Germaine Greer

The man who made England

Germaine Greer on how William Shakespeare, whose birthday falls today, created a coherent view of an autonomous England

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My father was about as English as they come. Though he was born and educated in Australia, he talked like an Englishman, dressed like an Englishman, and behaved as he thought an English gentleman would behave, which was several degrees better than the real thing. His manner was as easy, affable and unflappable as any true-born Englishman’s. A homegrown Englishman would have seen through him in a trice, as my father found to his cost when he was seconded to the RAF during the second world war, but to Australians he seemed more English than the English. No one is born a cliché; you have to grow into it, as you do a moustache. My father had a moustache, flying-officer model. As an avid reader of Biggles books, I thought this perfectly appropriate.

If my father ever saw England, it was momentarily. He may have been flown in a stripped-down Spitfire from Malta to Bletchley to pick up one-time pads, but if he was he didn’t tell me about it, because he would have been breaking the vow of lifelong silence imposed on all Sigint personnel. An Englishman’s word is his bond, don’t y’know. The echt Engl