Sir John Harold Plumb was a prodigious historian and journalist. a tireless networker, a professor, master of Christ’s College, a member of the British Wine Standards Board. He collected porcelain, paintings, wine, acolytes, enemies, dowager duchesses and other people’s wives.
The Soviet Union was happy in the 1980s to forge links with a party that was acquiring more than its fair share of young intellectuals, many with influence in the Irish trade union movement. Nevertheless, Sinn Féin the Workers Party’s hostility to the IRA was a problem for Moscow.
Most biography of Orwell carries the assumption that his whole writing life was a preparation for his final work. This may well be so: the heroes and heroines of the earlier novels tend to be placed, alone or friendless, at the centre of a hostile world from which there is no escape.
It was Thomas Hardy’s ‘darkling thrush’, who flung his soul upon the gloom of the dawning 20th century, that brought Seamus Heaney to Dorset as the 21st began. Heaney’s dedication to all the voices and languages of the archipelago may be an inspiration in the years ahead.
In late 19th century France, the propagandists of the far right warned that the nation faced a mortal enemy, a parasitical stranger who could not be assimilated. This was the Jew. Today the far right sees an almost identical foe, who is with us but not of us. This is the Muslim.