Category Archives: Eliot, T.S.

Postcards from Bradford

Caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt

Dalrymple writes that not since he lived and worked in South Africa

have I seen a city as racially segregated as Bradford.

There is no law to separate the races,

but stone walls do not a ghetto make.

An outpost of Islam

It is possible

in one part of Bradford to conclude that it is a typical northern British city, dominated almost completely by a white working class, and in another (reached by driving along a single major road that bisects the city) that it is an outpost of Islam, whose people have changed their hemisphere of residence, but not their culture or way of life.

Females excluded from this gathering

Rotten grandeur

Dalrymple explains that the city

reached an acme of prosperity in the second half of the 19th century, before its success evaporated, leaving behind a legacy of municipal pride and magnificence, of splendid public buildings in the Gothic and renaissance-revival styles. (It was on the head of a Bradford millionaire that Eliot sarcastically stuck a silk hat in The Waste Land.)

Even many of the terraced working-class homes

are elegantly and expensively faced in stone, so that large areas of the city resemble nothing so much as Bath with textile mills added.

Hanover Square

One part of Bradford, Hanover Square,

is a small masterpiece of Victorian town architecture: it was long the residence of Margaret McMillan, who some 90 years ago founded the British nursery-school movement and agitated for improvements in working-class education.

The streets of Bradford: strictly men only

Women prohibited from this march

Nowadays, Dalrymple notes,

there is not a white face to be seen in the square, nor that of any woman. It is strictly men only on the street, dressed as for the North-West Frontier (apart, incongruously, from their sneakers).

A group of them

perpetually mills around outside the house that functions as a madrassah.

‘Buckshot’ Forster, who represented Bradford in the House of Commons between 1861 and 1886, was among other things Gladstone’s chief secretary for Ireland

The Victoria Monument is today spoiled by the hideous modern building in the background

The W.E. Forster statue is today spoiled by a monstrosity of a shopping centre

The days when doctors were doctors and patients were patients

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.47.45Dalrymple explains that in T.S. Eliot’s The Family Reunion (1939), Warburton

is an old-fashioned family doctor whose authority has little to do with his medical efficacy, indeed is inversely proportional to it.

Warburton is able

to order a formidable dowager duchess around like a servant. His threat to decline to treat her further is enough to bring her into line.

In Dalrymple’s copy of The Family Reunion

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.51.22I happened to find an inscription offering the book as a Christmas gift to a well-known physician who was not universally loved and who was irreverently known to his juniors by the description of the stools of some of his patients with coeliac disease, namely Pale, Bulky, and Offensive.

The signatory of the note was

another physician who, in March 1938, was a co-signatory of the letter in the British Medical Journal calling attention to the plight of Jewish and other doctors after the Anschluss.

The letter ended with the words:

We beg our colleagues in all countries to watch the progress of events with the closest attention and to do all in their power, whether by public protest or by public or private assistance, to stand by any members of our profession who may suffer hardship under the new regime.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.38.26Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.39.47

The English Perón

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Always on the lookout for new worlds to ruin

A merciless enemy of liberty

The British repeatedly elect, writes Dalrymple,

nonentities distinguished only for their ambition and relentless pursuit of office. Mediocrity and ambition often combine with vast self-regard.

An example is Tony Blair. In the US it is not appreciated

how ferocious and inveterate an enemy of freedom Mr Blair is. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about him is that he doesn’t know it: he thinks of himself as a guardian of freedom, perhaps the greatest such guardian.

It would be almost correct to call Blair

a fascist, were it not for the fact that he is unaware of it.

Blair’s emphasis on youth as the source of all wisdom and strength

is reminiscent of Mussolini.

His notion of the Third Way

has fascistic overtones, and reminds one of Juan Perón.

Blair is

always on the lookout, not for new worlds to conquer, but for new worlds to poke his nose into and to ruin, or ruin further.

In Britain once, most people

had an idea of virtue that was intensely focused on their individual conduct, irrespective of whether they were rich or poor. People did not believe that poverty excused very much. One of the destructive consequences of the spread of sociological modes of thought is that it has transferred the notion of virtue from individuals to social structures, and in so doing has made personal striving for virtue (as against happiness) not merely unnecessary but ridiculous and even bad, insofar as it diverted attention from the real task at hand, that of creating the perfect society: the society so perfect, as T.S. Eliot put it, that no one will have to be good. It is that kind of society in which Mr Blair believes.