REVIEWSrnSimple Pleasuresrnbv Derek TurnerrnPeter Simple’s Centuryrnby Michael WhartonrnLondon: Claridge Press;rnl68pp.,£l2.9SrnFrom 1957 to 1990, Michael Wharton,rnunder the pen name of “PeterrnSimple,” was partly or solely responsiblernfor writing the Daily Telegraph’s famousrn”Way of the World” column. Now wellrninto his 80’s, he continues to write in thernsame paper under the name of Marrat’srnhero, though Telegraph readers are rationedrnto just one column every Friday.rn(The “Way of the World” still appears,rnbut is now written by Auberon Waugh.)rnOver the decades, “Peter Simple” hasrnbecome synonymous with unfashionablernopinions of all kinds. He has become anrninstitution in his own right, one of thernfew permanent features in a newspaperrnwhich has undergone many changes inrnrecent decades. During all of this turmoil,rnWharton has kept alive a beacon ofrnvisceral, romantic, traditional Toryismrnver much at odds with the bloodless andrnvulgar liberalism espoused by MargaretrnThatcher and her drones. His columnrnhas certainly been one of the major reasonsrnwhy many of the paper’s traditionalrnreaders stayed with it during its variousrntransitions. From the white Rhodesiansrnand the Serbs to )6rg Haider, Whartonrnhas consistently spoken out on behalf ofrnlost causes and demonized right-wingersrn(usually one and the same thing), usingrnhis vibrant imagination and his keenrnsense of the absurd to subvert the idioticrnbut powerful notions of the establishment.rnThe fact that his column is oftenrnhumorous and always witt}’ goes a longrnway to explain why it was not quietlyrndropped as an anachronistic embarrassmentrnduring one of the paper’s spasmodicrnattempts to “modernise.”rnWharton’s conceits are legion; somernare even legendary. He has invented andrnmaintained a whole rogue’s gallery ofrnleftist characters —all of them only toornrecognizable. There is Mrs. Dutt-Pauker,rna rich communist from Hampstead,rnwho lives in a house called Marxmount,rnfull of mementos from the “good oldrndays” of “Uncle Joe” and LavrenH Beria.rnThere is Anglican cleric Dr. Spaceley-rnTrellis, the “go-ahead Bishop of Bevindon,”rnwho expresses himself in fashionablernpost-Christian inanities. There isrnDr. Heinz Kiosk, a sociologist and chiefrnpsychiatric adsisor to the “Meringue,rnEclair and Profiterole Authorit),” whosernnotional lectures always end with thernshouted statement, “We are all guilty!”rnThere is Pippa Banshee, the literary critic,rnwith her didactic strictures against didacticism.rnOf course, Wharton has arngreat deal of raw material to draw on forrnthese caricatures, but few could manipulaternthe material so proficiently, and fewrnhave such keen insight into the underlyingrntrends. His fiendish inventiveness extendsrnto at least hvo fictional colleges —rnNerdley and Stretchford uniersitiesrn(whose faculties include distinginshedrnVisiting Professors of Road Rage Studies,rnFat Cat Studies, Non-Smoking Studies,rnand Alcopop Studies) —and an (as yet)rnsilent British “etiinic minorit)'”: the longrepressedrn.ztec communih’, “estimatesrnof whose numbers range from three torn45,000.” Famously, he also invented thernphrase “race relations industry,” andrncame up with the idea of Rentacrowd,rnthe “mammoth consortium which suppliesrnhowling mobs for all occasions,”rnmanufacturing semi-automatic demonstratorsrnin their factor}’ “on the North CircularrnRoad.” He may well have anticipatedrnthe next move of the “anti-racist”rncrusaders by speaking of the “prejudometer,”rnthe “handy little instrument” that,rnpointed at someone, reads off his level ofrnracism in “prejudons, the internationallyrnrecognized scientific unit of racial prejudice.”rnHis jocular item about how thernCampaign for Racial Fquality mightrnseek to vanqiush racism in space {blackrnholes and “brown dwarfs” arc particulariyrnat risk) predated the recent row about thernnaming of a U.S. satellite after CungarnDin.rnAs a slight counterbalance to his fundamentallyrnunappealing, if extremelyrnamusing, leftist caricatures, he has createdrnseveral more attractive characters, likernLt. Gen. Sir Frederick “Tiger” Nidgettrn(Retd.) of the Royal Army TailoringrnCorps (whose brusque manner of speakingrnis modeled on tiiat of Montgomery’);rn”Redshank” the naturalist; and the “grimvisaged”rnAlderman Foodbotham of Bradford,rnwho, with his iron watchchain andrnpowerful ‘oice, exemplifies a civic.rnNorthern, and English confidence thatrnhas now all but vanished. He has alsornbrought into ethereal being a journalrncalled the Feudal Times and ReactionaryrnHerald, whose sonorous editorializingrn(on South Africa’s planned nev- constitution)rnhas an immenselv calming effect:rnCitizenship, democracy, equalit)’ ofrnrace and sex, rights and freedoms —rnwe cannot but aver that these wellwornrnterms, so familiar in thernmouths of levellers and foamingrnradicals of ever)’kind, carr}’ little orrnno meaning when taken singly,rnand amount, when taken together,rnto nothing more than an horrificrnchimera . . . this whole phantasmagoria,rnin which so many falsernhopes have been invested, rests onrnthe fatal principle of arithmeticalrndemocracy, universal suffrage, “onernman one vote” or by whatever otherrnterm this obfuscator’ principlernma be described.rnAnother pleasing conceit is his occasionalrndescription of his column as a sortrnof actiial nation, a metaphvsical “space”rnwhere his perfect social order —of contented,rnruddy-cheeked veonicn, Augustanrnprince archbishops, great nobles, andrnenthusiastic tribal levies, living in a mysteriousrnand half-wild country almostrnwithout technology —can wax even asrnthe outside world wanes.rnWharton has adopted several Luddites,rnlocalists, and patriots as columnarrnheroes, such as a marvelous hidian ladyrnwho has campaigned against a dambuildingrnscheme in her home state;rnWittgenstein; and Colonel Sibthrope,rn’lory MP for Lincoln for some 40 yearsrnuntil 1855, described fondly by Wliartonrnas “a man after my own heart, a landownerrnof the old school, xenophobe, enemyrnof any and every kind of change fromrnrailways to public libraries, and to hisrncontemporaries a comic figure who wasrncontinually lampooned in Punch andrnlaughed at whenever he spoke in thernCommons, which was often and at greatrnlength.” Elsewhere, Wharton has describedrnhis views as being those of a “Toryrnanarchist” and a “universal nationalist,”rnwhose principal complaint againstrn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn