The Salisbury Review, still brilliant

The Salisbury Review may be the most intelligent quarterly review there is. The founding editor was Sir Roger Scruton no less, and he served unpaid for 18 years.  Though he retired from the editorship in 2006, the Review has continued, with its insightful look at society and the world.  It is a courageous look too, as most magazines would fear to publish what the Salisbury Review will.

All those of influence should subscribe to the Salisbury Review, even if they do not agree with even half the articles contained.

The magazine is named after the Third Marquess of Salisbury, one of the greatest of Conservative Prime Ministers, whose picture used to grace the cover of every edition. It helps too that the Sixth Marquess was one of the founders. (I sometimes wonder if the title misleads those who might otherwise stock it into thinking it is a local mag for Wiltshire.)

If you read a magazine only to have your existing knowledge and thoughts confirmed, you are missing the point. An intellectual magazine should challenge you, and show you new fields, new ideas and new ways of approaching topics. I frequently get up in arms about some of the articles, but that is rather the point. This is not the bland sap in the large publications. Larger magazines are unable to define their own ‘Overton window’ and are too easily swayed by an apparent tide of opinion, to suppress ideas which may cause a fuss and just churn out the usual, with perhaps a new artist or author featured or a new country to wander in, but new ways of thinking might cause a fuss and shed a reader or two. The Salisbury Review on the other hand had its greatest boost in publication when it caused a major scandal that reached the national news.

The scandal was the Ray Honeyford article, describing his experience as a teacher encountering cultural attitudes from some Asian parents at his school. The magazine republished the article on later occasions, and I recall the first time I thought it true but inflammatory, the second time mild, and the third time I could not see what the fuss was about. Sir Roger himself wrote an article about the article and what the resultant storm tells us about the race-industry:

The magazine has had many stellar contributors: Roger Scruton of course, but also Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Margaret Thatcher, Václav Havel, Hugh Trevor-Roper and many more. In such company, we cannot fail to be enriched.

The magazine features each quarter an eclectic selection of articles which may range from the personal to international politics. Academics and journalists at the conservative end regularly appear, some under a pseudonym for reasons we well understand, or individual one-off contributors, but being high-brow is not enough: one of their recent regular contributors is a tattooist, who gives a moving insight into a part of society with which many readers may be unfamiliar but would be better to understand. Theodore Dalrymple regularly contributes, telling of the those who pass through a doctor’s surgery or a prison infirmary. With the fall of the Red Wall we must look beyond the cosy circle of our own dinner party guests.

Perhaps as enlightening are the regular book and television reviews, both positive and negative – there are many eye-opening books with which I would have been unfamiliar otherwise, and other I now know to avoid. It reintroduced also many ‘conservative classics’. (As a result, Dostoyevsky is now back on my reading list.)

It is a shame that public libraries are not stocking the Salisbury Review. Libraries do carry magazines with political themes, but never this one, for some reason. Maybe the title confuses them. If readers can break that wall, do.

The magazine has never tried to be fashionable: its contributors were elucidating the reason and necessity of Brexit long before it became popular, and exploding fashionable nostrums for the nonsense they is I every issue, and not just by rants but by cold logic and data.

It is uplifting to find a magazine which actually writes what I am thinking and speaks those truths which those of us with jobs to keep quiet about. If it were just a confirmation of existing prejudices though it would be of little use, and instead the Salisbury Review every time takes me outside my comfortable circle to new, unfamiliar areas or new ways to see those I thought I knew, and for that I cannot but praise it and urge others to subscribe.

See also

2019 in review, with Fay Kinuise

2019: I couldn’t have written it better myself. The art of satire is dying not through a PC world, but by life exceeding art. In 2019, Patisserie Valerie collapsed, the Woke Lords tightened their grip, oh, and there was some politics too.

Celebrate the New Year, and do not mourn it!

In the meantime, if all serious journalists have written a review of the year, it behoves the rest of us to do so too.

January: ScotRail whacked up its prices: the biggest thing to hit local pockets since the last time the SNP did anything. Greggs used the boost in its sales from the Christmas Number 1 to launch vegetarian sausage rolls, which got their names in the press and boosted sales of the real thing. (Clever, lads, clever.)

Then in Parliament (the real one, not the playtime parliament in Edinburgh) a Grievous soul started a new rebellion, that ended in 230 against the government, in which all the anti-Brexit MPs voted for a no-deal Brexit. No, I don’t know either. (Howsoever smug that soul may have been in January, he was exorcised from Beaconsfield in December.)

