Henry James, Jr.


It be said of the English as is said of council of war in Sheridan's farce of The Critic one of the spectators of the rehearsal, that when do agree their unanimity is wonderful. (......) but neither now nor at any other time do they fail conform to those social observances on which Respectability has her seal. England is a country of curious anomalies, this has much to do with her being so to foreign observers. The English individual character is very , very independent, very much made up according to its sentiment of things, very prone to startling eccentricities; and at the same time it has beyond any other peculiar gift of squaring itself with fashion and custom. no other country, I imagine, are so many people be found doing the same thing in the same at the same time ---- using the same slang, the same hats and cravats, collecting the same china , playing the same game of lawn-tennis or of polo, into the same skating-rinks-. The monotony of this spectacle soon become oppressive if the foreign observer were not of this latent capacity in the performers for the play of character; he finds a good deal of in wondering how they reconcile the traditional insularity of individual with this perpetual tribute to custom. Of course all civilized societies the tribute to custom is being paid; if it is less observable in America than the reason is not, I think, because individual independence greater, but because custom is more sparsely established.



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