Thoughts on DW's "Letter to Posterity"

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Alan
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Thoughts on DW's "Letter to Posterity"

Post by Alan » Mon 21 Nov, 2005 13:31:04

I have just spent a (mostly) enjoyable hour watching the "Letter to Posterity" documentary. I must, once again, pass on my extreme gratitude to Mr Rothwell for making it available.

What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that the program was not, as I had been left to believe, purely and simply about the "manifesto" left by DW, which gave detailed instructions about how to survive in the Britain of Wheatley's (imagined) future, but also took care to deal with his fiction in a broader sense.

The production was slick and detailed as, I am proud to say, only the British seem to be able to truly manage. It left me with a determination to go through DW's whole oeuvre once again. It was truly spine-tingling to see the man himself, in the library (on which, I am sure, that at Cardinal's Folly) was based, and see and hear actual footage of "The Prince" expounding on various subjects. For those of us here who haven't yet seen it, I recommend it highly.

If there is a thing I disliked about the production, it was the "slant" given against some of DW's opinions. I speak here as someone who would disagree with the man on many political issues, and no-one who knows me would accuse me of being slanted towards the politico/economic right, yet I gained the impression that everything from the ridiculous "Colonel Blimp" voice used to read things actually written by DW, to the "careful" selection of his most dated prose (such as the Gregory Sallust extract) were designed to show Wheatley's work and opinions in the worst possible light.

Much, for example, was made of his dislike of the welfare state, without any counterbalancing mention of his even greater distaste of ultra-rightist political regimes (such as Nazism) or the totalitarian aspect of pseudo-leftist systems such as Stalinism. The "round table" discussion (with the exception of one member) seemed to be starting from the premise that enjoying DW's work was somehow something to be apologised for!

No attempt was made to clarify the fact that DW was writing in a particular time, and (as a professional writer) was obliged to follow certain conventions, neither was it explained that the "manifesto" was not (as some of the panellists tried to imply) a general embracing of crypto-fascism, but a reaction to what DW genuinely believed the Britain of the future would be like. Of course, the Britain of Wheatley's future is nothing like he imagined – but to mock his suggested measures for the preservation of freedom on these grounds is rather like making fun of someone who owns a fire extinguisher simply because they have never had to deal with a fire.

I was particularly pleased to note that the conclusion seems to be that we are on the ground floor of a genuine DW revival – let us sincerely hope it is so! Regardless of what you think of "The Prince's" politics there is no doubt – as was plainly the opinion of all who took part – that the man knew how to tell a damn good story. And we can never get enough of those!

Incidentally, on a lighter note, can anyone who has seen it remember the name of the author that DW mispronounced? Let's see who was listening carefully... (No cheating by re-watching it, now)...

Garry Holmes
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Post by Garry Holmes » Sat 3 Dec, 2005 14:01:50

G H Wells?

Alan
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Post by Alan » Sun 4 Dec, 2005 01:11:41

Well done, that man!

Garry Holmes
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Post by Garry Holmes » Sat 10 Dec, 2005 13:46:29

Thankyou, thankyou....

Toohey
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Post by Toohey » Fri 4 Aug, 2006 12:22:35

Turns out he was terrified of democracy.
Guess us great unwashed were fit only to buy his books...

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Post by Lark1 » Mon 20 Nov, 2006 19:32:45

But if he was terrified of democracy why did he encourage people to write to him about whether they liked his books or what kind of books they would like to read?

I think its more the case that Wheatley was spell bound by The Scarlet Pimpernel all his life, he projected the Pimpernel into his adversaries into most political scenarios, whether the regime was communist or fascist or whatever, he defended the aristocratic element in any of the societies, Germany, Russia, France etc. had heroic millionaire play boys etc.

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Post by lukehoney » Wed 22 Nov, 2006 00:14:10

DW the cavalier?

I think DW had a great love for Ancient Rome (Gordon Eric Gordon Tombe influenced him in his reading of ancient civiilistations), and Dennis held up the Roman love for luxury, fine wines, epicurean decadence, and good looking women as some sort of an ideal to live up to. Anyone with these sort of views was not going to fit into the Socialist post-war Britain of rationing, austerity and the Welfare State. If you read his autobiograpies, Dennis obviously loved his time spent in Germany just before the First World War, and this had a huge impact on him. I think he rather fancied himself as a young hard-drinking, womanising rake in the old European manner. As a middle class boy from South London, he was also terribly impressed by the sort of aristocratic families his father sold wine to. DW definitely sided with the Cavaliers, rather than the Roundeads- and this had a large impact on his political thinking. Not just simply a question of being either left or right wing!

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