That Key to Knowledge.

Continuing the Raj theme, herewith Maya Jasanoff’s 2008 LRB review of Hartly House, Calcutta, an epistolary novel allegedly by Phebe Gibbes (see below) and first published in 1789. I’ll quote some bits of LH relevance:

Telling Arabella about the imminent departure of ‘our Governor’, Sophia gushes about [Warren] Hastings’s merits:

The Company … will, by this event, be deprived of a faithful and able servant; the poor, of a compassionate and generous friend; the genteel circles, of their best ornament … Nor possibly can a successor be transmitted, of equal information and abilities. For, Arabella, he has made himself master of the Persian language, that key to the knowledge of all that ought to constitute the British conduct in India.

[…]
The other danger that Sophia skirts lies in an equally common fate for British women in India: marriage. Condemning the ostentatious new wealth of Anglo-Indian ‘nabobs’, and the women who travel to India to marry them, Sophia vows repeatedly ‘never to marry in Indostan’: ‘I will not violate to be a nabobess.’ Her will is tested by the constant stream of male attention she receives (and coquettishly enjoys receiving), and by her guardian Mrs Hartly, who ‘thinks matrimony the duty of every young woman, who meets with an offer she cannot disapprove’. Yet even when she meets the captivating Edmund Doyly, ‘the best male companion I have met with at Calcutta, the Governor and Mr Hartly excepted’, Sophia sticks to her guns: ‘if nabobism was not the stumbling block of my ambition … there is no saying what might happen.’ […]

This must be the only book currently on sale that carries a blurb by Mary Wollstonecraft on its jacket. Reviewing Hartly House, Calcutta in the Analytical Review, Wollstonecraft praised the novel’s ‘entertaining account of Calcutta … apparently sketched by a person who had been forcibly impressed by the scenes described. Probably the groundwork of the correspondence was actually written on the spot.’ For Wollstonecraft, as for other reviewers, the primary virtue of the novel lay in its informative account of Indian life – an account that many took to be based on personal experience.

So who was behind this richly detailed narrative? Though Hartly House, Calcutta was published anonymously, Franklin attributes its authorship to Phebe Gibbes. More or less the only information we have about Gibbes consists of petitions she sent to the Royal Literary Fund in 1804. In them, she stated that she had published ‘22 sets’ of novels, but that her father-in-law’s profligacy and the death of her only son in India had left her and her two daughters destitute. Of the ‘22 sets’ Gibbes claimed, 14 have apparently been identified, though the author’s name appears in only one. Her career, in Franklin’s words, ‘presents a fascinating example of anonymous authorship’. So how have scholars come to identify her as the author of this book? The strongest circumstantial evidence Franklin cites – tucked away in a footnote – is a payment by her publisher James Dodsley to ‘G. 20 pounds for Hartly House, Calcutta’. There was also Gibbes’s known connection to India through her son. Frustratingly, Franklin never addresses this question directly. His jargon-heavy introduction reads far more like a specialist academic article than like the broadly contextualising essay many readers need.

The paucity of biographical evidence about Gibbes leaves a crucial point teasingly uncertain. Did the author of Hartly House, Calcutta ever go to India? Franklin thinks not: ‘it is doubtful that Gibbes herself ever made the passage to India.’ He supports this suggestion with an impressive excavation of contemporary printed sources on which Gibbes based some of her descriptions. Her discussion of the ‘five tribes’ (varnas) of Hindus, for instance, comes straight from a passage in Alexander Dow’s The History of Hindostan. A section on Mughal history draws on William Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar of 1785. In writing of India’s sacred rivers, she paraphrases William Macintosh’s Remarks on a Tour through the Different Countries of Europe, Asia and Africa. In a nicely postmodern turn, Gibbes acknowledges her debt to such works by having Sophia warn Arabella ‘not to set me down for a plagiarist, though you should even stumble upon the likeness, verbatim, of my descriptions of the Eastern world in print; or once presume to consider such printed accounts as other than honourable testimonies of my faithful relations’.

