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11th September 1930 - 28th June 2013
On Tuesday 24th September, 2013, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Kenneth Minogue was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:-
We gather today to celebrate the life and honour the memory of Kenneth Minogue, a leading intellectual and political philosopher, and for over ten years Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics.
Born in New Zealand, educated in Australia, Kenneth spent the rest of his academic life in England, from 1956 teaching at LSE. He was a prolific author and contributor to newspapers and periodicals, a conservative thinker who was a convinced Euro-Sceptic, and highly critical of over-intrusive government.
He was a gregarious and warm-hearted man with a real gift for friendship. We gather here to celebrate his many gifts, to recall our memories of Kenneth, and to commend him to the care and keeping of Almighty God.
Kenneth Minogue, for whose life and work we give thanks here today, is known to the great world mainly for his books, his journalism, his influence on politics, in short for his thought. Towards the end of a fruitful intellectual life, he had become a leading public intellectual of the Right, indeed the leading public intellectual of the Right, called upon regularly by the BBC to present a civilized case for opinions the institution plainly thought were somewhat uncivilized. My feeling was that Ken was slightly ambivalent about this status, since he took a highly ironic view of the public intellectual and his pretensions, but he cannot escape this classification. He was chairman of the Eurosceptic Bruges Group, a board member of the Centre for Policy Studies, persona grata in every organization of the British center-right (though he disliked the term center-right as a concession to radical centrism.) He regularly visited Europe, the United States and his native New Zealand and Australia to take a prominent part in their public debates. He had recently relinquished the chairmanship of the international Mont Pelerin Society—the mother-ship of classical liberalism—and indeed he died shortly after making an acclaimed speech to its conference in Galapagos. He had numerous awards of academic and public distinction, including Australia’s Centenary Medal.
All of these marks of recognition were rooted ultimately and justifiably in his major academic writings which were marked by coolness, urbanity, skepticism, and the making of fine distinctions. These qualities permeate his major books: “The Liberal Mind” (1963) which depicts modern liberalism as an elderly Saint George, hooked on idealism and self-applause, desperately searching for ever-smaller dragons to slay; “Alien Powers,” (1985), which attempts to discover the distilled essence of ideology by boiling down a number of specific ideologies in skepticism; “Politics: A Very Short Introduction” (2000) which is self-explanatory; “Conservative Realism,” a book of essays on the style of conservatism he favored by several distinguished hands under his editorship; and “The Servile Mind” (2012) which wittily examines how modern governments infantilize their citizens by dictating moral judgments to them. All these books are in print today; their frequent re-publication around the world testifying to the growing appeal of Ken’s style of thought and, in particular his style of conservative thought.
What was that style? Well, here is an example from his most recent book:
“Democratic citizenship in the twenty-first century means receiving a stream of improving “messages” from politicians. Some may forgive these intrusions because they are so well intentioned. Who would defend prejudice, debt, or excessive drinking? The point, however, is that our rulers have no business telling us how to live. They are tiresome enough in their exercise of authority—they are intolerable when they mount the pulpit.”
One can trace here certain echoes and influences from the philosopher Michael Oakeshott, the economist F.A. Hayek, and the political and literary critic Shirley Robin Letwin. That is hardly surprising since Ken Minogue, within a decade of arriving in Britain from New Zealand and Australia as a deck hand on a cargo ship, was appointed a junior lecturer in the LSE politics department headed by Oakeshott. (He remained there for fifty years and became head of the department in due course.) Not long afterwards he became a firm friend and close intellectual ally of two Americans prominent in London’s social-cum-political life, Bill and Shirley Letwin. Shirley ran one of London’s few intellectual salons, and Ken was a regular participant at the Letwins’ tennis and dinner parties, which became a hothouse of conservative arguments without ever ceasing to be entertaining social occasions for guests of every political stripe. By the early 1970s he was a central figure in a group of writers, academics, politicians, and journalists who exerted intellectual influence on the Tories, then reeling from two election defeats, through outlets such as the Daily Telegraph editorial page, the magazines Encounter and the Spectator, and the conservative think tanks then beginning to sprout: the Centre for Policy Studies, the Salisbury Group, and the Conservative Philosophy Group. All these organizations presented an Oakeshottian and/or traditional Tory set of arguments for the course that the Tory party was to take under Margaret Thatcher. The lady herself was closely associated with all these enterprises. They helped to persuade other Tories that Thatcherism was more than a revival of classical liberalism. They gave it Tory arguments and a kind of Tory sheen. As Ken might have put it himself, he risks the guilt of being a founder of Thatcherism. More recently, he defended the “nastiness” of the pre-Cameron Tory party as a praiseworthy willingness to take hard decisions.
