George Berkeley (1685-1753) - Commentary & Quotations


Commentary Quotations

Commentary

Charles O’Conor
T. Crofton Croker
S. T. Coleridge
Matthew Arnold
Isaac Butt
W. B. Yeats
Jack B. Yeats
T. R. Henn
G. J. Warnock
Richard Ellmann
Joseph Johnston
W. B. Stanford
Joseph Leerssen
David Berman
Harry Bracken
Denis Donoghue
R. F. Foster
Maureen Wall
Eileen Battersby
John Purser

A Limerick by Ronald Knox

There was a young man who said
“God Must find it exceedingly odd
      To think that the tree
      Should continue to be
When there’s no one about in the
  quad.”

“Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd;
I am always about in the quad.
      And that’s why the tree
      Will continue to be
Since observed by,
              —Yours faithfully, God.”

Charles O’Conor writes to John Curry, ‘The supplemental Queries from Bishop Berkeley are extremely apposite, and the work I sent you [meaning his own Maxims] may well be considered as a comment on them, though in truth I did not consult the Queries till I finished what I undertook.’ (27 April. 1757; see Ward & Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor, 1988, p.31).

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Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (1824), quotes Berkeley in writing of the situation in Ireland after the Cromwellian and Williamite Wars: ‘The attainder and ruin of some of the ancient nobility followed each commotion; - driven into exile, they became the miserable pensioners of foreign courts, and their confiscated estates were lavishly bestowed on English soldiers, from whom most of the present Irish families of distinction are descended. A nation, therefore, whose population is composed of two such distinct parts, requires ages and skilful treatment to become united and to feel a common interest: the one part drooping under the recollection of the loss of ancient wealth and honors, (for such was the feeling of clanship that the peasant identified with his own the fortunes of his lord,) - the other suspicious and unconciliating to those by whom they are surrounded, and fearing the reprisal of what their ancestors had violently seized. It was an observation of the illustrious Bishop Berkeley, when speaking of the two nations, that “although evidently their mutual advantage to become one people, yet neither seemed apprized of this important truth.”’ (p.12; no ref.)

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John Mitchel, Jail Journal [1854], ed. Arthur Griffith (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1913) - on arriving at Bermuda: ‘It was here, amongst these very cedars, that noster George Berkeley desired to establish a missionary college, with a view to convert red Americans to Christianity, and gave up his fat deanery of Derry that he might take up house here as Principal of his college at £100 a year. The English minister (Sir Robert Walpole, I think) promised a grant of £20,000 for that college ; and on the strength of this promise Berkeley left Derry, went to New England, where he stayed a year, expecting the grant and charter, soUciting objurgating, reminding, remonstrating - till his heart was nearly broken, and then he came home to Ireland, almost in despair. Good man! he little knew what a plague Ministers thought him, with his missionary colleges; they had quite another plan for the conversion of the red people - to convert them, namely, into red humus. But they gave George a bishopric at Cloyne, and there he philosophised and fiddled till he died. / It was to Bermuda, also, that Prospero, on a certain night, sent his Ariel to [33] “fetch dew.” Albeit, one might hardly know these isles for the still-vexed Bermoothes, for they lie sleeping on the glassy sea to-day, as tranquil as an infant on it's mother's bosom.And was it not here, too, that “metaphysical” Waller, having transported himself hither to shun the evil days, dreamed his “Dream of the Summer Islands?” and has not Moore, also, sung these cedars? Bermuda, then, has its associations; is even classical; in fact, is apparently a genuine fragment of the flowery earth, peering above the Atlantic flood here.’ (p.33.)

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Litteraria, ed. J. Shawcross (Oxford: OUP 1907), Vol. I, Ch. VIII: ‘[…] For it is worthy of notice, that the latter, or the system of idealism may be traced to sources equally remote with the former, or materialism; and Berkeley can boast an ancestry at least as venerable as Gassendi or Hobbes.’ (p.65-66.) See also the ultimate sentence: ‘By the very same argument the supporters of the Ptolemaic system might have rebuffed the Newtonian, and pointing to the sky with self-complacent* grin have appealed to common sense, whether the sun did move and the earth stand still.’ (p.93), and footnote: ‘And Coxcombs vanquish Berkeley with a grin’ - [Alex.] Pope.)

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Matthew Arnold: Arnold quotes three articles from Berkeley’s The Querist at the conclusion of The Incompatibles (1881): [1] ‘Whether it be not the true interest of both nations to become one people, and whether either be sufficiently apprised of this?’ [2] ‘Whether Ireland can purpose to thrive so long as she entertains a wrong-headed distrust of England?’ [3] ‘Whether in every instance by which the Irish prejudice England, they do not in a greater degree prejudice themselves?’

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Isaac Butt quotes Berkeley’s Querist in his Protection to Home Industry (1840): ‘[…] when I ask you to look upon our country’s unimproved resources … may I not [ask you] to reflect upon … a problem … which has, alas! Found no solution? “What hinders us Irish from exerting ourselves, using our hands and brains; doing something or other, man, woman, and child, like the other inhabitants of the earth?’ (Protection to Home Industry, some cases of its advantages considered, Dublin 1846 [pub. edn.], p.108; cited in Joseph Spence, ‘Isaac Butt, Nationality and Irish Toryism, 1833-1852’, Bullán Vol. 2, No.1, Summer 1995, p.50.)

