The True-Born Englishman

The True-Born Englishman

Part I

Daniel Defoe

WHEREVER God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there:1
And ’twill be found upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation:
For ever since he first debauched the mind,
He made a perfect conquest of mankind.
With uniformity of service, he
Reigns with a general aristocracy.
No non-conforming sects disturb his reign,
For of his yoke there’s very few complain.
He knows the genius and the inclination,
And matches proper sins for every nation,
He needs no standing-army government;
He always rules us by our own consent:
His laws are easy, and his gentle sway
Makes it exceeding pleasant to obey:
The list of his vicegerents and commanders,
Outdoes your Cæsars or your Alexanders.
They never fail of his infernal aid,
And he’s as certain ne’er to be betrayed.
Through all the world they spread his vast command,
And Death’s eternal empire is maintained.
They rule so politicly and so well,
As if they were Lords Justices of Hell,
Duly divided to debauch mankind,
And plant infernal dictates in his mind.
    Pride, the first peer, and president of Hell,
To his share Spain, the largest province, fell.
The subtile Prince thought fittest to bestow
On these the golden mines of Mexico,
With all the silver mountains of Peru,
Wealth which would in wise hands the world undo:
Because he knew their genius was such,
Too lazy and too haughty to be rich.
So proud a people, so above their fate,
That if reduced to beg, they’ll beg in state;
Lavish of money to be counted brave,
And proudly starve because they scorn to save.
Never was nation in the world before
So very rich and yet so very poor.
    Lust chose the torrid zone of Italy,
Where blood ferments in rapes and sodomy:
Where swelling veins overflow with liquid streams,
With heat impregnate from Vesuvian flames:
Whose flowing sulphur forms infernal lakes,
And human body of the soil partakes.
Their nature ever burns with hot desires,
Fanned with luxuriant air from subterranean fires;
Here, undisturbed in floods of scalding lust,
The Infernal King reigns with infernal gust.
    Drunkenness, the darling favourite of Hell,
Chose Germany to rule; and rules so well,
No subjects more obsequiously obey,
None please so well or are so pleased as they.
The cunning artist manages so well,
He lets them bow to Heaven and drink to Hell.
If but to wine and him they homage pay,
He cares not to what deity they pray,
What God they worship most, or in what way.
Whether by Luther, Calvin, or by Rome
They sail for Heaven, by Wine he steers them home.
    Ungoverned Passion settled first in France,
Where mankind lives in haste and thrives by chance;
A dancing nation, fickle and untrue,
Have oft undone themselves and others too;
Prompt the infernal dictates to obey,
And in Hell’s favour none more great than they.
    The Pagan world he blindly leads away,
And personally rules with arbitrary sway;
The mask thrown off, plain Devil his title stands,
And what elsewhere he tempts he there commands.
There with full gust the ambition of his mind
Governs, as he of old in Heaven designed.
Worshipped as God, his Paynim altars smoke,
Embrued with blood of those that him invoke.
    The rest by Deputies he rules as well,
And plants the distant colonies of Hell.
By them his secret power he maintains,
And binds the world in his infernal chains.
    By Zeal the Irish, and the Russ by Folly
Fury the Dane, the Swede by Melancholy;
By stupid Ignorance the Muscovite;
The Chinese by a child of Hell called Wit
Wealth makes the Persian too effeminate,
And Poverty the Tartars desperate;
The Turks and Moors by Mah’met he subdues,
And God has given him leave to rule the Jews.
Rage rules the Portuguese and Fraud the Scotch,
Revenge the Pole and Avarice the Dutch.
    Satire, be kind, and draw a silent veil
Thy native England’s vices to conceal;
Or, if that task’s impossible to do,
At least be just and show her virtues too—
Too great the first; alas, the last too few!
    England, unknown as yet, unpeopled lay;
Happy had she remained so to this day,
And not to every nation been a prey.
Her open harbours and her fertile plains
(The merchant’s glory those, and these the swain’s)
To every barbarous nation have betrayed her,
Who conquer her as oft as they invade her;
So beauty’s guarded but by innocence,
That ruins her, which should be her defence.
    Ingratitude, a devil of black renown,
Possessed her very early for his own.
An ugly, surly, sullen, selfish spirit,
Who Satan’s worst perfections does inherit;
Second to him in malice and in force,
All devil without, and all within him worse.
He made her first-born race to be so rude,
And suffered her so oft to be subdued;
By several crowds of wandering thieves o’errun,
Often unpeopled, and as oft undone;
While every nation that her powers reduced
Their languages and manners introduced.
From whose mixed relics our compounded breed
By spurious generation does succeed,
Making a race uncertain and uneven,
Derived from all the nations under Heaven.
    The Romans first with Julius Cæsar came,
Including all the nations of that name,
Gauls, Greeks, and Lombards, and, by computation
Auxiliaries or slaves of every nation.
With Hengist, Saxons; Danes with Sueno came,
In search of plunder, not in search of fame.
