In the pantheon of Irish patriots, there are many men who can only be described as odd. To call them outsiders is merely charitable. Such men turn their backs on their caste or their religion or both. They invite charges of betrayal and their motives are inscrutable. None was odder than Charles Stewart Parnell. Paul Bew has chosen an appropriate title for his deeply researched biography, for few claimed to know the man. In fact he never ‘had a single intimate friend’.
The Parnells, by lineage, were firmly established members of the Protestant Ascendancy, a landlord class that clung to the English connection as the only defence against the demands of a Catholic tenantry. Yet, for four generations, the Parnells had been prominent in promoting Catholic claims. From his forefathers Charles inherited