Charlotte Brooke (?1740-1793)


Life
b. Rantavan, Co. Cavan; one of twenty-two children of Henry Brooke [1703?-1783], all of whom died in infancy, heard labourers reciting stories of Oisin and Cuchulain; her interest in Irish further nurtured by her father’s manuscript collection; contrib. some translations to Joseph Cooper Walker’s Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (1786); commenced her work on Irish translations, 1787; issued with Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789), inaugurating a tradition of Anglo-Irish verse based a real or imagined Gaelic past and reflecting the aesthetic and political ideals of Grattan’s Parliament;
 
Brooke adopted a bilingual epigraph, ‘A Oisín, as binn linn do sgéala - O, Oisín / We are charmed by your stories]’ from her materials and acknowledged help from Joseph Cooper Walker and Theophilus O’Flanagan in the preparation (p.ix); acc. her Preface, the anthology was compiled ‘in the hope of awakening a just and useful curiosity on the subject of our poetical compositions’, while the translations were intended as ‘sweet ambassadresses of cordial union’ between Irish and British ‘muses’ (ibid, p.cxxiv);
 
she also used Ferdinando Warner’s History of Ireland (1763) and Sylvester O’Halloran’s General History of Ireland (1778) in preparing the annotations; Reliques includes a translation of Carolan’s “Song for Gracey Nugent” and her own rendering of the story of “Laoghaire Lorc”, originally found in Geoffrey Keating [Foras ar Eirinn] but renamed “Maon” here; she also issued The School for Christians, in Dialogues, for the Use of Children (1791);
 
ed. The Poetical Works of H[enry] Brooke (1792); later contrib. “The Chase” [being a version of the Colloquy of the Ancients], to Bolg an tSolair, the Gaelic Magazine issued by the Northern Star (Belfast 1795); she applied for the post of housekeeper at the RIA but was refused, the appointment being given to a William Hayes, 1787; she nursed her father in his old age, and d. in poverty in a small cottage, nr. Longford, 29 March;
 
she is lamented as the ‘celebrated and accomplished Miss Charlotte Brooke’ in Anthologia Hibernica (April 1793); the epigraph of Mary Balfour’s Hope (1810) is taken from her Reliques, and her translations feature often in T. C. Croker’s Researches in the South of Ireland (1824); Douglas Hyde accredited her with the first use of the word ‘Fenian’ in English. RR ODNB JMC DIB DIW RAF FDA OCIL

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Works
  • Carolan’s Receipt” [pp.86-88], “Carolan’s Monody on the Death of Mary MacGuire”, [pp.94-95] and “Tiaghara Mhaighe-eo” [pp.103-06], in J. C. Walker, Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (London: Payne 1786);
  • Reliques of Irish Poetry, Consisting of Heroic Poems, Odes, Elegies and Songs, Translated into English Verse: With Notes Explanatory and Historical; and the Originals in the Irish Character: To which is Subjoined an Irish Tale (Dublin: George Bonham 1789) [see details];
  • The School for Christians, in Dialogues, for the Use of Children (Dublin: Bernard Doornin 1791), 71pp.;
  • ed., The Poetical Works of H[enry] Brooke (Dublin 1792);
  • Dialogue Between a Lady and Her Pupil, and Emma; or, the Foundling of the Wood ([Dublin] 1803).

Note: her letters to Bishop Thomas Percy are given in John Bowers Nichols, Literary History of the Eighteenth Century (The Author 1858), pp.247-48.

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Bibliographical details
Reliques of Irish Poetry, Consisting of Heroic Poems, Odes, Elegies and Songs, Translated into English Verse: With Notes Explanatory and Historical; and the Originals in the Irish Character: To which is Subjoined an Irish Tale (Dublin: George Bonham 1789), xxvi, 369pp. [large format], Do. [new edn.] incl. a memoir of her life and writings” by Aaron Crossley Hobart Seymour (Dublin: Christie 1816). Do. [facs. of 1816 Edn.]; R. N. Ashley, ed., Reliques of Irish Poetry and A Memoir of Miss Brooke by A. C. H. Seymour, with an introduction by Leonard R. N. Ashley (Florida: Gainsville: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints 1970), xv, xxvi, [1], 369pp., cxxviii. Contents incl. “The Lamentation of Cucullin, over the Body of his Son Conloch”; also Ossianic tales, “Magnus the Great”; “The Chase”; “Moira Borb” [the latter with annotations giving the regulations of the Fianna supplied by Ferdinando Warner], as well as songs and elegies, and the tale “Mäon” concerning the rise of Cobthach to the throne of Ireland through murder and his death at the hands of courageous title-character [found in Keating and Warner]; also the “Song for Gracey Nugent” [of Turlough Carolan], with a literal translation of the verses into English prose. Notes are abstracted from Warner, Sylvester O’Halloran, Richard Stanihurst, Giraldus Cambrensis, Spenser and Hanmer, et al. [var. sources.] A copy of Reliques is available in the first (and only) edition at Google Books - online; accessed 24.11.2011.

See also extracts in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed., Seamus Deane (1991), Vol. I [listed under References, infra].

