Don’t you hate it when the Prusso-Hibernian herd scores cheap debate points with outwardly technically correct but inwardly psychologically false arguments?

by John Holbo on September 8, 2017

H.P. Lovecraft, the opening paragraphs of “Old England and the Hyphen” (1916):

Of the various intentional fallacies exhaled like miasmic vapours from the rotting cosmopolitanism of vitiated American politics, and doubly rife during these days of European conflict, none is more disgusting than that contemptible subterfuge of certain foreign elements whereby the legitimate zeal of the genuine native stock for England’s cause is denounced and compared to the unpatriotic disaffection of those working in behalf of England’s enemies. The Prussian propagandists and Irish irresponsibles, failing in their clumsy efforts to use the United States as a tool of vengeance upon the Mistress of the Seas, have seized with ingenious and unexpected eagerness on a current slogan coined to counteract their own traitorous machinations, and have begun to fling the trite demand “America first” in the face of every American who is unable to share their puerile hatred of the British Empire. In demanding that American citizens impartially withhold love and allegiance from any government save their own, thereby binding themselves to a policy of rigid coldness in considering the fortunes of their Mother Country, the Prusso-Hibernian herd have the sole apparent advantage of outward technical justification. If the United States were truly the radical, aloof, mongrelised nation into which they idealise it, their plea might possibly be more appropriate. But in comparing the lingering loyalty of a German-American for Germany, or of an Irish-American for Ireland, with that of a native American for England, these politicians make their fundamental psychological error.

England, despite the contentions of trifling theorists, is not and never will be a really foreign country; nor is a true love of America possible without a corresponding love for the British race and ideals that created America. The difficulties which caused the severance of the American Colonies from the rest of the Empire were essentially internal ones, and have no moral bearing on this country’s attitude toward the parent land in its relations with alien civilisations. Just as Robert Edward Lee chose to follow the government of Virginia rather than that of the Federal Union in 1861, so did the Anglo-American Revolutionary leaders choose local to central allegiance in 1775. Their rebellion was in itself a characteristically English act, and could in no manner annul the purely English origin and nature of the new republic. American history before the conflict of 1775-1783 is English history, and we are lawful heirs of the unnumbered glories of the Saxon line. Shakespeare and Milton, Dryden and Pope, Young and Thomson, Johnson and Goldsmith, are our own poets; William the Conqueror, Edward the Black Prince, Elizabeth, and William of Nassau’ are our own royalty; Crecy, Poictiers, and Agincourt are our own victories; Lord Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Hobbes, Locke, Sir Robert Boyle, and Sir William Herschel are our own philosophers and scientists; what true American lives, who would wish, by rejecting an Englishman’s heritage, to despoil his country of such racial laurels? Let those men be silent, who would, in envy, deny to the citizens of the United States the right to cherish and revere the ancestral honours that are theirs, and to remain faithful to the Anglo-Saxon ideals of their English forefathers!

(I’m reading the book, but if you google you can probably find it.)



Glen Tomkins 09.08.17 at 1:31 pm

I’m glad he eventually found a more productive outlet for his psychopathy.


William Timberman 09.08.17 at 1:37 pm

The Prusso-Hibernian herd? Oy! That puts paid to roughly 3/4 of my ancestors. Almost makes me want to step out my back door and shout Free Gene Debs! (Which probably wouldn’t hurt my local reputation much — most people here in AZ already think I’m nuts.)


steven t johnson 09.08.17 at 2:09 pm

Nasty stuff. But is it as nasty as the real world US policy in WWI? Is there any way we could argue the US didn’t come to the rescue of the English? Was it really because of people like Lovecraft?


AcademicLurker 09.08.17 at 2:38 pm

If Clinton had had Lovecraft for a speechwriter, she’d be President today.


magistra 09.08.17 at 2:44 pm

Yeah, you can’t get more English than William the Conqueror and William III, and you can’t get less German or Irish than William Herschel (born in Hanover) and Robert Boyle (born in Lismore). But I admit to being stumped by who the poets Young and Thomson are, which just shows that I’m probably not English enough for Lovecraft, even though I was born in Sussex.


JanieM 09.08.17 at 3:10 pm

could in no manner annul the purely English origin and nature of the new republic.

Wait, merely “white” isn’t good enough? Gadzooks!

Isn’t it great the way he lumps William the Conquerer in with “the Saxon line”?

Imagine living in an era where that kind of prose could be published!


DCA 09.08.17 at 3:55 pm

Boyle was never knighted. (Neither, technically, was Herschel, though no fault for missing it). The Civil War parallel is interesting to see. The opinions are dismal but the language is impressive in its floridity.


