A new generation is growing up in our midst, a generation actuated by new ideas and new principles. It is serious and enthusiastic for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is misdirected, is, I believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in a sceptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age: and sometimes I fear that this new generation, educated or hyper-educated as it is, will lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day.
So speaks James Joyce’s character Gabriel Conroy, favorite nephew of the Misses Kate and Julia Morkan, in his after-dinner address to their annual Epiphany dinner. As we read and reflect upon Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” can we conclude that we too live in a “thought-tormented age?” Is Conroy’s “conservative” answer, recurrence to “the tradition of genuine warm-hearted courteous Irish hospitality, which our forefathers have handed down to us and which we must hand down to our descendants,” a sufficient answer? What are we to make of the fact that Conroy himself seems to be cut loose from the traditions he praises, himself a “man without a country,” so to speak?
For a copy of James Joyce’s “The Dead” — from the collection Dubliners (London: Grant Richards Ltd., 1914) — please click the “Further Reading” link on the left column of this page. For further information about this or other Hudson/Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal events, please contact Kristen McIntyre by email or telephone at (202) 974-2424.