Category: Correspondence

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American Shakespeare
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American Shakespeare

Shakespeare contains the cultural history of America.  From first to last, Shakespeare is the graph of evolving American values.  He early made the transatlantic crossing: It is thought that Cotton Mather was the first in America to acquire a First Folio.  Richard III was performed in New York in 1750, and in 1752 the governor...

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From Russia, With Love­—and Hate

Russian sexuality and the country’s general mores have become a topic of conversation in the United States, mostly in relation to President Trump’s alleged connections with the Kremlin and his behavior during his trip to Russia some time ago, which is the subject of the infamous “Steele Dossier.”  The British press has not ignored the...

Fighting for Their Homeland
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Fighting for Their Homeland

South Africa has rarely been out of the headlines in 2018.  In late February, the South African government voted to amend the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land from white farmers without compensation.  The vote put an international spotlight on the many problems plaguing the country. In January, President Donald Trump was reported...

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The Siege of Sweden

In an era of political correctness, “safe spaces,” and “trigger warnings” for the constitutionally feeble, there are plenty of things we are not supposed to talk about.  Increasingly in recent months, this seems to include crime and immigration in the Kingdom of Sweden.  From across the political spectrum and on both sides of the Atlantic,...

Requiem for a Remainer
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Requiem for a Remainer

It is time to ring down the curtain on the troubled rule of Theresa May.  May became Prime Minister as the result of a series of flukes, which a scriptwriter would have dismissed as too implausible to work.  She was home secretary in the Cameron Government, and cannot have entertained serious hopes beyond retaining her...

Homesick in America
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Homesick in America

“Darlin,’” she said, “I’ll get that.  Go ahead and take it.”  She was a weathered-looking woman with mousy light brown hair drawn back in a bun and the plain, honest look of one of those faces you see in Depression-era photos from the Dust Bowl, faces that don’t smile—they are just themselves, making the best...

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Mencken and After

If Noah Webster was the father of English-language spelling reform, H.L. Mencken was the strong son making good his inheritance.  Mencken’s claim was to be the father of the American language.  He named it.  As with mountains and planets, the one who names is honored with immortality, and The American Language, first published in 1919,...

The Meaning of Macron—and the “Right” in the West
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The Meaning of Macron—and the “Right” in the West

“He is on the right.”  “That party represents the right.”  These are standard expressions that are familiar today in the West, including France.  But as usual, few understand or even care about the precise meaning of the word.  Most people either hurl it as an insult, or claim it as a virtue. For example, after...

The Cottingley Fairies, and Fatima
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The Cottingley Fairies, and Fatima

Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote that the idea of an acceptable form of public entertainment underwent a rude shock in the years around World War I.  By then in his mid-50’s, he had abandoned any pretense of sympathy for modern culture.  In particular, Conan Doyle shrank from the more proscriptive plays of Henrik Ibsen, as...

Success in “Defeat”
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Success in “Defeat”

What do you do when people favor your ideas but your party is shut out of government?  That’s the dilemma faced by the far right in the Netherlands.  The Party for Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, settled for second place in the national election held in March.  Forum for Democracy (FVD), a new far-right...

Unnumbered Years
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Unnumbered Years

Ravens over North Berwick Law—could any phrase be more hyperborean?  I turned the words over lazily as I watched them 50 feet above, circling and diving on one another, flicking expert wings, commenting incessantly on their sport as they alternately dropped or upheld the thin blue vault.  Below the volcanic cone of its Law, the...

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Demolition Day

The 150th Anniversary (or Sesquicentennial) of Canadian Confederation will be celebrated on July 1.  That holiday was traditionally denominated “Dominion Day,” as Canada was officially called “the Dominion of Canada”—a term which has now fallen into disuse.  The holiday is now called Canada Day, and on nearly all state documents, the Canadian state is identified...

