Myles Dillon (1900-72)


Life
3rd son of John Dillon [q.v.], leading of the Irish Parliamentary Party [IPP]; ed. Belvedere College, Dublin, and Mount St. Benedict in Wexford, and later at University College, Dublin, and afterwards in Germany at Berlin, Bonn and Heidelberg, 1922-25; studied under Meyer-Lubke, Pokorny [q.v.], Schulze, Sommer, Zimmer [q.v.] and Thurnseysen; appt. lecturer in Irish, Sorbonne, 1925-26; appt. Reader in Sanskrit, TCD, 1928-30, UCD, 1930-37; Prof. of Irish, Winsconsin Univ., 1937-46;
 
Snr. Prof., Dublin School of Celtic Studies, 1949; Dir. Celtic School, Dublin Inst. of Advanced Studies, 1960-68; ed. Celtica: Journal of School of Celtic Studies in 1956, and continuously from 1960-1973; argued that the learned classes, warriors and peasants of Gaelic Ireland corresponded to the Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaisya classes of Hindo society; co-ed. Kilkenny Library Catalogue with Canice Mooney (1969); d. 18 June 1972, having fallen ill in London. DIB DIW OCIL

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Works
  • The Cycles of the Kings (OUP 1946; rep. Four Courts Press 1994), 132pp.;
  • Early Irish Literature (Chicago 1948; rep. 1969; rep. Four Courts Press 1994), 212pp. [copyright Univ. of Chicago 1947];
  • trans. Maria-Louise Sjeostedt [Dieux et Héros des Celtes as] Gods and Heroes of the Celts (1949; rep. Four Courts Press 1994), 126pp.;
  • ed., Serglige Con Culainn (1953);
  • ed. Early Irish Society (Dublin 1954) [contribs. Dillon, James Carney, D. A. Binchy, David Greene];
  • ‘Les sources irlandaises des romans arthuriens’, in Les Lettres Romanes, 9 (1955);
  • Irish Sagas (1959, reps. 1968, 1985, 1996) [details];
  • ed., The Book of Rights (Dublin 1962);
  • ‘Celtic Religion and Celtic Society’, in The Celts, ed. Joseph Raftery (Cork: Mercier Press 1964), pp.59-71 [extracts]
  • with Nora Chadwick, The Celtic Realms (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1967) [details];
  • with Canice Mooney and Padraig de Brún, eds., Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Franciscan Library of Killiney (1969), 183pp.;
  • Celts and Aryans (Simla 1975).
 
See also David Greene & Brian Ó Cuív, eds., Celtica, ‘Myles Dillon Memorial Volume’, Vol. 11 (1976), 285pp., pls.
 
Correspondence
Joachim Fischer & John Dillon, eds., The Correspondence of Myles Dillon, 1922-1925: Irish German Relations and Celtic Studies (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1998), 320pp.

Bibliograhical details
Irish sagas, ed. Myles Dillon [Thomas Davis lectures] (Cork: Mercier Press 1959 [1968 edn.]), 175pp. Contents: M. Dillon, Tochmarc Étaine; B. Ó. Cuiv, Cath Maige Tuired; D. A. Binchy, Echtra Fergusa Maic Léti; E. G. Quin, Longas Macc n-Uisnig; M. A. O'Brien, Fled Bricrenn; N. K. Chadwick, Scéla Muicce Meicc Da Thó; by D. Greene, Taín Bó Cúailnge; M. O. Daly, Togail Bruidne Da Derga; G. Murphy, Acallam na Senórach; R. A. Breatnach, Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghra´inne; J. Carney, Cath Maige Muccrime; by D. Greene, Fingal Rónáin.

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The Celtic Realms [by] Myles Dillon & Nora Chadwick [History and Civilisation Ser.] (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1967), 355pp. CONTENTS: Preface [ xi]. 1. Discovering the Celts [1]; 2. The History and Geography of the British Isles to the End of the Roman Period [ 18]; 3 The Celtic Revival [ 43]; 4. The Formation of the Historical Celtic Kingdoms [ 68]; 5. Secular Institutions: Early Irish Society [ 92]; 6. The Early History of the Modern Celtic Kingdoms [110]; 7. Celtic Religion and Mythology and the Literature of the Otherworld [ 134]; 8. Celtic Christianity and Its Literature [ 159]; 9. The Celtic Languages and the Beginnings of Literature [ 206]; 10. Irish Literature [ 239]; 11. Welsh Literature [ 270]; 12. Celtic Art [ 287]; Epilogue [ 322]; List of Abbreviations [ 329]; Map [ 336]; Index [ 345]. (For chapter-length extracts, see RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics > Celtiana”, infra.)

