Nosk Fjordlandskap, Adelsteen Normann, unknown date and location
Der Sognefjord bei Balestrand, Hans Dahl, ca. 1920?, Private Collection
94 Degrees in the Shade, detail, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1876, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Who knew Alma-Tadema ever painted like this?
There have been extended periods, from the early 1960s onwards, when it has taken moral courage to stand up and be counted as a British conservative. Almost all of the institutions that enable public debate and engagement – universities, the BBC, the wider education establishment and the relevant parts of the Civil Service – have fallen under the control of the liberal Left. No matter what government was elected, a tough-minded and highly disciplined progressive elite has been in charge. This elite has been ruthless in imposing its doctrines and making sure that the relevant placemen were appointed to key positions.
The fundamental assumption of this new ruling class is that government is benign. It does not like or understand freedom. It has extended its control far beyond the classical liberal functions of the state (which did not reach much beyond defence of the realm and maintenance of law and order).
The great historian AJP Taylor wrote, in the introduction to his English History 1914-45, that “Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizens from eating adulterated foods or contracting certain infectious diseases.”
Such was the connection between state and individual exactly 100 years ago. Today, there is literally no area of life, ranging from the family to our private conversations, where the state (partly thanks to new, powerfully intrusive methods of government surveillance) does not believe that it has a role. It shapes our lives from above, tells us what we should think, and constantly seeks ever greater powers to regulate our behaviour.
…and of Ken Minogue: He exposed and ridiculed one of the central fallacies of modern politics: “Governments wishing to claim credit for all good things, and oppositions wishing to dispense blame for all bad things, had colluded in spreading the idea that all things, good and bad, are caused by political policies.”
- from a brilliant piece by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph online
Nave of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, 1446-1515
Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Fisherman by a River, Maurice Levis, 1888, Williams and Son Gallery, Richmond, England
The end-of-term inundation of work, and a stream of days and nights delineated by emotion alone: anxiety and reprieve, frustration and exaltation - and amidst it, like the haunting memory of a dream, I hear whispered that ancient call that Quiller-Couch once spoke of, and I persevere in the eternal hope of finding that low door in the wall that others have found before me…
Know you her secret none can utter?
Hers of the Book, the tripled Crown?
Still on the spire the pigeons flutter;
Still by the gateway flits the gown;
Still on the street, from corbel and gutter,
Faces of stone look down.