by Brendan Clifford

PART THREE—Hollywood And Humanism—Cars And Courtesans.

When I was asked by the Editor to write something for the first issue of The Heresiarch I could think of nothing more heretical than to ask some questions about the role of the theatre in Anglo-Saxon, or Anglo-American, life and culture since the 16th century.

Actors are the saints of the 20th century. They were made so by Anglo-Saxon imperialism.   Millions—billions—of people live an important part of their lives through film stars and television stars as in the middle ages they lived them through the lives of saints. But the famous saints lived real lives of striking originality while the famous actors do not live real lives at all for the most part—and whether they do or not it is only their playacting that counts.

Burt Lancaster died shortly before I sat down to write this. His death had very high priority on television and radio, even though there was no shortage of political news, domestic and international. A commentator on Radio Four's prestigiously political Today programme said that Lancaster was not just an actor: he was an "icon". I suppose that was as close as anybody in tune with these secular times dared come to saying that he was a saint.

The saints were singular characters who lived out their singularity with thoroughness. St. Francis, St. Teresa of Avila, and even the other St. Teresa, struck out on original lines of life, and their lives were impressive. But Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey, Humphrey Bogart, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, who were interwoven with the stream of ordinary life in the fifties—what were they? They were images, where the saints were personalities. And yet the death of Marilyn Monroe was scarcely less of a public event than the death of J. F. Kennedy.

Film released theatre from the physical limitation of the stage and opened up to it a dimension which is necessarily absent when all the participants in a scene have to be present in the flesh—much as, in Heinrich von Kleist's argument, puppet theatre releases the essence of the dance from the limitations and distortion which gravity imposes on live ballet. On stage the actors act at a distance from the observer and produce their effects by words which must be audible fifty yards away and by comparatively crude gestures. It is very different in the film theatre.

In the film theatre the actor acts in the depths of the eyes and conjures up a pseudo-soul there.

Now I find this very interesting. It is interesting that detailed representation of life should have gone so far. And it is interesting that this development in human affairs should have been pioneered in England where the abolition of theatre by Parliament was enacted without opposition three hundred and fifty years ago in the Revolution, and should have been perfected in America where theatre was decriminalised only two hundred years ago.

Theatre is now the second biggest American export industry, the first being weapons of mass destruction. Is it possible for naturalistic representation of life—realistic make-believe—to be developed on this scale without prejudice to real life. I don't think it is.

In my youth I had—as Nietzsche put it—"no talent for religion". So instead of reading lives of the saints I read film magazines. (If I had been competitive by inclination I'm sure I would have done well in quizzes about films and film actors.) And one of the things that struck me early on was the capacity for acting that was widely dispersed in American society, whose culture for two hundred years had treated acting as an abomination. It seemed as if a director casting a film could walk about on the streets until he saw somebody whose appearance fitted a part and rely on that person being both willing and able to play the part.

This American facility for acting struck me particularly with regard to children. Children in English films were "acting": children in American films were children—and so it remains to this day, as far as I have noticed it.

The most remarkable case of child-acting I came across was in Uncle Tom's Cabin. There is a little black girl on a Southern Plantation who is given as a plaything to a philanthropic Yankee relative who has come to stay on the Plantation and who questions her about herself. Her answers are remarkable, rather like Mignon's in Wilhelm Meister— the best known one being that she wasn't raised by anybody, but "just growed". It is the kind of part one would expect to come off much better on the printed page than in an acted representation. But the Topsy of the film version (late thirties, I think) put the Topsy of the novel in the shade.

At one time—around 1960—I read a considerable amount of American literature, and found out about the attempts to write "the great American novel". The great American novel has never been written. I suppose a great national novel must be a kind of celebration of a way of life.   A condition of flux is not really a way of life. And American society since the conquest of California (around 1850) has been in a condition of flux. Until the conquest of California it was questionable whether there was such a thing as American literature or only an imitation of British literature. (There was Fennimore Cooper, of course. But I read Mark Twain's criticism of Cooper—a literary blitzkrieg, brief but devastating—and so I leave him out of account.)

