A. N. Wilson

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Andrew Norman Wilson (born 27 October 1950) is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views.


  • The trouble with Thatcherism could be summed up in the words of the Duke of Norfolk when...he offered some reflections on the ‘rhythm’ method of birth control: it doesn't bloody work. ... The trouble is that none of these public services can actually be paid for by private individuals. ... The Government knows this really, and is therefore incapable of living up to its supposed convictions. It has therefore increased public expenditure in most areas, but done so in a mean-spirited way which has resulted in a decline in quality in almost every area of public life. ... They have not been prepared to make the necessary capital outlay to overhaul the railways. Speak to any librarian, museum curator, keeper of an art gallery or of a building in public ownership. Rather than allowing adequate funds to these bodies, the Government has relentlessly refused to increase the money as required. ... Unless we all decide to vote Labour — we the majority who are not committed to Conservatism come what may — we face a future with dud trains, dud libraries, dud museums, dud hospitals, and the poor getting poorer — sans eyes, sans teeth, sans everything.
    • ‘Time to Turn to Labour’, The Spectator (11 March 1989), pp. 8–9
  • In universities and intellectual circles, academics can guarantee themselves popularity — or, which is just as satisfying, unpopularity — by being opinionated rather than by being learned.
    • As quoted in The Guardian (30 September 1989); also in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993) by Robert Andrews, p. 6.
  • At the dinner table, the talk turned to politics. It was in the days before the 'Gang of Four' had allied themselves to the Liberal Party [early 1981].
    Queen Elizabeth [The Queen Mother]: I dislike this new socialist party of Woy's [sic].
    Host: They're called the Social Democrats, ma'am.
    Queen Elizabeth: Yes. Well, you don't change socialist just by leaving ist off the end. I say, it's a cheat to start something called the Social Party. I liked the old Labour Party. The best thing is a good old Tory government with a strong Labour opposition.
  • Queen Elizabeth: I thought the girls . . . you see, they were marooned in Windsor Castle for most of the war, and I was not sure that they were having a very good education and kind Sachie and Osbert [Sitwell] said they would arrange a poetry evening for us. Such an embarrassment. Osbert was wonderful, as you would expect, and Edith, of course, but then we had this rather lugubrious man in a suit, and he read a poem . . . I think it was called "The Desert". And first the girls got the giggles, and then I did and then even the King.
    Self: "The Desert", ma'am? Are you sure it wasn't called "The Waste Land?
    Queen Elizabeth: That's it. I'm afraid we all giggled. Such a gloomy man, looked as though he worked in a bank, and we didn't understand a word.
    Self: I believe he did once work in a bank.
  • No creature, animal or human, emerges with much dignity from Animal Farm and it reminds us that there is no political system in the history of the world that is innocent. I remember conversations about Animal Farm with Orwell's great friend Malcolm Muggeridge who had personally witnessed Stalin's show trials in the Soviet Union. "Yes," he would say when I clumsily likened these to the pigs' behaviour in Animal Farm. "But, you know, I have come to see that Eleanor Roosevelt" — ie the embodiment of western smug liberalism — "did more damage to the world than Hitler and Stalin combined." I thought of those words when I finished my umpteenth reread of Orwell's masterpiece, and realised he would certainly have agreed.

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