Richard D North on culture, Nature, liberal issues, monasticism, spirituality

Latest posts

“Act of Oblivion”: Reasons to read it

Robert Harris has the knack of good timing. His new book is The Act of Oblivion about Charles II's legislation of 1660 and the subsequent treatment of the Regicides who tried and beheaded his father Charles I in 1649. This historical thriller arrives just as Charles III ascends the throne. That's a neat Carolingian coincidence without obvious connection, as yet. Oblivion is highly relevant more because it concerns so many conundrums and dilemmas which are as rich now as they ever were. Let's enumerate some of them. But I also stress this really is a ripping yarn, an outstanding historical novel and a thriller. Read more...

Published

03 January 2023

Filed in

Mind & body, On books, Politics & campaigns

Can we put our faith in Truss?

This was written on 10 October 2022. That is, 34 days into the 44 days of Liz Truss's premiership (6 September 2022 – 20 October 2022). I originally called the piece, "Can We Trust Liz?". I have changed only the online title of the piece which appears below. I wrote what and when I did because it seemed cowardly not to. It now seems cowardly not to post it (31/12/22). My enduring point is that there is never a perfect moment for reform, nor a perfect reformer. Her own "unforced errors" may have put the kybosh on Liz Truss' reform mission. She may have set back our chances of reversing 70-odd years of socialism. More likely, and more hopefully, she has usefully let the cat out of the bag and broken the mould, etc etc. Read more...

Published

31 December 2022

Filed in

Politics & campaigns

Scrap the hybrid NHS: the best bits will thrive

This is around 3,000 words on scrapping the NHS. The proposed project will be easier and less radical than most suppose. A modern health service is already half-formed within and around the NHS: it just needs liberating. Our GP and hospital health (and domestic care) systems should dare to look at their histories and to Continental models with magpie curiosity. The post-Blair left is perhaps stuck with worshipping the NHS to death. The Conservatives have the greater sin. They betray their best instincts in refusing to speak truth to this post WW2 shibboleth. The young could fix all this, but they would need to open their minds to the world they are thriving in. Read more...

Published

18 December 2022

Filed in

Civilised Right-wing, Mind & body, Politics & campaigns

William James: Vital modern thinker

I enjoy and admire William James very much, though of his books I have only read Pragmatism more or less properly, and that several years ago. Recently, I came across WJ's essay, "Why is life worth living?" and found it firmly concerned with the issue dearest to me: what ought and can an individual contribute to human consciousness? Reading WJ more widely (if secondhand), it is thrilling to find that he beautifully bridges the 19th, 20th and 21 centuries. Read more...

Published

04 September 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On books

Childhood resilience: 1800-2022

I am interested in the fashions which blow through children's fiction and, a related matter, child-rearing mantras. This is a matter of the stories we tell children, and the stories we tell about them. They are as interesting for their consistency through our recent centuries as they are for their differences. Read more...

Published

04 September 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On books, On TV & Radio

“Vole” magazine (1977-81), green pioneer

Vole magazine was a pioneer of a species of “greenery” between 1977 and 1981. It was the creature of Richard Boston though I edited it very briefly toward the end. I have a complete collection of the magazine and aim to find the right archive for it. I am not content with my Vole recollections which appear below. I have always felt I let the magazine down. I hope I am not doing so now. Any corrections or improvements to this account will be very welcome. Read more...

Published

30 August 2022

Filed in

Mind & body

Haile Selassie: Exile and autocrat

I recently (May, 2022) spent a wonderful few hours at the villa in Bath, Somerset where Ras Tafari, Emperor Haile Selassie spent 1936-40 in exile from his country, Ethiopia, which had been over-run by Italy's Fascist troops. Selassie has resonated with me since I talked with two of his admirers. I interviewed Bob Marley in July 1980 and read Wilfred Thesiger's A Life of My Choice (1987) and at some point interviewed the grand old man of desert travel and SAS action. It seems that of the two only Thesiger knew the Emperor personally. Here are a few reflections on the Emperor, and his place in history and in Bath. Read more...

Published

20 July 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On art, On books

Shrink a library #3 “Napoleon”, 1927

This morning I reached down my father Paul's Napoleon (1927) by Emil Ludwig, sent to him in Switzerland in 1930 (when he was 18) by his mother nee VMR and VMB (as she was then). Paul wrote her to say how moved he was by the book, which he had been thinking of buying in the French, though deterred by the price. Picking over Ludwig's reputation brought me to connections with my own formative reading. So this post serves two purposes: it's a clue to 1930s taste (my father's) and 1980s taste (mine). Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Filed in

Shrink-a-library

Shrink a library #2 (Filson Young)

This post attempts to put the books of Filson Young (1876-1938) my grandmother's second husband) into some sort of context. FY (as he was widely and familiarly known during his mostly very successful life as a writer) is the subject of a fine biography (available on this site). I aim to get rid of most of his books, because they are available online as full texts or facsimiles. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Filed in

On books, Shrink-a-library

Shrink a library #1 (My parents’)

I am downsizing the collection of books I have inherited from my parents or bought for myself. Easiest to get rid of guiltlessly are those volumes (mostly per-1930) which can be found full-text or facsimile online (mostly at Hathi Trust, Internet Archive or the Gutenberg Project).

This post is a rough survey of my parents' library. I tend to list the hard copy volumes and note whether they are available online. If they are, I will let the hardcopies go to Oxfam, etc. My point is that their books represent a particular family background but more generally, the tastes of their time. Either way, they are a snapshot of a civilisation. Read more...

Published

11 May 2022

Filed in

On books, Shrink-a-library
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