Modern American culture was forged in California in the generation following the conquest. It is the culture of flux, and therefore a socially destabilising culture. The "manifest destiny" which post-Revolutionary East Coast America conceived for itself to drive westwards to the Pacific destroying everything human in its path, led to the conquest of California in 1850. In California the westward expansion was stopped for a while by the ocean, and the adventurous spirits who went there underwent a separate development for a generation, communication with the United States being obstructed by the Rockies. Certain elements in American culture were thus selected out and subjected to hot-house development west of the Rockies until the end of the Civil War, after which California progressively became America.

The state of mind which is Hollywood was developed in California before the moving film was invented. It found its perfect medium in the moving film. Films would not be what they are if the industry had had its main development anywhere but California.

California contemplated separate statehood for a while, but finally opted to become part of the United States. The older American culture of New England and the Mid-West melted away under its influence—or became raw material for Hollywood picture stories. It quickly became the case that America only knew itself through Hollywood, and that for the world at large America was Hollywood plus the American army (and navy).

The subversion of American culture by Californian culture through the medium of Hollywood is a cultural, not a technological, fact. It would not have happened as it did if New England and Middle America had not been in a brittle cultural condition.

Once California became culturally hegemonic over America in general, flux became the general condition of life.   And within a condition of flux the great American novel became a will-o'-the-wisp. Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, or Sinclair Lewis might produce interesting snapshots of particular moments but there could be no evolving national literature developing within an evolving way of life. Nathaniel Hawthorne's mid-19th century novels soon became curiosities to a society which had not so much evolved from the society he depicted as undergone an arbitrary transformation from it.

If there is a novel which captures the essence of American life and does not date, it must be the novel about Hollywood written in the thirties by another Nathaniel whose name escapes me at the moment, or Scott Fitzgerald's novel about an illusory personality, The Great Gatsby.

Dreiser's American Tragedy does not capture it. In that, as I recall it, the tragedy is that the hero has to kill the wife he married when he was poor in order to seize an opportunity for getting to the top by marrying an heiress. Much more to the point is a Richard Benjamin film (whose title I forget) in which the hero on his honeymoon catches the fancy of an elegant heiress, displays great determination and ingenuity in getting rid of his wife legally, makes it into the big-time, and ends up at his second wedding reception talking about stocks and shares, which had become for him the only meaningful subject of conversation. The American tragedy is that when you have made a lot of money the only thing worth doing is making a whole lot more of it. (And that is at any rate more worth doing than parading yourself around the emptiness of high culture at the Metropolitan Opera House and such places.)

Or the American tragedy is Henry Ford who produced cheap motor cars and mechanised ploughs to enhance the quality of life in the American Mid-West and destroyed that way of life instead. Ford destroyed his ideal in serving it. The way of life to which he had such a strong sentimental attachment did not have the inner strength, the traditional ballast, to cope with what he offered it. Mass production of Ford cars and tractors only accelerated the growth of other forms of mass production which subverted the petty bourgeois community.

But a society cannot actually live in a condition of flux driven by the market. And Hollywood produces the culture through which America contrives to live amidst economic flux.

Hollywood produces representations of life, naturalistic and infinitely detailed, which are substitutes for a way of life rather than reflections of one. The make-believe is what gives a degree of coherence and continuity to actual life, and that presumably is why the capacity for acting—for pretending realistically—is so widespread in American life.

The small town with its small farming surround, its traditional but modestly progressive citizenry, its little conflicts of modest good and modest evil, and its independent newspaper whose editor was a modest replica of Abraham Lincoln may have been characteristic of actual life in particular regions of America at particular moments, but it found permanent existence in hundreds of films in the thirties and forties. Other transitory forms of actual life were likewise perpetuated by the theatre. And filmed representations are the effective cultural medium of real life. Underneath the theatrical layer which gives national coherence to America there is a great variety of parochial and provincial fragments. But it is through the theatrical culture, in which all participate, that America sustains its national existence. When you know the American theatre—and I fear I know it all too well—you know the essence of modern America. And if in addition you have met some Yanks abroad—preferably a "returned Yank" who left the Irish countryside a normal person and returned ten or twenty years later either on extended holiday or to reclaim a piece of the land of his birth—it is entirely unnecessary to go to America. It is a country of make-believe, and so personal experience would not enhance your knowledge of it.

