Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde (Shannon: IUP 1974)

Reading Notes [BS]

Remarks: This pioneering work comprises a literary history of the early revival, and provides an extensive bibliographical account of Hyde’s sources as a critic and bibliographer, and well as much information on his contemporaries in the literary revival and language revival movements.

‘Hyde was never really at one with Yeats, Synge, Lady Gregory and the others in their aim to create a national literature in English [however] Hyde was not hostile to them as other Gaelic enthusiasts such as DP Moran of the Dublin Leader were. Insofar as the Anglo-Irish writers were reflecting some aspect of the native culture Hyde was in sympathy with them, and as President of the Gaelic League he expressly directed the editor of An claidheamh Soluis ...; not to attack their work as Moran did in the Leader.’ (Bibl., Donal McCartney, ‘Hyde, D. P. Moran, and Irish Ireland’, in Leaders and Men of the Easter Rising, Dublin 1916, ed., F. X. Martin OSA (London 1967) [here p.xvi].

‘Hyde’s passionate interest was not the anti-imperial struggle personified by O’Leary, nor the mainly political, propagandist Anglo-Irish literature to which O’Leary introduced Yeats and his other disciplines, but the native language which he saw dying thoughout the country and the traditional lore that must die with it, unless the language could be saved at the eleventh hour or, at least, the songs and stories enshrined in it could be collected before they disappeared forever.’ [83; ...]

Daly cites Hyde’s poetical ‘toast’ to O’Donovan Rossa [45]

Hyde gives paper on ‘The Attitude of the Reformed Church in Ireland’ to Theological Society, 1 March 1885, recording in his diary, ‘Salmon in particular said he would not have come had be known what I was going to read.’ His paper won favourable notice in Dublin University Magazine [ recte ?Review]: ‘The first part of the paper was a historical account of the rise and development of the three largest Christian bodies in this country - the Roman Catholic, the Presbyterian, and the Church of Ireland. The latter part of the Paper gave the essayist’s own opinions as to the position of the Irish Church clergy ought to take up with regard to the present Nationalist movement. This position, according to Mr Hyde, should be one of approval, implicit if not avowed.’ The opinions were declared not very common, and the style especially [admired] as ‘beautiful and simple.’ [55]

Hyde’s next outing, ‘A Plea for the Irish Language’, filled ten pages of the issue for August 1886, anticipating the form of his argument in ‘The Necessity, &c.’ Of O’Conor of Belangar, O’Donovan, O’Curry, Petrie [err.], Hennessy, he says ‘all these spoke the language naturally from their cradle ...; they did [the] work which made it possible for a Jubainville or a Windisch to prosecute their studies with any success.’ He continues, ‘...; when they lose the language they lose also the trditional unwritten literature which, inculcating and eulogising what is courteous, high-minded, and noble, supplied continuously an incentive to the practice of those qualities.’ when he published Leabar Sgeulaigheachta (Dublin 1899) three years later, he appended an abbreviated but otherwise verbatim version of this writing, entitled therein ‘On the reasons for keeping alive the Irish language’ [69].

Beside the Fire [publ. by Nutt] (1890), contains tranlations. of about half the stories formerly in Sgealeachta. A long preface contains remarks on T.C. Croker, Patrick Kennedy, Lady Wilde ['her entire ignorance of Irish ...; is apparent every time she introduces an Irish word’], and Jeremiah Curtin [his ignorance of the commonest Irish words ‘as startling has Lady Wilde’s’, he likewise leaves his reader in ‘profound ignorance of his authorities’ but he ‘has approached the fountainhead more nearly than any other’, as folk-tale collectors [104] In the same preface, he discusses the principal behind his use of Anglo-Irish dialect, or rather the language which became Kiltartan in the hands of Lady Gregory. [106-10]

Quotes Hyde: ‘It is not very easy to make a good translation from Irish into English, for there are no two Aryan languages more opposed to each other in spirit and idiom.’ (Preface to Beside the Fire, 1890) [107].

