Even Uglier

Terry Eagleton

  • My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall by John Major
    Harper, 363 pp, £20.00, September 2012, ISBN 978 0 00 745013 8

It was the 19th-century Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell who first turned politics into mass entertainment. His so-called Monster Meetings were carnivals as much as demonstrations, and mark the beginning of mass politics in the modern age. When he wasn’t haranguing thousands of small farmers about Catholic emancipation or the repeal of the Union, O’Connell practised as a barrister, the most theatrical of the professions. Tony Blair was also a barrister, his wife is the barrister daughter of an actor, and Blair’s headmaster at Fettes remembered him as a consummate performer. Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father, was said to have an ‘almost music-hall style of speaking’, while his son greatly admired the music-hall comic Dan Leno and would sing his songs with what this book enigmatically describes as ‘teddy bear gestures’.

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