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Fig ur e 1. “Please, sir, shall I hold your horse.” Punch 20 (1851): 60. 59 Elizabeth Barrett Browning andTransnationalism People Diplomacy in “A Fair-going World” Bev er ly Tay lor • In 1851, Punch published a cartoon of a London street boy offering to hold the giraffe ridden by a dark-skinned African. Captioned “Please, sir, shall I hold your horse?” (Figure 1), this image of cross-cultural contact suggests both the hopes and fears with which the English anticipated the Great Exhibition. It conveys the prevailing optimism that the Crystal Palace would draw crowds of foreigners to England, importing exotic spectacle while enhancing political harmony—and trade—among nations.Yet the cartoon also suggests unease with this prospect of increased contact with foreign visitors, for, in showing the English lad rendering menial service to the alien visitor, it reverses the power relations usually enjoyed by the English with indigenous people throughout the empire.This depiction of individuals as agents of international relations provides a backdrop for considering Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s views of the citizen’s role in shaping the nation and, at the same time, in embracing transnational values in what she called“a Fair-going world”—a world increasingly connected by cultural exchange of the sort represented by the first world’s fair, the 1851 Great Exhibition.This essay examines EBB’s version of what historians term “people diplomacy” by linking two poetic passages: the first, her wellknown description of the Great Exhibition in Casa GuidiWindows,Part II, and the second, a scarcely noted, previously unpublished fragment of fourteen lines on the subject of an annual merchant fair in the Italian town of Sinigaglia (or Sinigallia) on the Adriatic coast. Historian Alex Tyrrell has identified “people diplomacy” as one of many Victorian movements pressing for social reform and radical shifts in government policy that were initiated by the people rather than the state.This people diplomacy, which flourished in the late 1840s and early 1850s, aimed to restrain the“bellicose proclivities of European andAmerican governments, diplomats and military men by bringing the influence of public opinion to bear on international relations through informal contacts and organized pressure groups that spanned national frontiers.” Citing instances such as a Quaker mission to St. Petersburg aimed at preventing the CrimeanWar,Tyrrell examines the activities of citizens’ groups that sought to influence national and international affairs by lobbying politicians, circulating petitions, and distributing publications; victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 60 by promoting free trade, including mounting industrial exhibitions; and by establishing direct personal contacts among citizens of different countries in forums such as congresses and international visits. EBB’s version of “people diplomacy” differed strikingly from that of the organized groups identified with the movement, which usually promoted world peace. In contrast, EBB alienated many English critics and readers by aggressively supporting the war for Italian unification and independence and by chiding her birth country for failing to assist her adopted country. Her version of “people diplomacy” emphasized individuals’ reaching beyond their own personal and national interests and borders to promote a transnational community attentive to the needs of other populations and countries. Perhaps her most familiar expression of this tenet is her allusion to the Good Samaritan in the preface to Poems before Congress (1860).1Though widely cited in recent criticism, the passage deserves extensive quotation here because it illustrates so effectively the extent to which she viewed one’s relationship to others beyond the community as analogous to a nation’s relationship to the international community of states: Nationality is excellent in its place; and the instinct of self-love is the root of a man, which will develop into sacrificial virtues. But all the virtues are means and uses; and, if we hinder their tendency to growth and expansion, we both destroy them as virtues, and degrade them to that rankest species of corruption reserved for the most noble organisms. For instance,—non-intervention in the affairs of neighbouring states is a high political virtue; but non-intervention does not mean, passing by on the other side when your neighbour falls among thieves,—or Phariseeism would recover it from Christianity. Freedom itself is virtue, as well...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 58-83
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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