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Commentary
Prionsias MacCana - RIA Obituary (1972-73): ‘Myles Dillon was a man of such boundless energy that it would have been difficult to imagine him resigning himself to years of quiet retirement, and in retrospect it seems wholly in character that he should have died, as he did, en plein travail. He was on one of his frequent forays abroad as an ambassador of Celtic studies when he fell ill in London and he died a couple of days after his return to Dublin, on June 18th, 1972. / Born in 1900, son of John Dillon, one-time leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, he was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, and Mount St. Benedict in Wexford, and later at University College, Dublin, where he took his B.A. and M.A. degrees. [...]’ (See full text, infra.)

George A. Little, Dubin Before the Vikings (1957), writes: A lecture by Prof. Myles Dillon at TCD, 7th March 1956 (Irish Press report; and repeated before RSAI, 30th April 1957), argues that the mention of armour suggests the early use of that form of war-equipment which, in fact, archaeologists have found no evidence of. The word in question is luireacha which - in conjunction with iairn - means metal armour. Otherwise, however, it is the Latin loan-word lorica (cf. St. Patrick) stemming from loreus, leather thongs. Little adds a passage from the Tain descriptive of Cuchullin mac Subhaite’s ‘stiff leathern defensive dress, made of seven several layers of oxen’s hides, seven times strenghened’. (Translator not stated.) [c.170] Bibl., ‘The Exile of Conall Corc’, from the ‘Cycle of Crimhthann, Son of Fidach’, translated in The Cycle of the Kings, [Book of Leinster vers.], ed. Myles Dillon, OUP 1946, pp.34-37. There is also a version of this tale translated by Vernam Hull in Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 56, pp.937-50. [Little, 22].

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Quotations

See ‘Celtic Religion and Celtic Society’, The Celts, ed. Joseph Raftery (Cork: Mercier Press 1964), pp.59-71, in RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics > Celtiana”, infra.)


Early Irish Literature (1948): ‘[T]o present the imaginative literature of Ireland in a coherent order, choosing only the best thhat has survived , so that a wider public may become familiar with its contents and with its forms.’ (p.v; quoted in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, London: Pluto Press 1998, p.196.)

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Celtic Religion and Celtic Society’, in The Celts, ed. Joseph Raftery (Cork: Mercier Press 1964), pp.59-71: ‘It is important to reflect, at the outset, that we must not think in terms of the great world religions, of our own Christian faith with its philosophy and theology and a highly developed ethical and moral doctrine of which the ideal of charity is the perfect expression. Nor even of Mohamedanism which owes so much to the Old Testament, nor of Hinduism or the nobler Buddhist form of Indian religion. We are dealing here with primitive magic, for which modern analogies would most readily be found in Africa or among the hill-tribes of India or the still pagan tribes of North America; though the general culture of the Celts of Gaul was higher than that statement implies, judged by their achievement in decorative art. They were heirs to common Indo-European traditions. Indeed an analogy can also be found with the cult of Poseidon and Demeter in Ancient Greece, as we shall see.’ (p.59.)

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Celtic Religion and Celtic Society’ (1964) - cont.: ‘The Celts were once a great and conquering people. They plundered Rome in the fourth century b.c., and Delphi in Greece in the third, spreading as far as Galatia in Asia Minor. The tide of fortune later turned against them and now the heirs to Celtic tradition survive only in Brittany and Wales and Scotland and Ireland. Like the Jews, it has been their destiny, for many centuries, to suffer wrongs rather than to inflict them. This is not an ignoble history, and the Celtic heritage is no mean tradition. It is a heritage of beauty in decorative art and in lyric poetry, of incandescent imagination in literature, of devotion to ideals rather than to material gain, of vitality and the will to survive, and indeed courage in battle too. “What was it that maintained you so in your lives?” St. Patrick asks of Caoilte in the Colloquy of the Ancients, and Caoilte answered: “Truth in our hearts, and strength in our arms, and fulfilment in our tongues”. / This Celtic heritage is ours in a peculiar way, for we are the only independent people to possess it. We shall do well to cherish it.’ (end; p.71; for full text, see RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics > Celtiana”, infra.)

