Monday, December 7, 2009

Essay: "English Writers on America." Washington Irving.

One-minute review: Irving says that too many English travelers in America criticize America in the English press and thinks that the English should be much more objective in discussing America—especially since America is a classless society in which most Englishmen would prosper. On the other hand, Irving thinks Americans should not express antipathy toward the English. We have too much in common.


“Such persons become embittered against the country [America] on finding that there, as everywhere else, a man must sow before he can reap; must win wealth by industry and talent; and must contend with the common difficulties of nature, and the shrewdness of an intelligent and enterprising people.”

“But why are we so exquisitely alive to the aspersions of England? Why do we suffer ourselves to be so affected by the contumely she has endeavored to cast upon us?

“There is a general impression in England, that the people of the United States are inimical to the parent country.”

“Nothing is so easy and inviting as the retort of abuse and sarcasm; but it is a paltry and an unprofitable contest.”

“Knowledge is power and truth is knowledge; whoever, therefore, knowingly propagates a prejudice, willfully saps the foundation of his country’s strength.”

“Opening, too, as we do, an asylum for strangers from every portion of the earth, we should receive all with impartiality.”

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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