17 May 2012

T.E. Lawrence on Englishmen

"T.E. Lawrence:  "We expect two chief kinds of Englishmen," he wrote in the Introduction to Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta,

who in foreign parts divide themselves into two opposed classes.  Some feel deeply the influence of native people, and try to adjust themselves to its atmosphere and spirit.  To fit themselves modestly into the picture they suppress all in them that would be discordant with local habits and colours.  They imitate the native, and so avoid friction in their daily life.  However, they cannot avoid the consequences of imitation, a hollow, worthless thing.  They are like the people but not of the people, and their half-perceptible differences give them a sham influence often greater than their merit.  They urge the people among whom they life into strange, unnatural courses by imitating them so well that they are imitaed back again. 
The other class of Englishmen is the larger class.  In the same circumstances of exile the reinforce their character by memories of the life they have left.  In reaction against foreign surroundings they take refuge in the England that was theirs.  They assert their aloofness, their immunity, the more vividly for their loneliness and weakness.  They impress the peoples among whome they live by reaction, by giving them as ensample of the complete Englshman, the foreigner intact.  Doughty is a great member of the second, the cleaner class.

And T.E. Lawrence was a member of the first, the gone-native class."

Excerpt from Paul Theroux, The Tao of Travel

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