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Distinctions of English Gentry and the Common British Agrarian

Reader comment on item: Living Freely in England a Century Ago

Submitted by M. Tovey (United States), Jul 25, 2011 at 11:51

While one can suppose that the description, however viewed for its insight, was one of retrospect and not necessarily of actual observances of a life so lived, it gives a decidedly rose-colored view of a time and a place too few in England really enjoyed. As is pointed out by others who have commented, not all of the circumstances were considered and much of the the context was lost by its omission by Mr Taylor.

Being only a generation away from the era of the 'Englishman' so described, the father of my father immigrated to this country quite some time before 1914 for a variety of reasons, only one of which came close to the glowing affirmation of British citizenry; for he was of the agrarian sort, and not the gentry. He was one of a large family and descended from a long line of large families, the situation eventually calling for him to seek his fortune 'across the pond.' Having done so, and with the sponsorship required by American State department (Ellis Island) at the time for those seeking a new life here, he worked his way into a position of responsibility and civic activity that would have him rub shoulders with a president and others of similar political acumen, something he would never have been able to do in England.

All of this was accomplished before 1914: and the wonder is; that if that sensible law abiding Englishman had full access to the circumstances so described, he might not have made the trip. Instead, by parole evidence (I never got to know him), life over here was a complete rewrite of his potential that would never have been accomplished remaining in the Empire. It is remembered here that England was in transition away from its Victorian influences, the very influences that had maintained the Empire intact before the progressive revisionism that began to plague England took it down with its ever increasing hold. The father of my father made the better choice for his future here in America than trying to live to the British image portrayed by Mr Taylor; and I am glad he did.

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