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    13. De Banana

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    Chapter 14
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    The title which heads this paper is intended to be Latin, and is
    modelled on the precedent of the De Amicitia, De Senectute, De Corona,
    and other time-honoured plagues of our innocent boyhood. It is meant to
    give dignity and authority to the subject with which it deals, as well
    as to rouse curiosity in the ingenuous breast of the candid reader, who
    may perhaps mistake it, at first sight, for negro-English, or for the
    name of a distinguished Norman family. In anticipation of the possible
    objection that the word 'Banana' is not strictly classical, I would
    humbly urge the precept and example of my old friend Horace--enemy I
    once thought him--who expresses his approbation of those happy
    innovations whereby Latium was gradually enriched with a copious
    vocabulary. I maintain that if Banana, bananæ, &c., is not already a
    Latin noun of the first declension, why then it ought to be, and it
    shall be in future. Linnæus indeed thought otherwise. He too assigned
    the plant and fruit to the first declension, but handed it over to none
    other than our earliest acquaintance in the Latin language, Musa. He
    called the banana _Musa sapientum_. What connection he could possibly
    conceive between that woolly fruit and the daughters of the ægis-bearing
    Zeus, or why he should consider it a proof of wisdom to eat a
    particularly indigestible and nightmare-begetting food-stuff, passes my
    humble comprehension. The muses, so far as I have personally noticed
    their habits, always greatly prefer the grape to the banana, and wise
    men shun the one at least as sedulously as they avoid the other.

    Let it not for a moment be supposed, however, that I wish to treat the
    useful and ornamental banana with intentional disrespect. On the
    contrary, I cherish for it--at a distance--feelings of the highest
    esteem and admiration. We are so parochial in our views, taking us as a
    species, that I dare say very few English people really know how
    immensely useful a plant is the common banana. To most of us it
    envisages itself merely as a curious tropical fruit, largely imported at
    Covent Garden, and a capital thing to stick on one of the tall
    dessert-dishes when you give a dinner-party, because it looks
    delightfully foreign, and just serves to balance the pine-apple at the
    opposite end of the hospitable mahogany. Perhaps such innocent readers
    will be surprised to learn that bananas and plantains supply the
    principal food-stuff of a far larger fraction of the human race than
    that which is supported by wheaten bread. They form the veritable staff
    of life to the inhabitants of both eastern and western tropics. What the
    potato is to the degenerate descendant of Celtic kings; what the oat is
    to the kilted Highlandman; what rice is to the Bengalee, and Indian corn
    to the American negro, that is the muse of sages (I translate literally
    from the immortal Swede) to African savages and Brazilian slaves.
    Humboldt calculated that an acre of bananas would supply a greater
    quantity of solid food to hungry humanity than could possibly be
    extracted from the same extent of cultivated ground by any other known
    plant. So you see the question is no small one; to sing the praise of
    this Linnæan muse is a task well worthy of the Pierian muses.

    Do you know the outer look and aspect of the banana plant? If not, then
    you have never voyaged to those delusive tropics. Tropical vegetation,
    as ordinarily understood by poets and painters, consists entirely of the
    coco-nut palm and the banana bush. Do you wish to paint a beautiful
    picture of a rich ambrosial tropical island, _à la_ Tennyson--a summer
    isle of Eden lying in dark purple spheres of sea?--then you introduce a
    group of coco-nuts, whispering in odorous heights of even, in the very
    foreground of your pretty sketch, just to let your public understand at
    a glance that these are the delicious poetical tropics. Do you desire to
    create an ideal paradise, _à la_ Bernardin de St. Pierre, where idyllic
    Virginies die of pure modesty rather than appear before the eyes of
    their beloved but unwedded Pauls in a lace-bedraped _peignoir_?--then
    you strike the keynote by sticking in the middle distance a hut or
    cottage, overshadowed by the broad and graceful foliage of the
    picturesque banana. ('Hut' is a poor and chilly word for these glowing
    descriptions, far inferior to the pretty and high-sounding original
    _chaumière_.) That is how we do the tropics when we want to work upon
    the emotions of the reader. But it is all a delicate theatrical
    illusion; a trick of art meant to deceive and impose upon the unwary who
    have never been there, and would like to think it all genuine. In
    reality, nine times out of ten, you might cast your eyes casually around
    you in any tropical valley, and, if there didn't happen to be a native
    cottage with a coco-nut grove and banana patch anywhere in the
    neighbourhood, you would see nothing in the way of vegetation which you
    mightn't see at home any day in Europe. But what painter would ever
    venture to paint the tropics without the palm trees? He might just as
    well try to paint the desert without the camels, or to represent St.
    Sebastian without a sheaf of arrows sticking unperceived in the calm
    centre of his unruffled bosom, to mark and emphasise his Sebastianic
    personality.

