Wednesday 28 February 2018

Shameless speech and the conservative disadvantage

                                                                      A pundit

There is a sort of Darwinian selection in punditry and indeed academia: those who are too shy or self conscious or simply aware of the strawfulness of their speech will select themselves out of the struggle for publicity, whilst those who lack this basic sense of shame will proclaim their latest thoughts with abandon.

Shame at one's own inadequacies is perhaps only one of a cluster of selective disadvantages that gather around the area of public speech. I remember, for example, thinking while in the middle of a period of postgraduate study that an academic apprenticeship was rather like accustoming oneself to gavage: learning to suppress the natural gag reflex in the face of amounts, or detail or type of work was essential to achieving the academic perspective. Certainly, entry into politics seems to require some highly abnormal personality traits.

But why should conservatives (and I mean by this as normal in this blog the sort of Burkean/Kirkian conservative rather than an adherent of one of the Conservative political machines such as the GOP or indeed the Conservative Party) suffer particularly from this? In politics, the conservative emphasis on the 'little platoons' means that any attempt to articulate their importance in party politics requires individuals to devote all their energies to a field which, ex hypothesi, they think of little importance. A religious sense, a sense which I grow more and more convinced is essential to conservative thought, pushes one to regard the natural end of human life as only of secondary importance to the supernatural end. Moreover the pursuit of personal virtue forces one to confront the shabbiness of one's own contributions sub specie aeterna. Simply a sense of politeness is a grave disadvantage in much contemporary public life.

The thought that conservative values (or perhaps simply civilised values) are selecting themselves out of the market of ideas is one that regularly strikes me. But here are two recent occasions which prompted such reflection. The first was Jordan Peterson's interview with Cathy Newman. Although I thought Newman came off particularly badly in this interview, I don't think Peterson came out of it well either. More precisely, Peterson himself in the interview seemed to endorse the aggressive contest of ideas that the interview itself embodied: whatever else Newman and Peterson disagreed on, they seemed to agree on the fact that disagreeableness (aka 'assertiveness') was a key feature of modern intellectual and social success. This is probably true as a description of modern Western society. It is certainly not  true of all societies (I found myself contrasting Confucian ideas of the junzi with the video while watching it) and not even of our own not so very long ago ('the gentleman').

The other occasion was in this account of the conductor Carlos Kleiber:

In a 2012 documentary, Traces To Nowhere (also the title of the second episode of the first series of Twin Peaks, Lynch fans), it’s revealed by his sister Veronika that Kleiber’s “bedside book” was the Zhuangzi, an ancient text written by Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou. He was particularly consumed by one phrase: “Leave no trace,” or, to quote the line in full, “The Perfect man leaves no traces of his conduct.” In the same film, German mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender says he gave her a book, probably written by an Indian guru (he’d intentionally ripped off the cover), throughout which he’d underlined many passages, including: “We all know the fearsome emptiness lurking behind the way we live. Convictions give life the content we desire. Work becomes an indispensable drug. For its sake we accept all the depravations and disadvantages, and every illusion is welcome.”

The causality behind the current Western attraction to shameless speech is probably complex. Certainly capitalism with its tendency to convert all goods to the salable, democracy with its emphasis on contest and debate, and social media with the person as a brand are all involved in the mix somewhere. The fact that we do in fact live thus is no reason to believe that in the long term at least we have to and no reason that we should. But certainly, while we do live in such an eristic society, those who are committed to living otherwise will tend to find that they have excluded themselves from contributing to a debate that might be the only way to change it.

Saturday 24 February 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Second Sunday of Lent (Year B)

First reading
Genesis 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

[A paraphrase.]

But wan day puir auld Abie wis real shattered. He appeared tae see a vision fae heaven, an it telt him tae sacrifice wee Isaac jist tae please the Lord.

Abie wis greetin sair. Nanetheless he wanted tae obey his Almighty Faither.

The next mornin Abie and wee Isaac set aff for the nearest mountain armed wi sticks for a fire.

