Your RDA of Irony

Burning a Scandal at Both Ends

America has become Victorian. In the 19th century, two prominent British politicians, prophesized for leadership, were ruined by scandals.

Scandal Number One

Charles Parnell (1846-1891), the leader of the Irish representatives in Parliament, was a veritable kingmaker. Shifting his bloc to the Tories or the Liberals, he could determine who would be Prime Minister. However, Parnell was not quite so adroit in his personal affairs. A Captain O’Shea noticed that his wife’s younger children seemed to resemble Mr. Parnell, and the indignant husband began divorce proceedings. Mr. Parnell’s name was conspicuous in the accusations.

A certain Church prominent in Ireland does not approve of divorce. Parnell only outraged the Church further when he married his divorced mistress. From pulpits and in the Irish press, Parnell was condemned. With his status as a pariah, he was abandoned by the Irish members of Parliament. Under the strain, Parnell died soon after of a heart attack.

The Uncrowned King of Ireland“, Parnell had been a proponent of Home Rule for this country. He alone seemed capable of controlling the sectarian rifts between the Ulster and Catholic Irish members of Parliament. Prime Minister Gladstone needed that solid Irish bloc to support his bill for Irish Home Rule. Without Parnell’s leadership, the Ulster members joined with the Tories and blocked the passage of Home Rule. The best chance for a peaceful integration of Ireland into the United Kingdoms was lost, and the consequence was to be rebellion and civil war.

Parnell might have been consoled to know that he would portrayed by Clark Gable in a Hollywood saga.  Unfortunately, it also was Gable’s worse role.

Scandal Number Two

Sir Charles Dilke (1843-1911) might have been a likely Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the Liberal star in Parliament was accused of being a little too liberal with other men’s wives. Balancing both his wife and his married mistress were not the problem; any Victorian gentleman could manage that. However, Dilke found himself dragged into a divorce court, accused of adultery with his mistress’ married daughter.

That woman further accused Dilke of infecting her with syphilis. Dilke denied any involvement with his mistress’ daughter. The evidence was circumstantial. Both had the disease but not necessarily from each other. Furthermore, she seemed to have had a number of intimate acquaintances.

The Court acquitted Dilke of this particular adultery, but the press and public opinion did not. His prospects for leadership were ruined.

And Dilke’s scandal never even merited a movie. 



  1. Not every politician has syphilis, but they all are infected with a terminal case of ego. That will never change.

    What has changed, however, is the nature of cable news. It has become as salacious as British tabloids.

    Of course, it is inherently satirical to hear Wolf Blitzer being prurient.

  2. Alan says:

    Sex and power go together like a horse and carriage. Arbiters of public morality always get the best sex and drugs. It’s their right. They have a lot of stress! Is this not why sultans had harems? Access to the best sex is basically why guys do anything, isn’t it?

    (If you reply, send a copy to my email — I’m never notified by the blog.)

    best(& to K),


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