    Still, I will frankly admit that the banana itself, with its practically
    almost identical relation, the plantain, is a real bit of tropical
    foliage. I confess to a settled prejudice against the tropics generally,
    but I allow the sunsets, the coco-nuts, and the bananas. The true stem
    creeps underground, and sends up each year an upright branch, thickly
    covered with majestic broad green leaves, somewhat like those of the
    canna cultivated in our gardens as 'Indian shot,' but far larger,
    nobler, and handsomer. They sometimes measure from six to ten feet in
    length, and their thick midrib and strongly marked diverging veins give
    them a very lordly and graceful appearance. But they are apt in practice
    to suffer much from the fury of the tropical storms. The wind rips the
    leaves up between the veins as far as the midrib in tangled tatters; so
    that after a good hurricane they look more like coco-nut palm leaves
    than like single broad masses of foliage as they ought properly to do.
    This, of course, is the effect of a gentle and balmy hurricane--a mere
    capful of wind that tears and tatters them. After a really bad storm
    (one of the sort when you tie ropes round your wooden house to prevent
    its falling bodily to pieces, I mean) the bananas are all actually blown
    down, and the crop for that season utterly destroyed. The apparent stem,
    being merely composed of the overlapping and sheathing leaf-stalks, has
    naturally very little stability; and the soft succulent trunk
    accordingly gives way forthwith at the slightest onslaught. This
    liability to be blown down in high winds forms the weak point of the
    plantain, viewed as a food-stuff crop. In the South Sea Islands, where
    there is little shelter, the poor Fijian, in cannibal days, often lost
    his one means of subsistence from this cause, and was compelled to
    satisfy the pangs of hunger on the plump persons of his immediate
    relatives. But since the introduction of Christianity, and of a dwarf
    stout wind-proof variety of banana, his condition in this respect, I am
    glad to say, has been greatly ameliorated.

    By descent the banana bush is a developed tropical lily, not at all
    remotely allied to the common iris, only that its flowers and fruit are
    clustered together on a hanging spike, instead of growing solitary and
    separate as in the true irises. The blossoms, which, though pretty, are
    comparatively inconspicuous for the size of the plant, show the
    extraordinary persistence of the lily type; for almost all the vast
    number of species, more or less directly descended from the primitive
    lily, continue to the very end of the chapter to have six petals, six
    stamens, and three rows of seeds in their fruits or capsules. But
    practical man, with his eye always steadily fixed on the one important
    quality of edibility--the sum and substance to most people of all
    botanical research--has confined his attention almost entirely to the
    fruit of the banana. In all essentials (other than the systematically
    unimportant one just alluded to) the banana fruit in its original state
    exactly resembles the capsule of the iris--that pretty pod that divides
    in three when ripe, and shows the delicate orange-coated seeds lying in
    triple rows within--only, in the banana, the fruit does not open; in the
    sweet language of technical botany, it is an indehiscent capsule; and
    the seeds, instead of standing separate and distinct, as in the iris,
    are embedded in a soft and pulpy substance which forms the edible and
    practical part of the entire arrangement.

    This is the proper appearance of the original and natural banana, before
    it has been taken in hand and cultivated by tropical man. When cut
    across the middle, it ought to show three rows of seeds, interspersed
    with pulp, and faintly preserving some dim memory of the dividing wall
    which once separated them. In practice, however, the banana differs
    widely from this theoretical ideal, as practice often _will_ differ
    from theory; for it has been so long cultivated and selected by
    man--being probably one of the very oldest, if not actually quite the
    oldest, of domesticated plants--that it has all but lost the original
    habit of producing seeds. This is a common effect of cultivation on
    fruits, and it is of course deliberately aimed at by horticulturists, as
    the seeds are generally a nuisance, regarded from the point of view of
    the eater, and their absence improves the fruit, as long as one can
    manage to get along somehow without them. In the pretty little
    Tangierine oranges (so ingeniously corrupted by fruiterers into
    mandarins) the seeds have almost been cultivated out; in the best
    pine-apples, and in the small grapes known in the dried state as
    currants, they have quite disappeared; while in some varieties of pears
    they survive only in the form of shrivelled, barren, and useless pips.
    But the banana, more than any other plant we know of, has managed for
    many centuries to do without seeds altogether. The cultivated sort,
    especially in America, is quite seedless, and the plants are propagated
    entirely by suckers.

