A Lady from Edinburgh and her Daughter

Published on Author Corset Manager

A lady, dating from Edinburgh, and who encloses us her card, writes as follows, begging us to invite correspondence on the important subject: – “I have been abroad for the last four years, during which I left my daughter at a large and fashionable boarding school near London; I sent for her home directly I arrived, and, having had no bad accounts of her health during my absence, I expected to see a fresh rosy girl of seventeen come bounding to welcome me. What then, was my surprise to see a tall, pale young lady glide slowly in with measured gait and languidly embrace me? When she had removed her mantle I understood at once what had been mainly instrumental in metamorphosing my merry romping girl to a pale fashionable belle. Her waist had during the four years she had been at school, been reduced to such absurdly small dimensions that I could easily have clasped it with my two hands. ‘How could you be so foolish,’ I exclaimed, ‘as to sacrifice your health for the sake of a fashionable figure?’ ‘Please don’t blame me, mamma,’ she replied; ‘I assure you I would not have voluntarily submitted to the torture I have suffered for all the admiration in the world.’ She then told me how the most merciless system of tight-lacing was the rule of the establishment, and how she and her forty or fifty fellow pupils had been daily imprisoned in vices of whalebone drawn tight by the muscular arms of sturdy waiting maids, till the fashionable standard of tenacity was attained. The torture at first was, she declared, often intolerable; but all entreaties were vain, as no relaxation of the cruel laces was allowed during the day under any pretext except decided illness. ‘But why did you not complain to me at first?’ I inquired. ‘As soon as I found to what a system of torture I was condemned,’ she replied, ‘I wrote a long letter to you describing my sufferings and praying you to take me away; but the lady principal made it a rule to revise all letters sent by or received by the pupils and when she saw mine, she not only refused to let it pass but punished me severely for rebelling against the discipline of the school.’ ‘At least you will now obtain relief from your sufferings,’ I exclaimed, ‘for you shall not go back to that school any more.’ On attempting to discontinue the tight-lacing, however, my daughter found that she had been so weakened by the severe pressure of the last four years that her muscles were powerless to support her, and she has therefore been compelled to lace as tight as ever, or nearly so. She says, however, that she does not suffer much inconvenience now, or indeed after the first two years, so wonderful is the power of Nature to accommodate herself to circumstances. The mischief is done; her muscles have been, so to speak murdered, and she must submit for life to be encased in stiff panoply of whalebone and steel; and all this torture and misery for what? merely to attract admiration for her small waist. I called on the lady principal of the establishment the next day, and was told that very few ladies objected to their daughters having their figures improved – that small waists were just now as fashionable as ever, and that no young lady could go into good society with a coarse, clumsy waist like a rustic – that she had always given great satisfaction by her system, which she assured me required unremitting perseverance and strictness, owing to the obstinacy of young girls, and the difficulty of making them understand the importance of a good figure. Finding that I could not touch the heart of this female inquisitor, who was so blinded by fashion, I determined to write to you and inform your readers of the system adopted in fashionable boarding schools, so that if they do not wish their daughters tortured into wasp-waisted invalids they may avoid sending them to schools where the corset screw is an institution of the establishment.”