Michael Brown has written a brilliant, encyclopaedic but ultimately unconvincing book addressing an important subject that has for too long remained a closely guarded secret. A few minutes on Google Scholar will confirm that most references to the ‘Irish Enlightenment’ date from the last ten years. Scare quotes and question marks recur, emphasising the insecure status of this late arrival on the intellectual scene. The impact of the European Enlightenment on 18th-century Ireland has long been acknowledged, particularly since Marianne Elliott’s path-breaking studies of Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen in the 1980s.
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'Thirkell was a product of her time and her class. For her there are no sacred cows, barring those that win ribbons at the Barchester Agricultural.'
The novelist Angela Thirkell is due a revival, says Patricia T O'Conner (£).
'Only in Britain, perhaps, could spy chiefs – conventionally viewed as masters of subterfuge – be so highly regarded as ethical guides.'
In this month's Bookends, @AdamCSDouglas looks at the curious life of Henry Labouchere: a friend of Bram Stoker, 'loose cannon', and architect of the law that outlawed homosexual activity in Britain.