Patric Pearse: Guardian review by Sean O’Faolain
Ruth Dudley Edwards has reissued her classic biography of Patrick Pearse; this riveting and well-written biography of the 1916 leader has stood the test of time and provides a fascinating reconstruction of the life and times of Pearse and his comrades. Unorthodox to the point of virtue, the reader will never think of Pearse or 1916 in quite the same way again; it is required reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century Irish history and politics.
There are few worthwhile biographies for [twentieth century Irish history], one glowing exception being R. Dudley Edwards’s Patrick Pearse: The Triumph of Failure, which illuminates far more than its subject.
Beautifully written and painfully objective.
Ruth Dudley Edwards has presented a balanced non-partisan analysis of the man and the triumph of his failure… a major contribution to the history of the formation of the Irish Nation.
A thorough piece of scholarship — a biography well researched and well documented.
This is a marvellous biography. Miss Edwards has taken Pearse down from his pedestal as a plaster saint and shown him as a human being. In the hands of his latest biographer, he merges as one of the remarkable figures in the history of the 20th Century.
Miss Edwards has worked wonders in restoring the personality… This splendidly written book transforms the study of Pearse by elevating it to a proper historical plane. Miss Edwards has succeeded in the daunting task of simultaneously rendering a signal service to Irish scholarship, to historical studies, and to the memory of Patrick Pearse.
Ruth Dudley Edwards has written a remarkable book which at a blow places her high among contemporary historical scholars.
This book gives us the man in his complexity: poet, playwright, editor, plitical propagandist, nationalist, schoolmaster, soldier. It is balanced; it will probably annoy the hagiographers as a result; but it is a fascinating case history of the psycho-pathology of the idealistic but ruthless revolutionary.
It is when she comes to chart the way in which Pearse’s own peculiar combination of restless romanticism, vanity, ambition, spirituality and innocence led him really quite suddenly into bloody militant nationalism, that she performs an important service to Irish history, managing to do this without making him the traditional noble hero of the glass case, or un-noble either.
Excellent… this is a quite remarkable book.
This book will fail to convince those who remain blind worshippers at Pearse’s shrine — particularly the revelations of his indebtedness, suppressed homosexuality and the unseemly wrangles in the Gaelic League and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. But in a balanced and restrained way, the biography is an eloquent damnation of the hatred and fanaticism that an innocent such as Pearse unleashed on Ireland and which still abounds today.