There are many Roger Scrutons and it is not easy to reconcile them: barrister, aesthetician, champion of Senator Joseph McCarthy, teacher at Birkbeck College (an institution with a tradition of proletarian outreach), editor of the ultra-Tory Salisbury Review foxhunter. And novelist. Fortnight's Anger (1981) was hard-going - a murky tale of adolescent sexuality full of sentences like: 'Her hands trembled on his face and neck. Slowly the agony of appeasement wormed through him, and his grief, unlocked at last, crawled out and shook itself on the surface of his face.' That is, he wept. Scruton's second novel, Francesca, is less overdone in its writing - although it too deals with the toils of adolescence. The ten-year interval has usefully congealed some of the Scruton parts. His prejudices seem now to have permeated all the fibres of his mind and sensibility, like smoke into well-cured bacon. Everything he writes now seems thoroughly Scrutonised. One feels a sense of gratified expectation at the snide allusions to the New Statesman, the Guardian and 'Dr Leavis' on page one of Francesca. This is the Roger Scruton we know and love to hate - Britain's favourite 'token reactionary', as he sometimes calls himself.
LRB 21 March 1991 | PDF Download