay!”

I heard no more, for the ladies, supposing from my eyes that I was a
listener, changed the topic of conversation, though indeed it was not
necessary, for at the time I had not the slightest notion of what they
meant. Time, however, passed on most favourably to my wishes–another
month, and I should have called my Catherine my own. She was on a visit
to my sister, and I had every opportunity to make myself agreeable. We
sang together, we talked together, and we danced together. All this would
have been very well, but unfortunately we also walked together. It was
on the last time we ever did so that the circumstance occurred which I
have now to relate, and which gave the first death-blow to my hopes of
happiness. We were crossing Carlisle-bridge, her dear arm linked in mine,
when we chanced to meet a female friend; and wishing to have a little
chat with her without incommoding the passengers, we got to the edge of
the flag-way, near which at the time there was standing an old white
horse, totally blind. He was a quiet-looking animal, and none of us could
have supposed from his physiognomy that he had any savage propensity in
his nature. But imagine my astonishment and horror when I suddenly heard
my charmer give a scream that pierced me to the very heart!–and when I
perceived that this atrocious old blind brute, having slowly and slyly
swayed his head round, caught the–how shall I describe it?–caught my
Catherine–really I can’t say how–but he caught her; and before I could
extricate her from his jaws, he made a reef in her garments such as lady
never suffered. Silk gown, petticoat, bustle–everything, in fact, gave
way, and left an opening–a chasm–an exposure, that may perhaps be
imagined, but cannot be described.[1]

As rapidly as I could, of course, I got my fair one into a jarvy, and
hurried home, the truth gradually opening in my mind as to the cause
of the disaster–it was, that the blind horse, hungry brute, had been
attracted by the smell of my Catherine’s bustle, made of hay–new hay!

Catherine was never the same to me afterwards–she took the most
invincible dislike to walk with me, or rather, perhaps, to be seen in
the streets with me. But matters were not yet come to the worst, and I
had indulged in hopes that she would yet be mine. I had however taken a
deep aversion to bustles, and even determined to wage war upon them to
the best of my ability. In this spirit, a few days after, I determined to
wreak my vengeance on my sister’s bustle, for I found by this time that
she too was emulous of being a Hottentot beauty. Accordingly, having to
accompany her and my intended wife to a ball, I stole into my sister’s
room in the course of the evening before she went into it to dress,
and pouncing upon her hated bustle, which lay on her toilet table, I
inflicted a cut on it with my penknife, and retired. But what a mistake
did I make! Alas, it was not my sister’s bustle, but my Catherine’s!
However, we went to the ball, and for a time all went smoothly on. I
took out my Catherine as a partner in the dance; but imagine my horror
when I perceived her gradually becoming thinner and thinner–losing her
_enbonpoint_–as she danced; and, worse than that, that every movement
which she described in the figure–the ladies’ chain, the chassee–was
accurately marked–recorded–on the chalked floor with–bran! Oh dear!
reader, pity me: was ever man so unfortunate? This sealed my doom. She
would never speak to me, or even look at me afterwards.

But this was not all. My character with the sex–ay, with both sexes–was
also destroyed. I who had been heretofore, as I said, considered as an
example of prudence and discretion for a young man, was now set down as
a thoughtless, devil-may-care wag, never to do well: the men treated me
coldly, and the women turned their backs upon me; and so thus in reality
they made me what they had supposed I was. It was indeed no wonder, for
I could never after see a lady with a bustle but I felt an irresistible
inclination to laughter, and this too even on occasions when I should
have kept a grave countenance. If I met a couple of country or other
friends in the street, and inquired after their family–the cause,
perhaps, of the mourning in which they were attired–while they were
telling me of the death of some father, sister, or other relative, I to
their astonishment would take to laughing, and if there was a horse near
us, give the lady a drag away to another situation. And if then I were
asked the meaning of this ill-timed mirth, and this singular movement,
what could I say? Why, sometimes I made the matter worse by replying,
“Dear madam, it is only to save your bustle from the horse!”

Stung at length by my misfortunes and the hopelessness of my situation, I
became utterly reckless, and only thought of carrying out my revenge on
the bustles in every way in my power; and this I must say with some pride
I did for a while with good effect. I got a number of the hated articles
manufactured for myself, but not, reader, to wear, as you shall hear. Oh!
no; but whenever I received an invitation to a party–which indeed had
latterly been seldom sent me–I took one of these articles in my pocket,
and, watching a favourable opportunity when all were engaged in the mazy
figure of the dance, let it secretly fall amongst them. The result may be
imagined–ay, reader, imagine it, for I cannot describe it with effect.
First, the half-suppressed but simultaneous scream of all the ladies as
it was held up for a claimant; next, the equally simultaneous movement of
the ladies’ hands, all quickly disengaged from those of their partners,
and not raised up in wonder, but carried down to their–bustles! Never
was movement in the dance executed with such precision; and I should be
immortalised as the inventor of an attitude so expressive of sentiment
and of _feeling_.

Alas! this is the only consolation now afforded me in my afflictions:
I invented a new attitude–a new movement in the quadrille: let others
see that it be not forgotten. I am now a banished man from all refined
society: no lady will appear, where that odious Mr Bustle, as they call
me, might possibly be; and so no one will admit me inside their doors. I
have nothing left me, therefore, but to live out my solitary life, and
vent my execration of bustles in the only place now left me–the columns
of the Irish Penny Journal.