I have known America all my life, through cousins, comics and cinema. Until the age of twenty-one I knew it as an inhabitant of Slieve Luacra, to which it bears no resemblance. One of my basic inclinations has been never to set foot in it. My distaste for it was not political in its source. It was well developed long before I gave any thought to politics. It was an aesthetic distaste—which is to say a physical revulsion. In my teens a girl whom I knew very well emigrated there. I could not understand how anybody could want to leave a real and interesting place like Slieve Luacra to live in America. And I took it for granted that by going to America she was ceasing to exist, because within a couple of years she would have become a zombie.

(For my part I had no inclination at all to leave Slieve Luacra, but I was extruded from it. Urban life, of which I had only the slightest personal experience, struck me as essentially barren in human terms, and so I felt no urge to enlarge on that slight acquaintance. I was squeezed out of Slieve Luacra by the "modernising" process which finally made its way into it from the cities. I was a victim of the Reformation, which reached Slieve Luacra in the form of the Counter-Reformation. I left as somebody who was exiled rather than as an emigrant. I have since had extensive experience of urban life in Britain and Ireland. That experience has on the whole confirmed the impression it made on me on the basis of slight acquaintance when I was living in Slieve Luacra. It remains incomprehensible to me how humans can endure the atomised and stereotyped individuality that constitutes by far the greater part of urban life in Anglo-Saxon culture. That condition of life is undoubtedly connected with the development of theatre as a comprehensive substitute for actual living, as distinct from theatre which is a diversion within actual life. I discovered soap opera about 25 years ago when I watched Crossroads for a couple of months. It took me that long to realise that it was not a story told in serial form but an ongoing, open ended, in principle endless, representation of ordinary life. And as the soap operas multiplied, and the viewing figures increased to such an extent that up to a quarter of the population might be watching each particular one a couple of times a week, it became evident that they were supplying in the form of make-believe a necessary dimension of human life which was ceasing to exist in actual life.)

But to return to America—despite the physical revulsion which the prospect of going there produced in me—and in Ireland then it was one of the prospects that presented themselves—I never passed up the chance to see an American film. The American film was something different in kind from the British film. The British film in those Ealing times still had something of the quality of a diversion within actual life. The American film was uniquely fascinating as the reality of an unreal society.

"We will, in our several stations, encourage frugality, economy, and industry, and promote agriculture, arts, and the manufactures of this country, especially that of wool; and will discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially at horse-racing, and all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments" (Resolution adopted at the first meeting of the American Congress, held at Philadelphia in 1774).

The American Revolution was anti-theatre, as the English Revolution had been 130 years earlier. Theatre had been restored in England with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, though under strict government controls. But most of the American colonies were suffused with the spirit of Puritan England and so the theatre remained either suppressed or barely tolerated in them. British colonial Governors encouraged theatre, but the people resisted it. The 1774 Congress resolution, and a stronger resolution against the theatre two years later, gave expression to the traditional American attitude at the outset of the American struggle for independence.

The first historian of the theatre in America was William Dunlap, who was also the first American to make a living by writing plays and producing them. Dunlap's father, Samuel, was a Derry merchant who joined the army, went to America with General Wolfe, and settled there, and stayed loyal to Britain all through the revolution. William was born in New Jersey in 1766. The family moved to New York in 1777, where William spent his youth in the company of British officers. Towards the end of the war of independence he went to London for a few years. In 1787 he returned to America and set up as a playright/actor/manager. His History Of The American Theatre was published in 1823.                                                                           

According to Dunlap the first play performed in America by a regular theatre company was The Merchant Of Venice, which was performed at Williamsburg, then capital of Virginia, on Sept 5, 1752.