But what were the sources for the novel’s descriptions of everyday habits, of the look and feel of the city and the way people lived in it? Consider Sophia’s remark that ‘the streets of Calcutta … are distinguished by the name of the beisars, or traders, by which they are occupied.’ Franklin observes that ‘Gibbes’s error’ in using the term beisar (‘bazaar’) to refer to tradesmen as opposed to markets ‘would seem another indication that her knowledge of India was second-hand’. Yet foreigners on the spot could routinely slip up on such linguistic niceties – and Gibbes’s phrasing is sufficiently unclear as to make both interpretations possible. In fact, the passage goes on to provide a strikingly accurate series of transliterated and translated Bengali words, and stands out as one of many remarkable examples of the rich local knowledge in which Hartly House, Calcutta abounds. Sophia writes not only about Calcutta’s major monuments and landmarks; she describes the kinds of garden statuary people prefer, the availability and price of different vegetables, what it is like to go to the theatre, the races, or just to have an evening nautch (‘dance’) at home.

I like the terms nabobess and nabobism, but was struck by the intransitive use of violate (“I will not violate to be a nabobess”), which is not in the OED entry (updated June 2014). Clearly it’s short for “violate my vow,” but it reads oddly to me; who knows how it read in 1789? [This turns out not to be the case; see Giacomo’s comment below.] I’m delighted by the Wollstonecraft blurb and I enjoyed the investigation of authorship (it must have been a thrill to find that record of payment) and sources (I wish she’d quoted that “series of transliterated and translated Bengali words”), but this passage from the last paragraph surprised and annoyed me:

One is also struck, reading this book more than two hundred years later, by how little enduring fiction emanated from British India, despite its commanding hold on the imperial imagination. With the exception of Kipling, many novels about colonial India have fallen between the cracks: who reads Meadows Taylor or Flora Annie Steel now? (More often, India glints in the background of British domestic fiction, as readers of Vanity Fair, The Moonstone and Sherlock Holmes know.)

What about Paul Scott’s magnificent Raj Quartet? Is Jasanoff implying that it’s on a level with Meadows Taylor and Flora Annie Steel, whoever they are? Or has she never read Scott? Either way, it’s her loss.

Comments

  1. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    That’s the second time recently that I’ve come across a reference to Persian in India – the first time it was being used as the ‘diplomatic language of India’ in a book about the surveying of the Great Arc (a bit later on in the Company period). I’ve remembered to look it up this time, so now know slightly more about why!

  2. Yes, it’s a fascinating topic; it’s been discussed here several times (2013, 2018, 2019). From the last link:

    Persian was a major language of literary and intellectual production among North Indian Muslim elites from the twelfth century. By the sixteenth century, through Mughal patronage, it crystallized as the language of empire and the most prominent language of North Indian written discourse. Written Indo-Persian provided a shared idiom for the polyglot empire. Strong knowledge of Persian became a requisite for employment in many professional positions, including those traditionally held by Hindus; both Hindus and Muslims also sought Mughal literary patronage through mastery of Persian. Deccani dynasties likewise patronized Persian, and in both North Indian and Deccani contexts Iranian and Central Asians migrants contributed to the language’s prestige.

    The British East India Company initially maintained Persian’s official position, relying on it to communicate with local power-brokers. However, following the administrative switch to English in the 1830s, Persian was increasingly marginalized in Indian society, to the degree that it largely disappeared from the public sphere by Indian independence.

  3. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Hah, I should have known I could just look it up here!

  4. I like this quote from that novel:

    The Europe shops, as you will naturally conclude, are those ware-houses where all the British finery imported is displayed and purchased; and such is the spirit of many ladies upon visiting them, that there have been :instances of their spending 30 or 40,000 rupees [about 5000 pounds] in one morning, for the decoration of their persons; on which account many husbands are observed to turn pale as ashes, on the bare mention of their wives :being seen to enter them: but controul is not a matrimonial rule at Calcutta; and the men are obliged to make the best of their conjugal mortifications.

  5. Perhaps Maya Jasanoff sees “colonial India” as ending in, say, 1914 as opposed to 1947. Or else she may distinguish those who lived longterm in India, like Kipling, Taylor, and Steel, from those who briefly or never lived there, like Scott, Gibbes, and EM Forster, with the former group producing little that has lasted.

