From the Archives: Seán Ó Faoláin’s survey of Irish life includes Elizabeth Bowen’s appraisal of the big house and the vigorous poetry of Patrick Kavanagh
"From inside many big houses (and these will be the survivors) barriers are being impatiently attacked. But it must be seen that a barrier has two sides" – Elizabeth Bowen on the shifting paradigm of the big house
First published: Sept 28th, 1940
The New Irish Magazine
“A Realistic Survey of Irish Life”
The Bell – A Survey of Irish Life
Vol I, No 1. Edited by Seán Ó Faoláin. Cahill and Co.
This new magazine, edited by Seán Ó Faoláin, and containing articles by several of the best-known modern Irish writers, is, to quote the editor, “not so much a magazine as a bit of life itself.” It has no definite policy, and its chief aim is to present a realistic survey of Irish life. Owing to the wide divergence of subjects and styles, The Bell should have a universal appeal, for there is something in it to interest almost every type of reader.
For those who like fiction there are two short stories: Janus , by Seán Ó Faoláin, an amusing little episode in a Kerry village, and The Long Road to Ummera, by Frank O’Connor, a more gloomy, but no less realistic, account of an old woman’s overwhelming desire to be buried among her own people, even though it means pinching and scraping beforehand – because the road to Ummera is long.
In addition to these stories, there is a short extract from Jack B Yeats’s forthcoming novel, The Careless Flower. For those who prefer verse, there are two vigorous poems by Patrick Kavanagh. For some the most attractive feature of this magazine is the number of very interesting informative articles on such widely different subject s as greyhound racing and the origin of the county libraries.
The Big House
In one article, The Big House , Miss Elizabeth Bowen indicates a new approach to a familiar landmark. She deals with all aspects of the big house: the loneliness, the isolation, the difficulties of transport, the attitude of the neighbours from smaller houses, and finally she suggests that the large reception rooms in these houses shall again be put to the use for which they were originally intended, the entertainment of the surrounding society. There are difficulties in the way of such a plan, she admits, but none that cannot be removed. The barriers that exist must be broken down, and, to quote, “from inside many big houses (and these will be the survivors) barriers are being impatiently attacked. But it must be seen that a barrier has two sides.”
A portion of the magazine is devoted to current dramatic and literary criticism. Other well-known names among the contributors to the magazine, besides those mentioned above, are Lennox Robinson, Maurice Walsh, Brinsley MacNamara and Peadar O’Donnell. The choice by Frank O’Connor of The Belfry as the title of a kind of forum for general discussion is somewhat unfortunate.
The Irish Times. Saturday, September 28, 1940. Page 5.