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what to call, though we daily and hourly see, and fall down before, and worship it the moment it appears, and yet can never exactly say why. Perhaps Hannah More characterized it, when she wrote the line,
All Levison's sweetness, and all Beaufort's grace.' But even this grace and sweetness must be coupled with Levison and Beaufort's rank, blood, and connexions, before it can succeed. Perhaps it is a gift from nature, that rich gift to the Seymours, the Somersets, the Fitzroys, or the Gowers, which a nabob, and a nabob's wife, would give half India to be able to acquire. But still we know not in language to describe it, and hence, I said, it was indescribable.”
Surely,” said I, struck with this ebullition, “if you can so well exemplify this something, so powerful as well as desirable, though it have no name, it cannot be so indescribable as you have called it. One who understands so well what it is not, must know what it is, and therefore can tell at least of what it is composed."
“No!” answered the lady again ; “ for its ingredients are as heterogeneous as numerous ; by no means producing the same effect
persons, nor always upon the same person. They cannot, therefore, be classed, or depended upon. They may be efficient in one, inefficient in another; attract here, repel there; conciliate, or affront;
be admired, or hated ;-according as a combination of fortunate or untoward events may prevail among different parties.
“One reason for this may be, that good breeding may be of two sorts-one original, the other imitative. Hence the manners of the old nobility are rarely caught by new men, from the consciousness of superiority in the former, and of inferiority in the latter, imbibed from their cradles. Much depends also upon convention, a knowledge of which, and strict observance of its laws, are absolutely necessary."
“ Would that I could obtain this knowledge,” said I. 66 What you may do when
have been some time at Court, I know not,” returned Lady Hungerford. “At present you have too much simplicity, and are too natural, to take a degree in fashion. If you saw a beautiful woman, you would stare at her; if she was your mistress, you would shew pleasure ; if the house was on fire, you
would shew fear.”
“And good cause too,” said I.
“Aye; there it is," observed my preceptress. “I said you were too natural. I am afraid you will never do, and I shall report you to Lord Castleton accordingly.”
Thus disported this lively lady on a subject which had often puzzled me, and wiser heads than
mine, but which she seemed to have considered as philosophically as playfully.
The conference was now about to end ; but of a sudden it occurred to me that we had not touched upon a very important part of the subject, and that it was quite as necessary for one studying les usages to know the legitimate meaning of the opposite to fashion, as of fashion itself.
I propounded this, and asked, though we might not be able exactly to tell in what fashion consisted, whether it might not assist the inquiry to define its opposite—vulgarity.
** Scientifically put," said she. “ I find you have not been at Oxford for nothing. In truth, the question is most apposite to that we have been treating ; certainly, much connected with it ; and it seems to me that it is not quite so difficult; for though we cannot easily manage to say more than what fashion is not, we can pretty well tell what vulgarity is.”
“ This is what I most devoutly wish to understand," said I, “ though you will pardon me if I venture to doubt your powers of instruction here, from the impossibility of your knowing any thing of such a subject.”
“ A very well-intended compliment,” observed the lady ; “ I see you have already endeavoured to profit by one of my precepts, and, as I told you to do, have tried at least to wrap it well up. After all, perhaps, I may have hopes of you. And yet you are still most unlearned in the matter; for don't you see that nous autres are not merely the best, but the exclusive judges of what does not belong to us, by being the sole arbiters of what does. Ask a vulgar (the very vulgarest man), what is vulgarity-he will take care to tell you it cannot be himself. Those only can know itor, at least, those know it best--who are farthest removed from it ;—so that after all, what you intended is the reverse of a compliment. I quite feel for your mistake.”
What she really felt I don't exactly know, but, for myself, I felt this was a palpable hit, and in some confusion owned it.
“ Well,” said she, “ you will do better next time; only take notice that this is another proof of the danger of attempting compliments. And now for our subject, upon which, however, as we have settled that we can tell what vulgarity is, we shall not have so much trouble in determining what it is not. But, may I ask what you say it is ? That is, who
your opinion, the vulgar?” “ To answer generally," said I, “ I suppose the lower orders; the common people, called vulgus, whence the word ; and hence what the common people generally are, the uneducated—the gens de la halle-the mob.”
“ In my view of the question,” answered Lady
Hungerford, “this definition will not do; thoughi, as a generic explanation, it is, I suppose, accurate. But although if vulgus (which I know is translated by you scholars, common people) stands for vulgar, vulgar and the common people must be the same; still it will not, as I feel it, mean those hateful persons who really form the vulgar; for, in my sense of vulgarity, it is always taken with an adverse meaning; and in that bad sense the common people are not identified with it, for they are neither exclusively nor necessarily disgusting."
“But being, as you allow, the vulgar, is not that a paradox ?” asked I.
“ You think so, I see; and I will therefore endeavour to explain myself; for I am clear that to be one of the common people does not necessarily carry along with it that offensiveness which always shocks
us, and which is by no means confined to the lower orders, merely as such; neither, as such, does it necessarily belong to them, though generically (and only generically) the name implies it.”
.6 I see your ladyship,” said I, “ is determined to treat this deep subject as it deserves, most phi. losophically and most profoundly. I assure you
I am quite alive to the ingenuity of this distinction.”
“ All that I mean," continued the lady,“ is, that we are not shocked with what only appears in its natural colours, and pursues its natural course, remaining always in its appropriate place. It is