An Obstinate People
The greatest Jewish crime, for early modern Christians, was the rejection and killing of Christ. But they also had a long list of other faults they found, from physical marks, ugliness and proneness to illness to moral failings such as greed, clannishness and lack of manly courage.
Not a Woman’s Place
A classic study of the figures who made independent Ireland has been reprised after more than fifty years. Taken together, the books illustrate the main currents in Irish historiography, while the new volume corrects the earlier one’s hagiographic tone and neglect of women.
Batting for the Other Side
The Establishment recruited its members from Eton, Harrow and Winchester and from the ancient universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Its high-flyers staffed the Foreign Office, royal commissions, boards of trustees, the BBC and MI6. And some spied for the Soviet Union.
Havens for the Riff-raff
In the early years of the state, the poor, widowed, orphaned and illegitimate were seen as problem groups that were a drain on scarce resources, a threat to the social order and a disgrace to the nation. They needed policing and, where necessary, confinement.
Which Doll is the Nice One?
Empirical research has been employed in pursuit of moral goals, by demonstrating that a cultural practice is harmful to its victims. But should scientific evidence by accorded more weight than moral principles, for example the principle of the equality of all before the law?
Small is Beautiful
Much of the rhetoric of Irish nationalism focused on the idea of a small nation, oppressed by a larger one. The nationalism of the Balkan states, in contrast, tended to emphasise the idea of ‘greatness’, though in many important senses these were smaller polities than Ireland.
Hadn’t we the Gaiety?
One writer has claimed that the singing of Percy French’s comic songs was once considered by some to be offensive, yet the best-known collection of his work, the ‘Prose, Poems and Parodies’, went into fourteen editions between 1929 and 1962 in a very nationalist Ireland.
We may well, at bottom, be just ‘frail and vulnerable animals’, but we are more complex than other animals in our approaches to death. We must accept our physical mortality, but as humans we cannot rid ourselves of the desire for consolation or meaning.
The Usual Terror
Don De Lillo seems to suggest in his new novel that literature has failed us, failed to correct the inadequacy of language or interrupt the downward curve of history. Yet that implication is denied by the work, not just by the consolation of philosophy but by the joy of his near faultless craft.
Free Long Looking
As a Jesuit novice, Gerard Manley Hopkins once enclosed a feather in a letter to his mother, noting that ‘no one is ever so poor that he is not … owner of the skies and stars and everything wild that is to be found on the earth’. A look costs nothing, even a long look.