Full-bearded enlightenment

Wisdom resides in beards

Dalrymple is transfixed by the beard of Robert Sapolsky. He writes:

A man with a beard such as this must be very wise, a bit like Tolstoy or Darwin or Ruskin or Khomeini or Castro.

The Santa Claus of neuroscience: Robert Sapolsky


Not a page too long

Dalrymple writes that Joseph Frank’s five-volume, 2,400-page biography of Fyodor Dostoyevsky

is not a page too long: not merely because Dostoyevsky was a great writer (there are many great writers about whom one would not wish to read a five-volume biography), but because an understanding of 19th-century Russia, with whose problems Dostoyevsky wrestled so perceptively and prophetically, as well as wrongheadedly and idiosyncratically, is vital to an understanding of the modern world. Indeed, once you have grasped the role of the intelligentsia in late Tsarist Russia, much of what seems at first sight opaque in the modern world becomes a great deal clearer.

Postcards from Stafford

Dalrymple writes that Stafford, the county town of Staffordshire in the English Midlands, is

one of the many English market towns that used to be beautiful. A few years of bureaucratic town planning have destroyed centuries of harmonious construction. Nicolae Ceaușescu could hardly have done worse.

New library

Old library

Staffordshire County Asylum

Corbyn is cause for alarm

A damned fool — and dangerous

Dalrymple points out that the populist-Leftist leader of the opposition in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, is

an admirer of the Hugo Chávez school of solution to poverty and social problems.

Corbyn’s thought,

if such it can be called, is stuck in a primitive, almost pre-Bastiat stage.

This lifelong Castro devotee thinks that

expropriation and redistribution according to his view of what is right is the route to justice and prosperity. One might have hoped that the world had had sufficient experience of such notions to extinguish them from the human mind forever, but foolishness springs eternal.

In order to appeal

to the sentimentality of the electorate and to the xenophobic resentment of rich foreigners who can afford to speculate in London property, Corbyn is prepared to destroy his country’s reputation for probity and predictability in its laws of private property, a reputation that can be destroyed in a week but not restored in a decade, and which is vital to its prospects.


is dazzled by his virtuous vision, his mirage or hallucination of social justice.

There is, says Dalrymple,

no totalitarian as dangerous as he who does not realise he is one.

A dental biography of the Caudillo

Dalrymple gets his fangs into a biography of Francisco Franco in which he learns the effect the Generalísimo’s continual dental problems—he suffered greatly from toothache—had upon his temper and hence upon his decisions.

Dr. Theodore on Prof. Dr. med. Theodor

Der Reichsspritzenmeister

Dalrymple reminds us that Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, Theodor Morell,

kept a secret diary in which he recorded his master’s manifold symptoms and his unconventional treatment of them.

Morell, Dalrymple points out, was known sarcastically as the Chief Reich Injection Officer or the Reich Master of Injections. His methods are thought by many

to have hastened Hitler’s physical deterioration. Once in US captivity, Morell himself claimed to have applied such treatment precisely for that end; but then he would, wouldn’t he?

How Mobutu bared his teeth against the rotten imperialists

Prophet of ‘national authenticity’

One man who was keenly aware of the political advantages to be derived from assumption of victimhood was Mobutu Sese Seko, Dalrymple reminds us. In order, Dalrymple explains,

to overcome the effects of a colonial past, and in the name of authenticity, Mobutu decreed that all Zaïrian citizens abandon their European names — to which they had been accustomed since birth — and take on African ones. Likewise, no one was henceforth to wear a collar and tie; instead Mobutu had designed a national costume, which he imposed. In this way, he made himself all-important.


when he had a toothache, he commandeered a jet aircraft of the national airline and flew to Paris for dental treatment.

Leading by example: Mobutu models his abacost (‘à bas le costume’) menswear designs

Jet aircraft of the type commandeered by Mobutu for visits to the dentist

An all-round bad egg

Dalrymple writes that John Donald Merrett, when a young man, shot his mother dead and forged her cheques. He lived to kill another day: his wife and mother-in-law, more than a quarter of a century later. He made a living as a smuggler and swindler.

The mental disease of happiness

Leafing through a medical journal, Dalrymple comes across a satirical paper by Thomas Szasz to the effect that happiness should be regarded as a mental disease insofar as

  1. it is rare
  2. it is unjustified
  3. the person suffering from it is out of touch with reality

The moral and intellectual idiocy of Jeremy Corbyn

England faces another civil war

Dalrymple points out that the next British government might easily be formed by an admirer of Hugo Chávez, on the occasion of whose death Jeremy Corbyn stated: ‘Thanks Hugo for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world.’

Anyone who considers a man like Chávez worthy of admiration will not, says Dalrymple,

be alarmed—rather, the reverse—by any gulf in society that his ignorant economic policies will produce, a gulf far exceeding any within living memory.


his most fervent support comes from people so wedded to their own Original Virtue that they feel they are properly the arbiters of what may and may not be said and are therefore justified in resorting to violence to enforce their prohibitions.

Dalrymple warns:

One of the problems of this, apart from its sheer moral and intellectual idiocy, is that it will eventually call forth equal and opposite violence.