Monday, 2 November 2009
The Royal Exchange-founded in 1565 by a man called Sir Thomas Gresham; sounds like a pretty fascinating place to have been back in the day. In a world that was just being discovered, people from around the globe congregated to trade items. Wool was given away in exchange for spices, decorative pyramids, jewellery or clothing.
Natives from many an exotic country would have been fascinating to talk to; yet Joseph Addison acknowledges it all with a mere "bow and a grimace".
In fact the entire text ("The Royal Exchange"), reads like a one big scoff at the rest of the world. Addison acknowledges that this co-operative trade between us and the rest of the globe, is merely like a secondary empire we've managed to build ourselves. He goes on to add that we manage to enjoy the rich tastes and aromas of exotic and unheard of places, without ever leaving our "green fields of Britain".
Addison appears to look smugly upon those who bring produce to us while we remain in our comfort zone. He doesn't seem to be bothered (though he readily admits), that a majority of what we consider to be native to our country in actual fact isn't, and wouldn't survive in our climate if not for special care.
Maybe faced with the sudden size of other countries, and the closeness of other military power; it was better to retreat inside an aura of superiority.
Or maybe being pompous just went with the outfit.