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.

Frank Freeman

Hack and Hero

Leslie McFarlane: the career of a prolific and successful hack writer

Warrior Artist

Vincent Van Gogh travelled a rough road, often of his own making. His chief artistic master, Jean-François Millet, said that art was a battle, and one that you had to put your whole life into. Van Gogh took this, as he took everything, to heart.

The Resident and the Stranger

Tolstoy oscillated between the profligate life and stable family life. Tolstoy the Resident wanted to live on his estate, write great works of art and love his family. Tolstoy the Stranger, alienated from family and society, wanted solitude, to serve pleasure when he was young and God when older.

Bad Blood

The ‘blood libel’, the notion that Jews were kidnapping and murdering Christian children for ritual purposes, was not created by poor and ignorant people but rather by rich and powerful ones, who found the persecution and murder of Jews sometimes suited their interests.

Struggling for Sanctity

A biographer of Ernest Hemingway has argued that his life can be read in terms of a quest for sainthood, a struggle to be not just a good writer but also a good man. A blow by blow account of the life, however, reveals to what degree his ego got in the way, causing him to fall short.

Becoming a Conservative … and After

Political journeys are not always one-directional. For some people neither the right nor the liberal left is an entirely satisfying place and it becomes necessary, if one is motivated by a desire for the common good, to endorse values from one and the other.

Nobody’s Perfect

The Stoic philosopher Seneca offered useful advice on self-mastery, how to deal with the passage of time and the vanity of acquisitiveness. If he did not always live up to the highest ideals himself, it can at least be said in his defence that he lived in difficult times.