Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest."
    More: Age quotes
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Ch. 1 - The Foreigner at Home

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    "This is no my ain house;
    I ken by the biggin' o't."

    Two recent books (1) one by Mr. Grant White on England, one on
    France by the diabolically clever Mr. Hillebrand, may well have set
    people thinking on the divisions of races and nations. Such
    thoughts should arise with particular congruity and force to
    inhabitants of that United Kingdom, peopled from so many different
    stocks, babbling so many different dialects, and offering in its
    extent such singular contrasts, from the busiest over-population to
    the unkindliest desert, from the Black Country to the Moor of
    Rannoch. It is not only when we cross the seas that we go abroad;
    there are foreign parts of England; and the race that has conquered
    so wide an empire has not yet managed to assimilate the islands
    whence she sprang. Ireland, Wales, and the Scottish mountains
    still cling, in part, to their old Gaelic speech. It was but the
    other day that English triumphed in Cornwall, and they still show
    in Mousehole, on St. Michael's Bay, the house of the last Cornish-
    speaking woman. English itself, which will now frank the traveller
    through the most of North America, through the greater South Sea
    Islands, in India, along much of the coast of Africa, and in the
    ports of China and Japan, is still to be heard, in its home
    country, in half a hundred varying stages of transition. You may
    go all over the States, and - setting aside the actual intrusion
    and influence of foreigners, negro, French, or Chinese - you shall
    scarce meet with so marked a difference of accent as in the forty
    miles between Edinburgh and Glasgow, or of dialect as in the
    hundred miles between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Book English has
    gone round the world, but at home we still preserve the racy idioms
    of our fathers, and every county, in some parts every dale, has its
    own quality of speech, vocal or verbal. In like manner, local
    custom and prejudice, even local religion and local law, linger on
    into the latter end of the nineteenth century - IMPERIA IN IMPERIO,
    foreign things at home.

    In spite of these promptings to reflection, ignorance of his
    neighbours is the character of the typical John Bull. His is a
    domineering nature, steady in fight, imperious to command, but
    neither curious nor quick about the life of others. In French
    colonies, and still more in the Dutch, I have read that there is an
    immediate and lively contact between the dominant and the dominated
    race, that a certain sympathy is begotten, or at the least a
    transfusion of prejudices, making life easier for both. But the
    Englishman sits apart, bursting with pride and ignorance. He
    figures among his vassal in the hour of peace with the same
    disdainful air that led him on to victory. A passing enthusiasm
    for some foreign art or fashion may deceive the world, it cannot
    impose upon his intimates. He may be amused by a foreigner as by a
    monkey, but he will never condescend to study him with any
    patience. Miss Bird, an authoress with whom I profess myself in
    love, declares all the viands of Japan to be uneatable - a
    staggering pretension. So, when the Prince of Wales's marriage was
    celebrated at Mentone by a dinner to the Mentonese, it was proposed
    to give them solid English fare - roast beef and plum pudding, and
    no tomfoolery. Here we have either pole of the Britannic folly.
    We will not eat the food of any foreigner; nor, when we have the
    chance, will we eager him to eat of it himself. The same spirit
    inspired Miss Bird's American missionaries, who had come thousands
    of miles to change the faith of Japan, and openly professed their
    ignorance of the religions they were trying to supplant.

    I quote an American in this connection without scruple. Uncle Sam
    is better than John Bull, but he is tarred with the English stick.
    For Mr. Grant White the States are the New England States and
    nothing more. He wonders at the amount of drinking in London; let
    him try San Francisco. He wittily reproves English ignorance as to
    the status of women in America; but has he not himself forgotten
    Wyoming? The name Yankee, of which he is so tenacious, is used
    over the most of the great Union as a term of reproach. The Yankee
    States, of which he is so staunch a subject, are but a drop in the
    bucket. And we find in his book a vast virgin ignorance of the
    life and prospects of America; every view partial, parochial, not
    raised to the horizon; the moral feeling proper, at the largest, to
    a clique of states; and the whole scope and atmosphere not
    American, but merely Yankee. I will go far beyond him in
    reprobating the assumption and the incivility of my countryfolk to
    their cousins from beyond the sea; I grill in my blood over the
    silly rudeness of our newspaper articles; and I do not know where
    to look when I find myself in company with an American and see my
    countrymen unbending to him as to a performing dog. But in the
    case of Mr. Grant White example were better than precept. Wyoming
    is, after all, more readily accessible to Mr. White than Boston to
    the English, and the New England self-sufficiency no better
    justified than the Britannic.

