It may appear paradoxical to say so, but it seems to me that one of the most hopeful signs in Ireland at the present time is the growth of pessimism. Groundless optimism has sapped our energies and blinded our eyes for generations. Its sleek face is still to be met at every turn, and its oily tongue chortles in every discussion. Notwithstanding the havoc it has already done, it is still making a stand for its old supremacy. It has poisoned the reasoning powers of the country. I knew a family whom luck was supposed to follow like a shadow. The luck of the So-and-So’s had developed into a local proverb. In the fullness of time, one of the sons ran away with practically all the wealth and left the family facing a black future. Surely the tradition of luck could not stand this blow. However, the youngest girl, with the characteristic spirit of Irish optimism, was equal to the occasion. “After all,” said she, “wasn’t it a sign of luck that he didn’t run away with everything?” This is the attitude of mind which the Irish critic still meets on nearly all sides. If anyone, whilst allowing the good points in any individual or institution, complains that there is not nearly so much as there might be, and ought to be, he is barked at as a sour pessimist and a cantankerous fault-finder. Cannot a man be allowed a standard to judge things by, or must his heart necessarily melt before the first faint streak of virtue he discovers? A great many things have happened during the past fifty years that we may be proud of; yet one may review the period without satisfaction: there are a great many things at present calculated to inspire hope, yet one may think that the country is honey-combed with palpable frauds. Are not the two sets of views compatible? So much by way of preface, for what I have got to say.
One of the first things, I have observed, which we all do when we get into a patriotic fit, is to shy stones at the large crop of shoneens and snobs which this country so plentifully grows. But notwithstanding all the missiles the crop has at various times received upon its empty heads, it does not seem to grow any less nor to appear in any wise battered. This result is enough to give one pause, and it suggests that it might be useful to enquire into the origin, nature, and growth of the Irish shoneen or snob. For it must appear plain at the first glance that if the breed is only raised in Ireland it argues something rotten in the race. Having enquired as best I could into the real causes that tend to produce the Irish shoneen, I must admit that the conclusions I have come to are not reassuring. I have no indignation in me to pour upon his head. He is a poor creature with whom we all may sit down without resentment; the French have a proverb to the effect that to understand everything is to forgive everything. In the first place, if one will only think it out, we are, strictly speaking, all snobs. Thackeray, who could pin a snob when he met one as well as any man, was a snob himself. There are infinite degrees in snobbery, and where the spirit of it leads people in a direction in harmony with public sentiment, we call it by all sorts of pleasant names. Snobbery, in some degree or other, is, as much as flesh or blood, a constituent of human nature. It arises from lack of head or from lack of heart, most frequently, perhaps, from lack of both. And however it manifests itself in intellectual or social life, we can always trace it back to two great sources – to the desire to be “respectable” or to a shallow ambition to appear better than your neighbour. Perhaps the easiest way to define what a snob is is to point out the type of man who has least of the quality.
The least snobby man is he who sees most into realities, who can detect a barbarian under a title, a fool behind half a dozen University degrees, a wise man in a cobbler’s shed, a mean rascal dressed in ermine, a gentleman in rags, a coward amidst the brag and swagger of a winning side, and so on and so on; whilst on the other hand the individual whom the common sense of the world agrees to call a palpable snob is one who can never see beyond the skin of anything, a person who classes men according to their clothes and other superficial and accidental distinctions, one to whom, in short, that which is neglected in the world is irretrievably base, and that which is held in esteem at the moment is altogether what the fashion of the time would have it. Of course, the least snobby may be chicken-hearted, for it is one thing to see into things and another to act according to your lights, whilst the palpable snob, though often a sleek, mean-souled creature, may have a fairly honest and generous disposition. The vast majority of the people of every country, and certainly of Ireland, is, I suggest, made up of palpable snobs. They have their uses in the economy of nations. They prop up every worthy institution. They buy books they don’t understand, they go to plays they don’t appreciate; they pay their shillings to enter into a picture gallery out of which they take nothing but a headache. In fact they accrete round everything, even round anti-snobbery. A few years ago when Socialism was a popular thing in London, men who were not fluent at talking the jargon of the cult made up for their deficiency by wearing a red tie and a flannel collar.