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Criticism
Older commentaries
  • [q. author], Critical Review, LXX (July-Dec. 1790), pp.22-34;
  • [q. author], Monthly Review [2nd ser.] IV (Jan.-April 1791), pp.37-46;
  • [q. author], obituary, Anthologia Hibernica, Vol. I (April 1793), p.324;
  • Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: A Biographical Dictionary of the Worthies of Ireland, 2 vols. (London 1819-21), Vol. I, p.211;
  • Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (London: J. Murray 1824;
  • rep. IUP 1968), p.333;
  • [q. auth.], Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1 (1 Sept. 1832), pp.74-75 [see extract].
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Modern commentaries
  • Russell K. Alspach, ‘Charlotte Brooke: A Forerunner of the Celtic Renaissance’, in The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, [Univ. of Pennsylvania] XL (Jan. 1938) [2], pp.178-83;
  • Desmond Ryan, The Sword of Light (Dublin: Talbot 1939), pp.40-58;
  • Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 [1st edn. 1943] (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP 1959), pp.110-21;
  • R. A. Breathnach, ‘Two Eighteenth-Century Irish Scholars, Joseph Cooper Walker and Charlotte Brooke’, Studia Hibernica, 5 (1965), pp.88-97;
  • Frank O’Connor, The Backward Look (London: Macmillan 1967) [see extract];
  • Pádraig Ó Maidín, ‘Pages from an Irishman’s Diary: This Period Then’, in Éire-Ireland, 6, 1 (Spring 1971), pp.27-34 [see extract];
  • Ann de Valera, ‘Antiquarian and Historical Investigations [… &c.]’ (National University of Ireland Thesis, 1978), pp.246, 250-52;
  • Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 1, p.170 [see extract];
  • A. C. Partridge, Language & Society in Anglo-Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1984) [see extract]
  • Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam: Benjamin Blom 1986), p.422-33 [see extract];
  • Seamus Ó Mordha, ‘Charlotte Brooke: Her Background and Achievement’, in Briefne: Journal of Cumann Seanchais Bhreifne, VI, 24 (1986), pp.320-89;
  • Robert Welch, ‘Walker and Brooke’, in A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988) [Chap. 3], pp.28-43;
  • Robert Welch, ‘Walker and Brooke’, A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smyth 1988) [Chap. 3], pp.28-43 [see extract];
  • R. E. Ward and C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (Washington: Cath. Univ. of America Press 1988), pp. 455-57 [see extract];
  • Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture in Eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish Literature’, in Irish Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Kenneally (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.5-24 [see extract];
  • Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), pp.98-102 [see extract];
  • Monica Nevin, ‘Charlotte Brooke’, in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland, 129 (1999), pp.105-27.

See also Charles Dillon & Ríona Ní Fhrighil, eds., Aistríu Éireann, foreword by Michael Cronin [Belfast Studies in Language, Culture & Politics] (Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona/QUB 2008), xii, 145pp.

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Commentary

Dublin Penny Journal
T. Crofton Croker
Frank O’Connor
Pádraig Ó Maidín
Patrick Rafroidi
Robert O’Driscoll
A. C. Partridge
Joseph Leerssen
Robert Welch
R. E. Ward & C. Ward
Andrew Carpenter
Michael Cronin

Dublin Penny Journal [q.auth.] , Vol. 1 (1 Sept. 1832), pp.74-75: ‘There are very few writers, male or female, to whom we think Ireland owes a greater debt of gratitude than to Miss Charlotte Brooke, a lady whose patriotism led her to translate some of our most beautiful poetical remains, and whose talent enabled her to do them ample justice.’ (Quoted in Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798, Pennsylvania UP 1959, pp.110-21.)

Thomas Crofton Croker, Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland [2nd Edn.] (London: John Murray 1834), contains a reference to Brooke to be found in the note at the end of the section on Merrows: ‘[...] The poem Moira Barb (to be found in Miss Brooke’s Relics [sic] of Irish Poetry) celebrates the valour of the Finian heroes in the cause of a lady, who introduces herself in pretty nearly the words of the Merrow, in the foregoing story. “Ar me inghean rig ro thunn [Gl. font]” I am the daughter of the king under the waves.’ (“The Lady of Gollerus”; Croker, op. cit., p.17.) Note that Croker earlier remarks: ‘The romantic historians of Ireland describe the Suire, or sea-nymphs, as playing round the ships of the Milesians when on their passage to that island’, but goes on to say: ‘The cohuleen druith [fairy cap of merrows] bears some resemblance to the feather dresses of the ladies, in the oriental tales of Jahanshah, and Hassan of Bassora. There is something [18] also of the same nature in a modern German tale.’ (Ibid., pp.18-19.)

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Frank O’Connor, The Backward Look (London: Macmillan 1967): ‘In the following [i.e., 18th] century Keating himself was being translated into the language of the Conqueror, and Charlotte Brooke was trying to render Irish poetry into English verse. Indeed, there is practically no time in our history when some equivalent of a jesuit quarterly might not have asked sadly: “Is our past so unique that we must always be gazing back loving on it?”’ (p.6.) Following remarks on ‘the Macpherson mystery’: ‘Naturally the Irish did not wish to be left behind: In 1789 Charlotte Brooke of County Cavan published her Reliques of Ancient Irish Poetry [sic, for Irish Poetry], and lest anyone might accuse her of forgery she published her originals as well. Some were genuine Ossianic ballads that were still popular in my youth, some were well-known folk-songs, one was a genuine Renaissance love poem by a professional poet; but her principal showpiece - a poem on Cú Chulainn’s killing of his son, which Yeats would later choose as subject for a play - is certainly an eighteenth-century forgery in the manner of Macpherson’s originals. / Miss Brooke’s translations are about as bad as they could be, but historically they are of great importance, because they represent the beginning of a new cultural nationalism to replace that which was lost in the Cromwellian invasions. By this time literature in the Irish language had been effectively destroyed. The last of the important poets wrote The Midnight Court about the year 1790.’ (p.130.) [Cont.]

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Frank O’Connor (The Backward Look, 1967) - cont. [following remarks on Brian Merriman]: ‘Charlotte Brooke’s was to be more enduring. The classical civilisation of the Renaissance was breaking up all over Europes, and people were taking more interest in older cultures it had obscured. Side by side with Goethe’s works you will find translations “from the Irish” as well as “from the Serbian”. The Anglo-Irish were not a highly literate people, but even they [130] began to look with some curiosity at the old ruins on their estates, and landowners who could not read or write Irish employed drunken schoolmasters to copy what were supposed to be venerable Irish manuscripts to grace their libraries. These went well with the mock machiolation on their homes. / It was to be a long haul, but Miss Brooke had opened a way that Ferguson, Mangan and Yeats would follow. Certain names had been uttered that would not remain forgotten … Conor, Cu Chulainn, Emain Machae [sic], Deirdre, Tara, Finn. We can see Thomas Moore trying them out in “By the red cloud that hung over Conor’s dark dwelling / When Usna’s three champions lay sleeping in gore …” […] / Ireland had begun to look backward again!’ (pp.130-31.)

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Pádraig Ó Maidín, ‘Pages from an Irishman’s Diary: This Period Then’, in Éire-Ireland, 6, 1 (Spring 1971), pp.27-34: quotes E. W. Lynam’s remarks that Reliques of Irish Poetry on the ‘enfranchisement of the Irish language from the ban [under] which it had so long rested upon it’, continuing: ‘It was the first purely literary work containing printing in the Irish character which was ever published in Dublin. It was the outcome of the growing fashionable interest in history, archaeology, and far-off lands and peoples, and was no doubt suggested by Macpherson’s Ossian, but all credit must be given to Miss Brooke for contributing to arouse a new and scholarly interest in Irish literature which has continued in spite of many obstacles to the present day’ (Lynam, ‘The Irish Character in Print, 1591-1923’, in Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, IV: iv; Ó Maidín, p.28). Ó Maidín remarks on his own account: ‘without wishing to take one comma of credit from Charlotte Brooke, it is no harm to remind ourselves that she was one of a band of Anglo-Irish writers and editors at the time who produced works on the Irish language, edited Irish texts, historical manuscripts, and investigated the country’s antiquities with a kind of dilettante interest which was an instinctive effort to protect the pride of the Anglo-Irish colony in Ireland against the gibes of the English. We have the word of Charlotte’s father, Henry Brooke, that the English made fun of the Anglo-Irish, calling them the “wild Irish” and naming all who were not skilled in the English language a Teague or a Paddy. The Anglo-Irish colony had become prosperous, and since the danger from the ancient natives of the country had been lessened first by Cromwell and then by William of Orange, they had begun to seek roots for themselves. They were intensely proud of their racial links with Britain and of their share in the English cultural heritage, but the English would not accept them as English. Gradually the Anglo-Irish [28] had been forced. because of British discrimination against their exports, to seek political independence, not on any cultural argument but simply on political and economic grounds. As they found Britain more and more unyielding on reform of parliament they began to turn their attention to the Irish language. The Northern Star (Belfast) in 1796 declared that the language “would be of value not only to students but to all who desired the union and improvement of this much neglected and much divided kingdom.” In the previous year the Northern Star had published the first number of Bolg an tSolair, containing 120 pages, the first magazine in Irish. What seems odd about it all is that neither Charlotte Brooke nor her fellow Anglo-Irish writers turned to the masses of Irish-speaking persons around them at the time. They seem not to have been aware of the existence of those “miserable hordes of destitute peasants”’. (pp.28-29.)

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 1, writes: ‘In “Mäon, an Irish Tale”, Charlotte Brooke inaugurated the poetry which is not translated from but inspired by Irish antiquity’. (p.170.)

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Robert O’Driscoll, Ascendancy of the Heart: Ferguson and the Beginning of Modern Irish Literature (Toronto 1976), pp.57-58: ‘Charlotte Brooke and the [James] Hardiman translators imposed on their Irish originals the metrical patterns and conventional language of the English poetry of their time […] despite their realisation of the need to preserve the spirit of the poems they were translating, and the repeated assertion of their attempts to do so, they cloaked the simple, homely thoughts of the originals in an effete, balanced eighteenth-century language, and fitted the alien metrical patterns of the Irish to tight and inflexible English metres. […] The failure of Charlotte Brooke and the Hardiman translators was partly a matter of technique, partly a matter of knowledge. The customs, manners of society, and techniques of poetry that lay behind the Irish originals were unknown to an English civilisation.’ (Quoted in Mary Helen Thuente, W. B.Yeats and Irish Folklore, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1980, p.17.)

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A. C. Partridge, Language & Society in Anglo-Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1984), [q.p.], writes that ‘18th century readers were fond of universal principals [and an] all-pervading neo-classical diction [but] such a rational style was probably least well-adapted to the spirit of Celtic heroic or lyrical poetry’; remarks that ‘Gray’s experimental Pindaric ode, “The Bard”, sounds hollow after the opening stanza.’ Further: ‘A large proportion of the poems in the Reliques [are] written in ballad measure … full command of this deceptively facile stanza form only came in Charlotte’s final romantic tale “Maon” […] Each poem is preceded by an “advertisement” which is in reality an explanation of its content and stylistic difficulties, or a reference to the source of the text and the antiquarian detail.’ [Cont.]

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A. C. Partridge, Language & Society in Anglo-Irish Literature, 1984) - cont: Miss Brooke ‘borrowed freely from the researchers in the Royal Irish Academy such as O’Connor [sic for Charles O’Conor], O’Halloran, Vallancey, and J. C. Walker whose Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards is constantly called upon.’ Further, ‘Perhaps Miss Brooke’s deepest qualities are displayed not in the poetry but in the prose [introduction]: “Now I see matters in quite another point of view - I see, to demonstration, that one must be in a manner ‘absent to the body’ in order to be ‘present to the Lord.’ - I see the vital necessity of renouncing self altogether - of losing all that Adam found, in order to find what he lost.”’ [Memoir, pp.87-89] Partridge remarks that she here echoes II Cor. 5: 8 - viz., ‘willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord’.

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Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam: Benjamin Blom 1986), p.422-33, remarks: Charlotte Brooke was encouraged to learn Irish by her father; she was of a retiring disposition; J. C. Walker induced her to furnish his Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards of 1785 with some Gaelic poems and translations - credited to an anonymous ‘fair hand’ […]; Walker and Percy prevailed upon her to publish her collection of translations from the Irish; followed by a speedy second edition [… &c.]. Leerssen quotes: ‘I trust I am doing an acceptable service to my country’ […, &c.], with earlier remarks on O’Conor, O’Halloran, and Vallancey remarking that her ‘comparatively feeble hands aspire only (like the ladies of ancient Rome) to strew flowers in the paths of these laureled champions of my country’ (Brooke, Historical Memoirs, Pref., p.iii); note that the book has an Irish motto [epigraph], ‘A Oisín, as binn linn do sgéala - O Oisín, we are charmed by your stories’. Leerssen remarks that, in the wake of the Macpherson controversy, ‘it is pointedly respectable to include Gaelic originals thereby putting their genuineness beyond all doubt’ [Leerssen, pp.422-23]. Bibl.: Leerssen cites an edition of Reliques of Irish Poetry, Consisting of Heroic Poems, Odes, Elegies, and Songs, translated in English Verse, published in Dublin 1789, and a second published in 1795 [sic]. Further remarks that the Gaelic Magazine Bolg an tSolair (1795), published in Belfast by the Northern Star, was revivalist in purpose as ‘recommend[ing] the Irish language to the notice of Irishmen’; it contains Ossianic poems with translations by Charlotte Brooke and a learner’s grammar [Leerssen, pp.424-25]. Leerssen traces the Patriot sentiments attached to the ancient Irish in 18th century Anglo-Irish drama to Charlotte Brooke’s translations in Reliques [Leerssen, p.433]. Note that Charles Henry Wilson published a collection of Select Irish Poems Translated into English (1782) - now lost - which anticipated her Reliques [Leerssen, q.p.]

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Robert Welch, ‘Walker and Brooke’ [Chapter 3], A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smyth 1988), pp.28-43; quotes J. C. Walker’s veiled reference to Charlotte Brooke in his Historical Memoirs (1786): ‘A young lady, on whose veracity I have the firmest reliance, informed me, that her father had a labourer, who was in possession of two volumes of Irish manuscript poems, which, in her infancy, she often heard him read to a rustic audience in her father’s fields … The bold imagery, and marvellous air, of these poems, so captivated her youthful fancy, that they remained for some years strongly impressed on her memory. When Mr Macpherson’s Ossian’s Poems were put in her hands, she was surprised to find in them her favourite Irish tales, decked with meretricious ornaments; and her blustering heroes, Fin, Con, Cuchullin, &c., so polished in their manners. In the poem of Carthon, with the original of which she had been particularly delighted, she thinks Mr Macpherson has kept very close to the original; but she can only discover faint traces of the other tales here and there in his Epic Poems. What a pity those precious volumes are irrecoverably lost! - at least to this kingdom. Since the literary curiosity of my fair informant was awakened, she has made several vain enquiries for them. Perhaps they were picked up by some Scotch Gleaner of Irish poems - for such persons have been seen in this kingdom’ (Walker, Historical Memoirs, pp.57-58.) Brooke contributed three translations to Historical Memoirs (Welch, p.31.) Quotes Walker: ‘with the modesty ever attendant on true merit, and with the sweet timidity natural to her sex, she shrinks from the public eye’ (Walker, Historical Memoirs, p.320; Welch, p.32.) Her translations included Carolan’s “Monody”, “Tiagharna Mhaighe-oo”, and a ‘paraphrastical’ version of “Carolan”s Receipt” (Welch, p.34). Note that the version of “Gracey Nugent” included here is by ‘an ingenious friend’ other than herself (Welch, p.33.) [Cont.]

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Robert Welch (‘Walker and Brooke’ in A History of Verse Translation, 1988) - cont.: quotes from Aaron Seymour’s biographical notice in 2nd edn. of Reliques (1816), especially regarding her education in Irish antiquarianism and J. C. Walker’s friendship & admiration (Welch, p.35; no ref. for Seymour). Quotes Preface: ‘I do not profess to give a merely literal translation of my originals … Beside the spirit which they breathe, and which lifts the imagination far above the tameness, let me say, the injustice, of such a task, - there are many complex words that could not be translated literally, without great injury to the original’ (Op. cit., p.cxxxi.) Further: ‘One compound epithet must often be translated by two lines of English verse, and, on such occasions, much of the beauty is necessarily lost, the force and effect of the thought being weakened by too slow an introduction into the mind; just as that light which dazzles, when flashing swiftly on the eye, will be gazed at with indifference, if let in by degrees’ (Op. cit., p.cxxxii.) She admits being ‘conscious of having, in many instances, failed in my attempts to do all the justice I wish to my originals, yet still, some of their beauties are, I hope, preserved …’ (Brooke in Walker, p.cxxxii). In her commentaries to individual poems, she says in one place that ‘the variety in the subject required a variety in the measure’ (op. cit., p.35), and in another speaks of her translation as ‘diffus[ing]’ the original quatrain over twelve lines (op. cit., p.30?). On Ó Géarnáin’s “Elegy”, she writes: ‘In the Irish, it is one of the most beautiful compositions I have ever seen, it is of all my originals, the one I most wished to give in its expressions, as well as in its thoughts, to the English reader; but in this, notwithstanding all my efforts, I am conscious that I have failed.’ (Brooke, Op. cit., p.45?). Welch refers to the probably spurious account of her inspiration in learning Irish given in Desmond Ryan, The Sword of Light (1939) and concludes: ‘The question of originals was a vexed one with Macpherson; Charlotte Brooke, however, allowed no room for ambiguity. She printed her originals at the end of the collection and whatever departures in spirit of which her versions may be guilty, they do stay recognisably close to the general content of the Irish. In doing this she put Anglo-Irish poetry in contact with what later proved to be mainspring of its power-Gaelic verse.’ (p. 43.).

