Sunday, December 17, 2017

DUNSANY: the first page of my dissertation

So, thought I'd share the first page from my dissertation, for those interested in such things:

The Man Who Was Dunsany

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Lord Dunsany, was a man of many talents. As a chess player, he won the Irish Championship and played two World Chess Champions, one of them to a draw. A lifelong sportsman, he did everything from fox-hunting and snipe shooting to big-game hunting on safaris in Africa and India. A first-rate cricketer, he organized the local County Meath team for many years and had his official portait done wearing a cricket shirt, not the baronial robes of his ancestors. A failed politician, he twice ran for a seat in the House of Commons as a Conservative candidate, making a respectable showing at a time when the rival Liberals dominated Parliament. Designated by his father to be a career military man, he was not allowed to attend Oxford and study poetry as he wanted but instead sent to Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point. He served at Gibraltar and in the Boer War before opting out, and returned to fight in World War I, the Easter Uprising, and in the Home Guard during the Battle of Britain. A society figure, one of the supposedly idle rich, he was a member of the Irish peerage with a 12th century castle. He 'did' the London Season each year, married the Earl of Jersey's daughter, and divided his time between his London townhouse, Kent country home, and Irish estate. Had he lived a generation earlier, he would probably have been an explorer, like his mother's cousin Sir Richard Burton, discoverer of Lake Tanganyiki and first European to visit Mecca.  And he wrote.

--This text omits six notes.  If I were writing this today, I'd downplay the part about his playing the chess champions -- these were occasions when Dunsany was one of several players who were taking on the World Champion all at the same time. Impressive, but not so impressive as one-on-one would be.

--John R.


Magister said...

Nice! Any chance of seeing this in print?

According to Dunsany's uncle, Dunsany played one-on-one against Capablanca on 21 October 1925:

"Capablanca lunched with me & we had an interesting chess talk. He is going to Moscow for an Internat’l Tournament. Eddie & I each played a game with him at the Imperial Chess Club. He sacrifice[d] his Q. & mated Eddie in 15 moves, I held out much longer and he treated me seriously."

Have you seen Sir Horace's diaries? They are fascinating, and full of inside information on the family. Look for references to Dunsany (Eddie or sometimes Eddy) and his father (Johnnie).

Magister said...

P. S. Burton was not the first European to visit Mecca. (He was the first European in Harar, however.)

David Bratman said...

The first question the naive reader is likely to ask is, Why was Dunsany standing for a seat in the House of Commons? Didn't Lords have seats in the House of Lords?

Ah, but there were (even before the reforms of 1999) any number of reasons that someone with a title of nobility would not have a seat in the Lords. In Dunsany's case, it was because his title was in the Peerage of Ireland, which did not by itself carry that privilege. (Just to make it more confusing, there were exceptions, by which a peer of Ireland could sit in the Lords, but none of those applied to Dunsany.)

Dunsany only stood in one election, the General Election of 1906, an exceedingly bad year for his Conservative party. (Even the party leader lost his seat.) Amory's biography says he was considered to have done well in his loss, but it wasn't an outstanding result, even locally. Of the 5 county seats in Wiltshire, Dunsany's had only the 4th best result for the Conservatives, and it was, in any case, traditionally a Liberal seat.

Magister said...

An Irish peer could sit in the House of Lords if he was elected (for life) by other Irish peers to be one of the 28 Representative Peers of Ireland. (Dunsany's grandfather and father were both Representative Peers.) Irish peers were also the only peers who could sit in the House of Commons -- provided they were elected in a constituency outside Ireland.

Another way for an Irish peer to sit in the House of Lords was if he was also the holder of another title belonging to one of the Peerages of England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom. (Scottish peers did not automatically have seats in the House of Lords, but were allowed to elect 16 representatives for one parliamentary period. Irish Representative Peers, sat for life, as previously mentioned.)

David Bratman said...

What Magister writes is accurate, but I left those details out because they were irrelevant to the point of "why was Dunsany a peer without a seat in the Lords?"

What I actually wrote, though, is "there were (even before the reforms of 1999) any number of reasons that someone with a title of nobility would not have a seat in the Lords," and I phrased it that way because there's another class of people with titles of nobility who could sit in the Commons, and that's those with courtesy titles. They could sit in the Commons because they were technically not peers, but the naive reader is not going to look at a title like "Marquess of Hartington" (to name one famous example who did sit in the Commons, co-founder of the Liberal Unionists in 1886) and know offhand that its holder was not, at that time in his life, actually a peer.

John said...

Dunsany was President of the Irish Chess Union, but never champion of Ireland.