22.7.11

On Personality


A stranger passing the open door of her compartment might well have speculated on her nationality and place in the world and supposed her to be American, the buyer perhaps for some important New York dress shop whose present distraction was due to the worries of wartime transport for her 'collection'. She wore the livery of highest fashion, but as one who dressed to inform rather than to attract: nothing which she wore, nothing it might be supposed in the pigskin jewel-case above her head, had been chosen by or for a man. Her smartness was individual; she was plainly not one of those who scrambled to buy the latest gadget in the few breathless weeks between its first appearance and the inundation of the cheap markets of the world with its imitations; her person was a record and criticism of succeeding fashions, written as it were, year after year, in one clear and characteristic fist. Had the curious fellow passenger stared longer - as he was free to do without offence, so absorbed was Angela in her own thoughts - he would have been checked in his hunt when he came to study his subject's face. All her properties - the luggage heaped above and around her, the set of her hair, her shoes, her finger-nails, the barely perceptible aura of scent that surrounded her, the Vichy water and the paper-bound volume of Balzac on the table before her - all these things spoke of what (had she been, as she seemed, American) she would have called her 'personality'. But the face was mute. It might have been carved in jade, it was so smooth and cool and conventionally removed from the human.

Put Out More Flags - Evelyn Waugh

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