Getting Medieval on Middle Age
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Getting Medieval on Middle Age

I turned forty-one this year.  I left a psychological plateau (a crisis would have been way more exciting) and a legal career behind.  I suppose an alcohol-fueled bender or an illicit affair broadcast on social media would be what most “folks” (as Barack Obama says) my age might do nowadays, but I opted for sobriety...

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Scandalous Education: UT’s War on Standards

In 2003, the Supreme Court expected “that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary” in university admissions.  That was the conventional wisdom of the time.  Affirmative action was supposed to be a temporary deviation from the principle of nondiscrimination, a remedy for injustices past, a bit of accelerated...

War on Louisville—or War on Kentucky?
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War on Louisville—or War on Kentucky?

In one corner, there is Kentucky’s upbeat governor, whose attractive wife, five biological children, and four adopted children compose a family too large to fit into the traditional governor’s mansion.  New England-bred Matthew Bevin speaks out for religious freedom, promotes infrastructure on behalf of orphans in Africa and India, and has tried every trick in...

Did Populism “Lose”?
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Did Populism “Lose”?

After the Dutch election on March 15, both Dutch and international media delivered a unanimous verdict: Prime Minister Mark Rutte had “won the election.”  Rutte’s Liberal Party “won” by losing eight seats, while his coalition partner, the Labour Party, suffered an historic loss of 29 seats.  Geert Wilders, on the other hand, “lost” because his...

Sicced on Citizens
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Sicced on Citizens

Nowadays, the federal government is the closest thing many Americans have to a religion, with those employed by it regarding themselves as a priesthood.  Blind faith, if not dependency, tends to take over from observation.  But there are other likenesses: sanctimonious cardinals and government functionaries, grandiose department-cathedrals that suck up money from believer and infidel...

The Gift of Limitations
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The Gift of Limitations

When he was little, Rick Curry was the first of his friends to tie his own laces.  That may not seem like such a big deal unless you know that he was born without a right forearm.  He was brought up to believe he was completely normal. At six, Rick’s father sent him to an...

The Satan Club
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The Satan Club

At last, the Tacoma Public Schools’ board has recognized the obvious educational potential of the Prince of Darkness.  For years, this hopelessly hidebound and reactionary institution has restricted itself to providing what it calls “a welcoming, nurturing environment [to] . . . provide the knowledge and skills for students to become respectful, responsible life-long learners...

Dayton’s Holy Family
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Dayton’s Holy Family

“If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that,” President Obama declared in 2012.  But chances are you bought that, especially if you are a Midwestern entrepreneur and the product is Renaissance art.  The coastal stereotype of the Midwest as a cultural backwater is dispelled by museums in industrial towns like Detroit, Toledo, and Dayton.  Here,...

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Race Against Reason

We are living in a racially charged climate.  Problems associated with the relations between the races seem endemic to all areas of our sad and beleaguered culture.  Discussions of law enforcement are dominated by the alleged racism of police officers and whether “black lives matter.”  The ongoing debate on immigration seems centered on the alleged...

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Never and Always

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. —T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”   Precious memories, unseen angels Sent from somewhere to my soul How they linger, ever near me, As the sacred past unfolds I...

A Man for All Seasons
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A Man for All Seasons

Returning to the embrace of the Eternal City is never difficult.  Its many charms make one easily forget the minor inconveniences: the strikes, noise pollution, and general chaos.  The city’s many glories, both pagan and Christian, are always on display, easily accessible, even to the most unsophisticated of visitors. Over the past decade, my wife...

Sounds of the Sixties
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Sounds of the Sixties

To address the main question first: Yes, they really can. That’s the definitive answer to America’s burning cultural debate of the 1960’s about whether or not the Monkees could actually play their musical instruments.  Perhaps you remember the general contours of the arguments pro and con: on the one hand, that the Monkees were four...

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Blood From a Stone: Observations of a Serf

We often smile when we hear of Victorian prudery regarding sex.  A mother’s advice to her daughter before her marriage regarding conjugal relations—“Just lie back and think of England, dear”—evokes laughter.  We chuckle when we learn that our ancestors referred to chicken breasts as “white meat,” to chicken legs as “drumsticks.”  In our sexually charged...