They were palpable snobs, and their snobbery consisted in ostentatiously pretending to the world that they weren’t snobs. One might as well attempt to make bricks without clay as to construct a nation without properly manipulating its snobs. No society exists without them. It is useless to bark at them; the national leaders stand condemned who cannot handle them properly; and those who ignore their existence as an important estate in the country have no right to be termed leaders at all. However, during this century, the respectable Irishman who, though he possessed a head, could not think, eyes and could not see, and who was constantly mistaking the shadow for the substance – in short, the natural born snob who must satisfy his vanities in superficialities, because he lacks insight and comprehension – has been allowed to drift into the camps of the enemy. No provision was made for him in the Irish ranks; he was treated as an outcast and stoned by short-sighted leadership. I see no hope for Irish nationality unless things can be so ordered that the average snob will in the ordinary course of his personal evolution turn his face to his own country; for a snob is really only an adult baby, who never attains, but in a very limited degree, to the use of reason, and if circumstances are such that in the nature of things he becomes what we call a shoneen, the blame must be mainly placed on the shoulders of those thinking men who are responsible for the circumstances. There is no use in casting stones at palpable snobbery in the bulk, for it is a widely prevalent weakness of human nature, and human nature, though a fit subject for inquiry, is none for criticism, as it cannot be altered. We did not make human nature, and a kick at it is, at the least, an unconscious form of blasphemy.
It is not difficult to put oneself in the place of an Irish snob, for he is not a complex individual. Take what specimen of him you will: the civil servant or commercial clerk who gives champagne suppers to his friends and spends a quarter of his wages on outside cars, in order to demonstrate what a fine fellow he is; the highly dressed grocer’s son who lounges at the Dalkey band and lifts his hat to the English national anthem in the hope that he may be mistaken for an officer; the genteel scamp who boasts of his obscenities because, from his reading of smart “literature” and up-to-date papers, he thinks it is form; and so on through the whole gamut of West British snobs. However they manifest themselves they are all of a piece. It is part of their nature to be pretending something, and they cannot help it. The important question which they suggest is: – Who is responsible for the directions which this pretence takes, and why does it never take a native turn? It seems very clear to me that a very large number at least of our West British snobs could have been turned into good, downright racy Irish snobs if the leaders and thinking men of this century had only known their business. But the poor snob was left to shift for himself, the very thing which he is not able to do, for he, like a barnacle, must stick himself on to something.
Let us trace the career of the most honest and well-intentioned Irish snob – the man who really desires to be Irish if only some one will show him the way – from the first day he entered public life until now when he sits fat and comfortable in a mansion in Rathmines, the butt of every young Nationalist politician who little suspects that, unless conditions alter, a similar ending awaits him should he prosper in life. This young man possessed of a moderate amount of shallow brains, plenty of energy, and a great desire to be thought a hero, was the product of the usual Anglo-Irish day-school education, of the anti-English English literature of the Galloping Hogan and Michael Dwyer type, and of the Emerald green incorruptible politico-national papers of the day. He had his faults, but he was generous impulsive youth, and his day dreams were mostly woven of stricken fields of English redcoats, triumphant pike men, defiant orations from dock and gallows tree. He went to political meetings and cheered until his poor throat was hoarse, and returned home wishing that he might have an opportunity to die for any of the noble heroes who defied the whole power of England from the hustings.
