Category Archives: Essays

Killing Time with Agatha Christie

The November edition of New Criterion features the good doctor’s essay on the most famous of all mystery writers and one of her more mediocre books.

I am a great admirer of Mrs. Christie. I enjoy her irony, and she sometimes reveals herself to be an acute psychologist. Quite apart from the pleasure she gives, reading her is not entirely a waste of time. She conveys to the reader the impression of enjoying the human comedy without bitterness or rancor, and thereby acts as an antidote to our resentment of the imperfections of the world and existence.

The Common Currency of Contempt

In his latest Quadrant essay, Theodore Dalrymple ruminates on following the news closely, the bad-temperedness and nastiness of modern political discourse, and the authorship of Shakespeare’s works.

In America, where the future of the West is played out, people of differing political standpoints can nowadays hardly bear to be together in the same room. Each thinks the other (there being only two possible standpoints) not merely mistaken but wicked or evil. Luckily, in my French redoubt, I have been able to avert my mind from this, the other and much more serious global warming, that of heating temper.

Everyone’s an Expert

The skeptical doctor provides his latest take on the Wuhan plague in his weekly Takimag column.

One of the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic has been to reveal to a very large percentage of the population the joys of instant expertise. The world now has hundreds of millions, if not several billions, of epidemiologists, virologists, and clinicians, all of whom know best how to deal with the pandemic. The only problem is that their solutions are at variance with one another.

French Mayor Axes Christmas Tree

The anti-Catholic rhetoric of the French Revolution lives on with the obnoxious, Jacobinesque mayor of Bordeaux as our favorite doctor informs us over at City Journal.

Even the faintest connotation of Christianity is reprehended. The Mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, who belongs to the party of ecologists, has decided that, this year at least, the city will not erect the traditional Christmas tree—which he calls “a dead fir”—in its main square. No doubt this is to avoid cruelty to trees.

The Sordid Tale of Tariq Ramadan

Theodore Dalrymple chronicles the disgraceful downfall of Tariq Ramadan, the Islamist grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The accusations against Ramadan did a signal service in revealing him to be a hypocrite of the most grotesque and repellent kind, and should have destroyed his reputation once and for all. The gulf between his preaching and his practice was too yawning to be ignored. But thanks to the manner in which he has been treated by the French criminal justice system, he has a chance to rehabilitate himself as a victim in the eyes of the gullible—martyrised because of his race and religion.

Pandemics Past

The good doctor comes across a 19th-century book on pandemics in his library while visiting England over at Takimag.

The lesson, however, is that the doctors who treated their cholera patients in the way Dr. Hawkins describes were not stupid or wicked men, and yet they believed both absurdities and that they were doing good. Indeed, they were convinced of it: Their experience, they said, proved it to them. Dr. Hawkins quotes one of them to the effect that no patient survived without his treatment, but many did survive with it.

The Two Eisgrubers

The politically-correct patsy who is president of Princeton University is called to account by the American Secretary of Education in this week’s Takimag column.

Surely, again, any reasonably sophisticated person would have understood (decoded, to use a word beloved of certain kinds of academics whose subject is always qualified by the word studies) what the words repeated by the fictional Dr. Eisgruber meant: They meant one of two things, or possibly a little of both. They meant “Look at how good the real Dr. Eisgruber is, how broad-minded, how generous-spirited, how truly egalitarian”; or in the alternative, as lawyers put it, “If I say these things, will you leave me alone to get on with my prosperous, comfortable, and privileged life without interference?”

Engaged by the Wicked

The English writer Brian Masters is the subject of Theodore Dalrymple’s October essay over at New English Review.

Brian Masters subsequently went to a grammar school, that is to say a school that selected its children on the basis of intelligence and scholastic aptitude. It was the making of him, as it had been that of my own father, also born in East London in conditions that we should now consider deeply impoverished. As far as educational standards were concerned, no allowances were made for the poverty of the pupils (as children at school were then still called): Masters was expected to learn in precisely the same way as more favourably-placed children, and discipline was strong if not always just. He thrived academically as a result.

Mali Memories

In the October issue of New Criterion, our favorite doctor reminisces about his travels through Africa after chatting with a Malian man on a Parisian park bench.

Boboland and Africa do not mix, notwithstanding a geographical separation of not more than twenty yards and Boboland’s probable ideological adherence to multiculturalism. Practically no bobo ventures into Africa, and no African ventures into Boboland. There is no enforcement of this separation, of course. In fact, there was more mixing in Johannesburg under apartheid than here.