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W. B. Yeats, “Bishop Berkeley” [July 1931]: ‘[…] I delight in that fierce young man, whose student years passed when the Battle of the Boyne, fought, as Monlyneux said, to change not an English but an Irish crown, was a recent memory; who established, with Molyneux’s son for secretary, a secret society to examine the philosophy of a “neighbouring nation”; who defined that philosophy, the philosophy of Newton and Locke, in three sentences, wrote after each that Irishmen thought otherwise, and on the next page that he must publish to find if men elswhere agreed with [396] Irishmen. What he then was, solitary, talkative, excstatic, destructive, he showed through all his later hears though but in glimpses or as something divined or inferred. […] Furthermore I understand now, what I once but vaguely guessed, that these two images, standing and sounding together, Swift and Berkeley, concern all those who feel a responsibility for the thought of modern Ireland that can take away their sleep.’ (‘Berkeley; An Introduction’, preface to J. M. Hone & Mario M. Rossi, Bishop Berkeley: His Life, Writings and Philosophy (London: Faber & Faber 1931), pp. xv-xxix, here pp.xv-xvi; rep. in “Later Essays and Introductions”, in Essays and Introductions, London: Macmillan 1961, pp.396-97.) [Cont.]

W. B. Yeats (“Bishop Berkeley”, 1931) - cont.: ‘[…] I reject […] the Berkeley who has come down to us in the correspondence of the day; the sage as imagined by gentlemen of fortune - a role accepted by Berkeley that he might not be left to starve in some garret by a generation terrified of religious scepticism and political anarchy, and loved because it hid from himself and others his own anarchy and scepticism. The Commonplace Book is there to show that he did not accept it without hesitation or love it with his whole heart. “N.B. To use utmost caution not to give the least handle of offence to the Church or churchmen … even to speak somewhat well of the Schoolmen …” ‘N.B. To rein in your satirical nature.’ The something unreal about his public life made him the more attractive to his contemporaries, was an essential element perhaps of his incredible persuasiveness, as if he were some hieratic image; only in those speculations that seemed the lovable foible of a great man is [398] he altogether real. One looks in vain for some different life lived among friends and pupils, wonders what habits of secrecy still remaied. What did he say in those three sermons to undergraduates that brought so much suspicion on him?’ (Ibid., in Essays & Introductions, pp.398-99.)

W. B. Yeats (“Bishop Berkeley”, 1931) - cont.: ‘Born in such a community, Berkeley with his belief in perception, that abstract ideas are mere words, Swift with his love of perfect nature, of the Houyhnhnms, his disbelief in Newton’s systemand every sort of machine, Goldsmith and his delight in the particulars of common life that shocked his contemporaries, Burke with his conviction that all States not grown slowly like a forest tree are tyrannies, found in England the opposite that stung their own thought into expression and made it lucid.’ (Ibid., in Essays & Introductions, p.402.)

W. B. Yeats (“Bishop Berkeley”, 1931) - cont.: ‘As a boy of eighteen or nineteen he [Berkeley] called the Irish people “natives” as though he were in some foreign land, but two or three years later […] defined the English materialism of his day in three profound sentences, and wrote after each that “We Irishmen” think otherwise - “I publish […] to know whether other men have the same ideas as we Irishmen” - and before he was twenty-five had fought the Salamis of the Irish intellect.’ (Hone & Rossi, op. cit., 1931, p.xx; quoted in T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower [1950], 1965 Edn. p.44; see further, infra.])

Note: Yeats said that Berkeley’s dictum, ‘We Irishmen think otherwise’, made possible ‘the whole Irish nation’ (Senate Speeches, ed. Donald R. Pearce, 1960, p.172; quoted in Richard Pine, The Disappointed Bridge: Ireland and the Post-colonial World, Newcastle-on-Tyne: Scholars Publishing 2014, p.355. Pine relates Yeats’s interpretation to Juan Luis Borges’ reading of Berkeley has a boy and young man which he describes as an ‘immersion in Irish thought’, idem.)

See also WBY’s letter to Hone: ‘You have set Berkeley in his first world and made him amusing, animated and intelligible. He is of the utmost importance to the Ireland that is coming into existence, as I hope to show in my introduction. I want Protestant Ireland to base some vital part of its culture upon Burke, Swift and Berkeley.* Rossi’s help is of course of first importaance, Gentile and other Italian philosophers found themselves on Berkeley, and Rossi has the further advantage of being an authority on Berkeley’s immediate predecessors and contemporaries.’ (Quoted in M. P. Sinha, W.B. Yeats: His Poetry And Politics, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers 2003, p.140, citing Wade, Letters of W. B. Yeats, p.779.)

[Note: Sihna, op. cit., 2003, quotes in a footnote to the third sentence [*]: ‘... these two images, standing and sounding together, Swift and Berkeley, concern all those who feel a responsibility for the tought of modern Ireland that can take away their sleep.’ (Essays and Introductions, p.397.) Yeats elsewhere writes of ‘the rebirth of European spirituality in the mind of Berkeley’ (Sihna, p.142; citing Explorations, p.337.)

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W. B. Yeats, Pages from a Diary written in Nineteen Hundred and Thirty ( 1944): ‘Between Berkeley’s account of his exploration of certain Kilkenny laws which speak of the “natives” came that intellectual crisis which led up to the sentence in the Commonplace Book: “We Irish do not hold with this.” That was the birth of the national intellect and it caused the defeat in Berkeley’s philosophical secret society of English materialism, the Irish Salamis.’ ([q.pp.]; rep. in Richard Finneran, ed., The Yeats Reader, NY: Scribner 1992, p.342.)

W. B. Yeats, “Blood and The Moon, II”: ‘and God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream, / That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem, / Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme […].’ (Collected Poems, p.267.) See also under Richard Ellmann, infra.

