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Here are more of Stapleton’s views on his fellow Europeans:

Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797.


As to the PEOPLE, though they are characterized by those of other countries for generosity, they do not display any great share of it among each other; the higher classes seem not to care much for the lower, and the lower care as little for the higher. With respect to the military part, the English soldiers are as good as any in Europe; and as to the sailors, they are the best in the world.


As to the Dutch, as a people, their character is pretty well known throughout Europe. How far their extreme love of money is reconciled to requisitions and contributions in support of their allies, I know not. It seems to be, however, the general opinion, that, with respect to a change in government, they have been rather mistaken in their politics.


The inhabitants are stout, robust, laborious people.


The natives of Spain are represented as proud, haughty, and indolent: even the peasants, like the Welch, keep geneologies of their families. The Spanish ladies are fond of paint, and are kept much at home, through the jealousy of their husbands. The men, at least such as are liberally educated, discover a great genius for learning, as appears from the number of learned men and works which this kingdom has produced, though greatly limited in their researches into some subjects by their excessive bigotry to their religion. As for wit and genius, either in dramatic or romantic performances, they are allowed to be excellent; nor would they be defective in point of politics, were their sentiments not fettered by a despotic government.


With respect to the people of Germany, their genius has appeared in the invention and improvement of many mechanical arts, especially clockwork…


The Poles are naturally active, hardy, and robust. The gentry have many virtues; they are open, generous, and hospitable; very civil to strangers; and, for the most part, men of honour: their greatest failing is vanity, and strong inclination to live, after their manner, in a wild kind of magnificence. The Polish ladies are generally fair and comely, and abhor painting and washes; they are said to be women of exemplary piety and virtue, both in their public behaviour, and in their domestic economy. But as to the meaner sort of people, they are, to a fault, ignorant and slothful; which, however, is rather to be charged to the constitution of their Government, than any natural disposition or temper; for where the law has rendered peasants incapable of possessing property, one cannot suppose they will take pains to acquire it.


The inhabitants are a brave people, but haughty.


The natives are in general robust, well-shaped, and of tolerable good complexion… The Czar, or Emperor, is a despotic Prince, and his subjects are all vassals.


The people are robust, and inured to hard labour.


The natives are of a robust constitution, and well calculated for hard labour. There is not country in the world where the women work so hard; for they till the ground, thresh the corn, and even row boats on the sea.

So…. Which of the above stereotypes surprises you the most? Do you think most of his stereotypes here reflect the standard stereotypes of his day, or do you suspect was he inventing his own, based on the people he’d met? (And did you notice how often he characterizes a people as “robust”?)

(And don’t forget about our next meeting of the Jane Austen Movie Club, the first Tuesday in August, when we’ll be discussing the Gwyneth Paltrow version of EMMA!)

who is stout, occasionally robust, but definitely not inured to hard labour

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Right now, I’m in France — the perfect time to share with you some 18th century stereotypes about different European nationalities!

Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797.


With respect to the PEOPLE of France, they are very lively and active, with a great share of wit, and a natural disposition and aptitude for all bodily exercises: they are, however, of a most restless disposition, and appear more fond of war than any other people.

As to treaties, covenants, &c. they pay very little regard to them. They violate a treaty, however solemn, with as little ceremony as they sit down to dinner.

Politeness is a characteristic with them; but this is often overdone; and that wit and sprightliness, otherwise so engaging, seems to be not purely natural.

In the mean time, amidst their excessive fondness for wit, the understanding is neglected, as of little or not consequence; the effect of which is, that they often mistake the shadow for the substance, and seek merit in external appearances, and things of no affinity with it.

As they vainly imagine no nation can come in competition with them for wit, so they arrogate to themselves the like superiority in qualities really praiseworthy, and especially military courage. Their natural levity subjects them in their own deportment, and particularly in their cloathing, to the tyranny of fashion, which is ever varying, and yet is submitted to by almost every European nation except the Spaniards.


The native of Switzerland are very industrious, and no part of the world produces better soldiers.


The inhabitants [of Rome] possess many good qualities, and many bad ones: they are polite, prudent, industrious, and ingenious; but they are luxurious, effeminate, and addicted too much to pleasure.

And remember — the first Tuesday of the month is the Jane Austen Movie Club! (Next week’s movie: the 1995 version of PERSUASION. Please join us!)

Cara King, luxurious, effeminate, and full of levity

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Right now, I’m in London. So, while I am (hopefully) having fun there, I hope this post is a bit of fun for you, wherever you are.

Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797. (The actual title is about twenty times as long as that, actually — perhaps one day I’ll make a blog post of nothing but the title of this book.)


[words] are divided into eight parts of speech, called noun, pronoun, verb, participle, adverb, conjunction, preposition and interjection…

Nouns are divided into Nouns Substantive, and Nouns Adjective. A noun substantive is the thing itself; as, a man, a boy, a girl; and the adjective expresses the qualities or properties of a thing, as handsome, poor, &c. For if any one should say “I see a handsome, or a poor,” he would not be understood, unless a substantive be added, as “I see a handsome woman, or a poor man.”

Adjectives, in reality, are only the modificatives of nouns; though in one view they may be considered as nouns, viz. as they do not so much represent a quality of circumstance of the object, as the object itself, clothed with that quality of circumstance: nor must it be omitted, that a noun adjective frequently becomes a substantive; for as its nature is to express the quality of an object, if that quality happen to be the object itself spoken of, then it becomes a substantive.

Thus if I say, “a good intention,” the word good is an adjective, representing the intention as clothed with the quality of goodness; but if I say, “the good is to be chosen,” it is evident that good is here the subject spoken of, and consequently is a noun substantive.


…indeed, there is scarce any thing in the province of grammarians so little fixed and ascertained as this.

Some of them lay down grammar rules for it; but as a mere grammarian is a mere blockhead, their rules are not worth attending to.

Few precise rules can be given which will hold, without exception, in all cases, but much must be left to the judgment and taste of the writer.

There you go. I bet you never knew before that an adjective is just one type of noun. Or that a grammarian is a blockhead. (Though some of you may have suspected the latter.)

Next week…the truth about Europeans, as seen by Stapleton. (Same Risky Time, same Risky Channel!)

And remember — the first Tuesday of the month is the Jane Austen Movie Club! (July’s movie: the 1995 version of PERSUASION. Please join us!)

Cara King, blockhead extraordinaire

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