Beauty by Roger Scruton - review by Michael Tanner

Michael Tanner

The Beautiful & Damned

Beauty

By

Oxford University Press 223pp £10.99 order from our bookshop
 

This short, fast-paced and wide-ranging book begins with a list of platitudes, as Roger Scruton calls them, such as ‘Beauty pleases us’ and ‘In describing an object as beautiful, I am describing it, not me’ – the second of these is already clearly contentious – and concludes with a further instalment of his long-running commentary on the present age and its discontents, or his discontents with it, which first surfaced in Sexual Desire, his magnum opus of 1986, and was evident in Death-Devoted Heart, the book he devoted to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. With marked eccentricity, amongst much that was illuminating in the latter work, he claimed a strong element of sacrifice in the love of Tristan and Isolde, and indeed used the full Christian vocabulary of redemption, atonement, and so on, though without committing himself to the truth of Christianity.

Much the same happens in the present book, which aligns our delight in beauty with ‘the sacred’, with aspirations to becoming morally finer beings, and with a fierce rejection of most of the values of contemporary Western society as they are manifest in our abandonment to lazy and

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter