S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
There is a set of people whom I cannot bearthe pinks of fashionable propriety,whose every word is precise, and whose every movement is unexceptionable, but who, though versed in all the categories of polite behaviour, have not a particle of soul or cordiality about them. We allow that their manners may be abundantly correct. There may be eloquence in every gesture, and gracefulness in every position; not a smile out of place, and not a step that would not bear the measurement of the severest scrutiny. This is all very fine: but what I want is the heart and gaiety of social intercourse; the frankness that spreads ease and animation around it; the eye that speaks affability to all, that chases timidity from every bosom, and tells every man in the company to be confident and happy. This is what I conceive to be the virtue of the text, and not the sickening formality of those who walk by rule, and would reduce the whole of human life to a wire-bound system of misery and constraint.
Without depth of thought, or earnestness of feeling, or strength of purpose, living an unreal life, sacrificing substance to show, substituting the fictitious for the natural, mistaking a crowd for society, finding its chief pleasure in ridicule, and exhausting its ingenuity in expedients for killing time, fashion is among the last influences under which a human being who respects himself, or who comprehends the great end of life, would desire to be placed.
Custom is the law of one description of fools, and fashion of another; but the two parties often clash; for precedent is the legislator of the first, and novelty of the last. Custom, therefore, looks to things that are past, and fashion to things that are present, but both of them are somewhat purblind as to things that are to come; but of the two, fashion imposes the heaviest burthen; for she cheats her votaries of their time, their fortune, and their comforts, and she repays them only with the celebrity of being ridiculed and despised: a very paradoxical mode of remuneration, yet always most thankfully received! Fashion is the veriest goddess of semblance, and of shade; to be happy is of far less consequence to her worshippers than to appear so; and even pleasure itself they sacrifice to parade, and enjoyment to ostentation. She requires the most passive and implicit obedience at the same time that she imposes a most grievous load of ceremonies, and the slightest murmurings would only cause the recusant to be laughed at by all other classes, and excommunicated by his own. Fashion builds her temple in the capital of some mighty empire, and, having selected four or five hundred of the silliest people it contains, she dubs them with the magnificent and imposing title of THE WORLD! But the marvel and the misfortune is, that this arrogant title is as universally accredited by the many who abjure as by the few who adore her; and this creed of fashion requires not only the weakest folly, but the strongest faith, since it would maintain that the minority are the whole, and the majority nothing! Her smile has given wit to dulness, and grace to deformity, and has brought everything into vogue, by turns, but virtue. Yet she is most capricious in her favours, often running from those that pursue her, and coming round to those that stand still. It were mad to follow her, and rash to oppose her, but neither rash nor mad to despise her.