WEEK 14: (31st Dec 1917 – Jan 6th 1918)

“I went down to the essay meeting, picking up T at the office. It was a good plain tea, but the essay – “Friends & Slavery” by Isabel Grubb, was not so interesting as it should have been. She gave a short survey of slavery from early times, with frightful statistics of the huge share England took in it – 38,000 shipped from Africa by English ships in one year of the 1790’s- . & 36,000 by ships of all other nations. She spoke of the civil war in America as a war against slavery, & Tom and Miss Walpole set her right about that in the discussion.”

NLI Call Number: MS, 3582/33
NLI Catalogue Link can be found here
Date Range of Diary: December 10th 1917 – August 4th 1918

WEEK 14: 31st December 1917 – 6th January 1918

Monday: New Year’s Eve. I went to town in the morning for things. They came to tea at 6.30


Image from page 152 of “The Mystic test book; or, the magic of the cards”. (Source: Library of Congress and Internet Archive Book Images)

& I am glad to say Ben was not just after a hair-cut. He had a story of a soldier in the train who travelled whenever he liked on an old pass to Cove, having a dispute with the conductor ticket collector every time he came round of course. He had other ways & means too, & said he had been robbing the government for the past 20 years. I made potato cakes for tea & they ate them well. We went up to the drawingroom then & played two games of casino, Ben winning one & I forget who the other.  It was very pleasant to have Ben in the room again & hear him talk. But when Aunt H. came in about 5.20, we got discussing Byron & Shelley, from B. to saying he was shocked at Mamma to put Byron in her favourite books, & then of course nothing but direct questioning could get any opinion or contribution (mostly insincere when they were got) out of him. As Mamma says, its not decent to say “I’ve been out of my depth for the past half hour” when


you really think half the disputants are talking shallow foolishness. D. maintained that Byron was not to be compared to Shelley, & Mamma maintained that he wrote as good poetry & was much more of a man, which D. denied. We objected to the way S. wallows in horrors, in battle descriptions for instance, & said if it was better to do like Scott & lay more stress on the courage & self sacrifice than the horrors, in poetry, & D. & B. both seemed to think that necessitated hypocrisy in Scott, & was a shirking of the truth”. I discovered from something D. said, that it is really not the dreadfulness of anything that I minded in poetry, but the way its expressed, which is interesting. I don’t mind horror, if its expressed with horror & concentrated brevity. D. as usual thought us very illogical & said she hated arguing, but if she hates it why does she engage in it so fiercely? She sang When through Life & she Wandered down the


Mountain Side and Come when the Twilight Closes & Slumber Slumber, and she and Ben sang The Moon has raised Together. [Superscript: And Tom played beautiful things out of the Vard [sp.?] book]. They stayed to supper till 12 O’clock, very properly, & so did Aunt H. I got mamma to open the door at midnight while I said the formula in The Old Country, & I am told D. said to Aunt H. wasn’t I very young? (Anything superstitious is very young) Aunt H. said I was in some ways older than D., and D replied that she was a lot older than Mrs Jacob.


The Magic City – Auguste Comte & Positivism, The Bath Comedy. Hannah. The Wild Olive. Tir na nIongaantar [Irish sp.?], Macaulay’s Essays on Machiavelli, Ranke’s History of the Popes & The War of the Spanish Succession, The Ultimate Belief. The Lantern Bearers. Peter & Jane. R Lynd’s Historical Basis of Irish Nationalism: The Last Sentence. Because of these Things. Lamorna, Shakespeare the Man (F. Harris) The Corsair, The Fortunes of Gavin, The Serious Courtship (J.O.Hobbes). The Vigier of the Two-Horned Alexander. Mill’s “Liberty”. His Mascot. This is the End. The Service of Man. A Young Man from the South. The Witch. The Cost of a Promise, Egypt. The Notorious Miss Lisle. A Doubtful Character. A Chronicle of Jails. A Makeshift Marriage. God the Invisible King. The Castaways. The Feet of the Young Men. A Hardy Norseman. Lorenden V.C. A Book of Folklore. Cranford. Rose at Honeypot. Pomeroy Abbey. Lst vol. Macaulay’s History of England. Pride & Prejudice. Emma. Sense & Sensibilty. The Period of the