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R. E. Ward & C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (Washington: Cath. Univ. of America Press 1988), pp. 455-57; O’Conor comments on Reliques, &c., ‘I request you will present my respects, I should say warm affection, to the lady [Charlotte Brooke] who paraphrased Carolan’s “Monody” on his beloved Mary. She has improved on her original greatly; she caught and adorned the poor blind man’s feelings; and indeed she impressed myself with feeling which I had not before on the subject. Again I repeat the request that you will present her with my affection, nay with my commands that she will not omit cultivating the talent that nature endowed her with most bountifully.’ (Letter to J. C. Walker, 14 Oct. 1785, p.455). Further: ‘She is a poetess by hereditary right, and the [457] daughter of my late worthy friend, the author of Gustava Vasa. With the feelings of a man reminded of his speedy dissolution, I derive satisfaction from calling to mind the several happy evenings I spent in the company of Mr Brooke and other gentlemen of virtue as well as learning, who admitted me to their society … Her ode on Carolan’s Stafford is elegant, but too paraphrastical. I would therefore wish that Stafford came out in your own version.’ (Letter to J. C. Walker, 20 Nov. 1785; pp.456-57.)

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Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture in Eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish Literature’, in Michael Kenneally, ed., Irish Literature and Culture (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.5-24: ‘Her influence not just on writers such as Tom Moore but also on attitudes towards Irish song and literature in general, is hard to underestimate [sic, for overestimate]. Her Reliques of Irish Poetry (1798) challenged the prejudiced view that anything Irish was despicable; she obtained nearly three hundred to her volume including one earl, four viscounts, assorted lords and ladies, counts and countesses, baronets and foreign nobility, one cardinal, one protestant archbishop, four protestant bishops, one lord chief justice, one lord chief baron, one solicitor general, one general, nearly twenty members of the Royal Irish Academy and sundry MPs as well as many ordinary gentry. Such a phalanx of Anglo-Irish respectability had never before been assembled in support of Irish culture.’ (p.21.)

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Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), pp.98-99. Quotes Brooke’s Preface in Reliques of Irish Poetry (Dublin: George Bonoham 1789): ‘My comparatively feeble hands aspire only (like the ladies of ancient Rome) to strew flowers in the paths of these laureled champions of my country’ (Brooke, p.iii); ‘now, with extreme diffidence, presenting, for the first time, her literary face to the world’ (Brooke, p.viii.) Further: ‘Let them [Britain and Ireland] come - but will they answer to a voice like mine? Will they rather not depute some favoured pen, to chide me back to [Cronin, p.100] the shade where I have been allured, and where, perhaps, I ought to have remained in respect to the memory and superior genius of a father - it avails not so say how dear! - But my feeble efforts presume not to emulate, - and they cannot injure his fame.’ (Brooke, p.viii). ‘As yet, we are too little known to our noble neighbour of Britain; were we better acquainted, we should be better friends. The British muse is not yet informed that she has an elder sister in this isle; let us introduce them to each other! Together let them walk abroad from their bowers, sweet ambassadresses of cordial union.’ (Brooke, p.vii.) Cronin remarks that Brooke’s patriotism is not separatist and that the events of the 1798 Rebellion ‘showed, however, that the utopia of reconciliation was remote’, endorsing Robert Welch’s view that the Act of Union was ‘hardly the cordial union Charlotte Brooke had in mind.’ (Welch, A History of Verse Translation [… &c.] 1988, p.5; Cronin, p.100); Cronin further comments: ‘Justifying the Irish poetry of earlier periods, Brooke claims that many of the poems breathe “the true spirit of poetry” but they are also of interest to the “Historian and Antiquary” as “so many faithful delineations of the manners and ideas of the periods in which they were composed”. Brooke’s motives are interesting in that they call into question facile distinctions between literary and non-literary translation in translation history. For the translator, the evidence of the poetry is not only literary but scientific, and indeed she describes her work as helping to prove Ireland’s claim to “scientific, as well as to military fame” (Brooke, p.v.; Cronin, p.101). Further: ‘Though Welch, for example, describes Brooke’s Reliques as one of the “fundamental ‘growth-points’ for Anglo-Irish literature”, it would be wrong to consider her translations as an exclusively literary enterprise. In many ways, her work is a continuation of the translation activity of the Dublin Gaelic scholars in the first half of the eighteenth century, with its antiquarian concern for historical evidence. The concerns that motivate the translations are not purely aesthetic and, like Hugh Mac Curtin, Brooke is anxious to “vindicate, in part, its [Ireland’s] history” (Brooke, Reliques, p.v.) Thus, though Brooke consciously seeks poetic effects in her verse translations, she does not see literature in reductive isolation from the mind-set and society which produced it. To this extent, then, good translation is not only a matter of aesthetic felicity but one of historical integrity (in intention if not always in result).’ (Cronin, p.101.)

