Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Essay: "National Prejudices." Oliver Goldsmith.

10-second review: To say that every other country is inferior to our own is a false patriotism. We, like the ancient philosopher, are citizens of the world.


“…we took occasion to talk of the different characters of the several nations of Europe; when one of the gentlemen, cocking his hat, and assuming such an air of importance as if he had possessed all the merit of the English nation in his own person, declared that the Dutch were a parcel of avaricious wretches; the French a set of flattering sycophants; that the Germans were drunken sots, and beastly gluttons; and the Spaniards proud, haughty and surly tyrants; but that in bravery, generosity, clemency, and in every other virtue, the English excelled all the rest of the world.”

“…the patriotic gentleman observed with a contemptuous sneer, that he was greatly surprised how some people could have the conscience to live in a country which they did not love, and to enjoy the protection of a government, to which in their hearts they were inveterate enemies.” [Said whenever some one criticizes the government and nation where one lives.]

[One of the marks of a gentleman is a lack of prejudice of any kind.]

“And in fact, you will always find that those are most apt to boast of national merit, who have little or no merit of their own to depend on….”

“Is it not very possible that I may love my own country without hating the natives of other countries?”

“I should prefer the title of the ancient philosopher, viz. a citizen of the world, to that of an Englishman, a Frenchman, a European….”

Essays: 1765.

Great Essays. Ed. Houston Peterson. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc. 1960.

What is an essay? “They are all prefaces. A preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they [essays] do nothing else.” Charles Lamb.

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