An Englishman In Medecia
Preface by the Editors
This book came into our hands through circumstances as fortuitous and convoluted as those which took the author to Medecia in the first place, and there would be as little point in relating the one story as there would be the other.
A few words about the anonymous author are, however, appropriate. Because of the circumstances by which the book reached us, we have never met the author in person, and know little more about him than that which is revealed in the book itself. There was an accompanying letter, but its substance was so dry and impersonal that we see little point in reproducing it here, especially given that it throws little light on the author.
From the book itself we can glean a little information. For all its good points, it has to admitted that the author is that worst of intellectual abominations, the dilettante. His pronouncements on subjects of a scientific or semi-scientific nature are delivered with an assurance that would seem to be in no way warranted. He professes an interest in linguistics, but his accounts of the various languages of Medecia are riddled with solecisms and inconsistencies. He insists on Anglicising most of the words and names that he comes across, making no attempt at phonographic consistency.
His comments on the geology of Medecia are equally suspect. To take an example from the very first page, it is highly unlikely that the island on which the castle of Ros Pendrake stands is in fact of granite, given his comment that it is losing a couple of inches every year to the sea.
Finally, it must be pointed out that the author displays an unfortunate if unconscious chauvinism, as evidenced by the very title of the work. His observations are invariably those of an English traveller, sometimes embarrassingly so, and he has a regrettable tendency to relate everything that he sees back to some supposedly similar instance in our own world. It is doubtful, for example, that the realm of Shen-Tai, which he visits somewhat late in his travels, is quite the replica of Chinese culture that it is portrayed as here (as more careful readers will no doubt discern for themselves).
For all the faults of its author, however, this remains a fascinating, if tantalising, glimpse into another world, a world that seems at first familiar, but which constantly grants us glimpses of the alien nature that sometimes lurks behind the scenes, and sometimes stands naked before us.