Gloriously impure English

Extract from Anthony Burgess’s introduction to G.V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr:

‘It was F.W. Bateson who made the distinction between the native English writer and the métèque…who…lacks respect for ‘the finer rules of English idiom and grammar’. This, says Bateson, leads métèques to ‘attempt effects of style, sometimes successfully, that the English writer would feel to be a perverse defiance of the genius of the language’. Most of us would say that ‘the finer rules’ are essentially the property of non-creative pundits who, at the higher level, compile manuals of usage and, at the lower, scold children for constructing verbless sentences. As for ‘the genius of the language’, it is doubtful if English has a tutelary spirit or an immanent form. It is plastic, and as ready to yield to the métèque as to Mr Bateson. Indeed, if we are to regard Poles and Irishmen as métèques, there are grounds for supposing that the métèques have done more for English in the twentieth century…than any of the pure-blooded men of letters who stick to the finer rules….It is not pure English; it is, like the English of Shakespeare, Joyce and Kipling, gloriously impure.’

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