    Still, you can never wholly circumvent nature. Expel her with a
    pitchfork, _tamen usque recurrit_. Now nature has settled that the right
    way to propagate plants is by means of seedlings. Strictly speaking,
    indeed, it is the only way; the other modes of growth from bulbs or
    cuttings are not really propagation, but mere reduplication by
    splitting, as when you chop a worm in two, and a couple of worms wriggle
    off contentedly forthwith in either direction. Just so when you divide a
    plant by cuttings, suckers, slips, or runners; the two apparent plants
    thus produced are in the last resort only separate parts of the same
    individual--one and indivisible, like the French Republic. Seedlings are
    absolutely distinct individuals; they are the product of the pollen of
    one plant and the ovules of another, and they start afresh in life with
    some chance of being fairly free from the hereditary taints or personal
    failings of either parent. But cuttings or suckers are only the same old
    plant over and over again in fresh circumstances, transplanted as it
    were, but not truly renovated or rejuvenescent. That is the real reason
    why our potatoes are now all going to--well, the same place as the army
    has been going ever since the earliest memories of the oldest officer in
    the whole service. We have gone on growing potatoes over and over again
    from the tubers alone, and hardly ever from seed, till the whole
    constitution of the potato kind has become permanently enfeebled by old
    age and dotage. The eyes (as farmers call them) are only buds or
    underground branches; and to plant potatoes as we usually do is nothing
    more than to multiply the apparent scions by fission. Odd as it may
    sound to say so, all the potato vines in a whole field are often, from
    the strict biological point of view, parts of a single much-divided
    individual. It is just as though one were to go on cutting up a single
    worm, time after time, as soon as he grew again, till at last the one
    original creature had multiplied into a whole colony of apparently
    distinct individuals. Yet, if the first worm happened to have the gout
    or the rheumatism (metaphorically speaking), all the other worms into
    which his compound personality had been divided would doubtless suffer
    from the same complaints throughout the whole of their joint lifetimes.

    The banana, however, has very long resisted the inevitable tendency to
    degeneration in plants thus artificially and unhealthily propagated.
    Potatoes have only been in cultivation for a few hundred years; and yet
    the potato constitution has become so far enfeebled by the practice of
    growing from the tuber that the plants now fall an easy prey to potato
    fungus, Colorado beetles, and a thousand other persistent enemies. It is
    just the same with the vine--propagated too long by layers or cuttings,
    its health has failed entirely, and it can no longer resist the ravages
    of the phylloxera or the slow attacks of the vine-disease fungus. But
    the banana, though of very ancient and positively immemorial antiquity
    as a cultivated plant, seems somehow gifted with an extraordinary power
    of holding its own in spite of long-continued unnatural propagation. For
    thousands of years it has been grown in Asia in the seedless condition,
    and yet it springs as heartily as ever still from the underground
    suckers. Nevertheless, there must in the end be some natural limit to
    this wonderful power of reproduction, or rather of longevity; for, in
    the strictest sense, the banana bushes that now grow in the negro
    gardens of Trinidad and Demerara are part and parcel of the very same
    plants which grew and bore fruit a thousand years ago in the native
    compounds of the Malay Archipelago.

    In fact, I think there can be but little doubt that the banana is the
    very oldest product of human tillage. Man, we must remember, is
    essentially by origin a tropical animal, and wild tropical fruits must
    necessarily have formed his earliest food-stuffs. It was among them of
    course that his first experiments in primitive agriculture would be
    tried; the little insignificant seeds and berries of cold northern
    regions would only very slowly be added to his limited stock in
    husbandry, as circumstances pushed some few outlying colonies northward
    and ever northward toward the chillier unoccupied regions. Now, of all
    tropical fruits, the banana is certainly the one that best repays
    cultivation. It has been calculated that the same area which will
    produce thirty-three pounds of wheat or ninety-nine pounds of potatoes
    will produce 4,400 pounds of plantains or bananas. The cultivation of
    the various varieties in India, China, and the Malay Archipelago dates,
    says De Candolle, 'from an epoch impossible to realise.' Its diffusion,
    as that great but very oracular authority remarks, may go back to a
    period 'contemporary with or even anterior to that of the human races.'
    What this remarkably illogical sentence may mean I am at a loss to
    comprehend; perhaps M. de Candolle supposes that the banana was
    originally cultivated by pre-human gorillas; perhaps he merely intends
    to say that before men began to separate they sent special messengers on
    in front of them to diffuse the banana in the different countries they
    were about to visit. Even legend retains some trace of the extreme
    antiquity of the species as a cultivated fruit, for Adam and Eve are
    said to have reclined under the shadow of its branches, whence Linnæus
    gave to the sort known as the plantain the Latin name of _Musa
    paradisiaca_. If a plant was cultivated in Eden by the grand old
    gardener and his wife, as Lord Tennyson democratically styled them
    (before his elevation to the peerage), we may fairly conclude that it
    possesses a very respectable antiquity indeed.

