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german and austrian women

Of all the German females, the ladies of Saxony are the most amiable. Their persons are so superiorly charming and preferable in whatever can recommend them to be notice of mankind, that the German youth often visit Saxony in quest of companions for life. Exclusive of their beauty and comeliness of appearance, they are brought up in a knowledge of all those arts, both useful and ornamental, which are so brilliant an addition to their native attractions. But what chiefly enhances their value, and gives it reality and duration, is a sweetness of temper and festivity of disposition, that never fail to endear them on a very slight acquaintance. To crown all, they are generally patterns of conjugal tenderness and fidelity.

As they are commonly careful to improve their minds by reading and instructive conversation, they have no small share of facetiousness and ingenuity. From their innate liveliness, they are extremely addicted to all the gay kind  of amusements. They excel in the allurements of dress and decoration, and are in general skilful in music.

The character, however, of the women in most other parts of Germany, particularly of the Austrian, is very different from this. Notwithstanding the advantages of size and make, their looks and features, though not unsightly, betray a vacancy of that life and spirit, without which beauty is uninteresting, and, like a mere picture, becomes utterly void of that indication of sensibility, which alone can awaken a delicacy of feeling.

As their education is conducted by the rules of the grossest superstition, and they are taught little else than set forms of devotion, they arrive to the years of maturity uninstructed in the use of reason, and usually continue profoundly ignorant the remainder of their days, which are spent, or rather loitered away, in apathy and indolence.

The principal happiness of the Austrian ladies of fashion consists in ruminating on the dignity of their birth and families, the antiquity of their race, the rank they hold, the respect attached to it, and the prerogatives they enjoy over the inferior classes, whom they treat with the utmost superciliousness, and hold in the most unreasonable contempt. In the mean time, their domestic affairs are condemned to the most unaccountable neglect. They dwell at home, careless of what passes there; and suffer disorder and confusion to prevail, without feeling the least uneasiness. Great frequenters of churches, their piety consists in the strictest conformity to all the externals of religion. They profess the most boundless belief in all the silly legends with which their treatises of devotion are filled; and these are the only books they ever read. The coldness of their constitution occasions a species of regulated gallantry, which is rather the effect of an opinion that it is an appendage of high life, than the result of their natural inclination.

It must, at the same time be allowed, that the Austrian women are endowed with a great fund of sincerity and candor; and, though too much on the reserve, and prone to keep at an unnecessary distance, are yet capable of the truest attachment, and always warm and zealous in the cause of those whom they have admitted to their friendship.

Though the Germans are rather a dull and phlegmatic people, and not greatly enslaved by the warmer passions, yet in Vienna they are much given to intrigue: and an amour is so far from being scandalous, that a woman gains credit by the rank of her gallant, and is reckoned silly and unfashionable if she scrupulously adheres to the virtue of chastity. But such customs are more the customs of cities, than of places less exposed to temptation, and consequently less dissolute; and we are well assured that in Germany there are many women who do honor to humanity, not by chastity only, but also by a variety of other virtues.

The ladies at the principal cities, differ not much in their dress from the French and English. They are not, however, so excessively fond of paint as the former. At some cities, they appear in rich furs: and all of them are loaded with jewels, if they can obtain them. The female part of the burgher’s families, in many of the German towns, dress in a very different manner, and some of them inconceivably fantastic, as may be seen in many prints published in books of travels. But, in this respect, they are gradually reforming, and many of them make quite a different appearance in their dress from what they did thirty or forty years ago.

The inhabitants of Vienna lived luxuriously, a great part of their time being spent in feasting and carousing. In winter, when the different branches of the Danube are frozen over, and the ground covered with snow, the ladies take their recreation in sledges of different shapes, such as griffins, tigers, swans, scallop-shells, etc. Here the lady sits, dressed in velvet lined with rich furs, and adorned with laces and jewels, having on her head a velvet cap. The sledge is drawn by one horse, stag or other creature, set off with plumes of feathers, ribbons and bells. As this diversion is taken chiefly in the night time, servants ride before the sledge with torches; and a gentleman, standing on the sledge behind, guides the horse.