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French Boileaus, and to the critical forty of the
French Academy, when, in the age of Louis
Quatorze, England pined under her Stuarts.
We were thoroughly English when we got rid
of the Stuarts and received a Dutchman m their
place. But our very tongues were so long in
subjection to French law, that my dear friend
Limpet himself, who prides himself upon the
fine long words in which he lays the law down
to his friends, is, as to that matter, still a French

For this was what we did. When we
believed the French to be the best of earthly
critics, we saw how they proceeded with the
settling of their language. They had diversities
of dialogue, and almost two languages, divided
by the Loire, so they resolved on a great
dictionary that was to be made by the academy of
forty, sitting in judgment upon all words used
in France, and settling which should be rejected
as unfit for literary use, and which should be
received as sterling French. They preferred
words of Latin origin. French is made of the
language of the Latins mixed with that of the
Celts whom they conquered, and is essentially
one of the Latin tongues. When the French
dignified their language by a constant reference
to Latin, they did precisely what we do when
we refer English to Anglo-Saxon. But our
critics never thought of that. France looked
up its vernacular Latin; France was wise, France
was supreme. England would do the same, and
throughout all the reigns of the Georges, men
were not thoroughly English in their speech,
even when as parliamentary orators and patriots,
they rolled out their denunciations of the French.
Not only does the element of Latin brought
into English by the Normans supply less than a
third part of our vocabulary, but the Latin
words are, at least, three times less in demand
for daily use. The structure of our language,
the essentials of its grammar, the words for all
the inmost feelings, the close natural ties, and
the necessities of life, are Anglo-Saxon, as in
French they are Latin. Yet we harked back
to the Latin, copying our neighbours blindly,
till the growth of a large popular literature, and
at the same time of a more independent scholarship,
drove us in practice as in theory upon a
reversal of our fathers' rule. Now, nobody
willingly will take a word of Latin birth to
express anything that can be said in the true
home speech; and our common talk and writing
let Jack Limpet scold as he willis more
thoroughly English than it ever has been since
the days of William the Conqueror.

My friend the British Resident has been
married to his wife Cicely these forty years. For
the last twenty I have known them familiarly,
and have never heard them either quarrel or
protest the depth of their affection for each
other, or hold forth upon the blessing of the
marriage ceremony, which is the glorious
domestic constitution they established for
themselves by a good deal of family fighting forty
years ago. When their wedding was not a
remote event, they no doubt congratulated
themselves on it pretty frequently. Now, they say
nothing about that: though if John died on
Monday, Cicely would be dead the next Saturday,
I do not doubt. They have eyes for their
neighbours as they sit by their own quiet
hearth; they praise Bill for the determination
he shows to be married to his Sue, and discuss
with a genial sympathy the joys and sorrows of
the parish outside their park gates. "Well,
sir, what then?" he asks, if I throw these habits
in his face. "Isn't an Englishman to have
room in his heart for his neighbour?"
"Certainly, Jack. So I like to hear John Bull and
his wife talk of their neighbours as you talk of
yours. That's thoroughly English."

No doubt my friend the British Resident
himself is insular. Foreigners sometimes say
we are all insular in our habits, but Limpet
knows better than that, for he believes himself,
and perhaps rightly, to be the one insular man
in Britain. There never was a people on the
face of the earth less tied within bounds than the
English have been at all periods of their history,
or more disposed to send their sympathies
abroad. In this respect, indeed, their fault has
been a tendency to care more about affairs of
Borrioboola than affairs of Bermondsey. From
no country on earth has there spread heartier
sympathy with suffering and a truer sound of
rejoicing in all that is noble outside its own
bounds, than from quiet, busy, and warm-hearted
England. Some Prussians of late have been
making themselves conspicuous for fighting
insolently against a ghost of English insolence
raised by themselves. I will make no obvious
comparisons between the behaviour of Englishmen
to Prussians in England, and the behaviour
of Prussians to Englishmen in Prussia. But I
should like to know what literature but the
English is rich in such symptoms as shine
from Milton's sonnet on the Vaudois massacre,
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints," or
what Prussian ever heard how "Freedom shrieked
when Kosciusko fell!" Our business is with the
world, and where we work we feel. Our
sympathy is always hearty, and too often,
perhaps, as regards neighbours over the sea,
active. We may not be insular enough in that
respect. It is true that we do not, as a nation,
plunge headlong into direct participation with
our neighbours when they toil and battle. All
our instincts are against it. Every man of us
at home has his own battle to fight, and is
expected, even by his nearest and his dearest
friends, to fight it for himself. While he fights
bravely, he may count on sympathy; but, roughly
speaking, if he cannot hold his own ground for
himself, we assume that he has not a right  to
it. Where a man cannot stand without being
held on by main force of others, he had better
shift his ground. We expect states, as we
expect men, to live by their own energies. It is
the natural discipline of life with which we
cannot interfere, but we can put our hearts into a
study of it.

Limpet complains that his newspaper is full
of tidings about foreigners, and that his