London companies were in the habit of touring the West Indies to play to the Plantation society. Hallam's was the first to venture to the American mainland. It played for a year in Virginia and then played for a while in Maryland. Virginia and Maryland were the non-Puritan colonies, Virginia being Anglican and Maryland Catholic. Neither ever passed laws against the theatre, and they appear to have been the only ones of the original states not to have done so. The first theatre in America was built in Virginia in 1715. Until the arrival of Hallam's company performances were by amateurs, mainly college students.

From Maryland, Hallam went to New York. Despite a recommendation from the Governor, he was at first refused a licence to play. But after a few months of public dispute he was given a licence in September 1753.

From New York he went to Philadelphia. Public petitions were raised against him, but eventually he was allowed to put on some plays. And in 1766 there was actually a theatre built in Philadelphia.

It would seem from the 1750s to the 1770s there was a creeping advance of theatre in various colonies encouraged by the British authorities, but that the independence movement reasserted traditional values. When Congress was asserting the distinctiveness of America from Britain it resolved that theatrical activity should cease. And although Congress had no authority to legislate for the states in this matter, it seems that most of the states were happy to take the Congress resolutions against theatre as binding. In any case many of them had already enacted their own anti-theatre laws—Massachussetts in 1750, Pennsylvania in 1759, Rhode Island in 1761, and New Hampshire in 1762.

"The Presbyterians of the New England provinces were opposed to any innovations upon their ascetic habits, and particularly to the introduction of those 'profane stage-plays' which had been the delight of the Jacobite cavaliers, the enemies of their fore­fathers...The Quakers of Philadelphia were of all people the most opposed to scenic representations" (Dunlap, 1963 reprint, p23).

And so the American theatre ceased because of a decision of Congress in 1774 as the English theatre had ceased because of a decision of Parliament in 1642. But theatre in America did not cease in 1774—the Jacobite Cavaliers saw to that. Various New England cities were occupied by the British Army. And the British officers put on plays both because they were accustomed to plays and because they saw how badly the Americans needed to have an example of civilised living set before them—and because the British military commander, General Burgoyne, was also a successful playwright:

"In its resolution of 1774 Congress had merely recommended the suspension of all public amusements. Four years later, a more stringent decree was issued prohibiting play-acting in any form. Thus, as far as the Colonists themselves were concerned, the drama might, at this troubled period, have been extinguished altogether, but for the fact that the younger officers of the British army, finding the time heavy on their hands when not fighting Yankees, took to theatricals as a pleasant diversion from the rigours of war. For eight years—from 1775, when the military thespians first began to give performances in Boston, to 1783, the year before the declaration of peace—the American stage was in full control of the British military who occupied all the existing theatres and produced plays in the professional manner, for charity, amusement and profit...

"The order of Congress to close the theatres was no sooner obeyed than the British reopened them, General Burgoyne taking the initiative at Boston in 1775" (A History Of The Theatre In America by Arthur Hornblow, 1919, Vol. 1 pp148 & 151).

Burgoyne's most famous play, The Heiress, was played in Boston in 1776. He also wrote a play especially for America, a farce entitled The Blockade Of Boston. While it was being performed in Boston on January 8, 1776, a sergeant rushed onto the stage to announce that the Yankees were attacking on Bunker Hill. The military audience at first took him to be a character in the play. (The Blockade Of Boston was not included in Burgoyne's Works, and I have been able to find no trace of it. His play writing career continued after he had lost the war, so perhaps he wanted to put America out of his mind to leave it free for better things.)

It seems that Virginia and Maryland, while they did not make an issue of the Congress resolutions against theatre, discreetly disregarded them. Perhaps they suspended theatrical activity during the most difficult years of the war, but it resumed towards the end of the war. And Washington, a gentleman in the English mould, who wanted America to be as like England as possible despite being a republic, resumed his playgoing after the war. And so the American theatre gradually revived—though sometimes under the pretext that it wasn't really theatre at all. In 1788:-

"The Southwark Theatre, Philadelphia, was still called an Opera House and the plays continued to be given under such thinly disguised titles as 'Improper Education' (She Stoops To Conquer), 'Filial Piety' (Hamlet), 'The Fate Of Tyranny' (Richard III)" (Hornblow, p74).

