Sophie Scruton, the wife of the late conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton visited Budapest earlier this week, to see what impact his husband’s legacy left in Hungary. She sat down with Hungarian journalists in the café named after her husband, the Scruton V.P. in the city centre on Monday.
Mrs Scruton started off by talking about her impressions after spending a week in the city. She said that she loved being in Budapest, and especially enjoyed visiting the coffeehouses honouring her husband’s legacy. She visited them on more and one occasion, ‘sometimes with friends, sometimes for work’. She described them as uplifting places.
Memories And Experiences In Budapest
She added that she loved all other parts of the city as well. She explained that she was in Budapest as part of the programme entitled ‘Continental Philosophy and Music and it’s Connection to Roger Scruton’. She remarked that every day she was fortunate enough to be able to attend lectures by people who had a personal connection to her husband, and then in the afternoon she had a chance to visit different parts of Budapest. When asked about what first comes to mind when visiting the city, she said that she always remembers the time when Roger Scruton first came to Hungary, before 1989.
She described that looking at the city now, it is hard to think about a time when the streets were rather empty, and were not filled with cafés, and that Budapest was a place where people were not able to express their views, or even to trust their neighbours. She said that her husband wanted to build friendships at the time, even if some topics were not allowed to be discussed. She said she finds it interesting and admires Roger’s imagination to come here and begin to make friends.
Sophie Scruton highlighted that Roger Scruton knew at the time that he would meet people with shared interests and values in Hungary, because there were and still are people in Hungary who love the art and culture that he valued, a place where the culture of artists such as Bartók and Liszt live on so vividly. She recalled that in England, they were very aware of the events of the uprising in 1956, along with the bravery and horrors of that time. ‘It’s something that’s part of English history’, she added. She reminisced that when they visited Hungary, Roger used to say that he remembers 1956, and hearing Hungarians ask for help on the radio. She said that these are the parts of the culture that she is aware of that led to the respect and sympathy for the Hungarian people in the UK.
When asked about the Scruton cafés in Budapest, Sophie Scruton said the creators of the cafés had reached out to her asking whether she found them a good idea, and she did. Mrs Scruton added that she was indeed very happy with the amount of attention and detail that went into the cafés. ‘I think they are a great tribute to Roger, his life and to what he liked,’ remarked.
Talking about Roger’s connection to the Czech Republic, she said that it is still very strong to this day. She added that Roger admired the Czech nation and their culture, and it is part of why he came to Central Europe when he did: to understand cultures that flourished at the start of the 20th century and then were supressed.
Relationship with Viktor Orbán
When asked about her husband’s connection to Viktor Orbán and his opinion about his government, she said that in terms of notions that support conservative values and family life, Sir Roger would be very pleased to know that such policies are being put in place, although he himself was obviously not a politician.
She said that their relationship with the Prime Minister ‘goes back a really long time’. She recalled the time when Viktor Orbán and other founders of Fidesz visited England in the early 1990’s. She said they were looking for inspiration and they wanted to have meetings with writers that they admired. The Hungarians arrived at the Scruton farm late at night for a conversation with Sir Roger. She said they were just students who wanted to ask questions from an author they admired, and wanted to get advice on some questions that they were struggling with at the time. She added that what Sir Roger told them then may have influenced those young people in terms of later policies.
On the topic of Viktor Orbán attending Roger’s funeral, she said that it was not because he is a statesman. She said Orbán came as a friend, not in his official capacity, and his presence was a gesture. She added that people came from all over the world despite the short notice, and recalled that an overwhelming number of people expressed their support after her husband’s passing.
Agreeing And Disagreeing With Her Husband
When asked about her personal relationship with her late husband, Sophie Scruton explained that the two of them loved to discuss things, and there would be disagreements, but their discussions never led to arguments, as people can debate about issues without conflict. She tressed that these conversations were one of the things she enjoyed most in their marriage.
She told the audience about the way she and her husband raised their children. Sir Roger was of the opinion that the children should not watch television, so the family did not have one in the house until the children were 10 and 12 years old. She said that this had an impact, because the kids were not distracted, and when they had guests over they were able to talk to adults. Later, her children even told her that they were happy that they had not had access to the telly until they were 12.
Keeping A Prominent Legacy Alive
When asked about the legacy of Sir Roger, Sophie Scruton said that she is pleased her husband’s work inspired so many initiatives. She said that it likely helps that she is encouraging them as well. She added that Roger Scruton wanted to leave a strong legacy and he would be glad to know that his writing is of such interest today. She said that it makes her happy as well, and that her main goal after Roger died was to make sure that the project he was working on comes to fruition. When asked about her husband’s work being translated to Hungarian, she said that she knows about numerous publishers that do so, for example MCC has translated quite a bit of them. She added that there are other publishers, and she knows about some translations that are currently in the process of being published.