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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Miss Sibilla Hutton, Milliner


Miss Sibilla Hutton was the daughter of a very worthy dissenting clergyman, the Rev. William Hutton of Dalkeith. She kept a millinery establishment in the Royal Exchange. Sibby—for that was the name by which she was best known—was, without exception, the most fantastic lady of her day. This disposition grew with her growth, and strengthened with her strength. She by no means coincided with the poet's idea of beauty—

"When unadorned, adorned the most."

From her infancy she had been remarkable for her love of ornament; and, notwithstanding all the injunctions and rebukes of her father, Sibby still admired and followed the capricious changes of fashion.

Sibby carried on business to great "purpose, and daily added to the heaviness of her purse, as well as to the rotundity of her person. Neither did she neglect her early imbibed notions of personal decoration. She was always at the head of the ton, and indeed generally so far in advance that few attempted to follow. Miss Sibilla's silks, too, and the profusion of lace with which she was overlaid, were always of the most costly description, and must have been procured at immense expense.

During her residence in Edinburgh she occasionally visited her friends at Dalkeith. The old Secession minister was sadly scandalised at Sibby's obduracy in the practice of vain ornament. One day Sibby appeared at Dalkeith with the identical head-dress in which she is portrayed in the print. It was the first occasion on which it had graced her portly figure. "Sibby! Sibby!'" said the father, with more than usual gravity; "do you really expect to get to heaven with such a bonnet on your head?" "and why not, father?" said Sibilla, with her accustomed good humour; "I'm sure I'll make a better appearance there than you will do with that vile, old-fashioned black wig, which you have worn for the last twenty years!"

The good clergyman, tired of private expostulation, resolved to change his tactics. One Sabbath, when Sibby satin the meeting-house, as she sometimes did, her father chose to be very severe on the vanity and sinfulness of female ornaments ; and went so minutely to work as to describe the very bonnet and dress of Miss Sibilla; yet this availed not. Sibby did not abridge the rotundity of her bonnet a single inch, until compelled by an influence more powerful than her father's sermon— the dictates of fashion.

Sibby at length got tired of what appeared to her the everlasting sameness of Edinburgh, and the dull monotony of a trip to Dalkeith. Besides, she considered her professional talents worthy of a wider field. She therefore resolved to establish herself in London, which she actually did about the year 1790, and was succeeded in the shop and business by a sister, Mrs. Kid, wife of Captain Kid, master of one of the London traders.

Respecting Miss Sibilla's success in the great metropolis, how long she remained, or how she relished the change of scene, we can say nothing; but that she returned to Edinburgh is certain. She died there in the month of February, 1808. Her death is thus recorded:— "Lately at Edinburgh, Miss Sibilla Hutton, daughter of the late Rev. William Hutton, minister of the gospel at Dalkeith."


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