Protestant Revolution (Seebohm) much of vols. 1,2,3,4, 8 & 9 of Stuckland’s Queens of England, Northanger Abbey. Persuasion. The Soul of Corsus [sp.?]. Mansfield Park. The Happy Valley, Katherine the Arrogant. Eve. Clairvoyancy & Crystal Gazing. Mary’s Meadow papers. Ghosts. An Enemy of the People. The Crown of Wild Olive. The Earthly Purgatory. some of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Meadowsweet & Rue. The Threshold of Quiet. The First Men in the Moon. Life of St Francis Borgia. The Society of Jesus. The Blessed Curse of A (??) Memoirs of the Count of England in 1675 by Mme D’Aulney.

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(36) 1918

Eanair January 1918 

Tuesday 1st Jan. – Mamma had a slight touch of her eye but it was nothing to speak of – so far. Eileen came to afternoon tea and told us how Darkey brought in a big brown cat one night lately and had a desperate fight with him in the bathroom. Uncle Harry said they were like drunken men at Christmas, & Eileen said it was a disgrace. Dorothea & Ben & Ned Stephens all walked in while we were at tea – Lily S. had not come yet on account of a confinement case at Cappagh where they were staying, which she was minding till the nurse came. N.S. is much like what I expected like Mr Deens only with more hair, & with a refined Dublin accent. He talked volubly about first the Irish Opinion, saying it’s a great mistake to take English money because


as soon as Labour & Sinn Féin fall out, as they probably will owing to Griffith’s autocratic & anti-democratic mind, he will say English gold; and then where are you? There’s a good deal in that; Griffith is very troublesome. Then he got onto the necessity of loving everyone & joining with Socialists all over the world, and including English ones, & Mamma said shocking things. He said England had lost her soul through empire & industrialism & Mamma said when had she one? which of course shocked them, & was indefensible, & D. informed her that her whole soul was in English history! Ben took no part, except soothing murmurs. Stephens is the sort that likes to talk unopposed, & is easily shocked by brazen person like Mamma. He is very interesting and means well, but he’s young. Eileen was greatly amused with it all, & I think Uncle Charlie was too. I went down to the essay meeting, picking up T at the


office. It was a good plain tea, but the essay – “Friends & Slavery” by Isabel Grubb, was not so interesting as it should have been. She gave a short survey of slavery from early times, with frightful statistics of the huge share England took in it – 38,000 shipped from Africa by English ships in one year of the 1790’s- . & 36,000 by ships of all other nations. She spoke of the civil war in America as a war against slavery, & Tom and Miss Walpole set her right about that in the discussion. She read extracts from Whittier in the usual fashion of purple reading poetry. There was a good deal of discussion, R. White said how much worse off many slaves were after they were freed, & F. Walpole spoke at great length on the necessity  of welcoming the rise of the struggling submerged classes & encouraging them even if their rise impoverishes us – very good stuff if it was shorter. It was over by 9. I was much impressed by how handsome Tom looked beside Grace Bell


on at the desk. I went home with him & he said he had a letter from Tony all criticisms of Sinn Féin, & we agreed that people are very irritating who say they agree with the aims & objects of Sinn Féin & then promise to object to everything it does & is. We found Lily S. had arrived by the 9 train: she has got some grey in her hair but otherwise is just as when I first saw her. I hardly was speaking to her at all; she talked to Ben, & Dorothea & Tom whispered & giggled to each other and N.S. talked to me about folk universities; the starting of the first one in Denmark, 10 people all telling stories in one bed apparently. I complained of the baseness of some of the old stories, but he considers all shd be included, but hero worship avoided. I wish to goodness there was a study circle here. Then he got repeating very entertaining bloody ballads by Synge, á propos of Scotch ballads – I never met anyone before who knew those


ballads like Tamlane & Clark Saunders etc. I came home at 10.15.

