The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.

The American, however, must not plume himself too much on his superior knowledge.  Shameful as the British ignorance of America often is, a corresponding American ignorance of Great Britain would be vastly more shameful.  An American cannot understand himself unless he knows something of his origins beyond the seas; the geography and history of an American child must perforce include the history and geography of the British Isles.  For a Briton, however, knowledge of America is rather one of the highly desirable things than one of the absolutely indispensable.  It would certainly betoken a certain want of humanity in me if I failed to take any interest in the welfare of my sons and daughters who had emigrated to New Zealand; but it is evident that for the conduct of my own life a knowledge of their doings is not so essential for me as a knowledge of what my father was and did.  The American of Anglo-Saxon stock visiting Westminster Abbey seems paralleled alone by the Greek of Syracuse or Magna Graecia visiting the Acropolis of Athens; and the experience of either is one that less favoured mortals may unfeignedly envy.  But the American and the Syracusan alike would be wrong were he to feel either scorn or elation at the superiority of the guest’s knowledge of the host over the host’s knowledge of the guest.

However that may be, and whatever latitude we allow to the proverbial connection of familiarity and contempt, there seems little reason to doubt that closer knowledge of one another will but increase the mutual sympathy and esteem of the Briton and the American.  The former will find that Brother Jonathan is not so exuberantly and perpetually starred-and-striped as the comic cartoonist would have us believe; and the American will find that John Bull does not always wear top-boots or invariably wield a whip.  Things that from a distance seem preposterous and even revolting will often assume a very different guise when seen in their native environment and judged by their inevitable conditions.  It is not always true that “coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt” that is, if we allow ourselves to translate “animum” in its Ciceronian sense of “opinion."[9] To hold this view does not make any excessive demand on our optimism.  There seems absolutely no reason why in this particular case the line of cleavage between one’s likes and one’s dislikes should coincide with that of foreign and native birth.  The very word “foreign” rings false in this connection.  It is often easier to recognise a brother in a New Yorker than in a Yorkshireman, while, alas! it is only theoretically and in a mood of long-drawn-out aspiration that we can love our alien-tongued European neighbour as ourselves.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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