The state laws against theatre were gradually repealed. (The Massachussets law was repealed in 1793.) But the culture of New England remained strongly anti-theatre well into the 19th century.

"In 1824 President Dwight of Yale College in his Essay On The Stage declared that 'to indulge a taste for playgoing means nothing more or less than the loss of that most valuable treasure, the immortal soul'.   Even as late as 1856, when the city of Brooklyn could boast of only one theatre and the citizens were gravely contemplating another, there was considerable opposition to the word 'theatre', a compromise being finally reached by calling it an Academy of Music" (Hornblow, p25).

And in the building committee, when the detail was being discussed, there was strong opposition to having a curtain because it was felt that it must be a device for concealing impropriety. The objectors had never been in a theatre and had to have the function of the curtain explained to them.


I have been shown a copy of an Ulster Loyalist magazine called The Humanist in which the first issue of The Heresiarch is reviewed by Brian McClinton. I am not aware of ever having met McClinton or encountered him in any other way and I am at a loss to explain the fierce animosity of his review. It is too extravagent to be explained by the mere content of my "rambling piece on Puritanism and the Theatre". He says that it "comes close to being racist" because of its remarks on post-Reformation culture in England. English writers have usually felt free to comment on the national culture of the Irish, and so have the Ulster Humanist writers. If that is not racist I cannot see why it is racist when I comment on the national culture of England. I have never suggested that English culture is biologically based, though many English writers—and not least the scientific types—have commented on Irish culture in biological terms.

I have explained the characteristics of modern English culture as the product of a state-inspired Reformation which destroyed the organic culture of mediaeval England without establishing a functional alternative in its place. That merely destructive Reformation gave rise in English society to a condition of theological mania which lasted about three hundred years. Rival programmes of Protestant theocracy struggled for supremacy from the 16th century well into the 19th, and then gave way to a kind of secularised theocracy. Theological thought worked at with such intensity for so long has cultural effects which persist long after earnest belief in the Christian God has withered. The war on Germany in 1914 was launched by a small Liberal Imperialist group in the Cabinet whose formal outlook was philosophic humanism, but their war propaganda quickly took on the quality of a millenarian crusade. The Freethinker of Scripturalist origin, Asquith; the philosopher, Haldane (who as War Minister had prepared the Army for a war on Germany); and H. G. Wells, the iconoclast—these Humanists revived the war of religion in Europe:— a kind of war supposed to have been laid to rest by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. There might be pedantic quibbles about using the term "religion" here. But Asquith & Co. launched an ideological crusade and in order to wage it appealed to the state of mind that had been generated by centuries of intense theological activity and that did not cease to exist merely because God became a doubtful entity.

McClinton says that "Clifford likes to display his learning". If I was learned it is possible that I would like to display my learning. I don't know if I would or not. Because if I was learned I would be a different person. As it is I cannot display my learning because I haven't got any. I haven't a single academic qualification to my name, not even the most elementary. And I have never engaged in self-education. I am the very antithesis of a learned person. I escaped schooling and I have followed a wayward impulse of curiosity since about the age of 13. I was curious about the abolition of theatre in the English Revolution and I found out something about it. In view of the massive presence of theatre in the Anglo-Saxon world of today I thought it might be of some interest if I said what I found out. I am not surprised to see that this remarkable event in the history of human development in these parts does not interest the Ulster Humanists, and I cannot imagine why the editor inflicted The Heresiarch on them. When I first went to London I took a close look at the Humanist/Atheist/Freethinker circle. It struck me as being a product of, and a variant on, the theology which it rejected, and that it lived on the remnants of that theology. Its vision was narrow and dogmatic. A great many things that were human were alien to it. Its Sunday morning services in Conway Hall were all about God and how civilised human behaviour was perfectly possible without him—and was indeed more possible than with him. And it was hardly possible to take part in Ethical Society debates without a considerable degree of familiarity with Anglican theology.