  6. Perhaps Maya Jasanoff sees “colonial India” as ending in, say, 1914 as opposed to 1947.

    That would be extremely odd, it seems to me. But yes, your second point makes sense.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    A section on Mughal history draws on William Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar of 1785.

    “Grammar”?

    “comprehensive description of how a language works” > “comprehensive description of how anything works”…?

  8. Huh. Google Books has a freely readable 1908 reprint of Hartly House under the pseudonym Sophia Goldsborne, with endnotes. The original 3 volumes of the 1789 edition are there too.

  9. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The OED on grammar:

    6. transferred
    a. The fundamental principles or rules of an art or science.
    b. A book presenting these in methodical form. (Now rare; formerly common in the titles of books.)

    Examples including ‘A brief Grammar of the Laws and Constitution of England’ and ‘The Grammar of Entomology’.

    Extending that to everything in the world may still be a bit of a stretch. Title page here, hopefully – it looks bit like an ancestor of Pear’s Cyclopedia.

  10. @David Marjanović, OED Grammar:

    6. transferred.

    a. The fundamental principles or rules of an art or science.
    1642 T. Fuller Holy State iii. xiii. 185 Manly sports are the Grammer of Military performance.
    1870 J. H. Newman (title) An Essay in aid of a Grammar of Assent.
    1882 W. Sharp D. G. Rossetti v. 315 The young poet may be said to have reached the platform of literary maturity while he was yet learning the grammar of painting.
    1894 Daily News 23 Nov. 7/1 He might..have studied the pure grammar of his art for a longer time.
    1958 Listener 18 Sept. 441/2 Reizenstein’s dissonances do not make one ‘sit up’ in the way Haydn’s do if we attend to his musical grammar.
    1963 Times 5 Mar. 15/1 The grammar of the film was established.

    b. A book presenting these in methodical form. (Now rare; formerly common in the titles of books.)
    1792 A. Duncan Mariner’s Chron. (1804) II. 33 A small geographical grammar.
    1796 W. Taylor in Monthly Rev. 19 551 It forms a most valuable grammar of antient geography.
    1809 J. Goldsmith (title) A brief Grammar of the Laws and Constitution of England.
    1835 E. Newman (title) The Grammar of Entomology.
    1856 O. Jones (title) Grammar of Ornament.

  11. “comprehensive description of how anything works”…?

    Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar starts with “Part I. Of Astronomical Geography” and goes on to describe “the figure and motion of the Earth, the different systems of the Universe, the planets, comets and fixed stars”.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    *pretends being able to raise one eyebrow*

    Fascinating.

  13. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I can raise my right eyebrow by itself, but not my left.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    I can raise my ears by themselves, but not lower them – I have to wait for elastic recoil.

  15. Trond Engen says:

    SFR: Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar starts with “Part I. Of Astronomical Geography” and goes on to describe “the figure and motion of the Earth, the different systems of the Universe, the planets, comets and fixed stars”.

    Universal Grammar.

  16. David Eddyshaw says:

    John Henry Newman’s Grammar of Assent was pretty famous in its day:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar_of_Assent

    GK Chesterton’s A Grammar of Distributism (to which I can find no online references at all, but which I don’t think is a product of my own fevered imagination) was pretty certainly directly riffing on Newman’s title. It may have come over as less annoyingly precious at the time, especially to well-disposed Catholics.

  17. It was actually A Gramma of Distributism, and had to do with grandmothers distributing gifts at Christmas.

  18. To be distinguished, of course, from A Granma of Distributism, a very tedious tract about Cuban economics.

  19. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The grammar of distributism appears to be called The Outline of Sanity http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/Sanity.txt

    To turn this sort of mixture of a gossip and a gospel into anything like a grammar of Distributism has been quite impossible.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have actually seen something listed under the Grammar title on the back of the cover of a different Chesterton work (which I can’t find, and which has probably disappeared in the course of my intercontinental migrations.) Perhaps it was just as a subtitle to Outline of Sanity.