    It is so, perhaps, in all countries; perhaps in all, men are most
    ignorant of the foreigners at home. John Bull is ignorant of the
    States; he is probably ignorant of India; but considering his
    opportunities, he is far more ignorant of countries nearer his own
    door. There is one country, for instance - its frontier not so far
    from London, its people closely akin, its language the same in all
    essentials with the English - of which I will go bail he knows
    nothing. His ignorance of the sister kingdom cannot be described;
    it can only be illustrated by anecdote. I once travelled with a
    man of plausible manners and good intelligence - a University man,
    as the phrase goes - a man, besides, who had taken his degree in
    life and knew a thing or two about the age we live in. We were
    deep in talk, whirling between Peterborough and London; among other
    things, he began to describe some piece of legal injustice he had
    recently encountered, and I observed in my innocence that things
    were not so in Scotland. "I beg your pardon," said he, "this is a
    matter of law." He had never heard of the Scots law; nor did he
    choose to be informed. The law was the same for the whole country,
    he told me roundly; every child knew that. At last, to settle
    matters, I explained to him that I was a member of a Scottish legal
    body, and had stood the brunt of an examination in the very law in
    question. Thereupon he looked me for a moment full in the face and
    dropped the conversation. This is a monstrous instance, if you
    like, but it does not stand alone in the experience of Scots.

    England and Scotland differ, indeed, in law, in history, in
    religion, in education, and in the very look of nature and men's
    faces, not always widely, but always trenchantly. Many particulars
    that struck Mr. Grant White, a Yankee, struck me, a Scot, no less
    forcibly; he and I felt ourselves foreigners on many common
    provocations. A Scotchman may tramp the better part of Europe and
    the United States, and never again receive so vivid an impression
    of foreign travel and strange lands and manners as on his first
    excursion into England. The change from a hilly to a level country
    strikes him with delighted wonder. Along the flat horizon there
    arise the frequent venerable towers of churches. He sees at the
    end of airy vistas the revolution of the windmill sails. He may go
    where he pleases in the future; he may see Alps, and Pyramids, and
    lions; but it will be hard to beat the pleasure of that moment.
    There are, indeed, few merrier spectacles than that of many
    windmills bickering together in a fresh breeze over a woody
    country; their halting alacrity of movement, their pleasant
    business, making bread all day with uncouth gesticulations, their
    air, gigantically human, as of a creature half alive, put a spirit
    of romance into the tamest landscape. When the Scotch child sees
    them first he falls immediately in love; and from that time forward
    windmills keep turning in his dreams. And so, in their degree,
    with every feature of the life and landscape. The warm, habitable
    age of towns and hamlets, the green, settled, ancient look of the
    country; the lush hedgerows, stiles, and privy path-ways in the
    fields; the sluggish, brimming rivers; chalk and smock-frocks;
    chimes of bells and the rapid, pertly-sounding English speech -
    they are all new to the curiosity; they are all set to English airs
    in the child's story that he tells himself at night. The sharp
    edge of novelty wears off; the feeling is scotched, but I doubt
    whether it is ever killed. Rather it keeps returning, ever the
    more rarely and strangely, and even in scenes to which you have
    been long accustomed suddenly awakes and gives a relish to
    enjoyment or heightens the sense of isolation.

