london

Saint Thomas More (1478-1535)

February 7 (the anniversary of his birth) It was the stubble.  That, more than anything, drew me to Saint Thomas More when I was young.  Of course, I had seen the film version of Robert Bolt’s play, A Man for All Seasons, and I enjoyed it.  You are a bad fellow if you don’t like … Read more

Unexplained Laughter: The Life and Work of Alice Thomas Ellis

On February 7, 2001, in the Camden Town district of London, I stopped in front of a formidable old house surrounded by a gated wall, pressed the button next to an intercom, identified myself, and was instructed to enter. Inside I was warmly greeted by Anna Haycraft, better known as the writer and Catholic commentator, … Read more

Summer Flood

The musical levees have broken and I am inundated with new CD releases. In these brief reviews, I will also be playing catch-up on some overlooked items of merit. I shall proceed chronologically, which means we begin with my favorite period of music, the Classical era. The CPO label (777 526-2) has released a disc … Read more

Miracles in Soho

Soho, in the West End of the British capital, has had a rather dodgy history. Wikipedia notes that, by the mid-19th century, “all respectable families had moved away, and prostitutes, music halls and small theaters had moved in.” So had Rev. Arthur O’Leary, who, in 1792, established in Soho the first Catholic church since the … Read more

Faith in a Public School

I’m collecting the essays day by day in big batches from a post office in central London. By the end of this month, when the deadline arrives, there will be hundreds and hundreds of them, and I’ve already made arrangements, as I do every year, for a team of judges to meet at a venue … Read more

1943: A Time For Spies

May was flush with the most colorfully camouflaged spy networks in every government, and the Allied bombing of Sicily and Sardinia on May 19 and 20, as prelude to the invasion of Italy, punctuated one of the most celebrated espionage tricks of the war: Operation Mincemeat. As the brainchild of Admiral John Godfrey, director of … Read more

Five Composers in Three Days

Earlier this month, I stopped in London for three evenings of concerts, accompanied by meetings with five composers. I had the good company of the brilliant young German music critic Jens Laurson, who joined me f ro m his home in Munich. Ignatius Press has agreed to bring out an expanded and revised edition of … Read more

The Future of the Church in England

Back in the 1980s, I was involved with a group that produced a booklet looking at the future of the Church in Britain. We were assured — and repeated, without really thinking about it very deeply — that the downward trend of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and ordinations to the priesthood meant that there would be … Read more

He’s No de Tocqueville

Whether right or wrong or a bit of both, thoughtful foreign views of the American scene have a lot to contribute to our national self-understanding. Clifford Longley, a veteran columnist for the London weekly the Tablet, a journal of “progressive” Catholic opinion, is no de Tocqueville, but he’s an intelligent man who, despite his ingrained … Read more

‘Inside’ Outside for Mahler and Mozart

I go outside for InsideCatholic occasionally, and most recently journeyed across the pond to assay the musical life in London, always a pleasure in what remains, in my experience, the greatest city for music in the world. What other metropolis can boast several superb symphony orchestras and opera houses, to say nothing of the plentitude … Read more

Merry May Music

I was recently in “old Europe” for a conference on Islam and to promote my new book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind (alas, not a work about music). However, what’s the point of being in old Europe without music? The very stones cry out for it. Therefore, I snuck in an opera in Vienna, … Read more

London builds…something.

Public art or public eyesore? The mayor of London — the host city for the 2012 Olympic games — has commissioned a tower for their Olympic Park meant to be their own “mini-Eiffel.” Some 400ft high – admittedly a little shy of the Paris landmark’s 1,063ft, but higher than the Statue of Liberty – the … Read more

Update: Man in 23-year coma not communicating

Last fall, I (and the rest of the world) reported on the story of Rom Houben, a man who was thought to have been in a coma for 23 years before doctors discovered that he was actually conscious. Even more incredible was that Houben was reported to be communicating — even hoping to write a book about … Read more

Exporting mental illness

Here’s a fascinating article by Ethan Watters in the New York Times about how mental illness is being exported from the West to other parts of the world: For more than a generation now, we in the West have aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world… There is now good evidence … Read more

Fall Amble

I shall meander this beautiful fall month, hoping to take you with me to Great Britain as I cover concerts and recordings that I particularly liked — no more important reason than that. When last reporting on my musical adventures, I gave account of several concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in late … Read more

A Confession

In 1993 I was paid a visit in my home in London by an Irish writer, Colm Toibin, who was gathering material for a book on Catholicism in Europe. Toibin himself had lost his faith and seemed surprised when I told him that I believed not just in God but also in such difficult notions … Read more

The BBC Proms

While it is still the bicentenary year of Mendelssohn’s birth in 1809, I thought I should find a way to observe it. A trip to London in late July gave me the opportunity. At the Proms, a series of summer concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, I had the rare chance to … Read more

Burqas in Britain

One of the big issues under debate in the United Kingdom this summer is whether to ban the burqa. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last month that the burqa debases women and is not welcome in his country; Britain is trying to decide whether to follow suit.   To begin with, there is some confusion … Read more

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