18 APRIL 1987, Page 10

One hundred years ago

CANON MacColl, in the interesting lecture on Socrates delivered at Leeds, of which the Yorkshire Post completed its report some ten days ago, expresses a strong desire for a modern Socrates. 'I have often wished of late,' he says, 'that we had Socrates back among us to cross-examine our political teachers in Parliament, in the press, and on the platform. What havoc he would make of many a fallacy which masquerades in the garb of wisdom! How many a sophist would be hunted to his last lair and exposed as a charlatan! How many a self-styled patriot would be convicted as a mere vulgar self-seeker! But how would it fare with Socrates himself, if he were to come among us here in Eng- land, and employ himself as he did of old in Athens? Doubtless he would run no risk of a compulsory draught of hemlock. That method of silencing in- convenient opponents is out of date. I wish I could think that the spirit which prescribed the method was also a thing of the past. But that is a kind of speculation which might lead us upon dangerous ground, and so I pass away from it.'

The Spectator, 16 April 1887