Wednesday 2nd Jan.  – I went to town in the morning & attended the S.P.C.A. committee meeting, which is to be at 12.15 henceforward. They arranged to write to Marsh the new County & ask him to enforce the law about names on carts. After dinner I went over to St Declan’s & found them beginning to think of going for a walk. We went up Wilkin St and out the Dunmore Rd; Lily and Ben went on ahead by themselves and N.S. talked to Dorothea & me about the wrongness of charitable things like penny dinners, which are helping employees to keep wages low, and explained guild-socialism to us. If there was no charity he considers wages would have to rise or the people would take to looting shops & so on, which would cause some radical change for the better. D. ran on to make ben & Lily turn down May’s Lane,


& stayed with them after that. Then N.S. got onto the necessity of perfect freedom to development, & the wrongness of even coercing yourself – he considers it is better to express all feelings, good or bad, than to repress any. If you have to live with someone you dislike, its better to express the dislike than conceal it; expression may lead to a better understanding but repression preys on your nerves & temper. By this time we had got down to the river & joined the others there, & a few remarks were made about the prospect & the size of Fitzgerald’s boathouse. Then we went across the wood, where there are several trees blown down in the gale of 18th December, & I doubt if N.S. knew if we were in a house or a street, he kept on talking so steadily of other things. It was more sex morals by this time, sex feelings are to be expressed as freely as any other kind, & more harm is done in the world by repression of them than by almost


anything else. People may love others of the opposite sex to any extent, whether they are married or not; & love is entirely a giving out, nothing possessive about it at all. It seems to me that according to that he shouldn’t mind if he never saw his wife again, he could love her just as well without. I suggested that unrequited love has to be more or less concealed, but he seemed to think it was a sort of mistake or delusion – I couldn’t at all understand his attitude there. He considers it very wrong for men & women to live separate without plenty of intercourse with each other, wherein I entirely agree with him. When he was in college, surrounded entirely by men (studying law) he used to go & travel in railway carriages full of women in the evenings, just to be among them, & some of his class mates blushingly admitted that they did the same. He seems to have great experience in reconciling married couples who can’t bear each other – thinks its always easier for a man to help a woman & vice


versa than for either to help one of their own sex, in sex matters. He seems to have a limitless intimate acquaintance of both sexes. He says thorough going flirts generally do it because they are afraid of their real emotions & want to keep on the surface. It was all very interesting however mad. When we got back the fire was nearly out & N.S. & Ben had great work reviving it. Still I have seen nothing of Lily, nor heard her speak but in desultory talk. I had to come home then to get the tea.

Thursday 3rd Jan. – Fine bright day. I went to town for tickets etc. Uncle Charlie was not well, and stayed in bed all day. Aunt H. came in in the afternoon. They all spent the day at Tráit Mór. Ben of course at Midvale. When Uncle Charlie heard how all the children went to the station with them he said in his usual way “And Polly hanging on Ben I suppose” – affectionately amused – & Mamma, pretending surprise, replied “Oh


I hope not! that’s not a nice way for a child children to behave. Surely her mother wouldn’t allow it?” to which he made no reply. I went to tea at St Declan’s; Mr Dean was there too, but he had to go soon after tea, having a headache growing worse. They were talking about fairies & headless coaches, which Ned’s father once saw, & Caran [sp.?] peasants & their ideas – & quenching (smothering) people with hydrophobia. Lily considers there is no chance that the Peace Conference will have any wish, even selfish, to help republics, & we’ll get nothing but colonial autonomy. Ned convicted me of inconsistency in saying I worked would be wrong to impose my opinion on not any one & then maintaining that it is sometimes right to kill people, which he says is one way of imposing my will opinion on them.  I admitted the inconsistency but held to both opinions, asking saying I could not admit people like Jeanne d’Arc & Connolly to have been wrong in fighting; he said there was relative truth & &


