Hemlock, on Tap

Head of Socrates in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Head of Socrates, in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Hemlock, on Tap

Ed Dutton endorses a brave and timely tome

Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity, by Joanna Williams, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, PB., 217pp.  

Like a dramatist building to a climax, Joanna Williams, education lecturer at the University of Kent and education editor for SpikedOnline, delays hitting you with her message. ‘Without academic freedom,’ she eventually asserts, ‘universities risk returning to the status of Medieval institutions, only rather than paying homage to the church, many scholars today choose to worship at the altar of liberal opinion’ (p.198). This is the disturbing conclusion of this book. Academia is becoming less ‘academic’ by the day, with trigger warnings on courses, safe spaces for students, an overwhelmingly anti-conservative academic body and the persecution of academic dissent.

Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity is tightly written and is clearly referenced (books are mentioned within the text). Williams takes us on a journey through the history of the academy and the parallel history of academic freedom. It is a sobering read and from the outset we see a conflict over how academic freedom should be defined. Continue reading

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Talking Power to Truth

Don Carlo angel

Talking Power to Truth

Don Carlo, 1886 version, music composed by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, conducted by Bertrand de Billy, Director Nicholas Hytner, Royal Opera, Friday 12th May 2017, reviewed by Leslie Jones

This, the third revival of Nicholas Hytner’s production, is a curious mixture of the old and the new. The sets, somewhat reminiscent of David Hockney’s latest phase, are minimalist, as in the opening scene, in the forest of Fontainebleu. At the beginning of Act II, located in the cloister of San Yuste Monastery, massive Romanesque pillars ingeniously descend from above. Use of colour, especially red, is most effective, as with the fans of the ladies of the court during the Song of the Veil, sung by Princess Eboli (Ekaterina Semenchuk). The costumes, however, are ultra traditionalist, albeit striking, as with the serried ranks of furs of the ladies of the French court. All of the main parts are performed with accomplishment although there were no standout performances on this occasion. Continue reading

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Conflicting Conceptions of France

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

Conflicting Conceptions of France

Stoddard Martin reviews a new life of Léon Blum

Léon Blum; Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist, by Pierre Birnbaum, Yale University Press, 2015, HB, 233pp

We have recently observed a French election in which the choice seemed to be clear: between a nationalist and an internationalist conception of the meaning of ‘France’. The divide on this issue may go back to the first French revolution – i.e., whether that event was meant to emancipate the People as French or the People as, in effect, of the world. There was a messianic, universalist message in the Enlightenment ideals of the Rights of Man, as in the Francophile Jefferson’s earlier iterations in the American Declaration of Independence. ‘All men are created equal’; ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness [chasse au bonheur]’; ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’ became battle cries sounding often since 1789 elsewhere than in one nation. Napoleon conquered Europe not just as a Frenchman (Italo-Corsican) but as exporter of the revolutionary idea. An outre Rhin conception of France’s destiny was plain in Emmanuel Macron’s use of the ‘Ode to Joy’ as he walked in front of I. M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid to deliver his victory address. The Marseillaise came only after. Continue reading

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Alas, Poor Russia

Novyi Satirikon, April 1917, Caricature of Grigorii Rasputin

Novyi Satirikon, April 1917, Caricature of Grigorii Rasputin

Alas, Poor Russia

Leslie Jones attends an outstanding exhibition

Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, British Library, 28th April 2017 to 29th August, 2017

Propaganda is evidently the leitmotiv of this exhibition. The insidious influence of the faith healer Grigorii Rasputin over Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina, Alexandra (as depicted in the poster above) was a godsend to opponents of autocracy, especially during the Great War. In ‘A very close friend’ (New York Review of Books, December 2016, a review of Douglas Smith’s Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs) historian Orlando Figes shows that the monarchy lost control of the presentation of the news “at a time when its survival depended upon it”.

Nicholas II and Prince of Wales, subsequently George V

Nicholas II and the Prince of Wales, subsequently George V

King George V reportedly liked his relative Nicholas (an honorary Admiral of the British Fleet, no less) well enough. But following the February Revolution of 1917 and the Tsar’s enforced abdication, King George declined to offer his first cousin asylum, having been advised by the British Ambassador in Russia, Sir George Buchanan, that it might cause an uprising here. The Tsarina, who was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Hesse, was allegedly pro-German. Indeed, it was widely believed that Alexandra and Rasputin were in league with the Germans. Moreover, Nicholas was considered by some as The Hanging Czar, to quote the title of a 1908 pamphlet by Tolstoy, which is displayed in W J Chamberlain’s English translation. Continue reading

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In Search of True Federalism

Canada_3_cents_1917

In Search of True Federalism

A further article by Mark Wegierski to Commemorate the Sesquicentennial of Canadian Confederation

It is sometimes maintained that strengthening the provinces and regions in Canada would lead to a more balanced society. While there is no returning to the Old Canada which existed “before the Sixties”, is it possible that this “New Canada” could reach out to incorporate better aspects of the Old Canada – to create a new synthesis – “Canada Three” – rather than continue on the path of ever-intensifying left-liberalism?

