Bonnie Prince Charlie, born in exile in Rome in 1720 and buried there in 1788, spent a mere 14 months of his life in Scotland; in 1745-6 and a brief clandestine 1750 return visit. However, he left behind legends and a true legacy of history and Catholicism. This fascinating exhibition provides a comprehensive narrative exploring the lives and events of the Jacobites and their attempts to reinstate the deposed Catholic Stuart king, James VI and II, and his heirs to the throne after his exile to France. Exhibits are drawn from public and private collections across Britain, France, Italy and Vatican City, forming the largest exhibition of the Jacobite era for some decades.
The exhibition is themed on the five Jacobite challenges to the throne, culminating in the doomed 1745 campaign and its bloody end at Culloden, and Charlie’s famous escape to the Isle of Skye. Entering the exhibition to airs of the Skye Boat song, visitors may feel they have fallen into a time shift like the heroine of TV’s Outlander. For those of us who encountered the Jacobites in school, it’s a visualization we might wish we didn’t have to wait 70 years for. It is the visual that is essential here, because Jacobitism reflected more the human passions and feeling in the Scottish enlightenment sense than rationalist ideas and argument.
The academic theory of material culture is very present, as the exhibition helps us to understand the objects of the Jacobite rebellion, their production, consumption of Jacobite items and their afterlife. Objects on display including paintings, costumes, jewellery, documents, weapons and glassware, illustrating the secrecy of Jacobite allegiance, the depth of feeling for a fading notion of royalty, and their material culture. Most striking is a gold communion set, encrusted with diamonds, belonging to Charlie’s younger brother Henry, who became a Cardinal; the York Chalice on loan from the Vatican Collection which has never left Rome before; and, a tartan frock coat said to have belonged to Charlie. Other highlights are weapons and shields used in the Battle of Culloden, the official order for the massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe, a Gaelic bible, an execution block, and marble grave markers. Most touching is a letter by Charlie, aged eight, apologising to his father for upsetting his mother.
An impressive collection of Jacobite portraits starts with the familiar John Pettie Victorian romantic portrait of Charlie entering the ballroom of Holyroodhouse, and includes a towering portrayal of James II, a striking portrait of Flora MacDonald and a sketch of a forlorn-looking Charlie in his mid-fifties. The exhibition wonderfully captures the breadth of the rebellion, the depth of Catholic feeling, and how close Scotland came to changing the course of religious history.
The original text was first published in The Catholic Herald here
As a callow undergraduate I was intrigued by the book title The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, but JP Donleavy’s text didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Perhaps If I had read one critic’s take, that it was a "warmed-up Ginger Man," I might have saved myself a few pennies. The author died aged 91 at his home in Mullinger on September 11, and it’s his 1955 novel The Ginger Man which he leaves as his legacy and the one with the cult status.
The Ginger Man, which was turned down by 40 publishers, chronicled the drunken exploits of a young American studying at Trinity College, Dublin, after World War Two. It received critical acclaim, including famously from Dorothy Parker and close friend the writer Brendan Behan, who told him “this book is gonna beat the Bible." It has since gained a place in the literary canon. In 1998, The Modern Library placed it in the list of 100 top books, which placed Ulysses by James Joyce in the top spot.
Despite, or more likely because of, the ban in Ireland until the 1970s its success grew by word-of-mouth. Worldwide, it sold more than 40 million copies. Its impact was because of the way the novel traversed the landscape of post-war moral change in Ireland. The Ginger Man remained censored in the United States until 1965, while it remained banished in Ireland until the late-70’s. When it was made into a play it closed after three nights in Dublin under pressure from the media and Church. The main trouble was the sex and language, which shocked at the time, but it also questioned authority and traditional values of Catholic Ireland.
In "Me and My God," Donleavy said "...the Irish idea is to vulgarise things as a way of demonstrating their liberation from the shackles of the Church." In a more generous tone, he explained "The Church is the biggest cultural influence on this country and I'm certainly not against religious ceremonies. The act of going to church is important for the psyche."
JP Donleavy was born in New York, the son of Irish Catholic immigrant parents. In an interview with The Independent, he joked of his origins "I remember when there was some suggestion that the Donleavys were once Kings of Ulster, the Rev Ian Paisley said he would never allow a pornographer like me on the throne of Ulster." In 1946 Donleavy went to Trinity College, Dublin, one of a handful of Catholics at a Protestant university. He explained how he saw religious connections operating, “I was instantly aware of a degree of secrecy in the way people approached you and introduced themselves if they'd learned you were Roman Catholic…. It would be too strong to say the Church had set up a conspiracy. But it did operate like a giant octopus."
