Style is the dress of thoughts; and let them be ever so just if your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar, they will appear to as much disadvantage.
When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted: for we expected to see an author, and we find a man.
Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make oneself its slave.
Style is not unlike genius: we reckon to know it when we see it, but find it hard to define. And because we confidently recognize style in others, we often assume that to acquire it ourselves we need only copy the original model. That may be the basis of fashion; it is not the basis of good style.
Fashion is fun; it can also be tyrannical. As I write, just about the quickest way to induce fits of mirth in the street is to appear there wearing flared trousers. Yet twenty years ago they were the height of fashion, and-who knows?-may be again by the time this book is published. That example is trivial; yet isn't it rather sad that someone who feels idiotic wearing Chinos, rejuvenated 'Oxford Bags' or trousers cut straight and narrow *, should be mocked if he chooses a style that suits him better or in which he feels more comfortable?
A similar constraint can affect one's speech and writing. People often use language in a way that is unnatural-a way they've adopted for reasons which have little to do with how they feel or what they want to say. As with fashion, the process can be insidious. When you buy a certain garment, you may privately feel ridiculous in it, but seeing others wearing similar things will at once make you feel better. As with much else in life, once you get used to it, it soon strikes you as comfortable and 'right':
* In Jasper Carrott's phrase, 'looking like a two-pin plug'.