Friday, 28 September 2007

The world through 'innocent' eyes

A fantastic article in the Independent reprints the travel advice of Mrs Favell Mortimer, a mid nineteenth century writer who had apparently never been out of England. She sums up foreign countries in a rather schoolmistressy way - neatly showing every English prejudice of the time.

It is, in a way, the world through 'innocent' eyes. Not the self-consciously innocent eyes of some modern travellers, who attempt to see everything as if for the first time, to experience other cultures without a layer of superiority or difference between them. No, this is the innocence of someone who actually doesn't realise that other cultures exist - that real people live in them - that they are anything other than a sideshow to hold up in the classroom to demonstrate the superiority of the British Empire. I particularly like the comments on Prussia - a horrible place but at least it's Protestant. (The same sort of judgment as 'a dreadful town but at least you can get a nice cup of tea'..)

Yes, that's a strange kind of innocence indeed.

A most amusing article none the less.

1 comment:

  1. That's funny! I had heard that there were some Victiorian writers that did this. I just got through reading Isabella Bird's _Adventures in the Rocky Mountains_ and she was definitely HANDS ON! Thanks for sharing that article -- what a great contrast my reading today.