We are asked to describe or define the typical American. It is like one of those difficult drawing room games which are played with paper and pencils. I am not a good person to ask about typical Americans, for I have seen but few, and have never been in the States. Certainly I have met none who wear straw hats, chew tobacco, whittle, spit, tilt their chairs, or dispose their feet on the chimney-piece. And I have never been addressed neither as "stranger" nor as "Britisher", nor even shot at.
But, if try we must, here goes for the typical American of the educated classes. He is not very like an Englishman. He is rather more like a Frenchman, but still more like an American. You cannot say where he differs in appearance from a Briton: it may be in his necktie, his boots, or the way in which he brushes his hair. He seldom looks as if he lived much in the open air or was fond of field sports. He is much more vivacious than an Englishman, more original in manner, more fertile in ideas, more modern in every way. He is almost too good company, too effervescent for some natives of a slow, foggy climate. He is usually rather fond of the Irish and their cause, but he never goes to Ireland.
He is not curious, however, in strange mixed juleps and cocktails. He very seldom talks with an English accent, and even when he does, his idioms betray him. He takes a Platonic interest in poker, but is no gambler. He is much too familiar with English life to be very keenly curious about it and he never dreams of going to see the lions. He is rather fond of the play, knowing and caring very much more about our authors actors, than I do for one. He is kind, courteous ingenious, obliging, a good fellow, and welcome because he is infinitely more alive than most of us. He is patriotic, but no Chauvinist, and is aware that Bunker Hill was but a British defeat. He does not talk about the War and Mr. Abraham Lincoln.
On the whole, this appears an amiable type. But is this the typical American? It is really impossible to say, when he is taken out of the milieu of his business, his home, his furniture, his books, his newspapers, his restaurants, and shops, and theatres, and streets. If any enterprising editor will kindly send me from one end of the States to the other, and will show me country and town, and the lakes and rivers, and the Indians, and the Irish, and Germans, and Jews, and if he will insure my life against interviewers, and mosquitoes, then, when I have found some inaccessible paradise of leisure in the southern seas, I will describe at full length, and with no reserve, the typical American. But it will only be the opinion of "a poor islander".
By Andrew Lang and Max O'Rell
for I have seen but few — поскольку я видел всего лишь несколько
to whittle — строгать
a necktie — галстук
vivacious — оживленный
effervescent — искрящийся весельем
mixed juleps — смешанные напитки из виски
ingenious — изобретательный, остроумный
an amiable type — дружелюбный, дружелюбного типа
the milieu of one's business — сфера чьей-либо деятельности или чьего-либо бизнеса
an inaccessible paradise of leisure — недосягаемый рай досуга