What is Canadian identity? There have been at least two, different Canada’s –  the one that existed before the 1960s, and the one that exists today. Traditional Canada was defined by its founding nations – the English (British) and the French (the latter mostly centered in what, in 1867, became the Province of Quebec). These two nations long pre-existed the creation of a Canadian Confederation, the latter with its distinct provinces and with the powers of the federal and provincial governments clearly delineated. Confederation was a marriage of British Parliamentary traditions with the concept of a federation. Continue reading

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King of New York

Unknown

King of New York

Thomas O. Meehan deconstructs the Donald

President Trump represents a negative Stupor Mundi to much of the world. Paradoxically, this is not because the American press cannot understand him but because they have so much in common with him.

In fact, Donald J Trump is hardly an American at all. He is a New Yorker. Remember that every ancestor of every New Yorker got off a ship and then decided to remain dockside indefinitely. That is just as much true for Dominican illegals today as it once was for ancient Dutch families.

New York, with its Dominican, Jewish and Italian quarters etc, is much like a city of the Ottoman Empire. Each is a world in itself viewing the polis as a milch cow. New Yorkers don’t make things, they make deals. Continue reading

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Made by Bob

Made By Bob ´Çº Lunch Service-21

Made by Bob

Em Marshall-Luck relishes a treat in Cirencester

Not having visited Cirencester’s centre for many years, I was pleasantly surprise by the clean, smart place it has become, with gleaming pedestrianised areas and the parish church’s stone glowing golden – a far change from the dirty grey I recall. One of the most startling changes has taken place in the once-grotty and run-down Corn Hall, now brimming with fashionable and sophisticated shops – tempting-looking wine shops, boutique clothes shops, and the popular and highly acclaimed delicatessen and restaurant, Made by Bob. With a greyish wooden floor, grey chairs, circular and square wooden tables with metal pedestals, white-painted arched brickwork, and the matching deep blue of the banquettes, feature walls, bar, industrial pendant lamps, window frames and beams, the impression is relaxed but smart; and very trendy. Continue reading

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Primrose Day

Benjamin Disraeli, by Cornelius Jabez Hughes

Benjamin Disraeli, by Cornelius Jabez Hughes

Primrose Day

Stephen Michael MacLean, on a date with history

If Theresa May had any historical nous, she would have postponed divulging her polling intentions by one day and announced her plans the following morning, Primrose Day — once a high holiday in Conservative circles.

For April 19th is the anniversary of the death in 1881 of Benjamin Disraeli, the Victorian premier who in many ways wrote the manual for successful Tory leaders. Rumoured to be Disraeli’s favourite flower, a primrose wreath was sent to his funeral by a mourning Queen Victoria. Lord Randolph Churchill — Sir Winston’s father — never one to let an occasion pass him by, coined the phrase Primrose League to take advantage of the deceased leader’s popular appeal. For decades, Conservative party ranks were filled with thousands of loyal members from Primrose Leagues across the United Kingdom. Continue reading

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Mephisto

Liszt and Wagner

Mephisto

FRANZ LISZT: MUSICIAN, CELEBRITY, SUPERSTAR, by Oliver Hilmes, translated by Stewart Spencer, Yale University Press, 2017. Reviewed by Stoddard Martin

Where is the historian/biographer who can achieve something approaching pure objectivity? Who will try to comprehend how his subject felt in the morning, waking after a troubled dream and walking out in the dew to greet the dawn over an unfamiliar hill? Who will eschew the journalist’s longing for gossip, the ‘inside story’ of some Daily Mail-worthy scandal, and attend to the spirit as much as to the flesh? Who may endeavour to locate what Proust called ‘the intervals of the heart’ and is ready to go ‘under the skin of the other’, as Schopenhauer counselled and Wagner regarded as pivotal to revelation for his ultimate dramatic persona, Parsifal?

One longs for commentary that does not have one eye cocked toward titillation of a contemporary commercial audience. Biography as sister-genre of reality TV might appeal to commissioning editors hopeful of packaging books in more lucrative media; but for those who sit in libraries surrounded by great works of the ages, as Liszt’s daughter Cosima did for more than five decades at Wahnfried, or travel to and fro across Europe whiling away hours with equivalents to the breviaries, libretti and scores that the composer occupied himself with for even longer, a reductio ad mass taste in the provinciality of our present must seem a mortifying comedown. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, 16th April 2017

German Artillery Barrage, Ypres

German Artillery Barrage, Ypres

ENDNOTES, 16th April 2017

In this edition; Holst in the heavens: Vaughan Williams at a lake in the mountains: Richard Strauss and a miraculous sunrise – and French élan from Ibert. Reviewed by Stuart Millson

From the Chandos record label comes a recording that makes an immediate impression, a dynamic and finely-recorded “demonstration” version of Holst’s suite The Planets. Conducting the 150-strong National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the equally youthful-looking maestro, Edward Gardner, presents Holst’s astrological scenes with a vigour seldom seen in other recordings of this war-horse. Apropos the opening movement, Marsthe bringer of war – Edward Gardner’s reading of this sinister passage is like no other, the Chandos microphones picking up the ticking, tapping drum-taps at the beginning – as if some great machine is coming into view, one of H.G. Wells’s “Land Ironclads”, perhaps. Relentlessly, the young players of the NYO hammer out these chords of war, bringing a new vigour to the Mars movement. Then, they switch effortlessly to the delicate dreamscape of Venus, the bringer of peace. A soothing half-light – strings, high woodwind and a feeling resembling the opening of Debussy’s Trois Nocturnes – arises from the pure, poised and balanced NYO playing, which also achieves great distances and a slightly unsettling disappearance into nothingness in the end-movement, Neptune, the mystic. Continue reading

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