From the archives

From the archive: the nature of Japan

From ‘The rule of taste’, Anthony Thwaite, 6 March 1959: The society of aristocrats, connoisseurs, wise men and heroes which was the Japan of Yeats’s imagination did exist. It was capable of moments which combine, in the true spirit of Zen, extraordinary aesthetic perception with what looks like plain flippancy. This is revealed, for example,

From the archive: With the Benedictines

From 18 October 1946: Their whole aim and object is to exemplify in their lives and corporate activity their sense of participation in the mystical Body of Christ; and they believe that prayer in common and, above all, the maintenance of a spirit of prayerfulness throughout the day brings them nearer to it than the

And end to decent dying

From 22 March 1986: They used to say that war is the ruin of serious soldiering. Too much disorder, too many accidents. So it could be said of the bubonic plague: it spoilt dying completely. There was so much to fear. Not merely a sudden, unexplained and incurable form of disease, since brevity of life

Objects of desire

‘Homosexuality without the cant’, by Simon Raven, 14 June 1968: ‘All virile societies,’ writes Mary McCarthy à propos the Florentines, ‘see boys as objects of desire.’ And there you have it in one. Men will find younger men physically pleasing, not because of some terrible occurrence years ago in the woodshed, but because young males,

Mr Pooter goes to Europe

By Leo McKinstry, The Spectator, 17 August 2002: The modern MEP is a titan of tedium, a figure whose every action spreads ennui through our civic life. Only a hardline bore would want to handle the pettifogging bureaucratic activities of the European parliament, and only a true bore could possibly think that the pontificating and

A coalowner on coal

From 16 June 1866: Mr Stanley Jevons, Mr Mill, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are all agreed that there is imminent danger of exhausting the British store of coal, are almost willing to legislate upon that annoying datum… The philosopher may of course argue that it is all a question of time, that the coal must

Koo detat

From 16 October 1982: Prince Andrew’s Caribbean holiday with Miss Koo Stark (following, perhaps prompted by, months of all-male company in the Falklands) has reassured the nation that its royal family is ‘normal’.The Prince’s conduct is hallowed by tradition. Indeed, the difficulty is in finding a single heterosexual prince… who confined himself to the woman

A paradise of postcards

From The Spectator, 15 July 1922:   It is true that things so small as postcards cannot give one the splendour and glory of a great statue or a great canvas; but, all the same, their smallness is one of their virtues. A man fond of such things, riding across the Syrian Desert, on the camel

A poll of the people

The Need For A Poll Of The People, 2 August 1919: ‘It is not to be wondered at that during the anxious public discussions about nationalisation, proposals should have been made that the great issue should be decided by means of a Referendum or, as we prefer to call it, a Poll of the People.

A way with words

From ‘Low talk’ by John Daniel, 19 July 1963: Everybody has heard of Dr Johnson’s dictionary, which is now not much more than a curiosity piece, while few know Grose’s dictionary, which provides a unique anthology of 18th-century underworld slang… He collected words he remembered from his reading and his night-time excursions about Drury Lane

An absurd craze

From ‘Keeping fat’ by Geoffrey Wheatcroft, 7 October 1978: The running craze is a symptom of our deplorable age, in particular of our obsession with health, slimness, fitness and, above all, longevity. Jogging is not only undignified but absurd. It is a confession that people feel that they lead displeasingly unhealthy lives, but are not

How to fight Bolshevism

From 10 May 1919: The heart of the country is always for moderation. Nothing could show this more plainly than the recent by-elections. It was felt that the Prime Minister had been given too clean a sheet of paper to write his policy on, and that it would be good for him to feel that

Backing Mrs Thatcher

From ‘Be brave’, 28 April 1979: We can think of a number of reasons why voters might feel reluctant to vote for Mrs Thatcher. But this reluctance should be set aside. We must be brave. Only time can tell whether the Tories possess the necessary qualities of resolution and ability which are needed to deal

Israel and the UN

From ‘Israel’s Candidature’, The Spectator, 22 April 1949: Israel’s application for UN membership received a chillier reception than had been expected. There was a widespread feeling more needs to be known about Israel’s intentions on certain points before the final seal is given to her international position. Does she propose to do anything about the

Supreme but not respected

From ‘The disconsideration of the House of Commons’, 5 April 1919: The House of Commons is legally supreme in the land; it has eaten up and destroyed all competitors and become the sole depository of political power under the Constitution; and yet, instead of earning the respect which one might imagine would belong to such

Dangerous liaison

From ‘She was a child and I was a child’ by Kingsley Amis, 6 November 1959: The only success of the book is the portrait of Lolita herself. I have rarely seen the external ambience of a character so marvellously realised, and yet there is seldom more than necessary for the undertone of sensuality… She

On political tribalism

From The Spectator, No. 152, 24 July 1711: There cannot a greater judgment befall a country than such a dreadful spirit of vision that rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers to one another, than if they were actually two different nations… A furious party-spirit, when it rages in its

A model president

From The Spectator, 4 January 1919: President Wilson arrived in London on Thursday week, and was greeted with full expression of the heartiest goodwill. The welcome began at Dover; and when the visitors drove through the streets of London, they passed through a heavy barrage of cheering, which was renewed when the President appeared with

The Spectator’s original verdict

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë,  reviewed 18 December 1847 An attempt to give novelty and interest to fiction, by resorting to those singular ‘characters’ that used to exist everywhere… the incidents and persons are too coarse and disagreeable to be attractive, the very best being improbable, with a moral taint about them, and the villainy

Trial and punishment

From ‘The Kaiser’, 16 November 1918: What is to be done with the Kaiser? For the question must certainly be answered. If we may venture to judge the feelings of our countrymen, we should say that, though there is no trace of a vindictive hostility towards any of the Germans who may seriously be trying