The opening line in most obituaries of Robert Conquest, who died on August the third, described him as a “historian and poet.” That would be a capacious enough description for most men of letters. In Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love, Charon keeps A. E. Housman waiting on the banks of the River Styx for a second arrival since he is expecting two people, “a poet and a scholar,” until Housman says shyly: “I think that must be me.” In Bob’s case Charon would have been waiting for a historian, a poet, a novelist, a satirist, a critic, a diplomat, a strategist, a soldier, a social and political theorist, a limerickist, and of course a scholar—and I have almost certainly left out some of Bob’s other professional identities. Charon probably brought along a second boat.

It is well-nigh...

 

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