Help Identifying a Sir Lepel Griffin work
May 26, 2006 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Sir Lepel Griffin. Need help identifying and locating a source.

I had a nice dinner last night with an old friend. A discussion was brought forth regarding the comments of Sir Lepel Griffin, a gentleman and British officer of the crown in India. We were discussing a particular view of his that was put forth (I believe) in an article written after touring the United States.

The thrust of the particular work that was discussed was Griffin's view that of all the countries in the world that a gentleman would least want to live, next to Russia, would be the United States. Griffin found that America is the most powerful country in the world, but the problem is this: it is not interesting. The reason it is not interesting is that what makes a nation interesting is its capacity to inspire awe, which it does chiefly through the engines of beauty. And until America makes itself awe-inspiring by an attachment to beauty, it will remain un-interesting.

Is anyone here familiar enough with this to help me identify the particular source of the comments? Or is anyone an Internet master enough to actually find it or responses?

posted by dios to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total)
Response by poster: Just to be clear: I searched google, but I couldn't locate it. Then again, I suck at google.
posted by dios at 7:50 AM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: Check out Project Gutenberg's online book "The Land of Contrasts, A Briton's View of his American Kin" by James Fullarton Muirhead, copyright 1898. It has the following remarks on your subject:

"In 1884 Sir Lepel Griffin, a distinguished Indian official, published a record of his visit to the United States, under the title of "The Great Republic." Perhaps this volume might have been left to the obscurity which has befallen it, were it not that Mr. Matthew Arnold lent it a fictitious importance by taking as the text for some of his own remarks on America [Pg 80]Sir Lepel's assertion that he knew of no civilised country, Russia possibly excepted, where he should less like to live than the United States. To me it seems a book most admirably adapted to infuriate even a less sensitive folk than the Americans. I do not in the least desire to ascribe to Sir Lepel Griffin a deliberate design to be offensive; but it is just his calm, supercilious Philistinism, aggravated no doubt by his many years' experience as a ruler of submissive Orientals, that makes it no less a pleasure than a duty for a free and intelligent republican to resent and defy his criticisms.

Can, for instance, anything more wantonly and pointlessly insulting be imagined than his assertion that an intelligent and well-informed American would probably name the pork-packing of Chicago as the thing best worth seeing in the United States? After that it is not surprising that he considers American scenery singularly tame and unattractive, and that he finds female beauty (can his standard for this have been Orientalised?) very rare."

A copy of Griffin's "The Great Republic" seems not easily accessible online, but it should hold the original source of the remarks. Looks like you can special order at Amazon for something like $18.00, though. Crikes, Amazon's site is down right now, so I can't verify the price.
posted by mdevore at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thats the source! Cool. Of course, in the quoted part, is the origin from whence this topic was brought up in our discussion: Matthew Arnold (whom I am going to make a post on in the blue later today during lunch).

Wish I could locate it on-line, but it looks like it is rare. And amazon is down. Bummer.
posted by dios at 8:25 AM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: Ah, after spending about 20 minutes researching this, I found the same ebook as mdevore. As an added matter of interest, I've located the relevant excerpt from Arnold's work, which includes some interesting criticisms of Mark Twain.
posted by JMOZ at 8:29 AM on May 26, 2006

On non-preview, if you're planning on making a post on Arnold, you are surely aware of his feelings on Mark Twain??
posted by JMOZ at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks JMOZ!

With regards to Arnold, the post isn't about Arnold in general, but a specific discussion he had. It won't have any relation to Twain. I am familiar with their feud, and I don't think either man the lesser for it.
posted by dios at 8:34 AM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: Dallas Baptist University has it. If you type the book title and author along with "find in a library" in Google you can get a decent idea of whether big libraries (and some smaller ones) near you have a certain book.
posted by jessamyn at 1:40 PM on May 26, 2006

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