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Allow me to introduce you to Edgar Vincent, GCB, GCMG, PC, FRS, the British MP, diplomat, author, and art collector.
Vincent, who lived from 1857 to 1941, was a remarkable man. Governor of the Imperial Ottoman Bank around the turn of the last century, he was the ambassador to Berlin in the early 1920s. He rose to become the first (and, as it happens, the only) Viscount D’Abernon. He had his portrait painted by John Singer Sargent, and with his wife, Helen Venetia Duncombe, one of the great beauties of the age, he presided over one of London’s smartest salons. Henry James, Max Beerbohm, George Curzon, Edith Wharton, and other luminaries were part of their circle. Lord D’Abernon is known for several penetrating mots, my favorite being “an Englishman’s mind works best when it is almost too late.”
Often, right before a major storm or hurricane, there is an eerie, minatory calm. That’s where we are now.
I have always cherished the hope that D’Abernon’s dictum is true of an American’s mind as well. You do not have to be a reader of The New Criterion to see that things are pretty late in America. Is the old gray matter rising to the occasion?
I wish I knew. I remember G. K. Chesterton’s consoling remark that “an adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” But I also remember Michael Oakeshott’s warning about how “ancient enormities are revived in modern forms and given false names in an effort to make them acceptable.”
Oakeshott, writing in 1975, sounded a very contemporary note. “Arbitrary redistribution of wealth is called ‘taxation,’ a calculated debauch of the currency is called ‘inflation,’ the exercise of ‘lordship’ by rulers is called ‘socialization,’ servility packaged with benefits announces itself as ‘the New Freedom,’ ” and so on.
The practical application of Oakeshott’s observations can be seen all around us. The charming but insidious tinkle of the French word dégringolade—a sudden deterioration or collapse—echoes everywhere. The revival of ancient enormities in modern form is a settled fact. What will the winter and the new year bring?
Often, right before a major storm or hurricane, there is an eerie, minatory calm. That’s where we are now. There are warning signs aplenty. Some of our longstanding funders have written to alert us to the likelihood of cuts in their giving. For large enterprises, the foreboding economic environment poses challenges. For a small not-for-profit like The New Criterion, the situation amounts to an existential threat.
I write now in the hope that you will be able to help us meet that threat.
With your help, we can face the parlous vicissitudes of fortune with confidence.
As The New Criterion enters its fifth decade of publication—its fifth decade!—we can look with satisfaction at a panoply of recent successes. The magazine has more print subscribers than ever before. Its online reach is similarly robust. Its articles are cited and quoted everywhere. We are sponsoring more talks, symposia, conferences, podcasts, and soirées than ever. Two recent publications—The Critical Temper, a plump chrestomathy of essays from The New Criterion on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, and Where Next?: Western Civilization at the Crossroads—bear witness to the magazine’s vital engagement with the most importunate cultural issues of the day.
A decade ago, we started a fellowship named for Hilton Kramer, our founding editor. Our fellows have gone on to posts at The Wall Street Journal, City Journal, The Washington Post, The American Spectator, and elsewhere. Several have returned to The New Criterion. I am pleased to note that alumni of the Hilton Kramer Fellowship now make up a majority of our editorial staff.
Four years ago, we inaugurated a Visiting Critic program. As I am sure you have noticed, this year’s critics, Victor Davis Hanson and Joshua T. Katz, have been making important contributions to the magazine. Look for Victor’s splendid essay on the importance of military history in a forthcoming issue as well as Joshua’s beguiling 2022 Circle Lecture—another recent initiative—“The beginnings: first words, first lines, first stories” in our November number. For those of you who could not be there in person, the lecture has been filmed and added to our premium online library, available to all of our Circle donors as a benefit of membership. Our executive editor James Panero also sat down with Joshua for a podcast discussion about the talk, his other contributions to our pages this season, and his experiences as a notoriously canceled classicist.
Other initiatives this fall have focused on preserving and propagating the values of Western civilization and the American creed that we hold dear, including an ambitious symposium, “Affirmative action & the law,” in our October 2022 issue. Here I joined Gail Heriot, James Piereson, John Yoo, Wen Fa, Glenn Reynolds, and others in commenting on the Supreme Court’s upcoming decisions on affirmative action and other key cases. The special section supplements our focused annual issues: December on art and April on poetry, which is also timed to the publication of the latest winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize—a contest overseen by our poetry editor Adam Kirsch—now in its twenty-second season. I hope you have enjoyed the results of these many special editorial initiatives as much as I have.
More than fifteen thousand copies of The New Criterion now roll off the presses each month. We distribute the magazine across some fifty-two countries. Perhaps you have spotted a copy in a bookstore or on a newsstand or in an airport lounge or even in a college library or veteran’s hospital. We are assiduous in following the biblical injunction not to hide our light under a bushel. But all of these efforts take resources. None would be possible without your support.
On the ship of state that is The New Criterion, we are battening down the hatches. We have weathered difficult conditions before. This downturn promises to be as serious as any we have faced. I hope that you will help us persevere. The New Criterion neither solicits nor receives government support. We exist solely because of people, like you, who understand the importance of high culture to the preservation of civilization. With your help, we can face the parlous vicissitudes of fortune with confidence. I thank you for your generosity and support. Lord D’Abernon, I feel sure, would be pleased.
Roger Kimball, Editor & Publisher
P.S. We have set a goal of $400,000 to be raised from at least 1,000 donors through this campaign by the end of the year. Every dollar and every donor makes a difference. All donations will be acknowledged in our 2023 Annual Report.
For readers who are new to The New Criterion, consider joining our Supporters Circle with a donation of just $100 or more. Every Circle member will receive an invitation to our annual Circle Lecture as well as access to our online media library. I look forward to welcoming you to our ranks.
For our donors at every level, we have worked extra hard to show our appreciation for your generosity with some special thank-you gifts: a boat bag; a new mug, now in our “October” color; a shelf of great books; and (yes!) the return of the New Criterion bowtie. Manufactured in Japanese silk by Seigo exclusively for The New Criterion, this year’s design features our new “winter” theme, with our December and January colors right there in the repp pattern. I hope you will want to collect them all.
And finally, when it comes to gifts, I hope you might consider giving the gift of The New Criterion to others this season. In the past we have even seen donors giving hundreds of gift subscriptions. Not only do these efforts help increase our circulation, they also further spread the word of The New Criterion. New subscribers, we’ve found, tend to mature into long-term subscribers. Simply visit newcriterion.com/gift or call our subscription hotline of (800) 783-4903. For large orders, please email [email protected]