Is there a better social commentator in the English-speaking world than Theodore Dalrymple?

The name is a pseudonym he’s now stuck with which he adopted of necessity back in the 1980s after he began writing for The Spectator about his experiences as a prison doctor.

He’s a brilliant, prolific and often amusing wordsmith who doesn’t pull his punches about the criminal and underclasses’ relentless stupidity and grossness and the nonsense of much prison reform efforts.

I’ve just read his 2012 volume of essays entitled Farewell Fear covering an extraordinary range of subjects. Every paragraph is a delight.

Politically one might describe him as an open-minded conservative though not a libertarian as he views much of today’s free expression as socially irresponsible mindlessness. So it sometimes is but that doesn’t negate the overwhelming virtues of individual liberty.

In some respects he reminds me of the post-war Evelyn Waugh in his cynicism about the contemporary world and the excesses of welfarism, which leads to so much slothful dependency.

But he lacks Evelyn’s gloom and humour which probably sounds contradictory, but Evelyn managed it, specially with his novella “Love Among the Ruins.” In fact in his wonderfully funny 1928 first major novel “Decline and Fall”, Evelyn poked fun at prison reformers. And that’s nearly a century ago.

But it was his futuristic 1953 “Love Among the Ruins” that he really piled into the proposition that the criminal classes are victims.

There are numerous very good commentators writing today, specially in Britain, but Dalrymple has a specially unique whimsical touch. Read him. You’ll thank me.

POSTSCRIPT: Come to think of it he was out here in the 1990s and addressed the Press Club. I had a chat with him and his wife afterwards. They were suitably gloomy.


I agree Bob. Theodore is a great writer and social commentator. I wonder if any NZ newspaper would print his columns? Sadly, I doubt it.

You are right Sir Bob. Theodore is a great writer and social commentator. I wonder if any NZ newspaper would publish his columns? Sadly, I doubt it.

Agreed. Some of his articles are available online at Taki’s Mag https://www.takimag.com/contributor/tonydaniels/314/

You can keep up with a lot of his writing here: http://www.skepticaldoctor.com/

I loved his interviews with bullies in nick who felt they weren’t responsible for beating their wives/girlfriends. The no fault principle is rife.

He spoke in Wellington at a debate organised by the NZBR from memory. They put him up against Sue Bradford which was quite comical because Sue didn’t really understand his subtle perspicacity. She’d prepared to go head to head with a right-wing welfare reformist but he was miles ahead. Must say I didn’t find him gloomy. He was surprisingly warm which I expect accompanies his bedside manner with woebegone patients. ‘Life at the Bottom’ is a brilliant book.

His real name (not a secret) is Anthony Daniels. I met him in the early 2000s at what I recollect was an Act Party conference (though it could have been the Business Roundtable as Lindsay recalls; the two groups were much the same for a while). He was the guest speaker. The DomPost headlined the article of my interview with him “Dr Grumpy and his bitter pills,” which was a good summation of the article’s content. He seemed downhearted that civilisation had ended because people in Britain walked along the road eating food as they went. He was brilliant!

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