On Thomas Davis: Daly cites Hyde’s professed attitude to Davisite tradition, viz. - ‘the best we can hope for the future is that as the new language of the peasantry becomes more easy manage[d] [sic] and begins to fit better with the organs and mind of those who use it, the beautiful and pure lyrics of such masters as Moore, Mangan, Davis, and Griffin, as well as the songs from that golden repertoire the Spirit of the Nation, and other collections of a similar character, may gradually spirit up with it, as it were, a natural growth in the hearts of the young generation, and quietly supersede the semi-barbarous productions which are as yet only too prevalent in the homes and round the hearths of the Irish nation’ (“Some Words about Unpublished Literature”, in The Gael, 7 Jan 1888). [112]

Daly quotes Austin Clarke’s remarks on Hyde as a teacher in ‘On Learning Irish’, Irish Times, 10 April 1943: on the Casadh na tSugáin]: ‘[A]s he unwound an imaginary straw rope at the end of the play, [he] found himself outside the lecture room’ - and note that the same remark is attributed to Austin Clarke, Twice Around the Black Church (1962); in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland (1994), p.72.] Hyde acquired many Irish books at the auction of John O’Daly’s library; the appendix to Dominic Daly, 1974, is there a reference list of the contents of that library.

In an article called ‘Gaelic Folk Songs’, in which he [Hyde] introduced the famous series on ‘The Songs of Connacht’ in The Nation of 26 April 1890: ‘Now, however, that the force of circumstances, or to speak more truly the example of the leaders of the Irish race, have induced men to contemptuously throw aside Gaelic, and seeing that from the centre to the sea Enlgish will be the language of the rising generation, it have be possible that a poet may yet spring up amongst us who shall combine in a union of sympathy both the upper and lower classes, not of one province only, but of all Ireland.’ [114]

Hyde’s review Sparling, Irish Minstelsy (1887; enl. 1888), in appeared in Irish Monthly, during autumn 1888, The anthology was compiled by Herbert Halliday Sparling in Walter Scott’s ‘the Canterbury Poets’ ser.; disparaged by Hyde for its nonsensical use of lines and phrases of Irish, in general a more sober appraisal of the Davisite balladeers and closer to what Daly considers Hyde’s true opinion, especially on translation: ‘The truth is that Gaelic songs mostly depend for their effect upon the alliteration and collocation of words and that this effect is wholly and of necessity lost in any and every attempt to transfer them into another language, so that what in Irish are the most gorgeous and decorative verses imaginable, may become in English poor and bald ...;’,

Hyde goes on to illustrate the excellence of Mangan - ‘our best translator, though he did not himself understand a word of Irish’ - by the example of “My Dark Rosaleen”, showing their correspondence the four ‘undecorative lines of the original [116], before turning to Davis to criticise ‘those wretchedly weak lyrics ‘Anni Dear’, ‘Love’s Longings’, and ‘Maire Bhán astor’. ‘Still, he cannot be angry with Davis, for his noble and generous treatment of the Irish language contrasts only too favourably with that of some of his followers of the present day’. He wishes that these weak lyrics had been excluded and that instead had been included ‘Nationality’ and ‘Celts and Saxons ‘, ‘both of which express, as perhaps no other of his poems has done, the whole life-work and aspiration of the man himself ..’ Hyde’s review of Sparling appeared in Irish Monthly, during autumn 1888. [117]

Daly quotes Preface to Love Songs of Connacht (1893): ‘The exigencies of publication in a weekly newspaper necessitated the translation of it into English. This I do not wholly regret; ...; My English prose translation only aims at being literal, and has courageously, though no doubt ruggedly, reproduced the Irish idioms of the original.’ (Daly, op. cit.,Introduction.) Also quotes The Love Songs of Connacht, dedicatory preface to George Sigerson: ‘I have differed with yourself, Mangan, Ferguson, and other translators, in endeavouring to reproduce the vowel-rhythms as well as the exact metres of the original poems ...; [and] interlinear rhyming’. [120].

