Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf, The Nation, Irish War of Independence
Readers may be familiar with Virginia Woolf’s diary entries concerning the ‘shriek of agony’ that marked the death by hunger strike in October 1920 of the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, as well as the ‘violence in Ireland’ and ‘People go on being shot and hanged in Ireland’ (D2 72–3, 25 October 1920, and D2 100, 13 March 1921). Many are also aware of the Woolfs’ meeting with Virginia’s first cousin, the MP H. A. L. Fisher in April 1921 (see D2 112–14). Leonard Woolf’s unsigned Nation articles provide some context behind these brief references. For a short period he took the position of acting political editor of The Nation and wrote the ‘Politics and Affairs’ column. His 2,000-word editorial columns on British misrule in Ireland are evocatively entitled ‘The Irish Republic’ (31 July 1920), ‘The Irish War’ (21 August 1920), ‘The End of Our Government of Ireland’ (4 September 1920), ‘A Proposal of Irish Settlement’ and ‘The Guilt of the Government’ (both 9 October 1920). The content of these columns is arresting in tone, unrelenting in argument and convincing in the presentation of evidence of British misrule. The editor vigorously urges readers to support Irish independence, provides trenchant criticism of the violence of British Government’s military reprisals, and details the suppression of Irish resistance through the arrest, detainment and imprisonment of persons suspected of sedition. The Nation editorials on Ireland were deeply and continuously hostile to Liberal Party leader Lloyd George. To highlight Leonard’s early political journalism on Ireland in The Nation and in recognition of the centenary of the first sitting of the Irish Dáil and Seanad (21 January 1919), we re-publish the five articles (in two segments).