That there is a professional melancholy, if I may so express myself, incident to the occupation of a tailor, is a fact which I think very few will venture to dispute. I may safely appeal to my readers, whether they ever knew one of that faculty that was not of a temperament, to say the least, far removed from mercurial or jovial.
Observe the suspicious gravity of their gait. The peacock is not more tender, from a consciousness of his peculiar infirmity, than a gentleman of his profession is of being known by the same infallible testimonies of his occupation. “Walk, that I may know thee.”
Do you ever see him go whistling along the foot-path like a carman, or brush through a crowd like a baker, or go smiling to himself like a lover. How extremely rare is a noisy tailor! a mirthful and obstreperous tailor!
In further corroboration of this argument – who ever saw the wedding of a tailor announced in the newspapers, or the birth of his eldest son?
When was a tailor known to give a dance, or to be himself a good dancer, or to perform exquisitely on the tight rope, or to shine in any such light and airy pastimes? to sing, or play on the violin?
Do they much care for public rejoicings, lightings up, ringing of bells, firing of cannons, &c.?
This characteristic pensiveness in them being so notorious, I wonder none of those writers who have expressly treated of melancholy, should have mentioned it. Shakespeare himself has overlooked it. “I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, (saith Jaques,) which is emulation; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is politick; nor the lover’s, which is all these:” – and then when you might expect him to have brought in, “nor the tailor’s, which is so and so” – he comes to an end of his enumeration, and falls to a defining of his own melancholy.
I shall proceed and endeavour to ascertain the causes why this pensive turn should be so predominant in people of this profession above all others. And first, may it not be, that the custom of wearing apparel being derived to us from the fall, may in the order of things have been intended to be impressed upon the minds of that race of men to whom in all ages the care of contriving the human apparel has been intrusted – to keep up the memory of the first institution of clothes, and serve as a standing remonstrance against those vanities, which the absurd conversion of a memorial of our shame into an ornament of our persons was destined to produce?
But waving further inquiry into final causes, where the best of us can only wander in the dark, let us try to discover the efficient causes of this melancholy. I think, then, that they may be reduced to two, omitting some subordinate ones, viz. The sedentary habits of the tailor. – Something peculiar in his diet. –
First, his sedentary habits. – When we consider that this sitting for fourteen hours continuously, is no more than what the tailor, in the ordinary pursuance of his art, submits to daily, (Sundays excepted,) throughout the year, shall we wonder to find the brain affected, and in a manner over-clouded, from that indissoluble sympathy between the noble and less noble parts of the body.
The legs transversed thus X cross-wise, or decussated, was among the ancients the posture of malediction. The Turks who practise it at this day, are noted to be a melancholy people.
Secondly, his diet. – To which purpose I find a most remarkable passage in Burton, in his chapter entitled “Bad diet a cause of melancholy.” “Amongst herbs to be eaten, (he says,) I find gourds, cucumbers, melons, disallowed; but especially CABBAGE. It causeth troublesome dreams, and sends up black vapours to the brain.
It is well known that this last named vegetable has, from the earliest periods which we can discover, constituted almost the sole food of this extraordinary race of people.