Nearin the tap o the hill, the wee yin pipes up, 'Faither, we hiv the kindlin sticks for the fire, but we've nae lamb tae sacrifice.'

Abie said nuthin, but built a wee cairn o stanes an laid oan the sticks. Wi tears streamin doon his cheeks he picked up the lad, tied him oan the pile, an raised his knife ower the wee tremblin body.

Suddenly a voice boomed oot fae Heaven. 'Abraham -naw dinny herm the boy. Ah ken noo that ye trust me. Turn roon an ye'll find a ram wi its horns stuck in a bush. Pit it oan the fire.'

Abie drapped his gully pronto an hugged his laddie like there wis nae tomorrow.

God spoke oot again. 'Abraham -ah tell ye, ye'll no regret this day. Ye didny haud back yer son fae me. Ah'll bless yer faimily an yer descendants till the end o time.'

[From the paraphrase in A Glasgow Bible Jamie Stuart (1997), St Andrew Press, ISBN: 0 7152 0749 0, Amazon UK here, Amazon US here.]

Gospel reading
Mark 9: 2-10

Ande eftir sex dais Jesus tuke Petir, and James, and Johnne, and led thame be thame self alaan into ane hie hill; ande he was transfigurit before thame. And his clathis war made ful schynyng, and quhyte as snaw; quhilk maner quhite clathis a fullare (or walcare) may nocht mak on erde. And Helie with Moyses apperit to thame: and thai spak with Jesu. And Petir ansuerd and said to Jesus, "Maistir, it is gude vs to be here and mak we here thre tabernacilis; aan to thee, aan to Moyses, and aan to Helie." For he wist nocht quhat he sulde say; for thai war agast be drede. And thar was a cloude made ouerschaddowing thame and a voce com out of the cloude, and said, "This is my maast dereworthe sonn: here ye him." And anon thai beheld about, and saw na maire ony man, bot Jesus aanly with thame.

And quhen thai com doun fra the hill, he comandit thame that thai suld nocht tell to ony man
tha thingis that thai had sene, bot quhen mannis sonn has risen agane fra deid. And thai held the word at thame self, seking quhat this suld be, quhen he had risen agane fra deid.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Saturday 17 February 2018

Mass readings in Scots: First Sunday of Lent (Year B)

First reading
Genesis 9: 8-15

God answered Noah, "Aye, ma son, ye're free tae leave the Ark, an tae take yer loved wans wi ye. I gie ye ma blessin. An mair, I gie ye this promise - never again will I send floods tae destroy aw can coont oan that. Aye, an furthermair, I'll gie ye a sign tae mind ye - whenever ye cast yer eyes tae the heavens above an see a bonny rainbow, jist you think oan me.

[Paraphrase from A Glasgow Bible Jamie Stuart (1997), St Andrew Press, ISBN: 0 7152 0749 0, Amazon UK here, Amazon US here.]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 24 (25): 4-6,7b-9 (resp. v. 10)

Aw the weys o the Laird is mercy an guid faith 
for thaim that hauds his agreement an his witness.

Mak yer staps clear tae me, O Laird;
gie me knawledge o yer ways.
Be ma guide an dominie in the richt wey;
for ye ar the God o ma salvation;

Aw the weys o the Laird is mercy an guid faith 
for thaim that hauds his agreement an his witness.

O Laird, mynd yer peety an yer mercies;
for thay hae been frae the earliest times.
Lat yer myndin o me be fou o mercy, O Laird,
acause o yer richtousness.

Aw the weys o the Laird is mercy an guid faith 
for thaim that hauds his agreement an his witness.

Guid an upricht is the Laird: 
sae he will be the dominie o sinners in the wey.
He will be an upricht guide tae the puir in speerit:
he will mak his wey clear tae thaim.

Aw the weys o the Laird is mercy an guid faith 
for thaim that hauds his agreement an his witness.

[From Psalm 25 in The Old Testament in Scots, vol. 3, The Books of Wisdom, [Job, Psaums, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sang o Sangs] trans. Gavin Falconer and Ross G. Arthur (2014) (translation into Plain Scots under the auspices of the Ullans Academy) ISBN 978-1-78324-006-7. Amazon US here. Amazon UK here.]