He joined a revolutionary society where they talked wisely about foreign complications and held a picturesque midnight drill occasionally. He tried to persuade himself as long as he could that a few of the members were not drunkards, and he exhausted his ingenuity in attempting to square his youthful idea of a revolutionary hero with the characters of several of his comrades. He held on to the society for a few years, but it did nothing. There was one informer; two suspected of informing; one who bolted with the funds; and the great body of members – mostly honest, enthusiastic youths like himself – were getting sick of all the boasting and lip-rebellion that went on. He dropped out of it after a while and attended to his business, but still held extreme opinions. His intelligence was beginning to ripen, but the papers were mostly given over to politics, ringing the changes on the same old themes day after day, and they offered nothing new to the young mind to speculate upon: for the rest, they were mostly abuse, and he liked that well enough until some of it turned upon himself. He had recourse to the Irish periodicals. Some of them he thought very suitable for convent girls but somewhat goody-goody for a man like him. The periodicals of a national complexion satisfied him for a time. Each number usually consisted of an amateur essay on Robert Emmet or some ’98 or ’48 man which, however, taught him nothing that he did not know before, and besides it was mostly composed of adjectives; there was an adventure story concerning the Wexford Rising which was neither probable nor done with any literary finish whatever. Besides, it was written on the apparent assumption that no man in the wide world ever died fighting for liberty but an Irishman. There was also a funny story which made him melancholy, and an article on the decay of some Irish industry or institution in which all the blame was laid upon England and none whatever on Ireland.
From all the periodicals, in fact, one was impelled to take away the impression that Irishmen were a lot of injured saints who only needed half an opportunity to become the finest, purest, truest, richest, and whatnot-else people on the face of God’s earth. Not being a man of originality, and having been brought up in the good sound “national” principle that what was good enough for his father to swallow should be good enough for him, he was thrown into a perplexed state of mind. He was not strenuous enough to think things out for himself; and of course he dared not ask questions, for that would lay him open to the suspicion that he wasn’t “sound.” But the poor man got sick of all these periodicals after a while, and ventured even to suggest to a friend, on the quiet, that there was a great deal of “blatherimskite” in them. Later on in his mental development he felt compelled to buy a few English magazines and novels in order to get something new in the way of fiction, and the English weekly reviews for something thoughtful and common-sense-like in the way of criticism on matters of human and general interest. Once he got the taste of the real thing the screech and vapidness of the imitation struck him more forcibly than ever. His mind was now full of contradictory views which as he could not reconcile, and daren’t grapple with – for an Irish “nationalist” must not think – he had no course open but to dodge them as best as he could, and as occasion required. Here are one set of them: – The English are a low, stupid people – we are a noble, quick-witted race; the English have a solid, thoughtful, well-written periodic literature – we have nothing but a few trashy rags.
He dodged this and other contradictions until the poor man got into a chronic state of mental dishonesty on national questions, a state for which, being only an honest snob, I would not like to say he was in any considerable degree responsible. As he grew rich he was frequently called upon to preside at national meetings; but the people he met there said the same old things which he had heard any time for the last twenty years. He knew now, however, that one was not supposed to believe what he said, and that the people were looked upon as an ignorant, credulous rabble to be cajoled and made use of. When it came to his turn to talk he could see a multitude of eager faces yearning for some blarney that would rouse them to cheer. Being a kind, soft-hearted man, he said the sort of things which he knew they liked, wound up with a promise that at no far distant date the green immortal flag would float over the old house in College Green, and sat down amid thundering applause. He is now known to his country as a level-headed, practical patriot, a cheery man who sees the bright side of everything, a sort of living copy book head-line to the rising generation. No man dares breathe a word against him, or the nationalist organ would dig its righteous beak into the recreant tongue that dared to utter the abomination.
