The last sentence, I am well aware, is bound to shock many of my Japanese readers. I have deliberately presented them with their image of the typical Englishman, or English gentleman – only to add that it isn’t true: it doesn’t correspond to the reality, at least as I see it with my English eyes. Of course, I’m not denying there may be some Englishmen who more or less fit the fit the rough description I’ve just given; but they are the exception, not the rule. They are certainly not typical Englishmen. And even when they do fit my description in their outward behaviour, or “public face,” they will rarely continue to behave in this way when they return home to their wife and family and reveal their “private face,” which is what they really are.
As for myself, I admire the heroism of people like Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill. I also like to watch the changing of the guard, with Japanese tourists, and the ceremony of Trooping the Colour – through I’ve only seen it in films and on TV. But I don’t feel it as part of myself or characteristic of the English people. For one thing, Nelson and Churchill were both rather exceptional men, and by no means typical of ordinary Englishmen like myself (if I may call myself an ordinary Englishman, whatever it means). I wouldn’t particularly care to meet either of them in person. If I did, I would probably find their presence too overwhelming. Their social milieu simply isn’t, or wasn’t, mine. For another, the Grenadier Guards and servicemen in general are too stiff and regimented, too impersonal in their anonymity, to be typical of anyone or anything except themselves – and not even of themselves. If all Englishmen were like them, even only in public, then all I can say is – heaven help the English!
There is, in fact, something about the history of England’s greatness, from the days of Good Queen Bess onwards, which I find repelling as an Englishman. It was from those days onwards that the Englishman. It was from those days onwards that the English began to go on voyages of exploration and discovery to the very ends of that British Empire I used to know in my youth and now know no longer. There was, no doubt, a certain greatness about this empire over which, we used to boast, the sun never set. But now the greatness has vanished, as it always has done, over the little heart of that great empire. And I feel relived; for England in all her littleness is greater than all the greatness of her former empire.
Now that the British Empire is no more, it has, I feel, become easier to find the true heart of England. It is not in the splendid buildings of Westminster and Whitehall, nor in the Nelson column in Trafalgar Square, nor even in Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard, that we will find it. It is rather to be found in the ordinary two-story houses in the suburbs of London, to which the ordinary Londoner returns (with his inevitable umbrella) from his office every evening on weekdays. For there he is at last able to put off that mask of official anonymity behind which he hides from the curious glances of Japanese tourist, and to resume his true self as husband of a loving but critical wife and as father of charming but quarrelsome children. Back in London he has gone around wearing his “public face,” expressing not so much his character as his caricature: and it must have been something of a strain. But at home he is free to show his “private face,” and through it his real self, both as a human being and as a true Englishman.
For the English, even those among them who are also gentlemen, are after all – if I may take this opportunity of reminding my Japanese readers – human beings just like themselves. And it is within their families that they can feel and show their deepest human and English qualities. Yes, indeed, “There’s no place like home.”
【住所】 愛知県名古屋市東区筒井２丁目４－５２ ３Ｆ