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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture


Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration of its cultural, political, constitutional and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the dominant discourses and narratives that have seemingly defined the nation. The essays in this collection examine the ways in which established Irish socio-cultural structures of authority and their constructs of collective identity have been challenged within literary and cultural discourses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Every challenge to the purported wisdom of these authority structures adds a new facet to the complexity of Irish national identity and contributes to the continuous evolution of the ‘New Ireland’, a phrase often used to signify the momentous transformations of the country in times of change.
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John Wilson Foster - Authority and Wisdom: The Case of Lady Constance Malleson


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Authority and Wisdom: The Case of Lady Constance Malleson


Constance Malleson began life as Lady Constance Annesley, the daughter of Hugh, 5th Earl Annesley. She was born in 1895 and grew up in Castlewellan Castle in County Down within sight of the Mourne Mountains. She was the offspring of her father’s second marriage; his first was to Mabel Markham when he was forty-six and she nineteen; Countess Mabel died in her early thirties. Constance was born into a glum atmosphere of Victorian patriarchal authority lightened chiefly by her vivacious and beautiful mother. Priscilla, Countess Annesley (née Moore), was thirty-nine years younger than Constance’s father – and was her husband’s first cousin – and according to Constance’s memoir, Priscilla lived in Castlewellan Castle as though in a prison. The Earl was a melancholic, often sunk in a ‘fathomless gloom’, in Constance’s memory, yet ‘tyrannical and obstinate’ in what we might call his domestic earldom (Malleson 1931: 15). Although Priscilla loved bright colours, her husband required her to dress only in black and was apparently publicly ashamed of her youth even while gratified by her rude good health (his first wife had been a valetudinarian).

One need hardly be Freud to see the 5th Earl Annesley as the first authority against which Constance rebelled – that of the father. The rebellion took, I suspect, several forms: leaving home early, marrying young, abandoning aristocratic values, assuming left-wing perspectives. Another form...

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