Second reading
I Peter 3: 18-22

Myn, Christ suffert for wir ill-deeins, eence an for aa. A gweed livin chiel deit for e ill-deein fowk tae fess hiz aa tae God. His body wis deen awa wi, bit he cam tae life again in e Speerit. It wis in e Speerit at he gaed an preacht tae them fa's sowls were i the jile. They hid refeesed tae dee fit they were telt in e days o Noah, the days fan God wyted for e biggin o the airk, fan sae fyow fowk - jist aucht- were savit fae e watters. Iss watter stans for baptism an throw it ye're noo fessen tae safety. Baptism's nae the waasin awa o e dirt o e warl, it means e capacity tae face God wi a clear conscience. It saves ye throw e resurrection o Jesus Christ, fa his gotten in tae hivven an is at God's richt han, wi aa the angels, aathorities an pooers deein his bidden.

[From The Doric New Testament (2012), rendered in Doric by Gordon M. Hay, published by G. M. Hay, Longside, ISBN 978-0-9573515-0-9, author's website, Amazon UK here, Amazon US here.]

Mark 1: 12-15

And noo the Spirit leads [Jesus] oot intil the muirlands. And he was i’ the muirlands forty days, tempit o’ Sautan; and he was wi' the wild beasts; and the Angels waitit on him.

And eftir John was deliver’t up, Jesus cam intil Galilee, giean oot the Blythe-Message o’ God; and sayin, “The waitin-time is by-past, and the Kingdom o’ God has come; turn ye, and lippen the

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Ash Wednesday

First reading
Joel 2:12-18

The Lord sais thir thingis:
Be ye conuertit to me in al your hart
in fasting, and weping, and wailing.
And kerue ye your hartis, and nocht your claathis,
and be ye conuertit to our Lord God;
for he is benigne and merciful,
padent and of mekile mercy,
and abidand (or forgevand) on malice.
Quha wate gif God be conuertit, and foigeue,
and lefe blessing eftir him,
sacrifice and moist sacrifice
to our Lord God?
Sing ye with trumpet in Sion,
halow ye fasting,
and call ye cumpany.
Gader ye togiddir the pepile,
halow ye the kirk,
gader ye togiddir aldmen,
gader ye togiddir litil childir,
and souking the breestis;
a spouse ga out of his bed,
and a spouses of hir chalmir.
Preestis, the mynistris of the Lord,
sal wepe betuix the porche and the altare,
and sal say,
'Lord, spare thou, spare thi pepile;
and geue thou nocht thin heretage into confusioun,
that nationnis be lordis of thame.
Quhy say thai amang pepilis,
"Quhare is the God of thame?" '
The Lord luvit jalouslie his land,
and sparit his pepile.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1905) vol 3 here]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 50: 3-6, 12-14, 17

Misere mei Deus

Haif mercy on me, God of mycht,
Of mercy Lord and King:
For thy mercy is set full rycht
Abufe all eirdlie thing.
Thairfoir I cry baith day and nycht,
And with my hart sall sing:
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Haif mercy on me, O gude Lord,
Efter thy greit mercie: 
My sinfull lyfe dois me remord,
Quhilk sair hes greuit thé:
Bot thy greit grace hes me restord,
Throuch Christ to libertie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Et secundum multitudinem.

Gude Lord I knaw my wickitnes,
Contrair to thy command;
Rebelland ay with cruelnes,
And led me in ane band
To Sathan, quha is mercyles,
Zit, Lord, heir me cryand.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Quhat tung can tell the multitude,
Lord, of thy greit mercie.
Sen sinnaris hes thy Celsitude
Resistit cruellie.
Zit na sinnar will thow seclude.
That this will cry to thé,
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Amplius laua me. 

Thow wusche me Lord quhen I was borne,
From all my wickitnes; 
Bot zit I did, throw sin, forlorne
Of heuin the rychteousnes.
Wesche me againe, and from thy home
Deliuer me in stres:
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
And fra my sin thow mak me clene,
As thow maid Dauid King:
With Peter, Paull, and Magdalene,
Quha now dois with the Regne 
In heuinlie Joy, fair and amene;
And I sail with thame sing.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Quoniam iniquitatem.

Full weill I knaw my wickitnes,
And Sin contrarious:
Blasphemit lies thy gentilnes,
With sin maist dangerous,
And hes me led in heuynes,
Zit, O God, maist gracious,
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
I grant my sinfull lyfe did use.
In Sensualitie;
Zit thow gude Lord will nane refuse
That will cum vnto thé.
Heirfoir I scharply me accuse,
Cryand for thy mercie:
   To thy mercie with thé will I go.

Tibi soli peccaui.

Onlie to thé I did offend
And mekle euill lies done;
Throw quhilk, appeirandlie defence
To me is nane bone:
Thus men will Juge, thy Just vengeance
Hes put me fra thy throne:
Zit to thy mercy with thé will I go.
Thocht thow, gude Lord, be Jugeit thus,
Full fals and wrangouslie :
O God, sa gude and gracious,
Lat thair Jugeing vencust be,
And schaw thy mercy plenteous,
Quhilk mot vs Justifie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

[Ecce enim in iniquitatibus]

Consauit in to sin I am,
My wickitnes thocht thow behald,
Quhilk I contractit of Adame,
Sinnand rycht mony fald:
My Mother als did eik the same,
And I to sin was sald.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Bot zit the Lord omnipotent.
My cairfull case did cure;
At Font quhen I was impotent,
Fragile, vaine, vylde, and pure.
Than helpit me that King Potent,
In my misauenture.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Ecce enim veritatem.

Behald thow luififis treuth, gude Lord,
Thow art the veritie :
This weill thy promeis can record,
Quhair thow dois it schaw to me,
The hid things of thy godly word,
That war vnsure to me.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Thow hecht to Abraham anone
Isack his eldest Sone :
Thow promeist als that Salomone,
Suld bruke King Dauidis throne.
To sinnaris als that callis the one,
Grace cumis from abone.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Asperges me.

With Isope Lord thow strinkill me,
And than I sall be clene
And clenar than maid sall I be,
Than euer snaw hes bene,
Zit of my clenes thy mercy
The rute is euer sene.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
This Isope is humilitie,
Rycht law in till assence;
The snaw sa quhyte in all degre,
Betakinis Innocence.
For and thir twa do gouerne me,
I sall do nane offence.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Auditui meo dabis.

Than Ioy and Myrth thow sail me geue,
Thy mercy quhen I heir:
My banis law thow sail releue,
And be my scheild and speir :
Thy sword also rycht soir sall greue,
My Ennemeis with feir.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
My hope and traist hes bene to lang
In mennis fals supplie,
Quhairfoir I grant, I haif done wrang,
Nocht hopeand help of thé.
Bot now with steidfast Faith I gang,
Unto thy Maiestie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Auerte faciem tuam.

Fra my Sinnis aduert thy face,
My wickitnes expell :
Sen I haif hopit in thy grace,
Thow saue me from the hell,
Thy mercy is set in sicker place,
Na sinnar can repell.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
The theif that hang on the rycht hand,
And sufferit with the deide:
In the last hour thy mercy fand
For sin the haill remeid :
Siclyke, gude Lord, heir me cryand.
And help me in my neid.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Cor mundum.

Thow creat in me, O God, ane hart
Baith clene and Innocent;
And lat me nocht from thé depart,
My God Omnipotent.
Sen vnto thé I schaw my smart, 
Rycht pure and indigent :
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Renew me with thy haly Spreit,
To help my febilnes: 
My teiris sall my cheikis weit,
For my greit sinfulnes.
Bot thow, gude Lord, my confort sweit,
Expell my wickitnes.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Ne proiicias me.

O gude Lord, cast me nocht away
From thy perfite presence:
Sen that I grant my sinnis ay,
Hes done thé greit offence.
And I sail pryse baith nycht and day,
Thy greit magnificence.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Tak nocht fra 'me thy godlie Spreit
In my aduersitie:
For till my Saull it is full sweit,
Quhen sin besettis me.
And thow sall mak my Saull full meit,
Unto thy Maiestie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Redde mihi.

