2/20/2015

Everything I Know About the English, I've Learned from English Literature


I've only spent a couple of weeks in England, but I feel like I enjoy an intimate acquaintance with the country based on all the novels I've read about the realm.  Here's a partial list of things I've inferred about the British, based solely on my study of British literature:

  1. At all times, English villages are either planning a church fete or actually in the midst of one (Christie)
  2. Forebear crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted (Doyle, Bronte)
  3. Anything worth saying, sounds even more impressive in iambic pentameter (Shakespeare)
  4. The London poor are a whimsical class populated by fallen gentlemen, endearing orphans, adn picturesque villains (Dickens)
  5. The country is disproportionately inhabited by single men in possession of good fortunes, all of whom are in want of wives (Austen)
  6. All wild, gay young bucks come automatically furnished in imperturbable butlers (Wodehouse, Sayers) 
  7. Portals to alternative worlds are everywhere (Carroll, C.S. Lewis, Rowlings)
  8. The best way to conceal your pain and inner despair is behind a veil of acerbic wit (Pope, Swift, Waugh)
  9. When caught in a potentially ridiculous situation, tell a preposterous lie and then hope for the best (Wilde, Congreve, Sheridan)
  10. Tea makes everything better - and if tea doesn't work, there's always the corner pub (Wodehouse)
  11. The best death is a heroic death (Malory, Wren), but if you can't manage that, at least endeavor to die tragically from thwarted love (Bronte, McEwan)
  12. Everything's funnier in drag (Shakespeare)
  13. True nobility is determined by character, not by birth (Scott, Kipling, Stevenson)
  14. Sexual matters are best dealth with by repressing them until they either become twisted and perverse, and/or erupt with a fury sufficient to consume all the guilty and at least a few innocents as well (Lawrence, Eliot, Hardy)
  15. The best poet is a tormented poet (Byron, Shelley)
  16. Forests are generally untrustworthy places, inclined to be teaming with fairies, green men, and merry-making highwaymen (Spenser, Shakespeare, Robin Hood)
  17. If Scotland Yard doesn't find out your crime, then that seemingly innocuous lord/vicar/old lady/foreign visitor down the way is sure to (Christie, Sayers, Chesterton)
  18. Revenge is best served up raw and bloody (Marlowe, Johnson, Shakespeare)
  19. Nice girls get their reward in heaven (Milton, Richardson), but naughty girls get their reward here on earth (Chaucer, Cleland)
  20. In a world ruled by chaos, the only honorable way to cope is to maintain a stiff upper lip and carry on (Waugh)

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