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Posted July 7, 2010
The Bow of Ulysses is unstrung, and Penelope Brittania is unprotected from the foul suitors about her. This is Froude's metaphor for the British Empire circa 1888. The bow is Imperial Sovereignty, and Froude sees no man with the strength to string it - no man with the nobility to rule and the ambition to act.
The decline of Great Britain may have been the inspiration for Froude's writing, but it is fitting that the metaphor comes as the subtitle. The book is first a whirlwind account of the English adventures in the West Indies. Froude touches on economics, food, culture, gender relations, race relations, politics, geography, history, and more as he jumps from island to island. Barbados, Dominica, Trinidad, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba, all are treated to their own vigorous chapters in Froude's journey.
Also impressive is the artwork included by the author - sketches of scenes he saw during his travels - which is rendered beautifully by my Nook. At the end of each chapter Froude speculates on the fate of the English colonial enterprise with poignant accuracy. In our modern era of staunch anti-colonialism it is refreshing to read a genuine reactionary, a gentleman and intellectual from another era.
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