Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Ireland, a poor, half-witted, gypsy relative of England

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I just came across this brilliant remark about Ireland by Hugh Trevor-Roper, thanks to Henry Hopgood-Phillips. I love it though though I know Trevor-Roper was that most objectionable thing, a Protestant atheist.
'Through all our history she clings to us, a poor, half-witted, gypsy relative, defying our improvement, spoiling our appearances, exposing our pretences, an irredeemable, irrepressible slut, dirty when we are most clean, superstitious when we are most rational, protesting when we are most complacent, and when we are most prosaic, inspired'.

My favourite remark about the Irish, which I know to contain very much truth, is that of the great Dr. Johnson, greatest of Englishmen after Shakespeare:
The Irish are a very fair people, sir. They never speak well of one another.
As Christopher Hollis pointed out, this joke contains a great compliment. The Irish have a stronger sense of original sin than the English and are very truthful when it comes to analysing people. These things are equally true of Romanians to whom Dr Johnson's joke applies equally well.

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