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The Celtic Realms (1967) - Points of difference stated: ‘[...] We have not always been in complete agreement, and we have simply given our opinions in matters of doubt. The common opinion now is that Medb and Fergus, Cú Chulainn and Cú Roí Mac Dáire, are not historical persons. N. C. prefers to regard Queen Medb as having reigned as queen at Cruachain. On the other hand, M. D. regards the druids as heirs to an ancient Indo-European priesthood, represented in India by the brahmins, whereas N.C. believes that they were not priests (Chap. 7). These are the chief points of difference between us [...] The book is a collaboration. We have worked together on each chapter, and are glad to accept joint responsibility. / The attempt to present the Celts in history as one people, with a common tradition and a common character, is new, and in some degree, experimental. It seems to us to have been justified beyond our expectations, inasmuch as there does emerge in the history and institutions and religion, in the art and literature, perhaps even in the language, a quality that is distinctive and common to the Celts of Gaul, of Britain and of Ireland. We hesitate to give it a name: it makes a contrast with Greek temperance, it is marked by extremes of luxury and asceticism, of exultation and despair, by lack of discipline and of the gift for organising secular affairs, by delight in natural beauty and in tales of mystery and imagination, by an artistic sense that prefers decoration and pattern to mere representation. Matthew Arnold called it the Celtic Magic.’ (Pref. [ii-iii]; see chapter-length extracts in RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics > Celtiana”, infra.)

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Language shift: ‘This policy of compulsory Irish was launched in 1925 and it was inspired, I've long suspected, by the purpose in the minds of the few that pressed for it, of using the language as a means of transferring power - or rather authority. At that time all the cultural institutions of the country, except the National University, were in the hands of Protestants [...] all that must be changed. A new administrative class was to be established and the language was one fo the means used.’ (Quoted in Damian Corless, “A League of Gaelic Gentlemen” [feature], in The Village (2 Dec. 2004).

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References
Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Franciscan Library of Killiney, ed. Myles Dillon, Canice Mooney OFM, & Padraig de Brún (DIAS 1969), xxvi, 185pp; covers 129 items including Martyrology of Tallaght; Felire Oenguso; fragments of Grail legend; Liber Hymnoru m; Life of Colum Cille; Irish Aeneid (Destruction of Troy); Cormac’s Glossary; Annals of Four Masters; Foras Feasa ar Eirinn; Acallam na Senorach; Duanaire Finn; Flight of the Earls (Tadhg Ó Cianan); sgathan Shacramainte na hAithrighe; Topographical, gramatical and other fragments; Leabhrán Bhriain Uí Chathalálan; Life of St Finbar; Foras Feasa, in verse; prayerbooks, monastic rules, etc; also 2 appendices on scattered items among Latin and other MSS, and Irish MSS items in copies of printed books. [Cont.]

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Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts [...] Killiney (1969), Introduction: The source of the library is the Franciscan friary, Merchants’ Quay, occuped to 1946. Introduction refers origins of collection to great hagiographical undertaking of St Anthony’s Louvain, undertaken as result of chance meeting of Hugh Ward, Patrick Fleming, and Thomas Messingham, rector of the Irish College at Paris, then preparinig a vol. on lives of Irish saints, in Mar 1923. Work continued by Ward, Fleming, John Colgan, and Boneventure O’Doherty (d.1680); sending of Michael O’Clery to Ireland, 1624, &c. NOTE, Primate Ussher and James Ware placed MSS at disposal of Franciscan copyists. O’Clery arrived in 1626. A great mass of material was saved from destruction and much work accomplished tht would have been impossible even in the next generation. [xiv]. Those MSS in the collection of Bonaventure O’Doherty later ‘discovered’ at Rome by Rev. J. P. Lyons of Belmullet, Co. Mayo, who sent tracings of headings to Dublin, where Eugene O’Curry succeeded in identifying them as part of the Louvain collection. Moves to have them transferred to RIA came to nothing in 1843, and in 1859 the Catholic University was also unsuccessful; in 1872, when there were fears that St. Isidore in Rome would be possessed by the Italian govt., the MSS were brought back in sealed boxes with British diplomatic immunity by Fr Luke Carey OFM. A list was then prepared for the Hist. MS Commission by John Gilbert (1872). Other stray remnants from Rome arrived; MSS at other Irish houses in Killarney, Multifarnham, and Cork and Waterford were added.

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Notes
Padraic Colum, in his contribution to Ulick O’Connor, ed., The Joyce that We Knew (Cork: Mercier 1967), p.85, relates that he and Joyce met Dillon in Paris (‘he was a philologist studying Sanskrit and the connections of Old Irish with it’), and that Joyce - who treated him with perfect politeness - later scored a debating point in his own estimation by remarking that Colum could bear to talk with the son of John Dillon - the man who sided against Parnell, and was therefore on the opposite side of Joyce.

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