In 1944, five years before the publication of 1984, George Orwell wrote a letter setting out the thesis of what would become his greatest novel. In it he wrote:
Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers° of the type of de Gaulle. All the national movements everywhere, even those that originate in resistance to German domination, seem to take non-democratic forms, to group themselves round some superhuman fuhrer (Hitler, Stalin, Salazar, Franco, Gandhi, De Valera are all varying examples) and to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means. Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer.
To awaken you is just a kiss away
And in my arms to rock and sway
In all sincerity I want to say
Be my Valentine for just one day
Whenever you need me in gloom and cheer
You can rest assured I’ll always be near
With this line to be my second best
My love for you in a die to be caste.
Michael Collins’ Valentine poem (to his first girlfriend, Susan Killeen, 1916)
I need a kiss, urgently. I want to press my wife to my heart, but we are 150 miles apart. Darling, do you think of me at all? Can you sleep without those long limbs wrapped round you? Those same limbs are longing to be wrapped round you again – two weeks – fourteen days – how can I endure it? You do not know how sorrowful I am.
Eamon de Valera to Sinead, from Irish college, 1911
Cheeky, ruddy-faced rhyme from wholesome patriot.
Or spindly, lust-crippled doggerel from impatient gaelgoir.