[Spencer's "On Manners and Fashion" originally appeared in the April 1854 Westminster Review. GPL]

Forms that have ceased to facilitate and have become obstructive — whether political, religious, or other -- have ever to be swept away; and eventually are so swept away in all cases. Signs are not wanting that some change is at hand. A host of Satirists, led on by Thackeray, have been for years engaged in bringing out our sham festivities, and our fashionable follies, into contempt; and in their candid moods, most men laugh at the frivolities with which they and the world in general are deluded. Ridicule has always been a revolutionary agent. That which is habitually assailed with sneers and sarcarsms cannot long survive. Institutions that have lost their roots in man's respect and faith are doomed; and the date of their dissolution is not far off. The time is approaching, then, when our system of social observances must pass through some crisis, out of which it will come purified and comparatively simple. [234]

Related Materials


Spencer, Herbert. "On Manners and Fashion." Essays on Education and Kindred Subjects. London: Dent/Everyman, 1966.

Last modified 3 March 2003