Letters from the Cape

Letters from the Cape

Lady Lucie Duff Gordon

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The following letters were written, as the reader will readily perceive, without the remotest view to publication.  They convey in the most unreserved manner the fresh and vivid impressions of the moment, to the two persons with whom, of all others, the writer felt the least necessity for reserve in the expression of her thoughts, or care about the form in which those thoughts were conveyed.

The tone of English travellers is too frequently arrogant and contemptuous, even towards peoples whose pretensions on the score of civilization are little inferior to their own.  When they come in contact with communities or races inferior to them in natural organization or in acquired advantages, the feeling of a common humanity often seems entirely to disappear.  No attempt is made to search out, under external differences, the proofs of a common nature; no attempt to trace the streams of human affections in their course through channels unlike those marked out among ourselves; no attempt to discover what there may be of good mingled with obvious evil, or concealed under appearances which excite our surprise and antipathy.

It is the entire absence of the exclusive and supercilious spirit which characterizes dominant races; the rare power of entering into new trains of thought, and sympathizing with unaccustomed feelings; the tender pity for the feeble and subject, and the courteous respect for their prejudices; the large and purely human sympathies;—these, far more than any literary or graphic merits, are the qualities which have induced the possessors of the few following letters to give them to the public.

They show, what a series of letters from Egypt, since received from the same writer, prove yet more conclusively; that even among so-called barbarians are to be found hearts that open to every touch of kindness, and respond to every expression of respect and sympathy.

If they should awaken any sentiments like those which inspired them, on behalf of races of men who come in contact with civilization only to feel its resistless force and its haughty indifference or contempt, it will be some consolation to those who are enduring the bitterness of the separation to which they owe their existence.
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