“The Kindness of my Friends in England”: Chinese Visitors to Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and discourses of friendship and estrangement

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This essay deals with the presence of Chinese visitors in London from the 1750s onwards. Its focus is on the discourses of hospitality, cosmopolitanism, gift-exchange and linguistic exchanges that were involved in these seldom discussed encounters between Britons and Chinese. While the dominant and paradigmatic textual encounter of the period remains meeting of Thomas De Quincey with his uncanny Malay in Grasmere, this should not be regarded as the primal encounter that informs later discussion. Instead this essay deals with a number of “elite” Chinese visitors to London. It describes the ways in which they were, for the most part, welcomed by late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century polite society according to the rituals of rational civility and cosmopolitanism. These cultural exchanges involved the linguistic, music, works of art, botanical, medical, scientific knowledge, and even literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Romantic Review
Issue number1
Early online date16 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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