The Patisserie Valerie went down, alas for us all! Where the money went I might say, but for libel lawyers. It took months for the viennoiserie to be saved, by which time, hadn’t the mille feuilles in the window gone off?

A retired cop from Yorkshire was questioned by the police for noting that men are indeed men. No one found an actual crime, but expecting the police to limit themselves to crimes is old-fashioned thinking.

Alex Salmond was arrested for multiple attempted rape allegations, presumably by women with broken ribs – it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving chap, Alex, and Fiona Onasanya was sent down for being an idiot, although how the rest of the House of Commons survive on that criterion is incomprehensible.

February: The month started with heavy snows, ice, closed schools and roads and what the Met Office called exceptional weather conditions – and what we call “winter” in the north.

There came another defeat for Theresa May, who thus became officially entitled to the title “The Hapless”. It happened again later in the month.

On 18 February 7 Labour MPs left to form “the Independent Group” as assort of “sane Labour”. Then two days later they killed their own group by admitting three Tories.

March: More defeats for The Hapless Theresa May, leading up to 29 March 2019: the day Brexit should have happened, for which preparation had been made for two years but which still seemed to come as a surprise. This was officially “the day where it all went wrong for Theresa May“. Conservative poll ratings crashed to below 20% – quite an achievement: you go girl! (Actually, do go.)

A tax consultant was dismissed for saying that a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Usually when you hear someone say that he is making a pass. No one thought of sacking the complainant for harassing a fellow employee. Later in the year a tribunal judge agreed that there is no justice in the world, as if there were then there would be no need for tribunal judges. A diversity officer was seen sharpening a blade behind the arras.

L K Bennett collapsed too, in embarrassment after wearing the wrong heels.

April: Edinburgh Waverley finally stopped charging to use its loos. Surely that is the most significant event of the year?

Extinction Rebellion burst out in London, claiming it was to do with climate change, but we all know the real reason, don’t we?

I expect there were more defeats for The Hapless Theresa May, but there were so many I lose track. There was a breach in security too, concerning discussions about the Huawei, which forced Gavin W and his venomous spider out of office. Be fair to the leakers though: they had to get the news out before it reached the Chinese government that afternoon.

In Australia, where men are men, Barry Humphries had his name stripped form an award for suggesting just that. Presumably the judges think that Dame Edna Everage is actually a woman.

May: The end of May at the end of May. Before then, the birth of a new Prince. Oh and a vanity election, won by the Nigel Farage Party.

The political and philosophical worlds were shaken in May, when the thomashobbes blog was founded.

June: ChangeUK (or whatever they were called that week) burst apart and various MPs went in various directions (we lose track of where Heidi hid and Sarah Something sloped off after Chuka chucked it in).

July: Bored with politics now. Have been since about mid-January. Still, a stand-up comedian got into the news this month as he was seen walking into Downing Street unchallenged. It later turned out that he was the Prime Minister.

At the same time Jo Swinson was chosen as brief leader of the Lib Dems. No, I’m not interested either. Even Milngavie wasn’t interested.

James Brokenshire finally crawled in humble apology to the world’s greatest living philosopher (no, not Adrian Hilton – Sir Roger Scruton). Having removed Sir Roger, whom he had somehow never heard of, in a Twitterstorm last year, Brokenshire made this one last repentance before he was promptly thrown out of his office.

Elsewhere, the police informant ‘Nick’ was banged up for perverting the course of justice while being perverted himself. The Met took advice on breaking him out, as he remains the only source of information they really trust. Later they considered exhuming Titus Oates to testify.

August: By this time the year had been going on far too long.

The Met Office said that temperatures were high. It’s what we call “Summer”.

September: Parliament was prorogued and all opposition parties, the Leader of the Opposition now being Dominc Grieve, it seems, proclaimed that a coup was taking place. Foreign observers excitedly waited for tanks to roll into Parliament Square and for dissidents to be shot en masse, but had to be disappointed. Turkish army officers mocked Boris Johnson for not understanding how to do a coup properly.

Attention at last turned away from Parliament to the courts, but still on Brexit, where the Court of Session threw out a challenge by Jolyon Maugham (the one who wears women’s clothes to hunt foxes), then changed its mind on appeal. The Supreme Court joined in the fun. Millions of pounds were spent arguing over four lost sitting days.

In all this, Ruthie left us. Where are ye, lassie? But a bairn on your knee is a joyful burden. No word of the father, but rumours say it is not Boris Johnson.

Police failed to make any arrests in Operation Casement after losing their main source of information, Nick.