The Rev Ian Paisley wasn’t the only one to consider The Ginger Man pornographic. It was placed on the pornography list of his publisher Olympia Press, which pitched a disgruntled Donleavy into a twenty-year legal battle. A contemporary review in The New York Times described the publisher thus, “Maurice Girodias, best known as a purveyor of pornography in his famous Olympia Press but also not incidentally the publisher of such modern classics as Nabokov’s Lolita, J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and Pauline Reage’s Story of O.”
The Ginger Man was part of the angry young men syndrome in literature and the sexual revolution, but it seems Donleavy disliked the modern effect upon the women of Ireland. Feminists have since been disturbed by the text, but also by his public statements. A case in point being when he told one interviewer, “The other night I was watching a programme on Irish television with a group of women discussing their sex lives. I can't say I'm not liberal, but I found it slightly objectionable. People forget there's such an element in life as good taste." He was also quoted as saying, "The only advice I could give women is to return to the Church."
Donleavy has left 27 books behind, and The Ginger Man remains in print even if it didn’t fulfil Behan’s prophecy and outstrip the Bible. However one measures it Ireland has lost one of its biggest literary figures, but it seems his reputation is still trapped in time rather than the timelessness of great literature. Perhaps with death will come a reappraisal.
You can see a short interview from RTE here. The image is taken form this film.
By, Dr. David Cowan
For the past few years Glyndebourne has been a family occasion for us, taking our two children for the full experience, champagne, a wonderful dinner and of course tremendous opera. This year was a bit special, because of Thomas Allen. Not so much his singing, as the fact that a matter of a few days previous he had been shaking hands with our daughter to present her with her BA degree from Durham University as Chancellor of said institution.
But what of this opera? Ariadne auf Naxos is a philosophical comedy, which Strauss and Hofmannsthal envisaged taking place in the private theatre of a Viennese aristocrat infused with the high art of the enlightenment (though the first version of Ariadne was in a baroque setting). At Glyndebourne this was certainly not the case, just as it was not the case when the same director Katharina Thoma staged the opera a mere four years ago, in 2013. The setting here was the 1940s and an English country house transformed by war into a hospital for the wounded. It could have easily been Glyndebourne itself.
The great, and enchanting, surprise was Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, who has a most powerful voice. In the Prologue, the Music Master is at pains to tell the Prima Donna she is at the heart of the opera, and so it was for Davidsen, who at the height of her performance brought audible gasps from the audience rewarded by tremendous and well-deserved applause. Davidsen won the 2015 Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition at 28, so we knew beforehand she was good, but this good? A lightly qualified yes.
The qualification is that Davidsen while a wonderful, and very tall at 6 feet 2 inches, physical presence still needs to animate the use her body more dramatically to keep up with her voice. This is no doubt something the now 30-year-old actress will gain through experience and the hopeful arrival of a stronger director able to help shape the kind of performance anyone who saw her will know is forthcoming. We hear Wagner in Ariadne’s duet with Bacchus, and I look forward to someday hearing, and seeing, her as a Wagner heroin.
Whatever the Music Master says, however, it was not all about her. This was a strong cast. I particularly appreciated Angela Brower’s Composer, always looming in the background when not in the action. Ariadne as one of the patients attentively looked after by the nurses, a charming trio of singers deserving a mention. Thomas Allen offered us a witty Music Master, while AJ Glueckert as Bacchus was a powerful performance, especially in the climatic duo, though somewhat compromised by his attire in what looked more like RAF mechanic overalls than a godlike pilot’s uniform.
Cornelius Meister conducted the London Philharmonic with great mastery of the Strauss score. Erin Morley as Zerbinetta was mischievous with a wonderful line in come-hither looks, which enlivened the sad circumstances of the hospital. I was not convinced though that she was helped by playing the part tranquillised in a straitjacket during her showpiece aria. Björn Bürger played the Harlequin with great charm. The quartet of men playing the four comedians were delightfully funny. Visually the staging was quite stunning.
In her programme note, Thoma describes the opera as a debate about the merits of high and low art, explaining it is ‘a journey from despair and disappointment to hope. And the challenge is to draw the two parts together in a cohesive way.’ The main, perhaps only real, disappointment of the evening was the overall effect being diminished by the rapid dispensing of Hofmannsthal’s intriguing idea of a courtly opera-within-an-opera and the odd juxtaposition of wartime suffering and the comical, and the cohesion sought never really surfaced.