Gif me the blyithnes and the blis
Of my sweit Sauiour:
For throw his bitter deide I mis
Of hell the dyntis dour.
And, in this mortall lyfe, he is
My Strang defence and tour.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Conforme thy Spreit, maist principall,
In to me throw thy grace:
For sin rycht lang held me in thrall,
And put me from thy face.
Zit vnto the my Lord I call,
In to my heuie case.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Docebo iniquos.

Then I sail teiche the wickit men.
Thy wayis Iust and rycht:
And thay that did the lang misken.
Sall knaw the God of Mycht.
Quhen thay sail ryse furth of the den,
Of sin, and cum to lycht.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
The sinfull than to thé reuart,
Sall in to gudlie haist;
And rew thair sinnis with thair hart,
And thair auld lyfe detest,
And to thame, Lord, thow sall conuart,
Quhen thay thy mercy taist;
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Libera me.

Deliuer me from blude schedding,
For blude betakinnis Sin: 
For punischement I serue conding,
Zit efter thé I rin :
Grant me that I may with thé Regne,
And at thy port get in.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Than sall my tung thy rychteousnes
Extoll, and Magnifie:
Quhen gaine is my greit sinfulnes,
And greit Iniquitie.
God for thy grace and gentilnes,
Grant me thy greit mercy.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

[Domine labia mea.]

My lippis Lord than louse thow sall,
Quhilk closit lang haif bene:
From thy louing sair bound in thrall,
Brekand thy sweit biddene,
And keip me from ane suddand fall,
For greit paine I sustene.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
And than my mouth sall do furth schaw
Thy louing glorious;
And I sall cause all sinnaris knaw
Thy mycht sa meruellous.
And fra thyne furth sail keip thy Law
Quhilk is sa precious.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Quoniam si voluisses.

Gif thé had plesit sacrifice
I suld thame offerit thé.
Bot thow will nocht sic auarice,
For thow art wounder fré,
And geuis vs thy benefitis,
Throw Christis blude frelie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Brint Sacrifice is na delyte
Unto thy Maiestie :
Thow curis nocht of it ane myte,
For sin to satisfie :
For onlie Christ did mak vs quyte
Of all Innormitie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Sacrificium Deo.

Ane Sacrifice to thé plesand 
Is ane sweit humill hart.
Unto the quhilk, I understand,
Thow dois thé haill conuert.
Thairfoir, gude Lord, lat thy command,
Na way fra mé depart.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Ane contryte hart do not dispyse,
God, for thy greit mercy:
Sen for thy grace, sa oft, it cryis,
For succour and supplie.
And it sall thank ane thousand syse.
Thy godly Maiestie.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Benigne fac Domine.

To Syone, Lord, be gude againe,
Efter thy godly will:
And lat thy louing thair remaine,
Thy promeis to fulfill.
For Mont Syone, with greit disdane,
In thrall is hiddertill.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Jerusalem did get ane fall,
Hir wallis war maid full law :
For scho miskennit the God of all,
And daylie brak his law :
Bot thow sall put hir out of thrall,
Quhen scho hir God dois knaw.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

Tunc acceptabis.

Than Sacrifice thow sall accept,
Of treuth and rychteounes:
Conforming to thy trew precept,
And to thy gentilnes.
For na man than sall thow except.
In to thair neid and stres.
  To thy mercy with thé will I go.
Than Calfis and brint Sacrifice
Thy Aulter sall repleit.
Than greitar gloir and benefice,
Thow sail mak for vs meit,
Quhair day and nycht we sail not ceas
Ay singand Sanctus sweit.
   To thy mercy with thé will I go.