Scots, Picts, and Irish from the Hibernian shore,
And conquering William brought the Normans o’er.
    All these their barbarous offspring left behind,
The dregs of armies, they of all mankind;
Blended with Britons, who before were here,
Of whom the Welsh ha’ blessed the character.
    From this amphibious ill-born mob began
That vain, ill-natured thing, an Englishman.
The customs, surnames, languages, and manners
Of all these nations are their own explainers:
Whose relics are so lasting and so strong,
They ha’ left a shibboleth upon our tongue,
By which with easy search you may distinguish
Your Roman-Saxon-Danish Norman English.
The great invading Norman2 let us know
What conquerors in after times might do.
To every musketeer3 he brought to town,
He gave the lands which never were his own.
When first the English crown he did obtain,
He did not send his Dutchmen back again.
No reassumptions in his reign were known,
D’Avenant might there ha’ let his book alone.
No Parliament his army could disband;
He raised no money, for he paid in land.
He gave his legions their eternal station,
And made them all freeholders of the nation.
He cantoned out the country to his men,
And every soldier was a denizen.
The rascals thus enriched, he called them lords,
To please their upstart pride with new-made words,
And Doomsday Book his tyranny records.
    And here begins our ancient pedigree,
That so exalts our poor nobility:
’Tis that from some French trooper they derive,
Who with the Norman bastard did arrive;
The trophies of the families appear,
Some show the sword, the bow, and some the spear,
Which their great ancestor, forsooth, did wear.
These in the herald’s register remain,
Their noble mean extraction to explain,
Yet who the hero was, no man can tell,
Whether a drummer or a colonel:
The silent record blushes to reveal
Their undescended dark original.
    But grant the best, how came the change to pass,
A true-born Englishman of Norman race?
A Turkish horse can show more history
To prove his well-descended family.
Conquest, as by the moderns4 ’tis expressed,
May give a title to the lands possessed:
But that the longest sword should be so civil
To make a Frenchman English, that’s the devil.
    These are the heroes that despise the Dutch,
And rail at new-come foreigners so much,
Forgetting that themselves are all derived
From the most scoundrel race that ever lived;
A horrid crowd of rambling thieves and drones,
Who ransacked kingdoms and dispeopled towns,
The Pict and painted Briton, treacherous Scot,
By hunger, theft, and rapine hither brought;
Norwegian pirates, buccaneering Danes,
Whose red-haired offspring everywhere remains,
Who, joined with Norman-French, compound the breed
From whence your true-born Englishmen proceed.
    And lest by length of time it be pretended
The climate may this modern breed ha’ mended,
Wise Providence, to keep us where we are,
Mixes us daily with exceeding care.
We have been Europe’s sink, the jakes where she
Voids all her offal outcast progeny.
From the eighth Henry’s time, the strolling bands
Of banished fugitives from neighbouring lands
Have here a certain sanctuary found:
The eternal refuge of the vagabond,
Where, in but half a common age of time,
Borrowing new blood and manners from the clime,
Proudly they learn all mankind to contemn,
And all their race are true-born Englishmen.
    Dutch, Walloons, Flemings, Irishmen, and Scots,
Vaudois and Valtelins, and Hugonots,
In good Queen Bess’s charitable reign,
Supplied us with three hundred thousand men.
Religion—God, we thank Thee!—sent them hither
Priests, Protestants, the Devil and all together:
Of all professions and of every trade,
All that were persecuted or afraid;
Whether for debt or other crimes they fled,
David at Hachilah was still their head.
    The offspring of this miscellaneous crowd
Had not their new plantations long enjoyed,
But they grew Englishmen, and raised their votes
At foreign shoals for interloping Scots.
The royal branch5 from Pictland did succeed,
With troops of Scots and Scabs from North-by-Tweed.
The seven first years of his pacific reign
Made him and half his nation Englishmen.
Scots from the northern frozen banks of Tay,
With packs and plods came whigging all away:
Thick as the locusts which in Egypt swarmed,
With pride and hungry hopes completely armed;
With native truth, diseases, and no money,
Plundered our Canaan of the milk and honey.
Here they grew quickly lords and gentlemen,
And all their race are true-born Englishmen.
    The civil wars, the common purgative,
Which always use to make the nation thrive,
Made way for all that strolling congregation
Which thronged in Pious Charles’s restoration.6
The royal refugee our breed restores,
With foreign courtiers and with foreign whores,
And carefully repeopled us again,
Throughout his lazy, long, lascivious reign,
With such a blest and true-born English fry,
As much illustrates our nobility.
A gratitude which will so black appear,
As future ages must abhor to hear,
When they look back on all that crimson flood,
Which streamed in Lindsay’s and Carnarvon’s blood,
Bold Strafford, Cambridge, Capel, Lucas, Lisle,
Who crowned in death his father’s funeral pile.
The loss of whom, in order to supply,
With true-born English nationality,
