The British live on the island of Great Britain. It is also home to the Scots and Welsh. The British themselves are the product of a mixture of many ethnic groups – the most ancient Iberian population with peoples of Indo-European origin: the tribes of the Celts, the Germanic tribes of the Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, to some extent – the Scandinavians, and later the Franco – Normans.
National character is tenacious among all peoples. But this does not apply to any people more than to the British, who, apparently, have something like a patent for the vitality of their nature. Thus, the first and most obvious feature of this nation is the stability and constancy of the character of its constituent individuals. They are less susceptible to the influence of time, passing fashions than others. If the authors writing about the English, in many respects repeat each other, this is explained, first of all, by the invariability of the foundations of the English character. It is important, however, to emphasize that for all its stability, this character is composed of very contradictory, even paradoxical features, some of which are very obvious, while others are subtle, so that every generalization concerning the British can easily be challenged.
The curiosity of the British allowed them to get acquainted with the best of what other peoples possess, and yet they remained true to their traditions. While admiring French cuisine, an Englishman will not imitate it at home. Being the epitome of conformity, the British at the same time maintain their individuality.
It cannot be argued that the British have never changed. Change is happening all the time, but these differences, so visible outwardly, do not affect the nation.
Good or bad, but the original features of the English nature still remain a kind of common denominator, have a profound impact on the national character and general lifestyle.
When it comes to the “hard upper lip” of an Englishman, there are two concepts behind it – the ability to control oneself (the cult of self-control) and the ability to respond appropriately to life situations (the cult of prescribed behavior). Neither one nor the other was characteristic of the British until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Equanimity and self-control, restraint and courtesy were by no means traits of the English character for the “gay old England”, where the upper and lower classes of society were more likely to have a violent, hot-tempered disposition, where there were no moral prohibitions for defiant behavior, where public executions and flogging with rods were a favorite sight , bear and cockfighting, where even humor was mixed with cruelty.
The principles of “gentlemanly conduct” were elevated to a cult under Queen Victoria. And they prevailed over the tough temper of “old England”.
Even now the Englishman has to wage a constant struggle with himself, with the natural passions of his temperament, rushing out. And such tough self-control takes too much mental strength. This can partly explain the fact that the British are heavy on the rise, tend to go around sharp corners, that they have a desire to be outside of prying eyes, which engenders a cult of private life.
It is often enough to watch the English crowd at a national holiday or at a football match to feel how the national temperament is torn from the reins of self-control.
Modern Englishmen regard self-control as the main virtue of the human character. The words: “Be able to control yourself” – like nothing better express the motto of this nation. The better a person knows how to control himself, the more worthy he is. In joy and in sorrow, with success and failure, a person must remain calm at least externally, and even better – if internally. From childhood, an Englishman is taught to calmly endure cold and hunger, overcome pain and fear, curb attachments and antipathies.
Considering an open, uninhibited expression of feelings a sign of bad manners, the British sometimes misjudge the behavior of foreigners, just as foreigners often misjudge the British, taking the mask of equanimity for the face itself or not realizing why it is necessary to hide the true state of mind under such a mask.
The Englishman is usually tall, his face is wide, reddish, with soft pendulous cheeks, large red sideburns and blue, impassive eyes. Women, like men, are often very tall too. Both have long necks, slightly protruding eyes and slightly protruding front teeth. Often there are faces without any expression. The English are distinguished by moderation, which they do not forget both during labor and in pleasure. There is almost nothing ostentatious about the Englishman. He all lives first and foremost for himself. His nature is characterized by a love of order, comfort, a desire for mental activity. He loves good transport, a fresh suit, a rich library.
Among the bustle of the people, it is easy to recognize a real Englishman. No noise or shouting will confuse him. He won’t stop for a minute. Where necessary, he will certainly step aside, turn off the sidewalk, wiggle sideways, never expressing the slightest surprise or fear on his important face.
Common class Englishmen are extremely friendly and helpful. The Englishman will take the foreigner who has addressed some question by the shoulder and will begin to show him the way with different visual techniques, repeating the same thing several times, and then he will look after him for a long time, not believing that the questioner could understand everything so soon.
The British not only know how to bypass all obstacles, avoiding breakdowns, but the work itself is performed with perfect calmness, so that even the nearest neighbor often does not even suspect that a gigantic work is in full swing next to him.
In a country overwhelmed by fierce winds, rains and fogs, conditions have been created in which a person, more than anywhere else, is secluded in his home and removed from his neighbors.
There is no people in Europe whose custom would be elevated to such an inviolable law. Since a custom exists, no matter how strange, ridiculous, or original, no well-bred Englishman would dare to break it. Although the Englishman is politically free, he is strictly subject to social discipline and entrenched customs.
The British are tolerant of other people’s opinions. It is difficult to imagine to what extent these people have a strong passion for betting. The proliferation of clubs is also a phenomenon. The club is considered a home, a family sanctuary, the secrets of which should not be violated by anyone with impunity. Expulsion from the club is the greatest shame for an Englishman.
The Englishman feels a strong need for society, but no one better knows how to retire among his many friends. Without violating decency, he is able to perfectly be with himself among a huge crowd, indulge in his thoughts, do whatever he pleases, never embarrassing himself or others.
No one knows how to manage their time and money as strictly as an Englishman.
He works extremely hard, but always finds time to rest. During working hours, he works without straightening his back, straining all his mental and physical strength, in his free time he willingly indulges in pleasures.
Every Englishman, wherever he lives, bears the stamp of his nationality. A Frenchman cannot always be distinguished from an Italian or a Spaniard, but an Englishman is difficult to confuse with anyone else. Wherever he appears, he will everywhere bring his customs, his manner of behavior, nowhere and for anyone will not change his habits, he is everywhere – at home. This is an original, distinctive, eminently integral character.
The Englishman is very conceited. He is sure that everything is going better in his country than in others. Therefore, he looks at the foreigner arrogantly, with regret and often with complete contempt. This deficiency among the British developed due to the lack of sociability and an exaggerated consciousness of their superiority over others.
Money is the idol of the British. No one has such an honor for wealth. Whatever the social position of the Englishman, be he a scientist, lawyer, politician or clergyman, he is above all a businessman. In each field, he devotes a lot of time to making money. His first concern, always and everywhere, is to make as much as possible. But with this unbridled greed and passion for profit, the Englishman is not at all stingy: he likes to live in great comfort and in a big way.
The British travel a lot and always try to learn more facts, but they get very little closer to the peoples of the countries they visit. Etiquette, pride, misunderstanding and contempt for other people’s customs do not allow them to get closer to foreigners in a foreign land. In England, nothing turns into ruins, nothing is out of date: innovations are crowded alongside legends.
The Englishman has an innate ability to seek adventure. Phlegmatic by nature, he is able to passionately get carried away with everything great, new, original. If the life of an Englishman develops in such a way that he is deprived of the opportunity to wage a difficult struggle with everyday obstacles, then he begins to suffer an unbearable blues. Then, out of oppressive boredom, he begins to look for entertainment in the strangest adventures.
In the field of art, the Englishman loves, above all, grandeur and originality. The latter manifests itself, in particular, in the enormous size of bridges, monuments, parks, etc.
The ideal of the British is independence, education, dignity, honesty and unselfishness, tact, grace of manners, refined politeness, the ability to sacrifice time and money for a good cause, the ability to lead and obey, perseverance in achieving a set goal, lack of arrogance.