Profile of Oakeshott from the archives of The Spectator

The digitisation of The Spectator magazine’s archives from 1828 to 2008 offers a fair few gems for Oakeshottians.

One such gem is “Philosopher of Conversation“, John Casey’s 1985 profile of Oakeshott.

It has many remarks that gain extra interest in the light of the recent debate about revelations about Oakeshott’s love life.

For example:

“He [Oakeshott] is firmly bohemian, and for much of his life was addicted to camping and the open air. Despite his avowed attachment to Augustinian Christianity he has always seemed a quite unembarrassed Romantic child of nature.”

“Oakeshott was an extraordinarily handsome young man and retains an astonishing beauty in old age. As Aubrey said of Hobbes: ‘He was no woman hater.’ (‘He is not, at present, married, but is not unacquainted with the matrimonial condition,’ one don put it, diplomatically and donnishly, when suggesting Oakeshott for the Mastership of Caius, a notably respectable college.) In fact he has been married three times. He is said to have fallen in love always with a Dantean, idealising passion, managing to discover the Ideal Woman, the Beatrice, the Lady of Shalott. He is probably the only living philosopher who exemplifies Plato’s conviction that the erotic is part of the philosophical spirit.”

“That Oakeshott is, in life and by conviction, a Romantic is beyond dispute.”

Note: Casey’s profile was published anonymously at the time, but his authorship later became clear – see this site’s copy of Peter Coleman’s later obituary for Oakeshott).