  21. I looked up “Universal Grammar” in Wikipedia, expecting detailed treatment of history of the concept from the Middle Ages to Jespersen…

    P.S. its history is, actually rich enough (even though it has been the ruin of many a poor schoolboy).

  22. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    There is no striking eighteenth-century transitive violating: only a poorly truncated quotation. In full:

    This letter shall therefore be constituted the repository of a private vow I have entered into with myself, never to marry in Indostan, lest it should become difficult, at some future period, to ascertain, my genuine impulse for quitting the country of my birth; a vow, take notice, Arabella, I will not violate to be a nabobess.

  23. Ah, that explains it! Thanks very much.

  24. Stu Clayton says:

    Commercial Grammar

    See also A Grammar of Motives by Kenneth Burke. I don’t know that “comprehensive description of how motives work” would aptly characterize that work. It resembles one of those hand-held tilt-the-ball-into-the-hole games. His expository ball keeps rolling despite all your attempts to get it into the hole of understanding.

    Even Luhmann, in a footnote somewhere, made a sharp remark about Burke’s intelligibility. Luhmann’s tilt-the-ball books of course have no holes in which thoughts are supposed to come to rest. The point is to keep rolling.

  25. OP:

    Franklin observes that ‘Gibbes’s error’ in using the term beisar (‘bazaar’) to refer to tradesmen as opposed to markets ‘would seem another indication that her knowledge of India was second-hand’. Yet foreigners on the spot could routinely slip up on such linguistic niceties – and Gibbes’s phrasing is sufficiently unclear as to make both interpretations possible. In fact, the passage goes on to provide a strikingly accurate series of transliterated and translated Bengali words, and stands out as one of many remarkable examples of the rich local knowledge in which Hartly House, Calcutta abounds.

    hat:

    (I wish she’d quoted that “series of transliterated and translated Bengali words”)

    Well, since I found the book online — Hartly House, Calcutta:

      The streets of Calcutta, at the part of the town inhabited by trades-people (who, by the way, are all Blacks, except what are called the Europe shops, of which I shall speak hereafter) are distinguished by the name of beisars, or traders, by which they are occupied ; as, the bada beisar, (fruit and pastry); the muchee beisar, (the fish-market); the dewdwallar beisar (milk-sellers); suedwallar beisar, (hogmerchants); chine beisar, (sugar-venders), etc., etc. Moreover curds form a separate article of merchandise, and the shops for selling them furnish one whole street-a proof of their great consumption and value in the East.

    I wonder what she meant by “curds”? (WikiP) Very probably chhena.

  26. Google Translate, English → Bengali:

    Fish market: মাছের বাজার ; Māchēra bājāra

    Milk market: দুধের বাজার ; Dudhēra bājāra

    Sugar market: চিনির বাজার ; Cinira bājāra

    I can’t get “fruit and pastry” to come out as “bada” or “hog|pig|swine|pork” to come out as “suedwallar” (“pork” is maybe closest as “Śuẏōrēra”). Maybe I’m doing it wrong; maybe she miswrote; maybe Bengali has changed since the 1700s.

  27. @David Eddyshaw

    I have actually seen something listed under the Grammar title on the back of the cover of a different Chesterton work

    “A Grammar of Knighthood”, in The Well and the Shallows

  28. PlasticPaddy says:

    @om
    ভাজা
    Verb/ fry ; parch ; roast ; bake.

  29. One is also struck, reading this book more than two hundred years later, by how little enduring fiction emanated from British India, despite its commanding hold on the imperial imagination. With the exception of Kipling

    That is, to be honest, quite an exception.

    One factor may be that there were really very few British people in India at any point in the Raj’s history – it topped out at about quarter of a million. Roughly the same size as Bristol – and British literature is not awash with great enduring novels emanating from Bristol, though I’m sure there are some. Of the double-handful of 19th century novelists whose work endures, one of them was from, and wrote about, British India. That doesn’t seem too bad.