Stephen Johnson 09.08.17 at 4:17 pm

H.P.Lovecraft is awesome in so many ways. I just wish we could use Prusso-Hibernian in a modern context.


nastywoman 09.08.17 at 4:39 pm

– as WE – all German-American-Native Indians very well know ”that the genuine native stock for England’s cause” is actually ”German” – at least the most important ”stock” – THE Royals -(Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha) – and so the whole pretension to be ”British” is as much a swindle as ”Trumps” pretention that he is ”an American” -(and not the documented ”German” – who loves to read ”the Führers” book) – ”the unpatriotic disaffection of those working in behalf of England’s enemies” is actually the typical attitude of self-hating Germans – who are NOT allowed to live out their ”Germaness” – which doesn’t matter much as what did the (really) GREAT Wovoka -(as a real ”American Native”) predict?

When the Indian Messiah arrives the earth will open up and swallow ”the White Man” – entirely with fake American Firsters and Brexiters alike…


Trout 09.08.17 at 6:05 pm

Seems to have a rather ‘inclusive’ notion of Anglo-Saxon-ness…


J-D 09.08.17 at 8:35 pm

The first ‘English poet Young’ turned up by my Web search is Edward Young, born 1683, died 1765, best known for the poem Night-Thoughts:
I find three poets called James Thomson, one who was born in 1700 and died in 1748, one who was born in 1763 and died in 1832, and one who was born in 1834 and died in 1882, all three (pleasingly) not English but Scottish: I hope it was the earliest who was meant, as he wrote the words of Rule, Britannia:,_born_1700)

A thing that strikes me is the way he uses the expression ‘native American’, as an indicator of how usage has evolved over the last nine decades.


steven t johnson 09.08.17 at 10:02 pm

magistra@5 I imagine the Young meant is Edward Young, noted mostly for Night-Thoughts, and James Thomson, noted mainly for City of Dreadful Night. Both titles could work for Lovecraft stories, I think.


dave heasman 09.08.17 at 10:54 pm

Phew, magistra, thanks, I thought that not knowing who Young and Thomson were was a sign of my unique ignorance. Can anyone identify them?


J-D 09.08.17 at 11:55 pm

steven t johnson
That’s the latest of the three James Thomsons I found, and you give a good reason for thinking it was the one Lovecraft meant; but we’ll never know for sure.


Ebenezer Scrooge 09.09.17 at 12:11 am

Is HP Lovecraft the worst writer that serious readers tolerate?


kidneystones 09.09.17 at 1:08 am

This is helpful

@15 I doubt it.

Lovecraft’s decision to place Young and Thomson among the other luminaries suggests of a tongue-in-cheek tone his morally superior critics from the future may miss. I don’t doubt for a second the sincerity of his jingoism and bigotry, but there’s nothing at all unusual about that. There’s much worse and a great deal of it from writers of the time. His historical perspective is as fanciful as his writings.

Anyone care to remind us of the family name of the ‘English’ royal family at the time Lovecraft penned his anti-Prussian/Irish diatribe?

Extra points for naming the last plausibly ‘English’ monarch.


Jake Gibson 09.09.17 at 1:36 am

By not the most offensive thing Lovecraft wrote. Lovecraft may be the indefensible writer that is widely excused if not defended.
I enjoy some of Lovecraft, but a lot of his early stuff is pretty awful.
A great deal of the sense of dread and ancient
evil in his work is driven by his fear and loathing of “degenerate” foreigners and immigrants.


Raven 09.09.17 at 2:13 am

Yes, the tiny detail that between “the unnumbered glories of the Saxon line” and “the Anglo-Saxon ideals of their English forefathers”, all the names listed are from the Norman Conquest onward, William the Conqueror in particular, and their language itself was no longer wholly Anglo-Saxon (could’ve cited the Beowulf poet, or at least Chaucer to get a little closer!), sort of muddies the clarity of that soaring rhetoric.

But I suppose the Normans became “honorary [Anglo-]Saxons” to Lovecraft, the same way the Japanese became “honorary Aryans” a few years later to other people….


dominic 09.09.17 at 3:05 am

Well, kidneystones, people usually argue that Richard III was the last English monarch. But really, joking aside, the current lot are English through and through. Under other circumstances we wouldn’t, I hope, put up with the line that ‘your family are immigrants so you aren’t really English’, and the immigration was over 300 years ago


Raven 09.09.17 at 7:14 am

dominic @ 19: In this context, the argument would be that Harold II (Harold Godwinson) was the last English — or specifically, and as Lovecraft stressed, Anglo-Saxon — monarch.