In the meantime Ken had married Val and for twenty-five years they had advanced academically and socially in tandem, running their own salon for like-minded friends and colleagues and bringing a family into the world. That marriage came to an end eventually. But as Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote in his own case: “One cannot say that a marriage failed when it produced two fine children.” Or, in Ken and Val’s case, one might add two fine children and five grandchildren. Not only that, but the friendship between Val and Ken endured until his death. When after an interval he re-married, he and Beverley set up house at 43 Perrymead Street in Fulham where Ken also became a stepfather. Bev and he gave an apparently limitless series of lunch and dinner parties at which visiting conservative firemen from abroad, local Tory intellectuals, sporting left-wingers fond of debate, next-door neighbors, actors, painters, novelists, journalists and the couple’s extended families—very much including Val—would gather at a long table in the conservatory to be fed delicious food, drinkable wines, and provocative argument. Ken was a generous host, champagne bottle always at the ready, Bev a superb cook. Who that tasted it will forget her steak and kidney pudding? Their salon—Ken’s third salon but who’s counting—doubled as a kindergarden on the frequent occasions when the two sets of children and now grandchildren. Two extended families are giving thanks together here today.
Ken turned out to be a natural salon-keeper because his genius was, among other qualities, conversational. He would test seemingly reasonable propositions by pointing out the odious or absurd consequences of applying them in practice. He would do so with fanciful, comic, or homely examples. And he would delight in having his arguments caught, turned around, and sent whirling back by an opponent. Hearing this mix of logic and wit was rather like listening to a Platonic dialogue re-written by Noel Coward or Tom Stoppard. Indeed, the nearest thing in art to Ken’s conversation may be Stoppard’s 1972 play about modern philosophy, “Jumpers.” Not incidentally, Ken was a great admirer of Stoppard to whose trilogy of plays on the Russian intelligentsia, “The Coast of Utopia,” he gave a rave review that included the Minoguian or Stoppardian line:
“A nation of clever artists, such as the Italians, should never have fallen for [Mussolini’s] idea that they were all warriors with a mission to restore the greatness of Rome.”
For those reasons Ken was a fine teacher, one admired by his students, including those who disagreed with his political views. Tim Fuller [and ???? ????] will have more to say about that at LSE later. But we all benefited from Ken’s relaxed but constant interrogation of reality and ideas under the guise of dinner-table conversation. Roger Kimball recalls a lunch early in their friendship when Ken, puzzling over some implications of utilitarianism, asked: “Imagine someone invented a machine that could eliminate thousands of highway fatalities, only it needed to be fed 6 people at random to work. Most of us would recoil from such a solution, but why?” Roger and he spent a tonic hour over the wine . . . teasing out the answer. We could all, I think, give our own examples of such entertaining education. His students were in good hands, and they knew it.
But Ken knew that being a good teacher meant being a good learner. He was always ready to listen to other views, however out of the way, and to debate them “politely.” On one occasion he accepted an invitation from Arianna Huffington to the Café Royal to meet her guru of the moment. In the formal informal manner of such events the guests had to introduce themselves. Ken’s opening gambit was “My name is Ken. I am a teacher. But I am here to learn rather than to teach.” Ken knew that nothing was beyond belief. This omnivorous appetite for sensation stood him in good stead as a writer and lecturer. He wrote about serious things seriously—and about fundamentals in appropriate depth—but he drew on a range of experiences, both down-to-earth and wildly eccentric, that made his thought deep yet readily accessible to the serious layman.