righteousness & while they may not have done wrong, there was a higher way, of which Christ is the example. I said Christ was only bearing oppression himself, he was not standing by while the weak were massacred & or injured by the strong, & Tom said it was only when the sufferer & the person to act were the same that there was never any objection to non-resistance. Then Ned was talking of Johnty Flanagan & the lunatics he tames, & I said if one of them was assaulting a child, for instance, would not J. H. impose his opinion on him forcibly to make him stop, & he had to admit he would. Aunt H. had come by this time, very soon after Charlotte & Katie arrived & we went upstairs for the “Pacificism & non-resistance” discussion. Ned opened it with a statement that fear is the only weapon tool powerful enough to make conscript armies fight one another, & therefore he believes if one nation gave up arms altogether, no other nation could be forced by its government


to attack it. I think they could if it was small & weak enough, also I think fear of each other & the government would be very strong. He disapproves of prisons & legal restraint but holds that they can only be gradually dropped. Ben explained the case of those who while disliking war think they can’t exist without helping one side or the other & therefore that they might as well go into it thoroughly with the rest – I think some of his college friends were like that – but Ned maintained that living your normal life as near as you could wasn’t helping the war. He opened up his non-repression thing then, & was very firm on the duty of thinking clearly & holding by truth alone & giving up prejudice, & not holding incompatible views – says a lot of people consciously lie to themselves are [illegible crossed out word] logically of convinced & admit it but won’t face the issue & say so right act accordingly. Ben said he often did that himself. “Sure you have to, or you’d never get away.” Great applause. It was perfect, in his soft mild gentle voice. I said you might be


logically upset & yet feel unconvinced, that most people when defeated in argument feel that they are too ignorant to uphold their side righ adequately; & he agreed to that. He would allow a certain amount of control in dealing with immature minds. Ben made one or two more exquisite little contributions but I forget what they were. Charlotte & Katie said scarcely anything, & I don’t remember Dorothea saying much. Aunt H. combatted the anti-repression idea to some extent. He considers if you express your bad feelings freely they will pass off; if you repress them they remain & injure you. But he doesn’t seem to realise the harm you might do others in expressing them. At supper they were talking about mathematics & how badly women are taught them. Its queer how well D. got on with Euclid though she can’t manage arithmetic. She says it’s the adding up that beats her. Lily talked more than I’ve yet heard her; she


spoke to Charlotte about Mtmellick, which she says is very bad now, nothing but rules & regulations, it was bad enough that way in her time. She is terrible big. We came home about 10.30.

Friday 4th Jan. – Uncle Charlie was better, but didn’t get up till the afternoon. I went up to St Declan’s after dinner. Ned talked very intelligently about the Golden Bough; says it was the golden bough Eneas met in an enchanted grove in Italy, which he broke off or pulled up & found behind it the way to the infernal regions. I hadn’t got to that in the book; he has read most of it. Ben was more or less interested in that too, & we were talking about mythology; D. complains that she can’t remember the stories. Then Ben told me of a new book he has read on Shakespeare’s sonnets by Samuel Butler, differing from Harris in holding that S. really did love W.H.; & with a theory that W.H. sold the sonnets to a publisher


when he was in want of money. Also that Shakespeare wrote them between 25 & 30 or thereabouts. They had been asked up to Sville to see the Bells, & D. had asked if I might come too, so I went with them (Uncle C. met us, going over to visit them, & walked with Ben all the way) and stayed a while but came away home before they left. Lily had big furs on that made her look as if she had no neck. Rebecca was talking about the school she was last teaching at in England & the raids. Janice and Charlotte & Henry Bell were there too. They all came to tea here, Lily in a very everyday blouse, and light gaiters which I do think she might have taken off. Ned had been hearing about the museum in the Free Library and was very anxious it should be worked up and made better known to the public. He is a terrible energetic person. He was sitting next to Uncle Charlie & never spoke to him


at all. I never saw anyone eat so many slices of griddle bread as Lily did. It shows it wasn’t bad anyhow, she being a professional cook. Ned told us how he once took a party of National School children round the Kildare St Museum, & how much they enjoyed it & how sensible they were. Ben went down town on some mysterious errand & brought back gorgeous chocolates. We sat round the drawingroom fire for a long time after tea, & Ned talked with assistance from others. He told how he first met Lily at a dance, & how he was afraid of her because she looked so self possessed & at ease in a ballroom, but very soon found she was nothing to be afraid of. She had been complaining of the system of Mountmellick when she was there; the absurd rules that you couldn’t move without breaking, & Ben said she was always so detached, he cd [could] imagine the way she would put up with those rules & not let them have any effect on her, while I would be rebelling against them all the time. She certainly


