Last week, Conrad Black asked BBC host Jeremy Paxman to stop his “bourgeois priggishness.” Paxman had called him a criminal. Black commended himself for not smashing Paxman’s face in.
Baron Black of Crossharbour, himself until recently a commoner, is perfectly justified to call anybody not in the House of Lords any name his wishes to make his polemical points. But it is unlikely that he meant Paxman was not his social equal. Surely he meant that Paxman was smug, shallow, dreary, complacent, conformist, a man who would believe anything. And was puritanical to boot. “Priggish” was the word he used.
Conrad Black may be greatly attracted to the idea, common in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century and hugely flattering to the image he no doubt has of himself, that the bourgeoisie gives artists and writers with God-given talents permission to live above the law specifically in matters of money. (Also in matters of love, but that does not apply to Conrad Black.)
Those who are not willing to give them that permission – men like Jeremy Paxman – are in his opinion philistines.
The prime example is Richard Wagner. By reason of his extraordinary gifts, he was sometimes forgiven for stealing another man’s wife, in one case even by the betrayed husband. A “genius” was also forgiven – and this may apply to Conrad Black – for not thinking it absolutely necessary always to pay his debts. Fortunately, at critical moments, Richard Wagner was helped out by the romantic (and mad) King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
One wonders if the Baron of Crossharbour is waiting for his prince to come. If he is allowed to resume his seat in the House of Lords his chances will no doubt be much improved.