[Complete paraphrase from The Gude and Godlie Ballatis [1567] John Wedderburn et al., Alexander Ferrier (ed.) (1897) pp.119-129  here]

Second reading
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Sae we ar Christ's ambassadors, an we speak wi the voice o God whan we caa tae men, "I the name o Christ, we beseek ye, be reconciled wi God." Him at wis sinless God made tae be sin for us, at we micht in him become the richteousness o God. As pairtners in God's wark, we prig wi ye no tae lat the grace ye hae gotten o him nae effeck. Hear his ain wurd:

          'I the walcome hour o acceppance
              I tentit thy cry;
           on the day o salvâtion
              I cam tae thy help.'

Nou, nou I tell ye, is the walcome hour o acceppance, nou is the day o salvâtion!

[From The New Testament in Scots (2012), translated by W. L. Lorimer, Canongate Classics, ISBN 978 0 85786 285 3, Amazon UK here, Amazon US here.

Gospel reading
Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Tak' tent that ye dinna your aumis afore men, to be seen o’ them; itherwaise ye hae nae reward o’ your Father wha is in heaven. Therefore whan thou doest thine aumis, dinna toot a trumpet afore thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues an’ in the throwgangs, that they may hae glory o’ men. Verily I say unto you, They hae their reward. But whan thou doest thine aumis, letna thy left han’ ken what thy richt han’ doeth: that thine aumis may be in secret; an’ thy Father wha seeth in secret, himsel sall reward thee openly.

An’ whan thou prayest, thou salltna be as the hypocrites are; for they loe to pray stan’in’ in the synagogues an’ in the neuks o’ the throwgangs, that they may be seen o’ men. Verily I say unto you, they hae their reward. But thou, whan thou prayest, gae intil thy closet, an’ whan thou hast steeket thy door, pray til thy Father wha is in secret; an’ thy Father, wha seeth in secret, sall reward thee openly.

Mairowrere whan ye fast, binna as the hypocrites, o’ a dowie leuk, for they disfigure their faces that they may kythe until men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they hae their reward. But then, whan thou fastest, aneynt thy head, an’ wash thy face: that thou dinna kythe until men to fast, but until thy Father wha is in secret; an’ thy Father, wha seeth in secret, sall reward thee openly.

[From The Gospel of St. Matthew, Translated Into Lowland Scotch, by George Henderson (1862) here]

Saturday 10 February 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Sixth Sunday of the Year (Year B)

Gospel reading
Mark 1: 40-45

And a leprouse man com to him, and besoucht and knelit, and said, "Gif thou will, thou may clenge me." And Jesus had mercy on him, and straucht out his hand, and tuichet him, and said, "I will; be thou made cleen." And quhen he had said this, anon the lepire partit away fra him, and he was clenget. Ande Jesus thretnyt him, and put him out; and said to him, "Se thou say to na man; bot ga, schaw thee to the princis of preestis, and offir for thi clengeing into witnessing to thame tha thingis that Moyses bad." And he yede out, and begann to preche and publisit the word, sa that now he mycht nocht opinlie ga into the citee, bot be without in desert places; and thai com to him on all sides.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Old fashioned values: Richmal Crompton as the surburban Burke

Whilst trying to wind up Twitter by praising the wisdom of the suffragists rather than the violence of the  suffragettes, I came across an interesting essay on Richmal Crompton (a suffragist):

This repetition [in her books] not only reveals the way in which a busy writer recycles her material. It also suggests that we should see Crompton's work as the expression of a consistent set of values. But what, in the end, are those values? For Owen Dudley Edwards, the Just William stories show Crompton as a Tory radical: a scourge of the establishment, an anti-snob. This is, however, only partially true. Crompton was certainly a Tory. A member of the Conservative Party from 1920 onwards, she described herself as 'true-blue'. She was also a shrewd critic of social convention and of the petty snobbery of English life. Her wiser characters are always those who come to realise 'that there is no vulgarity in an aspidistra, but there is a world of vulgarity in the conventional sneer at it'. Many of her stories likewise conclude with the recognition that 'There's only one vulgarity...and that's pretending to be something you aren't.' Nonetheless, Crompton's books as a whole reveal a rather more pessimistic sort of Conservatism than Dudley Edwards has discerned. It is not just that she had a very limited belief in the possibility of human progress -although she did, describing the passage of time as rather like a roundabout, with people going up and down but never really moving forward. Nor is it simply that she had a bleak view of the capacity of people to understand one another -although again, her description of humans as 'A set of children playing blind man's buff', unable truly to comprehend themselves or each other, suggests that this was a central aspect of her worldview. More importantly, Crompton's views on class and on human nature bear little resemblance to the crusade for 'fairness, and the consequent destruction of privilege' that Dudley Edwards sees in the wartime fiction.


