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Jul 15 17 3:45 PM
Jul 16 17 4:46 PM
Salzmank wrote:DJ, the question of where libertarianism begins and conservatism ends is a fascinating one; for all that Kirk called libertarians "chirping sectaries," and advised that conservatives have nothing to do with them (politically, of course), there are instances in the great man's writing where one may almost call his position "libertarian."
Not to disagree completely--Carr certainly leans to the libertarian side of conservatism (which is not an ideology, as Kirk emphasized so many times, and therefore has no 39 Articles, Holy Writ, or Das Kapital to lean on)--but to note a few points.
I, for one, would not say that Carr sees no more to life than "...hedonism, antiquarianism, and uber-passionate love affairs..." Again, I return to The Corpse in the Waxworks and He Who Whispers, two remarkable works in his oeuvre which emphasize deep moral choices and in fact come down strongly against hedonism.
Carr is not a deep theist, true. At some times, he's indifferent on religious matters; at other times, he's determinedly agnostic. Always, however, he has a deep respect for religion (The Plague Court Murders, The Bride of Newgate, Below Suspicion, even Night at the Mocking Widow and possibly The Devil in Velvet), even if he does not have and does not understand devout belief itself. (One exception: a piece of juvenilia--"The Fourth Suspect," I think?--in which Carr has Bencolin mock a heartless Anglican bishop character. Yet, as biographer Douglas Greene noted, Carr quickly grew out of this adolescent cynicism.) Substantiating evidence: Carr always did everything "according to [religious] form," including marriages, baptisms, etc. (usually in Episcopalian/Anglican churches). He might not have been particularly devout one way or the other, but he was in no way as superficial in his metaphysics as, say, Ayn Rand. (Speaking of Rand, Carr distinctly avoids anything Randian in his philosophy. Carr's leads do not believe that money can buy happiness, or that making money is the highest possible good; to the contrary, in fact [as Greene has also noted].) I wouldn't call him "hostile to religion" at all; indeed, he takes a very friendly view of religion in Plague Court.
Either way, I cannot understand the view that theism, or lack thereof, makes one a conservative or not. If one had to be religious to be conservative, we would have to strike Disraeli, George Santayana, Theodore Dalrymple, Roger Scruton--Lord, even a young Eliot!--from the conservative pantheon, something I for one am not going to do.
Again, Carr may lean to the libertarian side of conservative thought, but I don't think he breaks over into unadulterated libertarianism. What is Carr interested in conserving? The human side of things--love and friendship and basic kindness--against the changing, heartless, inhuman whims and wiles of sophists, economists, and calculators. More, he is interested in the conservation of society and societal relationships; Greene makes the point that Carr stood strongly against classical liberal egalitarianism, putting in its place "aristocratic egalitarianism," in which every man is of equal worth but not of equal standing in society. (He has no problem with social hierarchy and a huge problem with social levelling.) That is to say, for Carr there is nothing wrong with monarchy as long as the monarch doesn't automatically presume he's a better human being than others (see Carr's historicals).
He does believe in high culture and classicism, but he dislikes realism because of his belief that realism does not, in fact, show "real life" but, rather, only the sordid, dull, monotonous side of existence. (As far as the Western canon goes--one doesn't have to like everything one reads. I've seen Sartre described as part of the western canon, and I've read Sartre, but that doesn't mean I have to like him or his philosophy--and I don't.) Did he go a bit too far because he saw a lionization of realism everywhere he went? Yes. (Chesterton disliked many Russian novelists too.) Does that wreck his conservative credentials? Having read his biography and looked into the man's life--no, not at all.
Now, I should be quiet because, as Ewrjk noted, we're not doing politics or even philosophy... I'm still confused on "aggressive frivolity," but that may be my problem.
Thanks for the dialogue.
Jul 16 17 7:09 PM
07/17/17 10:29 AM
Rick wrote:I have my own sort of hot and cold relationship with John Dickson Carr. While I do love the guy's books, every time I pick up one I have to steel myself to start it. I find with Carr, maybe more than with any other writer, that for the first few pages I'm constantly thinking "what?...who is that?... what are they talking about?.." Totally lost. Then 4 or 5 or 6 pages in, I get it and it's smooth sailing from then on out.
07/19/17 10:19 PM
DJ Neyer wrote:
You make some very solid points here, Salzmank; you're obviously much more comprehensively familiar with Carr than I am (I should have suspected that from your logo), and I think I could probably get a better-rounded picture of the man from reading the Greene book in particular. The "aristocratic egalitarianism" you refer to sounds a lot like Owen Wister's statement in The Virginian about the Declaration of Independence--it didn't guarantee everyone an equal level in life, but instead gave each man the freedom to find his level. I've always thought that an excellent and important distinction, and it's interesting to learn that Carr evidently had a similar outlook.
I should add Skeleton in the Clock as another example of Carr coming down firmly against unrestrained hedonism--and pulled a nice trick on me the first time I read it; Spoiler [+] when the character later revealed as the killer is cheerily exulting the "physical side" of romance as the only really important thing about it, I muttered irritably to myself, "there goes old playboy Carr again", only to find Merrivale in the final chapter pointing back to that earlier statement as a clue to the killer's sociopathic nature. In this book, anyway, Carr shows himself one mark of a mature thinker--the ability to recognize the dark side of some of his own notions.
I have to say that this whole discussion has put me in the mood to read another Carr book; I have a rather hot-and-cold relationship with the gentleman--reading one of his books and enjoying it, then seeking out another one and getting turned off by it. I'm about due to give him another visit.
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