Tuesday, 7 October 2014

'All our great men are dead. I don't feel so well myself.'

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Who is the greatest living Englishman after Edward Norman, who is easily top?


Charles Moore? Are there any comedians, actors, writers these days? I liked Ian McEwan in 1980. No politicians or actors come to mind.

I might have considered Rod Liddle till I read the book he brought  out this year. I love Lord Salisbury, who saved the right of some hereditary peers to sit in Parliament, and Lord Sudeley who makes me look like a Jacobin, but there must be someone greater.


Martin Amis? Money was the last of his books I could read, though I once adored him.

Oh I have it. Sir Tom Stoppard the one great dramatist, surrounded by utterly talentless ones like Hare etc etc.

I mourn Sir Alec Guinness, Sir John Betjeman, Brian Johnson, Lord Deedes, AJP Taylor, Philip Larkin, Enoch Powell and despite his calling for Powell's resignation from the shadow cabinet, Lord Hailsham. Also Gerry Fitt, but he wasn't English. Nowadays I suspect Maurice Cowling, whom I am so sad I never met, might have been the greatest of all. 


The truth is though that I am terribly out of touch.

Boris Johnson might be a great Englishman in time, though I very much dislike his adulteries and his keenness to bomb Syria - and his keenness on immigration. Douglas Carswell shows promise. Lord Tebbit, whom I alway liked as a man even when I disagreed with his politics, improves with age like good Burgundy. Alan Bennett? 

Not Stephen Fry, though - or any of the other alleged national treasures.

Are there any Englishwomen of any note? Patricia Routledge comes to mind first. Lady Lucinda Lampton? The  great novelist Sybille Bedford is dead and was really German. 




22 comments:

  1. Hugh Laurie is disgustingly multitalented and reassuringly grumpy.

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  2. Hahaha. Very good and very true. It really is a difficult one. Maybe Quinlan Terry, the great classical architect? The only decent politician I can think of is Gerald Howarth.

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    1. I like Quinlan Terry too and thought of mentioning him but have not seen any of his buildings. But you may be shocked that because i love the Lloyd's building I highly esteem Richard Rogers too. Certainly not the dreadful James Sterling who built the horrible history faculty at Cambridge

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  3. Tim Berbers-Lee I think. Not appearing to try very hard and understanding big things is one of the more appealing English traits. Agree on Edward Norman of course. I can still remember his sermon on giving up cynicism for Lent.
    Willis

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  4. Among women, Deborah Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (recently deceased) comes to mind; according to an obituary, "her dislikes included magpies, women who want to join men's clubs, hotel coat-hangers, and drivers who slow down to go over cattle grids. She regretted the passing of brogues, the custom of mourning, telegrams, the 1662 Prayer Book, pinafores for little boys and Elvis Presley..."

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    1. Duchesses tend to be rated too high but I agree with her dislikes. Especially re clubs and of course the ghastly Elvis.

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    2. Actually she loved Elvis and had a shrine of memorabilia in the castle.

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  5. How about Peter Hitchens? Conservative razor wit with an acrobatic mental agility. In a debate he nimbly deflects the emotional abuse being thrown at him and swiftly gets to the heart of an issue. Not sure he'll withstand the test of time, like a Mencken, but few journalist do.

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  6. Marc won't agree. Peter Hitchens goes too far in supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine but he is good yes. But Charles Moore impresses me more, I think.

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  7. I don't know who Edward Norman is, and so doubt I would agree. David Attenborough does a sterling job as far as I'm concerned. Colin Firth is shaping up nicely. But to be honest I can think of few men I wholly admire, certainly English ones - too laddish, or too right wing, or even too left wing; too arrogant, too lacking in essential charm or courtesy; too plebeian, or too snobbish. Almost all too corrupt or venial or lacking in chivalry towards women (by which I mean being considerate while accepting them as fully equal beings without being frightened of them). There are far more admirable women - however these tend to be of the quieter less obvious type: women plugging away at great works with high moral and ethical standards behind the scenes.

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    1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3612824/Anglicanism-is-going-to-tip-into-the-sea.html

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    2. By the way I am shocked that someone like you who is on the left uses plebeian as a derogatory term. You remind me of the academics I was talking to at the weekend who seemed to me to dislike the masses, whom they suspected were lazy, right-wing, supporters of capital punishment, xenophobic and other bad things. How academics and the left increasingly dislike the working class.

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  8. For women I think one of my top choices would be, for example, Kate Adie.

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  9. Unfortunately somewhat dead I feel I must mention the wonderful Auberon Waugh. Dominic J

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    1. Auberon Waugh could not write. Nice man, unlike his father, but couldn't write and his opinions uninteresting.

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  10. Margaret Atwood is Canadian so I suppose she doesn't count but what about Margaret Drabble. She's still alive, isn't she?

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    1. I think Margaret Drabble is a dreadful writer.

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  11. In a moment of dark humour I was tempted to write 'Lady Gaga', but...

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  12. can't fault any of your choices here Paul id add John Ruskin of course and GKC (did you mention him, if you did apologies)

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    1. Alas both are dead. Ruskin said he was a Tory of the old school - the school of Homer and Sir Walter Scott. I have only read Homer in translation and don't rate Scott highly but would say I was a conservative of the school of Shakespeare and Dr. Johnson. I must read Coleridge's political writings.

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  13. Diana Athill and Denis Healey are still going strong in their late 90s

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  14. The fairly disastrous Labour administrations of the 1970s which gave in to the unions, kept us in the EEC and wanted to bring in devolution, along with much else I dislike, included an amazing array of talented politicians, comparable to that in Asquith's ministries, but much as I respect even admire Lord Healey he is not the greatest living Englishman unless things are very much worse than I thought.

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