Friday 15 October 2021

A true conservative

I just came across a copy I made of this Spectator editorial, by chance, written on the death of Sir Wilfred Thesiger. 

I thought I had mentioned it before in this blog but it seems not.

I was extremely flattered indeed when a friend who reads my blog said I reminded him of Thesiger. Praise indeed. 

I am afraid I have not yet read Thesiger but I love him from this paean in the Spectator. He is my (and the Spectator's) kind of conservative. So called fiscal conservatives are not - conservatives like Theresa May and George W. Bush much less so.
What made him so interested in these people, and so capable of winning their trust, and so determined to spend his life among them?

Part of the answer lies in Thesiger’s profound conservatism, which has virtually no connection with anything that has been said or done by the British Conservative party. The Conservatives have prospered for the best part of two centuries, and are now trying once more to prosper, by making their peace with progress and modernity. They want above all things to be on the winning side, so they accept in a somewhat ingratiating manner whatever they take to be the spirit of the age. They are valiant for democracy and economic growth and the motor car.
Thesiger hated the spirit of the age. As a small boy in Abyssinia, where he was born in 1910, he saw the victorious army led by Ras Tafari, who later became the Emperor Haile Selassie, return in triumph to Addis Ababa from victory at the Battle of Sagale: ‘Few Europeans ever saw a picture so utterly barbaric, savage and splendid.... It gave me a craving for colour, savagery and tradition which grew over the years into an ever-deepening distaste for so-called modern progress.’

 Evelyn Waugh who met him in Addis Ababa suggested they took a trip to the then very inaccessible Lalibela. He declined and said in his memoirs that had they gone only one would have returned.

I doubt it would have been Waugh who returned, for all his acid sense of humour.

1 comment:

  1. Irina Zvenigovo comments:
    Excellent piece from The Spectator on 30 August 2003, apparently. In a later Spectator review of a new 2006 biography of Sir Wilfred Thesiger, the reviewer, Simon Courtauld, who had stayed with Thesiger, ends with this anecdote: "I remember him telling me that Joy 'Born Free' Adamson got what she deserved when she was murdered by a Turkana servant; then, in a throwaway line, he said that he had known and liked the man."