But the honest, shallow-minded man, whose master passion is to stand high in the estimation of his fellows, prospers beyond all expectation, and gets more muddled in his views. He stands upon the threshold of Society. One day, after carefully glancing up and down the street so as to make sure that no one is looking, he darts into the Kildare Street Club to keep an appointment with one of the members. An Irish landlord, he finds, cares at least as much for the good of the country as some of his own quondam comrades. Besides, the landlord has got an ease about his manners not to be noticed about his friends, the members for Ballybeg and Ballymore. Then there is his wife at home putting notions into his head, and his daughter, just “finished” at a Continental school, is pining to show off her French phrases and her knowledge of botany at a Castle ball. The muddle deepens; the man’s brain is racked, for he has an honest heart and would like to do right. He cannot see any semblance of daylight through the situation. All that appears plain is that nationality and “respectability” don’t tally somehow. If drinking “the Queen” is a fraud, was not his whole later national career a fraud also? Are not his comrades mostly frauds? Besides, what is a nation or a nationality at all? Cannot he serve his country though a Castle hack drinks his champagne, as well as if only nationalists drank his whiskey? Perhaps better. He can still vote straight and subscribe to the land agitations, and what more is required of a patriotic Irishman? Besides, does he not owe it to his family to get them into the “best” society, and what good is all his money, the fruit of an industrious life, if he cannot waddle up the back stairs himself? He deserves to be respected, and what other way is there of being thought well of and of being known as a successful, worthy man except to be seen knocking at the door of somebody who knows somebody else who is a friend of the Viceroy. Fenianism, National Leagues, patriotic sentiments – what are they but dreams and fancies which not one in ten who brawl about them most believes in? A few years later as his carriage passes by a nationalist meeting he is greeted with hisses and jeers. His good-natured heart is sad, and he shakes his muddled head in sorrow at the ignorance of his countrymen.
The modern history of Ireland with its grand mistake is crystalised in that picture. This man, in any other land, would have stood out as one of the solid bulwarks of his nation, respected by the people, bearing the burdens of his country, perpetuating her traditions; in Ireland he ends his days as a shoneen. What else would you have him do in his old age? He could not be other than he is, for the full-aged man is the product of everything he did during his life, and of the influences that surrounded him. He can glare back upon that nationality that flouts him now, and charge it with his shortcomings. He started an honest, average, shallow-brained enthusiast, ready to do the best that was in him for his country; he, as did all of us in our callow youth, cheered the “rawmish” (ráiméis) of the toy-heroes; he had his misgivings during his career, but he dared not try to think, and in the long run so often did he suppress his mind that he began in a muddled way to look upon many men as patriots whom he knew to be rogues. In the end West British snobocracy was his inevitable doom. The whole history of the man might be summed up in this: – At the threshold of his career he asked his countrymen to make an Irishman of him, and they replied by making him a West British politician.
It has been said before, and it needs to be said ten thousand times again, that politics is not nationality. As this view, however, is still a rank heresy to the multitude, it may be worth while unfolding it in detail. An Irish political reform is got or striven for by popular organization, by public protest, by boycotting, by illuminating houses, by demonstrating, by going to jail, and by a vigorous party in the House of Commons. Out of the entire population of Ireland, however, only about eighty-six can hope to be sent to Parliament on the popular side; under Forster’s regime the highest number called upon to go to jail never exceeded two thousand. Taking the nationalist population at 4,000,000 what is left for the remaining 3,997,914 to do? There must be secretaries of the branches of the national organisation, committee men, organisers, etc., to give most of their attention to the political campaign. Allow as liberally as you will for the number of people required for these purposes, and a considerable balance of population will be left. How are they to show their patriotism? Many of them will be called upon to give up a day or a few hours now and again to attend a political meeting; the vast majority, including the women and boys, care nothing for politics, and have no political power; hundreds of thousands of men who have sound national views on the political requirements of Ireland could never, owing to the natural bent of their minds, take a keen interest in politics. They would do their part if it were absolutely necessary, but, recognising the sound wisdom underlying the division of labour, they are content to allow those who have greater aptitude for it to run the political machine. How are all these people to be Irish and patriotic? What of the thousands of doctors and other professional men, the wealthy business men of leisure who do not happen to have any stomach for politics? They may be keenly interested in literature, in science, in music, in the dramas, in art, in economic questions, in local reform, or they may be merely social men. What of the large numbers of shallow, unthinking people who when they have done their work think of nothing but amusement? How are all these to be Irish; for if they cannot be made true to their country the nation as a nation is bleeding to death. I have pointed out that politics only requires the special devotion of a few, the partial help of a considerable number, and from the rest nothing but opinion in conformity with nationalist sentiment. But the politicians, by some system of reasoning which I certainly cannot follow, have made their movements synonymous with Irish nationality; and so obstinately do some of them of stick to this position that Forster himself never got such a douche of uncomplimentary adjectives thrown over him as the Irishman gets who has the temerity to say that he does not agree with them. I give them the credit of holding their peculiar view honestly and conscientiously, and only remark in passing, by way of parallel, that it has been observed that one of the greatest dangers to the Church is a pious fool.
