Sarah Butler

CriticismNotes

Life
?-?1734; prob. mbr. Butler family of Kilkenny, Dukes of Ormond; author of Irish Tales, or Instructive Histories for The Happy Conduct of Life (London 1716), published with preface by Charles Gilden [recte Gildon], one of them being set in eleventh century Ireland during events culminating with Battle of Clontarf [see note on Doonflaith, infra]; strongly defends Ireland and her people, past and present, against foreing prejudice; Jacobite in implications. [No ODNB entry.] IF2 OCIL

[ top ]

Works
Irish Tales; Or, Instructive Histories for The Happy Conduct of Life. Containing the Following Events … X.
(London: Curll 1716), and Do. [new edn.] (London & Dublin 1935) [noticed in W. J. McCormack, ed., Maria Edgeworth, The Absentee, OUP Edn. 1988, p.xxvvi; p.21.]

Reprints, Sarah Butler, Irish Tales [1716], ed. Ian Campbell Ross, Aileen Douglas & Anne Markey (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2010), q.pp.

[ top ]

Criticism
See Patricia Coughlan & Tina O’Toole, eds., Irish Literature: Feminist Perspectives [IASIL Conf. 2004, Galway] (Dublin: Carysfort Press 2008).

[ top ]

Commentary
Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (John Benjamins Pub. Co., Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 1986), giving account of Mrs Sarah Butler’s Irish tales, or, instructive histories for the happy conduct of life (1716; rep. up to 1734; and posthumously, Lon/Dublin 1735), the first example of Anglo-Irish fiction, inspired by ‘those many Transactions which made up the Lives of two of the most potent Monarchs of the Milesian Race in that ancient Kingdom of Ireland’ [p. ix]; her acknowledged sources include Keating (‘in his manuscript’), O’Flaherty and Peter Walsh. A preface on “the Learning and Politeness of the Ancient Irish”, ‘although they may seem [so Rude and illiterate a People], in the Circumstances they lie under (having born the heavy yoke of Bondage for so many Years, and have [sic] been Cow’d down in their Spirits) yet that once Ireland was esteem’d one of the Principle Nations in Europe for Piety and Learning ...’ (p.[x-xi]). One of her tales is a love story set to the background of the Battle of Clontarf. [Leerssen, p.378]

[ top ]

References
Dictionary of National Biography
lists Charles Gildon [sic], author, advocate of Deism in edn. of works of Charles Blount (1654-1693); defended orthodoxy in Deist’s Manual (1705); attacked Pope as ‘Sawney Dapper’ and was included by him in The Dunciad; published Life and Adventures of Defoe; [also] five plays, and an edition with continuation of Langbaine’s Dramatic Poets. The ODNB entry reveals a man of ‘much literature and mean genius’, converted by Charles Leslie’s Short and Easy Method (1697); he attacked Pope’s Rape in print and was abused in the Dunciad (Bk. III, 1, 173) and also in Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1935), where there is a reference to his ‘venal quill’, a substitute for ‘meaner quill’ in the 1724 version; according to [John] Dunton he was dependent on the Whigs; his various works include a ‘Laws of Poetry laid down by ... Buckingham ... Roscommon, and Lansdowne explained (1921). There is no reference to Sarah Butler or her novel. [No entry DIW.]

[ top ]

Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985) refers to ‘collection of Irish tales with historical preface on the learning and politeness of the ancient Irish’.

[ top ]

Notes
Doonflaith: In Irish Tales (1716), Doonflaith, the daugher of Maelseachlin, King of Leinster, is in love with Murchoe, the son of Brian Boru while her father intends her for Turgesius, the Danish invader. ‘“What? Wed the tyrant! One whose wicked hands had ransacked our holy temples ... Ravished our huns ... fir'd our towns and cities ... Sir [to her father] take back this wretched life you once bestow’d me”, spake the angry Donflaith’. (Quoted in Catriona MacKernan, review of Patricia Coughlan & Tina O’Toole, eds., Irish Literature: Feminst Perspectives, in Books Ireland, Feb. 2009, p.14.)

[ top ]