Cruiskeen Lawn...the Myles na Gopaleen blog

Flann O'Brien
O'Brien, Flann, pseud. for Brian Ó Nualláin 1911–66, Irish novelist and political commentator Born in County Tyrone and raised in Dublin, he entered the Irish civil service in 1937 and formally retired in 1953. From 1940 until his death, he wrote a political column called "Cruiskeen Lawn" for The Irish Times, under the pseudonym of Myles na Gopaleen; his biting, satiric commentaries made him the conscience of the Irish government. As Flann O'Brien, he published three wildly funny novels, At Swim–Two–Birds (1939, rep. 1960), The Dalkey Archive (1964), and The Third Policeman (1976), and well as Faustus Kelly (1943), a play.
METHINKS:‘Tis of the "cruiskeen lawn’ I’ll be speakin. It’s not a lawn at all. In Irish it means "a full jug". O’Brien has been a favorite of mine for many years and it has occurred to me that the intense schedule of "Cruiskeen Lawn" is so much akin to contemporary blogging and its pretensions.

[O’Brien] turned to journalism (or more correctly, columnism), and over the next 20 years, as Myles na Gopaleen, he was the scourge of pretension throughout Ireland, most particularly in the rising governmental class - and at a time, let us be plain, when it was neither popular nor profitable so to be.

The milieu is the Dublin of the 1940s and 1950s, a city hard now to conjure save in the tones of grey and grey-green. We picture the lumbering Liffey and the clouds trundling overhead. We visit the quayside haunts - the Palace Bar, the Scotch House - mix with the clientele, behatted, besuited, shabbily genteel. The pints of plain are flowing, along with the balls of malt. We listen to the jokey banter that passes for intellectualism. It's a smoky masculine world: women scarcely exist save to mother or to serve. Around us Dublin is rotting, dear old dirty Dublin. Beyond lie the wastes of sadness, whence all brightness is exported in the emigrant ships to Liverpool, New York. The paralysis of Joyce's Dubliners had briefly been jolted by the fireworks of independence: now conformity reigns. It turns out that Ireland's 800-year struggle had not been for freedom at all: merely for separation, a wall against the new.

"The Cruiskeen Lawn" was originally conceived as an Irish-language column for the Irish Times - an unlikely home for such an enterprise, as that paper was still largely Unionist in outlook, though by the 1940s it condescended to nod to the new civil order. The column soon outgrew its roots and within a year Myles was writing predominantly in English, though he still made the odd sortie into Irish (and into punning Latin and modern European languages too, if the maggot bit). At odd times he wrote in a mocking miachstúir of English-Irish or English speilt as Irish.

The column grew, over the years, to a sustained chronicle of wit and whimsy, a treacle well of satire. The running jokes are legendary: the Brother, that quintessential Dubliner (or is it the brother of the Brother who is truly quintessential?); the Plain People of Ireland with their proprietorial demands to be told; the Research Bureau and its absurd inventions; the Catechism of Cliché, whose form, if not its fun, may be traced to Aquinas. A personal favourite is the Book-Handling Service, whereby for a small fee, Myles's team will attend the client's home, fox the pages of his books, scribble on them even, underline obscure but pertinent passages, thus affording the busy bourgeois the appearance of a well-read man.

It became the required reading of the Dublin intellectuals, that inward coterie of wags and pranksters (among whom Myles undoubtedly numbered himself) who, like the Free State, were victims of promise and for whom, in the clerical orthodoxy that was Eire, promise was safer than success. It reflected their preoccupations, but simultaneously commented upon them: for all affectation, even his own, was grist to Myles's mill. Pomposity, the sham of authority, jobbery of the state: these were his quarries. A balloon might not swell but Myles's pen was there to pierce it. His attacks might be short or sustained, but their surest end was if someone Myles disapproved of joined in the assault: whereupon he would lampoon his unlucky and interim ally with all the scorn previously reserved for the original target. SOURCE: Jamie O'Neill

There you have it: Myles na Gopaleen -- the patron saint of bloggers.

ANNOUNCEMENT:
Life of Riley Inc apologises for the above literary discourse but management thought that reference was due Mr. O'Brien. While Life of Riley Inc does not normally offer product endorsements, on this occasion the imprimatur is granted the novels and collected selected columns of the aforementioned deceased. LOR recommends the reading of same at your earliest convenience.

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