By the Earl of Wicklow
The Last of the Irish R.Nts, by Sir Christopher Lynch Robinson (Cassell, 15s.).
WHF,N the treaty was signed between Britain and Ireland, the office of Resident Magistrate came to an end and was replaced by that of the District Justice. The author of this autobiography was the last to go. He has written a book which consists of much more than the lively tales of his life on the bench, and which indeed has many of the qualities of a family album, for it contains some very well-known portraits. He is the son of Sir Henry Robinson, formerly head of the Local Government Board in Ireland and a Privy Councillor, who had the distinction, during a period of violent and virulent political .upheaval, of being liked and trusted and respected by both parties to the quarrel; his portrait is the most outstanding in the book, and should be much appreciated by those, of whom many must still be alive, oho remember Sir Henry. "I here are also charming pictures of his mother's family, and their patriarchal, comfortable, sporting and not altogether abeteinious life in their West of Ireland home.
THIS is, however, a book of surprises. Having read of the pleasant, untroubled life at Athavillie, we suddenly find a chapter dealing with " Metaphysics and Superstitions." This starts quietly enough, describmg the strange customs connected with a local holy well, which now seem to have died out, in the course of which a primitive hymn of no small beauty is quoted. But then, with dramatic suddenness, we are in the middle of a Paris ghost story, apparently a true one, which easily surpasses M. R. James in horror, together with the even more surprising account of how, during the first World War, an army officer saw the " little people " in the grass near the Curragh, by whom he was visited later when dying in a London hospital. Should these tales be called superstitious? They have the stamp of truth, and though the author had a deep sense of humour, I do not think he is trying to tell a tall story.
E metaphysics are more elusive;
he describes himself at " an Irish Protestant, who believes in divorce, in the artificial limitation of families, in reading whatever he likes, and in all sorts of other things which the Church detests," a description which might not appeal to all his coreligionists, and he is fair and friendly to Catholics all through. As an Irish Catholic, however, I do not altogether accept his statement that we •' do not think about our religion, but accept it blindly," or that " the supposed infallibility of
. . is, of course. an e
religion . lab
oration of superstitions and speculations."
Let Sir Christopher turn to some of our more hard-headed writers and apologists; his penetrating legal mind will find some subtle problems to solve.
But on the whole this is a firstclass book, urbane, humane and humorous, and it supplies many valuable insights into a period of Irish history which is still a little obscure.
He tries hard to be impartial, but it is clear how strongls his sympathies are with the Irish; his indictment of the " Black and Tan regime is the best 1 have read, and very charming is his account of how he returned to Ireland after a long exile. One hopes he will soon do it again.