An intermittently Liberal anthology compiled by Jonathan Calder

Sunday, May 15, 2005  

Colin MacInnes on the Scouting Movement
Colin always defended the scouts against leftish accusations of incipient fascism and the like. How could be not be loyal when the "prophetic book" was none other than Cousin Roddy's Kim?

He describes the ideology of the movement as "the weirdest blend of ritual, non-sectarian religiosity, nature and beast worship, and a passion for peoples (Red Indian, Australian aborigines, African tribesmen) whom Christian imperialism had tried for centuries to destroy."

He makes a distinction between militarism - useless to deny, he argues, what it is for which the scout should chiefly "be prepared" - and the para-militarism of the Boys' Brigade. The true military heir to Baden Powell (he writes in 1961) is Dayan. Fascist and Communist countries alike usually end up suppressing the scouts.

Tony Gould Inside Outsider: The Life and Times of Colin MacInnes (1983)

posted by Jonathan Calder | 7:38 p.m.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005  

Misunderstanding the Victorians
The Victorians are the people against whom we have defined ourselves. We are who we are because we are not the Victorians. And if we concede that they moulded our culture, defined our sensibilities, built a world for us to live in - rather than being the figures against whom we rebelled in order to create those things for ourselves - then we undermine one of the founding myths of our modernity.

This is why we so rarely see the several extant photographs of Victoria laughing like a skunk, why she is most famous for a quote she never said, why the bogus story of her ignorance of lesbianism has to be repeated over and over again, why chintz-swathed piano legs and Ruskin yelping at the sight of his young bride's pubic hair are commonly invoked to characterise the period.

If the Victorians are caricatured as cruel, hypocritical, repressive, intolerant, prudish and cheerless, then it makes all post-Victorian wife-beating, child abuse, social injustice and personal dullness more easy to cope with. If you think hard enough about the deprivations suffered by the crossing sweepers who slept in doorways on nineteenth-century city streets, that allows you to recognise Big Issue sellers as something else entirely.

Matthew Sweet Inventing the Victorians (2001)

posted by Jonathan Calder | 9:29 p.m.