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John Bull and the Continent


Wojciech Jasiakiewicz and Jakub Lipski

Ever since John Arbuthnot published The History of John Bull in 1712, the figure of John Bull has stereotypically personified the best and the worst traits of the British (or English) national character. The present work takes the eponymous juxtaposition as an incentive to study the variety of multi-faceted contacts between the two sides. Given the recent attempts at a re-definition of the relationship between Britain and the Continent – best visible in the turmoil over Britain’s EU membership – the results of the research will hopefully stimulate discussion about John Bull’s ever-changing presence within or without the Continent.
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Samuel Johnson and Voltaire’s “Petty Cavils” on English literature


The poetic genius of the English is, up to now, like a bushy tree planted by Nature, throwing out a thousand branches and growing unsymmetrically with strength. It dies if you try to force its nature and to clip it like one of the trees in the Marly gardens. –Voltaire, Discourse on Tragedy (1731)

The work of a correct and regular writer is a garden accurately formed and diligently planted […] the composition of Shakespeare is a forest, in which oaks extend their branches, and pines tower in the air, interspersed sometimes with weeds and brambles. – Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare (1765)

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