Did Handel really say this?
May 26, 2013 4:08 AM   Subscribe

After Georg Friedrich Händel became George Frideric Handel in 1727, I have it stuck in my mind that he once said, to a Brit who called him a German, "No, Sir, I am more English than you, because I chose to become English, whereas you were assigned your nationality willy-nilly," or words to that effect. But no amount of googling has found a reliable quote or reference to this. Has anyone else heard this story, or did my mind make it up? Anyone have a reliable source?

I'm interested because, having taken Italian citizenship, I'm still often "accused" of being a Brit, which I also still am, when I criticise anything Italian. It is of course very convenient to be able to have my cake and eat it.
posted by aqsakal to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I studied music for quite a while and have never heard it.

I like it too, though, having chosen French citizenship and often being "accused" of being American - I get what you mean.

A bit of Googling attributes "I am more English than you are because I chose it" to Joseph Conrad, though the sources aren't immensely convincing:
- Telegraph article on something else, but with that quote
- Book Club Classics PDF on 'Heart of Darkness'
posted by fraula at 4:25 AM on May 26, 2013

Best answer: I don’t know about Handel, but Emeric Pressburger is supposed to have said ‘I am more English than you, for as you may have been born English I chose to be English’ and Joseph Conrad, similarly, ‘I am more British than you are. You are only British because you could not help it.’
posted by misteraitch at 4:26 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've heard this phrase before. The point is, it's a quip of moderate depth and will have occurred to many people. I've found one example here.

Unless a Handel scholar with a firm grip on the Handelian anecdote situation chimes in, I think this might be it, more or less. Perhaps it wasn't Händel - perhaps someone put these words of wisdom into his mouth.

Since displacement is such a major phenomenon (and in scholarship, major interest, especially in 20th-century historiography) we're talking about literally millions of possible authentic speakers here.
posted by Namlit at 5:29 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, same example as misteraitch
posted by Namlit at 5:30 AM on May 26, 2013

I first encountered the quip thusly:
"... Jim Coull's broad Scots accent would provide fuel for some enterprising interjector who would shout, "You're not an Australian!", as if this would flatten Jimmy. He would fix the unfortunate with a baleful eye and reply, "I am an Australian. I'm proud to be an Australian by choice. You ... are only an Australian by accident of birth." Another pause, followed by a scornful toss of the head, "and what an accident that was!"
- John Sendy, Comrades Come Rally: Recollections of an Australian Communist, p54.
posted by zamboni at 7:53 AM on May 26, 2013

Response by poster: Many thanks, folks, for very helpful replies. Yes, it's a pretty frequent situation, so it's probably something many people have had occasion to say over the years. Looks like my original association of the risposte with GFH was probably imaginary/misinformed. I'll quote either Conrad or Pressburger in future, according to the context, as Jim Coull is probably not as well known outside AUS.
posted by aqsakal at 12:18 AM on May 28, 2013

Jim Coull is probably not as well known outside AUS.

Heh. Jim Coull wasn't well known outside of Albert Park.
posted by zamboni at 8:58 PM on May 28, 2013

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