... to all the many tens of thousands of words that have been written about the Iron Duke, the general who led the armies to victory at Waterloo, the man whose bon mots most of us can quote: the Duke of Wellington (1769 -1852).

Although there is some doubt about the exact day of his birth and the BBC prefers the old and extremely inexact information of "early in May", historians now tend to agree that it was April 29. So, let us celebrate the great man today.

Let us recall two of his memorable sayings. The first is one that every commander should have inscribed permanently on his brain:

The whole art of war consists in getting at what is on the other side of the hill.
The second is probably the first comment, supposedly made by the Duke of Wellington, that Tory Historian ever read back in the days when schools actually taught history. Looking at the post-Reform Act House of Commons, the Duke is supposed to have said:
I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life.
They have not become any better.

Tory Historian missed this anniversary by less than half an hour but it is still worth mentioning as a remarkable event in British history. One hundred years ago yesterday, April 27, 1909, a number of suffragettes chained themselves to the statues in St Stephen's Hall in the Palace of Westminster. (Hmm, those were the days when, despite the fear of Fenian outrages, access to the Palace was unrestricted.)

The documents related to the event and to the detaching of the women from the statues (Lord Falkland's spur was slightly damaged) are in the Parliamentary archives and can be seen on the website together with the transcript. Oh the joys of electronic technology.

Tory Historian walked down the Aldwych today from Bush House towards the Strand and Trafalgar Square (eat you heart out Burlington Bertie) and managed to miss the St George's Day celebrations, which was no great tragedy as Tory Historian dislikes state sponsored jollification.

The route went past the memorial to Eagle Hut, carefully photographed, that is in the wall of Bush House, just next to India House. It is a moving plaque that reminds us of an alliance and friendship sealed at a time of hardship.

This note tells us that Eagle Huts for American servicemen overseas were initiated by a General Order (#26-II-1) by U.S. Commander-in-Chief General John Pershing.

Published on 28 August 1917 it affirmed that the Y.M.C.A. would "provide for the amusement and recreation of the troops by means of its usual programme of social, physical, educational and religious services".

Perhaps the most famous of the servicemen's centres was the so-called Eagle Hut opened in London on 3 September 1917. Operated by the Y.M.C.A. the centre, staffed by some 800 voluntary personnel, offered overnight accommodation and food for American servicemen passing through London.

The centre additionally helped with arrangements for London sightseeing tours and entertainment. Turnover was heavy: in February 1919 alone 134,566 meals were served. The Eagle Hut remained open beyond the armistice, finally closing its doors on 25 August 1919.
The plaque goes further. Its text reads:
This tablet marks the site of EAGLE HUT where services to the men of American and Allied Forces testified to the friendship of the English speaking peoples.
Characteristically, the plaque is not very noticeable and few people know about it.

Do not become so obsessed with ideology as to refuse to look at data. Admittedly, this tends to happen on the left, particularly with regards to a certain noxious political system that lasted longer than Fascism and Nazism and killed far more people as well as destroying societies on a grander scale.

Tory Historian has started reading "In Denial" by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, which is subtitled "Historians, Communism and Espionage". It is a tale of refusal by American historians (and how one wishes for a similar work in Britain but our libel laws make that impossible) to accept the truth, uncovered by Messrs Haynes and Klehr together with some colleagues about American Communists, open and secret, and their activities, all aimed at undermining their own country.

At the end of the Introduction they say:

Communism as a social fact is dead. But communism as a pleasant figment of the "progressive" worldview lives on, giving a phantom life to the illusions and historical distortions that sustained the murderous and oppressive ideology, The intellectual Cold War, alas, is not over. Academic revisionists who color the history of American communis in benign hues see their teaching and writing as the preparation of a new crop of radicals for the task of overthrowing American
capitalism and its democratic constitutional order in the name of social justice and peace. Continuing to fight the Cold War in history, they intend to reverse the victory of the West and convince the next generation that the wrong side won, and to preoare the way for a new struggle.
Can we honestly say that things are different here? It is a shameful role for historians to take on.

Tory Historian is very pleased that one can celebrate on the same day the Patron Saint of England and her greatest playwright, though just as St George is the Patron Saint of many other places and entities so Shakespeare is a playwright for the whole world.

St George, a military saint, though paintings that depict him tend to show him as a very youthful, sometimes even effeminate soldier, is highly venerated in all the Orthodox Churches as well as the Anglican. Moreau's picture above happens to be one of Tory Historian's favourites.

As for Shakespeare, what can one say on this day? He is supposed to have been born on April 23, 1564 but all we know for certain is that he was baptized on April 26. Well why could he not have been born three days previously? His death is recorded definitely for April 23, 1616.

Surely one cannot end this posting without quoting some of the most famous lines from Henry V:

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry! England and Saint George!'

As it is Budget Day, I thought it would be fun to have pictures of successful Conservative Chancellors of yore. Remember when the day was not greeted with absolute terror?


So here we have Nigel Lawson presenting his 1986 budget, Geoffrey Howe working (well, no longer working, one hopes as it is the actual day) on 1981 budget and Norman Lamont about to announce in 1993 that the recession is ebbing and the figures show a slow growth. No, the growth is not predicted as some kind of pie in the sky in the future but actually present.

... since we have had a quotation from Edmund Burke on this blog and the time has come to remedy that. This is a little less well known than some others and comes from Observations on 'The Present State of the Nation', published in 1769 as a response to the Whig politician, George Grenville.

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.
How useful it would be for us all to remember that.

Let us turn away from those painful events in the Colonies as mentioned in the previous posting and look at the birthday of a great man, an economist and somebody who, to Tory Historian's amazement, became a Unitarian after he broke with his Sephardic Jewish family that had come over from Portugal via Holland.

Yes, the man is David Ricardo, one of the most influentical political economists, the man who put together the theory of comparative advantage both for individuals and countries. There are too many people who do a great deal of harm, especially to developing countries by denying or, more precisely, not understanding it.

As Wikipedia puts it, quoting an article from August 2003 in the Washington Times:

Ricardo argued that there is mutual benefit from trade (or exchange) even if one party (e.g. resource-rich country, highly-skilled artisan) is more productive in every possible area than its trading counterpart (e.g. resource-poor country, unskilled laborer), as long as each concentrates on the activities where it has relative productivity advantage.
No country, no people have ever become rich by concentrating on being self-sufficient. Trade, on the other hand ....

Ricardo, astonishingly enough, was also a successful businessman and a Member of Parliament.

Tory Historian is ambivalent about the War of American Independence. In many ways, given the ideas that were swirling around in the 13 colonies at the time and given that those involved on all sides (including the many loyalists among the colonists) were, strictly speaking, still British, it is reasonable to call the conflict the third civil war that formulated the basic political ideology of the Anglosphere.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the colonists who rose against their rightful King were rebels and many Tories in England and in the Colonies opposed them. Then again (let's not bother with any more hands) the great Earl Chatham, the Elder Pitt, proclaimed on various occasions that the American Colonists would not submit to tyranny and it would be better to come to an agreement with them.

Edmund Burke, too, supported those who proclaimed no taxation without representation (though, really, they meant no taxation tout court and who can blame them.

April 18 and 19 are important dates in that conflict. This was the night in 1775 on which Paul Revere (pictured above), a silversmith with a French Huguenot father and Bostonian mother, togeher with William Dawes famously rode from Boston to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British Army was on the move towards Concorde to seize the arms cache and to arrest the two gentlemen.

The following day saw the battle of Lexington Green or Lexington Common, agreed by all to be the first battle of the War of Independence but, truth to tell, it was something of a skirmish, with both sides claiming victory.

The ghosts of those riders and the minute-men who stood up to the regulars must be watching with some interest the present day tea-parties across the fifty rather than thirteen states.

Tory Historian, half-way through Baroness James's last novel "The Private Patient" is once again perplexed why it is impossible to like the lady's late novels. After all, she is a conservative writer (as well as a Conservative peer) and one who is a practitioner of the traditional form of detective story. She has, indeed, been in trouble for expressing views that detective stories can be written only about people who understand the difference between right and wrong. She was accused of snobbery (presumably with violence, to quote Colin Watson).