    One thing especially continues unfamiliar to the Scotchman's eye -
    the domestic architecture, the look of streets and buildings; the
    quaint, venerable age of many, and the thin walls and warm
    colouring of all. We have, in Scotland, far fewer ancient
    buildings, above all in country places; and those that we have are
    all of hewn or harled masonry. Wood has been sparingly used in
    their construction; the window-frames are sunken in the wall, not
    flat to the front, as in England; the roofs are steeper-pitched;
    even a hill farm will have a massy, square, cold and permanent
    appearance. English houses, in comparison, have the look of
    cardboard toys, such as a puff might shatter. And to this the
    Scotchman never becomes used. His eye can never rest consciously
    on one of these brick houses - rickles of brick, as he might call
    them - or on one of these flat-chested streets, but he is instantly
    reminded where he is, and instantly travels back in fancy to his
    home. "This is no my ain house; I ken by the biggin' o't." And
    yet perhaps it is his own, bought with his own money, the key of it
    long polished in his pocket; but it has not yet, and never will be,
    thoroughly adopted by his imagination; nor does he cease to
    remember that, in the whole length and breadth of his native
    country, there was no building even distantly resembling it.

    But it is not alone in scenery and architecture that we count
    England foreign. The constitution of society, the very pillars of
    the empire, surprise and even pain us. The dull, neglected
    peasant, sunk in matter, insolent, gross and servile, makes a
    startling contrast with our own long-legged, long-headed,
    thoughtful, Bible-quoting ploughman. A week or two in such a place
    as Suffolk leaves the Scotchman gasping. It seems incredible that
    within the boundaries of his own island a class should have been
    thus forgotten. Even the educated and intelligent, who hold our
    own opinions and speak in our own words, yet seem to hold them with
    a difference or, from another reason, and to speak on all things
    with less interest and conviction. The first shock of English
    society is like a cold plunge. It is possible that the Scot comes
    looking for too much, and to be sure his first experiment will be
    in the wrong direction. Yet surely his complaint is grounded;
    surely the speech of Englishmen is too often lacking in generous
    ardour, the better part of the man too often withheld from the
    social commerce, and the contact of mind with mind evaded as with
    terror. A Scotch peasant will talk more liberally out of his own
    experience. He will not put you by with conversational counters
    and small jests; he will give you the best of himself, like one
    interested in life and man's chief end. A Scotchman is vain,
    interested in himself and others, eager for sympathy, setting forth
    his thoughts and experience in the best light. The egoism of the
    Englishman is self-contained. He does not seek to proselytise. He
    takes no interest in Scotland or the Scotch, and, what is the
    unkindest cut of all, he does not care to justify his indifference.
    Give him the wages of going on and being an Englishman, that is all
    he asks; and in the meantime, while you continue to associate, he
    would rather not be reminded of your baser origin. Compared with
    the grand, tree-like self-sufficiency of his demeanour, the vanity
    and curiosity of the Scot seem uneasy, vulgar, and immodest. That
    you should continually try to establish human and serious
    relations, that you should actually feel an interest in John Bull,
    and desire and invite a return of interest from him, may argue
    something more awake and lively in your mind, but it still puts you
    in the attitude of a suitor and a poor relation. Thus even the
    lowest class of the educated English towers over a Scotchman by the
    head and shoulders.

