Wednesday, October 8, 2008

High Tory

The High Tory is a Brit (or sometimes a Canadian) who is pro-tradition, conservative, suspicious of novelty, and prone to sound like an aristocrat even when the family line is mongrel stock. In my experience he is given to magniloquent utterances. His natural sympathies are with gentry and landowners, whether patrician or plebian; his antithesis is the modern democratic mobile money-grubbing capitalist devoid of pedigree, heritage, or a sense of place.

Jolly Old England (rooted in an Englishman’s perception of an Englishman) gave way to the Englishman of The Stiff Upper Lip (rooted in an American’s perception of an Englishman), and (national perceptions aside) I’ve yet to read a satisfactory account of what precipitated the change. One possibility* is the influence of the pessimist Thomas Malthus, who married English economic notions with un-provable assertions about the probabilities of species survival. Malthusian economics produced new miseries for the poor with the approbation of men of means, who were excused from alleviating the sufferings of the lower class. Darwin, for the record, adored Malthus.

In my time I’ve come across pro-monarchy Americans who aspire to High Tory-dom (in sentiment if not in name). I don’t mind the phenomenon – it can be quaint in its own way, except for when the would-be monarchists are also sycophant Anglophiles. In that case you can forget the English charm.

During one online exchange I had with such a chap -- he was berating America and Americans not ashamed of their country** -- I declared that America is the best country in the history of the world, and if you don’t feel the same way about your country, why not? A string of sanctimonious salvos and smug barbs were promptly directed my way. I looked in vain for examples of British orthography in the assault, but the cavilling (sic) used only the uncivilized American spellings. Go figure.

For the record, as St. Thomas More is the patron of my confirmation, I hope to be excused at least of harboring anti-English sentiments as such.

Old Glory First Hoisted
Flying High Above the Union Jack

* This theory of causation is just speculative, no doubt idle, on my part.
** Patriotism in that particular venue was permitted only as a banal platitude, and then only if accompanied by numerous qualifiers and energetic hand-wringing to soften the effect. In my critic’s view, my unreserved love of country made me worse than a socialist. Bother.

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