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[78] so avoid the awkwardness of a delay. These things must be to some degree conventionally learned, because they represent not only good feeling, but historic changes and social development. There is generally some reason at the bottom of all of them, but there is not time always to explain, and it greatly facilitates that social ease which is the object really aimed at, to accept the habits of society as they are; and not, for instance, to insist on calling for fish with your dessert at a dinner-party, merely because you happen to fancy that combination.

Many an ardent and zealous young reformer offends the very world he is burning to reform when he refuses to meet it with some slight compliance; as Felix Holt, in George Eliot's story, was willing to die for the improvement of society, but could by no means consent to wear a cravat for its sake. Manners come next to morals, not alone because they help us to make the world pleasanter, and thus render life easier to all around us, but also because they afford a key to those greater successes and usefulnesses for which all generous persons long. And their domain goes beyond this world; for if the utmost saint makes himself personally repulsive, he so far diminishes our desire to meet him in any land of pure delights. Miss Edgeworth says in “Helen” that any one who makes goodness disagreeable commits high-treason against virtue;

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