PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Colm Toibin on Thom Gunn's Letters Allice Hiller and Sasha Dugdale in conversation David Herman on the life of Edward W. Said Jena Schmitt on Hope Mirrlees Brian Morton: Now the Trees
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This report is taken from PN Review 79, Volume 17 Number 5, May - June 1991.

Comment C.H. Sisson
What does it mean to be English? It is not a question I would have asked for myself, but Marsha Rowe,* who apparently comes from some country other than England, has apparently been troubled by it. 'We, the non-English who live here,' she says, 'notice how often they tell us that something or someone is so English ... it's a shock when, after a time, visiting family or friends tell us that we too now are so very English.' I can't recall, myself, ever having launched that accusation against anyone, whether a native or from other parts. Of course, I've not gone native myself; I was born that way. If, when I was abroad, anyone had said to me that I was so very French, German, or American, or whatever it might be, I should have thought he was joking, and hoped it was a civility, pretending that I understood my host's country better than could have been expected from a mere foreigner. Apparently Marsha Rowe does not see the matter so simply, and finds it offensive that 'the English are so utterly confident who they are'.

Marsha Rowe's criticism suggests that she thinks of the people she meets here not simply as people but as specimens of racial characteristics - an attitude which would properly be condemned if she were one of the natives taking a look at those who came from elsewhere. In an article written over fifty years ago I said: 'Whoever talks of the national ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image