does look as if nothing could disturb her equanimity. They said she had a face like Buddha, which is pretty true. She and D. were exchanging a lot of recollections of each other in childhood. We were talking about dancing too, I was deploring how hard it was to get any & D. was saying she wouldn’t go to dances & I replying that it cost so much, when it was so doubtful if anyone wd dance with me, & D. as before said of course they wouldn’t if I looked as if I thought so. Ned remarked then that it was pleasanter to go to a dance with friends & with your program full beforehand, which she could not deny. Dorothea sang various songs, The Bailiff’s Daughter and part of Come Lassies & Lads, and I attempt from Love’s sickness, and Loch Lomond, & Ben sang Begone dull Care & the Poor Old Man, & I know my love, which he sings better than anything else – it was exquisite. I went in and fetched Aunt H.


at about 9.30, & they left about an hour after that. Dorothea & Ben sang Lord Ronald together too. Ben’s hollow style of singing to an accompaniment suits it very well. Mamma does not think much of the manners of either Lily or Ned. and says she likes Catholics better.

Saturday 5 Jan. – I went over to Saint Declan’s in the evening. Ben had left that morning, & I don’t know how they had spent the day. Ned was talking of me of Johnty Flanagan’s marvellous achievements in making partial peace between among a matrimonial triangle, & I said how in the world did h get people to tell him their secrets & let him help them – that its not like what happens in real life – but he explained that its your own fault if you can’t do it – you don’t love people enough; if you did they would confide in you. He couldn’t at all understand my idea that


you cannot be perfectly  happy without congenial society; everyone is interesting. & its your own fault if you don’t find them so. And those who want your society will come to see you wherever you are! Its easy for a Dubliner to talk. He went on about love a great deal, with assistance from Dorothea, who wants exhorted Tom to go about with love pouring out of him on everybody, and told how she has various friends who appear miserable and whom she warms & brightens up by loving them. I wonder who they are, but of course it wouldn’t be discreet to ask. Ned said I seemed to have a low opinion of human nature, which I wouldn’t altogether deny, & this to his mind explained all my objections to his theories. He evidently thinks if you don’t like people its because yr own lack of love to them makes them show their worst side to you, as if one always began by disliking people


for fun. Dorothea told how what a criticizing, fault disapproving, self righteous impression we made on her when she first met us, & how she left she was being weighed & criticised & disapproved of, which of course confirmed Ned in his views of our, or at least my wrong attitude towards life. I tried to maintain that one disapproving of things that are done by others doesn’t necessarily imply conceit of oneself, but I seldom spent a more displeasing half hour. I began to feel towards Love (?) a little as Ben expressed himself his letter last July. Ned’s conceptions of the sort of things that sour you towards people are very elementary – somebody bullying a child in the road, or thereabouts.

Sunday 6th January. Twelfth Day. – Fine cold day. I went for a walk in the afternoon out the road, & in the evening to the Sinn Féin ceilidh at 8 for an hour or so. There were a lot of girls but few men – I believe they came afterwards – & a grand


supper laid out in the women’s rooms. The 2 Powers came with jellies & had great work getting them out of their moulds. We raked in a roomful & had tea – Alderman Power in the chair – & after that I left, as I wanted to go to St Declan’s before going home. There were girls dancing by themselves in the billiard room, to a fiddle. They were much pleasanter at St Declan’s than the night before. Lily & Ned had been visiting Juliet & Marjorie White, & Ned was delighted with Juliet, she was so enlightened – understood the value of tradition & national languages, & is a Pacifist I believe – grand thing to have a person like that go farming in the country. She must be greatly altered. They spoke of the possibility of getting Johnty down here to visit the F.O.R., which seems very slight. They were discussing what consciousness is – how to define it. Lily said it was continuous memory


also about how much you can remember pain & how much children remember. Lily talked more than ever before.