ABOUT ABROAD. -|- Educational Philosophy Theory

ABOUT ABROAD.

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The place known as Abroad is not nearly so nice a country to live in as England. The people who inhabit Abroad are called Foreigners. They are in every way and at all times inferior to Englishmen.

These Post-Prandials used once to be provided with a sting in their tail, like the common scorpion. By way of change, I turn them out now with a sting in their head, like the common mosquito. Mosquitoes are much less dangerous than scorpions, but they're a deal more irritating.

Not that I am sanguine enough to expect I shall irritate Englishmen. Your Englishman is far too cock-sure of the natural superiority of Britons to Foreigners, the natural superiority of England to Abroad, ever to be irritated by even the gentlest criticism. He accepts it all with lordly indifference. He brushes it aside as the elephant might brush aside the ineffective gadfly. No proboscis can pierce that pachydermatous hide of his. If you praise him to his face, he accepts your praise as his obvious due, with perfect composure and without the slightest elation. If you blame him in aught, he sets it down to your ignorance and mental inferiority. You say to him, "Oh, Englishman, you are great; you are wise; you are rich beyond comparison. You are noble; you are generous; you are the prince among nations." He smiles a calm smile, and thinks you a very sensible fellow. But you add, "Oh, my lord, if I may venture to say so, there is a smudge on your nose, which I make bold to attribute to the settlement of a black on your intelligent countenance." He is not angry. He is not even contemptuously amused. He responds, "My friend, you are wrong. There is never a smudge on my immaculate face. No blacks fly in London. The sky is as clear there in November as in August. All is pure and serene and beautiful." You answer, "Oh, my lord, I admit the force of your profound reasoning. You light the gas at ten in the morning only to show all the world you can afford to burn it." At that, he gropes his way along Pall Mall to his club, and tells the men he meets there how completely he silenced you.

And yet, My Lord Elephant, there is use in mosquitoes. Mr. Mattieu Williams once discovered the final cause of fleas. Certain people, said he, cannot be induced to employ the harmless necessary tub. For them, Providence designed the lively flea. He compels them to scratch themselves. By so doing they rouse the skin to action and get rid of impurities. Now, this British use of the word Abroad is a smudge on the face of the otherwise perfect Englishman. Perchance a mosquito-bite may induce him to remove it with a little warm water and a cambric pocket-handkerchief.

To most Englishmen, the world divides itself naturally into two unequal and non-equivalent portions—Abroad and England. Of these two, Abroad is much the larger country; but England, though smaller, is vastly more important. Abroad is inhabited by Frenchmen and Germans, who speak their own foolish and chattering languages. Part of it is likewise pervaded by Chinamen, who wear pigtails; and the outlying districts belong to the poor heathen, chiefly interesting as a field of missionary enterprise, and a possible market for Manchester piece-goods. We sometimes invest our money abroad, but then we are likely to get it swallowed up in Mexicans or Egyptian Unified. If you ask most people what has become of Tom, they will answer at once with the specific information, "Oh, Tom has gone Abroad." I have one stereotyped rejoinder to an answer like that. "What part of Abroad, please?" That usually stumps them. Abroad is Abroad; and like the gentleman who was asked in examination to "name the minor prophets," they decline to make invidious distinctions. It is nothing to them whether he is tea-planting in the Himalayas, or sheep-farming in Australia, or orange-growing in Florida, or ranching in Colorado. If he is not in England, why then he is elsewhere; and elsewhere is Abroad, one and indivisible.

In short, Abroad answers in space to that well-known and definite date, the Olden Time, in chronology.

People will tell you, "Foreigners do this"; "Foreigners do that"; "Foreigners smoke so much"; "Foreigners always take coffee for breakfast." "Indeed," I love to answer; "I've never observed it myself in Central Asia." 'Tis Parson Adams and the Christian religion. Nine English people out of ten, when they talk of Abroad, mean what they call the Continent; and when they talk of the Continent, they mean France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy; in short, the places most visited by Englishmen when they consent now and again to go Abroad for a holiday. "I don't like Abroad," a lady once said to me on her return from Calais. Foreigners, in like manner, means Frenchmen, Germans, Swiss, Italians. In the country called Abroad, the most important parts are the parts nearest England; of the people called Foreigners, the most important are those who dress like Englishmen. The dim black lands that lie below the horizon are hardly worth noticing.

Would it surprise you to learn that most people live in Asia? Would it surprise you to learn that most people are poor benighted heathen, and that, of the remainder, most people are Mahommedans, and that of the Christians, who come next, most people are Roman Catholics, and that, of the other Christian sects, most people belong to the Greek Church, and that, last of all, we get Protestants, more particularly Anglicans, Wesleyans, Baptists? Have you ever really realised the startling fact that England is an island off the coast of Europe? that Europe is a peninsula at the end of Asia? that France, Germany, Italy, are the fringe of Russia? Have you ever really realised that the English-speaking race lives mostly in America? that the country is vastly more populous than London? that our class is the froth and the scum of society? Think these things out, and try to measure them on the globe. And when you speak of Abroad, do please specify what part of it.

Abroad is not all alike. There are differences between Poland, Peru, and Palestine. What is true of France is not true of Fiji. Distinguish carefully between Timbuctoo, Tobolsk, and Toledo.

It is not our insularity that makes us so insular. 'Tis a gift of the gods, peculiar to Englishmen. The other inhabitants of these Isles of Britain are comparatively cosmopolitan. The Scotchman goes everywhere; the world is his oyster. Ireland is an island still more remote than Great Britain; but the Irishman has never been so insular as the English. I put that down in part to his Catholicism: his priests have been wheels in a world-wide system; his relations have been with Douai, St. Omer, and Rome; his bishops have gone pilgrimages and sat on Vatican Councils; his kinsmen are the MacMahons in France, the O'Donnels in Spain, the Taafes in Austria. Even in the days of the Regency this was so: look at Lever and his heroes! When England drank port, County Clare drank claret. But ever since the famine, Ireland has expanded. Every Irishman has cousins in Canada, in Australia, in New York, in San Francisco. The Empire is Irish, with the exception of India; and India, of course, is a Scotch dependency. Irishmen and Scotchmen have no such feelings about Abroad and its Foreigners as Londoners entertain. But Englishmen never quite get over the sense that everybody must needs divide the world into England and Elsewhere. To the end no Englishman really grasps the fact that to Frenchmen and Germans he himself is a foreigner. I have met John Bulls who had passed years in Italy, but who spoke of the countrymen of Cæsar and Dante and Leonardo and Garibaldi with the contemptuous toleration one might feel towards a child or an Andaman Islander. These Italians could build Giotto's campanile; could paint the Transfiguration; could carve the living marble on the tombs of the Medici; could produce the Vita Nuova; could beget Galileo, Galvani, Beccaria; but still—they were Foreigners. Providence in its wisdom has decreed that they must live Abroad—just as it has decreed that a comprehension of the decimal system and its own place in the world should be limitations eternally imposed upon the English intellect.

 
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