Scientists discussed whether the Loch Ness Monster could be a monstrous Sturgeon.

October: Six years after the Clutha helicopter crash, finally the Sheriff Principal made a finding. Oh, and there was more politicking. And Parliament was prorogued, again, and this time Jolyon and Gina did not try to stop it.

Jeremy Corbyn had to tell an audience that his preferred pronoun is “he”. Aye pal: the beard and barely concealed aggression are a bit of a clue.

The Met Office reported to a shocked world that leaves were falling from trees across the length and breadth of the country. Extinction Rebellion came out onto the streets again to protest.

November: Are we not there yet? Finally, a dissolution of Parliament! The nation speaks, and says “Just get on with it”.

Even Brenda from Bristol was begging for an election.

December: Oh thank goodness – an election. A stonking majority and a proud Johnson up front.

The voice of Scotland in the election spoke strongly, to say ‘Where is Ruth when we need her?’

The Met Office declared a crisis of global cooling after measurements showed the whole Northern Hemisphere to be suffering much lower temperatures than when measurements were taken in August.

And sausage rolls again reached number one.

Now can we have Christmas?

A New Year wish: a quiet year please, and Brexit at last.

The War of the Worlds on the BBC – a review

A long-delayed review of the BBC’s War of the Worlds (now that election things are past), and I find myself in a muddle for comment.

There is a snarling, lefty theme in two places which grates horribly and is not in the original, but for that later – as a whole the theme and presentation are ambitious and exuding a pervading cloud of inevitable, hopeless doom, just as in the book.

Peter Harness’s three-part adaptation of H G Wells’s work was broadcast by the BBC in November, and is still available on the iPlayer, and in the shops on DVD for Christmas.  It was greeted at the time of broadcast with some howls of rage from reviewers in advance – anonymous shall be the reviewer who said “it’s all woke in Woking” and others accused it of political correctness gone mad (or words to that effect).  It was certainly different, and with modern preconceptions filling in the gaps, but the main problem screaming out of the box is this: It is not H. G. Wells.

The scene is set in Edwardian Britain, in suburban Surrey and then in London; so far so much like Wells (though Wells wrote in 1898 and hinted at its being set at that moment): the series references the brief war scare of 1904. It begins just as the book does, in a picture-perfect suburban village: Wells’s narrator lived in Maybury, a village now engulfed in Woking, and here it begins, and on Horsell Common where the first cylinder lands (or in this retelling, a sphere). Like the book, the series counterpoints the confident civilisation of the period with sudden destruction to show how fragile the show of empire is.

A major contrast between the book and this series is that the Martian invasion is brief in the book and civilisation begins to pick itself up again afterwards, but in the series the whole world is affected and for many years after. Its postscript world, smothered in the red weed is one in which all civilisation has broken down, in which it resembles more that a later book by Wells, The War in the Air. That book looked at how flimsy an apparently well established society can be when once broken (and don’t we now know it when we look at what was Syria). The War in the Air is more realistically Hobbesian in its picture of a destroyed society than Harness portrays for us here.

In context, Wells was writing in the midst of a fashion for ‘invasion literature’, which is a whole different subject. He even opened his novel with a riff off the book that started the trend, The Battle of Dorking. Today though we have other concerns for our own culture’s fragility.

Wells constructed his book as a personal account, by a journalist or writer describing first-hand his experience of the Martian invasion.  It is wholly centred on the (unnamed) narrator, except for some chapters describing in the same tone the adventures of his (equally unnamed) brother. All other characters come in and out of the action as observed actors, not principals. Even the scene of action is limited: the narrator barely strays from Surrey; his brother journeys from London and Essex, and it is strongly suggested that the Martians go no further either. All the action is over the course of a month or so. That keeps even a world-changing event as an intimate personal experience. Conventional wisdom though is that this does not make for good television so Harness chose another route allowing for dialogue and grand, wasted vista.

In Peter Harness’s retelling of the story the narrator is  named George (Wells’s middle name) and he is modelled on Wells himself and his not-quite-wife and named Amy after Wells’s second wife (though I keep wanting to call her Demelza: she is played by Eleanor Tomlinson and in an identical manner to her portrayal of Demelza in Poldark), and she takes the main role. In the original book, the narrator and his wife are unnamed, though there is a ‘George’ mentioned: the lost husband and last hope of a delirious lady on the road, and in bits, that little narrative reappears here, expanded and applied to the main characters.

