close one's eyes and think of England

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English[edit]

Frank Dicksee's 1905 portrait of Lady Hillingdon

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Supposedly derived from the 1912 journal of Alice Marion Mills, Lady Hillingdon, now lost. Later apocryphally connected to Lucy Baldwin, wife of Prime Minister Baldwin, and Queen Victoria or described as advice given to Victorian era brides-to-be. First popularized by the 1955 translation of Pierre Daninos's 1954 Les Carnets du Major Thompson, a French satire on upper class British culture.

Pronunciation[edit]

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Verb[edit]

close one's eyes and think of England (third-person singular simple present closes one's eyes and thinks of England, present participle closing one's eyes and thinking of England, simple past and past participle closed one's eyes and thought of England)

  1. To accept one's duty patriotically, particularly (idiomatic, euphemistic) to endure unwanted affection or sex due to social pressures.
    • 1912, Alice Marion Mills, Journal (attrib.):
      I am happy now that Charles calls on my bedchamber less frequently than of old. As it is, I now endure but two calls a week and when I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England.
    • 1940 Nov. 2, "Canadian Industrial Independence Seen as War Outcome", Windsor Daily Star, p. 10:
      ...when the test comes, when the United Kingdom gets into trouble again, and when the King calls upon his loyal subjects all over the world, the Canadian knows at a still deeper level of his being that he will undoubtably do as he has always done before. He will close his eyes and think of England.
    • 1955, Robert Farn tr. Pierre Daninos as The Notebooks of Major Thompson:
      Meltenham and her mother had prepared her for marriage in an entirely Victorian spirit. 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.
    • 1972, Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, The Rise and Fall of the British Nanny:
      One finds as many mentions in Edwardian literature to the chastity, the holy purity of upper class women, indeed to their active abhorrence of sex, as one does in the nineteenth century. There was the passage I quoted from Lady Hillingham at the head of this chapter—"...close my eyes, open my legs and think of England". The source for this quotation is a little suspect. The sentiment expressed is without question typical and accurate.

References[edit]