William Carleton: Commentary

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‘There is not in the empire a periodical that would not be honoured by having the name of Carleton among its contributors. It will be said that he has wronged and misrepresented the people of Ireland, their religion and their clergy; we acknowledge the fact, and we lament it - not more deeply, however, than does Mr. Carleton himself.’ (Q. auth.; quoted in Kiely, Poor Scholar: A Study of [....] William Carleton, 1798-1869, 1947; 1972 edn., p.91.)

Seamus Heaney, Station Island (voice of Carleton:) ‘I who learned to read in the reek of flax / and smelled hanged bodies rotting on their gibbets / and saw their booped slime gleaming from the sacks - / hard-mouthed Ribbonmen and Orange bigots / made me into the old fork-tongued turncoat / who mucked the byre of their politics.’ (Quoted in Patricia Craig, ‘History and Its Retrieval in Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry: Paulin, Montague and Others’, in Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Elmer Andrews, London: Macmillan 1996, p.115.)

Thomas Davis
D. J. O’Donoghue
W. B. Yeats
Maurice Francis Egan
John Butler Yeats
A. P. Graves
G. C. Duggan
Shane Leslie
John Montague
Thomas Flanagan
Flann O’Brien
Patrick Kavanagh
Benedict Kiely
Anthony Cronin
John Cronin
Maurice Harmon
Robert Tracy
Patrick Rafroidi
Seamus Heaney
James Cahalan
Dáithí Ó hÓgáin
Barbara Hayley
Barry Sloan
Seamus MacAnnaidh
W. B. Stanford
Maureen Waters
Tim Webb
David Krause
Terry Eagleton
Loeber & Loeber
Margaret O’Brien
J. W. Foster
W. J. McCormack
R. F. Foster
Caitríona MacKernon
Margaret Kelleher

See John Cronin, William Carleton, The Black Prophet’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel: The Nineteenth Century [Vol. I] (Belfast: Appletree Press 1980), pp.83-98 - as attached.

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Tomás Ó Riordán, notice on William Carleton in CELT Multitext Project in Irish History (NUI Cork)

[...] After reading La Sage’s romantic Gil Blas, Carleton was fired with an enthusiasm to travel and see the world. He did not get far. He failed to get a teaching post at Clongowes Wood College, went to Dublin, and became a Protestant. It seems that this had little to do with religion: he wanted respectability and security in life. He held a few more temporary jobs as a teacher and then became a clerk in the Church of Ireland Sunday School Society. He later applied to join the army, addressing his application to the colonel in Latin. Around 1822 he married Jane Anderson, the daughter of a Protestant schoolmaster.
 Through the Association for Discountenancing Vice, Carleton got teaching posts in Mullingar and Carlow. He soon returned to Dublin. He had been writing short stories and essays since his secondary school days. He drew on his knowledge of Irish life to write sketches for the Christian Examiner, an evangelical and anti-Catholic paper published by Rev. Caesar Otway, who encouraged him to write. Here his first article was entitled ‘A Pilgrimage to Saint Patrick’s Purgatory’, based on his own youthful pilgrimage to Lough Derg. This was the start of a long and successful career as a novelist. His Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830–33) won him a great reputation. He became friendly with the poet and scholar Samuel Ferguson and became well known in Dublin’s literary world. He was an important contributor to the Dublin University Magazine, an important cultural journal, launched in 1833 by Isaac Butt, Caesar Otway, Samuel Ferguson and others. In 1837–8 it published his novel Fardorougha, the Miser as a serial. This is a tale of the Irish passion for land.
  Carleton offered to help Robert Peel to combat Emancipation and Catholicism in Ireland and to prove that O’Connell, the Catholic Association, and the priests were involved in agrarian crime. He denounced the Irishman, that ‘creature of agitation’, as ‘a poor, skulking dupe’ who was at once ‘insolent and arrogant’. However, in 1843 he decided to write for the Nation and for the Irish Tribune , papers dedicated to the cause of Irish independence. He got to know Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy and others in their circle. He knew most of the men who led the disastrous Young Ireland rising of 1848 and regarded them as ‘insane politicians’. He never supported Young Ireland’s nationalism. Carleton’s concept of nationality was broad and avoided the traditional associations of race and creed. He cherished what was unique or valuable in Irish life, and records with wonderful fidelity the English speech of the country people of his day. [...]

—Available online; accessed 18.11.2010.

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Dublin University Magazine - “Our Portrait Gallery” (17 Jan. 1841, pp.66-72): ‘Whatever be his faults or merits, he is alone. Of all who have written on the fruitful theme of Irish life and manners, there is none with whom we can compare him. He has copied no one, and no one rivals him; his style and his subject are alike his own. Irish, intensely Irish indeed his stories are, but utterly unlike any thing that ever before them had been given to the public under the name of Irish stories. There is none, we repeat, with whom he can be compared: he stands alone as the portrayer of the manners and customs of our people - as the man who has unlocked the secrets of the Irish heart, and described the Irish character, without caricature or exaggeration, by that mighty power of genius which portrays reality while it frames its own creations - and produces those wonderful conceptions, which are at once truth and fiction.’ (p.66; quoted in Barbara Hayley, Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1983, p.389.)

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Thomas Davis, ‘William Carleton is a peasant’s son [and] no other peasantry have had their tale told so well.’ (Davis, 1845; quoted in Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists, NY Columbia UP 1958, p.263).

Thomas Davis on Carleton: ‘Born and bred among the people - full of their animal vehemence skilled in their sports - as credulous and headstrong in boyhood, and as fitful and varied in manhood, as the wildest - he had felt with them and must ever sympathise with them. Endowed with the highest dramatic genius, he has represented their love and generosity, their wrath and negligence, their crimes and virtues, as a hearty peasant - not a notetaking critic.’ (Thomas Davis, Gill & Son, 1945, p.111; cited in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature (London: Pluto Press 1998, p.71.)

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Patrick Joseph Murray, ‘Traits of the Irish Peasantry’ [review] in Edinburgh Review, (Oct. 1852):

‘The young peasant genius was, in the very commencement of his career as author, patronised by some of the most unbending enemies of Catholic emancipation and the most noted leaders in the angry warfare of the day: and several of his early tales copied but too faithfully the language and spirit of his new political associates. all his writings, for several years back, are, we believe, entirely, or almost entirely, free from this taint.
[...]
‘He at times breaks in upon the narrative with a little lecture on the relations of landlord and tenant, the importance of education, the duty of forethought and economy, and the like. We do not mean to insinuate that these topics are not of the first importance, or that his strictures are not just and valuable; but they are out of place. ... The first rule is - stick to your story; whatever you add that is not a part of it, though ever so valuable in itself, will be an incumbrance, as a man’s movements are embarrassed by a weight on the back, though it were a weight of gold. One of the merits of Mr Carleton’s best tales is, that they convey their own lessons, and require no gloss. When he epitomises himself into a lecture, it is like the exquisite singing of a beautiful song followed by a drawling recitation of the words.
[...]
‘Why will Me Carleton persist in spoiling his stories - to say nothing of the needless offence given to a large portion of his readers - by dissertations on topics which any fourth-rate newspaper correspondent would handle much better than he has done, leaving that field in which he stands without an equal among the living or the dead? We write in sorrow, not in anger. He is himself a true Squander of Castle Squander, neglecting the fine gifts with which nature has endowed him, and feeding on garbage and offal.’

 

(Quoted in John Cronin, William Carleton: The Black Prophet’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel: The Nineteenth Century [Vol. I] (Belfast: Appletree Press 1980, p.89.) Note that Murray was the biographer of Gerald Griffin.

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D. J. O’Donoghue, in Sir Walter Scott’s Tour of Ireland in 1825, Now First Fully Described (Dublin: O’Donoghue & Gill 1905), documents the circumstance of Scott’s hearing the stories of the Irish outlaw Redmond O’Hanlon, and seeking material for a novel about him, but finding the information available too scanty; also William Carleton’s later attempt to make the legendary Rapparee a character in a novel: ‘Carleton did eventually write a novel, called Count Redmond O’Hanlon, the Irish Rapparee, but it does not really treat of the historical personage of that name, the hero being a creature of his own imagination.’ (pp.10-11). O’Donoghue Gives further details of the background of Carleton’s novel - including the chapbook on the topic by J. Cosgrave called “The Lives and Actions of the Most Notorious Irish Highwayman &c.” are given in Benedict Kiely, Poor Scholar, p.178. (See James Cahalan, 1983, infra.)

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W. B. Yeats, “Irish National Literature” (Bookman, July 1893): ‘[...] only Carleton, born and bred a peasant, was able to give us a vast multitude of grotesque, pathetic, humorous persons, misers, pig-drivers, drunkards, schoolmasters, labourers, priests, madmen, and to fill them all with abounding vitality. He was but half articulate, half emerged from Mother earth, like one of Milton’s lions, but his wild Celtic melancholy gives to whole pages of Fardorougha and of The Black Prophet an almost spiritual grandeur. The forms of life he described, like those described with so ebullient a merriment by his contemporary Lever, passed away with the great famine, but the substance which filled those forms is the substance of Irish life, and will flow into new forms which will resemble them as one wave of the sea resembles another. In future times men will recognise that he was at his best a true historian, the peasant Chaucer of a new tradition, and that at his worst he fell into melodrama, more from imperfect criticism than imperfect inspiration. In his time only a little of Irish history, Irish folklore, Irish poetry had been got into the English tongue; he had to dig the marble for his statue out of the mountain side with his own hands, and the statue shows not seldom the clumsy chiselling of the quarryman.’ (Rep. in John Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, Vol. I, p.364; quoted in R. F. Foster, ‘Square-built Power and Fiery Shorthand: Yeats, Carleton and the Irish Nineteenth Century’, in The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland, Penguin 2001, pp.113-26; p.120.)