W. B. Yeats: Yeats echoed Berkeley’s famous comment, ‘We Irishmen cannot attain to these truths’, in his lines: ‘We Irish, born into that ancient sect, / But thrown upon this filthy modern tide. And by its formless spawning fury wrecked, / Climb to our proper dark, that we may trace / The lineament of a plummet-measured face.’ (“The Statues.”)

W. B. Yeats - acc. to A. N. Jeffares (A New Biography, 1988), ‘He like to use both men as part of the Anglo-Irish tradition; at a dinner in Trinity College in 1927, for instance, he announced that “Berkeley was the first to say the world is a vision; Burke was the first to say a nation is a tree.” He summed them up in one of the fine sweeping affirmative generalisations he enjoyed: "And those two sayings are a foundation of modern thought. (Jeffares, W. B. Yeats: A New Biography, Macmillan 1988, p.225.) See also his reference to address on "The Child and the State" to the Irish Literary Society on 30 Nov. 1925, in which he spoke of Burke and Berkeley has Irish innovators,in Jeffares’ phrase, idem.)

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Jack B. Yeats (letter of 22 Dec. 1931 to Joseph Hone on publication of Bishop Berkeley): ‘I got a great deal of pleasure out of reading your Bishop Berkeley book. One small complaint - no one on God’s earth could have encased so frisky a mind as Berkeley’s in a casket so convolulatingly [sic] cherubic as the picture on the bow of your book. I think it must, this book, be the best about a bishop ever written. It has given me a number of pleasant pattings on the back. The older I grow the more pleased I am to find that it is me that is moving and not the milestones which are static. Your book has helped me to fix for ever in my, mind the fixing of the labels “professional” and “amateur”. The professionals are the ones I like. What was non-European Irish in Berkeley was what was professional. All the map from China to Holyhead, Sandycove and parts of Killiney is amateur.’ (Letter held in Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Univ. of Kansas; quoted in John Purser, ‘Frisky Minds: Jack Yeats, Bishop Berkeley and a Soupçon of Beckett’, in The Only Art: Jack B. Yeats - Letters from his Father John Butler Yeats; Essays on Their Works, ed., Declan J. Foley, Dublin: Lilliput Press 2008, p.33; and see Purser’s comment, infra.

Oliver St. John Gogarty took for epigraph to As I Was Going Down Sackville Street: A Phantasy in Fact (London: Rich & Cowan; NY: Reynal & Hitchcock 1937) a sentence from Bishop Berkeley: ‘We Irish are apt to think something and nothing are near neighbours.’ [See the original, supra.]

Samuel Beckett: ‘I don’t wonder at Berkeley,’ said Neary. ‘He had no alternative. A defence mechanism. Immaterialise or bust. The sleep of sheer terror. Compare the opposum.’ (Murphy, 1938; 1963 Edn., p.36.)

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T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats [1950] (London: Methuen [rev. edn.] 1965): ‘In Berkeley’s writings he [Yeats] found much to justify his own theories of vision. How much he had read of the philosopher himself is not clear; certainly he knew the Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, the Notebooks, and Siris. There are whole passages in this last curious disquisition that slides so easily between tar-water, Neo-platonism, chemistry and metaphysics, that may well have served Yeats as sources. [&c.]’ (p.44.) ‘Berkeley taught that there is no substance of matter, but only a substance of mind, which he terms “spirit”; that there were two kinds of spiritual substance, the one eternal, and unreated, the substance of the Deity, the other created, and, once created, eternal; that the universe as known to created spirit has no being in itself, but is the result of the action of the substance of the Deity on the substance of those spirits. Such a doctrine, if the Deity be replaced by Anima [45] Mundi, appeared to give Yeats a philosophical justification for many beliefs - for the immortality of the spirit world, the ancestral memories, the complexities of all the phenomena of sensation, the early experiments in magic; and - thought this sounds strange enough - to the description of “Nature or reality as known to poets and tramps” (here are Goldsmith and Synge) “which has no moment, no impression, no peception, like another, everything is unique and nothing unique is measurable. Like Swift and Blake he attacked the abstraction of thought and the mechanisation of man. “No educated man today accepts the objective matter and space of popular science, and yet deductions made by those who believed in both dominate the world […]’ (Explorations [1962], pp.435-36.) Berkeley had justified Plotinus; Yeats would no longer “baulk at this limitlessness of the intellectual”.’ (Henn, op. cit., pp.45-46.)

