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View From Your Table

Budapest, Hungary

I’m drinking my morning coffee at home from a paper cup I swiped from Scruton, the Budapest coffeeshop dedicated to the memory of Sir Roger. John O’Sullivan, my boss at The Danube Institute, wrote about it when it opened not long ago. Excerpt:

Last week a unique but apposite tribute was paid in Budapest to the late Sir Roger Scruton, the distinguished Tory philosopher who died earlier this year: A café was opened in his name. It goes under the designer label “Scruton—The Place to be” and is situated three blocks from the Hungarian Parliament at 10 Zoltan Street. It’s the first of several such cafes. A second has already opened in the city center, at least technically, and will open its doors in reality when the COVID restrictions are lifted. Several more are planned for Hungarian university towns where their natural clientele is likely to be found (until about three every morning if my own university life is any precedent).

But the first Scruton Cafe has some advantages that probably can’t be replicated indefinitely; Roger’s widow, Sophie, has given it some memorabilia of his life — books, records, an old-fashioned gramophone, his favorite brands of tea, his teapot, etc. — and it’s intended to be a place of intellectual and social conversation as well as of light eating and civilized drinking. Roger’s books will be on sale — he wrote more than 40 on topics ranging all the way from sex and wine to left-wing thinkers. So will opinion journals and magazines — principally conservative ones, of which Central Europe now has a good number such as the European Conservative, which Alvaro Mario Fantini edits from Vienna — with pride of place going to the Salisbury Review that Roger founded and edited for many years and that still flourishes modestly with regular contributors like the coolly formidable wit Theodore Dalrymple. There’s a space in the café for the occasional philosophical debate, poetry reading, or book launch, and its basement doubles as a television and internet studio that hosted its first event this month — see below.

All this is traditional in coffee houses going back to 18th-century London and indeed to Central Europe, especially from about 1860 to 1940. But the special appeal of the very English Sir Roger to Central Europeans is interesting and significant. It rests on three features of the man and his life.

You’ll need to read the whole thing to find out what those three features are. Scruton is a great space, and I can hardly wait for it to open up fully (for now, you can only get take-out coffee from there, because of Covid). Wouldn’t it be great if American university towns had a Scruton, as a hangout for conservatives, and a place to debate and discuss?

(By the way, ye with sharp eyes will observe on the mantel that I’ve brought along from home a couple of icons: a Virgin and Child, and my dear friends the Mechev fathers, St. Alexei and his son St. Sergei.)

UPDATE: Behold, a James C. VFYT!

Chiavari, Gulf of Tigullio, Riviera di Levante, Italy