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"Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one." - Augustine Birrell

Augustine BirrelllAugustine Birrell (1850-1933) was an English author and politician. Having graduated from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he qualified as a lawyer and, after a short sojourn as a professor of law, entered parliament as a Liberal representing Fife West in Scotland. His light but pointed sense of humor when addressing The House of Commons, and his witty essays, coined the word birrelling (a word which regrettably has not stood the test of time, at least not to the point that it is one of the 163,000 words in today's Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). In addition to a number of books of essays, he also penned biographies of Charlotte Bronte, William Hazlitt and Andrew Marvell.

At the 1900 general election he chose to contest the Manchester North East seat rather than Fife, but was defeated. He was returned to parliament in 1906 as the member of parliament for Bristol North and became President of the Board of Education; but prolonged controversy over an education bill caused him to fall out of favor and he was transferred to the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland where, in 1907, he introduced an Irish Councils bill which would have been a step towards home rule. The bill was rejected by a Nationalist convention and was promptly withdrawn.

He continued as Chief Secretary for Ireland for nine years, resigning in 1916 after failing to contain the plotting that ended in the Easter Uprising (the most significant Irish uprising since 1798). He did not defend his seat in the 1918 general election.

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