    And when Jasanoff writes about “enduring fiction”, let’s be clear that she means fiction written in English by white people. Otherwise she would have included people like RK Narayan and Kipling’s fellow Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

  30. Author of Harry Potter was born in the suburbs of Bristol.

    Not sure if that saga qualifies as “great enduring fiction” though…

  31. David Eddyshaw says:

    My copy of ハリーポッターと賢者の石 tells me that she was born in the Wales prefecture of 英國. (Brythonic irredentists turn up in surprising places.)

  32. Re bājāra:

    This is the Bengali word for bazaar.

    I’ve often wondered why in Bengali, a Z is pronounced / perceived as a J.

    A Bengali coworker of mine pronounces my name in such a way. Several other people from the Subcontinent have done the same.

    What would cause a Z to be perceived as a J, rather than eg, a S – which would be closer in articulation?

  33. about that last paragraph – not just fiction but poetry about india was produced in much more volume and variety than we might realize … i was just looking at this great anthology today and dreaming of having access to the full book: https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Poetry_of_British_India_1780_1905_Vo.html?id=qxDYDwAAQBAJ

  34. Edited by Máire Ní Fhlathúin; what would be the anglicized version of that surname?

  35. I can’t get “fruit and pastry” to come out as “bada” or “hog|pig|swine|pork” to come out as “suedwallar” (“pork” is maybe closest as “Śuẏōrēra”)

    Since she glosses it “pastry”, perhaps she intends বড়া, now [bɔɽɐ] (equivalent to Hindi-Urdu baṛā बड़ा بڑا , more often known in English in the form vaḍā বড়া ).

    But perhaps more likely she means বড় বাজার “big bazaar”, the Burrabazar of Calcutta.

    For suedwallar “hog merchant”, I wonder if a word like শুওর [ʃuor] or a another variant of শুয়ার “boar, hog” (compare the usual Hindi form sūar सुअर ) is intended. The ending is the ubiqitous suffix ওয়ালা [wɐlɐ] “-wallah” used for forming the names of occupations. Perhaps Gibbes’ -d- indicates the tapped [ɾ], similar to the d she uses for বড়া [bɔɽɐ] “vada” or বড় [bɔɽo] “big” above.)

    (Since Gibbes’ forms perhaps do not indicated the [ʃ] of Bengali—unless by the su- of suedwallar as in sure and sugar and formerly sumac—nor the [ɔ] of Bengali in বড়া [bɔɽɐ] “vada” or বড় “big” [bɔɽo], perhaps we can suspect Hindustani influence baṛā बड़ा بڑا‎ “big, large”, or Hindustani was the language intended?)

  36. In addition to “Grammar” in old titles, there’s “Budget.” As in “A Budget of Paradoxes” (1872) by mathematician Augustus De Morgan. (His statement, “whatever can happen will happen if we make trials enough,” may have morphed into Murphy’s Law.)

  37. i was wondering about “Fhlathúin” myself… it’s all Lovecraft to me!

  38. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hat, AG
    “Translation” of Gaelic names is mildly distasteful.
    There is a name Flavin, which corresponds to an Irish name Ó Flaitheamhain, which I think could be spelt Ó Flathúin by someone who speaks an Ulster dialect (where in addition to amh > ú, only the final consonant is slender).

  39. “Translation” of Gaelic names is mildly distasteful.

    Oh, come on. Is one not allowed to be interested in the fact that, say, O’Connor is Irish Ó Conchobhair, and to wonder about equivalences that aren’t obvious?

  40. So Máire Ní Fhlathúin translates as Princess Mary?

  41. Flahavan’s is well known in Ireland as one of the Big Two oatmeal companies. The other is Odlum’s, an Anglo name.

  42. “Translation” of Gaelic names is mildly distasteful.

    Counterpoint: “Translation” of Gaelic names is absolutely fine and neither I nor any of my Gaelic-speaking relatives mind you doing it in the least.

  43. Thanks!

  44. Gaelic is merely a degraded dialect of the Scythian spoken by the original residents, after all.

  45. Fake news. Scythes can’t talk.

  46. PlasticPaddy says:

    I also find translation of English names in to Irish mildly distasteful, except where the names fit the target language. If you take Flavin or Flahavan as an example, I think this “fit” is missing, and despite these names being written in “English” orthography, I would not expect native English speakers with no experience of these names to produce the right vowel sounds, h consonant and stress (FLAE-ha-van, where both a are schwa).