W. B. Yeats, “William Carleton”, in Stories from Carleton (1889), rep. as Appendix to Mary Helen Thuente, ed., Representative Irish Tales [1891] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), pp.369-64: ‘[...] William Carleton was a great Irish historian. The history of a nation is not in parliaments and battle-fields, but in what the people say to each other on fair-days and high days, and in how they farm, and quarrel, and go on pilgrimage. These things has Carleton recorded. / He is the great novelist of Ireland, by right of the most Celtic eyes that ever gazed from under the brows of story-teller. His equals in gloomy and tragic power, Michael and John Banim, had nothing of his Celtic humour. One man alone stands near him there - Charles Kickham, of Tipperary. The scene of the pigdriving peelers in “For the Old Land”, is almost equal to the best of the Traits and Stories. But, then, he had not Carleton’s intensity. Between him and the life he told of lay years in prison, a long Fenian agitation, and partial blindness. On all things flowed a faint idealising haze. His very humour was full of wistfulness. / There is no wistfulness in the works of Carleton. I find there, especially in his longer novels, a kind of clay-cold melancholy. [364; see note, infra.] One is not surprised to hear, great humorist though he was, that his conversation was more mournful than humorous. He seems, like the animals in Milton, half emerged only form the earth and brooding. When I read any portion of The Black Prophet, of the scenes with Raymond the Madman in Valentine M’Clutchy, I seem to be looking out at the wild, torn storm-clouds that lie in heaps at sundown along the western seas of Ireland; all nature, and not merely man’s nature, seems to pour out for me its inbred fatalism.’ (Stories from Carleton, 1880; rep. edn. NY Lemma, 1973, p.xvi-ii, xvii [end]; quoted in Thuente, op. cit., pp.363-64 [Appendix], and also [in part] in Thuente, ibid., Foreword, p.1f.; also in Benedict Kiely, Poor Scholar, 1947; 1972 Edn., p.5; John Cronin, The Anglo-Irish Novel (Belfast: Appletree Press 1980, ‘The Black Prophet’ [chap.], p.89 [see note, infra]; [in part] in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, Vol. 1, 1980 [q.p.], and in R. F. Foster, The Irish Story, 2001, p.119 [Chap. 7; on Yeats and Carleton].)

Benedict Kiely paraphrases Yeats: ‘Carleton had done Ireland, and the people of Ireland for ever, the great service of recording these things. He was “the greatest novelist of Ireland by right of the most Celtic eyes that every gazed from under the brown of a story-teller.” The poet, somewhere between the Celtic twilight and the Indian twilight and the twilight of the nineteenth century, found in Carleton’s longer novels “a clay-cold melancholy” that made their author kin with the animals in Milton’s puritan Paradise “half-emerged only from the earth and its brooding.”’ (Poor Scholar, 1942; rep. 1972, p.5.)

John Cronin adds: ‘Half a dozen years later, in a review of The Life of William Carleton [ed. O’Donoghue] which Yeats contributed to The Bookman in March 1896, he is rather more severe, more critically detached: “The author of The Traits and Stories was not an artist, as those must need be who labour with spiritual essences, but he was what only a few men have ever been or can ever be, the creator of a new imaginative world, the demiurge of a new tradition.” Later again, in 1904, Yeats wrote in John Quinn’s copy of his Stories from Carleton what seems, in the light of his earlier commendations, an almost coldly dismissive comment: “I thought no end of Carleton in those days and would still I dare say if I had not forgotten him.” Thus, it would seem that, as Yeats plunged ever deeper into the Celtic past, he inevitably abandoned Carleton for Cuchulain [...]’ (Cronin, The Anglo-Irish Novel, Belfast: Appletree Press 1980, p.89.)

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W. B. Yeats, Introduction, Stories from Carleton (1889): ‘On his return [from Lough Derg] he gave up all idea of the priesthood, and changed his religious opinions a good deal. He began slowly drifting into Protestantism. This Lough Derg pilgrimage seems to have set him thinking on many matters - not thinking deeply perhaps. It was not an age of deep thinking. The air was full of mere debaters’ notions. In the course of time, however, he grew into one of the most deeply religious minds of his day - a profound mystical nature, with melancholy at its roots. And his heart, anyway, soon returned to the religion of his fathers; and in him the Established Church proselytisers found their most fierce satirist.’ (Quoted in Benedict Kiely, Poor Scholar, 1974 Edn., p.79; see the original as “William Carleton”, being an Appendix to Mary Helen Thuente, ed., W. B. Yeats: Representative Irish Tales [1891; facs. rep.], Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979, pp.359-64, p.361.) [The inclusion of Yeats’s introduction to his Stories from Carleton

W. B. Yeats, ed., Representative Irish Tales (1891) - Introduction: ‘Besides Miss Edgeworth’s well-finished four-square house of the intelligence[,] Carleton raised his rough clay “rath” of humour and passion. Miss Edgeworth has outdone writers like Lover and Lever because of her fine judgement, her serene culture, her well-balanced mind. Carleton, on the other hand, living a half-blind, groping sort of life, drinking and borrowing, has, I believe, outdone not only them but her by the sheer force of his powerful nature. It was not for nothing that his ancestors had dug the ground. His great body [...] was full of violent emotions and brooding melancholy.’ ([Representative Irish Tales], London [1891], p.xi; quoted in Peter van de Kamp, ‘Desmond Egan: Universal Provincialist’, in The Crows Behind the Plough: History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Poetry and Drama, ed. Geert Lernout (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1991, p.149; also in R. F. Foster, The Irish Story, Penguin 2001, p.117; cf. Representative Irish Tales, facs. rep. edn. with a foreword by Mary Helen Thuente, Colin Smythe: Gerrards Cross 1979, p.28, continuing as seq. [and note that this is attributed to Stories from Carleton in one of the above sources.]

W. B. Yeats: ‘Carleton soon tired of controversy, and wrote his famous “Traits and Stories”. Peasant though he was, he could not wholly escape the convention of his time. There was as yet no national cultivated public, and he was forced to write for a class who wished to laugh a great deal, and who did not mind weeping a [28] little, provided he allowed them always to keep thelr sense of superiority. In the more early tales, peasant life is used mainly as material for the easier kinds of mirth and pathos. He put himself sometimes in the position of his readers and looked at the life of the people from without. The true peasant had been admitted into the drawing-room of the big house and asked to tell a story, but the lights and the strange faces bewildered him, and he could not quite talk as he would by his own fireside. He at first exaggerated, in deference to his audience, the fighting, and the dancing, and the merriment, and made the life of his class seem more exuberant and buoyant than it was. What did these ladies and gentlemen, he thought, with their foreign tastes, care for the tragic life of the fields?’ (Representative Irish Tales, 1891; facs. rep. with foreword by Mary Helen Thuente, Colin Smythe: Gerrards Cross 1979, p.28; see further in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index or as attached.)

W. B. Yeats: ‘The great things about Carleton was that he always remained a peasant, hating and loving with his class. On one point he was ever consistent, was always a peasant moralist; that is the land question.’ (Review of The Red-Haired Man’s Wife, Scots Observer, 19 Oct. 1889; Frayne, 1970, p.145.)

W. B. Yeats (on Val McClutchy): ‘Carleton was a man of genius, but the habit of dividing men into sheep and goats for the purposes of partisan politics made havoc of what might have been a great novel.’ (United Ireland, 23.Dec. 1893). See Yeats’s comments on Carleton are in a letter to Fr. Matthew Russell: ‘I am try to make all the stories illustrations of some phase of Irish life. meaning the collection to be a kind of social history’ (Wade, ed., Letters, 1954, p.143.) Also, Yeats, ‘Carleton as an Irish Historian’, 3 Jan. 1890; rep. Uncollected Prose, Vol. I, 1970, p.168; ‘William Carleton’, March 1896, Uncollected Prose, p.396. (All the foregoing cited in Mary Helen Thuente, ed., Yeats, Representative Irish Tales, Gerrards Cross, 1979, pp.20-21 [ftns.].)

W. B. Yeats, ‘The true peasant was at last speaking, stammering, illogically, bitterly, but none the less with the dark and mournful accents of the people.’ (Quoted in John Montague, ‘William Carleton, The Fiery Gift’, rep. from The Bell, in The Figure in the Cave, 1989, p.79).

See also Maurice Egan’s introductory notice on William Carleton in Irish Literature (Washington 1904), given in extract infra.

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Maurice Francis Egan, ‘On Irish Novels’, in Catholic University Bulletin, 10, 3 (1904), pp.329-41: ‘The greatest of all the Irish novelists is without doubt William Carleton. Prejudices have passed - they were founded on principles, but let them go. Carleton has his vagaries; but when one reads his stories, one can not help saying, with Ophelia, “God have mercy on his soul, and on all Christian souls!” To read when one is young, Carleton’s series of novels, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry is to go into a strange land of bright sunshine and deep shadow, where there are great sorrows and great joys but very little happiness. One feels that one is looking at this new life in the grasp of a giant, and a giant who is strong and coarse and sometimes mean. Youth is intolerant. Carleton, with his glaring faults, is not the writer for youth. When a man has reached middle age, he may turn to these works of a genius who never took pains, for instruction and delight. Let us allow for all the faults of construction, the vulgarity that prejudices all readers of “Paddy Go Easy” against Carleton, the occasional humble apologies to the English lords and gentleman - and you find one of the most moving writers that ever dipped a pen in his experience and wrote in English’. [Cont.]

Maurice Francis Egan (‘On Irish Novels’, 1904) - cont.: ‘To read “A Poor Scholar” well is to become a better man. When Carleton lets his peasants speak for themselves, they are perfect. when he speaks for them himself, he is at times what the French call banal, when he becomes one of them and speaks and acts with them, you see into their hearts and souls, you know their country as they know it. Then he is the master of the pathetic, of the terrible, of the simple, of the fair hope, of the dark sorrow because he understands and forgetting himself in the depths of his understanding, be fires you with sympathy. For truth and horror, read “The Lianhan Shee”; for humour and grief “The Geography of An Irish Oath”; for simple faith - to feel all pure impulses stir within you - “The Poor Scholar”. This Gaelic is Gaelic is incorrect, we have been told - so incorrect that the philologers can not put it right. When Ophelia calls for her coach and Queen Gertrude weeps, who cares when coaches were used or invented? And so with Carleton’s Gaelic; - verbal infelicities are forgotten in a scene like that in “The Poor Scholar” where the father and mother look at the sleeping boy, who they hope will be a priest [quotes extensively].’ [Cont.]

