To read Elizabeth Bowen is to enter, both with pleasure and with consternation, the world of the Anglo-Irish: that spiritually hyphenated class which has all but vanished from Ireland since the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the foundation of the Republic. As a British Protestant ruling class which owned land taken by force from the Irish Catholic population, the Anglo-Irish were always, from the sixteenth century on, to some degree rootless and insecure in the country they governed. But the Land Wars and legislation of the late nineteenth century set into motion forces that would soon deprive the Protestant land-owning classes of whatever raison d’être they had. By the time Bowen was born in 1899, the shadows of what Mark Bence-Jones has called, in his 1987 book of the same name, the “Twilight of the Ascendancy,” had already lengthened dramatically.

Though she spent most of her adult life in England, and...


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