It makes it a little puzzling to find bits of the book here and there; snatches of monologue / dialogue from the book, characters becoming other characters, and one character definitively slain by the first heat-ray in both productions turning up alive at the end of this one. It is well done as a work on its own, but what kept getting at me throughout is that it is not H. G. Wells.

It is a hard book to render into a different medium, but many have turned their hands to it. Orson Wells famously panicked America with a radio adaptation in 1938 at the ‘eve of war’; Jeff Wayne wrote a techno-rock musical version, which works well; more recently, in 2005, Stephen Spielberg pulled a blinder with his film version that was far more faithful to the book, and better for it, but then Spielberg is a genius. He got over the monologue problem but having the narrator (played by Tom Cruise) leading his daughter to a hoped-for safety.

Back to the BBC drama though.

Is it woke in Woking?

Well, not as such. Any new BBC modern adaptation will be under suspicion for that, but most of the scene comes out well. The writer tries to be more Wellsian than Wells in setting the scene, for Wells in his ideas was a political radical – anyone who could be thrown out of the Fabian Society for extremism is going it some, and travelling in Soviet Russia, praising in the midst of the terror famine while bunking up with Gorkiy’s mistress is not exactly a shy Tory. He does not let this out in the War of the Worlds though: its strength is in its conventionalism. It was written in his high period, before he lost that magic: as Chesterton said of the later work: “Mr. Wells is a born storyteller who has sold his birthright for a pot of message“.

The opening domestic scenes are not radical: Amy being a capable lady with ambitions to study equally with men, though not in the book, would be nothing unusual for the literature of the late Victorian / Edwardian period nor anything unusual in real provincial society. One trope of retro literature is the ambitious woman held back by a disapproving husband, but that does a disservice to the menfolk of the age, who were more likely to support their wives’ ambitions, and did so, and young, Tory husbands led the way. No, that aspect is not radical nor left-wing.

It does depart from the book – the wife there is a cypher. She is a prime motivation for the narrator’s actions but is not a fully coloured-in character, as to colour her in would change the personal structure of the narrative.

The lefty bit is none of this; it is the class-warfare. No-one is authority is anything but a caricature: the unseen proprietor of the newspaper which employs George, ‘His Lordship’, is portrayed as a cruel patrician, and the Minister who employs his brother is a pompous, out of touch, elderly fool straight out of central left-wing casting. (The actual Minster of War in 1904 was a rather vigorous, 49-year old H. O. Arnold-Forster, who was a writer, Mr Harness might note.)

(On screen, the Minster’s dying concern, portrayed as mad militarism, is how to get hold of one of the Martian tripods as a war-fighting machine. That is in the book as the idea of the thoroughly working-class artilleryman.)

Then at the end comes a swipe at religion, with a preacher trying to drag people to the Dark Ages, but again that is no more than a lefty idea. The alleged split between science and religion is largely the invention of Thomas Huxley, of whom H. G. Wells was a student – Huxley gets a mention in The Island of Doctor Moreau, and in later years his son, Aldous, caused Wells to despair at being surpassed as a writer. This religion as anti-science idea is nowhere in the book though. It is an unnecessary dig.

I might forgive the writer for falling for clichés, but surely he could have tried harder. The story overwhelms such failings though and though it is not H. G. Wells, the overarching theme from the book is here too: as it shows mankind’s differences swept away as a new master race descends, and is ultimately defeated by the humblest of God’s creations (and that line at least did get in).

Books

Summer of Rockets – a personal review

I finally got round to watching Summer of Rockets, Stephen Poliakoff’s latest BBC serial, and the first since Close to the Enemy in 2016. It is a more intimate piece of work than some: The Lost Prince for example he set in Buckingham Palace to cover the outbreak of the Great War and what followed, which is a grand theme, but in Summer of Rockets Poliakoff confines himself to a season and, while there is a grand theme and threat of war, it is the personal which predominates.

The series is available as a box set on the BBC iPlayer and is worth a look.

Poliakoff is rightly renowned as a playwright, and this is his most personal work to date, to the extent that it has been described as semi-autobiographical, for the central character, Samuel Petrukhin, is based on Polikoff’s father, with the detail an amalgam of his father and his grandfather and in the frightened little boy, Sasha, we see the writer himself. The writer is quite explicit about the origins of the characters in his article on BBC Media Centre.

