presenter who has hosted such flagshiprnprograms as Newsnight and UniversityrnChallenge. Famous for his acerbity withrnpoliticians, he now wields his cynical talentrnagainst the English, whom he admiresrnfor their tolerance, individualism,rnsense of fair play, and “cussedness,” butrnwhose illusions he seeks to examine andrnundermine.rnHis tone is part supercilious, part affectionate.rnLike his television persona, ThernEnglish is often dismissive of Englishnessrnto the point of rudeness, but there is nornreal malice in this; Parts of Paxman’srnbook may be written more for effect thanrnbecause the author means it. In onernmemorable passage, Paxman dismissesrnMorris dancing as “a clumsy pub sportrnpracticed by men in beards and shinybottomedrntrousers.” But, then, all folkrndances are naive, the “clumsy pub sports”rnof perhaps unsophisticated but decentrnpeople who dance for fun and to make anrninnocent statement about their identit)-.rnWould he have been so cutting about anrnAfrican folk dance?rnThere are also little bursts of incongruousrnenthusiasm, such as his belief thatrnone of the good things about England isrn”a higher overall standard of televisionrnthan anywhere else in the world.” But hisrnchampioning of such dismal fare couldrnbe an expression of cynical self-interest,rntoo. On immigration, Paxman waxesrngirlish: “The arrival of substantial numbersrnof immigrants from other culturesrnhas forced the English to break out ofrntheir complacency, to re-examine themselves,rnand to recognize and exult in diversit}’.”rnSuch exviltation, however, doesrnnot abound in England’s inner cities.rnPaxman nonetheless writes easily andrnamusingly, and makes many astute observahons.rnHe sums up well the advance ofrnthe service economy by saying thatrnBritain is now less Napoleon’s “une nationrnde boutiquiers” than “a nation ofrncheckout-operators.” His contrast betweenrnthe exemplary marriage of thernQueen and the Duke of Edinburgh andrnthose of their children and in-laws isrntelling, hi some respects, Paxman’s criticismsrnecho those of such conservahves asrnRoger Scruton and Peter Hitchens. Andrnhe is quite right to say that it is difficult torndefine Englishness.rnBut ultimately, Paxman is not on thernside of the Angles. His mission is to pourrnscorn upon any notion that the Englishrnmight have a common fviture, althoughrnhe is vague about what might succeedrnit—presumably some form of civic societyrnbased on reason and faux good mannersrngoverned by political correctness.rnThe mere fact, however, that Englishrnpeople may not have all that much inrncommon does not necessarily mean thatrnthey will not think and act together. Patriotismrndepends not on logic or consistenc)’rnbut on irrational affinities based onrnmyths. Paxman does not seem to comprehendrnthis; believing himself rational,rnhe acts as if all human beings are —orrnshould be —rational. He admits that,rnduring England’s last patriotic floweringrn(World War II), relatively few of thosernwho sang “There’ll always be an England,rn/ While there’s a country lane, /rnW’herever there’s a cottage small / Besiderna field of grain” as they marched to warrnwould have lived in such cottages. Yetrnslum dwellers from Preston, train guardsrnfrom Swindon, and ne’er-do-wells fromrnStepney were united by their dream ofrnEnglishness.rnRather lovely, we might think, but tornPaxman “the idea that England is a garden”rnis “not so much like a perennialrnflower as some peculiarly invasive weed.”rnTo him, the cardinal sin is “hypocrisy”rnand all relationships should be based onrnindividual choice, so such fond delusionsrnmust be extirpated with intellectualrnweedkiller. But in an often sordid world,rnwhy should such pleasant delusions notrnbe allowed to persist? They ma)’ anywa)’,rndespite the attentions of the nil admirarirnbrigade. In spite of their famed nationalrnstolidity, as portrayed in such films as InrnWhich We Serve or Brief Encounter, thernEnglish are as prone to magic as any otherrnpeople.rnThe essentially magical qualit)’ of Englandrnis recognized by Roger Scruton,rnwho—unlike Paxman —is a romantic.rnWhere Paxman demystifies, Scrutonrnseeks to remystif)’. This is a more difficultrn—and socially beneficial-task. Inrnthe circumstances, a little overstatementrnis acceptable.rnWords like “enchantment,” “mystery,”rnand “magic” recur often in England—AnrnElegy, in such lines as “The EnglishrnCrown—the mysterious corporation solernwhich is also the supreme fiction in thisrnfairy tale” and “The disquiet over immigrationrnwas the result, it seems to me, notrnof racism, but of the disruption of an oldrnexperience of home, and a loss of the enchantmentrnwhich made home a place ofrnsafet}’ and consolation.” (The latter sentimentrnattracted the epithet “offensive”rnfrom a hypersensitive Daily Telegraphrnreviewer.) Such words might seem arnmeans of avoiding precision, but the authorrnknows that he is dealing with humanrnbeings, not machines.rnSecondhand bookshops are full of therndusty—but fragrant—tomes of such patrioticrnwriters as H.J. Massingham, H.V,rnMorton, and D.H. Lawrence (and imprintsrnlike Batsford and the HomelandrnAssociation), but today, Roger Scruton isrnvirtually unique in praising England,rnFor that reason alone, he deservesrnunstinting support. Still, reading Englandrn—An Elegy is not a duty but an unmitigatedrnpleasure.rnLike Paxman, Scruton examines England’srnbinding myths —but positively,rnwith a view to comprehending what is beingrnlost. He knows that “Often it seemsrnthat we kill things by examining them.”rnOther critics examine such intangibles tornestablish that it was all a “construct” andrnthat they are intellectually superior to thernbenighted proles who believe in suchrnthings,rnScruton admits the difficulties of describingrnthe English polity: “The Englishrnenjoyed the strange privilege of knowingrnexactiy who they were, but not what theyrnwere,” Aided by Providence, which consideratelyrnplaced a moat around Englandrnand so helped avert invasion, the island,rnhe says, came to be regarded simply asrn”home” —a place of retreat and repose,rnwhere at least some Englishmen couldrnindulge their chosen eccentricities, freernfrom interference. Later, the English beganrnto think of themselves as members ofrna nation, but such abstractions were modifiedrnby Romanesque notions of the primacyrnof the homeland (rather than of thernrace), love of local landscapes, and arnfondness for homegrown customs and institutions.rnThese were generally not examinedrntoo critically, because “Things atrnhome don’t need an explanation. Theyrnare there because they are there.”rnEven the radicals who sought to overthrowrnEngland were part of a domesticrncontinuum,rna chafing away from inside whichrncreated the comfortable impressionrnthat England itself was impregnable,rnsince its quarrels were purelyrninternal. .. however furiousrnthese quarrels, the prevailing beliefrnwas that a solution could always bernfound to them, since commonrnsense and compromise were thernnorms of English politics.rn24/CHRON;CLESrnrnrn