My dear Cassandra,
A phenomenon has occurred. Within the last week, a former Prime Minister has died. That, you may say, is hardly remarkable, as all must eventually die, and it is true that the person in question was of advanced years. The person in question, however, was remarkable, and not simply for longevity. This Prime Minister was not only the longest serving, but also a woman, the first in our island history to be in such a position! Now, Cassandra, do not yet confess yourself amazed, for there is more. The death of Mrs Margaret Thatcher — or, as I should rightly style her, Baroness Thatcher, for so she was latterly created— occasioned not only days of eulogy and discussion, but also a number of extraordinary demonstrations of most unseemly rejoicing. Spontaneous celebrations were held, demonstrations staged, and a popular song adapted to express the unveiled delight of many at her passing. Really, it was a fearsome display and not, I think, the first. It appears that rioting on the streets of England has become once more, as it was when you and I walked the earth, an increasingly common sight. Is it not strange that, with so many apparent advancements in understanding, human nature has not progressed beyond such violent expression? The funeral of Baroness Thatcher — on which the unimaginable sum of ten million pounds is to be spent from a supposedly empty public purse— is to be held on Wednesday next. To quote from another popular song, Cassandra — you see how my education progresses? — I predict a riot.
On a calmer note, I have been thinking of another whose name has been much talked of in the past week, our own favourite, Sir Walter Scott. You will scarcely believe me when I tell you that Sir Walter, in our day held up as the greatest of living writers, whose work for almost a hundred years after my time and indeed his own, inspired the novelists and composers of Europe, is today but scarcely read. It seems that many have no knowledge whatsoever of him or his works. Some scholars blame the terrible wars of the twentieth century for his fall from popularity: why, they say, glorify war and nationalism when it leads only to the wholesale destruction of our youth? Certainly, in his Waverley novels, Sir Walter used the turbulent history of Scotland as a metaphor for human behaviour, and in the centuries which I did not live to see, this was often taken as a justification for wars to establish national identity throughout Europe. Yet, did he not also advocate compromise, not intransigence? Did he not value reasonable discussion above unthinking aggression? His true heroes, from Rob Roy to The Heart of Midlothian, are those who learn to accept less than might be their due for the sake of a greater purpose, and choose the safety and welfare of many above the gratification of a few. In his own life, having lost everything through the bad business dealings of a friend, did he not set himself to write at a furious pace to wipe out a debt which he had not incurred, almost certainly bringing about his own untimely death? In these days of great uncertainty, where a volatile leader in distant Korea threatens the fragile safety of the world with a deadly agent of destruction which, had I the capacity to do so, I could not bring myself to describe to you, might it not be instructive to turn back to the wisdom of such as wise Sir Walter Scott, who saw history as an ever unfolding story, refrained from judging his fellow man, and considered that each of us has a responsibility to improve the world we inherit? It seems not: calm reflection does not fit with the temper of these times: instant reaction and immediate gratification appear instead to be required.
Meanwhile, I shall watch the funeral of Baroness Thatcher with interest, and expect to have much to report to you in my next.