Here he is reflecting on his experience as a supply teacher in a tough-ish London school in the mid-fifties:
“I only once had occasion to call for the cane, which was sent (with the caning record book) straight up from the headmaster's office. As I raised the cane over the offender's hand, a chorus came from the class: "Mustn't raise the cane above your shoulder, Sir, LCC [London County Council] regulation." These were children (he recollects in tranquility) who had not yet been accorded the absurdity of rights, but they understood very well that they lived under a rule of law.”
In short, Ken was an equal enemy both to the political demagogue and to the academic mystagogue. And his writings will survive as a corrective de-mystification of the drift of political philosophy in his time.
He died teaching. A student who had heard his fine lecture earlier in the week asked to sit next to him on the plane. Ken, who was apparently very tired at end of a busy week, readily agreed. He broke off answering questions to ask the air hostess for another cup of coffee. (Bea will tell us more about the significance to his fondness for coffee in a moment.) As she was pouring it, he resumed his reply to the student and died in mid-sentence. Was that a good death? I think it was. At the very moment when he passed into the next world, he was doing what he did best and simultaneously committing an act of kindness. Through his work which will continue to be published and read as long as people appreciate a sophisticated defense of commonsense, he will be doing acts of kindness for the rest of us too. Furthermore, we will enjoy those kindnesses. They will readable, fresh, arresting.
For Ken deserves the epitaph that his great friend, Colin Welch, devised for that otherwise mythical creature, the perfect columnist: “Always consistent, never predictable.”
Born in Palmerston North New Zealand, brought up in Sydney near Coogee beach, educated at Sydney University and LSE in London, lived in London and died in the air off the Galapagos Islands en route to Guayaquil in Ecuador. Outside the twentieth century few lives could have been lived with such global movement save perhaps, as Ken might have said, for those of a few of Genghis Khan's horsemen or Alexander's foot soldiers.
At the age of about 4 it was a treat to be able to share in the male ritual of shaving undertaken with an electric shaver which in my case merely tickled my chin, but it was a rare and precious moment of my father's time. I knew that his time was precious and that it should be well spent, as both our parents spent it, talking and writing. We children would rarely go to sleep without the clack clack clackety clack of two typewriters going flat out in the study downstairs. Always a reassuring sound to go to sleep to.
A few years later at ‘drinks time’, a form of enforced familial sociability as much as a beverage opportunity, we children were required to participate and the substance could be anything, so long as the answer to what we did in school today was never ‘nothing much’. The requirement was that one show the capacity for reflection on however humble a topic. Ken would tell us, with what he hoped was infectious enthusiasm, about writing essays in his schooldays on humble subjects like ‘a day in the life of a penny’, a treat he had experienced but largely absent from my education. He never stopped writing more advanced versions of that sort of essay, re-examinations of the apparently everyday but where an effort of mind could turn the presentation and reveal something unexpected.
Leisure too had to be approached seriously and he was always up for whatever adventure offered. From him I have a consuming need for a target when out walking. One should always be aiming for the highest point, the end of the peninsula, the castle. My childhood is full of walks. Even more to be seized were opportunities for a swim, not a sentiment my adolescent self always joined in, but he was right, one rarely regrets it, or the cold water, afterwards.
In my childhood he would return from work with stories of battles in the common room or on the squash court but we children saw more of him playing tennis, a happy communal activity carried out in large parties at New Malden at the LSE sports ground of which I think our group of Letwins and Minogues and Wades and Orrs were probably the largest single users during the late sixties.
Notwithstanding his tennis playing, no one would have thought my father interested in sport. However one of his themes was the role of games and games playing in people's lives, the role of the ‘ludic’. I recall an early discussion of how people go about hard tasks such as digging ditches, possibly brought on by our digging of a ditch together, however unlikely that sounds. We noted that some people can find ways of keeping themselves amused whatever their task by playing games which allow a transfer of attention from the unappealing matter in hand to the outcome of the game. Sometimes it can be who can dig fastest but the best games are those in which other people are not even necessary, such as whether ones next shovelful of earth can be deposited exactly alongside ones last. Ken could be a disciplined player of games in which the only necessary other player was himself.
