The News From Ireland:
Foreign Correspondents and The Irish Revolution
By Maurice Walsh
258 pages, £20
At the end of World War I, the victorious Allies brought self-determination to Europe, forging whole new nations out of disparate nationalities. The Irish decided that they too were entitled to self-determination, as well as dissolution of the Act of Union that had bound them firmly to Britain for more than a century. They began a shadowy resistance that came to be recognized as a revolution. The British government under Lloyd George was inclined to crush it in the good old imperial way, but failed. Just how journalism contributed to that failure is the subject of Maurice Walsh’s study. He sees newspaper and magazine correspondents not as bystanders but as an active force in creating the climate that brought London to the negotiating table. He describes how even journalists from the British establishment papers, stung by accusations that they had become government propagandists during the Great War, now flaunted their independence by laying bare the brutal reprisals of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the infamous Black and Tans. Foreign reporters, notably Americans, also contributed. Walsh takes note of the literary journalist Francis Hackett, an Irish emigrant to America who stated the Irish case in the pages of The New Republic. The author also recounts the advocacy of Carl W. Ackerman, correspondent for the Philadelphia Public Ledger (and later the first dean of Columbia University’s journalism school). Even at the age of thirty, Ackerman seems to have felt hemmed in by the humble role of reporter, and got himself involved as a mediator of sorts between Sinn Fein leaders and the British government, apparently without notifying his newspaper. (Walsh coldly concludes that Ackerman was more a tool of his British contacts than a genuine go-between.) In any case, there was an eventual settlement, which created the Irish Free State out of 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties: a partition that spawned a subsequent civil war and continues to reverberate into the twenty-first century. Walsh, a distinguished correspondent and scholar, has made a first-rate contribution to the history of “the Troubles,” in which journalists are not merely recorders but actors.
Media Curmudgeon & Animal Rights Crusader
By Marilyn Greenwald
University Press of New England
252 pages, $27.95
The youthful years of Cleveland Amory (1917–1998) were charmed. Born into a good Bostonian family (“a good family is one that used to be better,” he wrote in his first book), he took a familiar route through Milton Academy and Harvard (’39, president of The Crimson). Then he became the youngest editor at the starchy Saturday Evening Post, thanks in part to a letter of recommendation from Katharine Hepburn’s mother, a family friend. At twenty-nine, he wrote his first book, The Proper Bostonians, a witty look at the Brahmin culture that John P. Marquand had fictionalized in The Late George Apley. It sold well, as did two more books on the upper crust. So far, so good—but then things stopped going so well, for a specific reason. Although he found work as a columnist at Saturday Review and TV Guide (hence “media curmudgeon”), Amory soon made it clear that what lay closest to his heart was his revulsion, born of a childhood reading of Black Beauty, at the ill-treatment of animals, domestic and wild. Before too many years had passed, Amory the social historian and critic-at-large gave way to the animal-rights advocate. In this guise he was outstandingly visible, not only because he could state his case with verve, but because he could call on a wide circle of celebrity acquaintances for support. His outspokenness made him less than universally beloved—the Today program fired him for ridiculing a Southern rabbit slaughter—and he finally came to be regarded as something of a monomaniac. Amory founded the Fund for Animals, took part in daring animal-rescue missions, and founded a ranch in east Texas for refugee animals. His last three books were memoirs revolving around a stray cat that Amory had adopted—or vice-versa. Marilyn Greenwald, who earlier wrote an acute biography of the New York Times society reporter and editor Charlotte Curtis, seems a little baffled as to what to make of her subject’s long and twisting road. Her solution, in the end, is to ignore his literary and journalistic career in favor of his life as a friend of animals.