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In Reginald at the Theatre, Saki writes:

“Oh, well, ‘dominion over palm and pine,’ you know,” quoted the Duchess hopefully; “of course we mustn’t forget that we’re all part of the great Anglo-Saxon Empire.”

[Reginald]: “Which for its part is rapidly becoming a suburb of Jerusalem. A very pleasant suburb, I admit, and quite a charming Jerusalem. But still a suburb.”

What does Reginald mean when he calls Britain "a suburb of Jerusalem", and why, if I'm interpreting this correctly, does he view it in a negative light?

Researching the religious demographics of Jerusalem, I was able to find that in the surrounding years of the publicaton of Reginald (1904), that the Jewish population was the majority in 1896 and 1905. As Saki lived during the Edwardian era, it's possible that he acquired anti-semitic, and as Jerusalem also had a sizeable Muslim population, Islamaphobic prejudices. Thus, does this passage contain Anti-semitic or potentially Anti-Islamic/Islamaphobic sentiments, or am I reading too much into this?

  • It's not immediately clear to me whether the anti-Semitism here is Saki's or his character Reginald's. But it's clearly anti-Semitism. – Peter Shor Aug 22 at 10:50
  • Reading over the section, it seems to me that Saki sees both the characters in this conversation as pseudointellectual airheads with delusions of grandeur, and uses them as a caricature of British society. My money is on this being an observation on antisemitism, rather than the author being an antisemite himself. – user10704 Aug 22 at 10:54
  • I think this refers to the division between "Little Englanders" (referencing Blake's Jerusalem) and Imperialists. – mikado Aug 24 at 5:59
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What does the line mean?

Reginald is probably commenting on the increasing number of Jews living in England (and doing it in a snide, anti-Semitic, way).

From Wikipedia:

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the number of Jews in Britain greatly increased due to the exodus from Russia, which resulted in a large community forming in the East End of London. Popular sentiment against immigration was used by the British Union of Fascists to incite hatred against Jews ...

Does this mean that Saki himself was anti-Semitic? I don't think it means anything of the sort; it merely means that Reginald was anti-Semitic. Since the Reginald stories are a satire of upper-class British society, this doesn't shed any light on Saki's own attitudes.

Was Saki himself anti-Semitic? I don't know. I haven't found any convincing evidence for or against this.

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Jerusalem is also a holy city in Christianity. With the context you are giving, he certainly may mean nothing much that with all its increases in size and power, the empire is also growing more Christian, or more intensely Christian, that he likes.

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  • Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims, but Jews constituting a majority when Saki was writing. So why single out the Christians here? – Tsundoku Aug 23 at 15:34
  • I'm sceptical of this, because Jerusalem is never really considered "the capital" of Christianity, or of Islam for that matter, in the way that it is "the capital" of Judaism, thanks to being the site of their major temple. With Britain's dominant denomination at the time of writing being the Anglican church, governed by Their Majesty the Monarch, I doubt it would be seen as any kind of outside force, being an integral part of the British nation, culture and state. If Saki wanted to jab at it, he'd be more likely to use Canterbury as a stand-in for it, rather than Jerusalem. – user10704 Aug 23 at 15:37
  • "Domain over palm and pine" is from a Christian hymn. And Canterbury is not and has never been regarded as a religious city as such. – Mary Aug 23 at 15:41
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    "Dominion over palm and pine" is from Richard Kipling's Poem Recessional, which has been adopted as a hymn in some churches today, but hadn't been when Saki wrote his story. – Peter Shor Aug 23 at 16:33
  • Jerusalem is not and has never been regarded as the seat of power of any Christian church, either, regardless of being a holy city or not. Canterbury is, at the very least, actually associated with the Anglican Church, in a way that Rome might be a stand-in for the Roman-Catholic church. – user10704 Aug 23 at 16:44

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