2 Samuel 1:23 Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
I shall liken Harold Bloom unto Saul, and Roger Scruton unto Jonathan. As far as I know, they never met. When I Google the names together I get an old Guardian hit piece that includes them both on the same hit-list of ‘Jeremiah’s of History’ moaning about cultural decline; so, moaning about moaning. Then there’s a blurb Scruton has done for Bloom’s book Ruin the Sacred Truths:
“The wit, the eclecticism and the gripping paradoxes…the force of [Bloom’s] intellect carries the reader from pinnacle to pinnacle, showing a new spiritual landscape from each.”—Roger Scruton, The Washington Times
There’s a reference to Bloom on figurative language in Scruton’s piece ‘Against Deconstruction’ in 1993. But otherwise, no evidence of a physical meeting I can divine. But that’s fine. They met in me. And they they died within ninety days of each other with the turn of a decade between them, like Saul and Jonathan, in their death they will not be divided. In me, at least.
Other than my father, these two men were my biggest living influences. I first ‘met’ Bloom as a foil in the contemporary academy of 2003-2006. Sometimes they would throw up a kind of straw-man to show the contemporary student how-not-to-think about something. In this case, it was how-not-to-think about Shakespeare. It’s a dangerous tactic, of course, because those students feeling something of the cultural climate control mechanisms around them are ready to hold on to something that might prove to be a counterpoint. Which it did for me. A counterpoint that proved more further to be THE point.
No such luck with Scruton, unfortunately. I did not come upon him until 2018, as a YouTube suggestion maybe attached to my interest in Jordan Peterson. If I had come across him, I now like to fantasise, I might well have finished my Ph. D. I was enjoying many of the thinkers my Supervisors were putting me in touch with, the usual suspects of 20th century post-Freudians and deconstructionists, but I was enjoying them as interesting intellectual exercises, and philosophical riddles. I found beauty in their writing, but not in their ideas. I wanted to pursue aesthetics in my work, but I was not being given anything of substance, there was no traction. If I could have had Scruton put in front of me, even as a foil to all the Eagleton…
I was, however, I admit, a lazy student; easily distracted. It might not have made any difference.
They were lovely and pleasant in their lives
But their affect has been profound. It’s easy to be defined by your enemies. To be an infidel of negation. I am against this… But what am I for? As I responded to the direction of my culture, it’s movement progressive for the sake of progression, no matter where or toward what end, and lent away from traditional anarchism into conservatism, I found nothing around me to move through. Neo-conservatism wasn’t even a system of thought, but an economic series of planned jerks of the knees. And religious and paleo-conservatism had too much hand in the rejection of the celebration of art, the beauty in demanding movement within a cultural vector of permissiveness that is essential for our culture to thrive. The necessity of the Bohemian edge.
Harold Bloom had paved the way for my own sense of the Bohemian with his heartfelt spiritual joy for great literature, just as he wrestled with it and made demands of it; his intellectual spine never bowed down to the purely transcendental and romantic. The beauty lived in the world, as much as out of it. He was a perfect realist on an unreal stage. I could love things I despised. It was a terrific terrible freedom, manifestly bohemian in its outlook, but focused fully in the art. So he was Saul, the anointed one, and the eventually rejected one. He was perhaps to close too God, instead of being after His own heart.
Like Jonathan to Saul, Scruton takes the step away, and makes it a lived world. Most importantly, when he talks about the necessity of having a creative approach to conservation; to understanding that things need to be kept, but that things need to change. He was a prince but could never be a King. The King finds it hard to move behind the curtain of power. Look at Shakespeare’s Henry. The Bohemian falters.
But Scruton could make it seem so. This is how important he is. He makes room for conservatism to enlarge into something that isn’t just about conservation of what WAS and maybe IS, but conservation of the bohemian spirit that has made what WAS and IS … what it was and is. And WILL make something greater to conserve further. Let’s have something worth fighting for, yes; but it’s only worth fighting for if you hold on to what is great you have won, hard-fought from from the enemy. The enemy being that of formal regression, in all its guises: regressive leftism, regressive rightism. And if you conserve un-creatively, you regress just as quickly … maybe more.
How are the mighty fallen?
The mighty fall just like the weak, in the same way, in the same sad solitary way. In ninety days. In three minutes. In a hundred years. We all fall. But it is heartening that some stood. And that some are mighty, and encouraging, and making some kind of mark, even on those they never met. There’s still a voice in them, like the silent voice you hear when your reading alone. It’s not just you, reading. And it’s not just the author, writing. It’s a silent sound that makes sense even more than the sensible.