  47. A lot of Flavahan’s Oatmeal makes its way to fancy grocery stores here in Asia as well – here’s the name in Thai and the proud Twitter account of the importers:

    ฟลาฮาวาน

    https://twitter.com/gaelthailand?lang=en

    [edit – just realized I have always read it as “Flavahan’s” – maybe influenced by “flavor”. Leaving the mistake, shameful as it is, as a linguistic curiosity]

  48. PlasticPaddy says:

    @AG
    No worries, the English spelling is misleading. I am sure Italians are not best pleased when we say “brooshetta” 😊
    @sfr
    I like princess Mary and her relative, princess Nuala (NOO-a-la) the artist.

  49. My copy of ハリーポッターと賢者の石 tells me that she was born in the Wales prefecture of 英國.

    Mine says 1965年生まれ。英国ウェールズ地方で育つ。Which means “Born in 1965. Raised in the Wales region of Britain / the UK”.

    I couldn’t find the word “prefecture”. In fact, 地方 ‘region’ is larger than and may include multiple 県 ‘prefecture’.

    Maybe yours is a newer edition.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    OK, I made up the “prefecture.” I just felt that Wales ought to be a prefecture.

    It’s still an irredentist claim, happily: Tutshill (which I once knew well myself) is not in Wales, and Wyedean still less so.

  51. “Yes, Europe! Who does Europe belong to?”

    “Why, to the English,” replied Toline, as if the fact was quite settled.

    “I much doubt it,” returned Paganel. “But how’s that, Toline, ….. there are other states you forgot to mention.”

    “What are they?” replied the child, not the least disconcerted.

    “Spain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, France,” answered Paganel.

    “They are provinces, not states,” said Toline.

    “Well, that beats all!” exclaimed Paganel, tearing off his spectacles.

    “Yes,” continued the child. “Spain—capital, Gibraltar.”

    “Admirable! perfect! sublime! And France, for I am French, and I should like to know to whom I belong.”

    “France,” said Toline, quietly, “is an English province; chief city, Calais.”

    “Calais!” cried Paganel. “So you think Calais still belongs to the English?”

    “Certainly.”

    “And that it is the capital of France?”

    “Yes, sir; and it is there that the Governor, Lord Napoleon, lives.”

  52. A delightful passage! Here’s the original:

    — Oui ! l’Europe ! À qui appartient l’Europe ?

    — Mais l’Europe appartient aux Anglais, répondit l’enfant d’un ton convaincu.

    — Je m’en doute bien, reprit Paganel. Mais comment ? Voilà ce que je désire savoir.

    — Par l’Angleterre, l’Écosse, l’Irlande, Malte, les îles Jersey et Guernesey, les îles Ioniennes, les Hébrides, les Shetland, les Orcades…

    — Bien ! bien, Toliné, mais il y a d’autres États que tu oublies de mentionner, mon garçon !

    — Lesquels ? Monsieur, répondit l’enfant, qui ne se déconcertait pas.

    — L’Espagne, la Russie, l’Autriche, la Prusse, la France !

    — Ce sont des provinces et non des États, dit Toliné.

    — Par exemple ! s’écria Paganel, en arrachant ses lunettes de ses yeux.

    — Sans doute, l’Espagne, capitale Gibraltar.

    — Admirable ! parfait ! sublime ! Et la France, car je suis Français, et je ne serais pas fâché d’apprendre à qui j’appartiens !

    — La France, répondit tranquillement Toliné, c’est une province anglaise, chef-lieu Calais.

    — Calais ! s’écria Paganel. Comment ! tu crois que Calais appartient encore à l’Angleterre ?

    — Sans doute.

    — Et que c’est le chef-lieu de la France ?

