Formerly the word vulgarity was confined to the low, men,
and essentially plebeian; but in the present day the great mixture of classes
and the elevation of wealth have brought vulgar men and women even into good
society. It is a term which is now applied, not only to coarseness and
formality in speech and manners, but also to pretensions of certain kinds.
It may be shown by a
prominent display of wealth. A story is related of French corn-merchant who had
realized an enormous fortune. He invited a stranger to a family party. The
manners of every one present were irreproachable, and the dinner excellent, but
it was served on gold plate. Such a display was unnecessary, and therefore
vulgar. Display is not confined to the wealthy. The man who makes too much old
his own Excellencies, who will only talk on the topic he is string in, who,
gifted with a fine voice, sits at the piano the whole evening, who, having in
my novel,? or who, being a great man in any line, condescends, talks loudly, or
asserts his privileges, is a vulgar man, be he king, rajah or shoemaker.
There is an Indian
fable of a lump of crystal, which thought it would be mistaken for gold because
it reflected the glitter of the neighboring metal. It was never taken for gold,
but it was supposed to cover it, and got shivered to atoms by the hammer of the
miner. This story might be quoted with advantage against those who base their
claims to distinction on their acquaintance with noble or distinguished
personages. To converse with a man of high rank may be an honour, but it does
not entitle the recipient of the honour to consider himself superior to those
whom he meets every day.
An offence form of
vulgarity is an assumption of refinement in language or habits. The best
speakers will never use a big and uncommon word where a common one will do.
They consider ?buy? better than ?purchase?,? wish than desire?. The pretentious
never speak of ?rich and poor? , but of ?those of large ? and ?those of small
means?. These people are as objectionable as one of the Dukes of Queensberry,
who exaggerated over refinement to such an extent that he would wash in nothing
The true gentleman
can do anything that is not coarse or wrong. It rather astonishes such persons
to find that a nobleman can carry his bag or a parcel and that a noble lady
delights in gardening.