But there is no disguising the very considerable impoverishment of the town, an impoverishment that is actually characteristic of a high proportion of the country. This impoverishment is as much of the spirit as economic: nowhere in the world (at least nowhere known to me, including very many poorer places) do you see such a concentration of people who have given up on themselves, or rather, who never had any self-respect to give up on.
What one sees is a purely materialist society that is not even very good materialism, for it does not promote even those mental and moral disciplines that promote material success. A large proportion of the population has been left to the mercies of a popular culture whose main characteristic is the willing suspension of intelligence, and which does not merely fail to inculcate refinement, grace, elegance and the desire for improvement, but actively prevents them and causes them to be feared and despised.
I remember that my first awareness of Dalrymple was outrage in the Wolverhampton Express and Star and Brum Evening Mail at a piece he wrote some ten years back, on the new art gallery in Walsall.
Councillors in Walsall have leapt to the town's defence after a critic writing in an American magazine described it as like "Ceaucescu's Romania with fast food outlets". Walsall council leader Mike Bird dismissed as nonsense claims published on the internet that the Black Country was one of the "most depressing areas of urban devastation" in the world.
If you've been to Walsall lately (I have) you'll know that his description was harsh but fair.
I digress. Among the outraged defenders of Scarborough in the Spectator comments, the dissenting voice of one Harry Hutton.
"A great article from Dalrymple. No one with any self-respect or decency would live in Scarborough. The inhabitants are dirty, dishonest, gap-toothed swine.
My family left Scarborough when I was five, to seek a better life in the Gaza Strip. My parents were aid workers, and I spent my childhood in Palestine, Somalia, Yorkshire and the Congo. I met some rough diamonds in Mogadishu, let me tell you, but I never truly saw a society in collapse, where savages have the upper hand, until I returned to Scarborough. I was beaten and robbed by the villainous local peasants within an hour of getting off the train, then they tied me to a mule and I was dragged through a turnip field.
You simply can't treat people like that and expect to have a thriving tourist trade. Not for nothing did King John describe the town as "a weeping pustule'' on his realm."