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G. J. Warnock, Introduction to The Principles of Human Knowledge with Other Writings [Fontana Library] (London: collins 1962): ‘[…] The age in which Berkeley flurished could be said to have been one of the peaks of English,a nd indeed of European, intellectual achievement. In 1700 Isaac Newton was nearly sixty, his great work accomplished. Galileo, Harvey, and Boyle were only recently dead. In philosophy Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, and Spinoza had, in their different ways, powerfully re-animated the tradition of argument and speculation; and Locke, Leibnitz, and Malebranche were still alive. Berkeley was the beneficiary of all this activity, progress, and achievement; yet he was also, in a certain sense, its implacable enemy. The philosophers, he thought, had not only failed to lay, but had actually made thicker, the “learned dust” of the middle ages: they had given countenance to old errors and introduced new ones, and in general had made to seem complicated and deeply obscure questions to which Berkeley believed, in his youthful zeal, the true answers were at once quite simple and luminously clear. The scientists, even more harmfully, had troubled the minds of the public with the notion that the Universe was a vast machine, a gigantic piece of clockwork, in which God and the human soul kept a foothold only on sufferance. And both groups combined to dismiss with contempt the beliefs of Common Sense, thus insinuating a general uncertainty, or a positive scepticism, most dangerous to true religion and, therefore, also to good morals. But these errors were avoidable, these alarming complications were of the theorists’ own making: and if once the great encumbrance of new and old blunders could be thrown off, the purified sciences could be expected to bring innumerable benefits to an unquestioningly devout and virtuous public. Berkeley believed that he could bring this about at a single blow / In this enterprise he was fired by a mixture of motives which makes him a quite unique figure in the history of philosopy. Many philosophers have been largely concemed with the defence of religious doctrine or of moral convictions. Many have wished to elaborate and expound a more or less personal, more or less idiosyncratic, metaphysical view of the nature of reality as a whole. Some, though perhaps not many, have been chiefly concerned to expose the pretensions of philosophical ambition and to re-affirm the “common-sense” convictions of all sensible. / It is the unique achievement of Berkeley to have presented himself in all three of these - not easily compatible - roles at once. He was sincerely, and perhaps predominantly, concerned to defeat what he took to be the orreligious, even atheistic, tendencies of his age; he was genuinely shocked by what he regarded as the wanton defiance by theorists in general of plain common sense; and further, he had a personal view of the nature of reality which, for very personal and perhaps now not discoverable reasons, he was determined to oppose to the “scientific” world-view which he rightly believed to be gaining ground every day. It is not surprising that he has been very widely misunderstood: for it is extremely difficult, in fact, to interpret his position consistently. He cannot, because his strange metaphysical convictions, be regarded as merely the friend and defender of “common sense”; and since his attachment to “common sense” was, in its way, both genuine and justified, he cannot be seen either as merely a high-flying metaphysician. He really was both, and a religious apologist as well: and it is essential to the right understanding of his position to see by what insight and ingenuity he was able to make his three roles fit (at first sight at least) so naturally together.’ (pp.9-11 [Sect. II]).

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Richard Ellmann, ‘The Art of Yeats: The Affirmative Capability’ [Chap. IX], in The Identity of Yeats (London: Faber & Faber 1954), p216ff.: ‘At the end of the ’twenties Yeats thought he had found an ally for his most extreme positions in Berkeley. Before Berkeley became Bishop of Cloyne he had “proved”, Yeats decided, that “the world was a vision”. Only in pious, debilitated old age, when ecclesiastical preferment had sapped his thought, did he pretend that the vision was God’s. To the young Berkeley, Yeats announced with more vehemence than accuracy, the vision was man’s, as if man had built the world out of his imagination and then contentedly started to live in it. Yet this position of Yeats’s prose is not one to which he rigidly adheres in his verse. [p.225; …; &c.]’

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Joseph Johnston, Bishop Berkeley’s Querist in Historical Perspective (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press 1970): Johnstone notes that the General Register of TCD holds a note under the Dates 11th Nov. 1699, ‘The 1st Quere What rent Coll. Hamilton receives yearly out of ye College lands in ye Barony of Killmacrenen.’ (p.5.) Further, ‘The general opinion in this half-century was that commercial revival was impossible without freedom of export for the woollen trade. But there was one notable exception. Bishop Berkeley in The Querist asked: “Whether it would not be more prudent to strike out and exert ourselves in permitted branches of trade than to fold our hands and repine that we are not allowed the woollen.” [No. 73]. He asks “whether there ever was in any part of the world a country in such wretched circumstances, and which, at the same time, could be so easily remedied, and nevertheless the remedy not applied” [Part III, No. 79]. It is quite evident that the commercial restrictions had destroyed the existing basis of credit, and that enterprise was inhibited by a kind of paralysis which was partly psychological in character. In the course of his fascinating pamphlet Berkeley analysed the true nature of money, and argued that a basis for credit could be discovered in the reciprocal supply of each other’s wants by domestic commerce, and that a right opinion on these matters, coupled with the provision of an adequate monetary medium by the State, was all that was necessary for restoring the foundations of prosperity. He queries “Whether a fertile land and the industry of its inhabitants would not prove inexhaustible funds of real wealth, be the counters for conveying and recording thereof what you will, paper, gold or silver” [No. 40], and again, “Whether all circulation be not like a circulation of credit, whatever medium (metal or paper] is employed, and whether gold be any more than credit for so much power” [No. 426]’ (p. 34). See also notice under Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, infra.

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Denis Donoghue, Yeats [Fontana Modern Masters] (London: Fontana/Collins 1971): ‘Berkeley took up Locke’s challenge. “By Matter, therefore,” he wrote in the Essay of the Principles of Human Knowledge, paraphrasing Locke, “We are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist.” [Works, ed. A. A. Luce & T. E. Jessop, Vol. 2, ed. Jessop, Oxford 1949, pp.44-45.] As Yeats wrote in the Diary of 1930, “Descartes, Locke, and Newton took away the world and gave us its excrement instead. Berkeley restored the world [...] Berkeley has brought back to us the world that only exists because it shines and sounds. A child, smothering his laughter because the elders are standing round has opened once more the great box of toys.” Berkeley established and liberated the imagination by denying material substance independent of perception: he was right, as the child is right. Yeats associated Berkeley with the irrefutable truth of a child gathering shells at Rosses Point, and he loved the philosopher for the memory.’ (p.51.)