    The wild banana is a native of the Malay region, according to De
    Candolle, who has produced by far the most learned and unreadable work
    on the origin of domestic plants ever yet written. (Please don't give me
    undue credit for having heroically read it through out of pure love of
    science: I was one of its unfortunate reviewers.) The wild form produces
    seed, and grows in Cochin China, the Philippines, Ceylon, and Khasia.
    Like most other large tropical fruits, it no doubt owes its original
    development to the selective action of monkeys, hornbills, parrots and
    other big fruit-eaters; and it shares with all fruits of similar origin
    one curious tropical peculiarity. Most northern berries, like the
    strawberry, the raspberry, the currant, and the blackberry, developed
    by the selective action of small northern birds, can be popped at once
    into the mouth and eaten whole; they have no tough outer rind or
    defensive covering of any sort. But big tropical fruits, which lay
    themselves out for the service of large birds or monkeys, have always
    hard outer coats, because they could only be injured by smaller animals,
    who would eat the pulp without helping in the dispersion of the useful
    seeds, the one object really held in view by the mother plant. Often, as
    in the case of the orange, the rind even contains a bitter, nauseous, or
    pungent juice, while at times, as in the pine-apple, the prickly pear,
    the sweet-sop, and the cherimoyer, the entire fruit is covered with
    sharp projections, stinging hairs, or knobby protuberances, on purpose
    to warn off the unauthorised depredator. It was this line of defence
    that gave the banana in the first instance its thick yellow skin; and,
    looking at the matter from the epicure's point of view, one may say
    roughly that all tropical fruits have to be skinned before they can be
    eaten. They are all adapted for being cut up with a knife and fork, or
    dug out with a spoon, on a civilised dessert-plate. As for that most
    delicious of Indian fruits, the mango, it has been well said that the
    only proper way to eat it is over a tub of water, with a couple of
    towels hanging gracefully across the side.

    The varieties of the banana are infinite in number, and, as in most
    other plants of ancient cultivation, they shade off into one another by
    infinitesimal gradations. Two principal sorts, however, are commonly
    recognised--the true banana of commerce, and the common plantain. The
    banana proper is eaten raw, as a fruit, and is allowed accordingly to
    ripen thoroughly before being picked for market; the plantain, which is
    the true food-stuff of all the equatorial region in both hemispheres, is
    gathered green and roasted as a vegetable, or, to use the more
    expressive West Indian negro phrase, as a bread-kind. Millions of human
    beings in Asia, Africa, America, and the islands of the Pacific Ocean
    live almost entirely on the mild and succulent but tasteless plantain.
    Some people like the fruit; to me personally it is more suggestive of a
    very flavourless over-ripe pear than of anything else in heaven or earth
    or the waters that are under the earth--the latter being the most
    probable place to look for it, as its taste and substance are decidedly
    watery. Baked dry in the green state 'it resembles roasted chestnuts,'
    or rather baked parsnip; pulped and boiled with water it makes 'a very
    agreeable sweet soup,' almost as nice as peasoup with brown sugar in it;
    and cut into slices, sweetened, and fried, it forms 'an excellent
    substitute for fruit pudding,' having a flavour much like that of
    potatoes _à la maítre d'hótel_ served up in treacle.

    Altogether a fruit to be sedulously avoided, the plantain, though
    millions of our spiritually destitute African brethren haven't yet for a
    moment discovered that it isn't every bit as good as wheaten bread and
    fresh butter. Missionary enterprise will no doubt before long enlighten
    them on this subject, and create a good market in time for American
    flour and Manchester piece-goods.