Six bastard Dukes survive his luscious reign,
The labours of Italian Castlemaine,7
French Portsmouth,8 Tabby Scot, and Cambrian.
Besides the numerous bright and virgin throng,
Whose female glories shade them from my song.
    This offspring, if one age they multiply,
May half the house with English peers supply;
There with true English pride they may contemn
Schomberg and Portland,9 new made noblemen.
    French cooks, Scotch pedlars, and Italian whores,
Were all made lords or lords’ progenitors.
Beggars and bastards by his new creation
Much multiplied the peerage of the nation;
Who will be all, ere one short age runs o’er.
As true-born lords as those we had before.
    Then to recruit the Commons he prepares
And heal the latent breaches of the wars;
The pious purpose better to advance,
He invites the banished Protestants of France:
Hither for God’s sake and their own they fled,
Some for religion came, and some for bread;
Two hundred thousand pairs of wooden shoes,
Who, God be thanked, had nothing left to lose,
To Heaven’s great praise did for religion fly,
To make us starve our poor in charity.
In every port they plant their fruitful train,
To get a race of true-born Englishmen;
Whose children will, when riper years they see,
Be as ill-natured and as proud as we;
Call themselves English, foreigners despise,
Be surly like us all, and just as wise.
    Thus from a mixture of all kinds began
That heterogeneous thing an Englishman;
In eager rapes and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Briton and a Scot;
Whose gendering offspring quickly learned to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough;
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name nor nation, speech nor fame;
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infused betwixt a Saxon and a Dane;
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Received all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted brood of Englishmen.
    Which medley cantoned in a Heptarchy,
A rhapsody of nations to supply,
Among themselves maintained eternal wars,
And still the ladies loved the conquerors.
The Western Angles all the rest subdued,
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude,
Who by the tenure of the sword possessed
One part of Britain, and subdued the rest.
And as great things denominate the small,
The conquering part gave title to the whole;
The Scot, Pict, Briton, Roman, Dane, submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite;
And these the mixtures have so close pursued,
The very name and memory’s subdued.
No Roman now, no Briton does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain;
The silent nations undistinguished fall,
And Englishman’s the common name of all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
What e’er they were, they’re true-born English now.
    The wonder which remains is at our pride,
To value that which all men else deride.
For Englishmen to boast of generation
Cancels their knowledge and lampoons the nation.
A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction;
A banter made to be a test to fools,
Which those that use it justly ridicules;
A metaphor invented to express
A man akin to all the universe.
    For, as the Scots, as learned men have said,
Throughout the world their wandering seed have spread;
So open-handed England, ’tis believed,
Has all the gleanings of the world received.
    Some think of England, ’twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent,
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.
    ’Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
Since scarce one family is left alive
Which does not from some foreigner derive.
Of sixty thousand English gentlemen,
Whose name and arms in registers remain,
We challenge all our heralds to declare
Ten families which English-Saxons are.
    France justly owns the ancient noble line
Of Bourbon, Montmorency, and Lorraine,
The Germans too their House of Austria show
And Holland their invincible Nassau,
Lines which in heraldry were ancient grown
Before the name of Englishman was known.
Even Scotland, too, her elder glory shows,
Her Gordons, Hamiltons, and her Monros,
Douglas, Mackays, and Grahams, names well known
Long before ancient England knew her own.
    But England, modern to the last degree
Borrows or makes her own nobility,
And yet she boldly boasts of pedigree;
Repines that foreigners are put upon her,
And talks of her antiquity and honour;
Her Sackvilles, Saviles, Capels, De la Meres,
Mohuns, and Montagues, Darcys, and Veres,
Not one have English names, yet all are English peers.
Your Hermans, Papillons, and Lavalliers
Pass now for true-born English knights and squires,
And make good senate members or Lord Mayors.
Wealth, howsoever got, in Ehgland makes
Lords of mechanics, gentlemen of rakes:
Antiquity and birth are needless here;
’Tis impudence and money makes a peer.
    Innumerable City knights, we know,
From Bluecoat Hospital and Bridewell flow;
Draymen and porters fill the city Chair
And footboys magisterial purple wear.
Fate has but very small distinction set
Betwixt the counter and the coronet.
Tarpaulin lords, pages of high renown,
Rise up by poor men’s valour, not their own.
Great families of yesterday we show,
And lords whose parents were the Lord knows who.

