I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Issue 112, June 2019

Sipping from the Honey-Pot

Oliver Goldsmith was ‘an enlightened anti-imperialist’ grappling with the emerging modernity of the industrial and agricultural revolutions. His ethical universalism did not preclude cultural diversity or respect for diverse cultures existing on their own terms.

What Was Lost

‘Declinist’ accounts of English history are not always consistent, but the outlines are clear: a once ‘organic’ community succumbed to commerce, scientific rationalism and, most corrosively, industrialisation. A vital common culture gave way to a cheapened mass society.

That Damnable Invention

The British feel a certain detachment from the North, born of distance. At worst this is antipathy: Diarmaid Ferriter cites Thatcher’s famous disdain for both sides. Even when Conservatives attempt a revival of the old ‘conservative and unionist’ tradition, it comes across as a bit clunky.

Rory of the Hill

Ribbonism was more resourceful and endured longer as a tradition than any other Irish secret society during the nineteenth century. With their Catholic and conspiratorial composition, the Ribbon societies played constantly on the minds of British officials and much of Protestant Ireland.

The Spring-Time of the World

In 1792 Tom Paine wrote that whatever shape summer might take it was ‘not difficult to perceive that the spring is begun’. If the French Revolution did not fulfil the radicals’ hopes, these early years left an enduring legacy to Wordsworth, making him the great poet of feeling and hope.

Fit to Print

The catastrophic fall from a golden age when reporters valiantly pursued truth to the web’s current indifference to falsehood is a favourite journalistic trope. But the moral decline goes back a long time, to when newspapers first embraced ‘lifestyle’, abetting the transformation of citizens into consumers.

The Cat’s Pounce

Linda Nochlin considers one interpretation after another of Courbet’s ‘The Painter’s Studio’. Teasing her prey, she draws out successive meanings, delivering stylish and brilliant asides on the social, intellectual, political and art-historical context, until finally she moves in for the kill.

The Necessary Details

As Robert Caro tells us in what may be the greatest political biography of modern times, President Lyndon Johnson marshalled incredible resources, including a willingness to lie, cheat and steal at the highest level, in the service of an ambitious and noble programme of reform.