    Though by origin a Malayan plant, there can be little doubt that the
    banana had already reached the mainland of America and the West India
    Islands long before the voyage of Columbus. When Pizarro disembarked
    upon the coast of Peru on his desolating expedition, the mild-eyed,
    melancholy, doomed Peruvians flocked down to the shore and offered him
    bananas in a lordly dish. Beds composed of banana leaves have been
    discovered in the tombs of the Incas, of date anterior, of course, to
    the Spanish conquest. How did they get there? Well, it is clearly an
    absurd mistake to suppose that Columbus discovered America; as Artemus
    Ward pertinently remarked, the noble Red Indian had obviously discovered
    it long before him. There had been intercourse of old, too, between Asia
    and the Western Continent; the elephant-headed god of Mexico, the
    debased traces of Buddhism in the Aztec religion, the singular
    coincidences between India and Peru, all seem to show that a stream of
    communication, however faint, once existed between the Asiatic and
    American worlds. Garcilaso himself, the half-Indian historian of Peru,
    says that the banana was well known in his native country before the
    conquest, and that the Indians say 'its origin is Ethiopia.' In some
    strange way or other, then, long before Columbus set foot upon the low
    sandbank of Cat's Island, the banana had been transported from Africa or
    India to the Western hemisphere.

    If it were a plant propagated by seed, one would suppose that it was
    carried across by wind or waves, wafted on the feet of birds, or
    accidentally introduced in the crannies of drift timber. So the coco-nut
    made the tour of the world ages before either of the famous Cooks--the
    Captain or the excursion agent--had rendered the same feat easy and
    practicable; and so, too, a number of American plants have fixed their
    home in the tarns of the Hebrides or among the lonely bogs of Western
    Galway. But the banana must have been carried by man, because it is
    unknown in the wild state in the Western Continent; and, as it is
    practically seedless, it can only have been transported entire, in the
    form of a root or sucker. An exactly similar proof of ancient
    intercourse between the two worlds is afforded us by the sweet potato, a
    plant of undoubted American origin, which was nevertheless naturalised
    in China as early as the first centuries of the Christian era. Now that
    we all know how the Scandinavians of the eleventh century went to
    Massachusetts, which they called Vineland, and how the Mexican empire
    had some knowledge of Accadian astronomy, people are beginning to
    discover that Columbus himself was after all an egregious humbug.

    In the old world the cultivation of the banana and the plantain goes
    back, no doubt, to a most immemorial antiquity. Our Aryan ancestor
    himself, Professor Max Müller's especial _protégé_, had already invented
    several names for it, which duly survive in very classical Sanskrit. The
    Greeks of Alexander's expedition saw it in India, where 'sages reposed
    beneath its shade and ate of its fruit, whence the botanical name, _Musa
    sapientum_.' As the sages in question were lazy Brahmans, always
    celebrated for their immense capacity for doing nothing, the report, as
    quoted by Pliny, is no doubt an accurate one. But the accepted
    derivation of the word _Musa_ from an Arabic original seems to me highly
    uncertain; for Linnæus, who first bestowed it on the genus, called
    several other allied genera by such cognate names as Urania and
    Heliconia. If, therefore, the father of botany knew that his own word
    was originally Arabic, we cannot acquit him of the high crime and
    misdemeanour of deliberate punning. Should the Royal Society get wind of
    this, something serious would doubtless happen; for it is well known
    that the possession of a sense of humour is absolutely fatal to the
    pretensions of a man of science.

    Besides its main use as an article of food, the banana serves
    incidentally to supply a valuable fibre, obtained from the stem, and
    employed for weaving into textile fabrics and making paper. Several
    kinds of the plantain tribe are cultivated for this purpose exclusively,
    the best known among them being the so-called manilla hemp, a plant
    largely grown in the Philippine Islands. Many of the finest Indian
    shawls are woven from banana stems, and much of the rope that we use in
    our houses comes from the same singular origin. I know nothing more
    strikingly illustrative of the extreme complexity of our modern
    civilisation than the way in which we thus every day employ articles of
    exotic manufacture in our ordinary life without ever for a moment
    suspecting or inquiring into their true nature. What lady knows when she
    puts on her delicate wrapper, from Liberty's or from Swan and Edgar's,
    that the material from which it is woven is a Malayan plantain stalk?
    Who ever thinks that the glycerine for our chapped hands comes from
    Travancore coco-nuts, and that the pure butter supplied us from the farm
    in the country is coloured yellow with Jamaican annatto? We break a
    tooth, as Mr. Herbert Spencer has pointed out, because the grape-curers
    of Zante are not careful enough about excluding small stones from their
    stock of currants; and we suffer from indigestion because the Cape
    wine-grower has doctored his light Burgundies with Brazilian logwood and
    white rum, to make them taste like Portuguese port. Take merely this
    very question of dessert, and how intensely complicated it really is.
    The West Indian bananas keep company with sweet St. Michaels from the
    Azores, and with Spanish cobnuts from Barcelona. Dried fruits from Metz,
    figs from Smyrna, and dates from Tunis lie side by side on our table
    with Brazil nuts and guava jelly and damson cheese and almonds and
    raisins. We forget where everything comes from nowadays, in our general
    consciousness that they all come from the Queen Victoria Street Stores,
    and any real knowledge of common objects is rendered every day more and
    more impossible by the bewildering complexity and variety, every day
    increasing, of the common objects themselves, their substitutes,
    adulterates, and spurious imitations. Why, you probably never heard of
    manilla hemp before, until this very minute, and yet you have been
    familiarly using it all your lifetime, while 400,000 hundredweights of
    that useful article are annually imported into this country alone. It is
    an interesting study to take any day a list of market quotations, and
    ask oneself about every material quoted, what it is and what they do
    with it.