    Different indeed is the atmosphere in which Scotch and English
    youth begin to look about them, come to themselves in life, and
    gather up those first apprehensions which are the material of
    future thought and, to a great extent, the rule of future conduct.
    I have been to school in both countries, and I found, in the boys
    of the North, something at once rougher and more tender, at once
    more reserve and more expansion, a greater habitual distance
    chequered by glimpses of a nearer intimacy, and on the whole wider
    extremes of temperament and sensibility. The boy of the South
    seems more wholesome, but less thoughtful; he gives himself to
    games as to a business, striving to excel, but is not readily
    transported by imagination; the type remains with me as cleaner in
    mind and body, more active, fonder of eating, endowed with a lesser
    and a less romantic sense of life and of the future, and more
    immersed in present circumstances. And certainly, for one thing,
    English boys are younger for their age. Sabbath observance makes a
    series of grim, and perhaps serviceable, pauses in the tenor of
    Scotch boyhood - days of great stillness and solitude for the
    rebellious mind, when in the dearth of books and play, and in the
    intervals of studying the Shorter Catechism, the intellect and
    senses prey upon and test each other. The typical English Sunday,
    with the huge midday dinner and the plethoric afternoon, leads
    perhaps to different results. About the very cradle of the Scot
    there goes a hum of metaphysical divinity; and the whole of two
    divergent systems is summed up, not merely speciously, in the two
    first questions of the rival catechisms, the English tritely
    inquiring, "What is your name?" the Scottish striking at the very
    roots of life with, "What is the chief end of man?" and answering
    nobly, if obscurely, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever." I
    do not wish to make an idol of the Shorter Catechism; but the fact
    of such a question being asked opens to us Scotch a great field of
    speculation; and the fact that it is asked of all of us, from the
    peer to the ploughboy, binds us more nearly together. No
    Englishman of Byron's age, character, and history would have had
    patience for long theological discussions on the way to fight for
    Greece; but the daft Gordon blood and the Aberdonian school-days
    kept their influence to the end. We have spoken of the material
    conditions; nor need much more be said of these: of the land lying
    everywhere more exposed, of the wind always louder and bleaker, of
    the black, roaring winters, of the gloom of high-lying, old stone
    cities, imminent on the windy seaboard; compared with the level
    streets, the warm colouring of the brick, the domestic quaintness
    of the architecture, among which English children begin to grow up
    and come to themselves in life. As the stage of the University
    approaches, the contrast becomes more express. The English lad
    goes to Oxford or Cambridge; there, in an ideal world of gardens,
    to lead a semi-scenic life, costumed, disciplined and drilled by
    proctors. Nor is this to be regarded merely as a stage of
    education; it is a piece of privilege besides, and a step that
    separates him further from the bulk of his compatriots. At an
    earlier age the Scottish lad begins his greatly different
    experience of crowded class-rooms, of a gaunt quadrangle, of a bell
    hourly booming over the traffic of the city to recall him from the
    public-house where he has been lunching, or the streets where he
    has been wandering fancy-free. His college life has little of
    restraint, and nothing of necessary gentility. He will find no
    quiet clique of the exclusive, studious and cultured; no rotten
    borough of the arts. All classes rub shoulders on the greasy
    benches. The raffish young gentleman in gloves must measure his
    scholarship with the plain, clownish laddie from the parish school.
    They separate, at the session's end, one to smoke cigars about a
    watering-place, the other to resume the labours of the field beside
    his peasant family. The first muster of a college class in
    Scotland is a scene of curious and painful interest; so many lads,
    fresh from the heather, hang round the stove in cloddish
    embarrassment, ruffled by the presence of their smarter comrades,
    and afraid of the sound of their own rustic voices. It was in
    these early days, I think, that Professor Blackie won the affection
    of his pupils, putting these uncouth, umbrageous students at their
    ease with ready human geniality. Thus, at least, we have a healthy
    democratic atmosphere to breathe in while at work; even when there
    is no cordiality there is always a juxtaposition of the different
    classes, and in the competition of study the intellectual power of
    each is plainly demonstrated to the other. Our tasks ended, we of
    the North go forth as freemen into the humming, lamplit city. At
    five o'clock you may see the last of us hiving from the college
    gates, in the glare of the shop windows, under the green glimmer of
    the winter sunset. The frost tingles in our blood; no proctor lies
    in wait to intercept us; till the bell sounds again, we are the
    masters of the world; and some portion of our lives is always
    Saturday, LA TREVE DE DIEU.

