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In China, it is a common thing to stumble over the bodies of dead babies in the streets.
October 2, 2007 11:26 AM   Subscribe

In the 19th century, English author Favell Mortimer wrote several books describing various countries to children. Apparently she didn't travel much. posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (34 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
childrens' children's. Childrens do learn, I swear.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2007


[New York] is the gayest city in America, and also the most ungodly.

LOLNINETEENTHCENTURISTS
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2007


Seems spot on to me.... ;)
posted by zeoslap at 11:44 AM on October 2, 2007


A poor, miserable soul with a life marred by frustration, sorrow, anger and mean-spiritedness.
"...at twenty-five Favell began exploring the Bible with a young family friend, Henry Manning. Their talks led them to a romantic tension that escalated with her conversion to Evangelicalism....In 1841, at thirty-nine, Favell married the Rev. Thomas Mortimer -- by most accounts a cruel, violent husband....Mrs. Mortimer was suffering through tumult of her own: first, the death of her husband in November 1850, followed by even greater tragedy months later....'Mrs Mortimer, this spring, had the grief of hearing that her friend Henry Manning had become a Roman Catholic.' It's difficult to read the anti-Catholic venom of Mrs. Mortimer's geography books without sensing the freshness of her romantic wounds. Ultimately, her great unrequited crush would ascend in the ranks of the Church; upon his death in 1892, Cardinal Manning was revealed to have regarded Mrs. Mortimer not as his first love but as his 'spiritual mother.' ...Mrs. Mortimer's personal life could be boiled down to an index of Victorian misery and misfortune...her nephew, Edwyn Bevan...acknowledged, 'As a whole her life can hardly be thought to have been a happy one.'"
posted by ericb at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, are you saying that the Scots aren't pinchpennies, the Mexicans aren't bandits and Americans don't coddle their prisoners?
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2007


Metafilter: Like a monkey eating a cake.
posted by rusty at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


Huh. She lists Kurdistan as a country. Apparently she had knowledge since lost.

Also, no Canada. Yay. No doubt we would have the worst qualities of the French, English and Scots combined. Penny-pinching children dressed as adults.
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 AM on October 2, 2007


The reason why the Armenians live in holes in the ground is because they hope the Kurds may not find out where they are.

I always wondered why they did that.
posted by ND¢ at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, how bizarre. Is it possible that she was actually a satirist of some sorts, or that everyone reading it "knew" not to take it seriously, since she has nothing good to say about ANYONE?
posted by yhbc at 12:10 PM on October 2, 2007


Well, she thinks Edinburgh is the greatest city in the world. So...there's that.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:15 PM on October 2, 2007


GuyZero, these were written as various books between 1849 and 1854. That is, well before the 1st of July, 1867. Ergo, no Canada.
posted by atbash at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2007


Is it possible that she was actually a satirist of some sorts...

Good point. It would certainly be unlikely that a provincial, insular, religious nutjob held negative stereotypes about other nationalities.
posted by DU at 12:28 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


we would have the worst qualities of the French, English and Scots combined

We don't?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:29 PM on October 2, 2007


This is so what I'm going to tell my (eventual) children:

God has covered your bones with flesh. Your flesh is soft and warm.

In your flesh there is blood. God has put skin outside, and it covers your flesh and blood like a coat... How kind of God it was to give you a body! I hope that your body will not get hurt.... Will your bones break? -- Yes, they would, if you were to fall down from a high place, or if a cart were to go over them....

How easy it would be to hurt your poor little body!

If it were to fall into the fire, it would be burned up. If a great knife were run through your body, the blood would come out. If a great box were to fall on your head, your head would be crushed. If you were to fall out of the window, your neck would be broken. If you were not to eat some food for a few days, your little body would be very sick, your breath would stop, and you would grow cold, and you would soon be dead.

posted by arcticwoman at 12:31 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Formula:

1) Search Internet Archive, find politically incorrect book/author from the 19th century that will makes us all laugh and feel smugly enlightened.

2) Quote copiously and fill in with ephemeral commentary, publish.

3) Profit!

There must be a name for this type of historical slumming. I'm guilty of it a few times on MeFi but never took it to step 2 and 3.

FWIW English travel literature from the 18th and early 19th century was very often peoples subjective opinions molded by pre-conceived stereotypes of particular nations and races of people that went back well into the Middle Ages (and often continue to this day). In other words, Mortimer didn't entirely make this stuff up on his own. This from Wikipedia "Grand Tour":
The Grand Tour was said to re-enforce the old preconceptions and prejudices about national characteristics, as Jean Gailhard's Compleat Gentleman (1678) observes: "French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish."
posted by stbalbach at 12:33 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


> "French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish."

Abroad beastly. Wogs start at Calais.
posted by jfuller at 12:37 PM on October 2, 2007


The poor Russians are not black, but fair, with light hair. Why are they called "black?" Because they are very dirty. The Russians are very uneasy if they cannot bathe.

The rich people are unjust, and often do not pay their debts; they are fond of feasts and company, but they care little for their servants and poor neighbours. The poor people are civil, but sly, and dishonest, idle, and fond of drinking.


Spot on, I'd say.
posted by nasreddin at 12:48 PM on October 2, 2007


The Grand Tour was satirised in Terry Pratchett's work as the Grand Sneer, where young Ankh-Moporkians tour the Disc so they can see how inferior the rest of the world is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:07 PM on October 2, 2007


It's not just historical slumming. Conan O'Brien hates your homeland too.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:14 PM on October 2, 2007


Ergo, no Canada.