    For example, can you honestly pretend that you really understand the use
    and importance of that valuable object of everyday demand, fustic? I
    remember an ill-used telegraph clerk in a tropical colony once
    complaining to me that English cable operators were so disgracefully
    ignorant about this important staple as invariably to substitute for its
    name the word 'justice' in all telegrams which originally referred to
    it. Have you any clear and definite notions as to the prime origin and
    final destination of a thing called jute, in whose sole manufacture the
    whole great and flourishing town of Dundee lives and moves and has its
    being? What is turmeric? Whence do we obtain vanilla? How many
    commercial products are yielded by the orchids? How many totally
    distinct plants in different countries afford the totally distinct
    starches lumped together in grocers' lists under the absurd name of
    arrowroot? When you ask for sago do you really see that you get it? and
    how many entirely different objects described as sago are known to
    commerce? Define the uses of partridge canes and cohune oil. What
    objects are generally manufactured from tucum? Would it surprise you to
    learn that English door-handles are commonly made out of coquilla nuts?
    that your wife's buttons are turned from the indurated fruit of the
    Tagua palm? and that the knobs of umbrellas grew originally in the
    remote depths of Guatemalan forests? Are you aware that a plant called
    manioc supplies the starchy food of about one-half the population of
    tropical America? These are the sort of inquiries with which a new
    edition of 'Mangnall's Questions' would have to be filled; and as to
    answering them--why, even the pupil-teachers in a London Board School
    (who represent, I suppose, the highest attainable level of human
    knowledge) would often find themselves completely nonplussed. The fact
    is, tropical trade has opened out so rapidly and so wonderfully that
    nobody knows much about the chief articles of tropical growth; we go on
    using them in an uninquiring spirit of childlike faith, much as the
    Jamaica negroes go on using articles of European manufacture about whose
    origin they are so ridiculously ignorant that one young woman once asked
    me whether it was really true that cotton handkerchiefs were dug up out
    of the ground over in England. Some dim confusion between coal or iron
    and Manchester piece-goods seemed to have taken firm possession of her
    infantile imagination.

    That is why I have thought that a treatise De Banana might not, perhaps,
    be wholly without its usefulness to the modern English reading world.
    After all, a food-stuff which supports hundreds of millions among our
    beloved tropical fellow-creatures ought to be very dear to the heart of
    a nation which governs (and annually kills) more black people, taken in
    the mass, than all the other European powers put together. We have
    introduced the blessings of British rule--the good and well-paid
    missionary, the Remington rifle, the red-cotton pocket-handkerchief, and
    the use of 'the liquor called rum'--into so many remote corners of the
    tropical world that it is high time we should begin in return to learn
    somewhat about fetiches and fustic, Jamaica and jaggery, bananas and
    Buddhism. We know too little still about our colonies and dependencies.
    'Cape Breton an island!' cried King George's Minister, the Duke of
    Newcastle, in the well-known story, 'Cape Breton an island! Why, so it
    is! God bless my soul! I must go and tell the King that Cape Breton's
    an island.' That was a hundred years ago; but only the other day the
    Board of Trade placarded all our towns and villages with a flaming
    notice to the effect that the Colorado beetle had made its appearance at
    'a town in Canada called Ontario,' and might soon be expected to arrive
    at Liverpool by Cunard steamer. The right honourables and other high
    mightinesses who put forth the notice in question were evidently unaware
    that Ontario is a province as big as England, including in its borders
    Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, London, Hamilton, and other large and
    flourishing towns. Apparently, in spite of competitive examinations, the
    schoolmaster is still abroad in the Government offices.
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