As to learning: the most learned person I know is the editor of this magazine. In his view Jack Gray was the last academic in a long tradition of academic thought which did not merit derision. I know what he means because I have read the works of a number of Victorian professors. In Pollock and Maitland's History of the Common Law, for example, one encounters a genuine spirit of curiosity about a dimension of real human development. I did not know Jack Gray, but I recognise in the editor of The Heresiarch a strain of academic thought comparable with that of Pollock and Maitland, and therefore out of joint with academia as we see it all about us. And I wish he would describe his final encounter with the academic structure of Queens University regarding a project which he proposed and which it lacked the intellectual capacity to handle.

In a schoolboy criticism of Joe Keenan's contribution to the first issue of The Heresiarch, the Ulster Humanist comments that the Catholic Irish are "a people who are still largely enslaved to a conservative, obscurantist and mediaeval faith". This is a few lines before he says that my description of post-Reformation English culture is "close to being racist". For all its humanist display, Ulster Humanism is also very Ulsterish and shows a strong bias towards the Reformation. Its atheism is Protestant atheism.

Q.   "Are you a Protestant or a Catholic?   A.   "Neither, I'm an atheist."   Q.   "Yes, but are you a Protestant or a Catholic atheist?"

That always struck me as a perfectly sensible question. The joke is that atheist believers think its a joke. Atheism is a development within Christian theology and is culturally marked by the theological variant within which it developed.

McClinton, despite the macho swagger of his tirade against Joe Keenan, implicitly acknowledges the force of Keenan's argument when he suggests that The Humanist "must strive to offer a positive life philosophy" instead of merely sniping at religion. This is a back-handed admission that up to the present atheism has been parasitic on the absurd science of theology around which European culture developed for a thousand years.

The Protestant atheist—the product of the fundamentalist and all-embracing theologies of the Reformation—looks at the Catholic Irish and sees a people enslaved to a mediaeval faith.   The Scriptural Protestant sees the same thing. The Scriptural and the Atheist Protestant when they look southwards see the same thing because the category of understanding which organises their perception is the same in the mind of each.

But the faith to which modern Catholic Ireland has been enslaved, or in which it has been involved, is certainly not mediaeval. It is not the faith which the Reformation rejected.   It is the faith which the Reformation provoked—the new order of the Counter-Reformation, as doctrinally crisp and comprehensive as Calvin's Institutes.

England conquered Ireland on the authority of the Pope in order to make it Papist, and failed. After England broke with Rome, it tried to make Ireland Protestant, and failed.   The Pope's envoy tried to get the Confederation of Kilkenny to implement the Counter-Reformationist order of the Council of Trent in Ireland and failed. The enlightened gentry placed in Ascendency in Ireland by the Glorious Revolution tried to break up the culture of the Irish with the Penal Laws and render the people nondescript, and failed. The revival of fanatical Protestantism in England then led to missions to convert the Irish and had enough success to disrupt the status quo and open up the situation for the Counter-Reformationist offensive from Rome in the second quarter of the 19th century.   Ireland finally became Papist in 1850. After 700 years the purpose for which Henry II conquered Ireland was finally accomplished. Ireland became the subject of Rome—but of a Rome which had been substantially altered by the Reformation.

With a couple of brief exceptions, England never governed Ireland according to the particularities of Irish life. After the Reformation it treated Ireland as being Counter-Reformationist, which it patently was not. But eventually Ireland became what England had for centuries pretended that it was.

Is it meaningful to describe the religious order proclaimed by the Synod of Thurles in 1850 as "conservative, obscurantist and mediaeval"? I don't know that "obscurantist" has any definite meaning unless it is specified what is being obscured. But how can an offensive against a culture which had endured for more than a thousand years be described as conservative, and words still retain meaning? Cardinal Cullen was no less determined than the Methodist zealots to destroy the way of life of the native Irish—an immensely enjoyable way of life, not structured by theology but by a welter of interesting activities connected with invigorating and half-believed superstitions—and he was much more successful in this work of destruction than they were. I know something of the "conservative and mediaeval" (or pre-mediaeval) way of life of native Ireland because a substantial remnant of it survived among the swamps of Slieve Luacra long enough to produce me. I also know from personal experience that the Catholicism established in Ireland by Cardinal Cullen was not conservative of that way of life because after a century of trying it finally began to erode that way of life in Slieve Luacra and forced me out.

