Sentimentality is poisoning our society

Reader Andrew S. was prescient in sending us a link to a Facebook group in praise of British murderer Raoul Moat, who recently left prison, shot his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, and hid from police for several days before ending his own life. “I think it’s the kind of thing that Theodore Dalrymple is very likely to write about in the near future,” said Andrew.
Well, yesterday’s Telegraph carried a Dalrymple piece linking the Moat affair to the arguments in his new book “Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality”. He always seems in top form when writing about these kinds of people, and it shows in this piece. For example, here we find another classic instance of Dalrymplian humor in the exposure of self-justification:

In justifying his “war” on the police, Mr Moat appealed to sentimentality. He described a policeman in a car waiting at a roundabout, “to bully a single mum, who probably can’t afford her car tax.” Poor single mother, who doesn’t know where babies come from, and who can afford a car but not the tax.

10 thoughts on “Sentimentality is poisoning our society

  1. Gavin

    Good article (predictably!).

    It’s always a little embarrassing when reading comments by those who obviously do not know who they’re dealing with, like the guy who suggests Dalrymple knows nothing about Freud in that thread.

    More than embarrassing, but distinctly annoying to read this idiotic article in which the person slanders TD in numerous ways, even calling him an “intellectual pygmy”:

    The author indicates his own ignorance of his adversary (and his better) by conjecturing that TD has not read any of Trotsky’s works – something I find highly unlikely.

    Well, it was on the World Socialist Site. I suppose it would be more surprising and concerning if the article was actually accurate.

  2. Conrad

    Does anybody know the name of a book that Dr. Dalrymple once recommended to all aspiring writers. The book contained concise, extremely well-written and detailed summaries of murder cases, and I believe it was from the 19th century.

    I’ve forgotten the author and book title, unfortunately.

  3. Steve

    Conrad, I believe this is what you’re referring to:

    Every so often a junior doctor would come to me and confess that he or she wanted to write. This was not in itself absurd: the number of doctor writers is, after all, legion.

    Junior doctors afflicted with literary ambition would ask my advice. I had only three pieces of advice to give: firstly, that they should continue in the hospital for a few more years, because human nature was concentrated and distilled there as if for the express purpose of training writers; secondly, that on no account should they consort with academics of the humanities departments of any university, for to do so was the primrose path to stylistic perdition; and finally, that they should read a great deal.

    “Yes, but what?” they would ask.

    “There are two books that you should study,” I would reply. “The first is A Companion to Murder by E Spencer Shew, and the second is A Second Companion to Murder by E Spencer Shew, published in 1960 and 1961 respectively.”

    This recommendation rather took my interlocutors by surprise—they had probably expected me to recommend Tolstoy or Shakespeare. But the study of the works of E Spencer Shew, who was for many years crime correspondent of the Daily Express, would be more immediately profitable, for it is a fact that, despite the lengthy subtitles of his books… Shew was a master of concision, who could convey atmosphere and character in a few exquisitely chosen words.

    The doctor writer’s handbook, BMJ, 8 September 2007

  4. Steve

    I had never seen that, Gavin. Yes, it’s pretty horrible. I don’t know for sure, but I would bet that, growing up reading his Communist father’s library, Dalrymple has read more Trotsky than this David North has.

  5. Andrew S

    Steve: thanks for reminding me about these books. I look forward to reading them if they are still available.

  6. Christine

    I got my copy of E. Spencer Shew’s Companion to Murder at Argosy in New York, and A Second Companion to Murder at MacLeod’s in Vancouver, where they may still have the first book in stock. Really wonderful stuff and the passages on Geroge Chapman and Amelia Sachs still give me nightmares.

  7. Flossie

    There are dozens of secondhand copies available on I recently purchased both volumes as a set from a bookdealer in Brooklyn. This is what the internet does best.


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