While Enoch Powell was undoubtedly moved by principles, and in his own words possessed of ‘a savage reliance on the workings of my own intellect’, there was more artifice, more deliberation in and more conscious cultivation of his public persona than one might suspect.
In their closeness to the church, practical timidity and occasional cautious defiance of authority, Ireland’s provincial papers in the early 20th century were exemplars of that elusive quantity ‘moderate opinion’. Yet by 1918 most had moved in the direction of Sinn Féin.
Does political democracy have a value in the absence of economic democracy? Should social distinctions be maintained? Ancient Athens largely practised a mixed system, with a modus vivendi between the classes that posed little threat to wealth and kept most public offices for the elite.
Amid the consensus about Ireland being a victim of politicians, bankers and out-of-control developers, is it right to forget the additional uncomfortable fact that large numbers of ordinary Irish people had been ripping off their fellow-citizens with ardour during the Celtic Tiger years?
Among Irish officers in the British army and colonial civil servants, ‘Irish’, ‘Anglo-Irish’, ‘English’ and ‘British imperial’ were seldom understood as mutually exclusive identities. That one could be simultaneously of Ireland, Britain, and empire was for most a self-evident article of faith.
Is the country destined to always lag behind the city? Sinn Féin, a creation of the urban bourgeois intelligentsia, took off as a national movement when it spread to rural Ireland, meshing with the vigorous co-operative movement, the countryside radicalising the city.
Edna O’Brien has been accused by some less perceptive critics of always writing about victims. But as she has insisted, and as is abundantly clear in her compelling new novel, she writes particularly of victims who survive, who pull through. She is celebrating resilience.
Lucian Freud delighted in shocking his acquaintances with a series of stunts straight from the surrealist handbook. Dead and mounted animals littered his squat in a decaying Regency terrace house. Kenneth Clark’s wife was understandably appalled to find two dead monkeys in the oven.
The heroines of the Victorian novel encountered a blockage in their lives that Sally Rooney’s do not. Might access to education have made a difference? What if Cathy and Heathcliff could have taken a module on Freud together, if Dorothea Brooke had been able to do a degree in medicine?