This analysis, combining confidence in social stability with pessimism about the fundamental nature of humanity, is, of course, a classically High Tory one. It is also a High Anglican -indeed Augustinian- notion, and it comes as little surprise to learn that Crompton was an Anglo-Catholic...No one is entirely pure, no one is entirely good; indeed, 'unselfish people are sometimes much more selfish than selfish people'...True wisdom and real change, in Crompton's books, come acceptance of God and his providence: his capacity to rectify the worst effects of human sin. Human efforts on their own will always fail...

[Her work] reveals a Conservative who was unthreatened by modernity. But this optimism was always tempered: first, by a rejection of social and political reform, and secondly by a highly pessimistic view of human nature.

[From here: Whyte, William (2011) 'Richmal Crompton and Conservative Fiction' in Griffiths, C. V. J, Nott, J.J & Whyte. W. (eds)  (2011) Classes, Cultures, and Politics, Oxford, OUP.]

This passage sent a lot of hares running in my mind: both personal (how much have I personally been affected by a childhood immersed in her books?) and political.  Sticking with the political, why is this humane, conservative view almost entirely unavailable to modern youth? I don't mean by that just the unfashionableness of her work (and I find it hard to judge how much such a claim would be true: certainly less fashionable than when I was young, but forgotten? I hope not) but rather the unavailability of such ideas as a current, half articulated worldview. Even when I was reading them, we were beginning that long, futile trek through the sixties into the modern progressive era, where humour, resignation, God and a realistic sense of possibility have been lost in favour of strident self assertion in the service of consumerism. And thus I don't think I noticed these conservative ideas: not until much later in my life when reading first Scruton, then Burke and finally Kirk, did I recognise the outline of a philosophically coherent, but culturally very, very unfashionable worldview. That's a pity, because at the least, such an Augustinian conservatism is at the very least a useful corrective to modern progressivism, and possible even just simply true.

I can hear my internal -and doubtless external- critic muttering at this point that such a politics is all very well if your position in life is quite comfortable, rather less so if you're at the bottom of the self-satisfied heap. Possibly. But (at least) three things in response. First, a personal response. My father grew up at the very bottom of the heap that Crompton describes in the sort of grinding industrial poverty that wouldn't be seen now outside the developing world (and the effects -and stories- of that world filled my childhood). Of course, that's not a philosophical answer, but is is an admission that I find assertions that only those who have never experienced wretchedness would find such a worldview plausible rather irritating when they come from those whose bloodlines trickle back to the Norman Conquest. Secondly, a realistic sense of what might be possible is essential when trying to doing something about genuine harms: tilting at a thousand and one imagined or minor harms is a good way of avoiding concentrating on what might really and imperfectly be done to remedy serious wretchedness in our society. Finally, Augustinian pessimism is primarily about valuing what really matters: there is no final solution to the problems of the earthly city, and the key thing is that such problems as there are do not get in the way of the pursuit of the heavenly city, either by distracting us by their constant noise, or by simply replacing that supernatural goal. And it is because of that final possibility that secularism destroys the possibility of a good political order: by ignoring the reality of a transcendent, supernatural order, it replaces the real possibility of achieving happiness with a constant, churning, unfulfillable desire for earthly perfection. (Which is why, demonstrably, as proved by SCIENCE, all secularists are in strict medical terms and by dint of ignoring realities nuts.)