Assuming for the moment that a man who devotes his life to politics is fulfilling the whole duty of an Irishman – a proposition with which, however, I entirely disagree – let us examine how the remainder of the population are to be Irish. At the start, the question arises – Beyond politics, what is being Irish? Does it mean speaking English with a brogue, and if so, is a Kerry brogue or a Dublin one the better? Does it mean putting your feet on the tea table? Does it mean spitting on the parlour floor? Does it mean making a fool of yourself in order to make English people laugh? All these things have been done and justified on the ground that the doers were Irishmen and were proud of the fact. Or perhaps the Cork lady was right who told me that after all the thing that differentiated the Irish people from the English was the influence of the climate and the scenery? To the people of the country who can read, Irish literature is a closed book as they do not know the language; and as there is practically no demand for current literature there is no supply. The books in English about Ireland are few, and not interesting to all classes.
When you subtract the news and politics out of the papers, the remainder is usually a London syndicate story. If you like a drama you must open your mouth and shut your eyes, and see what London will condescend to give you. If you want literature or criticism you must import it from England or abroad. If you like music you have the barrel organs, the Bray minstrels, and other importations from foreign countries. If you want amusements of the frivolous order, music halls, comic songs, merry-go-rounds, panoramas, side shows for the bazaars, you are at the mercy of the energetic initiatory foreigner. So far the quest for an environment where you can grow up Irish without being a politician is not successful. How are the women to be Irish within the definition of the politician? Are they all to go on the stump for this league or that? Let us imagine an Irish girl asking a politician what to do in order to be Irish, and what answer could he give her? How is polite society – or the society endeavouring to be polite – that section of the people which might be and ought to be the ornament of every nation, how is that to be Irish, let its members have what will they may? Suppose the occupants, male and female, of every drawing-room in Ireland joined one of the nationalist leagues, went to a few political meetings every year, and sang “Who Fears to Speak of Ninety-eight” at the rising of the sun and at the going down thereof every day, how are they, when they are not engaged in these patriotic labours and return to social life, to be Irish? In what function of society, garden parties, bazaars, balls, scandal gossipings, can they show any continuity with the past history of the country? Is anything they are connected with a modern development of any native institution? In what way can they differ from a similar class in England, except that in consequence of having less money they must have recourse to more make-believe and, therefore, more vulgarity
At the risk of weary repetition let me say again that the redress of political grievances calls for the whole efforts of a few, the partial efforts of many, and for no effort at all beyond good-will from the majority; and yet, in the face of this, any attempt on the part of the people to make Ireland Irish, to restore her language, to resurrect her old customs and modernise them, any attempt to help on a movement that in its fullness would give us a native literature, a native drama, a native music, a native social atmosphere, is tortured into an attack upon politicians, a danger to the country, and a wile of the devil. Ireland is like a great tank half full of water, which is escaping rapidly from many leakages. A number of tinkers are gathered round one of them, some endeavouring to plug it and the others keeping off all who think that the only way to save the contents is to attempt to plug all the leakages simultaneously. “Keep off,” the cordon of tinkers say, “one thing at a time.” “But,” urge the others, “the contents will have all leaked out if-.” The remonstrance is drowned in a shriek. The tinkers will not listen to any such nonsense, for are they not the great and only menders of everything? Infallible tinkers who have held undisputed sway for over fifty years; is not to reason with them as impious as for a mortal to challenge the wisdom of the gods?
