For 121 years Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom until 1913 when the Anglo Irish war (‘War of Independence; or ‘the troubles;) began.By 1913 Ireland may have appeared to be a somewhat stable and affluent province of the United Kingdom, however under the surface it was a troubled island riddled with sectarian and political divisions. Richard Bennett referred to The Anglo Irish War as the war ;the English have struggled to forget and the Irish cannot help but remember;. (Cottrell.
P pg 7)The conflict of 1913-22 had its roots in the failures of the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion, in constitutional Nationalism, the agrarian disasters of the 1840s and the rise of militant Hiberno-American Republicanism. Anglo-Norman and later Anglo-Scots colonists undoubtedly enmeshed Ireland in mainland British politics, but it did not take long for them to become ‘hiberniores hibernis ipsos; (more Irish than Irish), much as the Danes and Gaels had done before them. So long as the country;s nobility paid lip-service to the King;s Writ they were left more or less to their own devices, whilst the Crown only tended to pay attention when there was a threat to its authority or when foreign invasion loomed. (Cottrell. P pg 14) Due to this the Anglo – Irish only felt occasionally protected.
The Anglo Irish were a hyphenated society, they were half English and half Irish, which made it hard for them to know what side to be on. There is a conflict of loyalty here as the English considered them Irish and the Irish considered them English. Michael McConville describes the Anglo – Irish as:An unusual colonial caste that for a little more than two hundred years, out of five thousand during which Ireland has been inhabited, dominated the ordering of Ireland;s affairs. (McConville. M 1986)Elizabeth Bowen was a product of this ambiguity; she was born in Dublin in 1899, an only child to Florence Colley and Henry Cole Bowen, both of Anglo-Irish descent; even though her family had been lords there for 300 years: she was not Irish. As her father was an attorney the family spent their winters in Dublin, but they stayed every summer in the family home, Bowen;s Court in County Cork.When Elizabeth;s mother died she went to England to live with her mother;s unmarried sister, she attended day school in Hertfordshire then boarding school in Kent, spending summer holidays between England and her father;s home in Ireland (Bowen;s Court).
The Last September is one of Elizabeth Bowen;s earliest novels; it was set in 1920, written in 1928 and published in 1929. Although it is said not to be autobiographical, her life is very similar to that of the main protagonist Lois Farquar.Like Bowen, Lois was also an only child, she was thirteen when her mother died and was raised in the ‘Big House;, Danielstown in County Cork, by her aunt and uncle. Danielstown is also clearly modelled on the Bowen family home, Bowen;s Court, both houses were menaced.
Danielstown itself is owned by Sir Richard and Lady (Myra) Naylor; they have no children of their own, therefore Danielstown is doomed as there are no heirs to leave it to, ;Do you ever notice this country? Doesn;t sex seem irrelevant?…And children seem in every sense of the word to be inconceivable.; (Bowen. E pg 42,43)It is also clear that Danielstown is not the house it used to be. It is no longer fully functional, when Lady Naylor takes Francie up to her room, Francie instinctively turns right to her old room, she is redirected, Lady Naylor states that ;the rooks on that side of the house disturbed so many people; we;ve changed the rooms round.; (Bowen.
E pg 16) This can also be seen as a metaphor for the Anglo – Irish as their society diminishes. Also throughout the book it shows how declined Danielstown has become when it is described that, the curtains are faded, and the rugs threadbare, there was always a sense of being spied on. The chairs in the ante – room are described as uncomfortable and faded from the sun, the windows curtainless and the window frames blistered from the sun and also a smell of camphor.
The house was in decline and they no longer had the money to refurbish it the way it needed.Lois, at nineteen years old is a very naive young woman with a distinct ignorance to the troubles and their significance. Lois, like her mother would like a life of her own; she would like to leave Danielstown and travel one day.
In her life (and also much like Danielstown) – ‘deprived; as she saw it – ‘there was no occasion for courage, which like an unused muscle slackened and slept.; (Bowen. E pg 33) She feels overprotected, almost suffocated she said ;I might as well be in some kind of cocoon.
; (Bowen. E pg 49) John Cronin notes that ;Lois, wrapped in her.