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Speaking of “Eastern Europe”

Apart from Iceland, a European country lying far out in the North Atlantic, the east-west extremes of Europe are Ireland’s coast at 10 degrees west longitude and Russia’s Ural Mountains at 60 degrees east.  Twenty-five degrees east is the central meridian of these 70 degrees of longitude, and Poland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech...

A Manner of Speaking
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A Manner of Speaking

On a hot day in late June, looking to buy some cheap tires for an old car of mine, I pulled into a tire shop on a stretch of highway near Fort Worth.  We’d recently had a lot of rain, and the sun was glaring, seeming to draw a screen of haze off the pavement...

Gone to Pot
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Gone to Pot

It is seven o’clock on a peaceful late-summer evening here in suburban Seattle, and I’m sitting in my back garden smoking marijuana. Passively smoking, I should add, lest I shock any reader by this sorry lapse, but smoking nonetheless.  This time of year, my property is especially fragrant with the acrid smell of pot, and...

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The German Resistance

Certain actions should never be taboo in a modern Western democracy.  These include public criticism and protest of government policies, as well as presenting alternatives to those policies.  Yet in present-day Germany, citizens are slandered, censored, and persecuted by their own government and media for doing just that. In early 2013, an economist, a former...

A Sense of Place
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A Sense of Place

I was born and reared in a small Michigan town known as the home of both Gen. George Armstrong Custer and the La-Z-Boy chair company, an accident of local history most people in town do not find strange.  The juxtaposition of the annihilation of Custer’s forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn with the...

Passage of a Rite
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Passage of a Rite

This was the first time I’d gone deer hunting alone.  Granted, I had often engaged in the act of hunting by myself.  Ever since I was old enough to hunt apart from someone else, my practice had been to split up from the others after a brief initial hike.  Even though we might be separated...

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Success and Failure in Higher Education

Nelson County, Marion County, and Washington County are collectively referred to by their inhabitants as the Kentucky Holy Land, and I don’t think the expression is meant to be entirely whimsical.  Settled in the late 18th century by English Catholics from Maryland, the rolling green country is to this day marked by cattle farms, distilleries,...

Reason Cecil’s Grocery
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Reason Cecil’s Grocery

Almost two years ago my wife and I were driving home after having dinner in a Knoxville restaurant with former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and his wife.  It was the Monday night before Thanksgiving, and I decided to call my then 90-year-old Uncle Joe, a retired judge, to see if he and my aunt wanted...

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Pomp and Circumstance

The red-faced, middle-aged man with the bullhorn standing in London’s Oxford Street cut straight to the chase.  “If,” he shouted, “Oliver Cromwell had been here today and had seen us all bowing and scraping to this ridiculous old woman and her bloody kids, he would have started another civil war . . . Wake up!”...

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Germany’s Muslim Sex-Terror Disaster

Inconceivably, yet entirely predictably, the global jihad officially arrived in Germany this summer, complete with suicide bomber, ax-swinger, and howls of “Allahu Akbar!”  Inconceivable, that the ancient Islamic war against the infidels should be spilling blood in the streets of one of the world’s most advanced and progressive countries in the 21st century; and entirely...

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The Crossroads Merchants

“Standin’ at the crossroad I tried to flag a ride Didn’t nobody seem to know me everybody pass me by” —Robert Johnson I went to Charlotte in search of the New South and found it in a museum, the Levine Museum of the New South on 7th Street in Uptown Charlotte.  Like most historical museums,...

What I Saw at Yasukuni
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What I Saw at Yasukuni

By now, we should all be familiar with the antitraditionalist left’s attempt to erase all traces of opposition to the liberal world order.  Over the past decade or so, for example, the antitraditionalists have succeeded brilliantly in demolishing the understanding of marriage that has persisted in every civilized society since the dawn of recorded history. ...