The view that the only way to be Irish is to be a nationalist politician, has all but made a corpse of the Irish nation. Politics is not one of the polite arts, and in no country does it attract the best class of the population. Take away the comparatively few clever and able men required to pull the strings at headquarters and in the local centres and the rest is mainly rabble. It follows from this that the quiet, accomplished, and wealthy portion of the non-combatants in the political fight, not to mention the palpable snobs, are driven to associate nationality with a movement which, however necessary and however ably and honestly managed it may be, is largely made up of wild talk, village demagogues, lip-patriotism, and petty tyranny. As stepping into the ranks of that awkward squad and doing active service in it is the only way of identifying oneself with Irish nationality, can anyone wonder at the never-ending procession of Irish-born men and women that year by year commit themselves to the capacious maw of West Britonism?
Another evil effect arising out of the false basis on which Irish nationality rests, is that the politicians themselves – though they may not be conscious of it – instinctively feel that the only way of keeping up any difference with England is by hysterical and artificial stimulation of racial hatred. Racial hatred is a bad passion at the best, and one which, it appears to me, is absolutely unjustifiable on moral grounds, unless in so far as it is impersonal and complementary to a real desire to keep intact the distinctive character, traditions, and civilization of one’s own country. But the hatred which is raked up in us is merely personal spite and a desire for vengeance; for, having gone willingly into English nationality, we have no just grounds for quarrel beyond those arising out of our diminishing political disabilities. Privately some of the hillside men will tell you that all the wild rebellious talk is nonsense, but that it is necessary to keep up the national spirit: that if you do not keep the prospect of bloody war with England alive in the Irish mind Irish national sentiment will cease to be.
Again, the fact that the Irish nationality of the politician stands in an untenable position – a position which it cannot hold against the light of reason – is at the bottom of the hatred of anything like criticism, and explains why this nationality is so prone to express itself in hyperbole and screech. The people may do anything but think, for once they commence to do that, and call things by their proper names, the game is up. As a man who commences with a lie may have to tell twenty to bolster the first one up, so the guardians of the nationality which stands upon an impossible foundation must attempt other impossible things to keep it straight. Listen to the feverish cries for unity arising out of every camp which hates every other camp. Unity of opinion on any subject, or unity of view as to political methods, is not a normal condition amongst an independent thinking population. In a moment of crisis a healthy nation will rise to it, but over any considerable period of time it can only be obtained – even amongst a very ignorant people – by a policy of systematic suppression and tyranny and at the cost of the loss of individuality. The politicians of today are misled by the coincidence of a few years ago, when an extraordinary leader synchronised with an extraordinary and desperate economic grievance. There is not the slightest probability that these two things will synchronise again, and no amount of brow-beating, name-calling, or screeching, will cause Irishmen to stultify themselves in order to bring about an unnatural and deadening level of opinion. In England a parliamentary candidate can be “heckled” by the meanest of his sympathisers, and the existence of that institution of heckling tends to foster the habit of political thinking amongst the rank and file and adds to their sense of responsibility, whilst on the other hand it stimulates the politician to consider all the bearings of his position so that he may be able to stand the criticism that may be directed against him. But what would happen to the unfortunate Irishman who dared to put a question to one of the statesmen who sought the suffrages of Donegal or Mayo? Why he would be held up by the scruff of the neck in one of the screeching national organs as a specimen of an atrocity who – to use the phraseology in favour in some quarters – “was yesterday not known beyond the four corners of his own house,” and yet today dares to call his soul his own and say what he thinks to one of his heaven-sent leaders. To ask a question or make an independent remark is an outrage upon the sacred cause of Irish unity.
It is only half a truth to say that the slave makes the tyrant, for the tyrant has undoubtedly a considerable amount to do in the making of the slave. The people of Ireland have been ground down by outside forces, but, at the same time, slavery of their own making is writ large over the country. I will not suggest how far this homemade slavery can be traced to the politicians of recent years, but, certainly, amongst the forces that at present tend to keep the people ignorant and unthinking, a prominent place must be assigned to those second-rate politicians who are competent to lead sheep but who would have to go to the right-about if confronted by independent thinking men who wanted to know the reason why.