Maurice Francis Egan (‘On Irish Novels’, 1904) - cont.: ‘Carleton stands alone. He is ruthLess at times; he revels in horrors, as in “the Black Prophet” where the descriptions of the famine are as heart-rending as the plague scenes in Manzoni; or, The yellow fever episode in Charles Brockden Brown. Mr. D. J. O’Donoghue, in his admirable sketch of Carleton, says that Kickham is the only Irish novelist who approaches Carleton’s “power over the emotion”. “Outburst[s and] occasional misrepresentations, Mr. O’Donoghue says, returning to Carleton, “cannot however, obliterate his great service to Ireland, and, in the main, there is no picture so true as that presented in his “Traits and Stories”. A careful study of the Irish novelists - I except novelists like Julia Kavanaugh [sic], the author of Nathalie Adèle and J. Sheridan Le Fanu, who did not write about Ireland, - is necessary for the understanding of the history of Ireland in the last hundred years; and the material is plentiful and easy of access.’ [Also printed prefatorily in Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature, 1904, Vol. VI, as ‘Irish Novels’.) [For full text version, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Irish Literature, ed. Maurice Egan (Washington 1904)
 
A composite biography of Carleton
 

A biography of William Carleton is supplied in the 10-volume American anthology simply entitled Irish Literature (Washington 1904), which was edited by Maurice Egan of the Catholic University of America. This appears as an introduction to the section on Carleton in Vol. II, pp.469-546.

  Professor Egan [q.v.] recruited many of the leading writers of the Irish literature revival including Douglas Hyde and W. B. Yeats to write the introductions to each volume - though their essays are chiefly reprints, with or without adaptation, of pieces which they published on earlier occasions.

 Egan’s biographical introduction begins by quoting substantially from W. B. Yeats’s notice on Carleton prefaced to the stories which Yeats selected in Representative Irish Tales (1891). Some of the same material had already appeared with similar phrasing - recalled from memory rather than transcribed, it seems - in his Stories from Carleton (1889) [see note, infra.]

 In writing his introduction, Yeats had only Carleton’s “General Introduction” to the 1843 definitive edition of the Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry to go by. In framing the remainder of the biographical notice for the Washington anthology, Egan could draw on D. J. O’Donoghue’s Life of Carleton (1896). (Yeats reviewed the Life of Carleton for the London Bookman in March 1896.)

 O’Donoghue’s first volume ends in 1828 when Carleton goes to Dublin and meets with Caesar Otway, and this division also marks Egan’s redaction of the biographical record. In fact, Egan omits five paragraphs or so from the latter part of Yeats’s account - those following Carleton's discovery of Gil Blas and his subsequent departure from ‘his native village, this time not to return.’

The precise boundary between Yeats’s and O’Donoghue’s narratives in Egan’s retelling of the life of Carleton are marked by the sentence: ‘Thus far the story of his life is told by Mr. W. B. Yeats, in his Representative Irish Tales’ and all the paragraphs actually taken from Yeats’s version are properly marked by double inverted commas. For full text, see attached.

 

See “William Carleton / 1798-1869” in Representative Irish Tales [1891; rep.] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), pp.117-19, and the introduction to Stories from Carleton (1880) - rep. as “William Carleton” in ibid., pp.359-64. See also Egan’s closely contemporary article ‘On Irish Novels’, in Catholic University Bulletin, 10, 3 (1904), pp.329-41 [infra].

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John Butler Yeats, letter of Jack Yeats (5 Sept. 1918): ‘Our own Carleton was perhaps as York Powell always maintained a greater genius than Scott, with more intensity, but unfortunately poor Carleton was a peasant born despised and Irish as he despised himself, and so did us harm not good. He was often a drunkard, and had spent two years in prison for the crime of rape. The man was full of affection and devotion, not always “down and out”. Lady Wilde told Willie that if one chanced to meet him one gave him a sovereign, as one gives a shilling to a ragged beggar. Stopford Brooke says truly of Scott that though he often writes in a cold formal way there is always some single word that reveals the genius.’ (Printed in in The Only Art: Jack B. Yeats - Letters from his Father John Butler Yeats; Essays on Their Works, ed. & intro. by Declan J. Foley, Dublin: Lilliput Press 2008, p.133.)

A. P. Graves, Irish Literary Studies (1913): Tennyson, according to T. Hallam, corrected his Irish from Carleton’s Traits &c, a proof of the poet’s extraordinary laboriousness, and a crying comment on the want of an Anglo-Irish or Hiberno-English dialect dictionary. [...] deeply sensible to the tragic side of Irish peasant life [...] an interesting assertion of his belief in the artistic value of Irish dialect in verse, Irish Doric, as he once wrote of it to me.’ [Cf., Irish Doric in remarks quoted by Barbara Hayley - infra.]

G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (Dublin: Talbot 1937), quotes William Carleton, in the introduction to the 1860 collection of his works, where he writes that from Shakespeare’s time ‘neither play nor farce has ever been presented to an Englishman in which, when an Irishman is introduced, he is not drawn as a broad grotesque blunderer [...]. I do not remember an instance in which he acts upon the stage any other part than that of the buffoon of the piece.’ It is this “sweeping generalisation” which Duggan hopes that his study will have corrected (p.294).

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Shane Leslie, The Irish Tangle for English Readers (1946): ‘In the Ireland before the Famine one genius only equalled O’Connell’s: like him in weakness and strength, lavish of language, hysterical of emotion and more Irish than the Irish: William Carleton, novelist. He was a product of the barony of Trough [sic] where he was educated. Gay and gruesome he describes the lost Irish peasantry before they were quenched by the great hunger. All the burlesque and beauty of the old Irish life survives in his pages. In some ways he was greater than Walter Scott, who never suffered and lived with the folk whom he described. Alone they can be compared with each other: the Scottish laird and the Irish peasant.’ (p.106; also quoted in Benedict Kiely, Foreword to The Autobiography of William Carleton, Belfast: Whiterow Press 1996, p.2.) Note that Leslie’s forebears are cited in the Autobiography as being owners of the estate at Glaslough in which vicinity Carleton was at one time schooled.)

Shane Leslie: ‘[He] caught his types before Ireland made the greatest plunge in her history and the famine had cleaned her to the bone. For the hardiest of the race rose up and went away into the West, of which their story-tellers had been telling them for a thousand years ... pursuing the ghost of Brendan’s mast.’ (Preface to Rose Shaw, Carleton’s Country, Talbot Press 1930, q.p.; quoted [in part] in Benedict Kiely, Poor Scholar, 1947, p.6.)

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John Montague, ‘[William Carleton] alone in this period because he was the first Irish writer to discover the ordinary people of Ireland. To open the Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry is to discover a world as vigorous as that of Dickens.’ (‘Tribute to William Carleton’, The Bell, 1952, p.13.)

John Montague, ‘William Carleton, The Fiery Gift’, rep. from The Bell, in The Figure in the Cave (1989), [Carleton was] ‘the first [Irish writer] who, having lived as a boy in the cabins and pretended to work in the fields, later turned to them for his subjects [and who] almost single-handed [...] effected a literary discover of the Irish people [...]; the first real picture in English of that dark and gesturing world of the “Hidden Ireland” which, until Carleton’s coming, had only found halting expression in the novels of Maria Edgeworth and the Banim Brothers.’ (p.79.) Further: ‘Carleton, like Dickens, saw people with an intensity that approached caricature, a kind of fierce creative joy which cannot be explained merely as memory.’ (ibid. 84.)

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Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (Columbia UP 1958): ‘[Carleton] cut his cloth to suit his odd assortment of employers and had a chameleon ability to believe for the moment what he wrote.’ (p.257.) Further: ‘Before his career was run he had written for every shade of Irish opinion - stern Evangelical tracts for Caesar Otway; denunciations of the landlords for Thomas Davis; patronising sketches for The Dublin University Magazine; unctuous Catholic piety for James Duffy; a few sketches for Richard Pigott, the sinister mock-Fenian who was to forge the famous Parnell correspondence. By the eighteen forties he was the most celebrated of Irish writers; ten years later he was written-out, a hack whose pen was for hire in Dublin’s ugly literary wars. He had but one subject, the days of his youth and the world in which he had lived then. This is the subject which haunted him and drove his pen; to this subject he was faithful, and to nothing else.’ (Q.p.; quoted in Maurice Harmon, General Introduction to Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, Cork: Mercier 1973, p.xvii.)

Thomas Flanagan (The Irish Novelists, 1958): [On the ‘two voices’ of the narrator in “Lough Derg Pilgrim”] ‘One is a fair imitation of Caesar Oway, which is to say it is not a human voice. The other voice, unexpected and spontaneous, is that of a man remembering his magical, preposterous youth, when the pleasure of life was asserted not by allegorical lakes, but by the randy folk whom one met along the road, like Nell M’Collum, the tinker’s widow, who lent Carleton a cloak and then picked his pocket.’ (Q.p.; quoted in Harmon, ibid., p.xxii.) Further: ‘[...] in spiritual matters Carleton was a bewildering nondescript - not least bewildering to himself.’ (Introduction, p.4.)

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Benedict Kiely, The Poor Scholar (1947; rep. edn. 1972): ‘According to himself he knew nothing about dogmatic religion when he was a nineteen-year-old pilgrim. On all the evidence that his own writings provide he knew nothing about dogmatic religion at any period of his existence. But defying all the obvious affiliations of the heart, trying hard to ignore the bitter fact that he had first written Protestant propaganda because it paid him, he could always drop half-hints about the reality of his own conversion. The Irish Catholics did not or would not believe that any person “could by the force of reason and judgement, see a single error in their religion, or conscientiously withdraw himself from it. Nor is this opinion confined to the lay portion of them; the priesthood in general entertain it; and, indeed, when we reflect upon the fact that they consider their church an infallible one, we do not see how they could readily hold any other”.’ (Kiely, The Poor Scholar, 1972 Edn., p.81; quoting from Tithe Proctor.) [Cont.]

