Charles: The Life and World of Charles Acton


By: Richard Pine

Publication Date: June 2010


This is a biography of the music critic and commentator, Charles Acton, chronicling his family’s history over 300 years at Kilmacurragh in County Wicklow (now a celebrated arboretum in the care of the State), and his work for the Irish Times over thirty years (1955-88).

There is a comprehensive view of his Irish background, his education in England at Rugby and Cambridge and his career in Dublin. Beginning with the rich source material of Acton family papers (a detailed tenant record of Kilmacurragh estate, for example) and correspondence (to his mother and others), the book goes on to elaborate in fascinating detail the cultural framework of his milieu in broadcasting for RTE and in music with the Royal Irish Academy of Music, of which he was governor and eventually vice-president.

Charles Acton was one of only two critics outside Britain to gain entry to the Critics’ Circle. His was a unique voice that helped to shape Ireland’s musical culture.

‘This isn’t the gentle anecdotal tale one might expect, chock-full of opening-night reminiscences and late-night recollections. Instead it’s a bit of an epic… Acton, Pine writes, was “charming, erudite, committed and persuasive” and also “aggressive, petulant and irksome”. His biography is to match. As often as not it makes the reader shake her head in despair. And then, when the page is turned, smile.’ – The Irish Times


Writer and critic, Richard Pine, is author of well-received books on Brian Friel and Oscar Wilde, as well as the standard work Music and Broadcasting in Ireland (Four Courts Press, 2005). He is director of the Durrell School of Corfu, where he lives.



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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 156 × 236 mm
Publication Date

June 2010


Hardback, 424pp