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  • Writer's pictureStephen Balogh

"Avoiding exaggeration and bitterness, and showing fair play all round"

These words are included in the closing paragraph of a short preface to an 1893 book on Irish history. The book’s author is one Patrick Weston Joyce, considered amongst the foremost Irish historians of his time and indeed something of a polymath, having also had key responsibilities for the organisation of the school system in Ireland over a number of decades and being an avid collector of Irish folk songs.

Patrick’s younger brother was Robert Dwyer Joyce, equally famous as a polemical poet and song writer, whose ballad “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” was famously used as the title to a Ken Loach film about the Irish Civil War. Quite a pair, and I am looking forward some day to attending one of the many festivals celebrating their memory and accomplishments.

P.W. Joyce also happens to be a direct ancestor of my wife for whom, as a Christmas present, I sourced the original edition from which this image is taken. Dipping into the book before wrapping it, those final sentiments struck me forcefully, so refreshingly.

Part of me simply wants to end this blog entry without further comment, perhaps adding the current phrase “Just putting it out there…”.

Instead, to make it explicit, here’s a suggestion for every writer in 2021 and beyond, including myself: why not adopt P.W. Joyce’s stricture he placed on himself as an evaluation schema?

Whatever the subject, whatever the beef and underlying justice or injustice of the case, whatever the conclusion, wherever the hearty sympathies might lie, all can be accomplished and still written …

soberly and moderately

avoiding exaggeration and bitterness

showing fair play all round.

Having primed this particular petard, I’d better be careful now not to blow myself up with it.

Just putting it out there…

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