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Theodore Dalrymple

Anthony Daniels
Theodore Dalrymple (pseudonym)
Born (1949-10-11) 11 October 1949
London, UK
Residence England / France
Occupation Author, journalist, doctor, psychiatrist
Notable work Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
Our Culture, What's Left of It
Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality
Movement Conservatism

Anthony (A.M.) Daniels (born 11 October 1949), who generally uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple, is an English writer and retired prison doctor and psychiatrist. He worked in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries as well as in the east end of London. Before his retirement in 2005, he worked in City Hospital, Birmingham[1] and Winson Green Prison in inner-city Birmingham, England.

Daniels is a contributing editor to City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute, where he is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow.[2] In addition to City Journal, his work frequently appears in The British Medical Journal, The Times, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Salisbury Review, National Review, and Axess magasin. He is the author of a number of books, including Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass, Our Culture, What's Left of It, and Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality.

In his writing, Daniels frequently argues that the liberal and progressive views prevalent within Western intellectual circles minimise the responsibility of individuals for their own actions and undermine traditional mores, contributing to the formation within prosperous countries of an underclass afflicted by endemic violence, criminality, sexually transmitted diseases, welfare dependency, and drug abuse. Much of Dalrymple's writing is based on his experience of working with criminals and the mentally ill.

Although he is occasionally accused of being a pessimist, his defenders praise his socially conservative non-religious philosophy, which they describe as being anti-ideological, sceptical, rational and empiricist. In 2010, Daniel Hannan wrote that Dalrymple's work "takes pessimism about human nature to a new level. Yet its tone is never patronising, shrill or hectoring. Once you get past the initial shock of reading about battered wives, petty crooks and junkies from a non-Left perspective, you find humanity and pathos".[3]

In 2011, Dalrymple received the 2011 Freedom Prize from the Flemish think tank Libera! (think tank).[4]


  • Life 1
  • Writing 2
  • Themes 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


His father was a Communist businessman of Russian ancestry, while his Jewish mother was born in Germany and came to England as a refugee from the Nazi regime.[5]

His work as a doctor took him to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Tanzania, South Africa and the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati). He returned to the United Kingdom in 1990, where he worked in London and Birmingham.

In 1991 he made an extended appearance on British television under the name Theodore Dalrymple: on 23 February he took part in an After Dark discussion called Prisons: No Way Out alongside former gangster Tony Lambrianou, Taki Theodoracopolous and others.[6][7]

In 2005 he retired early as a consultant psychiatrist, writing in the Sunday Telegraph: "Retired at last! Retired at last! Thank God Almighty, retired at last! Such are the feelings of almost all hospital consultants and general practitioners who retire from the National Health Service after many years of service: years that increasingly have been ones of drudgery, servitude and subordination to politicians and their henchmen, the managers, who utter Pecksniffian pieties as they secure the advancement of their own inglorious careers." He now divides his time (with his wife, Dr. Agnes C. Nalpas) between homes in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and France, and continues to write.

Regarding his pseudonym Theodore Dalrymple, Daniels says he "chose a name that sounded suitably dyspeptic, that of a gouty old man looking out of the window of his London club, port in hand, lamenting the degenerating state of the world".[8]

He is an atheist, but has criticised anti-theism and says that "to regret religion [...] is to regret our civilisation and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy".[9] Raised in a non-religious Jewish home, he began doubting the existence of a God at age nine. He became an atheist in response to a moment in a school assembly.[9]

Daniels has also used the pen names Edward Theberton and Thursday Msigwa[10] and possibly yet another pen name,[8] in addition to his bona fide name.


Daniels began sending unsolicited articles to The Spectator in the early 1980s; his first published work, entitled A Bit of a Myth appeared in the magazine in August 1983 under the name A.M. Daniels. Charles Moore wrote in 2004 that "Theodore Dalrymple, then writing under a different pseudonym, is the only writer I have ever chosen to publish on the basis of unsolicited articles".[11] Between 1984 and 1991 Daniels published articles in The Spectator under the pseudonym Edward Theberton.

Daniels has written extensively on culture, art, politics, education, and medicine – often drawing on his experiences as a doctor and psychiatrist in Africa and the United Kingdom. The historian Noel Malcolm has described Daniels's written accounts of his experiences working at a prison and a public hospital in Birmingham as "journalistic gold",[12] and Charles Moore observed that "it was only when he returned to Britain that he found what he considered to be true barbarism – the cheerless, self-pitying hedonism and brutality of the dependency culture. Now he is its unmatched chronicler."[11] Daniel Hannan wrote in 2011 that Dalrymple "writes about Koestler's essays and Ethiopian religious art and Nietzschean eternal recurrence – subjects which, in Britain, are generally reserved for the reliably Left-of-Centre figures who appear on Start the Week and Newsnight Review. It is Theodore's misfortune to occupy a place beyond the mental co-ordinates of most commissioning editors."[4]

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass, a collection of essays was published in book form in 2001. The essays, which the Manhattan Institute had first begun publishing in City Journal in 1994, deal with themes such as personal responsibility, the mentality of society as a whole, and the troubles of the underclass. As part of his research for the book, Dalrymple interviewed over 10,000 people who had attempted suicide.

Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, published in 2005, is another collection of essays in which he contends that the middle class's abandonment of traditional cultural and behavioural aspirations has, by example, fostered routine incivility and militant ignorance among the poor. He examines diverse themes and figures in the book including Shakespeare, Marx, Virginia Woolf, food deserts and volitional underclass malnutrition, recreational vulgarity, and the legalisation of drugs. One of the essays in the book, "When Islam Breaks Down", was named one of the most important essays of 2004 by David Brooks in the New York Times.[13]

In 2009, Dalrymple's British publisher Monday Books announced it was to publish two books. The first, Not With a Bang But A Whimper, appeared in August 2009. It is different from the United States book of the same name, though some of the author's essays appear in both books. In October 2009, Monday Books published Second Opinion, a further collection of Dalrymple essays, this time dealing exclusively with his work in a British hospital and prison.[14]

With Gibson Square Dalrymple then published his most successful book Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (2010), which analyses how sentimentality has become culturally entrenched in British society with seriously harmful effects. In 2011, he published Litter: What Remains of Our Culture, followed by The Pleasure of Thinking (2012), Threats of Pain and Ruin (2014), and others.

Dalrymple was a judge for the 2013 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.


Daniels's writing has some recurring themes.[15]

  • The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries – criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families – is the nihilistic, decadent and/or self-destructive behaviour of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behaviour, and the medicalisation of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behaviour, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently.[16]
  • Poverty does not explain aggressive, criminal and self-destructive behaviour. In an African slum you will find among the very poor, living in dreadful circumstances, dignity and decency in abundance, which are painfully lacking in an average English suburb, although its inhabitants are much wealthier.[17]
  • An attitude characterised by gratefulness and having obligations towards others has been replaced – with awful consequences – by an awareness of "rights" and a sense of entitlement, without responsibilities. This leads to resentment as the rights become violated by parents, authorities, bureaucracies and others in general.[18]
  • One of the things that make Islam attractive to young westernised Muslim men is the opportunity it gives them to dominate women.[19]
  • Technocratic or bureaucratic solutions to the problems of mankind produce disasters in cases where the nature of man is the root cause of those problems.
  • It is a myth, when going "cold turkey" from an opiate such as heroin, that the withdrawal symptoms are virtually unbearable; they are in fact hardly worse than flu.[20][21]
  • Criminality is much more often the cause of drug addiction than its consequence.
  • Sentimentality, which is becoming entrenched in British society, is "the progenitor, the godparent, the midwife of brutality".[22]
  • High culture and refined aesthetic tastes are worth defending, and despite the protestations of non-judgmentalists who say all expression is equal, they are superior to popular culture.[23][24][25]
  • The ideology of the Welfare State is used to diminish personal responsibility. Erosion of personal responsibility makes people dependent on institutions and favours the existence of a threatening and vulnerable underclass.
  • Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience.[26]
  • Multiculturalism and cultural relativism are at odds with common sense.[27]
  • The decline of civilised behaviour – self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life.[28]
  • The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.
  • Beyond and above all other nations in the world, Britain is the place where all the evils summarised above are most clearly manifest.[29]


  • Coups and Cocaine: Two Journeys in South America (1986)
  • Fool or Physician: The Memoirs of a Sceptical Doctor (1987)
  • Zanzibar to Timbuktu (1988)
  • Filosofa's Republic (1989) (published under the pen name Thursday Msigwa)
  • Sweet Waist of America: Journeys around Guatemala (1990)
  • The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World (1991) (published in the U.S. as Utopias Elsewhere) ISBN 978-0517585481
  • Monrovia Mon Amour: A Visit to Liberia (1992)
  • If Symptoms Persist: Anecdotes from a Doctor (1994)
  • So Little Done: The Testament of a Serial Killer (1996)
  • If Symptoms Still Persist (1996)
  • Mass Listeria: The Meaning of Health Scares (1998)
  • An Intelligent Person's Guide to Medicine (2001)
  • Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass (2001) ISBN 1-56663-382-6
  • Violence, Disorder and Incivility in British Hospitals: The Case For Zero Tolerance (book published by the Social Affairs Unit, 2002) ISBN 0-907631-97-5
  • Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (2005) ISBN 1-56663-643-4
  • Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies And The Addiction Bureaucracy (2006) ISBN 1-59403-087-1 (published in the U.K. as Junk Medicine: Doctors, Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy ISBN 1-905641-59-1)
  • Making Bad Decisions. About the Way we Think of Social Problems (2006) (Dr. J. Tans Lecture 2006; published by Studium Generale Maastricht, The Netherlands. Lecture read on Wednesday 15 November 2006. ISBN 978-90-78769-01-9)
  • In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas (2007) ISBN 1-59403-202-5
  • Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline (US edition) (2008) ISBN 1-56663-795-3
  • Second Opinion. A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City (2009) ISBN 978-1-906308-12-4
  • Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline (UK edition; contains three essays that are not in the US edition) (2009) ISBN 978-1-906308-10-0
  • The New Vichy Syndrome. Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism (2010) ISBN 978-1-59403-372-8
  • The Examined Life (2010) ISBN 978-1906308162
  • Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (2010) ISBN 1-906142-61-0
  • Vrijheid en oprechtheid (Freedom and integrity), Pelckmans (2011), together with Bart De Wever
  • Mr Clarke's Modest Proposal: Supportive Evidence from Yeovil (2011). Social Affairs Unit. ISBN 978-1904863601
  • Anything Goes (2011). New English Review Press. ISBN 978-0578084893
  • Litter: How Other People's Rubbish Shapes Our Life (2011). Gibson Square Books. ISBN 978-1906142865
  • Farewell Fear (2012). New English Review Press. ISBN 978-0985439477
  • The Pleasure of Thinking: A Journey through the Sideways Leaps of Ideas (2012). Gibson Square Books. ISBN 978-1908096081
  • Threats of Pain and Ruin (2014). New English Review Press. ISBN 978-0991652112
  • Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality (2015). Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1594037870


