Patrick Maume, ‘Ulstermen of Letters: The Unionism of Frank Frankfort Moore, Shan Bullock, and St. John Ervine’, in Unionism in Modern Ireland (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1996), pp.63-80

Maume examines the careers of three Northern Irish writers who began in the 1890s with some affinity to the literary revival and Home Rule, but were increasinly repelled by the Gaelic-ruralist and Catholic-triumphalist tendency of Sinn Fein. The account of Moore is the fullest available; that of Shan Bullock more sensitive to the cultural dilemma and tempermental problems of the writer that others such as John Foster Wilson; that of Ervine sensible in its reading of the vituperative side of his later anti-Free State polemics. Maume repudiates the simplistic view taken by nationalist critics that these three suffered waste and restriction because of their supposed failure to united with the separatist cause. Instead, he sees them as answering to the political crisis of the period (especially as it concerned a conflict between agrarian and industrial ideals) and its ethnic-sectarian dimension (which betokened a militant Catholicism and an embattled liberalism) by resolving understandably enough that separation from the rest of Ireland was better than separation from Great Britain. This is not a concerted attempt to vindicate those writers or the liberal-Unionist political cohort that they represented; it is however the only study informed by an acute sense of their circumstances as Ulster Protestants but not Orangemen, and the dilemma that this represented in relation to the political divisions of the period. The essay is also striking for a remarkable condensation of literary and archival sources though in the end the brevity is such as to suggest that a longer writing might have better suited the material. [ABES]

[ back ]
[ top ]