Further, ‘Yeats wanted to assimilate God to man, and he was led to do so because Blake had already gone to that point in his annotations on Berkeley’s Siris: ‘God is Man & exists in us & we in him.’ That is: God is the human imagination. in one of the captions to There is No Natural Religion Blake rejects Locke and runs beyond Berkeley: ‘Man’s perceptions,’ he declares, ‘are not bounded by organs of perception; he perceives more than sense (tho’ ever so acute) can discover.’’ Berkeley restored to the poet his box of toys and the imagination to play with them, though he did not allow him to believe that a generous God might in that play be domesticated.’ (Idem.)

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Denis Donoghue, We Irish: Essays in Irish Literature and Society (Berkeley: University of California Press 1986), pp.3-18: ‘Berkeley’s secret society was merely a debating society he revived at Trinity College, Dublin … But it is clear that Berkeley, like Yeats, believed in something called the Irish intellect. The source of the “We Irish” sentence is Berkeley’s journal, which remained unpublished till 1871: ‘There are men who say there are insensible extensions. There are others who say the wall is not white, the fire is not hot, &c. We Irishmen cannot attain to these truths. / The mathematicians think there are insensible lines. About these they harangue - these cut in a point at all angles - these are divisible ad infinitum. We Irishmen can conceive no such lines. / The mathematicians talk of what they call a point. This, they say, is not altogether nothing, nor is it downright something. Now we Irishmen are apt to think something and nothing are next neighbours.’ (Donoghue, p.6; citing Alexander Campbell Fraser, The Life and Letters of George Berkeley, Oxford 1871, pp.500-01); ‘To Berkeley, “We Irish” meant, I think, those men, upper-class Protestants, who had no power and only whatever prestige accrued to them from their talents in philosophy, divinity, law, and natural science. Such men - Molyneux, Archbishop King, Swift, and Berkeley himself - were often provoked into sentiments that could be mistaken for modern nationalism. They resented, in one degree or another, the merchantilist restrictions imposed by English Parliaments from Poynings’s Act of 1395 to the Wool Acts of 1660 and 1699. But they resented them on behalf of the Protestants who felt the imposition at once; not on behalf of the Catholic peasants whose condition of life was far more completely abject. Indeed, the Catholic peasants were so low in the scale of civic life that they could be ignored, as slave were ignored by the Greek philosophers. It is doubtful if any sentiment, even Swift’s in his Irish pamphlets and “A Modest Proposal”, encompassed the whole people of Ireland; though I agree that Swift let his anger so round out the rhetoric of his pamphlets that nothing less than the whole people seemed to be included.’ (p.17; &c.). Note that the question of Berkeley’s meaning in his use of the phrase “We Irish” is taken up by Hone and Rossi in Bishop Berkeley (1931): ‘Did he think only of a tendency noted by him to exist in his own ambient, peopled chiefly by members of the later English (sixteenth and seventeenth century) influx into Ireland, who were separated from the mass of the old Irish people, as also in some degree from the old Anglo-Irish civilisation, by the great religious quarrel? Or was he supposing a sentiment of Irish nationality - over and above the religious difference - such a sentiment as is generally believed to have come into being only after Swift’s publication of the Drapier’s Letters? (p.29; Donoghue, p.6).

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984): Berkeley presented a 120 guineas and a die for two gold medals to encourage Bachelors to study Greek, in 1752. Senior Lecturer in Greek up to 1724, when he resigned. [51] Berkeley endowed a fund at Yale in 173? to maintain 3 students to study Latin and Greek. [70] Berkeley eulogised the sterner Doric order, seen in Sicily in 1718, in Alciphron (1752), ‘Those who have considered a theory of architecture [cites Barbaro’s ed. of Vitruvius in ftn.] tell us the proportion of the three Grecian orders were taken from the human body, as the most beautiful and perfect production of nature. Hence was derived those graceful ideas of column, which has character of strength without clumsiness, or of delicacy without weakness. Those beautiful proportions were, I say, taken originally from nature, which, in her creatures, as hath already been observed, referreth them to some end, use, or design. [He here speaks of the parts and details of a Greek temple, entablature, etc.] … Beauty [as] originally founded on nature [being] the grand distinction between Grecian and Gothic architecture, the latter being fantastical, and for the most part founded neither in nature nor in reason, in necessity nor use, the appearance of which account for all the beauty, grace, and ornament of the other.’ [Stanford, 114]. Stanford notes, Berkeley’s journal of the four-month visit in Sicily is lost, but we know that he saw the temple at Selinus, see J. Stock’s Life (London 1776), 10 and 55; and cf. A. A. Luce, Life of George Berkeley (London 1949). In a Latin letter of 25 Feb. 1718 he says he traversed the whole island. [His Italian journals and letters are extant.] [128]. Also, when Sir John Perceval’s collection of antiquities was lost at sea in 1706, Berkeley wrote to console him, ‘The finest collection is not worth a groat where there is none to admire and set a value on it, and our country seems the place in the world which is least furnished with virtuosi.’ (B. Rand, Berkeley and Perceval, Cambridge 1914, p.57) [131 - Cont.]]

W. B. Stanford (Ireland and the Classical Tradition, 1984) - cont.: Berkeley’s Alciphron takes the form of a dialogue about the relative merits of ancient and modern polities. The defender of the modern world finally concedes something to the ancient, ‘If I were to declare my opinion, what gave the chief advantage to Greeks and Romans and other nations which have made the greatest figure in the world, I should be apt to think it was a peculiar reverence for their respective laws and institutions, which inspired them with steadiness and courage, and that hearty generous love of their country, by which [i.e., the term country] they did not merely understand a certain language or tribe of men, much less a particular spot of earth, but included a certain system of manners, customs, notions, rites, and laws civil and religious. [148] Further, in 1706 Sir John Perceval on a visit to Rome ordered a large collection of antiquities to be shipped to his house in Co Cork … intercepted by a French warship … a second collection shipwrecked … Berkeley wrote to console him, ‘The finest collection is not worth a groat where there is none to admire and set a value on it, and our country seems the place in the world which is least furnished with virtuosi.’ (See Rand, Berkeley and Perceval, Cambridge 1914, p.57) [131; cont.]

W. B. Stanford (Ireland and the Classical Tradition, 1984) - cont. [Biography:] b. Co. Kilkenny 1685; ed. Kilkenny Grammar School; entered TCD at 15 in 1700; Fellow in 1707, Senior Lect. in Greek, and resigned Fellowship in 1724. His earliest studies were in mathematics; in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists (1713) he adopted Socratic dialogue-form, but his arguments are not Platonic and his allusions rarely classical. In Alciphron (1732), however, he quotes neo-Platonists Porphyry and Iamblichus, as well as Hesiod, Homer, Plutarch, Empedocles and others. Siris (1744) dealing with - besides tar-water - questions of Greek philosophy such as the nature of fire, ‘the ether’, the soul, and God, and citing a wide array of Greek philosophers, incl. Pythagoreans, Heraclitus, Anaximenes, Empedocles, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Plutarch, Iamblichus, and Dionysius the Areopagite, as well as Plotinus in his opening paragraph. Renaissance Platonists such as Ficino and Pico della Mirandola feature later. Stanford remarks, ‘it seems that now in his conception of reality he held less firmly to the sensory realm and was reaching out towards the Platonic and neo-Platonic view. [195] Berkeley cites Anaxagoras, Aristotle, and Plato in his scientific work, De Motu (1721). Also, George Berkeley, Siris (1744), ingeniously compares tar-water with the resinated wines of Greece. [189] A bibliography of the classical books in Berkeley’s library is to be found in R. I. Aaron, Mind Vol. 41 (1932), pp.465-75.

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Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam 1986): ‘A patriot is one who heartily wisheth the public prosperity, and doth not only wish, but also study and endeavour to promote it.’ (Maxims Concerning Patriotism, 1750; in Berkeley’s Works 1904, 4, 562.) Berkeley’s Querist, three parts, 1735, 1736, and 1737, edited by Madden and Prior; rev. ed., 1750; and also in Berkeley’s posthumous Miscellanea, 1752; includes 895 rhetorical questions (but 595 in 1750 ed.) in a ‘fugatic treatment’ [Leerssen’s phrase, 352] touching on a number of basic problems of the Irish economy Berkeley identifies not property but the circulation of property as the measure of wealth, anticipating … Adam Smith. [351-54] The post-1745 eds. of The Querist replaced ‘Papists’ with ‘Roman Catholics’. [ftn.] Absenteeism a ‘dirty word’ with Berkeley, Q. 104 [355]. Berkeley’s Letter to the Roman Catholics of the diocese of Cloyne (1745), an epitome of Ascendancy apprehensiveness. ‘… that you have been treated with truly Christian lenity under the present government; that you persons have been protected, and your properties secured by equal laws, and that you it would be highly imprudent as well as ungrateful to forfeit these advantages by making yourself the tools to the ambitions of foreign princes … [who] will not fail to abandon you, as they have always done.’ (Works, 1901, vol. 4. 433). [361]. Berkeley, A Word to the wise (1749), a conciliatory open letter to Catholic clergy. ‘Why, then, should we not conspire in one and the same design - to promote the common good of your country.’ [362] [Page refs. to Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986.]

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David Berman, ‘A Note on Berkeley and his Catholic Coutrymen’, Long Room, Nos. 16 & 17 (Spring-Autumn 1978), pp.26-36; quotes Berkeley’s unflattering commentary on the Irish in repeated references to ‘sloth’ Word to the Wise (viz, ‘innate hereditary sloth; ‘sin and folly of sloth’, ‘gentle spirit of sloth’, matchless sloth bred in every bone’, ‘beloved sloth’, shackles of sloth’, ‘odious sloth’, and ‘sweet dream of sloth’), and comments: ‘It is hardly surprising that some found this unacceptable, and that the Northern clergyman (mentioned in Reilly’s letter) wishes to rescue his countrymen from such obloquy. For if in Berkeley’s view “material well-being requires moral grit” - to use Professor Jessop’s striking formula - it is also worth insisting that moral grit requires a just social order.’ further notes that Charles O’Conor offers tributes to him in Seasonable Thoughts Relating to our Civil and Ecclesiastical Constitution (Dublin) and The Principles of the Roman Catholics (Dublin: P. Lord 1756), &c.

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Harry Bracken, ‘George Berkeley, the Irish Cartesian’, in Richard Kearney, ed., The Irish Mind: Exploring Intellectual Traditions (Dublin: Wolfhound 1985), pp.107-18: this essay departs from Berkeley’s ironic remark, in Philosophical Commentaries, that “We Irishmen cannot attain to these truths.” (Entry 392; see also Entries 393, 394, and 398.) A. A. Luce commented, ‘we need not read a political reference into the words. Berkeley certainly always regarded himself as an Irishman, and Newton was, to him, “a philosopher of a neighbouring nation” (Princ. 110, 1st edn.), but when he writes “we Irishmen” he simply means “we ordinary folk, shrewd judges of fact and common-sense …”’ [Phil. Comm., ed. A. A. Luce, London 1944, notes.]

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R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland: 1600-1972 (London: Allen Lane 1988), p. 170: ‘[…] The Querist, 1735-[3]7, posing many pertinent questions that never received satisfactory answers’; describes Maxims on Patriotism (1750) as ‘pithy’.

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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th Century, ed. Gerard O’Brien (Dublin: Geography Publications [1989]), pp.3 and 97: ‘Even George Berkeley, Protestant Bishop of Cloyne 1734-53, who was deeply interested in the social reform of the Irish peasantry, does not seem to have considered undertaking the task of winning them from Catholicism’ [3]. Wall quotes Berkeley’s A Word to the Wise, or the Bishop of Cloyne’s Exhortation to the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland (Dublin 1749), ‘You are known to have great influence on the minds of your people. Be so good as to use this influence for their benefit. Since other methods fail, try what you can do. Be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort … Raise your voices, reverend sirs, exert your influence, shew your authority over the multitude, by engaging them to the practice of an honest industry … Certainly if I may advise, you should in return for the lenity and indulgence of the government, endeavour to make yourselves useful to the public … See you are obnoxious to the laws, should you not in prudence try to reconcile yourselves to the favour of the public; and you cannot do this more effectually, than by co-operating with the public spirit of the legislature, and men in power’ (Berkeley, pp.1, 3, 13). [Wall, p. 97].

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Eileen Battersby, centenary article on Bishop Berkeley (The Irish Times, 14 Jan. 2003), writes: ‘It was Berkeley who, as the writer Oliver Goldsmith would record in the earliest biographical essay ( 1759), attempted a near death experience of a type we nowadays might associate more with rock stars than philosophers. / According to Goldsmith, Berkeley persuaded fellow student to hang him, in order for the philosopher to experience “what were the pains and symptoms … felt upon such an occasion”. It was intended, writes Goldsmith, that Berkeley’s friend, Goldsmith’s uncle, “would take him down at a signal agreed upon Berkeley was therefore tied up to the ceiling, and the chair taken from under his feet, but on losing the use his senses, his companion it seems waited a little too long for the sign agreed upon, and our enquirer had like to have been hanged in good earnest; for as soon as he was taken down he fell senseless and motionless upon the floor.” / As David Berman concludes in his wonderful and stylish guide, Berkeley: Experimental Philosophy (1997) […]: “In trying to experience the sensations immediately preceding death, Berkeley may have been testing to see whether he perceived totally new ideas, as he was emerging from the ‘sepulchre of the flesh’”. However extreme hanging himself seems to be, it is in keeping with Berkeley’s adventurous, idealistic personality. From his, earliest days he looked to personal expeience, investigating Duninore Cave - referred to in Old Irish literature as one of the darkest places in Ireland - in his native, Co, Killkenny when he was a boy.’

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John Purser, ‘Frisky Minds: Jack Yeats, Bishop Berkeley and a Soupçon of Beckett’, in The Only Art: Jack B. Yeats - Letters from his Father John Butler Yeats; Essays on Their Works, ed., Declan J. Foley (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2008) - remarks on Jack B. Yeats and Berkeley: ‘This sweeping dismissal of Europe, Asia and the bits of Ireland influenced from the East, suggests that Jack himself had a notion of an Irish way of thinking tht was his way of thinking … both men were Irish and were influenced by the way Irish people express their thoughts either in Irish Gaelic or in Irish English.’ / In Irish Gaelic, Cogito ergo sum - “I think therefore I am” - becomes Smaoíním mar is ann dom . […; 33] So to Berkeley. Esse est percipi: esse est percipere: “To be is to be perceived: to be is to perceive”. He claimed both. In Irish Gaelic these would be rendered as Bítear mar go n’airíteart - “It does be because it is perceived” - and Táthar mar airítear - “It is as it is perceived.” But there is an idiomatic phrase which comes closer still to Berkeley’s thought, Ní mar a síltear bítear, “Nor as it is thought to be, it does be.” / Perhaps it is no accident that Berkeley as an Irishman came up with something that fitted the Irish mind-set, in that existence is defined, not by an [ego], but by perception. And, of course, for Yeats, such a definition of existence gives to a painter a right of parenthood over his paintings, as objects living in the mind with the same status as scent, taste, colour, extension, weight, number and so on […]’ (ibid., pp.33-34.)

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Commentary Quotations
Quotations
‘We are indeed (to our shame be it spoken) more inclined to hate for those articles wherein we differ than to love one another for those wherein we agree.’ (“Word to the Wise” [Open letter addressed to the Catholic clergy, 1749] - and cf. Jonathan Swift: ‘We have just enough religion to make us hate, and not enough to make us love one another.’)
 
We Irish do not hold with this” - the sentence in Berkeley’s Commonplace Book so beloved of W. B. Yeats [see infra], is anticipated by Columbanus, who wrote in his Letters, we Irish [our itals.], inhabitants of the world’s edge, are disciples of Saints Peter and Paul and of all the disciples who wrote the sacred canon by the Holy Ghost, and we accept nothing outside the evangelical and apostolic teaching; none has been a heretic, none a Judaizer, none a schismatic [...]’. See under Columbanus, Quotations, supra. Note also the recurrence of “We Irishmen” in various parts of his writings as for instance ...

