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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ripping yarns from the established religion

If berenike's vice is Ian Rankin, I'm having a patch of turning to John Buchan shockers for solace. Mostly entirely jolly and decent, though there are spots of casual racism and anti-Semitism which are rather unpleasant to come across - and Richard Hannay's favoured term for a thoroughly upright, sound chap is 'a white man.' Hmm. Still, that aside, generally rollocking patriotic stuff.

An exchange between Richard Hannay and Sandy Arbuthnott in The Three Hostages (1924):

"I [Hannay] suggested politics, and he rather liked the notion.
"'I might be bored in Parliament,' he reflected, 'but I should love the rough-and-tumble of an election. I only once took part in one, and I discovered surprising gifts as a demagogue and made a speech in our little town which is still talked about. The chief row was about Irish Home Rule, and I thought I'd better have a whack at the Pope. Has it ever struck you, Dick, that ecclesiastical language has a most sinister sound? I knew some of the words, though not their meaning, but I knew tht my audience would be just as ignorant. So I had a magnificent peroration. "Will you men of Kilclavers," I asked, "endure to see a shasuble [sic] set up in your market-place? Will you have your daughters sold into simony? Will you have celibacy practised in the public streets?" Gad, I had them all on their feet bellowing "Never!"'
"[Sandy again]'Lord!' he cried, 'how I loathe our new manners in foreign policy. The old English way was to regard all foreigners as slightly childish and rather idiotic and ourselves as the only grown-ups in a kindergarten world. That meant that we had a cool detached view and did even-handed unsympathetic justice. But now we have got into the nursery ourselves and are bear-fighting on the floor. We take violent sides ,and make pets, and of course, if you are-phil something or other you have got to be -phobe something else. It is all wrong. We are becoming Balkanized.'"

Um. I'm not sure the Empire always involved even-handed unsympathetic justice... Still, the entirely stress-free combination of Anglo-Scottish Britishness among the characters, which is very much connected to the Empire and the Europe of empires generally (Hannay is a South African, remember), is rather interesting. One could probably write a thesis on it. Well, someone probably already has.