A patient of Dalrymple’s

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From fresco cycle, Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua. Giotto, c. 1305

She was, writes Dalrymple,

a working-class woman of dignified mien. Her brother died in a submarine sunk during the war, and her sister-in-law was killed in an air raid, leaving her the task of bringing up their orphaned child. Her husband had died comparatively young, and her first son had died of a heart attack at 42. (‘He had just finished a game of football, doctor, and was in the changing rooms. He fell on the floor, and his mates thought he had slipped, and they told him to stop messing about. He just looked up at them—smiled—and he was gone.’)

The bitterest blow

was the death of another son, killed in an accident in which a truck, carelessly driven, crushed his car. He was 50. She brought me his photo, her hand trembling slightly as she gave it to me. He was a businessman who had devoted his spare time to raising money for the Children’s Hospital. ‘It doesn’t seem right, somehow,’ she said, ‘that he should have gone before me.’ Did she still cry? ‘Yes, doctor, but only when I’m on my own. It’s not right, is it, to let anyone see you. After all, life has to go on.’

Could anyone, says Dalrymple,

have doubted either the depth of her feeling or of her character? Could any decent person fail to have been moved by the self-mastery she had achieved, the foundation of her strength?

Yet such fortitude

is the virtue that the acolytes of the hug-and-confess culture wish to extirpate from the British national character as obsolete, in favour of a banal, self-pitying, witless, and shallow emotional incontinence.

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