The Barbarian Marshes

Celt, Roman, Angle, Saxon, Dane, Norman, Pict—and Bengali, Afro-Caribbean, Turk, Arab, Chinese. Glyndebourne, swan-upping, roast beef and Maypoles—and arranged marriages, bowing to Mecca, halal meat, chop suey. Harris tweed—and saris. Anglicanism and Catholicism—and Diwali, Rastafarian New Year, Ramadan. Milton, Shakespeare —and Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison. All of the former, traditionally British things have been, are being, eclipsed by all of the latter, non-British things.

Although I am not opposed to change as such, I rue all of these particular changes, which dilute and endanger the culture I hold most dear. Although I am not British myself—I was born in the Irish Republic, to Anglo- Irish, Protestant parents—I have always been conscious of some affinity for Britain, and particularly England, which loomed on my horizon like a kindly elder relative. I regularly came here on holidays when I was younger, to marvel at the great cities and the beautiful landscapes where the houses stopped. I always had a strange sense of being at home here, however new and big it may have seemed to my juvenile eyes. I have an impression in my mind, still clear and fresh, which nourished, and nourishes, my superpatriotism—of new-leafed plane trees in the sunlight, the sound of sonorous bells, the sight of black taxis, walking under the trees and feeding ducks in St. James's Park, the glitter of the...

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