It is not only not true that politics is the only manifestation of nationality, but the fact of being a sound political nationalist of any stamp, from a constitutional Home Ruler to a fire-eating revolutionist, does not necessarily mean that one is Irish at all. I deny that the Irish Parliamentary Party is composed of real Irishmen; few of them, if any, are products of native Irish influences. Their education, literature, social surroundings, are either English or, what is far worse, imitation English. They have no great woof of national tradition to fall back upon for inspiration, strength, or isolation, in their times of trial. Parnell, with the instinct of genius, knew that the only way to keep a West British party isolated and effective was, when he got sufficient stability round him, to fill up the voting strength with nondescripts who were not supposed to think, and then to rule the whole with an iron hand. Left to itself such a West-British party would no sooner commence to work than it would commence to corrupt. One West Britisher would be sapped by a compliment from a lord, another by a job, another from a growing and honest conviction that English civilization was a much better thing than its vulgar Irish imitation.
If the people want national unity they will have to learn that the longest way round is the shortest way home. It cannot be got by any attempt to force one particular brand of one particular political nostrum down the country’s throat, and by throwing mud at every other movement. The attempt to do such a thing could only succeed by driving the spirit of slavery deeper into the vitals of the people, and by creating such a state of terrorism that individual independence would be afraid to make a ripple on the dead level of the slimy waters. National unity that is worth having, and that is not a worse evil than national chaos, must be the flower of a number of movements for the creation and fostering of all the elements, spiritual and material, that go to the making of a nation. When the people go back into their national traditions, get permeated by their own literature, create a drama, resurrect their customs, develop their industries; when they have a language to bind them together and a national personality to guard, the free and full development of every individual will in no wise endanger nor weaken any political movement. When the people are required to speak and act as one man and circumstances call for a special effort, that unity will come about spontaneously as the result of the appreciation of the various distinctive characteristics and institutions that have to be guarded and preserved. A nation must be inspired into unity, she cannot be drilled into it; and the ethics of mere politics, I fear, will never rise much superior to the ethics of business.
One finds oneself face to face with an extraordinary fact after having made an inquiry into modern Ireland. That fact is this:- During all this century with its Repeal movements, Young Irelands, Fenians, National Leagues, and what not, that were put on foot to make Ireland free, no provision whatever was made or attempted to enable men and women born in this country to grow up Irish! Our present condition is the result. Let us cast stones at the shoneens no longer. Owing to their nature they have to cling to something, and pretend to what is held in esteem. No Irish customs were given them to perpetuate, no Irish language to glory in, no Irish drama to enjoy or pretend to enjoy, no Irish pictures to buy, no Irish books to learn the titles of and fill their libraries with, no traditions to swell them out with racial pride, they were barked at and left to shift for themselves; so they sought the little glories which their own nation denied them by buzzing about everything “respectable” that came from England, and by saying “steek” for steak. The convent school “finished” young lady or the West British jackeen are really no subjects for satire either. They are melancholy monuments to the incapacity of those who took the moulding of the country in their own hands. The politicians have a heavy load upon their souls, but let us admit that it must be shared by all the thinking Irishmen outside the political circle who claim pride in their nation. They should have seen the unreality of it all and made a stand for true nationality even if they had to face the adjectives of the politicians. But still it is upon the politicians who were all powerful and who claimed to be the exponents of Irish nationhood that the great responsibility rests. They undertook to erect a nation upon a lie, and the people trusted and followed them. Today we have evidence in every corner of the land of the eternal truth that a lie cannot live for ever. The country and the country’s mind have been led into such an entanglement of dishonesties in the endeavour to bolster up that lie that the strongest and bitterest thing which anyone can utter today is the plain unvarnished truth.