Recent links of note:

“Roger Scruton: a year in which much was lost – but more gained”
Roger Scruton, The Spectator

Readers may wonder what transpired, finally, of the horrifying treatment Sir Roger Scruton received from the political-outrage conglomerate last year, leading to his temporary dismissal from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission and much more. What gentler balm for our curiosity than a testimony, from the man himself, to the effect that the most strident events besetting a life often prove least useful in appraising it? See his latest column in The Spectator, a month-by-month review of his past year, for a more nuanced and human portrait of the man than his detractors would have you lay eyes on.

“Making Shakespeare Sing”
Matthew Aucoin, The New York Review of Books

When one thinks of Shakespeare, one may think first of his language. But many of the words that our culture remembers best, we remember in large part because of their placement in dramatic soliloquies and monologues. (“To be or not to be”; “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war”; etc.) Writing for The New York Review of Books, Matthew Aucoin points out that, rather than transmitting some predetermined laundry list of ideas, such an impressionable Shakespearean solo becomes a “locus of change, of self-interrogation and epiphany.” Which made his plays a difficult fit for the voice-first, plot-second bel canto conventions of nineteenth-century Italian opera—at least, until Verdi came onto the scene. Occasioned by the Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibition on two of the composer’s finest productions, Otello and Falstaff, Aucoin’s review dilates on the formal difficulties of adapting linguistic brilliance to operatic song and, more important, the magisterial touch by which Verdi turned such impediments to his advantage.

“Notre Dame enters a new and high-risk phase in its restoration”
Francesco Bandarin, The Art Newspaper

The outpouring of grief in the wake of last year’s tragic fire at Notre-Dame was matched only by the outpouring of bloviated commentary from pundits all and sundry, claiming they knew how best to restore the national treasure. (The sitting French president, with his call for a grand “architectural gesture” to replace the spire, was among them.) Small wonder that little progress was made in those first months. Especially welcome, then, is an update on the restoration process from the architect Francesco Bandarin, free of editorializing and replete with specifics on what steps have been taken and which ones remain. With a new, consolidated managing agency in charge of the process since November 29, any further news on the great cathedral’s rehabilitation will, hopefully, be confined to this sort.

In memoriam: Gertrude Himmelfarb, 1922–2019

“The Englishness of England,” May 1983.  On The English world: History, Character, and People by Robert Blake.

“Lord Acton: in pursuit of first principles,” June 2000.  On Lord Acton by Roland Hill.

“Lionel Trilling & the critical imagination,” October 2011.  On Why Trilling Matters by Adam Kirsch.