Saturday, September 04, 2010

Review of new Daniel O'Connell bio in Dublin Review of Books

"The Great Advocate" by Paul Bew and Patrick Maume

King Dan: the Rise of Daniel O’Connell, 1775-1829 by Patrick M Geoghegan, Gill & Macmillan, 320 pp, €24.99, ISBN: 978-0717143931

Including this on O'Faollin - but there's much, much else ...
... At the same time, Sean O’Faolain began O’Connell’s modern rehabilitation with King of the Beggars. O’Faolain had his own polemical axes to grind (his claim for O’Connell as a modern figure owing nothing to the effete Gaelic past was taken to absurd lengths; like the cultural nationalists against whom O’Faolain reacted, O’Connell developed his own idealised and selective image of the Gaelic and Catholic past even if his image of that past was not that of an Edwardian Gaelic Leaguer and he treated his resident praise-poet Tomás Rua Ó Suilleabháin as a sort of amusing pet) but O’Faolain saw, what some later liberal Catholic eulogists glossed over, O’Connell’s ruthless verbal violence and opportunism.

Geoghegan understates the ambivalence with which O’Faolain complained that O’Connell had done much to kill politeness and good manners. O Faolain’s successive revolts – against his deferential parents (involving violence against his father’s RIC colleagues and sometimes against those parents themselves) and against what he came to see as the myopic purist republicanism and Gaelic romanticism of mentors such as de Valera and Daniel Corkery – required their own form of ruthlessness: O’Faolain’s criticism is tempered by a sense that if Irish political life had always been governed by the cultivated good manners exemplified by his lover Elizabeth Bowen the landed elite and imperial administrators might still be in charge and O’Faolain himself a mere peasant. (He might have added that the power-wielding elites O’Connell opposed were considerably less civilised than Lecky or Elizabeth Bowen.)

No comments: