R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (Allen Lane: Penguin 1993), 382pp., index. [unsorted notes; no pag.]

Roy Foster: ‘Wild Geese Chase?’: the love-hate relationship of marginal Englishmen and micks on the make’ [edited extract from ‘Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History’ (Allen Lane: Penguin 1993).

A. S. Green: ‘History is more backward in Ireland than in any other country [….] Here alone there is a public opinion which resents its being freely written, and there is an opinion, public or official, I scarcely know what to call it, which prevents its being freely taught … Here history has a peculiar doom. It is enslaved in the chains of the Moral Tale—the good man (English) who is prospered, and the bad man (Irish) who came to a shocking end.’ Alice Stopford Green (The Old Irish World, Dublin & London 1912; cited R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, p.1.)

Note, Foster’s extended discussion of Green, ‘daughter of an archdeacon in County Meath [...]’, ensues on p.14f., and edduces a Freudian explanation involving blindness and memory, giving rise to her concept of ‘Irish national memory’, a recurrent phrase in her writings. Mrs Green’s pre-invasion Ireland was a classless egalitarian ‘Commonwealth’, where ‘the earliest and the most passionate conception of “nationality” flourished’: bibl., The making of Ireland and Its Undoing (1908); Irish Nationality (1911); A History of the Irish State to 1014 (1925). ( R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, p.4.)

Charles Lever, in Dublin University Magazine, on atmosphere of Dublin: ‘shrewd lawyers, suave doctors, raw subalterns and fat country gentlemen—waiting in town for remittances to carry them to Cheltenham—that Paradise of paddies and Elysium of Galway Belles’.

Gerald Griffin, about the Holyhead boat, 1827: ‘adventurers of every description who devoutly believed gold and fame grew like mulberries upon the hedges everywhere except in poor Ireland.’

Irish stereotypes and others in Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South; Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke [includes dialogue between Chartists as to why Irish are a ‘nation of liars’]; Engels, condition of the Working class in England [‘the southern facile character of the Irishman, his crudity, which places him but little above the savage, in contempt for all humane enjoyments [...]’

Mrs Hall, on being cheated by her guide, is told ‘sure why wouldn’t we be cunning? Isn’t it our strength?’

Charles Diamond, emigrated to Newcastle from Maghera and established empire of of 37 newpapers.

Thackeray’s Pendennis, where he compares Irish journalists to 17th c. wild Geese fighting in foreign armies, his Mr Hoolan and Mr Doolan producing the Dawn and Day, and Jack Finucane on the Pall Mall Gazette at the heart of the Londond hack world into which the hero unintentionally drifts; comparable characters to Daniel Owen Madden, his own first editor and a Corkman, and william Maginn on Blackwood’s, also from Cork.

T. P. O’Connor: ‘Who but an Irishman can know the full hopelessness of a youth born into the lower middle classes of an Irish country town?’ Irish politicians sometime accused him of living off the immoral earnings of two ladies of St John’s Wood, which he urbanely called ‘more flattering to my charm than my morality’; wrote The Parnell Movement; after working on the Daily Telegraph and Pall Mall Gazette, founded the Star(1887), and TP’s Weekly (1902); wrote sharp biographies Disraeli, Parnell and others, and a nationalist MP for 40 yrs; father of House of Commons, and first President of the Irish Censorship Board.

D.P. Moran in The Leader, on O’Connor: ‘The Ireland in which he rose to fame is gone. It mut be strange to him when he finds that sentimentality and treacle are drugs on the market, but no doubt he has made the discovery already. If he has nothing else to offer, he had better go home to England, where life is so hard-working and practical that treacle and sentimentality may be eagerly taken as a condiment. We, who, alas, have taken them so long as our staple food have had our fill of them.’

Justin McCarthy, migrated from Cork journalist world to London; autobiography, slightly defensively, The Story of an Irishman; took England as his oyster; wrote that neither his religion nor his politics ‘ever interfred in the slightest degree with my way in journalism or in literature, here in England’.

Shaw: ‘Every Irishman who felt that his business in life was on the higher planes of the cultural professions felt that he must have a metropolitan domicle and an international culture: that is, he felt that his first business was to get out of Ireland.’ In his Preface to John Bull’s Other Island, he called Ireland ‘the only spot on earth which still produces the ideal Englishman of history’.

Trollope: ‘From the day on which I set foot in Ireland all … evils went away from me. Since that time who has had a happier life than mine?’ ‘When I meet an Irishman abroad I always recognise in him more of a kinsman than I do in an Englishman.’ Foster calls Trollope’s The Kellys and the O’Kellys an unwinking, accurate and thoughtful obervation of Irish conditions just after the Famine; but it is also a celebration of the complexities of Irish social relations, at once offhand and sophisticated; Victoria Glendenning has pointed out that he learned his English mode of address and behaviour in Ireland; his opposition to Home Rule was violent and his unfinished last novel The Landleaguers (1883) is a crude treatise against Irish rural savagery worthy of Froude or Kingsley; in his late autobiography he tried to disown the necessary qualities of Phineas Finn.

James Anthony Froude: ‘constantly returning to Ireland, writing beautifully of the therapeutic qualities of life on Co. Kerry; his Irish obsession produced his extraordinary The English in Ireland &c. (1881); sustained invective against Irish self government, argued on impeccably prejudiced Carlylean grounds of Irish unreliability; language of the preface suggests that the book represents an insecure Victorian overreaction against something insidiously attractive; the Irish are ‘passionate in everything—passionate in their patriotism, passionate in their religion, passionately courageous, passionately loyal and affectionate, they are without manliness which will give strength and solidity to the sentimental part of their dispositions, while the surface and show is so seductive and so winning that only experience of its instability can resist the charm.’

Desmond Ryan, son of WP Ryan, one of Pearse’s aides: autobiography, Remembering Sion, written from the focus of someone brought up in Dulwich, perennially crossing the Irish sea. He wrote:’to leave Ireland often means to know Ireland better, and too few of those who should leave their country for their country’s good have the sense to do so. The expatriates … do for Ireland what Ireland too seldom does for herself. This is no great virtue on their part: looking back over their shoulders they see the thing half seen before.’

Robert Lynd, at school in Belfast, received the advice: ‘Escape, fly while there is time!’

Collins once said he stood for ‘an Irish civilisation based on the people and embodying the things—their habits, ways of thought, customs—that make them different—the sort of life I was brought up in ..’

Annie Horniman: Yeats let her design medieval costumes for On Baile’s Strand, but said to her on front of the entire cast that they made them look like ‘Father Christmases and fire extinguishers’; she said to him on some occasion, ‘We will conquer your country with the help of mine’; tried to arrange the marriages of the company members; her arrival compared by Lady Gregory to bringing the Normans to Ireland or ‘giving up Parnell to please an English howl’; by 1907 acc. one observer, her ‘hatred of everything Irish amounted to lunacy’.

Sean O’Casey called Maud Gonne ‘the Colonel’s daughter still’.

Con Markievicz insisted on the description of an ‘Irish rebel’.

Lily Yeats pointed out sharply in a private letter: ‘We are far more Irish than all the saints and martyrs—Parnell—Pearse—Madame Markievicz—Maud Gonne—de Valera—and no one ever thinks of speaking of them as Anglo-Irish.’

Con Markievicz complained that she was not chosen to negotiate with others at the Treaty talks:’By that bad black drop of English blood [her mother’s] in me I know the English—that’s the truth. I say it because of that black drop in me that I know the English personally better perhaps than the peopl who went over on the delegation!’

John Mitchel:’the general history of a nation may fitly preface the personal memoranda of a solitary captive, for it was strictly and logically a consequence of the dreary story here epitomised, that I came to be a prisoner.’ Jail Journal, (Dublin 1918 ed.) p.xlvi (Foster, 1993, p.2.)

Vallancey, obsessed with the Punic root of the Gaelic language and culture (Foster, 1993, p.3.)

Thomas Comerford, who attempted to relate Gaelic culture to that of ancient Greece [idem]

William Parnell-Hayes, Inquiry into the Causes of the Popular discontents of Ireland (1805); Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics (1807)

Gaelic Society founded in 1807, declaring that ‘an opportunity is now, at length, offered to the learned of Ireland, to retrieve their character among the Nations of Europe, and shew that their History and Antiquities are not fitted to be consigned to eternal oblivion’.

