St George’s Day and a bit of Kipling you probably won’t know.

One secret of the success of the English was, perhaps, their imperturbable tolerance. A race that has been persecuted, or — what comes to the same thing — bored, by every persecuted refugee to whom they have ever given an asylum, naturally learns to tolerate anything. Their immensely mixed origin, too, made the English in a very real sense “akin to all the universe”, and sympathetic in their dumb way with remote Gods and strange people. Above all, their long insular experience of imported brain-storms had taught them that men should not try to do better than good for fear lest worse than bad might follow…

And herein, as I see it, lies the strength of the English — that they have behind them this continuity of immensely varied race-experience and race-memory, running equally through all classes back to the very dawn of our dawn. This imposes on them unconsciously, even while they deny or deride it, standards of achievement and comparison, hard perhaps, and perhaps a little unsympathetic, but not low — not low — and, as all earth is witness, not easily to be lowered. And that is the reason why in the things nearest our hearts we praise so little and criticise so lavishly. It is the only compliment which an Englishman dare pay to his country.

Source: “England and the English” from A Book of Words by Rudyard Kipling.


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