I believe the regions were referred to as Upper & Lower Canada before Canada as a political entity came into being.

I mean, she has Australia, which is farther away than (proto) Canada.
posted by GuyZero at 1:24 PM on October 2, 2007


On one had it is amusing to read victorian era through from our modern perspective. It lets us know how far we've come.

On the other hand it is disheartening because it lets us know how much further we should probably go.

I mean, my father, has a way of saying things in ridiculously broad generalization based on whatever he's been fed by the mainstream media. For all I know, he may be a contributing author to the work in question - or at least an inheritor. And he's far from alone in this.

I suspect we're, as a whole, just better at hiding our prejudices and thus reading things like this is also somewhat titillating.
posted by C.Batt at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2007


which is farther away than (proto) Canada

Sir! How dare you! Such vile slanders. I suspect you are a closet Portuguese, mayhap even an Italian! I challenge you sir! You have impugned our honor for the last time.
posted by aramaic at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this mentioned in the Little Grey Book Lectures?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:53 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ever wonder what our current "enlightened" literature will look like a hundred years or more in the future? I certainly do.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2007


Choice bits from Todd Pruzan's introduction to "The Clumsiest People in Europe":
(From Mrs. Mortimer's book for infants:) I hope that your body will not get hurt.... Will your bones break?-Yes, they would, if you were to fall down from a high place, or if a cart were to go over them. <> How easy it would be to hurt your poor little body! <> If it were to fall into the fire, it would be burned up. If a great knife were run through your body, the blood would come out. If a great box were to fall on your head, your head would be crushed...

Mortimer's personal life could be boiled down to an index of Victorian misery and misfortune, which her niece Mrs. Meyer cataloged with vicious delight. After just a few chapters, the lives of Mortimer's family and friends devolve into a laundry list of spasmodic cholera, a face crushed by a wagon, erysipelas in the shins, the tail of a dressing gown set alight in a fireplace, influenza, water on the brain, an apoplectic fit, asthma, scarlatina, jaundice and pleurisy, blindness and deafness, bronchitis, and cerebral weakness.
posted by of strange foe at 2:23 PM on October 2, 2007


Metafilter: O how foolish!
posted by John of Michigan at 2:31 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


This piqued my curiosity, so I went to Google Books and had a quick browse of Far Off, or Africa and America Described to see what it was really like. I was pleasantly surprised: it strikes me as an admirable attempt to widen the horizons of Victorian Sunday School children by teaching them a bit of world geography.

Yes, she shares the prejudices of her era -- but her anti-Catholicism, though obtrusive, is no worse than the bile spewed here on Metafilter from time to time, and her evangelical piety puts her in the progressive camp when it comes to American slavery and racial prejudice:

We have now spoken of the slavery of the southern States. There are no slaves in the northern States, but there are many blacks there; and perhaps you think they are kindly treated as they are not slaves. Far from it. They are not beaten, it is true, but they are despised and insulted in every possible way. Is not this very wicked? Merely because they have a black skin.

The blacks may not ride in the same carriage on a railway, as the whites; so a separate carriage is always provided for them. No one will shake hands with them in the Northern States. In the Southern States it is common for masters and mistresses, when they are going on a journey, to shake hands with their black slaves at parting; but no such kindness is ever shown to black servants in the Northern States.


So why all this effort to smear it as 'the rudest travel book ever written'? Perhaps some of the criticisms come a bit too close to the bone -- or perhaps it appeals to some perverse masochistic streak in the American psyche to be told how much the rest of the world hates them.
posted by verstegan at 2:36 PM on October 2, 2007


She's the voice of my GPS system.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:52 PM on October 2, 2007


So why all this effort to smear it as 'the rudest travel book ever written'? Perhaps some of the criticisms come a bit too close to the bone -- or perhaps it appeals to some perverse masochistic streak in the American psyche to be told how much the rest of the world hates them.

Interesting theory, considering that quote is from an Irish publication.
posted by Snyder at 3:00 PM on October 2, 2007


The Irish say they are Christians, yet most of them will not read the Bible. Is not that strange? Why do they not read it, if they are Christians? Because their ministers tell them not to read it. Why? Because these ministers or priests tell them a great many wrong things, which are not written in the Bible, and they do not want the people to find out the truth. The religion they teach is called the Roman Catholic religion. It is a kind of Christian religion, but it is a very bad kind.

Speaking as someone who recently wrote an article on Victorian anti-Catholic sermons, I've got to say that in the greater scheme of things, this hardly counts as venom, let alone a gushing romantic wound. It's Victorian evangelical boilerplate, and pretty mild, at that. "Venomous" would be someone like Catherine Sinclair, or (on the US side of the pond) Julia M'Nair Wright.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:47 PM on October 2, 2007


How easy it would be to hurt your poor little body!

Wow, that wins the award for most menancing sentence, ever.
posted by smackfu at 9:11 PM on October 2, 2007


...there is one was once a very fine, broad, long, deep river, called the Murray. It flows for twelve hundred miles. Were there several such rivers as the Murray, then Australia would be a fine land indeed.
posted by mattoxic at 11:42 PM on October 2, 2007


I am just very highly amused that the entry for Portugal begins with "What?"

Inscrutable as it may be, I've been trying to scrut it and have come up with the solution that someone was transcribing her thoughts about various countries and had just asked her how she felt about Portugal and she was slightly distracted at the time thinking about those foolish Catholics or something.
posted by Spatch at 6:15 AM on October 3, 2007


French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish.

Tyne, Dogger, east veering south 4 or 5. Squally showers. Good.
posted by flashboy at 6:56 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


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