Dallas in the Dock
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Dallas in the Dock

The whole world appears to have gone nuts again—for about the ten millionth time in human history—but Dallas, unaccountably, you might say, has reaped enormous respect for keeping its cool and staying sane.  You know—as sane as can be expected of any nest of right-wing, gun-toting, big-haired, president-killing yahoos. I know such news is hard...

Adventures in Education
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Adventures in Education

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher?  You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one. Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it? Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God.   Not a bad public, that. —Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons Last spring, students at Chelsea Academy performed...

An Englishman in His Near Abroad
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An Englishman in His Near Abroad

Samuel Johnson was nearly 64 when he made an unexpected journey.  One day in 1773, the internationally renowned lexicographer, essayist, poet, and novelist, who somehow combined being one of the great thinkers of Europe with being a personification of bluff Englishness, suddenly switched his great gaze north, in search of a dream of youth.  His...

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Lament for a Lost Love

Oh, England!  How have I loved thee, even though most of my forebears came from the doubtful Scots and Welsh borders, and not a few were 17th-century refugees from the turmoil of the German states.  I am old enough to remember when many, many of us regarded you as our Mother Country, despite all the...

The Efficient Destruction of Flyover Country
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The Efficient Destruction of Flyover Country

Ideologues tend to place a great value on economic laws.  I started out my undergraduate career hoping for a double major in political science and economics.  My goal was to administer a breadline and to understand why it was necessary.  I was doing very well in political philosophy and public administration, but lagging a bit...

Not That Bad: My Experience With British Public Healthcare
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Not That Bad: My Experience With British Public Healthcare

A sign hangs in the waiting room of my doctor’s office.  It advises patients how many appointments were missed in the previous month and how many work hours this cost the staff.  The practice has no recourse against patients who fail to turn up.  There was no cost for the appointment in the first place. ...

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Britain in the Mediterranean

A visit to Cyprus helps to dispel the myth that the British Empire died of natural causes half a century ago.  It did nothing of the sort.  The empire rebranded itself as the Commonwealth of Nations, and carried on much as before.  The Commonwealth countries—53 in all, including two, Rwanda and Mozambique, that were never...

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Student and Teacher Benefits

It’s nine o’clock on Tuesday.  First into the classroom today are my Advanced Placement European History students.  I begin the class, as I always do, with a prayer, and then deliver a lecture on such Enlightenment luminaries as Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot.  (Given the irreligious beliefs of these figures, the irony of prayer is not...

“Pity Poor Bradford”
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“Pity Poor Bradford”

Bolling Hall has squatted on its plot since the 14th century, hunched against the wind and rain of the West Riding—a North Country architectural essay in dark yellow sandstone looking warily down a steep hillside onto Bradford’s Vale.  Old though the building is, the estate’s foundations go deeper than Domesday, when Conqueror companion-in-arms Ilbert de...

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Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, I took a walk.  It’s the first day of spring, and the sky is china blue, decorated with small cotton-like puffs of clouds.  Flowers are blooming, and the ducks at the pond have laid their eggs.  The beaver are back—I can tell by the trees they have gnawed down near the pond,...

Sizing Up the Feline Uproar
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Sizing Up the Feline Uproar

We all have our perspectives.  In London recently, I found that many of the locals had stayed up until the early hours of a wet Monday morning to watch Super Bowl 50 on television, and judging from the T-shirts being paraded around town there seems to be a particular groundswell of support among British youth...

Living With the Iconoclasts
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Living With the Iconoclasts

New Orleans has a complicated past, a reality made evident in a politically manufactured controversy that has been building since last July.  Our mayor, a term-limited white Democrat and the flickering end of a political dynasty, asked the city council to consider removing four prominent monuments shortly after the murders of black members of a...

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Sharia, Not Shakespeare

When Allardyce Nicholl, then professor of English at Birmingham University, founded the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1951, he intended from the beginning that it should have an international flavor.  When I was a student there in the late 50’s, there were always some international students in residence—Indians, Yugoslavs, a Greek, and a number of...