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This report is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

Two ggs Bad Two ggs Good John Lucas

As every student of Eng. Lit. once knew, Matthew Arnold was no great lover of those Anglo-Saxon values in which his contemporaries took pride. In his essay 'The Function of Criticism at the Present Time', originally given as one of his Oxford lectures, Arnold turned his sardonic gaze on nineteenth-century industrialists and politicians who extolled the state of the nation as full of vigour, sturdy independence and 'unrivalled happiness', all of which were to be credited to the continuing vitality in England of 'the old Anglo-Saxon race, the best breed in the whole world'. In quoting those words, Arnold tells us that he came across them in a newspaper report of a speech to 'Sheffield cutlers', and that, immediately after them, he read in the same newspaper the following:

'A shocking child murder has just been committed in Nottingham. A girl named Wragg left the workhouse there on Saturday morning with her young illegitimate child. The child was soon afterwards found dead on Mapperly [sic] Hills, having been strangled. Wragg is in custody.'

Nothing but that; but, in juxtaposition with the absolute eulogies of Sir Charles Adderley and Mr Roebuck, how eloquent, how suggestive are those few lines! 'Our old Anglo-Saxon breed, the best in the whole world!' - how much that is harsh and ill-favoured there is in this best! Wragg! If we are to talk of ideal perfection, of 'the best in the whole world,' has any one reflected what ...


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