    — Oui, Monsieur, et c’est là que réside le gouverneur, lord Napoléon… »

  53. I have no idea what sort of name Toliné is supposed to be.

  54. On their journey, the travellers meet a young Wiradjuri child, Toliné, who’s been at a missionary school.

    https://twitter.com/AlexKirstukas/status/1297925499419844609

  55. It’s an Australian Aboriginal name.

    Verne makes fun of what the Australian schools for Aboriginal children supposedly taught instead of real geography.

  56. Thanks! And I noticed a mistranslation: “Je m’en doute bien” means “I suppose so” or (in this context) “I imagine it does,” not (parbleu!) “I much doubt it.”

  57. J.W. Brewer says:

    Do the Brythonic irredentists have a propaganda map showing exactly how far east of the Wye their claims extend? Or is the answer simply “all the way to the North Sea, of course”?

  58. David Eddyshaw says:

    North Sea? White Sea!

  59. John Cowan says:

    “Yes, sir; and it is there that the Governor, Lord Napoleon, lives.”

    Evidently an example of the famed British imperial strategy of indirect rule: they teach a native chieftain a poor grade of English suitable for speaking in a bog, and then dub him “Emperor of the French”.

  60. David Eddyshaw says:

    Very true. Once again, imperfect anthropological investigation is to blame: the Brits find a local who seems to be in charge and just assume that that represents the traditional local power structure.

    If they’d done more thorough studies of the indigenous Fʁɑ̃sɛ dialects it would have granted them insight into both an ancient language and an ancient way of looking at the world.

  61. When I was 2 or 3 I climbed up on the windowsill and looked out. I was already familiar with what was in immediate vicinity of my house, but the span of land I could see from the window was so much wider. Breathtaking. Appartment blocks some 2 kilometers away blocked the view, so no one knew what might be beyond.

    I was shocked and asked my parents: “is that Moscow?” “Yes” “is Moscow bigger than America” (basically a rhetorical quesion, America was not THAT big*) “No”.

    Maybe my shock was obvious from my facial expression and my parents added: “But the Soviet Union is bigger than America”. That was too much. Believing that there is more than one thing larger than Moscow needed time, and I didn’t ask more questions.

    —-
    *America was a group of 2 or three appartment blocks like mine, populated by normal people and gangsters, surrounded by absence of grey anything between Moscow and America.

  62. David Eddyshaw says:

    When we lived in Bawku, and my then three-year-old son got very bored indeed during a church service in town, we had the following conversation:

    Child: “Want to go back to Bawku.”
    Parent: “Hush. We’re in Bawku, dear.”
    Child: “Want to go back to our Bawku.”

  63. According to Wikipedia, Wales has 9州 (county)、3市 (city)*、10州区 (county borough).

    By comparison, New South Wales is just a single 州 (State) made up of 14の地域(Region).

    Sounds a bit skewed in translation….

    (This is not helped by the fact that the naming of local government areas in NSW is all over the place: City、Region、Municipality、Council、Shire.)

  64. In addition to “Grammar” in old titles, there’s “Budget.” As in “A Budget of Paradoxes”

    Or the Big Budget for Boys (anthology of short stories) http://antiqbook.co.uk/boox/whe/7925.shtml

  65. the Brits find a local who seems to be in charge and just assume that that represents the traditional local power structure

    The same was true of the British in America, of course:

    This is the public discourse, and one dialect of it is speech-making — by politicians, commencement speakers, or the old man who used to get up early in a village in Central California a couple of hundred years ago and say things very loudly on the order of “People need to be getting up now, there are things we might be doing, the repairs on the sweathouse aren’t finished and the tarweed is in seed over on Bald Hill; this is a good time of day for doing things, and there’ll be plenty of time for lying around when it gets hot this afternoon.” So everybody would get up grumbling slightly, and some of them would go pick tarweed — probably the women.

    This is the effect, ideally, of the public discourse. It makes something happen, makes somebody — usually somebody else — do something, or at least it gratifies the ego of the speaker. The difference between our politics and that of a native Californian people is clear in the style of the public discourse. The difference wasn’t clear to the White invaders, who insisted on calling any Indian who made a speech a “chief,” because they couldn’t comprehend, they wouldn’t admit, an authority without supremacy — a non-dominating authority.

    —U.K.L.

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