Collin Street 09.09.17 at 8:10 am

You haven’t experienced the true power of lovecraft until you’ve read it in the original welsh.

… I read once that the irish word for “black person” was literally “blue”, black already being used to refer to hair.


dave heasman 09.09.17 at 10:42 am

“the last plausibly ‘English’ monarch.”

Dunno about that but the current queen’s mother was 100% Scottish. And other antecedents had been born in England or Scotland for many generations. Or are we going by “one drop”?


kidneystones 09.09.17 at 11:27 am

22@ Mary of Teck? if we’re talking about mothers. The problem for English purists is that you’re quite right, there’s plenty of non-English blood mixed in.

Few Scots consider Scotland England just as fewer Irish consider themselves Welsh, or English. So, even with a looser definition the Scottish Stuart males, more or less, have to be ruled out if for no other reason than their general love of all things non-English – especially absolutism. Certainly the Plantagenet kings based in Europe don’t exactly fit the mold. Richard CÅ“ur de Lion spent about 6 months total in England. The Tudors are a better fit, but there’s some question about their Welsh origins. William of Orange? The Hanovers? Pretty strong German roots, I’d say. Then, when we factor in Doggerland, the whole never-conquered island race thing gets a bit blurry, doesn’t it.

I’m a fan of the English and of Englishness because of Monty Python, the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, and Spitting Image. I enjoy the literature immensely. Having a good laugh at the royal family will get one slapped in jail, or worse, in some cultures. So, there’s that. And I agree, if one is born in England, or even moves there – one can be as English as one likes.

My favorite monarch?

Bertie – son of Queen Victoria and the first modern monarch.


Trout 09.09.17 at 11:57 am

@21 That’s right (the first bit, anyway), black people are blue (gorm) in Irish because ‘an fear dubh’ – the black man – refers to the devil. How we ended up with ‘blue ‘ I cannot say, but if we’re going to colour-code people then why not let a thousand flowers bloom, I suppose?


steven t johnson 09.09.17 at 12:34 pm

In the current reactionary mythology of America, there once was a city shining upon the hill, the land of the Pilgrims, Godly men ripe in freedom. Then, somehow that all went away, and the degenerate ages began. As of this moment, the wickedness that infected this once Holy Land is attributed to, well, various causes.* But back in the earlier times, the moral degeneration was held to be from the beer-swilling (often *Catholic*) Germans and the barbarous Irish, slaves of the Pope every one. I believe Lovecraft was repeating this old slander, which only seems novel because of historical amnesia.

Not only were Normans part of the British “race,” the Dutch influence, such as it was, was part of the British empire. It’s not clear which William of Nassau Lovecraft meant (or if he meant to allude to all?) but the two most prominent choices are William the Silent, the most heroic leader of the revolution against Catholic Spain. But maybe he meant William III, the triumphant monarch who put paid to the Catholic restoration of James II, and opened the glorious history of Whiggish empire. The real moral here I think is that racial and religious bigotry may be conceptually distinct in the minds of philosophers who want to condemn the one while conveniently ignoring the other. But in real life, they are not so distinct.

Lovecraft’s life of fear seems to have done him far more harm in his personal life, which as I understand it was terribly withdrawn. Somehow I tend to see his racism as a terrible neurotic symptom. Woodrow Wilson, segregationist, was never so crude as Lovecraft. Yet, Woodrow Wilson, savior of the English, French, Dutch and Portuguese empires, did I think vastly more harm to peoples of color than the rancid non-fiction of Lovecraft.

*Currently the fall from grace is attributed to the Sixties, which is supposed to mean the sexual revolution, despite the common experience of most of the country that happened in the Seventies (which implies attacks on the Sixties are disguised attacks on integration); Roe v. Wade; the mysterious profusion of cultural Marxism in universities (which seems to mean anguish at the rise of everyday indifference to acceptable religion…and no, “spirituality” doesn’t count for the committed religious bigot); the rise of the Clintons (the tone was set by the moral panic over gays in the military); the socialist Obama (which refers primarily to the melanin in his skin as near as I can tell). The indissoluble mingling of racial and religious bigotry as motivating feelings is repeated in the national biography as well as Lovecraft’s, I think.

The politically committed will find original sin in the way Lincoln destroyed the Constitution (i.e., freed the slaves); in the Sixteenth Amendment; in the creation of the Federal Reserve; in the New Deal. Rolling back the New Deal has been the great political project of the right minded. Happily, the crusade against Communism (for empire) has provided the common ground to keep the political class together. But perhaps I’m just being offensively neurotic, like Lovecraft?


