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Lord Redesdale - Tales of Old Japan

Lord Redesdale - Tales of Old Japan

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Published by: caray_mivida on Oct 06, 2010
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Tales of Old Japan
Lord Redesdale
Short Fiction, History, Collections
About Lord Redesdale:
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale GCVO, KCB(24 February 1837 - 17 August 1916), of Batsford Park, Gloucestershire,and Birdhope Craig, Northumberland, was a British diplomat, collectorand writer. Nicknamed "Barty", he was the paternal grandfather of theMitford sisters. He entered the Foreign Office in 1858, and was appoin-ted Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg. After servicein the Diplomatic Corps in Peking, Mitford went to Japan as second sec-retary to the British Legation. There he met Ernest Satow and wrote Talesof Old Japan (1871) - a book credited with making such classical Japanesetales as that of the Forty-seven Ronin first known to a wide Western pub-lic. He resigned in 1873. In 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visitto Japan to present the emperor with the Order of the Garter, and wasasked about Japanese ceremonies that had since disappeared. From 1874to 1886 Mitford acted as secretary to HM Office of Works, involved inthe restoration of the Tower of London and landscaping parts of HydePark such as 'The Dell'. From 1887 he was a member of the Royal Com-mission on Civil Services. He also sat as Member of Parliament forStratford-on-Avon between 1892 and 1895. In 1886 Mitford inherited thesubstantial estates of his first cousin twice removed, John Freeman-Mit-ford, 1st Earl of Redesdale. In accordance with the will he assumed byRoyal license the additional surname of Freeman. He substantially re- built Batsford House in Gloucestershire in the Victorian Gothic style. In1902 the Redesdale title was revived when he was raised to the peerageas Baron Redesdale, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland. Inhis closing years Lord Redesdale translated into English, edited, andwrote extensive effusive Introductions of two of Houston StewartChamberlain's books: Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Im-manuel Kant - A Study and Comparison with Goethe, Leonardo daVinci, Bruno, Plato, and Descartes, published by John Lane at the BodleyHead, London, in 1910 and 1914.
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In the Introduction to the story of the Forty-seven Rônins, I have said al-most as much as is needful by way of preface to my stories.Those of my readers who are most capable of pointing out the manyshortcomings and faults of my work, will also be the most indulgent to-wards me; for any one who has been in Japan, and studied Japanese,knows the great difficulties by which the learner is beset.For the illustrations, at least, I feel that I need make no apology.Drawn, in the first instance, by one Ôdaké, an artist in my employ, theywere cut on wood by a famous wood-engraver at Yedo, and are there-fore genuine specimens of Japanese art. Messrs. Dalziel, on examiningthe wood blocks, pointed out to me, as an interesting fact, that the linesare cut with the grain of the wood, after the manner of Albert Dürer andsome of the old German masters,—a process which has been abandoned by modern European wood-engravers.It will be noticed that very little allusion is made in these Tales to theEmperor and his Court. Although I searched diligently, I was able to findno story in which they played a conspicuous part.Another class to which no allusion is made is that of the Gôshi. TheGôshi are a kind of yeomen, or bonnet-lairds, as they would be calledover the border, living on their own land, and owning no allegiance toany feudal lord. Their rank is inferior to that of the Samurai, or men of the military class, between whom and the peasantry they hold a middleplace. Like the Samurai, they wear two swords, and are in many casesprosperous and wealthy men claiming a descent more ancient than thatof many of the feudal Princes. A large number of them are enrolledamong the Emperor's body-guard; and these have played a conspicuouspart in the recent political changes in Japan, as the most conservative andanti-foreign element in the nation.With these exceptions, I think that all classes are fairly represented inmy stories.The feudal system has passed away like a dissolving view before theeyes of those who have lived in Japan during the last few years. Butwhen they arrived there it was in full force, and there is not an incidentnarrated in the following pages, however strange it may appear toEuropeans, for the possibility and probability of which those most com-petent to judge will not vouch. Nor, as many a recent event can prove,have heroism, chivalry, and devotion gone out of the land altogether. We

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