The True-Born Englishman

The True-Born Englishman

The Preface

Daniel Defoe

THE end of satire is reformation; and the author, though he doubts the work of conversion is at a general stop, has put his hand to the plough.

I expect a storm of ill language from the fury of the town, and especially from those whose English talent it is to rail. And without being taken for a conjuror, I may venture to foretell that I shall be cavilled at about my mean style, rough verse, and incorrect language; things I might indeed have taken more care in, but the book is printed; and though I see some faults, it is too late to mend them. And this is all I think needful to say to them.

Possibly somebody may take me for a Dutchman, in which they are mistaken. But I am one that would be glad to see Englishmen behave themselves better to strangers and to governors also, that one might not be reproached in foreign countries for belonging to a nation that wants manners.

I assure you, gentlemen, strangers use us better abroad; and we can give no reason but our ill-nature for the contrary here.

Methinks an Englishman, who is so proud of being called a good fellow, should be civil; and it cannot be denied but we are in many cases, and particularly to strangers, the churlishest people alive.

As to vices, who can dispute our intemperance, while an honest drunken fellow is a character in a man’s praise? All our reformations are banters, and will be so till our magistrates and gentry reform themselves by way of example. Then, and not till then, they may be expected to punish others without blushing.

As to our ingratitude, I desire to be understood of that particular people who, pretending to be Protestants, have all along endeavoured to reduce the liberties and religion of this nation into the hands of King James and his Popish Powers; together with such who enjoy the peace and protection of the present Government, and yet abuse and affront the King, who procured it, and openly profess their uneasiness under him. These, by whatsoever names or titles they are dignified or distinguished, are the people aimed at; nor do I disown but that it is so much the temper of an Englishman to abuse his benefactor that I could be glad to see it rectified.

Those who think I have been guilty of any error in exposing the crimes of my own countrymen to themselves may, among many honest instances of the like nature, find the same thing in Mr. Cowley, in his imitation of the second Olympic ode of Pindar. His words are these—

“But in this thankless world the givers
    Are envied even by the receivers:
’Tis now the cheap and frugal fashion
Rather to hide than pay an obligation.
    Nay, ’tis much worse than so;
    It now an artifice doth grow
    Wrongs and outrages to do,
Lest men should think we owe.”

The True-Born Englishman - Contents    |     The Introduction

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