16 December 2012

Mencken on the Irish identity

American writer H. L. Mencken, while describing George Bernard Shaw as “an orthodox Scotch Presbyterian of the most cock-sure and bilious sort”, had this to offer on the Irish:

The true Irishman is a romantic. He senses life as a mystery, a thing of wonder, an experience of passion and beauty. In politics he is not logical, but emotional. In religion his interest centers, not in the commandments, but in the sacraments.1

This might help to explain the Irish fascination with being seen to do things, rather than doing them. We shall observe the rituals of customer service, for instance, but not the commandments.

  1. From ‘The Ulster Polonius’ in ‘Prejudices: First Series’ by H. L. Mencken