The English Spirit: Essays in History and Literature

The English Spirit: Essays in History and Literature

The English Spirit: Essays in History and Literature

The English Spirit: Essays in History and Literature

Excerpt

In bringing these essays together -- composed over a number of years -- I am a little surprised to find how consistent and strong is the theme that runs through them: something more than pride in, a deep love for, English things, for our countryside and towns, with their memories of the people who inhabited them and of the things that took place there -- all so much alive for me; for places associated with names that are the very stuff of our tradition, Thomas More and Elizabeth, George Herbert and Hampden and Clarendon, Swift and Horace Walpole, William and Dorothy Wordsworth; the Tower and Hampton Court, Rycote and Great Tew, Trinity Great Court and the High, Wilton, the Close at Salisbury; for our tradition itself and the literature in which it is expressed and handed on. It comes as something of a surprise to see how that theme runs back beyond the years when these things have been so imperilled. And just as it has been something in the spirit of those things which has helped us to survive the danger, so the danger to them has heightened our sense of their value, of their being very precious to us. In the usual English way, perhaps we were shamefaced and shy at saying what they meant for us. Not being English, alas -- except by conviction -- but hopelessly Cornish, I am not ashamed but proud to say it for them. The stress we have been through in these last years has brought that deep unspoken current of love to the surface. I dare say we have all been somewhat surprised at how strong it really was all the time underneath.

I bring together these essays as evidence that with me it went back long before the years of war, and -- in spite of unlikely and, indeed, discouraging political associations -- I think I may claim that some of these essays, even though historical and literary, express a feeling of urgency, of apprehension, such as the political leaders of the time did not share -- or if they did share it, did nothing about.

With this, then, goes another recurrent theme: not merely dislike of the second-rate and the mediocre, but a proper . . .

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