In Summer of Rockets, grand politics is played out, but through the filter of the personal.  The scene is set in the summer of 1957 (which was the summer following the Suez disaster, and the beginning of the Macmillan ministry, and the summer after Khrushchev crushed the Hungarian Revolution).  It is also the summer after the Gold Coast became independent as Ghana, beginning the dismantling of the Empire. The Cold War was very real and close and the threat of nuclear obliteration hovered in the background even as the summer parties continued.  The fear is an explicit background theme and motivator, but not central, we eventually find.

The characters are set up early: Samuel Petrukhin (played by Toby Stevens): entrepreneur, inventor (with all the detail taken from Poliakoff’s father), and signalled as a good egg from the beginning; Miriam his wife; Hannah his daughter, a reluctant debutante; and his quiet, inquisitive son Sasha.

Petrukhin is an outsider:  a Russian and a Jew, and in trade. He craves high society, but cannot be accepted, except through his accidental friendship with the Shaw family, the ultimate insiders.  This status as an outsider, locked out of the echelons of society he observes, is the major dynamic to the plot.

Richard Shaw (played by Linus Roache) is an MP and well regarded, a war hero, with connections in all the highest places, and his wife Kathleen, playing the perfect hostess, living the summer idyll in a grant country house (where writers like to place secrets in dark corners). Kathleen Shaw is played by Keeley Hawes, who is barely off the screen these days, but the screen does not seem to mind. Here too is the genial Lord Wallington (Timothy Spall, brilliant as ever), the dark genius of we know not what.

The third node is Field of MI5 (Mark Bonnar), who has decided that something is going on at the Shaw household.

Much the plot is in Samuel Petrukhin’s observations – as an eternal outsider ever tapping at the window, he observes from the outside and serves as the voice and ear of the audience.  At the same time his children observe at their own levels and are confided in at points by grown-ups, again serving as proxies for the otherwise puzzled viewer.  This is a technique Poliakoff has used before – The Lost Prince was about the events leading to and through the First World War with the prince of the title as an observer and an innocent confidant.

Interestingly, even with a large cast and some wide settings, Poliakoff manages to keep the feel intimate.

The characters set up, the plot is drip-fed to us, as each side confides in the Outsider. MI5 is full of Soviet agents, according to Lord Wallington, who simply wishes to expose them; and the Shaws are the centre of a plot to launch a coup d’état according to Field. The credibility of each side ebbs and flows as the episodes progress, and Petrukhin is forced one way and the other, by his need to prove his patriotism, his social climbing, his commercial dependence and his friendship with the Shaw family. In this tension flows the plot, as Petrukhin lurches between the two sides, never knowing whom to trust.

We now know, years after the events, that MI5 was indeed stuffed from top to bottom with Soviet agents and useful idiots.  Many off the failures of those years and the loss of national confidence can be put down to the poisonous influence of Communists in the system. That year, 1957, was a turning point in a way – many vocal Communists in literature and academia changed their opinions radically when the Soviets crushed the Hungarians in the winter of 1956 but the true believers stayed even when the nature of Communist brutality was clear, and in the Summer of 1957 they were in place deep within the state.

In reaction, was there a faction ready to overawe the government, stand against dissolution of the Empire and purge socialism from the system?  Quite possibly, though nothing came of it.  This was a tense age in much of Europe and Africa, but surely not in the perfect English countryside?  Maybe not then as portrayed, but in the 1970s there were voices who spoke of creating private armies to keep order as the Wilson government appeared to be sliding towards a mixture of totalitarianism and anarchy.  The horrid images in Anthony Burgess’s 1985 seemed close to a future reality.

In the drama, Petrukhin is dragged back and forth, unable to know whom to believe, little events leading to sudden suspicions and changes in direction – the MI5 dog who understands Russian commands, the General who spits anti-Semitic tropes, the attempted assassination, but of whom and by whom?  The audience is kept in doubt just as much as Petrukhin, its voice.

This being the BBC, you do not expect the Commies to be the baddies in the end (and in any case their influence was too undercover to make for good drama). It is a beautifully constructed piece for all that, helped by the writer’s personal investment in the emotion.

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Books

Puritans and the Pilgrim

The Church Times (which may be some readers’ favourite journal) carried an article recently by Dr Nicholas Fisher, ‘Standing down the Puritan Penumbra’, celebrating the work of Symon Patrick, who played a crucial part in defending the settlement of the Church of England after the Restoration. It is not just a subject of interest to church historians but it contains a strong lesson about the nation’s social and political divisions in our own day.

The history and the conflict

In the 17th century, the Church of England commanded the moral teaching of the nation and potentially its whole social outlook, and so control of it was key to controlling the ideology of England.  The Church’s official doctrines included freedom of conscience in that only the Bible is an absolute standard, but secular authorities would frequently find an excuse for punishing dissentient speech.  (Thomas Hobbes was accused of atheism for some of his ideas even though fully concordant with the Bible.)

