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THERE is nothing so hopeless as vulgarity genuine vulgarity, arising from presumption and want of tact, united to the peculiar demonstrative habits of humble life. The strongest illustration of this species of vulgarity will be found in Ireland, where the national vanity forces all qualities into evidence. It is often accompanied by the conscious possession of some moderate talent, or some serviceable qualification, which carries the possessor out of his natural orbit, into higher circles, where he is adopted either as an available agent, or an amusing ridicule. In this position, vulgarity comes out in its strongest relief; and if it be not utterly disgusting, by being excessively obtrusive, it is often very humorous and very absurd. This is the vulgarity which furnishes mystification to society, and character for novels; supplying the Lord Charleses with vastly good fun, and such writers as the authors of “ The Absentee” and the “O'Briens," with their Sir Phelims and their Captain O'Mealys. Easy assurance; a presuming familiarity, on the slightest grounds, with persons of superior rank; obtrusiveness, without reference to time, place, or persons; a clipped but not mitigated brogue, gesticulation, and a sort of posturemaster's attitude ; frequent reference to " honour,” and “ credit;" the dropping of titles when speaking of the qualified, and an affected condescension when speaking to equals, are among the generic signs of the incorrigibly vulgar of that country, where it is the ambition of all to be supremely genteel.
In England, the classes and degrees of society are defined by such strong lines of demarcation, that there is less play given for pretension to exhibit its absurdities; and even the vulgarity of cockneyism is less striking and less humourous, than the vulgarity of the social parvenus of Irish circles. In either instance, confine the patient within the limits of his own proper and natural sphere, and the vulgarity that disgusts, or amuses when displaced, loses its sharpness, as engravers say,
for the true and abundant source of all vulgarity is pretension.
Nobody is struck by an apparent vulgarity in the smart young shopman, who officiates behind the counter of one of the great “ houses (formerly shops) in Waterloo Place or Oxford Street, and who, simply labouring in his vocation, is as much what he ought to be, as comme il faut,” as the duchess, who tosses over his crêpes, cachemirs, and merinos, as if the looms of France, Spain, and India were mounted and worked "" solely for her use." But take this Dick, the apprentice of Grafton House, or of the Magazine of Fashion, in his opera bat, at a ball at the Crown and Anchor, or “ playing the fine” at a “great to do” at Mrs. Mango's, and you have the delightful Magnus Apollo of Snow Hill,--the “sprightly young man ” of the Miss Brancton's first floor.
Besides this highest and most dramatic order of vulgarity, in which temperament and circumstances alike combine, there is a sort of conventional vulgarity, found occasionally in all ranks and classes, and which is only termed vulgarity, because it does not submit to be wound up and set, by the great regulator of fashion. This species of vulgarity, which is in fact no vulgarity at all, though it be a dereliction from the standard manner of a particular circle, is generally the result of early associations, and of great animal spirits overleaping the boundaries prescribed by cold, quiet, stilllife bon ton ; for that style of manners which has become a doctrine, is but the result of a phlegmatic temperament, inherited with the old blood of ancient descent.
Pope, with a sort of physiological poetry, has applied the term “creep," to the languid circulation of“ ancient but ignoble blood.” To be what is called ' trop prononcé," (for the dogmas of modern fashion, like the old English laws, are all given in French) is a misprision of vulgarity, frequently detected even in the very highest classes ; and no coronet, however knobbed, can save its wearer from the imputation, if she is once convicted of the high crime and misdemeanour of being too “démonstratif” of her feelings, prepossessions, humours, or opinions.
I remember hearing one duchess say of another, “ She is amusing, but she is insufferably vulgar." Both their graces were equally influential at the head of their respective and particular circles: the more elegant duchess was by temperament, and by British aristocratic breeding, endowed “ with all her sex's softness," and with all that quiet assumption of dignity, which “ comes but by the aid of use.” The more demonstrative grace, with a highland temperament, and spirits bright and elevated as the region that produced them, was perpetually bounding over the lines of circumvallation drawn by the bon ton against the inroads of nature. Betrayed frequently into coarseness, she was still never vulgar-for assumption, and not pretension, was the failing of the clever, brilliant, but trop prononcée Duchess of G