Histories: A Movement and a Prize

This week’s issue of the National Review contains a brief article assessing the status of William F Buckley’s conservative movement 10 years after his death. This is by Charles Correll III and begins by defining the questions faced today by Buckley’s movement:

By what set of beliefs should conservatives explain themselves today? To what extent are populism and economic nationalism antithetical to the limited-government ethos of Cold War conservatism? Has the end of the Cold War rendered the philosophy of limited government anachronistic? What shape must responsible conservatism take to address contemporary challenges? These are difficult questions that admit no easy answers.

After considering how the end of the Cold War and the introduction of the internet have effectively splintered conservatism into multiple, not necessarily coherent movements, Correll concludes with this invocation of Evelyn Waugh:

Though deeply indebted to the wisdom of the past, the modern intellectual conservative movement has never been defined by an attachment to a certain period of time, contrary to the claims of its critics and misinterpreters. Instead, it has asked itself — and, as Buckley said, must always ask itself — “what shape should the world take, given modern realities?” Conservativism distinguishes itself from liberalism because it addresses both parts of the question. Put differently, conservatives “acknowledge the need to live in this century,” yet “never, ever, to acclimate” themselves to it, as Buckley said of Evelyn Waugh. The perpetual challenge is to walk the fine line between acknowledging modern realities and becoming afflicted by them. No wonder that Buckley, like Whittaker Chambers, referred to conservatives as “cliff-dancers.”

The Scotsman carries a story reciting the history of the James Tait Black literary prizes in connection with the announcement of its latest shortlist. This award is described in the article by Brian Ferguson as a

… competition run by Edinburgh University for almost a century. … The James Tait Black Prizes, which are awarded annually for the best fiction and biography works published over the previous year, are said to be the only honours of their kind anywhere in the world which are handed out by a university. They are also the only major British book awards which are judged by scholars and students. This year’s contenders were drawn from more than 400 books. The two prizes, each worth £10,000, are traditionally judged by senior staff from within the English literature department, assisted by a reading panel of postgraduate students….[T]he competition was instigated in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s “love of good books”. The literary awards ceremony is staged annually during the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The article also names several previous winners among whom are D H Lawrence, Graham Greene and Muriel Spark. Evelyn Waugh was also a winner in 1952 when Men at Arms, the first novel in his war trilogy, was selected.

This entry was posted in Evelyn Waugh, Men at Arms, Newspapers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.