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THE DUTY OF BEING UNFASHIONABLE.
LET us consider the duty of being unfashionable.
I do not believe that it is always a duty to be unfashionable. Fashions may be right, as well as wrong; good, as well as bad; and when they are right and good it is a duty to be fashionable. Or a fashion
may be neither good nor bad, and then it is neither a duty to be fashionable nor to be unfashionable. The early Friends, and other religious sects, opposed fashion as such; they protested against all fashion, in dress and address, -- fashions of speech, fashions of costume, fashions of conduct; the fashion of taking off your hat, of using the plural pronoun, of having a coat made to fit the body. But I see nothing objectionable in wearing a fashionable dress rather than an unfashionable one, if you wish to do so, and can afford it. As a general thing it is best to conform to the customs of society when they are innocent. It is not worth while to make one's self a martyr for trifles; and it sometimes requires more courage and involves more suffering to wear an odd-looking dress than to confess the greatest
heresy in religion or politics. There is nothing which excites the public indignation more than a peculiar costume. When I first went to Europe, on arriving in England I found it quite common for men to wear shawls; so I bought a shawl, and wore it. But when I reached Switzerland it appeared to be a thing unknown, and as I walked through the streets of a Swiss village all the boys would run after me and all the girls laugh at me; so I had to lay aside my shawl. If a man in Boston should wear a turban, it would almost create a riot; but if he should wear a hat in some places in the East, he might be stoned by the rabble, for the common people are always intolerant of any singularity in dress. Therefore I think it wrong in parents to compel young people to wear dresses made in an unusual way, for they thus expose their children to needless and useless suffering. The poor little boys or girls are made objects of ridicule to their companions, and perhaps no pain experienced in after life is sharper than what children sometimes endure in this way. What a dreadful time the poor little Quaker children must have had when their fathers and mothers first sent them out into the street in their strange costume! Even now they suffer not a little. I recollect hearing of a young Quaker girl, who had it borne in upon her mind that she ought to be married in a strict Quaker dress, though her friends generally had dropped that ancient costume. She had a struggle to tell her lover of her wishes, but was, I am glad to say, relieved by finding that he was well satisfied to have her do just as she thought right on that occasion.
But there are fashions in other things than dress,
fashions in literature, in philosophy, in art, in manners, in morals, in politics, in religion. And it may often be our duty to swim against the stream, to resist the current; in short, it may often be our duty to become unfashionable.
There are fashions in literature. In the days of Locke and Pope the fashion was plain good sense. The main thing was to be intelligible to the meanest understanding. Those two great writers were not only clear, but also strong, full, and rich in thoughts; but those who imitated them were as shallow as they were pellucid. Afterward there was a time when Thomson's Seasons and Shenstone were in fashion, and everything was pastoral and sentimental. Then came the days of Byron, and the fashion was to be melancholy and miserable; to be tired of life, and prematurely old. And if you open a magazine to-day, you will find other fashions. One man writes in the fashion of Carlyle; another in that of Emerson; one imitates Tennyson, aud another Browning. But every original writer is unfashionable; he follows no fashion. He writes in his own way, not in that of any one else. In this sense, therefore, it is a duty to be unfashionable in literature. The good writer has a style of his own; he does not flow with the stream; he always