From the Revd R. O. Gould
Sir, - I beg to differ from James Cary ("Why do the Left
have all the best jokes?, Comment, 26 April).
Some fifty years ago, my Greek teacher informed me
authoritatively that satire was the preserve of the Right. He was,
of course, referring to the treatment of Socrates by the father of
satire, Aristophanes, in The Clouds. Not many years later,
at the first appearance of Week Ending, another teacher
informed me with equal certainty that satire was the preserve of
the Left. In fact, both are wrong.
While it is true that much recent satire has been written from
the Left, some of the finest satire of the 20th century was Ronald
Knox's burlesque of the then current higher biblical criticism,
whose methods he used to "prove" that Tennyson's In
Memoriam was written by Queen Victoria, and that the
"Pseudo-Bunyan" who wrote the second part of The Pilgrim's
Progress was a woman of Catholic leanings.
Mgr Knox, like a host of humorists of Eastern Europe satirising
the Soviet Union, can hardly be called left-wing. It would seem
truer to say that satire is mainly written by those who feel their
position threatened by something, whether old or new, which is
sufficiently powerful and well-known to make the force of their
Should the Left come to power and be seen as such, satire from
the Right will flourish, and cease to seem "mean".
33 Charterhall Road
Edinburgh EH9 3HS