Henry James, Jr.


But it flourishes for all that, and all genteel people, looking into each other's eyes with desperation of gentility, agree to endure it for gentility's sake. Another arbitrary trifle is custom of depriving unhappy visitor of napkin at luncheon. When it is observed that English luncheon differs from dinner only in being several degrees more elaborate and copious, and that in London atmosphere it is but common charity, at any moment, to multiply your guest's opportunities if not for ablution at least for *dry polish,* it will be perceived that such eccentricities are very wantonness and pedantry of fashion. But, as I say, they flourish, and they form part of immense body of prescriptive usages, to which society possessing in largest manner, both by temperament and education, sense of *inalienable* rights and comforts of individual, contrives to accommodate itself. I do not mean to say that usage in England is always uncomfortable and arbitrary. On contrary, few strangers can be unfamiliar with that sensation ( most agreeable one) which consists in perceiving in excesses of custom which has struck us at first as mere brutal invention, reason existing in historic *good sense* of English race. sensation is frequent, though in saying so I do not mean to imply that even superficially presumption is against usages of English society. It is not, for instance, necessarily against custom of which I had it more especially in mind to speak in writing these lines. stranger in London is forewarned that at Easter all world goes out of town, and that if he has no mind to be left as lonely as Marius on ruins of Carthage, he, too, had better make arrangements for temporary absence.



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