Saturday 3 February 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Fifth Sunday of the Year (Year B)

First reading:
Job 7:1-4, 6-7

[An Job made repone an said:]
Haesna man his ordert time o tribble on the yird?
An isna his days like the days o a servand wirkin for peyment?
As a servand seekin the shades o forenicht,
an a warkman leukin for his peyment:
Sae A hae for ma heirskip months o pyne tae nae ettle,
an nichts o tire is gien me.
Whan A gang tae ma bed, A say:
Whan will it be time tae git up?
But the nicht is lang,
an A am turnin frae side tae side till forenuin licht.
Ma days gangs quicker nor the claith-wirker's threid,
an comes tae an end 'ithoot howp.
O, mynd that ma life is wind: my ee will niver again see guid.

[From The Old Testament in Scots, vol. 3, The Books of Wisdom, [Job, Psaums, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sang o Sangs] trans. Gavin Falconer and Ross G. Arthur (2014) (translation into Plain Scots under the auspices of the Ullans Academy) ISBN 978-1-78324-006-7. Amazon US here. Amazon UK here.]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 146 1-6

Ruise the Laird;
for it is guid tae mak melody tae oor God;
ruise is pleasin an bonny.

The Laird bigs up Jerusalem;
he gars aw the ootlins o Israel com thegither.
He maks the broke-hertit weel
an slairs ile on thair wounds.
He sees the nummer o the starns;
he gies thaim aw their names.

Great is oor Laird, an great his pouer;
his wit is boondless.
The Laird gies help tae the puir in speerit;
but he sends sinners doun in shame.

[From Psalm 147 in The Old Testament in Scots, vol. 3, The Books of Wisdom, [Job, Psaums, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sang o Sangs] trans. Gavin Falconer and Ross G. Arthur (2014) (translation into Plain Scots under the auspices of the Ullans Academy) ISBN 978-1-78324-006-7. Amazon US here. Amazon UK here.]

Second reading:
1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23

For gif I preche the euangele, glorie is nocht to me, for on need I mon do it; for wa to me, gif I preche nocht the gospele (or euangele). Bot gif I do this thing wilfully, I haue meed; bot gif aganis my will, dispending is betakin to me. Quhat than is my mede? Gif I precheand the gospele, put the gospele without vtheris coost, that I vse nocht my powere in the gospele.

For quhy quhen I was fre of almen, I made me servand of almen to wynn the ma men. I am made seek to seekmen, to wynn seekmen; to almen I am made althingis, to mak almen saaf. Bot
I do althingis for the euangele, that I be made part-takare of it.
[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1903) vol 2 here]

Gospel reading:
Mark 1:29-39

An the' left tha Meetin Hoose rael quïck, an the' went alang wi Jeames an Jhone til tha hoose whar Simon an Andra leeved. Noo Simon's ma-ïn-laa wus doon wi a faivir, an as shuin as Jesus cum ïn, the' toul hïm aboot hir. Sae he gaed til hir bedside, tuk hir han an puud hir up. Strecht awa she coolt doon an she stairtit tae sarve an luk eftèr thaim.

An that evenin, whan tha sin haed set, the' brocht til hïm aa tha seeck, an aa tha yins wi demons. Tha hale toon wus gethert at tha dure. An Jesus cured a quare lock o seeck fowk o thair monie ailments, an he driv oot a brave wheen o demons. But he wudnae let tha demons spake oot, fer the' kent wha he wus.

Wile earlie tha nixt moarnin, whan ït wus still dairk, Jesus got up an left tha hoose, an went awa tae a place what he cud be on hïs ain, fer tae pray. An Simon an tha yins wi hïm went oot tae luk fer him. Whaniver the' fun hïm, the' saed tae hïm, "Iverie yin's lukkin fer ye!" An Jesus cam bak wi, "Cum on an we'll gang awa frae here tae tha toons roon aboot! A hae tae praich thair as weel, fer that's what A cum here fer tae dae." Sae he trevelt aa roon aboot Galilee, praichin ïn thair Meetin Hooses, an drivin oot demons.

[From Tha Fower Gospels  (2016) (Ulster-Scots), Ullans Press, ISBN: 978-1-905281-25-1, Amazon UK here,  Amazon US here.) ]