    Nor must we omit the sense of the nature of his country and his
    country's history gradually growing in the child's mind from story
    and from observation. A Scottish child hears much of shipwreck,
    outlying iron skerries, pitiless breakers, and great sea-lights;
    much of heathery mountains, wild clans, and hunted Covenanters.
    Breaths come to him in song of the distant Cheviots and the ring of
    foraying hoofs. He glories in his hard-fisted forefathers, of the
    iron girdle and the handful of oat-meal, who rode so swiftly and
    lived so sparely on their raids. Poverty, ill-luck, enterprise,
    and constant resolution are the fibres of the legend of his
    country's history. The heroes and kings of Scotland have been
    tragically fated; the most marking incidents in Scottish history -
    Flodden, Darien, or the Forty-five were still either failures or
    defeats; and the fall of Wallace and the repeated reverses of the
    Bruce combine with the very smallness of the country to teach
    rather a moral than a material criterion for life. Britain is
    altogether small, the mere taproot of her extended empire:
    Scotland, again, which alone the Scottish boy adopts in his
    imagination, is but a little part of that, and avowedly cold,
    sterile and unpopulous. It is not so for nothing. I once seemed
    to have perceived in an American boy a greater readiness of
    sympathy for lands that are great, and rich, and growing, like his
    own. It proved to be quite otherwise: a mere dumb piece of boyish
    romance, that I had lacked penetration to divine. But the error
    serves the purpose of my argument; for I am sure, at least, that
    the heart of young Scotland will be always touched more nearly by
    paucity of number and Spartan poverty of life.

    So we may argue, and yet the difference is not explained. That
    Shorter Catechism which I took as being so typical of Scotland, was
    yet composed in the city of Westminster. The division of races is
    more sharply marked within the borders of Scotland itself than
    between the countries. Galloway and Buchan, Lothian and Lochaber,
    are like foreign parts; yet you may choose a man from any of them,
    and, ten to one, he shall prove to have the headmark of a Scot. A
    century and a half ago the Highlander wore a different costume,
    spoke a different language, worshipped in another church, held
    different morals, and obeyed a different social constitution from
    his fellow-countrymen either of the south or north. Even the
    English, it is recorded, did not loathe the Highlander and the
    Highland costume as they were loathed by the remainder of the
    Scotch. Yet the Highlander felt himself a Scot. He would
    willingly raid into the Scotch lowlands; but his courage failed him
    at the border, and he regarded England as a perilous, unhomely
    land. When the Black Watch, after years of foreign service,
    returned to Scotland, veterans leaped out and kissed the earth at
    Port Patrick. They had been in Ireland, stationed among men of
    their own race and language, where they were well liked and treated
    with affection; but it was the soil of Galloway that they kissed at
    the extreme end of the hostile lowlands, among a people who did not
    understand their speech, and who had hated, harried, and hanged
    them since the dawn of history. Last, and perhaps most curious,
    the sons of chieftains were often educated on the continent of
    Europe. They went abroad speaking Gaelic; they returned speaking,
    not English, but the broad dialect of Scotland. Now, what idea had
    they in their minds when they thus, in thought, identified
    themselves with their ancestral enemies? What was the sense in
    which they were Scotch and not English, or Scotch and not Irish?
    Can a bare name be thus influential on the minds and affections of
    men, and a political aggregation blind them to the nature of facts?
    The story of the Austrian Empire would seem to answer, NO; the far
    more galling business of Ireland clenches the negative from nearer
    home. Is it common education, common morals, a common language or
    a common faith, that join men into nations? There were practically
    none of these in the case we are considering.

    The fact remains: in spite of the difference of blood and language,
    the Lowlander feels himself the sentimental countryman of the
    Highlander. When they meet abroad, they fall upon each other's
    necks in spirit; even at home there is a kind of clannish intimacy
    in their talk. But from his compatriot in the south the Lowlander
    stands consciously apart. He has had a different training; he
    obeys different laws; he makes his will in other terms, is
    otherwise divorced and married; his eyes are not at home in an
    English landscape or with English houses; his ear continues to
    remark the English speech; and even though his tongue acquire the
    Southern knack, he will still have a strong Scotch accent of the
    mind.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Robert Louis Stevenson essay and need some advice, post your Robert Louis Stevenson essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?