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18 November 1993
Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 305 pp., £22.50, October 1993, 0 7139 9095 3
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... in our glorious past, and it was essential for our past to be glorious if our present, in what Roy Foster in his new book of essays calls ‘the disillusioned tranquillity of the Free State’, was to have any meaning. This was what our ancestors fought for; we had it now; it had to be good. At the launch of his book Thomas Pakenham sat on a podium at ...

Upper Ireland

Nicholas Canny

16 March 1989
Modern Ireland 1600-1972 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 688 pp., £18.95, October 1988, 0 7139 9010 4
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... histories of Ireland seems insatiable and sales can match those of a moderately successful novel. Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland has exceeded such expectations. It has recorded sales in excess of 12,000 hardback copies on the Irish market alone since its publication in October 1988. Such an astonishing success is richly deserved. ...

tarry easty

Roy Foster: Joyce in Trieste

30 November 2000
The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-20 
by John McCourt.
Lilliput, 306 pp., £25, June 2000, 1 901866 45 9
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... not exist any more, I think it was the Caffè Lloyd, and I gave him five kronen.’ The war destroyed the Triestine world; exactly a year after the raffish young teacher nailed his student in the piazza and extracted five kronen, he reluctantly left the city for Zurich with Nora, Lucia and Giorgio. McCourt argues convincingly that the book Joyce described ...
21 January 1982
... newspapers to the ‘Irish dimension’ which helped precipitate the Unionist strike that destroyed it.) Running with the Green hare while secretly supporting the Orange hounds is a time-honoured tactic. It is too often forgotten that the Civil War was not fought over the issue of partition; and the correspondence of IRA members in the 1930s, as well as ...

Let’s Do the Time Warp

Clair Wills: Modern Irish History

3 July 2008
Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change c.1970-2000 
by R.F. Foster.
Penguin, 228 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 0 14 101765 5
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... and political progress. It is the baffling, ‘fast-forward’ nature of these changes that Roy Foster seeks to capture in this pacey narrative, which brings his 1988 history, Modern Ireland 1600-1972, up to date. Rather than offer a straightforward narrative account, Foster tracks the transformation of ...

Moral Lepers

John Banville: Easter 1916

15 July 2015
Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 433 pp., £10.99, May 2015, 978 0 241 95424 9
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... at least in the minds of its signatories, for five days before the rebellion was crushed. Yet as Roy Foster implies, the founding of a republic was not as clear-cut a goal for the precursors of the men of 1916, or even for the men, and women, of the War of Independence that broke out in 1919, as later nationalist piety would insist. It is startling to ...

Hillside Men

Roy Foster: Ernie O’Malley

16 July 1998
Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual 
by Richard English.
Oxford, 284 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 01 982059 3
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... W.B. Yeats Liked to think (and write) that the insurrection of Easter 1916 was ignited by a generation of cultural revolutionaries; and it did indeed bear – in retrospect at least – some resemblance to a revolution of the intellectuals. But the towering figures among Irish writers during the long upheaval from the Fin de Siècle to the Thirties lived aside from the world of the insurrectionists ...

Partnership of Loss

Roy Foster: Ireland since 1789

13 December 2007
Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006 
by Paul Bew.
Oxford, 613 pp., £35, August 2007, 978 0 19 820555 5
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... sides. This usefully helps to conceal the astounding reversals whereby those who cynically destroyed power-sharing and devolution thirty-odd years ago end up sharing power in a devolved state, three thousand deaths later, while the avatars of moderation are cast into outer darkness. Yeats once remarked that the ancient Irish did not ‘weigh and ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Ezra Pound in Italy

23 October 2008
... celebrities of the past, including Ezra Pound and his friends. Drifting around it a few years ago, Roy Foster (LRB, 30 November 2000) thought Rapallo an ‘inescapably bourgeois’ place. He could find nothing to commemorate ‘the embarrassing Pound’ on the building in Via Marsala where EP and Dorothy took a top-floor apartment in 1925, but that’s ...

What he did

Frank Kermode

20 March 1997
W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. I: The Apprentice Mage 
by R.F. Foster.
Oxford, 640 pp., £25, March 1997, 0 19 211735 1
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... large-scale biography of Yeats, died in 1983, and after some vicissitudes the task devolved on Roy Foster, the professor of Irish history at Oxford. He has had access to Lyons’s notes and transcripts, invaluable to a successor confronted, as he says, with ‘a vast and unfamiliar subject’. Vast it remains, but the unfamiliarity has clearly ...
5 April 1990
Ulster Politics: The Formative Years, 1868-86 
by B.M. Walker.
Ulster Historical Foundation/Institute of Irish Studies, 327 pp., £15, February 1990, 0 901905 40 2
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Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society 
by J.J. Lee.
Cambridge, 754 pp., £55, January 1990, 0 521 26648 3
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... in point, the walls of Derry were completed in 1618. Catholics, ‘a threatening majority’, as Roy Foster describes them in Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (1988), were not allowed to live in the town, so they clustered in the Bogside beyond the walls. On 12 August 1969 the (Protestant) Apprentice Boys held their customary triumphalist march through the ...

Old, Old, Old, Old, Old

John Kerrigan: Late Yeats

3 March 2005
W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. II: The Arch-Poet 1915-39 
by Roy Foster.
Oxford, 822 pp., £16.99, March 2005, 0 19 280609 2
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... the play has tended to muffle its strangeness. It is the great achievement of the second volume of Roy Foster’s superb biography that it delivers us late Yeats in all his troublesome immediacy. Foster does this not just by cutting across the record with new facts from the archive – itself a considerable feat, given ...

Diary

Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday 

27 May 1993
... Tomalin on Coleridge, Anthony Burgess on Fielding, other reviews by Anita Brookner, Peter Conrad, Roy Foster and Hilary Mantel), and as the limits on the new paper’s resources became apparent I thought how hard it would be to put together pages of comparable stature. There was one solace: the Independent on Sunday would be run by clear-eyed, yet ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: A City of Prose

4 August 2005
... with yet more London words. ‘To the memory of those bandsmen of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Green Jackets who died as a result of the terrorist attack here on 20 July 1982.’ The remains of the Number 30 bus were covered in blue tarpaulin and removed from Tavistock Square a week later. In the days when the street was blocked off, when Upper ...

Erasures

Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine

30 July 1998
... died in 1892, and she outlived him by forty years. Lady Gregory made herself useful to Yeats, as Roy Foster shows in his biography of the poet, because of her interest in folklore and her knowledge of the area around Coole and its people. ‘John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought/All that we did, all that we said or sang/Must come from contact with ...

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