Her early books about Adam Dalgliesh (a most unlikely police officer who is also a talented poet and the son of a rector) were controlled, well-plotted and extremely likeable. The first book about Private Investigator Cordelia Gray, "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman" was, despite its slightly preposterous plot, extremely taut with excellent descriptions of Cambridge, its spoilt denizens and of Ms Gray, the dedicated PI, herself. In the second book, "The Skull Beneath the Skin" the seriously preposterous plot destroys the good qualities. Though Ms Gray is mentioned in one of the Dalgliesh mysteries casually, she has been dropped by Baroness James.

However, several of the more recent Dalgliesh books have been bad. They have all become too long and far too verbose with far too much introspection by all the police officers. Some introspection adds an extra dimension; pages and pages of it merely bore the reader.

Incidentally, only one of her police officers, Inspector Kate Miskin comes from the sort of class most coppers do, though she is actually one of the underclass who makes good. The others all seem to be upper middle class graduates with excellent knowledge of many things. A tad unlikely, Tory Historian thinks, risking accusations of snobbery without violence.

It's the plots that are the problem. From the 1986 "A Taste for Death", published after a longer than usual gap, the plots have steadily become more and more fantastical and less and less logical, achieving a kind of nadir with "Original Sin" (an unconscious re-writing of a far better novel by Nicholas Blake), "A Certain Justice" (where the original plot disappears into a memory hole to reappear in a completely incomprehensible solution) and "Death in Holy Orders" (where a young man commits suicide by pulling a great deal of earth down on himself). These were so poor that even the critics had to admit that.

The last three novels were an improvement. Let's face it, they could not get any worse. But they are still too long, too verbose and too fantastical with far too much introspection.

Ah well, at least they are wonderfully well written and at the end of "The Private Patient" Commander Adam Dalgliesh will finally tie the knot with Cambridge academic Dr Emma Lavenham. Even Lord Peter Wimsey took less time to woo and gain Harriet Vane.

For reasons that will never be explained 2009 is a year of many anniversaries for important composers. One of the greatest, George Frideric Handel, is remembered today as April 14 marks the 250th anniversary of his death.

Somehow it seems appropriate that this celebration or remembrance should happen on the day after Easter Monday for one of Handel’s greatest works is, indisputably, his oratorio, Messiah, which produces new joys on each hearing.

In 1740 Handel, having suffered and, apparently, recovered from a stroke, Handel decided to give up opera management. He had lost a great deal of money on it. Instead he turned to writing oratorios, while continuing with other pieces of music.

Messiah was performed first in Dublin in 1742 (on April 13, as it happens). In 1750 there was a special performance in aid of the Foundling Hospital of which Handel remained a patron and what we would now call a fundraiser. Patrons who came to his annual concerts paid for the privilege and the money went to the charity.

Handel’s influence on the development of music can be discussed at length, though not by Tory Historian who is not qualified to do so. But some of the responses to the date are quite interesting.

Classic FM broadcast the complete oratorio yesterday evening, together with several other pieces of music, the whole programme introduced ably by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. It was a splendidly inspiring ending to the Easter festivities.

Michael White, one of the ever proliferating Daily Telegraph bloggers has produced a clever-clever piece about why Handel is a goodish composer or maybe not and why we should stop paying attention to anniversaries. At least that is what he seems to be saying. Tory Historian finds clever dick journalist bloggers tiresome.

Both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent write about the crowds gathering near the place where the Messiah was first performed to celebrate the Handel anniversary. There is an official festival and, it seems a great deal of unofficial celebration. Perhaps Michael White should go to Dublin. Maybe not. He would curdle the milk.

But the best story, in Tory Historian’s opinion was produced by Peter Day on the BBC website. It would appear that Handel was not only a fine musician and genius as composer, he was also quite a smart financial operator, despite his lack of success with opera management. (But then, did anybody have any success with it?) Apparently, he even managed to get out of the South Sea Company well before it went bust causing a truly horrendous financial crisis, only to find his way back into the market three years later, after the Bank of England had backed the South Sea annuities. Read the whole story. It’s a lot of fun.

There is also an exhibition about Handel’s money-making abilities at the Bank of England. Tory Historian will probably visit it.

Well, some things do change. For instance, the book in Tory Historian’s hands, the 1969 edition of Dorothy L. Sayers’s highly intricate and literate plays about the life of Christ, “The Man Born To Be King” tells one that these plays were written for and performed on Children’s Hour on BBC Radio during the war.