Many of the games can of course be played with language. Where others might see merely an everyday usage he would pause and look up the origins of words to take a new direction in understanding meanings, taxing my mother with questions about obscure French, Italian, or my sister Greek or Latin words. He was a great user of metaphor, preferably in a context which could disconcert and illuminate. Hence I think the constant intrusion of fairy or folk tales in many of his writings. St George and dragon killing has certainly cropped up more than once. Where others, using metaphor, might write about bubbles in asset prices he would adapt the term to moral bubbles, the point being that the reader should be made eager to find out what such a thing might be.
Ken never ceased to seize opportunities; whether for a swim, an opera or a bowl of his favourite hot and sour soup. His recent life had been spent travelling the world in search of interesting conversations. He played his part to stimulate such conversation for others, giving papers and more recently taking on the Chair of the Mt Pelerin Society He would have preferred that this last duty had been one he could have shared with Bev, taking him as it did to meetings in Sydney, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Istanbul, Fez, Prague and the Galapagos Islands.
Ken did not do idleness well. And being ill in any way was something he did very badly so I can only think how glad he would be that his ending was so sudden and came upon him in mid sentence.
Ken would have been impressed that so many of you have come here, but would perhaps have modestly told you that you should not have bothered. In his absence let me say thank you for coming.
Noonie Minogue read Revelation 21: 1-7
21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Bea and Kat Addis read Excerpts from A Memoir on some Minogue Origins" by Ken Minogue
(looking back on student life) “It hardly needs saying that I had little idea of what I was up to: all was vanity. I knew about voting machines, but nothing about power and how it might be used. I had of course a Marxist phase, because only the Marxists had a general theory that might explain what went on in politics. It took me a little time to recognize that all this shining theory was largely hogwash. But hot gospels are exciting and amusing, and even, up to a point, intellectually stimulating, and I was awash with them – Marxism in politics, Andersonianism in philosophy. Everything was experimental, nothing was seriously committing. It was a world effervescing with what later became understood as the liberations of the sixties. Having been through all this freethinking long before, I regarded the sixties as merely a popularized and downmarket replay of the ideas of that time. But by then I had passed through Conrad’s “shadow line”.
I went back to Sydney and continued with my courses – I was doing three degrees simultaneously, along with a lot of student activities. My father and I lived still in Roslyn St but he was away a good deal of the time. I didn’t quite know where I was going, and I was certainly not close to my father. I had failed one of my exams, and I began to think of joining the great movement of that time – going off to London to see the world. I began looking for a ship I could work my passage on, which involved wandering around the docks and bearding captains. One time I came off the ship with an Italian – old he was, must have been thirty, perhaps – who was migrating to Australia. He said he was settling down. “When I was young,” he said, “I rushed from one thing to another, but now, when I drink a cup of coffee, I know that I am drinking a cup of coffee.” I felt he spoke to my condition. Eventually, I found a British ship called the Graigwen, hailing from Cardiff, and they took me on as a cabin boy. That was in July 1951, and I arrived in London, after stops in Egypt and Odessa on the Black Sea, on September 11th, my 21st birthday. It was intended to be merely a trip of a year or so.”
Alice and Charlotte Minogue read My Country by Dorothea Mackellar
My Country - Dorothea Mackellar
“The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly”.
Ferdie Addis read Excerpt from The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
Last stanza of Burnt Norton from The Four Quartets - T.S. Eliot
“Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.”
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
Thou knowest Lord, the secrets of our hearts - Purcell
What is our life? - Gibbons
It was a lover and his lass - Vaughan Williams
Kyrie from Requiem - Duruflé
Laudamus Te & Propter Magnam Gloriam from Gloria - Vivaldi
Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor - Bach
He Who Would Valiant Be
Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory
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