AE and the Queen (Moore, 1925)

1.640. George Moore, Hail and Farewell!, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1925), vol. I, pp.384-85. BL 010856.dd.38

An extract from George Moore, Hail and Farewell! (1925), on Æ’s anger at the idea of bowing loyally before Queen Victoria.

This passage gives Moore’s account of an encounter between Æ and a ‘West Briton’ on a train and an argument about  the nature of ‘loyalty’:

¶¶A suspicion stops my pen that I am caricaturing Æ, setting him forth not unlike a keepsake hero. It may be that this criticism is not altogether unfounded, and to redeem my portrait I will tell how I saw Æ roused like a lion out of his lair. A man sitting opposite to him in the railway carriage began to lament that Queen Victoria had not been received with more profuse expressions of loyalty; Æ took this West Briton very gently at first, getting him to define what he meant by the word loyalty, and, when it transpired that the stranger attached the same meaning to the word as the newspapers, that, for him, as for the newspapers, a queen or king is a fetish, an idol, an effigy, a thing for men to hail and to bow before, he burst out into a fiery denunciation of this base and witless conception of loyalty, as insulting to the worshipped as to the worshipper. The man quailed before Æ’s face, so stern was it; Æ’s eyes flashed, and righteous indignation poured from his lips, but never for one instant did he seek to abase his foe. Whilst defending his principles, he appealed to the man’s deeper nature, and I remember him saying: In your heart you think as I do, but, shocked at the desire of some people to affront an aged woman, you fall into the other extreme, and would like to see the Irish race dig a hole and hide itself, leaving nothing of itself above ground but an insinuating tail.