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Editor’s Notebook: Unreservedly British

“We don’t bother much about dress and manners in England, because as a nation we don’t dress well and we’ve no manners.”  —George Bernard Shaw 

This line from Shaw’s 1897 play You Never Can Tell no doubt immediately suggested to U.S. audiences that this comedy was one of errors. Fashionable Americans then took English manners and dress quite seriously, as evidenced in the extreme by wealthy New York socialite and sportsman James John Van Alen, who reportedly affected a top hat and monocle and peppered his speech with such archaic interpolations as forsooth and egad. Today, Britain’s sartorial tastemakers have embraced a more relaxed and contemporary attitude, as readers will discover in this month’s style features, “Street Smart” (page 116) and “Redefining Formal” (page 96), which were photographed in the heart of London. 

Manners are another matter. Whatever else may have changed recently in Britain, proper comportment remains de rigueur—even in the 575 hp Jaguar F-Type SVR. In testing this fierce cat for “The Sound of Speed” (page 122), contributor Shaun Tolson restrained his velocity on the public roads of Spain only to be disrespected by a recklessly passing Peugeot. “I was tempted to return the favor,” he says, “but decided against it.” And so a New Englander upheld English honor.

Still, British reserve has its limits, as Raphael Kadushin knows. While researching “Deliciously Rustic” (page 130), his survey of food-forward English inns, he wandered through the village of Chipping Campden, admiring its venerable stone houses. “One of them,” he told us, “looked oddly familiar.” Later he remembered that, years before, during a stay in one of these cottages, he returned from an evening stroll. “I walked in on an entire family eating dinner in front of their television,” he recalls. “Someone screamed, and it was then that I realized my B&B was in the duplicate house next door.”

 Brett Anderson,  Editor in Chief