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Quotations

Reliques of Ancient Irish Poetry (1789)

Preface
Reliques of Irish Poetry
(1789), Preface: ‘With a view to throw some light on the antiquities of this country, to vindicate, in part, its history, and prove its claim to scientific as well as to military fame, I have been induced to undertake the following work. Besides the four different species of composition which it contains (the Heroic Poem, the Ode, the Elegy, and the Song) others yet remain unattempted by translation:- the Romance, in particular, which unites the fire of Homer with the enchanting wildness of Ariosto. But the limits of my present plan have necessarily excluded many beautiful productions of genius, as little more can be done, within the compass of a single volume, than merely to give a few specimens, in the hope of awakening a just and useful curiosity, on the subject of our poetical compositions. […] I do not profess to give merely a literal version of my originals, for that I should have found an impossible undertaking […] there are many complex words that could not be translated literally […] It is really astonishing of what various and comprehensive powers this neglected language is possessed. In the pathetic it breathes the most beautiful and affecting simplicity; and in the bolder species of composition, it is distinguished by a force of expression, a sublime dignity, and rapid energy, which it is scarcely possible for any translation fully to convey; as it sometimes fills the mind with ideas altogether new, and which, perhaps, no modern language is entirely prepared to express.’ (Reliques, Dublin 1789, pp.v-vi, quoted R. K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798, Oxford U.P, 1959, p.112; also quoted in Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures, Cork UP 1996, p.101; and [in part], in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture’, in Irish Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Kenneally, Gerrards Cross, Colin Smythe, 1992, p.9.) [Cont.]

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Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789), Preface - cont. [immed.]: ‘But, though I am conscious of having, in many instances, failed to do all the justice I wished to my originals, yet still, some of their beauties are, I hope, preserved; I trust I am doing an acceptable service to my country, while I endeavour to rescue from oblivion a few of the invaluable reliques of her ancient genius; and while I put it in the power of the power to form some idea of them, by clothing the thoughts of our Irish muse in a language with which they are familiar, at the same time that I give the orginals, as vouchers for the fidelity of my translation, as far as two idioms so widely different would allow. / However deficient in the powers requisite to so important a task, I may yet be permitted to point of some of the good consequences which might result from it, if it were but performed to my wishes, The productions of our Irish Bards exhibit a glow of cultivated genius - a spirit of elevated heroism, - sentiments of pure honor, - and instance of disinterested patriotism - and manners of a degree of refinement, totally astonishing, at a period when the rest of Europe was sunk in barbarism, And is not all this very honourable to our countrymen? Will they not be benefited, will they not be gratified at the lustre reflected on them by ancestors so very different from what modern prejudice has been studious to represent them? But this is not all. -’ [Cont.]

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Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789), Preface - cont. [immed.]: ‘As yet, we are too little known to our noble neighbour in Britain; were we better acquainted, we should be better friends. The British Muse is not yet informed that she has an elder sister in this isle; let us then introduce them to each other! together let them walk abroad from their bowers, sweet ambassadresses of cordial union between two countries that seem formed by nature to be joined by every bond of interest, and of amity. Let them entreat of Britain to cultivate a nearer acquaintance with her neighbouring isle. Let them concilate for us her esteem, and her affection will follow of course. Let them tell her, that the portion of her blood which flows in our veins is rather ennobled than disgraced by the mingling tides that descended from our heroic ancestors. Let them come - but will they answer to a voice like mine? Will they not rather depute to some favoured pen, to chide me back to the shade [from] whence I have been allured, and where, perhaps, I ought to have remained, in respect to the memory, and superior genius of a Father - it avails not so say how dear! - But my feeble efforts presume not to emulate, - and they cannot injure fame.’ (Reliques, Dublin 1789, p.vii-viii; quoted [in part] in R. K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798, Oxford U.P, 1959, p.113; also quoted [in part] in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture in Eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish Literature’, in Irish Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Kenneally, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1992, p.22.)

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Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789), Preface - cont. [immed.]: ‘To guard against criticism I am no way prepared, nor do I suppose I shall escape it; nay, indeed, I do not wish to escape the pen of the candid critic: And I would willingly believe that an individual capable of no offence, and pretending to no eminence, cannot possibly meet with any severity of criticism, but what the mistakes, or the deficiencies of this performance, may be justly deemed to merit; and what, indeed, could scarcely be avoided by one unskilled in composition, and now, with extreme diffidence, presenting, for the first time, her literary face to the world.’ Note that The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature, 1991 giving the passage without omissions, begins at: ‘It is really astonishing ...’ and ends at ‘... literary face to the world ...’. [Vol. 1, p.980-81; their final ellipsis.]

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Translations
The Lamentation of Cucullin, over the Body of his son Conloch”: ‘Lo, the sad remnant of my slaughter’d race, / Like some lone trunk, I wither in my place! / - No more the sons of Usnoth to my sight / Give manly charms, and to my soul delight! / No more my Conloch shall I hope to see; / Nor son, nor kinsman now survives for me! / O my lost son! - my precious child, adieu! / No more these eyes that lovely form shall view! / No more his dark-red spear shall Ainle wield! / No more shall Naoise thunder o’er the field! / No more shall Ardan sweep the hostile plains! / - Lost are they all, and nought but woe remains! / - Now, chearless earth, adieu thy every care: / Adieu to all, but Horror and Despair!’ (Reliques of Irish Poetry, 1787, p.30-31; quoted in R. K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798, Oxford U.P, 1959, p.115.)

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Gallia’s Debt (The bard Craftine in “Maon” looks for French assistance): ‘Gallia’s grateful debt is paid; / See, she gives her generous aid! / Her warriors round their hero press; / they rush, his wrongs, his country to redress.’ (Reliques … &c., p.350; quoted in Norman Vance, ‘Irish Literary Traditions and the Act of Union’, Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays, ed. Cyril J. Byrne & Margaret Harry, Halifax: Nimbus Publ. Co. 1986, p.35; note that Vance reads the verses in the context of a ‘legendary Irish grievance’.)

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Song / For Gracey Nugent / By Carolan” (Brooke’s prose version): ‘I say to the Maid of youthful mildness, that her voice and her converse are sweeter than the songs of the birds! There is no delight or charm that imagination can conceive but what is found ever attendant on Gracey […]’ (Reliques, 1789, note, p.249; quoted in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture’, in Irish Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Kenneally, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1992, p.23.) In a footnote Brooke informs the reader that “For Gracey Nugent” was written of the sister of the late John Nugent, Esq., of Castle-Nugent, then living with her own sister nr. Belanagar [sic without ‘e’], Co. Roscommon, all on the strength of J. C. Walker’s “Life of Carolan” appended to Historical Memoir of Irish Bards (1986). See full version, attached.

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Light of song: ‘I care not for thee, senseless clerk! / Nor all thy psalming throng / Whose stupid souls, unwisely dark, / Reject the light of song.’ (Reliques, 1789, p.37). Note that ‘clerk’ means priest.

Sword-hand (ret.): ‘Now old, - the streams of life congeal’d / Bereft of all my joys! / No sword this withered hand can wield, / No spear my arm employs’. (Quoted in Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature, 1989, p.100-01.)

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Annotations
Notes to Reliques [ … &c.] (1789): ‘How beautifully pathetic is the close of this poem! Surely every reader of sensibility must sympathise with the situation so melancholy, and so feelingly described!’ (p.65 [note]; quoted in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture’, in Irish Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Kenneally, Gerrards Cross, Colin Smythe, 1992, p.23.)

Notes to Reliques [ … &c.] (1789): ‘Such tender refinement could not surely have existed amongst a nation of barbarians.’ (Brooke, op. cit., note, p.99; quoted in Carpenter, op. cit.); ‘It is impossible that the utmost stretch of human imagination and genius could start an image of greater sublimity than this!’ (Brooke, op. cit., 1789, note, p.154; quoted in Carpenter, op. cit.)

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Notes to Reliques [ … &c.] (1789): ‘It is scarcely possible that any language can be more adapted to Lyric poetry than the Irish. The poetry of many of our Songs is indeed alread Musick, without the aid of a tune; so great is the smoothness, and harmony of its cadences. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider the advantage the Irish has, in this particular, beyond every other language, of flowing off [sic], in vowels, upon the ear. [Quotation inserted.] Here, out of fifty-four letters, but twenty-two are pronounced as consonant (the rest being rendered quiescent by their aspirates) whereas, in English, and I believe in most other languages, the Italian excepted, at least two-thirds of the peotry as well as prose, is necessiarily composed of consonants: the Irish being singular in the happy art of cutting off, by aspirates, every sound that could injure the melody of its cadence; at the same time that it preseves its radicals, and, of course, secures etymology.’ (Reliques, p.229-30; q. source.)

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Sundry topics
Daddy, Daddy
: ‘I am indeed incapable of any other love - my heart was intended for that alone, and nature has not nor ever will have room for any other one. I see none on earth who resemble him, and therefore heaven alone can rival him in my breast.’ Further, ‘I have ever lived for my father, and I shall not now divide my little rivulet from the parent stream. Oh, may we ever be divided! May we roll together to that sea “from whence we never have return!” In life, my soul is his; in death I trust I shall join him!’ (Quoted in Seymour, “Memoir”, in Reliques of Irish Poetry [2nd edn.], 1816, p.lxii; quoted in Pauline Holland, doc. diss., UU 2004.)

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References
Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), gives “Ode on his Ship”, from the Irish of Maurice Fitzgerald.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, selects extract from ‘Preface’ to Reliques (1789), and “Gracey Nugent by Carolan” [pp.980-81]. Biographical and bibliographical notices at p.1,008.

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A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology (Dublin/Oregon: Irish Academic Press 2006), select “Song for Gracey Nugent” [298]. Note that the text is reproduced with Brooke’s extensive footnote, here given as No. 1, and only ftn. on this page). Brooke’s footnote contains ‘a literal translation of the [Carolan’s Song to shew that the thoughts have suffered very little, either of encrease or diminution from the poetry’, following it with this: ‘The reader will easily perceive that in this literal translation, I have not sought for elegance of expression, my only object being to put it in his power to judge how closely my version has adhered to my original.’ (Brooke, Reliques of Ancient Irish Poetry, 1789, q.p.; here p.298).

