Childhood & Early Life
Roger Vernon Scruton was born on February 27, 1944, in Buslingthorpe, Lincolnshire, England, to John and Beryl Scruton. He was raised in an upper-middle-class family. His father was a teacher, and his mother was a housewife. Roger grew up with two sisters.
He was good in academics even as a child and had a range of interests, including science, philosophy, and social sciences. After the family moved to an upper-class area in Manchester, he was introduced to an elite lifestyle. However, he did not like the life there and missed living in the countryside.
He was an avid reader as a kid and loved reading romantic fiction. He was academically good, and that led him to earn a scholarship to study in a grammar school named the ‘Manchester High School.’
His parents were not too religious, despite being Christians, and described themselves as “humanists.” Roger, on the other hand, had turned religious with time. Owing to this, he was not on good terms with his father.
Roger Scruton later attended the ‘Royal Grammar School’ in High Wycombe and excelled in subjects such as chemistry, physics, and mathematics. This earned him a scholarship to study at the ‘Jesus College,’ located in Cambridge, where he joined a natural science course. His father was miffed at him, and they stopped talking to each other. He eventually switched to philosophy and graduated in 1965.
He then moved to other parts of Europe and taught philosophy in universities there. He lived in France and Italy. He came back to Cambridge and obtained his doctorate degree in 1973.
He embraced conservatism during the student protests of France in 1968. He saw the students protesting and engaging in vandalism of public property. He felt extremely angered over their actions, and this motivated him to understand politics.
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Roger Scruton's thesis was titled ‘Art and Imagination, a Study in the Philosophy of Mind.’ He was so fascinated with the subject that he ended up writing a book titled ‘Art and Imagination.’ The book was published in 1974 and opened to great reviews.
After obtaining his doctorate degree, he was appointed as a philosophy professor at the ‘Birkbeck College’ in London. He took evening classes, while during the day, he taught French at the ‘Putney High School.’ Later, in 1979, he released his second book, ‘The Aesthetics of Architecture.’
In the 1970s, most philosophers around the world began associating themselves with the leftist ideology when it came to politics. Roger Scruton was rare, as he was a staunch conservative. He taught at the ‘Birkbeck College,’ where almost all the staff members and students were leftists. To make the conservative philosophy mainstream, he co-founded a group called the ‘Conservative Philosophy Group.’ It was supposed to propagate the intellectual side of conservatism.
The group became extremely popular with the right-wing intellectuals of the time, such as historian Hugh Thomas and politician Margaret Thatcher. Margaret later went on to become the prime minister of the U.K. Needless to say, the group propagated the philosophical basis of conservative politics.
As he kept working toward spreading the ideology of conservatism, he invited contempt from the staff of the college where he taught. His third book, ‘The Meaning of Conservatism,’ was published in 1980. As the title suggests, the book was an attempt to clear the misconceptions about conservatism among the impressionable youth. As a result, he was criticized by his colleagues at ‘Birkbeck.’ However, he did not care and continued teaching at the college until 1992.
Roger Scruton had been a political activist in other parts of Europe, too. In 1979, he supported the dissidents of the ruling ‘Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.’ He helped them create links with people of the same ideology from the Western countries. He later recorded his experiences in Communist Prague in the book titled ‘Notes from Underground,’ published in 2014.
In 1982, he served as one of the editors of magazine ‘The Salisbury Review.’ The magazine was yet another attempt at popularizing the ideology of conservatism among the masses. He also wrote many articles for the magazine, mostly under pseudonyms, and later said that the magazine inspired a whole new generation of conservative intellectuals to venture into mainstream politics.
In the 1980s, he started focusing more on his writing career and wrote many books. Almost all his books, in one way or another, adhered to his political ideologies. In 1981, he published his first fiction book, ‘Fortnight’s Anger.’
Back then, he also received a lot of criticism for his books. In 1985, he published the book titled ‘Thinkers of the New Left.’ The book drew criticism from all over, especially from leftist intellectuals. It was a collection of provocative essays that he had earlier written for ‘The Salisbury Review.’ Following a massive outrage, the book was almost taken out of shelves. Roger later mentioned that the incident had caused him to sink into depression.
Angered by this, in 1987, he laid the foundation of his own publishing house, ‘The Claridge Press.’ During the decade, he published 13 non-fiction books.
He also wrote articles for ‘The Times.’ However, he largely refrained from writing on politics, and most of his articles in the publication were related to topics such as music and wine.
In the early 2000s, he wrote several articles in support of smoking, in leading magazines. He himself was a heavy smoker and received a regular remuneration from ‘Japan Tobacco International.’ He had not disclosed his deal with the tobacco company, and when it was later exposed by ‘The Guardian’ in 2002, it dealt a big blow to Roger’s reputation. Several organizations for which he wrote banned him, and he was also stripped of his visiting-professor privileges across the European colleges where he taught.
In 2004, he, along with his family, moved to Virginia with the intention of staying in the United States permanently. However, he moved back to the U.K. in 2009.
In 2016, he was “knighted” for his services to philosophy, teaching, and public education. He continued to write conservative books.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Roger Scruton married Danielle Laffitte, a Frenchwoman whom he had met when he was in France. The marriage took place in 1973, but the couple divorced in 1979. He then married Sophie Jeffreys in 1996. The couple stayed married until his demise. He fathered two children during his lifetime.
He was awarded a ‘Medal of Merit’ by the Czech Republic, the ‘Knight Bachelor’ by the U.K., the ‘Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland,’ and the ‘Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.’
Roger Scruton passed away from cancer on January 12, 2020. He was 75 years old at the time of his death.