Michael Burleigh

Voice of Wisdom

The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope


Atlantic Books 232pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

Last month’s election had a weird feel to it, perhaps accentuated by the effects of the Icelandic ash cloud on air traffic. One might have savoured the relative absence of ambient noise, had not another kind more than made up for it. Experts in body language, competition between politicians’ wives, Simon Schama pontificating from a BBC boat, choice reduced to electronic worms worn on the wrist: there was a sort of incessant chatter about everything except what might reasonably concern the inhabitants of this country, who doubtless find Hogarth’s riotous eighteenth-century hustings scenes quaintly amusing. How we have progressed since then! With something like relief we can turn from modern media spectacle to Roger Scruton’s new book, since he can always be relied upon to tackle the biggest canvas in works that have depth rather than length. This is no exception.

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