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COPAC lists works of Charlotte Brooke: Bolg an tSolair; or, Gaelic Magazine, containing Laoi na Sealga: or, the famous Fenian poem, called The Chase with a collection of choice Irish Songs, translated by Miss Brooke. To which is prefixed, an abridgement of Irish Grammar [by Patrick Lynch], etc., No. 1 ( Belfast: Northern Star Office 1795), 120pp.; Bolg an Tsolair: a reprint of the Gaelic magazine of the United Irishmen: containing poems, songs, dialogues in Irish and English and an Irish grammar / by Patrick Lynch, Charlotte Brooke and others ; with a profile of Patrick Lynch and Charlotte Brooke by Brendan Clifford & Pat Muldowney , 2 vols. in 1 (Belfast: Atholl Books 1999), 248pp., incl. bibl. & index; The Poetical Works [including the plays in verse and prose] of Henry Brooke, Esq…. Revised and corrected by the original manuscript; with a portrait of the author, and his life. By Miss Brooke., 3 vols. [3rd Edn.] ( Dublin: For the editor 1792), 12o; Proposals for printing by subscription Reliques of Irish Poetry: consisting of heroic tales, odes, elegies, and songs, translated into English verse, with notes explanatory and historical, etc. (Dublin: printed by William Sleater, 1788), 8o; Reliques of Irish poetry: consisting of heroic poems, odes, elegies, and songs / translated into English verse: with notes explanatory and historical; and the originals in the Irish character ; to which is subjoined, an Irish tale, by Miss Brooke Maon ([Dublin]: George Bonham 1789), xxvi, 369pp.; Reliques of Irish poetry: consisting of heroic poems, odes, elegies, and songs translated into English verse: with notes explanatory and historical; and the originals in the Irish character. To which is subjoined an Irish tale [Maon] by Miss Brooke. To which is prefixed, a memoir of her life and writings, by Aaron Crossley Seymour, Esq . (Dublin: J. Christie 1816), iii-cxxxvi, [8], 464pp., 8o; Reliques of Irish Poetry / [collected and translated] by Charlotte Brooke. and A memoir of Miss Brooke by Aaron Crossley Hobart Seymour [1816]; facsimile reproductions with an introduction by Leonard R. N. Ashley (Florida: Gainsville: Scholars Facsimiles & Reprints 1970), xv, xxvi, [1], 369, cxxviiipp.; The School for Christians, in dialogues, for the use of children. ( Dublin: Bernard Dornin 1791), [4], 71, [1]pp., 12o.; Specimens of the early native poetry of Ireland, in English metrical translations / by Miss Brooke, Dr. Drummond, Samuel Ferguson … [et. al] ; with historical and biographical notices by Henry R. Montgomery (Dublin: James McGlashan; London: W. S. Orr & Co. 1846 ), [1], [iii]-viii, 223, [1]pp.

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Notes
J. C. Walker: Note similarity between Brooke’s phrase, ‘I trust I am doing an acceptable service to my country.’ (Reliques, Introduction, p.vii-viii [as supra]), and Joseph Cooper Walker’s, ‘I trust I am offering to my countrymen an acceptable present.’ (Historical Memoirs, 1786, p.v.).

Walter Scott, in Edinburgh Review (July 1805), [q.p.] reviewed Report of the Highland Society of Scotland [on Macpherson’s Ossianic poems and Laing’s edition of Ossian, published 1805] and suggested that a new collection be made on the plan of Charlotte Brooke’s Reliques. (Cited in Celtica, No.6, 1967, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland [catalogue of an exhibition of manuscripts and printed books of Celtic interest … acquired by the Library in the last 300 years], 56pp.)

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Oscar Wilde: Thomas Wright conjectures that Wilde may have been familiar with the account of the death of Oscar to be found in Charlotte Brooke’s Reliques of Ancient Irish Poetry, a copy of which is included in the catalogue of his father William Wilde’s Library (Dublin 1897) - though the more immediate inspiration for his unusual name was Samuel Ferguson’s Cromlech on Howth (1841). (See Wright, Oscar's Books: A Journey around the Library of Oscar Wilde [2008] London: Vintage Books 2009, p.329 [Notes].

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Finn & the Fenians (I): Charlotte Brooke makes reference to ‘Cailleach Birrn’s House’, or ‘the Old Lady’s House’, in which Finn McCumhal was said to be buried, in Slieve Gullion. (Reliques, p.70; cited in Michael Dames, Mythic Ireland, London, Thames and Hudson, 1992.)

Finn & the Fenians (II): Douglas Hyde asserted that Charlotte Brooke was the first writer to use the term ‘Fenian’ in English, citing the following context: ‘he cursed in rage the Fenian chief / And all the finean race’. (Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1899, p.364; cited in Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry, 1959, p.120, noting the more accurate version, ‘… with rage … Finian … Finian’.)

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Finn & the Fenians (III): J. J. MacKillop, ‘Myth of Finn MacCool in English Literature […] James MacPherson, Flann O’Brien, James Joyce, and Others’ ([PhD Diss.] Syracuse Univ., 1975, pp.28-29: ‘The worst aspect of the term is that it is a solecism garbled out of féinne, the genitive of fianna. And even at that, the institution of the fianna was not uniquely Finn’s. The numerous fianna, or private militia mentioned in chronicle and romance have led many scholars to believe that the legendary body has an historical correlative. “Fenian”, therfore, does not incorporate an allusion to Finn at all, and is thus a double impropriety. The origin of this neologism has been given by Russell K. Alspach who traces the word to the charlatan scholar, Col. Charles Vallancey, who first used it before 1804.’ (Quoted in Grace Eckley, Children’s Lore in Finnegans Wake, Syracuse UP 1985, p.36.)

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Henry Montgomery, Early Native Poetry (Dublin: 1846), is the subject of a notice in Irish Book Lover (March 1910), which remarks on a new edition ‘largely augmented’ and published by Hodges & Figgis in 1892: ‘He was evidently deeply affected by the Young Ireland movement. The preface is dated from Belfast and the editor describes himself as a member of the Dublin University Philosophical Society. The volume contains an excellent selection of translations from the Irish highly favouring the Northern poets, Charlotte Brooke and Samuel Ferguson. The biographical notes are concise and instructive.’

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