Kiely quotes Carleton on become an apprentice to stone-mason Lanty Doain: ‘I became misanthropical. I detested the world. Everything went against me and my family. The latter, among whom, of course, I was forced to include myself, were almost beggars, and nothing for me, in the shape of any opening in the future, offered itself except the hard shapeless granite - the chisel and mallet. I could almost have pitched myself down a precipice.’ (Autobiography, Vol. 1 [n.p.]; quoted in Kiely, Poor Scholar, 1972 rep. edn.)

Benedict Kiely, The Poor Scholar (1947; rep. edn. 1972) - cont.: ‘In spite of the contradictions in his own soul, in spite of the terror of his time, he was the greatest laugher his country produced, until James Joyce, seeking in exile a refuge from contradiction, looking back at one great Dublin day that comprehended all time and hinted at eternity, heard the randy laughter of the streets and the pubs, saw the dark figure and the divided soul of Stephen Dedalus. With Carleton as with Joyce Ireland joined in the laughter, knowing it was genuinely the native laughter, but always resenting the recording of hollow unhumorous echoes that every Irishman had been trying hard to forget. Phil Purcell’s pigs ... were undeniably funny. But Irish readers following their uproariously devastating career on English farms could feel uneasily that the character of Phil and the waywardness of his pigs revealed to the world something about Ireland that was not in the least humorous, something unkempt and lawless and uncouth. Phelim O’Toole was Carleton’s most laughable creation; but ... [Carleton] ... had innocently hinted at an abysses of pain and pathetic deformity that made all laughter as thin as froth from broken water. To be able to convey in that way the delicate fragility of human joy, always transient, frequently depending for its existence on the human power for unconscious self-deception may be just one of the faculties of a comprehensive, creative spirit. But in Carleton’s Ireland it made pitifully obvious the fact that all joy was only a little, brief light against wide, overshadowing gloom, that all dancing was over the grave or under the gallows. Never forgetful of the method of the old story-teller he pulled his chair to the corner of the fire, told his listeners tales that were humorous or sad or terrible. But he never equalled the story-teller by the hearth in the ability to make his listeners forget that outside the closed door there was rain and the buffeting wind and the black night.’ (p.149.) [Cont.]

Benedict Kiely, The Poor Scholar (1947; rep. edn. 1972) - cont.: ‘[He was] born of a bewildered people in a time of contradiction’ (Poor Scholar, 1947, p.16). ‘He is among the greatest, possibly the greatest writer of fiction that Ireland has given to the English language [...] He wrote well and he wrote at times with excruciating badness.’ (ibid., p.177.)

Benedict Kiely, The Poor Scholar (1947; rep. edn. 1972) - cont.: ‘In lodgings in Moore Street he met a man called MacDonagh, a literary tailor perpetually writing the story of his own life but unable to spell or write a legible hand. So on Sundays in the summer Carleton and the tailor walked out into the country, sat down in the corner of a field, the tailor dictated and Carleton wrote. Or rather the tailor tried to dictate, for the choice and marshalling and steadying of ideas necessary in good dictation completely shattered the man’s natural fluency of speech. One day Carleton suggested that the tongue-tied tailor should give only the bare facts, and “with an easy spirit of fiction” he added and amplified and arranged. That night in the lodgings the tailor snapped his fingers and danced for joy, marvelling at the well-written fragment of his autobiography, and William Carleton, the writer, was born and had his first wing [?wild], intoxicating taste of public appreciation and patronage. It was the oddest of odd ways to begin writing.’ (p.53.) For further quotations, see under Kiely [q.v., infra] and Caesar Otway [q.v., infra].

On the state of the Irish language: ‘Carleton could be less obviously and more humorously caustic about the determination of the valiant Hyck Burk [in Emigrants of Ahaharra] trying hear to be a gentleman, resolved not to speak the language that he knew better than English. / For the whole movement of the world, since the world had its centre in London, was set steady against the survival of the language spoken for centuries on the island of Ireland. The boy in the valley found the words on the tongues of the people in a state of unsettlement and disorder. Philologically, even, they swung in emptiness. With the art of a great humorist, born to squeeze fun out of everything, he could make merry at the bewilderment of his people in a world where even words kept contradicting each other. [...]’ (Kiely, op. cit., 1947,; 1972 Edn., p.15.)

Benedict Kiely, Foreword to Autobiography of William Carleton (Belfast: White Row Press 1996), pp.1-13: ‘[...] A century and a half ago a great Irishman said that the man who had not read William Carleton did not know the Irish people. The words are wisdom now as they were then. Today it would be unnecesssary to write a survey of the literary merit of the work he did. That merit is established and permanent. / But this man saw so deeply into our souls, revealed so much in himself of the torture of his time, that we can never afford to neglect him. He heard his father tell stories and his mother sing songs as men and women in Ireland had told stories and sung songs for centuries. Then wiwth the figures that came from the mind of Le Sage dancing like imps down the road before him, he went on the world to find his fortune. He saw the little roads line with gallows. He saw the black horrors of famine. Around him in the ruin, and within him in his own soul, were the makings of modern Ireland.’ (p.13, end; for longer extracts, see under Kiely, infra.]

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Flann O’Brien, The Hair of the Dogma (London: MacGibbon 1977), p.102: ‘His was an age of terrible despond, poverty, illiteracy and violence, and his portraits of the peasantry were sincere; people actually spoke as he said they did. He was a very good writer by any standard.’ (Cited in Louis de Paor, ‘Myles na gCopaleen agus Drochshampla na Dealeabhar’, in The Irish Review, 23, Winter 1998, p.29.)

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Patrick Kavanagh, ‘the most authentic dialect and ...most racy dialogue, which reads like a translation direct from the necessities of early nineteenth century Irish life.’ (Foreword, The Autobiography, 1968, p.9).

Patrick Kavanagh, ‘From Monaghan to the Grand Canal’: ‘It was simply impossible to love a galvanized dance hall and the atmosphere both physical and moral which prevailed there. Literature could not be made out of that material as Carleton made literature out of the many thrilling dances which are to be found in his Traits and Stories.’ (in Collected Pruse, London: MacGibbon & Kee 1967; rRep. in Mark Storey, ed., Poetry in Ireland [...] : A Source Book, Routledge 1988, p.191.)

Patrick Kavanagh, ‘Nationalism and Literature’: ‘Is Synge the voice of Ireland? Has Ireland a voice? I believe it has a faint, odd voice, difficult to establish. Indeed Carleton is our native voice. And I am always so glad that notwithstanding anything one may say nobody will ever read Carleton. You can praise or blame this great writer without involving anyone.’ (Collected Pruse; rep. in Storey, op. cit., p.202.)

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Anthony Cronin (Intro. to Courtship of Phelim O’Toole, 1962): ‘William Carleton is one of the great oddities of European literature, a writer with no ancestors and no successors [...] the people Carleton wrote of had up to then been almost totally sealed off from change. Even to the most intelligent members of the Protestant landlord class, the Catholic peasantry were a matter of indifference or a mystery. Their vices were well enough known: their drunkenness, their occasional ferocity, and perhaps more disgusting, fecundity; but their secret mores, the corrupted but organic loyalties that sustained them were not, nor would the grotesque caricatures of ancient and higher ways which still lived on among the be recognised for that they were, but regarded simply as further proof of barbarism [...] In Carleton [...] we enter the dark world of which Carleton is the solitary voice’. (q.p.)

Anthony Cronin, ‘William Carleton: Idyll and Bloodshed’, in Heritage Now: Irish Literature in English (Dingle: Brandon 1982): Carleton’s average reader is as ‘likely to be a member of the Dublin, Protestant, commercial or professional classes as English; and the matter in question have mostly to do with the involutions of the Irish system of land tenure.’ (p.42.) [Cont.]

Anthony Cronin, ‘William Carleton [.... &c.] (1982) - cont. ‘In fact Carleton has a sense of evil which goes beyond melodrama. He has a sense of the frightfulness of certain historical forces - for him, as for Joyce, perhaps, history is a nightmare from which one must struggle to awake - which gives him more urgency than the ordinary reasonable man and he has an, at times, almost unbearable sense of calamity; indeed it is not too much to say that the spectre of the Great Famine of 1847 hangs over even the happiest and most poignant of his pages. In writing of his own youth, Carleton seems to know that he is writing of something which is lost in a double sense; and indeed when the time came, when the cholera sheds were put up by the roadside and the potato-stalks withered in the polluted rain, Carleton had only to go back to the famines of 1817 and 182S, to remember the horribly silent crowds besieging the grain wagons and the spectres with their mouths stained with nettles, to find the material for description; but even in the interval the memories to which he retumed again and again, faithful, as Thomas Flanagan says, to them as to nothing else, were the more vivid and the more actual in his mind because the signs were already plain to him that the whole country was sliding towards a newer and greater calamity than any that had previously been conceived of.’

Anthony Cronin, ‘William Carleton [.... &c.] (1982): ‘His position, naturally enough, forced him into the role of pundit, preacher and authority. When Captain Moonlight burned and killed with more than his usual ferocity, Carleton was ready enough to purvey his knowledge and his nostrums. He was the educated native who is summoned to Government House for the purpose. When another Paddy Devaun committed another blind atrocity, well-meaning people of all descriptions looked to Carleton, who understood Paddy Devaun as perhaps nobody in his time except Daniel O’Connell himself understood him, for guidance and a moral story. / But if such “natives” often have their tongues in their cheeks, artists are supposed to bear fuller witness. We can exculpate Carleton of the charge that he held back on his feeling of impending economic and social calamity. If we are to judge him by the tests of “reasonableness” and “rightness” about the economics of govemment, then we must say that he emerges with credit, even to his detriment as an artist. While between the artist’s Arcadian note, particularly in the stories, and the informed witness’s knowledge of doom there is no conflict whatever. / And yet we get the feeling that he is holding something back. In all his politics and no-politics there is a feeling that he knows [44] something fundamental both about human nature and about the Irish situation which his well-meaning middle-class readers do not know, and which he sometimes swerves away from, hypocritically moralises about, or turns into a joke, but which he can finally not deny.’ (pp.41-42.)

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John Cronin, William Carleton: The Black Prophet’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel: The Nineteenth Century [Vol. I], Belfast: Appletree Press 1980): ‘Regrettably, Carleton's creakily melodramatic plot offers no real support to his depiction of a famine-stricken land. His Preface had also remarked “how far the strongest imagery of Fiction is frequently transcended by the terrible realities of Truth”. Ideally, the terrible realities of the truths in his novel cried out for a sturdy plot-structure to match them and symbols grand enough to do justice to his fearsome theme. Sadly, what he offers instead is an unconvincing story of rural murder and mystery which is intended to generate, in relation to the contemporary events of the novel, an atmosphere of tension and horror. This it fails miserably to achieve. The reader soon realises that the Black Prophet himself, Donnel Dhu, is the real guilty figure of the piece and that Dalton has been wrongly accused of murder. In any case we can feel little interest in ancient killings about which we know nothing whatever. The clumsy plot concerning the tobacco-box and the reappearance of the supposed murder victim at the end is quite inadequate to the maintenance of any kind of dynamic suspense and the incidents of a contemporary nature in the work are often both sentimental and unconvincing. Sarah’s substitution of herself for Mave Sullivan in the abduction scene falters between melodrama and farce. This general weakness in the plot does grave disservice to the work’s vitally important theme of famine. It is not simply that the plot fails to support the theme. It positively undermines it. Though Griffin, in The Collegians, often lapses into melodramatic rant he is preserved from this sort of failure by the sustaining background of real events involved in the “Colleen Bawn” murder. However lurid Hardness Cregan’s utterances may become, we have the brutal murder of Eily in our mind's eye to justify, in some sort, his ravings. Carleton’s boring twenty-year-old murder never acquires that kind of sustaining significance. Thus, instead of underpinning the book’s terrible realities, the tawdry plot actually undercuts them, sadly diminishing the power of the novel.’ (p.92.) [Cont.]

John Cronin (The Anglo-Irish Novel: The Nineteenth Century [Vol. I], 1980) - ‘The Black Prophet’ [chap.; cont.] - on the portrayal of Sarah: ‘She is a strange mixture of ferocity and genuine hunger for affection. In his depiction of her angry bitterness and of her tortured relationship with her father, Carleton is groping towards the articulation of deeply meaningful implications but never quite achieving full expression. It is significant that, even at the end, when Sarah’s mother has reappaeared, Carleton refuses to allow this part of the plot to descend into the melodrama which besets so much of the rest of the work and makes Sarah reject the mother for whome she has so long hungered, while the mother is show as a convincingly chilly figure in whom the warmth of natural affections has been suppressed by her experiences.’ (p.93.)

See also Cronin, ‘William Carleton 1794-1869’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel, Vol. I (Belfast: Appletree Press 1970), pp.85-87 - as attached.

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Maurice Harmon, General Introduction to Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories (Cork: Mercier 1973) [quotes Carleton on his father’s repertoire [as supra], and remarks: ‘This assessment is intended to be more than an affectionate tribute. Carleton offers it explicitly as further evidence of his knowledge of his people, and of his ability to render their speech. That his father belonged to the Gaelic oral tradition and that the Clogher valley was at this time rich in folk material point to the importance of Carleton’s own work simply as a record of what was being eroded by time and change even in his lifetime and that would be almost annihilated by the catastrophe of the Great Famine. It also draws attention to an aspect of his work that has been too little studied: if we say that his work, for all his accuracy of detail and its imaginative power, is flawed by his inadequate sense of form, it should also be said that his instinctive [viii] sense of form would have been derived not from literary sources but from the conventions of the oral tradition. [...] there is need for an approach that will consider Carleton’s use of folk material and that will relate Traits and Stories in particular to the conventions of the oral tradition.’ (pp.viii-ix.) [Cont.]

Maurice Harmon (General Introduction to Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, 1973): ‘When he walked into the crowded and poor areas of Dublin in the year 1818, he had two shillings and ninepence in his pockets. It was the city of Burke and of Grattan, of the old parliament house in College Green, of Trinity College, the Four Courts and the Customs House, but there is little evidence of this eighteenth century splendour in Carleton. He did go to the theatre, where he saw the Siddonses, the elder Kean and Macready; he read in Marsh’s library beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral and met the novelist, Maturin. He worked in Dublin’s hedgeschools, got married, tried in vain to enter Trinity College and began to write essays in the manner of Addison’s in The Spectator. As he said himself “I had read nothing but a few odd novels and some classics” but the gipsy fortune-teller many years before had said that he would go to Dublin and “become a great man.” The extraordinary thing is that despite the odds against him, despite his crazy education, despite his frequent poverty, he did become famous and quite soon.’ [Cont.]

Maurice Harmon (General Introduction to Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, 1973) cont.: ‘Whether he could ever have achieved success as a writer had he not met Caesar Otway is impossible to say. Otway, a proselytizer and polemicist, had started The Christian Examiner. Shrewdly sizing up the true nature of Carleton’s gifts, he invited him to write about the habits, conditions and superstitions of the peasantry. Carleton conformed to the Church of Ireland and began with a biased account of the pilgrimage to Lough Derg. Gradually, despite the anti-Catholic nature of some of his work, he discovered the world he had been carrying around in his head for over thirty years. Now it emerged, with startling vividness and strangeness, as a revelation. No one else could explain the instincts, passions, values and sufferings of these people with such passionate insight and such absolute authority. The subject grew upon him, so that he took quite seriously upon himself the task of putting down on paper what he had remembered. His aim, as he said, was “neither to distort his countrymen [xvi] into demons, nor to enshrine them as suffering innocents and saints, but to exhibit them as they really are”. He would in tha process remove “many absurd prejudices” against his people.’ (pp.xvi-xvii.)

Maurice Harmon (General Introduction to Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, 1973) - cont.: ‘It was a time of upheaval and transition in which the values of what [xvii] Daniel Corkery called the “hidden Ireland” clashed with those of modern Europe. His understanding of the wider issues seems to have been unclear; he remained loyal to what he knew best and his point of view was always that of the Irish peasant.’ (pp.xvii-viii.) [(For longer quotations, see attached.]

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Robert Tracy, review-article on André Boué, William Carleton: romancier irlandais, 1794-1869 (Sorbonne 6; Paris: Publs. de la Sorbonne 1978), xx, 417pp. [thesis of 1973]; Robert Lee Wollf, William Cartleton, Irish Peasant Novelist: A Preface to his Fiction (NY: Garland 1980), 156pp.; John Cronin, The Anglo-Irish Novel : Vol. I: ‘Nineteenth Century’ [1980]; William Carleton, Valentine McClutchy, the Irish Agent (NY: Garland, 1979), xii, 468pp., in [?The Unappeasable Host, UCD Press 1998], pp.214-18. Tracy remarks that Boué has discovered that Carleton approached Sir Robert Peel as early as 1826 [a year before his encounter with Otway] to offer his services as an adviser on Catholic duplicity and as a propagandist against Catholic Emancipation. He had married a Protestant in 1822 (a date Boué revises from the traditional 1820) and as early as 1819-20 had sought employment as a Protestant schoolmaster. There remains some mystery about the depth of Carleton’s hatred of Catholicism when he approached Peel. We know he felt that he had been treated rudely a priest at Lough Derg [...] but the stages of Carleton’s progress from intended priest to adversary are obscure and will probably remain so.’ [217]

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Patrick Rafroidi, ‘The Irish Short Story in English: The Birth of a New Tradition’, in Terence Brown & Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story ( Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘[...] in Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830, 1833), Tales of Ireland (1834), The Fawn of Springvale (1841) or Tales and Sketches (1845) afterwards called Tales and Stories, Carleton can be caught in the act of exploiting folk-lore material which he either refuses to transmute or which he treats comically. Nevertheless in other works he is the outstanding intermediary between the old order and the new, and the originator of a modern art. / In the narrative technique and themes of this writer the influence of popular tradition is unmistakable. One immediately thinks of “The Three Tasks” [Traits and Stories ... &c ., Dublin,: W. M. Curry 1830, Vol. 1] where the motif reappears of an adventurous journey to a wonderful country akin to Tir na nOg in the Ossianic sagas and folklore, as well as the voyages (imrama) of Saint Brendan and others. But in such a work or in “A Legend of Knockmany” [Tales & Sketches, Dublin: James Duffy 1845], one can find a transcription [32] among whose values is an already greater realism (a point which will be dealt with later). Other stories also come to mind, like the extraordinary “The Donagh or the Horse Stealers” [ Traits and Stories ... &c., 2nd ser., Dublin: W. F. Wakeman 1833, Vol. 1] which completely reverse the proportions of tradition and originality in this fantastic vein; and there are those stories which deal realistically with everyday life. / Even if he is far from being the most artistically honest, Carleton is without doubt the most gifted of the storytellers of the first generation of the nineteenth century. [...]’ (p.31-32; goes on to discuss Gerald Griffin.)

Patrick Rafroidi (‘The Irish Short Story in English [...], 1979) - cont.: remarks that modern fiction would eschew folklore material and espouse material that springs from everyday life: ‘Carleton understood this lesson, in part at least. According to his biographer D.J. O’Donoghue he had a high opinion of the realist truth of his work: “It is told of Carleton that when somebody said to him that his pictures of Irish life were ‘really more reliable than those of Mrs S. C. Hall’ he boisterously answered a ‘Why, of course, they are! Did she ever live with the people as I did? Did she ever dance and fight with them as I did? Did she ever get drunk with them as I did?’ [D. J. Donoghue, Life of Carleton, London: Downey & Co. 1896] / (This last question is of course highly rhetorical when one thinks of the energetic and extremely virtuous wife of Samuel Carter Hall; a puritanical lady who practised Victorian charity and threw herself heart and soul into the Temperance Crusade). Carleton expresses an opinion about some of his stories that is probably valid for all the others. / “My “Lough Derg Pilgrim” ... resembles a coloured photograph ... there is not a fact or incident which is not detailed with the minuteness of the strictest truth and authenticity.” [Idem.]

Patrick Rafroidi (‘The Irish Short Story in English [...], 1979) - cont.: If Carleton were to be taken literally then his work would not be pertinent to the present article. But the fact remains that he is at the source of a development, which, because of his lack of education and an absence of models, he was unable to exploit fully. Besides he had no immediate successors and he lucidly saw the reasons for this in the immediate aftermath of the Great Famine [quotes again]: “Banim and Griffin are gone and I will soon follow them ultimus Romanorum, and after that will come a lull, an obscurity of perhaps half a century, when a new condition of civil society and a new phase of manners and habits among the people - for this is a transition state - may introduce new fields and new tastes for other writers.” ([Donoghue, idem.]; p.34.)

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Seamus Heaney, ‘A Tale of Two Islands: Reflections on The Irish Literary Revival’, in P. J. Drury, ed., Irish Studies, I (Cambridge UP 1980), pp.1-20: ‘[J]ust as Synge found in the uncontaminated bravery of the keen a register to which he could tune his own sensibility, that separate sensibility of the Anglo-Irish, so Carleton’s country Catholic being responds in compelte harmony to the humbled melodies of his own patient debilitated tribe.’ (p.11.). Further: ‘Carleton wrote copiously, politically, imperfectly. he became embroiled in the politics of O’Connell and Young ireland, he wrote on landlordism as well as on superstition, he flailed betweeen the attitudes of his adopted faith and the affection of his deserted tribe, but he wrote without any sacral sense of the race he belonged to, a figure of controversy [12] because of his apostasy but a witness to a realistic, politicised Ireland that the nineteenth-century poets and their revival heirs could not or would not voice. Consider, for example, what Yeats makes of the Lough Derg pilgrim [...&c.]’ (pp.12-13.)

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James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (Syracuse UP/Gill & Macmillan 1983), Yeats compiled an edition of Stories from Carleton (1889), celebrating in his introduction Carleton’s ‘clay-cold melancholy’ and hailing him as ‘a great Irish historian’ and ‘the great novelist of Ireland by right of the most Celtic eyes that ever gazed from under the brows of a story-teller.’ (Quoted in Robert Lee Wolff, William Carleton, Irish Peasant Novelist, A Preface to His Fiction, Garland 1980, p.3.) In 1826 Carleton had written a letter, since discovered among the papers of Sir Robert Peel, to his friend William Sisson, volunteering himself to Peel as one who could demonstrate a connection between the Emancipation Movement and terrorism; there is no evidence that Peel responded. (Cited in Wolff, op. cit. p.21). Carleton wrote publicly on Emancipation, ‘The question of Emancipation is singularly mixed up with the immediate and personal interests of its most violent and outrageous supporters ...a few lawyers and priests who make it the means ...of raising themselves to popularity ...whilst they are also stimulated by the prospect of unlimited ascendancy [conjuring] images of imaginary oppression ...Oh! let not the guardian of the British Constitution give these men power!’ (p.21); Cahalan requotes the passage from autobiography cited in Flanagan (Irish Novelists, 273) which shows Carleton standing at the gates of Maynooth, rejected, saying to himself, ‘What communication could a nameless wanderer like me expect with such an establishment?’, and reminds us - after Wolff - of Carleton’s expression of the creed of conformity, ‘there is nothing more valuable in life than a respectable connection.’ (Wolff, 17) [79]; Generally, Cahalan makes much use of Wolff’s commentary on the darker side of Carleton’s vis-à-vis with his native tradition, ‘From the mid-1820s to the mid-1830s the evidence shows, Carleton was himself a militant anti-Catholic, echoing the extreme Evangelical arguments of the time’ (p.5). Carleton perversely exclaimed to Gavan Duffy in 1852, ‘may the curse of God alight doubly on Ireland and may all she has suffered be only like the entrance to paradise compared to what she may suffer’ [p.118]. Carleton quarrelled with the editors of the Dublin University Magazine, and began writing instead for The Nation, but never joined the new movement. Charles Gavan Duffy wrote afterwards, ‘with all his splendid equipment of brains, he was incapable of comprehending the principles and aspirations of Young Ireland.’ (Quoted in Flanagan, op. cit ., p.312) [79-80]. (Cont.)

James Cahalan (Great Hatred, Little Room, 1983) - cont.: Carleton predicts in 1863, ‘The only names which Ireland can point to with pride are Griffin’s, Banim’s, and - do not accuse me of vanity when I say it - my own. Banim and Griffin are gone, and I will soon follow them - ultimus Romanorum, and after that will come a lull, an obscurity of perhaps half a century, when a new condition of civil society and new phase of manners and habits among the people [...] may introduce new fields and new tastes for other writers.’ (Letter to Dr. T. C. S. Corry, 1863, quoted in O’Donoghue’s Life of Carleton 1896, p. 305; also in Benedict Kiely, Poor Scholar, 1947, 1972 Edn., p.147; see Barry Sloan, Pioneers of Anglo-Irish Fiction, 1984, p.237; also cited in Wolff, William Carleton, 1980, op. cit. 127) [84].

Further [Calahan], ‘Carleton celebrates the rapparees of the older period in a way that he could not celebrate the Ribbonmen of his own’ [here quoting:] “The three great principles of their lawless existence were such as would reflect honour upon the most refined associations, and the most intellectual institutions of modern civilisation. These were, first, sobriety; secondly, a resolution to avoid the shedding of human blood; and, thirdly, a solemn promise never to insult or offer outrage to woman, but in every instance to protect her.” (Count Redmond O’Hanlon, Duffy, 1886, pp.84-85. [op. cit., 83-84]

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Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, The Hero in Irish Folk History (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1985) - Conclusion: ‘[...] The true nature of the folk legend lies in its continually being retold - in a thousand ordinary mouths rather than in the one great mouth of the literary genius - and this militates against the selection of one particular version for deliberate artistic purposes. If a version were so selected and developed it would itself become a literary work - a not unprecedented phenomenon, of course, but one which would usually require a writer himself steeped in the oral tradition. Perhaps the best qualified of all Irish writers in English in this regard would have been William Carleton. But, although the folk situation is competently described by Carleton in his work, when it came to popular aspirations he tended to be rather derisive and to adopt an external tone. When he made Redmond O’Hanlon the hero of a novel, he only did so by divorcing him totally from the real outlaw context, and the result was a romanticism very different from the folk sense.’ (See full text in RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics” - via index or as attached.)

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Barbara Hayley, Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1983) - a commentary to accompany the later edn. of his Traits and Stories. Hayley’s detailed discussion of stories and successive editions departs from an epigraph from Yeats, ‘In his time only a little of Irish history, Irish folklore, Irish poetry had been got into the English tongue; he had to dig the marble for his statue out of the mountain side with his own hands and the statue shows not seldom the clumsy chiselling of the quarryman.’ (Yeats, “Irish National Literature”, in The Bookman, July 1893). ‘By using reported narrative, Carleton has so far avoided a problem that was to preoccupy him throughout his work: that of his own persona. It wavers between the Irish peasant describing his own kind and the ascendancy commentator, looking down condescendingly at the peasantry. But from now on, in the Traits and Stories, the “I” becomes a variable character instead of a neutral reporter who merely sets the scene for the fireside narratives. For it is here in the last story of Volume One, “The Battle of the Factions”, that Carleton abandons the convention of the group around the hearth.’ (p.4.) [Cont.]

Barbara Hayley, (Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition, 1983) - cont.: ‘[...] In setting down peasant speech, Carleton had several problems to contend with. First, his comment in the preface raises the question of how much “Doric” speech his readers would relish. Second, when he had decided how much to include, how was he to represent it? Carleton at his best was able to indicate Irish speech quite simply and effectively in English words, often by word-order and implied intonation.But, particularly on his earlier works, he was preoccupied with setting down actual sounds. Where the word or phrase was Gaelic he usually approximated some sort of English spelling.’ (p.26.) Further: ‘At that time, Irish peasants would have been very much closer to their native tongue and they would naturally have used many Irish words, phrases and derivatives when they spoke English’ (p.190.) [Cont.]

Barbara Hayley (Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition, 1983) - cont.: ‘What is distinctive about Carleton’s sketch [“The Lough Derg Pilgrim”], as Otway, that excellent editor, had perceived, was that it was drawn from within. Most other descriptions of the pilgrimage were by observers who were either prejudiced Protestants, or topographical scene-hunters. It was a scoop for Otway to have secured not just a participant in the pilgrimage, but one who was now disillusioned by it: “It was that pilgrimage and the reflections occasioned by it, added to a riper knowledge and a maturer judgment, that detached me from the Roman Catholic Church, many of whose doctrines, when I became a thinking man, I could not force my judgment to believe” (Carleton, Autobiography, Fitzroy Edn., London 1968, pp.91-92). Carleton himself often stresses the fact that he is giving us inside information. The preamble to the Christian Examiner account (omitted [336] from the other versions) claims that “A man must be brought up among the Irish peasantry and under superstition, before he can understand its form and character correctly. Even to live amongst them upon their own level, is not sufficient to enable a man to observe, through every stage of life, and in the private recesses of every family, the incredible dominion which this absurd principle exercises over them.”’ (CE, Vol. VI, April 1828, p.268; Hayley, pp.336-37.)

Barbara Hayley (Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition, 1983) - cont. [Conclusion]: ‘[...] a progression away from spontaneity towards pomposity came in part from Carleton’s wish to forge an Irish tradition, rather than to be a simple raconteur as he was in his early work.’ Hayley compares him with ‘the handful of writers he admired’ - viz., Maria Edgeworth, Banim, Griffith, who ‘were really writing in an English mode, working and publishing in England’: ‘They had little in common with each other and were in no sense an Irish school or movement. Carleton was trying to find an Irish voice. His experiments and revisions led him eventually to the confident tones of the General Introduction to the 1842 [sic] edition of the complete Traits & Stories, a voice of Ireland and for Ireland, a voice with authority and dignity - but at the cost of some of his bright early spontaneity and linguistic originality.’ (pp.392-93). Bibl. incls. A. J. Bliss, ‘Languages in Contact: Some Problems of Hiberno-English, in Proc. of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 72, Sect C, No. 3, pp.68-69; J. J. Hogan, The English Language in Ireland (Dublin: Educational Co. of Ireland 1907). [For Hayley’s account of contemporary critics’ response to the Second Series of 1833, with quotations from English and Irish magazines on the same, and other matters, see attached.]

Barbara Hayley, ed., Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, Vol. I & II [rep. of 1842-43 [i.e., 1844] edn.] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1990), Foreword: Hayley notes that the collection appeared at a time of ‘intense yet little explored literary activity in Ireland’ centred on periodicals which ‘discussed, and were products of, the pressures of their time - Union versus anti-Union, Catholic versus Protestant, landlord versus tenant’ (Intro.. p.ix.) ‘[H]is aim was to show the Irish peasantry honestly to the world, and his way of doing so was to show him at home among his domestic surroundings’; ‘[I]n his depiction of Irish character ...much of his power lies in the combination and contrast of light and shade, good and evil, fun and tragedy’; ‘Because one of their passions is for possessions, there is good reason for Carleton’s concentration on things.’ (Foreword, Traits and Stories, 1990 Edn., pp.5, 6 & 10.)

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Alan Bliss - on Carleton’s spellings: ‘It is a curious fact that the standardisation of a “wrong” vowel in modern Hiberno-English seems always to involve the substitution of a front for a back vowel, never the reverse, and it is difficult to conjecture why this should be so. [Discusses instances of substitution using phonetic script.] In [William] Carleton these sounds are rendered in the uncorrected beginning of the 1st edition (and sometimes later) “wan”, “beyant”, “crass” [for one, beyond, and cross]. Not is usually contracted to “n’t” ([as in] “wasn’t)” but is “not” if it appears [as a single word]. [The phonetic rendering of because] gives one of Carleton’s ambiguous spellings “bekase” which looks to the English eye as if it should rhyme with “case” rather than with “has”.’ (‘Languages in Contact: some problems of Hiberno-English’, in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 72, sect. C, No.3 [q.d.], pp.68-69; quoted in Barbara Hayley, Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1983, p.400 [n.4.].

Barry Sloan - on Traits and Stories], ‘much of its idiomatic colour and energy derive from the bilingual elements in it.’ (Pioneers of Anglo-Irish Fiction, 1984, p.145). ‘as Dickens generates a sense of the complexity and multiplicity of Victorian society, so Carleton gives an impression of the fullness and variety of peasant life in rural Ireland.’ (ibid., p.172). Further: ‘Regarding Mr O’Reilly, the priest in Edgeworth’s Absentee, it is impossible to see him breaking up the fight at Shane Fadh’s Wedding.’ (Ibid., p.176.)

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), quotes Carleton: ‘Love of learning is a conspicuous principle in an Irish peasant ...How his eye will dance in his head with pride, when the young priest thunders out a line of Virgil or Homer, a sentence of Cicero, or a rule from Syntax! And with what complacency and affection would the father and relations of such a person, when sitting during winter evening about the hearth, demand from him a translation of what he repeats, or a grammatical analysis, in which he must show the dependencies and relations of word upon words - the concord, the verb, the mood, the gender and the case; in very one and all of which the learned youth enters with an air of oracular importance, and a polysyllabicism of language that fails not in confounding them with astonishment and edification.’ (Denis O’Shaughnessy Going to Maynooth ) [30] In his essay [sic] on The Hedge School, Carleton lists an egregious prospectus of classical instruction which includes besides the normal pabulum in a list ending with ‘[...] Livy, Thomas Aquinas, Cornelius Agrippa, and Cholera Morbus.’ [30].

Maureen Waters: ‘The first to write extensively about Gaelic Ireland through the medium of [the] English language, Carleton had no ready made narrative from appropriate to his subject.’ (‘William Carleton: The Writer as Witness’, in Études Irlandaises, 1986, p.53).

Seamus MacAnnaidh, ‘Shpayke, Brogue, Dialect, Irish, and Carleton’, in The Spark, 3 (Spring-Summer 1992), ‘To be quite honest - and you’re welcome to argue with me on this one - my initial impression was that Carleton had little or no Irish. His rough phonetic spellings are very haphazard and I dread to think what someone with no Irish would make of them. Often they vary from page to page.’ (q.p.)

Tim Webb, Introduction to The Black Prophet (Shannon: IUP Edn. 1972): ‘Catholic and Protestant, countryman and town-dweller, Ulsterman and Dubliner, Irish speaker and writer of English prose, Carleton was in every way a divided man’ (p.viii); [notes that footnotes adopt outsider’s perspective] ‘examining the Irish with the eye and ear of a sympathetic anthropologist’, and that he had once been no the inside, ‘from whence he had drawn his strength’; ‘in these stories Carleton must fully expressed himself through the comic, especially the comic potential of the spoken language.’ (viii-xiv.)

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David Krause, ‘A Tragic and Comic World of Compassion’, in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1994), pp.32-34, offers a corrective to the opinion that The Black Prophet is flawed through its melodramatic plot and sociological bias – an opinion he associates with John Cronin, Robert Lee Wolff, Thomas Flanagan, Tim Webb, Barry Sloan, B G. MacCarthy [Dublin Magazine, July-Sept. 1946].

Terry Eagleton, ‘Form and Ideology in the Anglo-Irish Novel’, in Literary Relations: Ireland, Egypt and the Far East, ed. Mary Massoud (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1996), pp.135-46: ‘It is as though Carleton, like Griffin and the Banims before him, is unable to organise his plot in accordance with some deep historical logic, as Georg Lukacs would claim for the great European realists from Stendhal to Tolstoy.’ (p.135); ‘That the greatest Anglo-Irish fictional text of the nineteenth century, one much admired by Karl Marx, should be precisely a set of sketches by Carleton is not accidental. [...] It is as though a narrative genuinely moulded by historical forces would find no appropriate closure, no way of consummating itself without bretraying the logic of its materials. [...] How is one to produce realist narratives from a history which is itself so crisis-racked, excessive, hyperbolic, unlikely?’ (p.143.)

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Rolf Loeber & Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, ‘Fiction available to and written for cottages and their children’, in The Experience of Reading: Irish Historical Perspectives, ed. Bernadette Cunningham & Máire Kennedy (Dublin: Rare Books Group [...&c.] 1999), quoting Carleton: ‘disloyal principles were industriously insinuated in their minds by their teachers. The matter placed in their hands was of a most inflammatory and pernicious nature, as regarded politics; and as far as religion and morality were concerned, nothing could be more gross and superstitious than the books which circulated amongst them. Eulogiums on murder, robbery, and theft, were read with delight.’ (“The Hedge School”, in Traits & Stories, 1830, vol. ii, pp.186-87; here p.130.) [Cont.]

Rolf & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2006) - cont.: Carleton characterised himself as ‘an insatiable reader of such sixpenny romances and history books as the hedge-schools afforded’ (Traits & Stories, new edn. 1843, I, p.xvi; here p.132.) Quotes Carleton: ‘[I] ransacked almost all the cupboards and boxes in the parish [...]. Although the state of education was, at the period of which I write, very low, and knowledge scanty among the people, yet it is surprising what a number of books, pamphlets and odd volumes, many of these works of fiction, I found among them. If you examined the number of Cathoic families in the parish, you would find that one half of them could not read; yet several of these utterly illiterate persons had many of the works I have alluded to, most carefully laid up, under the hope that some relation might be able to read them.’ (Autobiography, rev. edn. London 1968, p.73; here p.133.) [Cont.]

Rolf & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2006) - cont.: Carleton’s stated objective for the Irish was ‘to improve their physical and social condition - generally; and through the medium of vivid and striking, but unobjectionable narratives, to inculcate such principles as may enable Irishmen to think more clearly, reason more correctly, and act more earnestly upon the general duties, which, from their position in life, they are called upon to perform.’ (Art Maguire, or the Broken Pledge, 1845, pp.vii-viii; here p.147.)In the Introduction they quote from the Preface to Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1843 edn.): ‘Ireland was not then what is she is now fast become, a reading, and consequently a thinking, country’ (p.iv) before adding: ‘This thinking stimulated by literature, included thinking of these wrongs inflicted on Ireland and its people, and ways to redress these through land reform and, eventually, through political independence from England.’ (Loebers, op. cit., p.lxii.)

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Margaret O’Brien, on “The Lough Derg Pilgrimage”, ‘Balance and the tension of opposites gives Carleton’s art its distinction, and may even provide its genesis.’ (‘William Carleton, the Lough Derg Exile’, in Irish Writing, eds., Hyland and Samells, London 1991, p.90.)

J. W. Foster, ‘Carleton is surely the archetypal figure of the Irish fiction writer trekking from the land into the city where he will dream the countryside he has left into a fictional landscape of character and anecdote’. (Colonial Consequences, Dublin: Lilliput Press 1991, p.40.)

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W. J. McCormack [on] “Wildgoose Lodge”, in Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day Company 1991), Vol. 2, pp.837-40: the alteration of title constitutes a further recognition of the primacy of the Big House in the setting of Irish fiction, while the action of the tale harks back to some of the fiction published by the Minerva Press in the years following Rebellion 1798; social conditions giving rise to such extreme event subject of comment by authors who refer explicitly to Carleton’s story - viz., ‘It is dreadfully appalling to contemplate human nature in such a hideous aspect as that exhibited by the unfortunate wretch who concocted the infernal plot for the burning of Wildgoose Lodge. His heart must have been steeled by the archfiend when he, being clerk of the Chapel of Stonetown, could so defile the sanctuary entrusted to his care as to turn it into a Pandemonium for devising and maturing such a dark and barbarous atrocity!’ (William Brett, Reminiscences of Louth ...from the Period of the Legislative Union of Ireland with Great Britain to the Year 1836 (Enniskillen: Fermanagh Reporter 1857), pp.6-7. Note also ftn. on conjectured motives, viz, that Lynch, the victim, had refused to become a sworn member or had given evidence of a previous attack; attackers included a man who had tried to marry his daughter; Lynch rented from Filgate family, and the term Lodge signifies middle-man stratum. [Cont.]

W. J. McCormack (on “Wildgoose Lodge”, 1991) - cont.: McCormack refers reader to remarks on Gerald Griffin, The Collegians [FDA1, 1150-69.] Hanging of the culprits was noted in Belfast News-letter, indicating that N. Louth was considered part of Ulster; attack took place 26 Oct. 1816. Dates antecedent to Carleton’s story are 1] pamphlet, Drogheda (1824); 2] a letter from a Catholic priest, April 1818, publ. 1972; an account of public feeling after the execution incl. in a memoir by a Scottish soldier, James Anton (in Retrospect of a Military Life during the Most Eventful Periods of the Last War, Edin: Lazars 1841), which established essentially factual basis of Carleton’s narrative; in Carleton’s first person narrative, the identification is of a passive narrator with the agent (not the object) of suffering. Note: The extract from “Wildgoose Lodge” given here nowhere makes reference to the victim by name (which is given in the Autobiography and also in the version of “Wildgoose Lodge” given as Lynch in extract by William Trevor (Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories ). McCormack has faithfully copied the earlier version printed in The Dublin Literary Gazette (1830), remarking in his introductory note that ‘the serial division of the story into two parts [copied here] reproduces the movement from the place in which the deed is commissioned to the place in which it is executed, and for this reason ...is retained as evidence of the way in which the form of publication affected the reading of Carleton’s text’.

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R. F. Foster, ‘Square-built Power and Fiery Shorthand: Yeats, Carleton and the Irish Nineteenth Century’, in The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland (London: Penguin 2001) [Chap.7], pp.113-26: ‘William Carleton described himself, in one of his thinly disguised autobiographical stories, as a “poor scholar”. This is a long and distinguished identification in Irish literary history, and Carleton’s position in his fellow countrymen’s affections is partly based on the honour which accrues to such a position. At the same time, he was a determined careerist, who left a poor rural background to conquer the metropolis, and made a reputation in London as well as Dublin. If his background was not quite as poor as he made out, and if part of his careerist armoury included a readiness to play to Irish stereotypes, these attributes have a long history behind - and ahead of - them too. It is, however, a less endearing tradition, and Carleton has always attracted his share of ambivalent reactions. In all this, the complexities of claiming and rejecting Irishness, discussed in the last essay, arise again. The profession of literary Irishness (and the profession of Irishness itself) carries a special resonance in Carleton’s case: most of all because of his fierce reaction to the Catholicism of his youth, and the ensuing controversy about how deep this actually went. [... ] Above all, he appealed profoundly to the young Yeats; but the ambivalence that surrounds Carleton’s reputation in Ireland also explains why Yeats strategically denied the debt in later life.’ (p.113.)

Note: Foster goes on to emphasis the importance of Carleton for Yeats as a ‘historian’ (see Intro. to Tales from Carleton) on account of his own determination ‘to discover a tradition for himself, from the doubly marginalised standpoint of a Protestant-born bohemian background and a Hammersmith exile.’ (Idem.)

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Caitríona MacKernon, review of William Carleton: The Authentic Voice, ed. Gordon Brand, in Books Ireland (March 2008): Deeply conservative because of the terrorist tactics of ribbonmen and whiteboys - Captain Moonlight, midnight raids, mutilations of cattle, foul murder - he deeply loved his fellow countrymen. In his 1830 preface to Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, he hoped that his own dear native mountain people ... would ... through the influence of education, by the leadings of purer knowledge, and by the fosterings of a paternal government become the pride, the strength, and support of the British Empire, instead of as now forming its weakness and reproach.” / He converted to Protestantism permanently following his revulsion and scepticism, roused by a pilgrimage to Lough Derg. Rejecting sectarian violence by Ribbonmen and Orangemen alike, he did not spare Catholicism. “Oh Romanism! The blood of millions is upon you - you have your popes ... your scapulars ... your confessions.” / Affection for friars (such as Darby More in Carleton’s “The Midnight Mass”) was replaced by fearful respect for clergy. His priests were avaricious and hedge-school masters brutal. For Carleton, Catholics were hardy like their soil and Protestants softened by easy living in the lowlands. In Carleton’s “The Poor Scholar”, the MacEvoys, evicted from their farm by a Protestant land agent, look down from the barren hills where they now live to the fertile farms below.’ [Cont.] (p.46.)

Caitríona MacKernon (review of William Carleton: The Authentic Voice, 2008): 555- cont.: ‘“The Party Fight” describes a parent teaching “hereditary enmity to the child”. Carleton bemoaned the lack of a middle class to mediate between the very poor and the very rich: “If a third class existed, Ireland would neither be so political or discontented as she is.” His famine novel The Black Prophet marks the decade that cut off the Irish-speaking past from the English-speaking present. There is some debate in The Authentic Voice as to whether the lure of modernity, the famine or Daniel O’Connell’s charisma did for the Gaelic tradition. Part one of The Authentic Voice includes correspondence from, to and about Carleton. He bore with fortitude an uneasy old age, facing blindness, deafness and the financial worries of his children. Once again, the correspondents, who compared him for example to Balzac, are a Who’s Who of their day: Speranza [Lady Wilde], Maria Edgeworth, Isaac Butt among them. / Young Irelanders felt, surprisingly, that he spoke for them. Thomas Davis said of him: “While local enough for the purely Irish reader [he] is sufficiently catholic to move all readers, who but for the phraseology which localises, could be true of anywhere in the world.” He resisted attempts by various groups - from the proselytising Protestants of the 1820s to the Young lrelanders - to claim him.’ (p.46; see full text, in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”,via index, or as attached.)

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Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 [...]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1: ‘Chief among such native [literary] informants is William Carleton (1794-1869), whose reputation, from his very first publications, was built on the perceived “authenticity” of his writings. Born in Prillisk, County Tyrone, Carleton was the son of Irish-speaking parents, his father fluent also in English and his mother less so. Writing late in life in his Autobiography, Carleton credited the influence of his bilingual father in enabling him as a writer “to transfer the genius, the idiomatic peculiarity and conversational spirit of the one language into the other” and in providing him with a “perfect storehouse” of legend, tale and historical anecdote. The details of Carleton’s life are difficult to disentangle from his many autobiographical constructions, the most famous being the lines he wrote as part of an application for a government pension in 1847: “I have risen up from a humble cottage and described a whole people.” The formal education received by the young Carleton was sporadic - including attendance at a local hedge-school, a “lady’s school” and various short-lived classical schools - and it was supplemented by his avid reading of whatever literature was locally available, from Fielding’s Tom Jones and Smollett’s translation of Gil Blas to the chapbook tales of highwayman James Freney and Arabian Nights. Still a teenager, and intended by his family for the priesthood, he was sent as a “poor scholar” to be educated in Munster, but traveled only as far as Granard, County Longford, episodes fictionalised [455] in the early stories “The Poor Scholar” and “Denis O’Shaughnessy Going to Maynooth”. In 1819 he arrived in Dublin where he worked as a tutor. His first sketch, “A Pilgrimage to Patrick’s Purgatory” (later to be revised as “Lough Derg Pilgrim”), was published in Caesar Otway’s Christian Examiner in 1828; sharply criticised for its ‘anti-Catholic’ subject matter, it was modified in later versions.’ (pp.455-56.) [Cont.]

Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 [...]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature (2006), Vol. 1 - cont. [on The Black Prophet]: ‘Published between May and December 1846, in eight instalments of the Dublin University Magazine, Carleton’s novel is set a generation before and draws from the history of earlier famines in 1817 and 1822. Its first issues thus appeared well before the fatal recurrence of the potato blight in the autumn of 1846; by December, in a chapter entitled “A Picture for the Present”, the contemporary relevance of this “Tale of Irish Famine” was clear. The plot of The Black Prophet is quite standard melodrama, featuring a murder mystery, wrongful accusation, and a consequent family feud that obstructs the love of hero and heroine. Yet the plot element of an unsolved murder from a generation past, rising to the surface in the present, eerily parallels the resurgence of famine in the late 1840s. In later chapters the narrative voice breaks out of the story’s frame to address directly the responsibility of a legislature to provide “for a more enlightened system of public health and cleanliness, and a better and more comfortable provision of food for the indigent and the poor”. Furthermore, Carleton’s identification of what he calls “an artificial famine”, created by a general and culpable monopoly in food rather than simply by food shortage, differs startlingly from the views of many of his contemporaries. (The Black Prophet [1847; rep. edn.] Shannon: IAP 1972, pp.220-21.) / Carleton’s novels regularly digress into political and economic commentary, usually in lengthy footnotes as in the long discourse on famine fever, drawn from the work of D. J. Corrigan, included in The Black Prophet. In his later famine novel, Squanders of Castle Squander (written 1851-52), this non-fictional material takes over in a bewildering array of texts including a lengthy regurgitation of extracts from Valentine M’Clutchy and Traits and Stories, a narrative implosion which, as Christopher Morash has argued, may render this novel ‘the characteristic Famine text’, illustrating the pressure of what George [463] Steiner has termed “the enormity of the fact” on literary representations of atrocity.’ (See Christopher Morash, Writing the Irish Famine, p.18.) [Kelleher, pp.462-63; for full text see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Irish Critical Classics”, via index, or direct.]

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