  1. ^ "NEJM paper". Retrieved 2014-04-15. 
  2. ^ "City Journal: Theodore Dalrymple".  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b  
  5. ^ Dalrymple, Theodore. Our Culture, What's Left of It (2005) Ivan R. Dee. Note: Daniels writes that it was not a happy marriage; he characterised his parents as having "chose[n] to live in the most abject conflictual misery and created for themselves a kind of Hell on a small domestic scale". In his essay What we have to lose p. 158, Daniels wrote: "(...) my mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany (...) She had left Germany when she was seventeen (...)".
  6. ^ See List of After Dark editions#Series 4
  7. ^ Website for BFI online service InView. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  8. ^ a b Dalrymple, Theodore (16 February 2008). "Where nobody knows your name.".  
  9. ^ a b Dalrymple, Theodore. "What the New Atheists Don’t See".  
  10. ^ Website Skeptical Doctor. For an example of an article written by Edward Theberton, see: Black Marx (The Spectator, 5 July 1986). The characteristic opening sentence of the article reads: "If the people of Mozambique could eat slogans, they would be fat".
  11. ^ a b  
  12. ^ Noel Malcolm (15 August 2010). "Spoilt Rotten! by Theodore Dalrymple: review".  
  13. ^  
  14. ^ The publisher made extracts from both works available free of charge on its Web site Not With A Bang But A Whimper Second Opinion
  15. ^ A good number of Daniels's themes are discussed in the interview by Paul Belien with Daniels: 'Dalrymple on Decadence, Europe, America and Islam', in: The Brussels Journal, the Voice of Conservatism in Europe, 17 September 2006.
  16. ^ Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass (passim).
  17. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (Spring 1999). "What is Poverty?".  
  18. ^ 'The Law of Conservation of Righteous Indignation, and its Connection to the Expansion of Human Rights', in: In Praise of Prejudice. The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, p. 68 (chapter 17).
  19. ^ In The Gelded Age. A review of America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, by Mark Steyn (Website The Claremont Institute, 9 April 2007), Dalrymple wrote: "The principal immediate attraction of Islam to young Muslims brought up in the West is actually the control and oppression of women". A similar idea is expressed in The Suicide Bombers Among Us (City Journal, Autumn 2005). In that piece Dalrymple wrote: "However secular the tastes of the young Muslim men, they strongly wish to maintain the male dominance they have inherited from their parents".
  20. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (9 April 1999). "Cold turkey is no worse than flu".  
  21. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (7 February 2003). "Addicted to lies: junking heroin is no worse than flu".  
  22. ^ Dalrymple 2010, p. 50
  23. ^ "The Baroque is superior to Rock: high culture is no bulwark against barbarism – but Baroque does not make those already predisposed to violence even more violent".  
  24. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (Winter 1998). "Poetry and Self-Pity".  
  25. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (Winter 1998). "Trash, Violence, and Versace: But Is It Art?".  
  26. ^ 'The Uses of Metaphysical Skepticism', in: In Praise of Prejudice. The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, p. 6 (chapter 2).
  27. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (Summer 2004). "Multiculturalism Starts Losing Its Luster".  
  28. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (Summer 1999). "All Our Pomp of Yesterday".  
  29. ^ Not with a Bang but a Whimper (passim). Daniels does not balk at the use of the concept of evil. Numerous articles of his have evil in the title.

External links

  • Manhattan Institute Scholar – Theodore Dalrymple
  • Archive of columns in City Journal
  • columnsNew English ReviewArchive of
  • Archive of articles in The New Criterion
  • Archive of articles in The Spectator
  • The Skeptical Doctor (detailed biography, links to current writings, book reviews, speeches and interviews)
  • Theodore Dalrymple Forum A forum for the discussion of topics written about by Theodore Dalrymple
  • An interview with Theodore Dalrymple about modern society for Dutch public television
  • "The Moral Roots of Economic Crisis" 2009 Galbraith Lecture at Memorial University's Harris Centre
  • The Skeptical Doctor (Channel on YouTube dedicated to Theodore Dalrymple)
  • Anthony Daniels at the Internet Movie Database
  • Theodore Dalrymple at the Internet Movie Database
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