The Catholicism introduced to Ireland in the mid-19th century was novel, doctrinaire, post-Reformationist, revolutionary, "modernising" and not very human. The Christian/Pagan culture which it destroyed was immensely human, and therefore conservative. (It is not the tendency of a culture which is congenial to human impulses to engage in flight from itself, and therefore it is conservative.) And it does not seem to me that a Humanism which cannot see this aspect of things can itself be very human.

Throughout the ages humanity has flourished by making distinctions and living them out. Humanism, insofar as I have observed it, is standardising in its tendency and has little patience with the variety of human impulses which do not accord with its doctrines, and little interest in the particularities of human life. McClinton's statement that the Irish are "enslaved to a conservative, obscurantist and mediaeval faith" is a prime example of doctrine blinding the mind to the distinctions and particularities of actual human life.

The same lack of interest in interesting distinctions is evident in his comment on my article on the theatre. I observed that contemporary morality decrees that a live sex exhibition is utterly immoral but that it is not immoral for an actress to give a public performance of sexual intercourse which gives every appearance of being real but actually is not real. The similarities are that in both cases the woman is naked and that there is a naked man between her legs. The difference is that in the one case she is actually responding to being fucked while in the other case she is acting the responses to being fucked so realistically that the act must be the product of much thought, practice and observation. Is that not an interesting distinction? A distinction which not very long ago would have been inconceivable?

McClinton comments:-

"...we are offered a paean of praise to religious values. Clifford wholeheartedly agrees with the Puritan critique of drama. If it is immoral to be a whore, he asks, how can it be moral to play a whore in the manner of modern realistic acting? The distinction between acting and doing is indeed fine..., but it is so in reality irrespective of dramatic art. If Clifford doesn't see this, he should read Hamlet, which has much to say of enlightenment on this very problem".

(McClinton misquotes by substituting "whore" for "courtesan", which probably says something about him.)

I must admit that I find Shakespeare tedious. I would therefore be obliged if somebody would give me the reference for where the profound moral distinction between the porn queen and the respected actress who acts sexual intercourse naked and yet remains so respectable that she may be awarded the OBE is explained. I once obliged myself to sit through Hamlet in the Old Vic but I missed that bit. Or maybe they expurgated it. (But am I mistaken in thinking that women were not allowed to act on the public stage in Tudor and Jacobean times?)

"Clifford believes [William Prynne's Histrio-Mastix] is unanswerable from a Christian perspective". That's accurate enough. The Puritan intellect was powerful and rigorous. Its case against theatre based on Scripture and the Church Fathers was never refuted within those terms and it seemed to me to be irrefutable within them. McClinton suggests that the Puritan case was not made, but does not explain why.

He also takes up my point that whereas theatre has become part of real life in the Anglo-American world, in Slieve Luacra around 1950 it was a diversion or entertainment.

"Obviously, he hasn't heard of the stage Irishman or the melodrama that is modern Irish nationalism, or even the drama of the Mass".

It's true that we didn't have the stage Irishman in Slieve Luacra. I knew nothing of him until I went to London and discovered the Anglo-Irish. As for the "drama of the Mass", I haven't got the foggiest idea what he's talking about. And the nationalists I knew in Slieve Luacra were the Republicans of the generation before me who had taken on the Black-and-Tan terror and defeated it.   There was nothing melodramatic about them. And I don't think there was anything melodramatic about me in the early seventies when, living on the verge of the Falls, I made out a case for Protestant Ulster when smart alec Humanists either had nothing to say or felt they had to deplore the unfashionableness of the bulk of their compatriots.

Part One:—A Wanton Dissipation Of Spirit.

Part Two:—Whores, Adulterers And Fornicators.

Part Three:—Hollywood And Humanism—Cars And Courtesans.

Part Four:— Sweeney Among The Fifth Monarchy Men.

Part Five:—Of Prods & Gods & Dancing Girls; Of Censorship & Things.

Part Six:—Theatre & Life; Part One.

Part Seven:—Theatre & Life; Part Two.

The Heresiarch Home Page