Advice: Just close your eyes and think of England (the Empire)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 1 16:15:03 UTC 2014

Fred and Charlie have an entry for "Close (Shut) your eyes and think
of England (the Empire, the queen, Old Glory, etc.)" in DMP and YBQ.
These two references list a key 1943 citation that involved kissing.
I've located an interesting 1954/1955 cite that involved more than
kissing. This was the earliest cite I found displaying the modern

The general background is here:

[Begin modified excerpt from Quote Investigator]
The earliest relevant evidence known to QI was published by an
influential American newspaper columnist in 1943. Intriguingly, the
topic was osculation and not conjugation, and the advice-giver was
Lucy Baldwin who was the wife of the former Prime Minister of the
United Kingdom:

[Begin 1943 excerpt]
Stanley Baldwin’s son tells this story of the day his sister went out
with a young man who wanted to marry her. She asked her mother for
advice, in case the young man should want to kiss her . . . "Do what I
did," said her mother, reminiscing of the beginning of her romance
with the man who was to become Prime Minister, “Just close your eyes
and think of England."
[End 1943 excerpt]

It is conceivable that this was a bowdlerized version of a more ribald
tale, but QI has not yet located supporting evidence for that
hypothesis. An alternative conjecture would hold that the carnal
element of this story was modified and amplified over time.

In 1954 "Les Carnets du Major Thompson" was published in French by
Pierre Daninos. The following year an English translation titled “The
Notebooks of Major Thompson: An Englishman Discovers France & the
French” was released in the U.S. The character portrayals in the
volume emphasized humor. The French author Daninos asserted that the
English character Ursula had been prepared “for marriage in an
entirely Victorian spirit”. The expression in the following passage
was identical to the one used in the previous citation. Yet, the
activity shifted from kissing to intimate coupling:

[Begin 1955 excerpt]
The day before she left home, Lady Plunkwell had delivered her final
advice: "I know, my dear, it’s disgusting. But do as I did with
Edward: just close your eyes and think of England!" Like her mother
and her mother’s mother before her, Ursula closed her eyes. She
thought of the future of England.
[End 1955 excerpt]

[End modified excerpt from Quote Investigator]

Cite info: 1943 May 18, Washington Post, Broadway Gazette by Leonard
Lyons, Quote Page 10, Column 5, Washington, D.C. (ProQuest)

Cite info: 1955, The Notebooks of Major Thompson: An Englishman
Discovers France & the French by Pierre Daninos, Translated by Robin
Farn, Chapter 8: Martine and Ursula, Quote Page 105, Alfred A. Knopf,
New York. (Originally published in France as Les Carnets du Major
Thompson by Librairie Hachette in 1954) (Verified on paper)


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