Join the battle against cultural amnesia.

Dear Reader,

When people ask me what The New Criterion is all about, I sometimes recall the bracing observation with which John Alexander Smith, Waynflete Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford, began a course of lectures in 1914. “Gentlemen,” he said,

you are now about to embark upon a course of studies which will occupy you for two years. Together, they form a noble adventure. But I would like to remind you of an important point. Some of you, when you go down from the University, will go into the Church, or to the Bar, or to the House of Commons, or to the Home Civil Service, or the Indian or Colonial Services, or into various professions. Some may go into the Army, some into industry and commerce; some may become country gentlemen. A few—I hope a very few—will become teachers or dons. Let me make this clear to you. Except for those in the last category, nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life—save only this—that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.

We encourage our readers to stand up and object to the objectionable.

Anyone who reads far into The New Criterion knows that many of our writers habitually uncover and analyze a lot of rot in the course of their duties as cultural pathologists. Our aim is to immunize readers against its virulence by encouraging them to identify, laugh at, and reject the rot that has infected so much of culture today.

That exercise in mental housecleaning is valuable in itself, providing as it does a measure of resistance to the de-civilizing tendency of politically motivated interpretive hyperbole.

There is also a subsidiary benefit, having to do with intellectual back-stiffening. In other words, it is our hope that The New Criterion will not only provide some inoculation against the intimidating forces of ideological groupthink and historical distortion that are such a prominent part of our cultural life today but also encourage readers to stand up and object to the objectionable.

That is a largely negative exercise. But The New Criterion also pursues an affirmative agenda, at the center of which is the battle against cultural amnesia. Even as we expose the rot that surrounds us, we aim to encourage firsthand encounters with the bottomless, sometimes eccentric, always illuminating deposit of cultural endeavor that has defined our civilization through the centuries. Among other things, this requires a continuous battle against the disease of presentism, a mind virus more prevalent, and in the end more insidious, than the many varieties of pathogens to which we have been subjected these past few years.

More than ever, the support of our family of readers, writers, and donors underwrites this battle. I hope I can count on you to help us continue in publishing the “best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits.” Matthew Arnold’s imperative from his book Culture and Anarchy describes, more than ever, the mission of what we do at The New Criterion—no less than your essential role in ensuring its continuation.

Yours faithfully,

Roger Kimball, Editor & Publisher

P.S. Every tax-deductible donation to The New Criterion makes a difference. All donors will be acknowledged in our 2024 Annual Report.

For readers who are new to The New Criterion, we invite you to join our  Supporters Circle with a donation of $100 or more. Every Circle member will receive an invitation to our annual Circle Lecture as well as access to our online media library.

With a donation of $2,000 or more, you become a Friend of The New Criterion, with invitations to our events throughout the year and your choice of gifts. Donors under forty years of age can enroll as a Young Friend for $200 or more a year.

For donors at every level, we are pleased to offer some special thank-you gifts for your generosity: our boat bag; a selection of books; and, back again, our popular silk bowtie in the magazine’s fall colors, made in Japan by Seigo exclusively for The New Criterion.

The New Criterion is published by The Foundation for Cultural Review, 900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, a nonprofit public foundation as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, EIN 13-3108424, which solicits and accepts contributions from a wide range of sources, including public and private foundations, corporations, and the general public. Contributions to The New Criterion are tax deductible according to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. All gifts in excess of $75 will be acknowledged with a written disclosure statement describing the “quid pro quo” deductibility under section 6115 of the Internal Revenue Code.