Tuesday, March 28, 2023

CS Lewis on identity:

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Moriah Formica covers Skid Row's "I Remember You" (1989)

YouTube offered me this recently thanks to its clever algorithms. I like dipping back into the music of my late teens and early 20s - when this first came out in January 1989 I had just turned 17, in Lower Sixth, trying to figure out the future. It's one of those that nearly wore out my Walkman on various bus journeys, and one I learned to play on my first guitar. It was originally by New Jersey rock band Skid Row; it's one of the songs that Norah Jones said made her want to be a musician. This is a really impressive live cover, virtually note-perfect on both the guitar and the soaring, searing, soothing vocal. 

"Wished ever after would be like this".

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

"the blood of the victims streamed under my feet" - Archibald Hamilton Rowan in Paris in 1794, and a new take on "Liberté Egalité Fraternité"

Following on from a previous post, I've been reflecting on a few of Archibald Hamilton Rowan's descriptions. AHR had been tried and found guilty of 'seditious libel' in a court in Dublin. In his closing remarks the judge, Mr Justice Boyd, claimed that AHR's objectives were to bring to Ireland something akin to the carnage of post-Revolution France  – "All are summoned to arms, to introduce a wild system of anarchy, such as now involves France in the horrors of civil war, and deluges the country with blood".

• 1794 Prison sentence, and escape to France
AHR was sentenced to a fine of £500 and two years imprisonment on 29 January 1794; various letters and correspondences from his cell are in his autobiography.

But he escaped from Ireland in May and sailed from the small port of Rush just north of Dublin, landed in France at Roscoff, and headed south to Brest where he was held in a military hospital "which had all the appearance of a prison", on suspicion of being a spy from England. 

• Psalm 23
In Brest, an English sailor called Rodwell gave him a copy of a commentary on the Psalms, entitled An Exposition of the Twenty Third Psalm, Full of Comfortable and Wholesome Doctrine, by the Anglican Bishop John Hooper, printed in 1562 (on Google Books here). Hooper had been a Protestant martyr, burned at the stake in Gloucester in 1555. Hamilton Rowan later wrote that the volume had "afforded me more pleasure than I ever had before received from a single book".

Soon AHR personally witnessed many examples of those alleged "horrors of civil war". His account of what he witnessed from his hospital block window is pretty gruesome –

"one side of the building in which I was confined was occupied by the revolutionary tribunals, and we daily saw from our windows, on the opposite side, waggon-loads of prisoners brought for trial. Those who were condemned returned immediately in the same vehicle to the guillotine, with their arms pinioned and their necks bare, while the crowds were shouting "Vive la Republique." 

• Summer in Paris
AHR was soon released from Brest and was sent with a Mr Sullivan to Paris, via Orleans, where the French leader Robespierre was being celebrated in a public display of cannons, musketry and music "while the multitude responded Vive Robespierre!"

The next day, AHR briefly met with Robespierre in Paris. However, soon after, Robespierre himself was seized and executed, on 27 July 1794. AHR's autobiography tells of the aftermath:  

'... On my first arrival in Paris, there was an immense number of houses on which was painted in large letters, "Propriete Nationale a vendre" and on almost all others, the words "Liberté Egalité Fraternité, ou la mort.” 
After the death of Robespierre, the three last words were decided to be terrorist, and were expunged every where…'
'... In two days after the execution of Robespierre, the whole commune of Paris, consisting of about sixty persons, were guillotined in less than one hour and a half, in the Place de la Revolution ; and though I was standing above a hundred paces from the place of execution, the blood of the victims streamed under my feet. What surprised me was, as each head fell into the basket, the cry of the people was no other than a repetition of "A bas le Maximum!" which was caused by the privations imposed on the populace ...'
'... I  did  not  see  Robespierre going  to  the  guillotine ;  but  have  been  informed that  the  crowd  which  attended  the  waggon  in  which he  passed  on  that  occasion,  went  so  far  as  to thrust  their  umbrellas  into  the  waggon  against  his body. 
From  this  period  every  thing  bore  a  new  face. Marat's  bust  and  the bonnet  de  liberté  were  torn down  and  trampled  upon  in  the  theatres  and  other public  places...  
Being  much  discontented  with  the  distracted state  of  Paris,  where  they  were  too  busy  with  their own  intestine  divisions  to  think  of  assisting  Ireland, or  of  any  thing  beneficial  to  others ... I solicited ... to embark for the United States of America...'

• 1795 Escape to America
"They  were  too  busy  with  their own  intestine  divisions  to  think  of  assisting  Ireland". After less than a year in France, on 17 April 1795 AHR left for America, under the false name 'James Thomson', and arrived in Philadelphia on 18th July.

• 1806 Return to Ireland
He stayed in America until 1800, then travelled to Germany, and eventually came back to Ireland in 1806 upon the death of his father. AHR "chose as his chief place of residence the ancient castle of Killileagh, on his own patrimonial estate in the county of Down".

His autobiography is important reading on the complexity of the period.


On a similar note, Bill Maher touched on the "purifying elixir" of revolutions in this recent, characteristically irreverent, monologue. Human nature and the pursuit of power – If only *I* was in charge, things would be soooooo much better...