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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

But not the Persian agriculturist


Speaking

from experience, in my travels--which extend more or less all over the world--I have ever found that Englishmen, when put to it, could learn languages perfectly. Hence my remarks, which may seem blunt but are true. Truly there is no reason why the gift of learning languages should be neglected in England,--a gift which, I think, is greatly facilitated by developing in young people musical qualities, if any, and training the ear to observe and receive sounds correctly,--a fact to which we are just beginning to wake up.

It is undoubted that the command of several languages gives a commercial man an enormous advantage in the present race of European nations in trying to obtain a commercial superiority; but the command of a language requires, too, to a limited extent the additional etiquette of ways and manners appropriate to it to make it quite efficient; and these, as well as the proper manner of speaking the language itself, can only, I repeat, be learnt by personal observation.

The Germans train commercial men specially for the East, men who visit every nook of Asiatic countries where trade is to be developed, and closely study the natives, their ways of living, their requirements, reporting in the most minute manner upon them, so that the German manufacturers may provide suitable articles for the various markets. In the specific case of Persia, Russia, the predominant country in the North, does exactly the

same. The Russian manufacturer studies his client, his habits, his customs, and supplies him with what he desires and cherishes, and does not, like the British manufacturer, export to Eastern countries articles which may very well suit the farmer, the cyclist, or the cabman in England, but not the Persian agriculturist, camel-driver, or highwayman.

The everlasting argument that the British manufacturer supplies a better article borders very much on the idiotic. First of all, setting apart the doubt whether he does really supply a better article, what is certain is that a "better article" may not be of the kind that is wanted at all by the people. There are in this world climates and climates, peoples and peoples, religions and religions, houses and houses, customs and customs; and therefore the well-made English article (allowing it to be well-made) which suits English people is not always adapted for all other countries, climates, and usages.

Another prevalent mistake in this country is to believe that the Persian, or any other Oriental, will only buy cheap things. The Oriental may endeavour to strike a bargain--for that is one of the chief pleasures of his existence, though a fault which can easily be counter-balanced--but he is ever ready to pay well for what he really wants. Thus, if because of his training in fighting he requires a certain curl and a particular handle to his knife; if he fancies a particular pattern printed or woven in the fabrics he imports, and if because of his religious notions he prefers his silver spoons drilled with holes; there does not seem to be any plausible reason why his wishes should not be gratified as long as he pays for the articles supplied.

We, who own half the world, and ought to know better by this time, seem constantly to forget that our customs, and ways, seem as ridiculous to Orientals (to some of ourselves, too,) quite as ridiculous as theirs to us. In some cases, even, great offence can be caused by trying to enforce our methods too suddenly upon Eastern countries. Civilised people may prefer to blow their noses with an expensive silk handkerchief, which they carefully fold up with contents into the most prominent pocket of their coats; the unclean Oriental may prefer to close one nostril by pressing it with his finger and from the other forcibly eject extraneous matter to a distance of several feet away, by violent blowing, repeating the operation with the other nostril. This may be thought not quite graceful, but is certainly a most effective method, and possibly cleaner than ours in the end. We may fancy it good manners when in public to show little more of our shirts than the collar and cuffs, but the Persian or the Hindoo, for instance, prefers to let the garment dangle to its full extent outside so as to show its design in full. Again, we may consider it highly unbecoming and improper for ladies to show their lower limbs above the ankle; the Persian lady thinks nothing of that, but deems it shocking to show her face.


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