1.    This old proverb was quoted by Robert Burton in his “Anatomy of Melancholy” (1621), “Where God hath a temple the Devil hath a chapel” (Part III. sc. iv. subs. 1). It was also No. 670 in George Herbert’s “Jacula Prudentium,” first published in 1640, where it ran, “No sooner is a temple built to God but the Devil builds a chapel hard by.” Defoe was the first rhymer of the proverb, and the rider to it is his own.    [back]

2.    William the Conqueror. [D.F.]    [back]

3.    Or archer. [D.F.]    [back]

4.    Dr. Sherlock, de facto. [D.F.]    [back]

5.    K. J. I. [D.F.]    [back]

6.    K. C. II. [D.F.]    [back]

7.    Lady Castlemaine, of the Italian-French family of Villars, was first known to Charles II. as Mrs. Palmer. Afterwards her husband was made Earl of Castlemaine, and in 1668 she was made Duchess of Cleveland. Of the cost of this woman Andrew Marvell wrote:—“They have signed and sealed ten thousand pounds a year more to the Duchess of Cleveland; who has likewise near ten thousand pounds a year out of the new farm of the country excise of beer and ale; five thousand pounds a year out of the Post Office; and, they say, the reversion of all the King’s leases, the reversion of all places in the Custom House, the green-wax, and, indeed, what not? All promotions, spiritual and temporal, pass under her cognisance,” &c. Charles II. had by her five children.    [back]

8.    Louise Renée de Puencovet de Queroualle came over to Dover as a maid of honour, and was created Duchess of Portsmouth in August 1673. She cost as much as Lady Castlemaine. Her son, Charles Lennox, was made Duke of Richmond. The Duchess of Portsmouth was living when this satire appeared. She died in 1734.    [back]

9.    Frederick de Schomberg, an old favourite of King William’s, was made Duke of Schomberg on the 10th of April 1689. Another friend of the King’s, William Bentinck, was created Earl of Portland on the 9th of April 1689. His son and heir was raised to a dukedom in 1716.    [back]

The True-Born Englishman - Contents    |     Part II

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