Dave Maier 09.09.17 at 3:28 pm

E. Scrooge @15: Is HP Lovecraft the worst writer that serious readers tolerate?

Ha, good question. I guess I’m not sure whom “serious” readers actually tolerate nowadays (or ever). I did read once re: Walter Scott, probably in the liner notes to Lucia di Lammermoor, that his works “have held up less well than anything else ever once considered great literature” or words to that effect.


Raven 09.09.17 at 10:41 pm

steven t johnson @ 25: “The indissoluble mingling of racial and religious bigotry as motivating feelings is repeated in the national biography as well as Lovecraft’s, I think. ”

Not so “indissoluble” in Lovecraft’s case; he got better before the end. (A year before he died, he wrote this to C.L. Moore, one of America’s first female SF writers.)


F. Foundling 09.09.17 at 11:11 pm

@Dave Maier 09.09.17 at 3:28 pm

Well, I for one definitely liked the original book The Bride of Lammermoor far more than the opera. I remember what a terrible impression all the dramatic Italian shouting and gesticulating made on me when compared with the misty, stern, restrained, sober, quiet yet fateful atmosphere of the original story (and that in spite of the fact that I do otherwise appreciate Italian opera). I thought it should be possible to make a concept album based on the novel, which preserves this quality of it; or perhaps a very early Peri~Monteverdi-style opera with lots of not-yet crystallised recitative could achieve a similar effect.
Ivanhoe is very good, at least for childhood and early adolescence, in my impression – a nice balance is struck between the romantic and picturesque on the one hand and the sober, serious, and, in a certain way, true-to-life on the other.
I am not really much of a ‘serious reader’, admittedly.


Raven 09.09.17 at 11:56 pm

kidneystones @ 23: “… fewer Irish consider themselves Welsh, or English.”

The irony there being that the Irish enthusiastically participated in Welsh and English history long before the English returned the favor, e.g. that’s how St. Patrick wound up in Ireland to begin with. Leaving aside Scotland, there was and is Irish settlement up and down North West England (“In the 9th-11th centuries, … Norsemen from Ireland and Scotland began settling in the area”; Ireland is still today the fourth most common country of birth in the region), and Yorkshire on the east has a pack of place names due to Irish-Vikings.


Raven 09.10.17 at 1:11 am

F. Foundling @ 28: Speaking of operas based on books, and while we’ve got Lovecraft in the thread, some folks associated with the HP Lovecraft Historical Society put together a rock opera (see libretto-pdf) based on HPL’s “The Dreams in the Witch House”, and then the HPLHS proper (known for its period-style B&W films like The Call of Cthulhu) made a B&W video for it….


anonymousse 09.10.17 at 11:00 am

Is HP Lovecraft the worst writer that serious readers tolerate?

Bret Easton Ellis wrote a bestseller about dismembering people.


kidneystones 09.10.17 at 12:49 pm

@ 29 Thanks for the comment and the links.

My own understanding of the period 400 BCE to 400 CE is that the parts of Britain we call England and Wales, as well as the area we call Ireland, and all of northern France were populated primarily by the people we call Celts. There was considerable trade along water routes up to the Baltic and as far as the Mediterranean, (see the Massaliote Periplus and Pythius) and of course across the Irish Sea and the English Channel. The boy with the amber necklace at Stonehenge suggests both Baltic and Mediterranean contacts much earlier. Skull cups at Isturitz, Le Placard, and Gough’s Cave point to much earlier interactions. There have been some good genetic studies in recent years.

The Roman occupation brought more people from Europe. Stability within Roman Britain and the presence of Pelagius as a Scots-Irish intellectual in Rome suggests a literate and vibrant Celtic-Roman intellectual community that extended well beyond the physical borders of Roman occupied Britain. Standard text histories via Bede and others of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Franks invading after 400 AD have been called into question by the absence of any material evidence such as battlefields and graveyards. My own view is one of largely peaceful migration during the Celtic Roman period and after; and small wars among competing communities once the Roman army left in 410 AD.

I don’t normally employ the term “Viking” simply because the term is so freighted with images of axes, etc. As you rightly point out, Scandinavians settled in many parts of Britain and Ireland and many other places much further.

I’m not sure, however, that I’d go so far as to describe Scandinavian settlements in the area we call England and Wales as Irish. If you’re interested, I’d strongly recommend a quick visit to the Book of Darrow, and the Book of Kells – online. Sorry, no time for link.

