Her contemporary Tocqueville, on the other hand, wasnan aristocrat (his Norman ancestry and title went back to thenmiddle of the 11th century) who had a great and open-eyedninterest in democracy. In the second volume of Democracynin America (which, at the time of its publication, receivednless favorable notice than Mrs. Trollope’s book), several ofnhis chapters deal with American manners. His most summarynstatement reads; “In democracies manners are never asnrefined as among aristocracies, but they are also never soncoarse.”nThat statement is both subtle and profound, with anmeaning that escaped Mrs. Trollope.nWe have reached a stage in our imperial developmentnwhere the staffs, the cooks, the decorators, thenplanners, the social directors of the White Housenincorporate a ceremonial organization that surpassesnthat of Versailles at the time of Louis XIV.n10/CHRONICLESnThe great problem of the future of civilization, which thisnFrench nobleman answered in the 1830’s in a then whollynunexpected way, was whether democracy — at that timenuniquely incarnated by the United States — could be preventednfrom debouching into radical and revolutionarynextremes. Tocqueville observed that the problem might benthe very opposite. It was the tendency of democratic societynto form a vast current of conformity and mediocrity, thenexistence and the essence of which would be merelynobscured by an incessant agitation of petty movements onnthe surface. He realized (as had few others, foremost amongnthem his American contemporary James Fenimore Cooper)nthat the pressure of public opinion — or, more precisely, thenpressure of an assumed public opinion — was a sometimesnsalutary but more often stifling regulator of all aspects of thenAmericans’ lives, including their manners.nTocqueville was impressed with the high moral tone ofnmarital relations in America, where fidelity was “morenobligatory than anywhere else.” Even among the Americannupper classes circumstances “oblige the wives to stay atnhome and watch in person very closely over the details ofndomestic economy.” He found that in many ways Americannwomen were admirable wives and mothers. The fear thatndemocracy would lead to unbridled license was nonsense.n”In the United States men seldom compliment women, butnthey daily show how much they esteem them.”nThere was, of course, another side to this. “In America, anwoman loses her independence forever in the bonds ofnmatrimony. While there is less constraint on girls there thannanywhere else, a wife submits to strict obligations. For thenformer, her father’s home is a house of freedom andnpleasure, for the latter, her husband’s is almost a cloister.”nThe pretty and spirited Betsy Patterson of Baltimore, whonhad married Napoleon’s brother Jerome (the marriage wasnnot a success), saw that very clearly. When her father askednher to return to America, she refused. “I think it is quite asnrational to go to balls and dinners as to get children, whichnpeople must do in Baltimore to kill time.”nWell—150 years later this is not what people do innnnBaltimore to kill time. And here we come to our secondndifEculty, which is not the definition but the history ofnmanners: their change as well as their continuity. “ThenNecessity of Manners” is the first chapter in HaroldnNicolson’s Good Behaviour. There he wrote that his book isnneither a social history nor a manual of etiquette; that it is, innreality, a study of “successive types of civility,” from ancientnAthens to the 20th century. But in the relatively shortnhistory of the United States, “types of civility” havenchanged, perhaps especially in the relations of the sexes. Asnlate as 1955 Nicolson was critical (as were also manynAmerican writers) of the power of American wives over theirnhusbands, and of American mothers over their sons. (Whatnfeminists would now think of such attributions of annAmerican “matriarchal” society I leave to the reader tondecide.) But there has been a change. In William Maxwell’snfine novel Time Will Darken It, his shy and sensitivenprotagonist, a Midwestern lawyer, in 1912 speaks harshly tonhis secretary on one occasion; he would never talk that waynto his wife. I am inclined to think that the opposite wouldnprevail today. In Evan Connell’s exquisite portrait of Mrs.nBridge, her relationship to her husband in the I920’s andn1930’s is hardly imaginable today. Yet some of Mrs. Bridge’snmanners — of an upper-middle-class woman in KansasnCity — are not quite extinct. Probably this is what EdithnWharton meant when in The Age of Innocence she wrotenthat in 1900 the society and the customs of Old New Yorknwere almost entirely gone, but there remained an aroma ofnits erstwhile manners.nYet our problem, when writing about manners, is not onlynthe passage of time. It is that manners, by and large, arennational, even more than they are social. Many habits ofnsocial ritual and intercourse — including such courtesies asn”monsieur,” “madame,” “mademoiselle”—filtered downnfrom the French aristocracy to the peasantry, and becamennational; and in communist Poland high party functionariesnfind it necessary and proper to bow and kiss the hands ofnwomen. But the very composition of the American nationnhas changed drastically since the 1830’s, when Tocquevillenfound it best to describe them as “Anglo-Americans.” Henwas already aware of the differences between English andnAmerican manners, contrasting them and often preferringnAmerican manners to the English. Yet 150 years later, fewernthan one out of six Americans are of English or Welsh ornScottish ancestry. How strong, or lasting, is their inheritance?nWhat has happened to those “Anglo-American”nmanners? What has remained constant in American manners?nCan we speak of American manners at all?nIn Edmund Burke’s great speech “On Conciliation withnthe American Colonies” (1775), he warned the Englishnagainst identifying America “with stories of savage men, andnuncouth manners.” In America as in other places, mannersnmust rest (as Goethe realized) on a moral foundation. Butnthe rigid observance of certain manners in early Americanthat impressed Tocqueville cannot be ascribed to AmericannPuritanism: for that strictness—very much including thenrespect paid to women, and gentlemanly behavior inngeneral — was as strong in the American South as in NewnEngland. Indeed, it may be argued that the manners of thenSouth have been better than those of the North.nHow can we square this with Coethe? Many people inn