Therefore the church in England and in Scotland was a battleground, much as media regulation is becoming a battleground for us today, and dissent from the established church would be punished not for doctrinal reasons, but to control preaching.

At the Civil War, Parliament’s Puritan faction changed the polity of the Church of England, abolishing bishops and replacing dioceses and bishops with presbyteries and assemblies. It was a classic political case of the means to an end which became an end in itself, or the fringe demand, put just to be sacrificed in negotiation, which became an unshakable demand.

The old order was restored at the Restoration but it was not a foregone conclusion: Pepys in his diary confides that the King may be forced to concede to a Presbyterian church. In the event, the bishops returned, clergy were required to conform, huge numbers of clergy left to form non-conformist congregations, but it was not over:  strong voices still pressed for the abolish prelacy, to turn the Church of England into a Presbyterian church.

The pressure for Presbytery was strong and growing, and each fault in a bishop, or any slippage towards ceremonialism was held as proof of lapsing towards Roman ways. The move to Presbyterianism was made to feel inevitable.  That is echoed in every age: imperfection is held up as utter corruption and the word ‘inevitable’ breaks resistance. You may think of your own examples.

Into this stepped a clergyman, Symon Patrick. He could see that the Puritans were gaining the upper hand, and so he wrote ‘The Parable of the Pilgrim’, about a pilgrim trying to travel to Jerusalem, and first seeking a reliable guide.

I cannot say the Patrick’s Parable is a gripping read.  It is for from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. (written in the same age).  It was popular though, and is credited with convincing the King and the establishment that Presbytery was not inevitable nor the will of the people, and that the public mood was for the old ways.

The argument and the outcome

Patrick’s theme in essence was that the Church of England is a reliable guide, and the non-conforming Puritans are a violent, extreme faction who were responsible for the Civil War and would cause another one.

He does not claim that the episcopal version of the Church had the sole claim on truth and does not accuse the non-conformists of false doctrine, except in as far as they claimed to have a monopoly of the way to salvation and of acceptable practice. This then is a key: we are the reasonable men; they are dangerous extremists; remember the horror of the late war, as a revival of it looms in their counsels.

The result was effective: public opinion turned strongly in favour of the bishops, and the Puritans shrank back.  However it also encouraged the secular authorities to impose malicious penalties on non-conformity.  Whether Symon Patrick had that in mind I cannot say, but it makes it uncomfortable to read the triumphalist tone in the Church Times article, perhaps just an echo of the inevitable affection of a biographer for his subject.

Ill-treatment of non-conformists was unprincipled and counter-productive. Since the Restoration, the non-conformist churches and the Church of England have had a mutually supporting role in their mutual antagonism: the non-conformists are often the conscience to admonish the Church of England when it goes wrong, as it frequently does, and they allow preachers to speak out, on matters such as slavery and false doctrines, where the Anglican structure encourages silence and bland following of liturgy. At the same time, the Church of England provides a structure and written standard against which the non-conformist churches may be measured in case they are tempted to stray, as they do without structure: the Quakers have ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense.

The lessons into modernity

In our own day, the moral teaching of the nation is secularised. Novel, irreligious doctrines coming out of nowhere are established and pressed upon us by secular authorities and those who set themselves up as authorities. Even of the Church of England is complying.

The argument in Patrick’s Parable holds good today: the Puritans who claim a monopoly of truth are dangerous, and while their positions and arguments may be within the wide cast of honest opinion, they cannot be allowed in charge.

However the position of our own day is reversed from the Restoration period: the establishment has been seized by secular Puritans, little different from those Patrick describes in his Parable of the Pilgrim. They act in the way he warns, and without any apparent sense of irony the New Puritans are ready to accuse dissenting, conservative-minded folk of being dangerous extremists, and spit hatred at them in the name of opposing hate.

The New Puritans are not a myth, as case after case demonstrates: careers ruined, businesses closed and intimidated, others harassed by lawsuits. In this, the radical New Puritan may act as legislator, judge, jury and executioner. After the Long March Through the Institutions, establishment positions are held by left-wingers, so there is little resistance.

Now we need non-conforming commentators. A secular Symon Patrick in our own day would face ostracism, even in the cowed Church, as he would be writing outside the establishment. Maybe it would be coming too late: Patrick wrote to prevent a takeover, but for us, that takeover has happened.

Books