Children’s Hour? We have nothing called that these days but we do have children’s programmes on TV if not on radio and they are unlikely to have complex plays of that kind. These days it appears on BBC 7 the somewhat controversial digital radio station, heard by very few people.

What has not changed much, though, is the media attitude. This is what Dr J. W. Welch, then Director of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC (there not being any other broadcasting in Britain in the forties) wrote in his Foreword:

By December 1941 five plays had been written, and the first, about the Nativity, we planned to broadcast on the Sunday before Christmas 1941. Ten days before the broadcast, at my request, Miss Sayers attended a Press conference, at which she read a statement outlining some of the dramatic difficulties involved in writing the plays and some of the methods she had used; she also read, at the request of a member of the Press, some excerpts from the dialogue in the plays.

Then the storm broke. Almost all the journalists who had attended the conference wrote fairly and sympathetically about the new venture; but a few used the occasion for sensational reporting, and at least one was guilty of misrepresentation. One appearance of these sensational and inaccurate reports, without having heard or read one line of any of the plays, without ever crediting Miss Sayers with any capacity for a reverent handling of such a theme … people condemned the plays as “irreverent”, “blasphemous”, “vulgar” and so on. These correspondents condemned plays they had never seen or heard, and the language applied to Our Lord by his contemporaries was, almost word for word, now applied to Miss Sayers.
Well, well, ladies and gentlemen of the media publishing ignorant articles and the public blindly reacting as if it was, to coin a phrase, gospel truth. Nothing much has changed.

The crux of the matter, it seems, was Miss Sayers’s use of modern language to tell a tale as it happened. A skilled translator and highly knowledgeable writer (though somewhat inferior as a detective story creator), she was also a devout member of the Church of England. She, therefore, knew that the accepted view of most Christian churches was that Christ was both Man and God and, as Man, he lived in a particular historical time and historical space in which people spoke in various ways but not, probably, in the cadences of the Authorized Version.

In other words, soldiers sang marching songs and gave brusque orders and shepherds were peasants. As it happens, there is much play in the Gospels with the fact that Christ and his followers came from Galilee and were, clearly, immediately recognizable by the way they spoke in Jerusalem.

Miss Sayers, as she points out in the Introduction, was following the example of the Mediaeval Mysteries, which were performed in the language of the time. (One of the best theatrical performances of the last few years in London, in Tory Historian’s opinion, was The Mysteries by the South African Dimpho Di Kopane Company. It was performed in four languages, English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, with many references to modern African history. It was also joyous, frightening and very moving. Miss Sayers would have approved.)

Reading Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” – a fascinating book but sometimes repetitive – Tory Historian came across the following rather pithy summary of what classical fascism and present-day left-wing or, as Americans call it, liberal thinking is:

As we’ve seen, ideologically fascist and progressive totalitarianism was never a mere doctrine of statism. Rather, it claimed that the state was the natural brain of the organic body politic. Statism was the route to collectivism. Government was merely the place where the spiritual will of the people would be translated into action. (Marxists liked to use the word “praxis” to describe this unity of theory and action.) One consequence of this view is that institutions and individuals that stand apart from the state or the progressive tide are inherently suspect and labelled selfish, social Darwinist, conservative or, most ironically, fascist.
We all recall the row that followed Mrs Thatcher’s alleged comment about there being no society and all know that she was badly misquoted as the rest of her explanation was drowned in the media storm. It went against the rather soppy idea of the need for an organic body politic.

The trouble is that while most people have a very vague sentimental understanding of what that entails there are many people out there who do believe in collectivism and who do see the state as “the place where the spiritual will of the people would be translated into action”. By the time they are in position of power it is almost too late. Reversing developments is considerably harder than preventing them.

The real problem, though, is the one faced by some conservatives who sometimes describe themselves as true Tories. They, too, believe in the need for an organic body politic through which the spirit of the people, however defined, must manifest itself. And the most convenient part to be designated as the brain is the state. That is why we get so many supposed conservatives or people on the right, where true liberalism resides nowadays, who see nothing wrong with a powerful state that controls everybody’s life as long as the right people are in charge.

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