DATES: Irish Record Commission (1810-30); Irish Historical Manuscripts Commission (1869- ); Irish Manuscripts Commission (1929- ), founded under Eoin MacNeill; Institute of Irish Studies [sic] founded in Belfast, 1965.

Edward Ledwich’s Antiquities of Ireland consciously attempted to abolish ‘bardic fictions’

On the neutral ground of ‘ancient history and native art Unionist and nationalist could meet without alarm’, according to Gavan Duffy, in Young Ireland: A Fragment, though Foster calls this a disingenuous retrospection. (Foster, 1993, p.5]

Rev. Patrick McSweeney, A Group of Nation-builders (1913), incorporates John O’Donovan, Eugene O’Curry, and Petrie; Foster comments that one doubts if they would have recognised themselves in the title. (Foster, 1993, p.6.)

Ordnance Survey, contemporarily described as associating geography with ‘the histroy, the statistics, and the structure, physical and social, of the country’ (dublin Evening Mail, 27 Mar 1844). Alice Stopford Green interpreted the team grandiloquently as ‘a kind of peripatetic university, in the very spirit of the older Irish life’, and belived hat their work magically ‘revealed the sould of Irish Nationality and the might of its repression’ and was accordingly suppressed (The Old Irish World, 1912, p.56-61; Foster, 1993, p.6.)

Lecky on the dangers of Irish history:’so steeped in party and sectarian animosity, that a writer who has done his utmost to clear his from prejudice, and bring together with impartiality the conflicting statements of partisans, wil still, if he is a wise man, always doubt whether he has succeeded in painting with perfect fidelity the delicate gradations of provocation, palliation, and guilt’ (Preface to separate ed. of History of Ireland).

Lecky writing versus Froude whose study of The English in Irleand had maligned and belaboured the native Irish in a manner not to be seen again for a hundred years. Lecky wrote against Froude, not for nationalist reasons, but beacuase, as an Anglo-Irish Unionist, he feared that Froude’s distortions by their very exaggeration would support the case being made by the nationalists for Home Rule. He also worried about the unintended effect of his own Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland and opposed what would have been a very profitable reprint.) … Froude argued in Salisburian terms, the Hottentot case of Celtic incapacity for self-government; Irish criminality ‘originated out of’ Catholicism; Protestant virtues were commercial and social as much a religious … ‘Irish ideas’ were a debased set of beliefgs which should have been socialised out of the natives. (Foster, 1993, p.9-10.)

The idealisation [accepted by Parnell] was based on Sir Jonah Barrington’s account of an Irish nation that never was (viz, The Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, Paris 1833) (Foster, 1993, p.12.)

Arthur Griffith’s ideas of autarky in economics and Gaelic purity in politics fused an idealisation of Grattan’s Parliament with a belief in Celticism which brought together the teachings of nineteenth-century historians, ancient and modern: the very name of his first weekly, United Irishman, was a reference to Mitchel and Tone, and the politics of Sinn Féin synthesised constitutionalism with implicit violence. (Foster, 1993, pp.12-13.)

Shaw: ‘there is no Irish race any more than there is an English race or a Yankee race [but] there is an Irish climate which will stamp an immigrant more deeply and durably in two years, apparently, than the English climate will in two hundred’ (Preface to John Bull’s Other Island; Prefaces, London 1938, pp.443-44).

Pearse, Three Lectures on Gaelic Topics (1897-98)

Shaw: ‘We are now citizens of the world; and the man who divides the race into elect Irishmen and reprobate foreign devils (especially Englishmen) had better live on the Blaskets where he can admire himself without disturbance. Perhaps, after all, our late troubles were not so purposeless as they seemed. They were probably ordained to prove to us that we are no better than other people, and when Ireland is once forced to accept this stupendous new idea, goodbye to the old patriotism.’ ‘On throwing Out Dirty Water’, Irish Statesman, 15 Sep. 1923; quoted in F. S. L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine; Foster, 1993, p.19.)

[ back ]
[ top ]