The Opium-Eating Tory

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 18 2012 @ 6:24pm

Adam Gopnik considers the origins of contemporary English conservatism by looking at Thomas De Quincey. Author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and editor of a paper called the Gazette, De Quincey paved the way for The Sun and Fox News. Gopnik's takeaway:

In a time of more straitened and anxious conservatism, there is even something vaguely encouraging in De Quincey’s authorship: Toryism, it seems, at least need not be uptight. There are paths to a view of the world not always welcoming to central control and local variety, and moved by a fear of Utopianism that doesn’t depend on some model of personal virtue rooted in a panicky Puritanism. It is nice to know that, drilling down towards the Tory bedrock, what one may find at the bottom is a field of poppies.

Oakeshott – who read the Telegraph for the sports pages – was the archetypal bohemian Tory – and far less authoritarian than De Quincey. But, in today's Christianist era, it's worth reminding ourselves that one can be conservative in politics and yet radical in all other areas of life. In fact, a restrained, sober, conservative government above is, in my view, the best guardian of the glorious riot of human freedom below.