Sir Roger Scruton has died. Diagnosed with cancer last summer, he passed away peacefully on Sunday surrounded by his family.
There will be a lot of things written and said in the coming days. But perhaps I could say a few things here.
The first is to reiterate something that the Scruton family have said in their announcement of his death. There they refer to how proud they are of Roger and of all his achievements. I think I can say that all Roger’s friends share that feeling. His achievements were remarkable. He was a man who appeared to know about absolutely everything, producing books on architecture, philosophy, beauty, music, religion and much more. In many ways – as his former student Rabbi Sacks once said to me – he seemed bigger than the age. There appeared to be no area he had not mastered. In the mid-2000s we were at a dinner party at the house of our late friend Shusha Guppy with a group of eminent writers and journalists, all with egos of their own. I remember one of them asking Roger whether he would think about doing an updated version of his book ‘The West and the Rest’. With characteristic and by no means feigned humility he replied that he didn’t think so because he didn’t think his Farsi was any longer up to it. How beautiful it was to see every other writer in the room look as though they might just give up there and then.
Doubtless there will be some talk in the coming days of ‘controversy’. Some score-settling may even go on. So it is worth stressing that on the big questions of his time Roger Scruton was right. During the Cold War, he faced an academic and cultural establishment that was either neutral or actively anti-Western on the big question of the day.