Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The English abroad No1

We export two chief kinds of Englishmen, who in foreign parts divide themselves into two opposed classes. Some feel deeply the influence of the native people, and try to adjust themselves to its atmosphere and spirit: To fit themselves modestly into the picture and suppress all in them that would be discordant with local habits and colours. They imitate the native as far as possible, and so avoid friction in their daily life. However, they cannot avoid the consequences of imitation, a hollow, worthless thing. They are like the people but not of the people, and their half-perceptible differences give them a sham influence often greater than their merit. They urge people among whom they live into strange unnatural courses by imitating them so well that they are imitated back again.

The other class of Englishmen is the larger class. In the same circumstances of exile they reinforce their character by memories of the life they have left. In reaction against their foreign surroundings they take refuge in the England that was theirs. They assert their aloofness, their impassivity, the more vividly for their loneliness and weakness. They impress the people among whom they live by reaction, by giving them an example of the complete Englishman, the foreigner intact.

T.E. Lawrence, introduction to Doughty's Arabia Deserta.

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