Discursive prose by itself can get you a long way—or else the academic towers would have fallen ages ago. But the most memorable writing usually employs a device, a trick which focuses the attention precisely by diverting it. Thus there is more truth in stories than you find in all the textbooks. In this vivid confessional, Scruton incarnates ideas in autobiographical events. Thus, when he tells us about the sheer nastiness of the now-vanished Eastern European communist regimes—and about the greater nastiness of the Left Wing Establishment in England—his description of these horrors is intensified by personal experience.

I played a bit part in these events. I wasn’t there with him in Czechoslovakia or Poland, where Scruton conducted clandestine seminars among dissident academics and workers, but I was in the room when he was nearly murdered in York in 1985. He writes,

On the whole,...


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