The late Sir Roger Scruton's sharp intellect and benevolence and respectful attitude to viewpoints which sometimes differed from his own inspired him to sponsor and finance my www.wagnerheim.com website, so I could present to the world the fruit of my lifetime quest to demonstrate the conceptual and allegorical unity of Wagner's canonic operas and music-dramas, particularly the "Ring." This website and discussion forum would never have been possible without Sir Roger's profound love of this subject and his deep respect for my serious effort to confront the phenomenon Richard Wagner, even though he had reservations about my approach which he detailed in his book "The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's 'Ring of the Nibelung' " (2016, Allen Lane/Penguin). What follows is my obituary for him, in the form of my and my companion Dotti's letters of condolence to Sir Roger's family. I regret that due to technical problems I wasn't able to post this soon after his passing in January of 2020:
MY EMAIL OF CONDOLENCES TO SIR ROGER SCRUTON'S WIDOW LADY SOPHIE SCRUTON AND TO THEIR TWO CHILDREN LUCY AND SAM, PROBABLY MAILED IN MARCH OF 2020:
Dear Sophie, Sam, and Lucy:
The passing of your husband and father, Sir Roger, was a blow that I, like you, just a few months ago had never foreseen. What a terrible shock. I grieve with you. But he consoles the world with a legacy of profound thought, and courageous actions, in defense of liberty, cultural heritage, and reason, which will live on. For those lucky enough to have known him as family or friend, we'll always have the most wonderful, intimate memories, of a wise and good man.
I've read many obituaries in newspapers and magazines which describe in inspiring detail the immense sweep of his lasting and good influence, his lifelong fight to preserve what's best in our civilization: beauty, decency, fairness, reasoned debate, good government, our environment, our most cherished traditions, the rule of law, etc. I can't match these obsequies in depth or breadth, but can say what Sir Roger means to me. I hope you'll find some comfort in this. What Sir Roger did for me, that no other would do, is part of his legacy.
When I withdrew from the graduate program in Anthropology at the Univ. of Southern Illinois in Carbondale (1976) to pursue independent research into the conceptual unity underlying Richard Wagner's art, I was taking a great risk, liable to leave me penniless, because I was convinced I'd discovered something momentous which, in order to explore it to its depths prior to seeking publication, meant I must forego a conventional educational or career path. By 2009, confident in my conclusions, I contacted over 300 influential Wagnerians seeking help to get my work published. I knew Roger only as author of a book on Tristan and Isolde. Previously I'd tried and failed many times to interest the Wagner punditocracy in my insights. Perhaps 1/10th responded with a courtesy note but no practical offer of aid. Roger was the only eminent Wagnerian to request I send him my entire study (1,000 plus pages). Having read all or most of it (I could scarcely get anyone else to read a paragraph), in fall of 2010 he invited me to his office at the American Enterprise Institute, near my home in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss prospects for publication. So began our friendship.
He noted that because I was unknown to the wider world, and because my book's argument made so many demands, I wouldn't be able to persuade any academic press to publish it in its current form. So he sponsored a website where my book would be posted free to the public, to establish my brand. In the spring of 2011, with the help of webmeister Justin Jeffries, my book was posted online at www.wagnerheim.com. Roger would be proud to know that my online book has now been cited by four serious book-length studies of Wagner. He suggested I rewrite my online version for brevity and accessibility. I completed my 4th revision last year, and forwarded a proposal and 2 sample chapters to Oxford Univ. Press, which has published many of Roger's books. He suggested I have OUP call him. I don't know if that call was ever made. But thanks to Roger's public praise of my research I was able to quote him to good effect in my letter of introduction to OUP. I don't know if, or when, my allegorical interpretation of Wagner's Ring will be published in hardcopy, but I wanted you to know that Roger alone, among all the Wagnerians I've solicited for help over the years, made it possible for me to disseminate my original thesis to the world, in spite of his having some reservations about my approach. I possess a correspondence between us ranging from 2010 until 12/29/2019, which I'll gladly make available to you if you wish. My debt to him can't be overstated.
With our most heartfelt and grieving condolences, Your friends Paul and Dotti
Dear Mrs. Scruton, Sam, and Lucy:
I am Dorothy (Dotti) Szymanski, Paul's companion. I wanted to share with you the one occasion on which I met your husband and father at Ave Maria University near Naples, Florida. Some years ago Paul informed me that Sir Roger (at that time still Dr. Scruton) would be presenting three lectures over three days at Ave Maria University. Paul emailed Roger to say that since the university was only 2.5 hours' drive away from our home, we'd get a motel room nearby and attend two of his three lectures. Sir Roger wrote back and astonished Paul by inviting us both to be his guests at a special dinner thrown in Sir Roger's behalf by the Dean and faculty of the university. After his first lecture, we ran into Sir Roger and the Dean in the foyer outside the lecture hall. He astonished Paul again by asking us if we'd drive him to the home where the dinner was being thrown, so he could talk privately with Paul about the status of his revision of his book on Wagner's Ring, The Wound That Will Never Heal, Volume One. My white van's back seats were filled with all kinds of things, including flats of water bottles, which we had to throw into the trunk area to make room. It amused us no end that a man of such eminence would ask us to drive him in my van over to the dinner. To this day we enjoy informing passengers in our van that the back seat on the right side is where the great Sir Roger Scruton once sat. At the dinner, by the way, Sir Roger kept our wine glasses full, which will come as no surprise to you. We thought you would enjoy this little private anecdote about the man you loved, and will always love, and whom we'll always honor in memory.
I also wanted you to know that over the years Paul shared with me, and also with my former (deceased) husband, links to numerous videos of Sir Roger lecturing or being interviewed, which we found immensely impressive and instructive.
With deepest regret for your (and the world's) loss, Dotti
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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