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This review is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

WE WHO COUNT OUR DAYS Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism (Penguin) £1.95

To begin at or near the end: 'the conservative who has risen above the fragments of his inheritance and reflected on the desolation that has been wrought in it, cannot return to an innocence which his own thinking has destroyed. He is not in the position of Sartre's existential anti-hero, forced to take responsibility for a choice which he lacks the concepts to describe. He knows what he wants, and knows the social order that would correspond to it. But in becoming self-conscious he has set himself apart from things. The reasons that he observes for sustaining the myths of society are reasons which he cannot propagate; to propagate his reasons is to instill the world with doubt. Having struggled for articulacy, he must recommend silence.' (p. 191)

Conservatism is, uniquely, a political disposition which is lived before it is thought. So the writer who thinks it through is inevitably distanced from the sensibility of those for whom he wants to speak or with whom he wishes to affirm common cause. To choose an example which, though not English, is not foreign to the English conservative experience, he is like the observer at the gate of the overgrown cemetery in Allen Tate's 'Ode to the Confederate Dead':


Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual ...


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