The images are stunning.


kidneystones 09.10.17 at 12:58 pm

Book of Durrow – apologies for this any other typos (on a bit of a deadline). The interested may wish to go directly to Googe images. Had some better links, can’t find them. Cheers.


kidneystones 09.10.17 at 1:10 pm

Raven – this may be of some interest, I hope.
European Journal of Human Genetics (2006) 14, 1288–1294.

The scale and nature of Viking settlement in Ireland from Y-chromosome admixture analysis Brian McEvoy1, Claire Brady1, Laoise T Moore1 and Daniel G Bradley1


Raven 09.10.17 at 8:15 pm

kidneystones @ 32: “I’m not sure, however, that I’d go so far as to describe Scandinavian settlements in the area we call England and Wales as Irish.”

Would you call Dublin Irish? That’s a “Scandinavian [Viking] settlement”. Red hair? That’s a trait descended from the Vikings too, The Viking-settled Orkney Islands and Scottish peoples have it widely; but not so the very Celtic (but not so Viking-settled) Welsh and Cornish peoples.


Raven 09.10.17 at 11:44 pm

kidneystones @ 34: Ah, patrilineal surnames and Y-chromosomal ancestry only… so all those Irish who got their red hair through any mother’s line at any point (say, their own mother, their father’s mother, their father’s father’s mother, or their father’s father’s father’s mother, etc.) would simply not be counted, cutting into 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128, 1/256, as you go back, the chances of matching your male-line-only criterion. But whatever made male-line-only a criterion in the first place? Sons and daughters both carried the red-headed genes.


F. Foundling 09.11.17 at 12:07 am


Well, since Norse-Irish connections have already been brought up, one may point out that black people were, in a sense, called ‘blue’ (blár) in Old Norse as well, except that the word itself could also denote black and/or colours close to black at the time (presumably a bluish shade of black, dark blue or something similar). Not only bruises, but even ravens and Hell itself were said to be ‘blue’. Again, the near-synonym ‘svartr’ was used for black hair and for demonic beings such as the devil.


Katsue 09.11.17 at 12:54 pm

‘Gorm’ nowadays means blue, but it used to mean dark.

I’m not sure that it makes sense to count 10th Century Norse people living in Ireland as being Irish in the same way as, say, 11th Century Norse people living in Ireland, let alone their 21st Century descendants. By the time of the battle of Clontarf, there had been a century of Norse settlement in Dublin, and Sitric Silkbeard had a rather famous Irish mother. None of this was true a century earlier.


JBL 09.11.17 at 1:19 pm


John Holbo 09.11.17 at 2:52 pm

Thanks JBL. Deleted.


Raven 09.11.17 at 4:22 pm

Katsue @ 38: Yet in amongst those ‘Viking’ place-names in Yorkshire we find “Aireyholme” (originally “Erghum”) from the Old Irish word erg [a shepherd’s hut], “Carperby” from the Old Irish personal name Caipere, and “Melsonby” (Melsan’s farm/village) from a mixed Viking-Irish name. So they spoke enough Old Irish to use it for place-names, and had members with Old Irish names and with mixed-language names. Hm. Doesn’t sound entirely untouched by the Ould Sod, does it?


Katsue 09.12.17 at 12:44 pm


The Normans also assimilated Irish culture to a great extent, but there were still differences of identity between the Gaelic aristocracy and the Hiberno-Norman aristocracy in Ireland as late as the 1640s, more than half a century after Irish kings had submitted to Henry VIII and become earls.


Raven 09.13.17 at 3:15 am

Katsue @ 42: The Normans had a very different approach, cf. the 1366 Statutes of Kilkenny [which, quote, “ultimately helped to create the complete estrangement of the two ‘races’ in Ireland for almost three centuries”].

Of course by the 1640s you’d already had a break from that “Norman” monarchy (1066–1485) what with first the partly-Welsh Tudors displacing the Plantagenets, then in 1603 the Scottish Stuarts taking over after childless Elizabeth died, but in 1642 the English Civil War starting… ending the monarchy in 1649 with Charles II’s execution. The same year Oliver Cromwell made his name an eternal swearword in Ireland by committing genocide up and down that island, to assure there would be little assimilation.


Niall McAuley 09.13.17 at 7:32 am

Stephen Johnson at #8 writes: I just wish we could use Prusso-Hibernian in a modern context.

I wanted to say “Michael Fassbender has a great big Prusso-Hibernian todger”, but sadly he is originally from Heidelberg, so it would be Hiberno-Badenesque.


Raven 09.13.17 at 8:09 am

Niall McAuley @ 44: You could refer to D👶🏼n💩ld J. T🐛👾🐍p as “Bavario-Caledonian”….

Comments on this entry are closed.