Nearly twenty years after his death at a less-than-advanced age, Henry Fairlie (1924–1990) is now honored with a generous sampling of the work he did for his last employer, The New Republic. Jeremy McCarter of Newsweek has done a judicious job assembling the contents. He also supplies a biographical sketch of Fairlie, documenting his quick rise through London journalism, the gathering troubles brought on by thoughtless spending, drinking, and philandering, and his assignment to America in 1965. Fairlie never returned to Britain, nor did he change his way of life. His disregard for his own welfare prevented him from gathering in the rewards heaped upon so many American journalists—the fellowships, the lecture fees, the honorary degrees. Fairlie sounded only faintly envious when he tabulated these emoluments in a 1984 article. Indeed, he spent his latter days sleeping in the magazine’s office. But the seediness of his life never seeped into his resplendent writing. He may be best remembered for providing the modern definition of “The Establishment” as the encompassing official and social network that, among other things, protected the British spies Burgess and Maclean. Politically, Fairlie described himself as a Tory, but his earmark was independence. He admired Churchill and FDR, and despised Reagan, or at least Reaganism. He defended big government as a necessity—and en passant, flayed George Will for faux learning. It all remains fresh and reading through it is like attending a circus.

 

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James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.