He may be overstating the case: If the Puritansrndid not do as much damage as theyrnmight have done, it was not for want ofrntrying.rnBut such sallies are made consciously;rnScruton is perfectly aware of the chasmrnbetween principle and practice. For example,rneen in the midst of rhapsodizingrnabout Anglicanism —”robed choir boysrnsang in procession, leading the RevrnVaughan-Wilkes to the altar in his flowingrnchasuble like cherubs drawing somernairborne god” —he acknowledges that, asrnearly as 1851, only half of English peoplernregularly attended Anglican services, decliningrnto 2 5 percent in some urban districts.rnPerhaps most important among England’srncustoms and institutions is therncommon law, which, Scruton savs, wasrn”understood from the beginning to bernthe law of the land. That is, it belonged tornEngland, and not to any resident.” Hernbelieves it was the real or perceived protectionrnoffered by the common law thatrnallowed individualism, one of the salientrnEnglish characteristics, to flourish. Hernalso ideuhfies the central importance ofrnclubs and societies to the English, andrnthe relative unimportance of the state untilrnvery recent times—a useful reminderrnof the essential!)’ revolutionar’ nature ofrnthe welfare state and of state education.rnWith unremitting enthusiasm, he goesrnon to deal with everv possible aspect ofrnEngland — religion, government, class,rnschools, the countryside, the weather, thern”Square Mile,” imperial measurements,rnmoney, countr) houses, and so on, in arnpanoply of poetically expressed andrnphilosophically comprehended Englishrnimages. But his book is also an autobiography,rnsince Scruton believes that hisrngeneration (he was born in 1944) was thernlast to know the real England. Within hisrnautobiography, there is an unforgettablernportrait of his father, an old socialistrnwhose outlook was less that of Tony Blairrnthan of such patriotic communalists asrnWilliam Cobbett, William Morris, orrnRichard Jefferies, who believed that patriotismrnwas best expressed by taking care ofrnthe common people—a viewpoint eminentlyrnEnglish in its combination of romancernand pragmatism.rnEngland—An Elegy needs to be readrnby everyone who wishes to understandrnEngland. But it has one serious failing:rnAs the book’s title makes plain, it is arnlament for the dead, while the Englishrnreally need a call to arms. Scruton claimsrnthat he wants “to praise the dead and torncheer the survivors”; I believe that hernsucceeds superlatively in the first objective,rnbut fails in the second. Like toornmany conservatives, he revels in pessimismrnand an overweening love of lostrncauses—the more lost, the more strongh’rncleaved to. His poignant exposition mayrnhave the unfortunate effect of demoralizingrnsome who share his aspirations butrnhave not yet given up. Frankly, even ifrnEngland is finished, conservative-mindedrnpeople ought to act as if it were not.rnStanding and dying around a reveredrncorpse is fine and noble, but how muchrnmore sensible and English to fight to preserverna living thing!rnYet perhaps, as Scruton says in his preface,rn”understanding is a way to keep whatrnwe value, when all other means have vanished.”rnPerhaps his wistful evocationrnmay actually encourage less articulate patriotsrnto fight more assiduously, becausernthey will have a clearer idea of what theyrnare fighting for.rnTHE WALL buy your wayrnto the top STREET JOURNAL.rn ‘ l r . U NNXII! btreKNeT kiaaiKt.: htt|i://«^.eonirn-40/^*^”rnKnowledge, insights, inspiration, news, information, ideas, tecliniques and strategies… for only 570 a day.rnTo subscribe now, call 1-800-207-8800rnTo subscribe by mail:rn• Please send me: 13 weeks for 57« a day ($36,75)rnor lock in my savings and send me:rnD 25weeksfor 55e a day ($71.00)rnn 52 weeks for 580 a day ($149.50)rnn Check enclosed (make payable to The Wall Street Journal.)rnn Bill mernNamernAddressrnCityrn. State . . Z i p .rnCharge to:rnn VISArnn DiscoverrnCard No,rnn MasterCardrnD Diners ClubrnD American ExpressrnExp. DaternMail coupon to: The Wall Street Journalrn228 East 45th StreetrnNew York, NY 10017rnSignature _rnOffer good for a limited time and only in tfie continental U.S.rn©1999 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rigtits Reserved,rnMAY 2 0 0 1 / 2 5rnrnrn