Philosophical Commentaries, generally called the Commonplace Book: ‘There are men who say there are insensible extensions, there are others who say the Wall is not white, the fire is not hot &c. We Irish men cannot attain to these truths. // The Mathematicians there are insensible lines, all angles / about these they harangue, these cut in a point, at these are divisible ad infinitum. We Irish men can conceive no such thing no such lines. // The Mathematicians talk of something wt they call a point, this they they say is not altogether nothing nor is it downright something, now we Irish men are apt to think something & nothing are next neighbours. […] // How could I venture thoughts into the world, before I knew the[y] would be of use to the world? and how could I know that till I had try’d how the[y] suited other men’s ideas. // I Publish not this so much for anything else as to know whether other men have the same Ideas as we Irishmen, this is my end and not to be inform’d as to my own Particular. // The Materialist & Nihilarians need not be of a party.’ (Anthologised in A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology, Dublin: IAP 2006, p.133.)

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A Proposal for the Better Supplying of Churches in our Foreign Plantations (1725): ‘In Europe the Protestant religion hath of late years considerably lost ground, and America seems the likeliest place, wherein to make up for what hath been lost in Europe, provided the proper methods are taken: Otherwise the Spanish missionaries in the Spanish missionaries in the South and the French in the North, are making such a progress as may one day spread the religion of Rome, and with the unusual hatred of Protestants thought all the savage nations in America; which would probably end in the utter extirpation of our colonies.’ (p.12; cited in Gerard McCoy, ‘“Patriots, Protestants and Papists”: Religion and the Ascendancy, 1714-60’, Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1994, p.109.)

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Alciphron (1732): At the beginning of the Fourth Dialogue, Alciphron, the sceptic, concedes that ‘some inconvenience may possibly follow from disproving a God; but as to what you say of fright and shocking, all that is nothing but mere prejudice.’ He goes on, ‘When half-a-dozen ingenious men are got together over a glass of wine, by a cheerful fire, in a room well lighted, we banish with ease all the spectres of fancy and education, and are very clear in our decisions. But, as I was taking a solitary walk before it was broad daylight in yonder grove, methought the point was not quite so clear; nor could I readily recollect the force of those arguments which used to appear so conclusive at other times. I had I know not what awe upon my mind, and seemed haunted by a sort of panic […]’ (Alciphron, in George Sampson, ed., Works of George Berkeley, Vol. II, London 1898, p. 279). Alciphron goes on to argue that it is ‘not the sound of speech but the arbitrary use of sensible signs which have no similarity or necessary connexion with the thing signified’ which gives evidence of an intelligent being. Crito then [answers] and further, ‘but I think it plain that this optic language hath a necessary connexion with knowledge, wisdom and goodness. It is equivalent to a constant creation, betokening an immediate act of power and Providence.’ Alciphron further remarks, ‘I was aware, indeed, of a certain metaphysical hypothesis of our seeing all things in God by the union of the human soul with the intelligible substance of the Deity, which neither I, nor any one else could make sense of. But I never imagined it could be pretended that we see God with out fleshly eyes as plainly as we see any human person whatsoever, and that He daily speaks to our senses in a manifest and clear dialect.’ Thus Alciphron, the sceptic, is brought to acknowledge a necessary connection between sense evidence and deity. (Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher, in George Sampson, ed., Works of George Berkeley, Vol. II, London, 1898 pp.284; 294-95, cited by Nicola Scott, TCD Dissertation.)

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The Querist (1735, &c.): ‘Whether a hankering after our woollen trade be not the true and only reason which hath created a jealousy in England towards Ireland: and whether anything can hurt us more than such jealousy?’; ‘Whether the upper part of this people are not truly English, by blood, language, religion, manners, inclination, and interest?’; ‘Whether we are not as much Englishmen as the children of old Romans, born in Britain, were still Romans?’; ‘Whether England doth not really love us and wish well to use, as bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh: and whether it be not our part to cultivate this love and affection all manner of ways?’ (The Querist, 1735, cited in Denis Donoghue, We Irish: Essays in Irish Literature and Society, California UP 1986, p.18; note that Donoghue concludes, ‘the only way he [Berkeley] had in view was that of being unfailingly biddable’.) Further, ‘Whether in imitation of the Jesuits at Paris, who admit Protestants to study in their colleges, may it not be right for us also to admit Roman Catholics to our college, without obliging them to attend chapel duties, or catechisms, or divinity lectures? And whether this might not keep money in the kingdom, and prevent the prejudices of a foreign education? (Querist, Works, p.120; cited in David Berman, ‘A Note on Berkeley and his Catholic Countrymen’, in Long Room, Nos. 16 & 17, Spring-Autumn 1978, pp.26-36.) [Note: a longer selection, formerly in Ricorso, has been mislaid.]

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America or The Muse’s Refuge: A Prophecy”: ‘The Muse disgusted at an age and clime, / Barren of every glorious theme, / In distant lands now waits a better time, / Producing subjectss worthy fame: // In happy climes, where from the genial sun / And virgin earth such scenes ensue, / The force of art by nature seems outdone, / And fancied beauties by the true: // In happy climes the scat of innocence, / Where nature guides and virtue rules, / Where men shall not impose for truth and sense, / The pedantry of courts and schools: // There shall be sung another golden age, / The rise of empire and of arts, / The good and great inspiring epic rage, / The wisest heads and noblest hearts. // Not such as Europe breeds in her decay; / Such as she bred when fresh and young, / When heav’nly flame did animate her clay, / By future poets shall be sung. // Westward the course of empire takes its way; / The four first acts already past, / A fifth shall close the drama with the day; / Time’s noblest offspring is the last.’ (Anthologised in A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology, Dublin: IAP 2006, pp.127-28.)

Local beauties: ‘The King of France may lay out another Versailles, but with all his revenue he could not lay out another Muckross.’ (Quoted in Muckross Abbey web page [link].)

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