Archibald Archer, The Temporary Elgin Room, (1819), British Museum, Oil on canvas, 94 x 132.7 cm.

To anybody who has been around for half a century or more, much of what passes for politics today is bound to seem intolerably trivial, ludicrously frivolous, culpably complacent. Serious public consideration of foreign policy has virtually ceased. When we Cold Warriors contemplate the present generation of leaders’ contemptible lack of courage and absence of principle in the face of far less formidable foes than those defeated by their predecessors, we cannot believe our eyes. Meanwhile, domestic politics often seems to have descended into the gutter, a squalid contest...