Main content

Title: McMahon Glynn, Patrick to Glynn, James P., 1887
CollectionPatrick McMahon Glynn_Letters to his family (1874-1927) [Gerald Glynn O'Collins]
SenderMcMahon Glynn, Patrick
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationpolitician
Sender Religionunknown
OriginKapunda, South Australia, Australia
DestinationGort, Co. Galway, Ireland
RecipientGlynn, James P.
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1348
Genretenancy, politics
TranscriptKapunda S.A.
2nd October 1887

My dear James
By this time I ought to have been 10 miles from here, but it is
raining heavily, so I will write you a few lines in reply to your letter
just received. If I am not so regular a correspondent as I used and
ought to be, you can understand that it is due to want of time.
What with reading official documents, attending long sittings in
Parliament, public correspondence, and private work, I have very few
minutes to spare. Let me in the first place congratulate you on your
success in getting your novel off. The Saturday Review is pretty
caustic & repressive, and the imprimatur of one of its readers should
indicate success. By the way, you did not mention the name, but
before this reaches you, [you] will perhaps have sent me a copy. As
to your references to my opinions on the Irish question, about which
I wish chiefly to write, you misunderstand my position altogether,
and, I am afraid, look too narrowly at things. Don't for a moment
imagine that I regard the Irish tenants as immaculate, or even
exceptions to the rule that a slave is the greatest tyrant. On the whole
their position in relation to the landlords is right, but in the abstract
wrong. On the whole, what the Times said years ago is true, the
landlords exercised their rights with a hand of iron and neglected their
duties with a forehead of brass. But the tenants would be as big
swindlers themselves if they were in the same situation, and had the
same necessities and opportunities. Doubtless many of them swindle
under the aegis of the National League, but we must look a little
beyond the present and the concrete. The system of landlordism is
wrong, say what you will of it, and it is the statesman's duty to abolish it though the means adopted may admit of swindling by the
very persons who are in general the victims.
For myself, I have a thorough contempt for some of the persons
whose cause, in itself just, I am championing in Parliament. You may
remember the passage in Henry VI, part 2, between Clifford & Cade,
or the address of Caius Marcius, in Coriolanus, to the Rabble, or of
Mamllus in Julius Caesar; with these I sympathise, but know that
Shakespeare's and Sir Thomas Browne's, and Carlyle's etc. contempt
for the inanity and instability of the masses did not dull their philosophic sense of justice. The fact is, we must look beyond the meanness
of individuals at the system, and keep our tempers cool. I assure you,
the people whose cases I am advocating often misunderstand me most.
I cannot endorse their methods and logic, but endeavor to do my
duty nevertheless. It is the perfection of this sobriety of judgment
that has made Scott the prince of novelists, and Shakespeare the
interpreter par excellence of what is staple in humanity.
For Mr. Timothy Harrington and his class, I have little respect,
and indeed my estimate of the Irish party as statesmen is almost as
low as that [which] I entertain of some of the prominent unionists;
but while I regard their tactics & aims in many respects as objectionable,
I can regard Parnellism as the transition to something better.
Surely, James, you don't think that because Mr. T. Sheahen does not
get his rents from a few scheming tenants, that one of the most
insulting of 87 ineffective coercion Acts should be allowed to pass
without protest. You object to the Irish being called the finest
peasantry in the world; so do I, and to many other pieces of vulgar
blather & blow with which O'Connell flattered the sensitive vanity of
his country; but nevertheless I must look at facts as they are, and
believe that the Coercion Act is on the whole a landlords' measure,
that it will fail, that landlordism must be abolished, and replaced by,
not peasants' proprietary, but state ownership of the land, and that
home rule in some form must come.
Don't think I take my views from the Freeman's Journal. The
tone of the Irish Press is often narrow and provincial, and out of
sympathy with my tastes; but do you read, as I do, the Times, the
Saturday Review, St. James Gazette, the Reviews etc., and shape your
opinions accordingly? One of the ablest authorities on England is
Lord Thring, in this matter. He is, or was, the premier Parliamentary
draughtsman. Now read what he says on "Ireland's Alternatives" in
the August (?) number of the Contemporary. It seems to me we are
out here better judges of the relations of England & Ireland than you are at home, for the reason that we are freed from the petty
irritations of the closer view. As for the Coercion Meeting I refused
at first to speak at it, as I like peace; but considering that the Irish
here regard me as their country's representative, that the cause was
grossly misrepresented and misunderstood, that I believe, from
intimate knowledge of what has been going on and a broad view of
the position, that Lord Salisbury is nothing better than a scoundrel
in his recent Irish politics, my place, not less as a lover of Justice
than as an Irish man, was on the platform.
As for Home Rule, it is inevitable. One would, indeed, require
to be the slave of pedantry and formalism to believe, after 87 years
of such experience, that the Union will work. But home Rule is not
going to introduce a Utopia. The Irish party, in their anxiety to do
something, will make a pretty mess of matters at first, but anything
would be an improvement on the present tensions. Besides, we must
look to the future and the accommodating power of a new generation.
All this I believe, although the logic and provincial patriotism of die
Irish Press is not always after my liking. But one must be a man, not
a woman, in his opinions, that is, must generalize from colligated
[sic] facts, not petty personal experiences. I have done this here, in
S.A. politics, (e.g. Chaffey Bros scheme) and though I was in a
minority of one when I stood up to speak, had the moral sy[m]pathy,
though opposition, of at least half a timid House before I finished.
But where I am wandering to? You will, my dear James, excuse
this long digression. It is as well that we should understand one
another. I do you, and in consequence sympathise with your feelings
and aims. If I wrote to you before to be cautious, re journalism, it
was from a Knowledge of how Merit has so often failed—but you are
on your true line now, and, I am sure, will be successful. There is
one thing more you will excuse me for saying. Don't let the cynical
dash in your disposition warp your judgment. The world, as a
balance, goes right; this is to adopt the language of physics, the
resultant is progress. Heine was a bit of a cynic and satirist, but his
cynicism only gave flavor to the fine enthusiasm of his humanity. He
hated, as a great poet best could, the beery and smoky vulgarity of
his German compatriots, but still he had faith in the future, and,
though practically an outcast from his country, wished that his
epitaph should be "Here lies a German poet". But I must stop. By
the way I need not say how pleased I am with your estimate of
Joseph and the others. Joe wrote me a nice letter which I must reply
to next mail. If I only had time to write as long and often as I wish, you would hear from me often. But you can imagine what it is, when
I say that I have two engagements to lecture in a month on a subject
I have not looked at yet. I have to comply. Write soon to

Your affectionate brother
P. McM. Glynn