Henry James, Jr.


Where we have customs people certainly follow them; but for five American customs there are fifty English. I am very far from having discovered secret; I have not in least learned what becomes of that explosive personal force in English character which is compressed and corked down by social conformity. I look with certain awe at some of manifestations of conforming spirit, but fermenting idiosyncrasies beneath it are hidden from my vision. most striking example, to foreign eyes, of power of custom in England is of course universal church-going-. In sight of all England getting up from its tea and toast of Sunday morning and brushing its hat and drawing on its gloves and taking its wife on its arm and making its offspring march before, and so, for decencys', respectabilitys', propriety's sake, making its way to place of worship appointed by State, in which it respects formulas of creed to which it attaches no positive sense and listens to sermon over length of which it explicitly haggles and grumbles, ---- in this great exhibition there is something very striking to stranger, something which he hardly knows whether to pronounce very sublime or very puerile. (......) way in which example of more comfortable classes imposes itself upon less comfortable may of course be noticed in smaller matters than church-going-; in great many matters which it may seem trivial to mention. If one is bent upon observation nothing, however, is trivial. So I may cite practice of keeping servants out of room at breakfast. It is fashion, and so, apparently, through length and breadth of England, every one who has slightest pretension to standing high enough to feel way social breeze is blowing conforms to it. It is awkward, unnatural, troublesome for those at table, it involves vast amount of leaning and stretching, of waiting and perambulating, and it has just that vice against which, in English history, all great movements have been made ---- it is arbitrary.



created with the online Cloze Test Creator © 2009 Lucy Georges