The Oldie - - HISTORY -

AN­TO­NIA FRASER Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son, 319pp, £25, Oldie price £18.06 inc p&p

Fol­low­ing on from her book about the Great Re­form Bill, Fraser has now pro­duced the pre­quel, as it were, on the sub­ject of the fight for Catholic Eman­ci­pa­tion. ‘Fraser, a con­vert to Catholi­cism, as well as a de­scen­dant of the An­glo-ir­ish Protes­tant Long­fords, tells the story with eru­di­tion, sprez­zatura and a tremen­dous sense of fun,’ wrote Do­minic Sand­brook in the Sun­day

Times. ‘Ev­ery page is shot through with hu­mour and hu­man­ity. Col­umns of bloated, be­whiskered big­ots fall to Fraser’s skewer, but the many Ge­or­gians with rent con­sciences are han­dled with great sen­si­tiv­ity. She is ex­cel­lent on Ire­land. She writes beau­ti­fully and she in­cludes just the right amount of smut.’

Pa­trick Geoghe­gan, his­tory pro­fes­sor at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin and an ex­pert on Daniel O’con­nell, the Ir­ish would-be MP who led the cam­paign of moral sua­sion, was full of praise for the book in his re­view in the Ir­ish Times. ‘Writ­ing with a his­to­rian’s skill and a novelist’s heart, Fraser shows how O’con­nell was able to bring the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment to the point where it felt it had no al­ter­na­tive but to con­cede eman­ci­pa­tion, and per­suade King Ge­orge IV to re­lent on what was a pro­found is­sue of con­science for him. What was even more ex­tra­or­di­nary in world his­tory, O’con­nell suc­ceeded in do­ing this with­out re­sort­ing to force.’ Fraser ap­proaches the sub­ject, wrote Gerard De­g­root in the Times, ‘not as one of arid doc­tri­nal de­bate, but rather as a story, told by an ex­tra­or­di­nary cast of char­ac­ters… Sup­port­ing ac­tors in­cluded some of Fraser’s an­ces­tors, who were ac­tive in the op­po­si­tion to eman­ci­pa­tion. The peo­ple make this story.’

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