Daly quotes a diary entry for 28 Aug 1900 in which ‘Yeats set me [Hyde] writing a play on “The Twisting of the Rope”; and I wrote a good part of its from a scenario which he drew up for me.’ [134; see note . on p.216:] Diarmuid and Gráinne premiered on the 31 Aug. 1900. The play was produced by F. R. Benson’s Shakepearean Company on 21 Oct. 1901 [with Casadh an tSugáin, prod. by William Fay]. Frank Fay wrote in a review of the evening, in United Irishman (26 Oct. 1901): ‘Monday evening was a memorable one for Dublin and for Ireland. the Irish language has been heard on the stage of the principal metropolitan theatre, and “A Nation Once Again” has been sung within its walls, and hope is strong within us once more...;. To my mind the greatest triumph of the author lies in their having written in English a play in which English actors are intolerable ...; All through the play the English voices grated on one’s ear, and the stolid English temperament was equally at variance with what we wanted.’ [c.315].

Daly summarises: ‘This contrast between Hyde the crusader for all things Gaelic and Hyde the Anglo-Irish country gentleman was to continue all through his life ...; never one of the crowd. However passionately and sincerely he might campaign to save the remnants of the popular Gaelic culture ...; in private life his preference was for the aristocratic and urbane. Yeats wrote of this trait: ‘You’ve dandled them and fed them from the book / And know them to the bone; impart to us - We’ll / keep the secret - a new trick to please. / Is there a bridle for this Proteus / That turns and changes like the draughty seas? / Or is there none, most popular of men, / But when they mock us, that we mock again?’ (Collected Poems, p.107.) [146].

On the inevitable drift towards political nationalism, which Hyde has sketched in the phrases, ‘even at the risk of encouraging national aspirations ...; &c.’ [159], Daly comments, ‘But the very enthusiasm and force of nationalist feeling which the League generated flowed inevitably towards political as well as cultural independence. [c.170; For warnings from George Birmingham, see q.v.].

In June 1913 Hyde addressed the Coisde Cnótha (Exec. Council) of the League in Irish, saying, ‘I give you a warning tonight, a warning straight from my heart - if politics continue within the League that, one by one, the best people will be driven out of it ...; and those who are left will then be able to say (as perhaps they want to say) that they are the true patriots, and that the rest of us are only useless good-for-nothings.’ [c.170]

Following several speeches in which he forewarned of his own resignation from the Presidency, at the Ard-Fheis in Dundalk in 1915, where the constitution of the league was amended to declare that its aim would be the realization of ‘a free, Gaelic-speaking Ireland’, Hyde immediately vacated the chair. [c.172]

Hyde, Story of Early Gaelic Literature (1895), ded. Fr. Euseby Cleaver and Fr James Keegin of St. Louis for attempts to halt the ‘ever increasing Gaelicisation of our race’ earning the thanks of all those who ‘do not desire to see our ancient Irish race sink into West Britain.’ [212].

Hyde won the Vice Chancellor’s Poetry Prize, set in 1887 on that topic [The Songs of St Columcille], and also attempted to make up the other two, ‘Three Sorrows of Irish Story-telling’, ‘The Fate of the Children of Tuireann, and ‘The Fate of the Children of Lir.’ Bibl., The Three Sorrows of Irish Story-telling and Ballads of St Columcille, by Douglas Hyde LLD, MRIA [An Craoibhín Aoibhinn] (London: T. Fisher Unwin 1895).

In Hyde’s prefatory account, this book was sent to press by accident in Mr Fisher Unwin’s absence, instead of a book for the New Irish Library [i.e., in place of The Story of Early Gaelic Literature, publ. same year] The stories were printed separately by Talbot as Déirdre (1939), The Children of Lir (1940), The Children of Tuireann (1941), and The Songs of St Columcille (1942), serving as the President’s Christmas card. His ‘St Columcille’s Farewell’ was Hyde’s first poem in Boston Pilot (4 Aug 1888). See Horace Reynold’s, ‘From the Little Branch to the New Island’ in Dublin Magazine, vol. 13 (1938). [126-27; n., 216].

Yeats, ed., Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (Walter Scott 1888); contains three stories of Hyde translation from his own Sgéulaigheachta, ‘Teig O’Kane and the Corpse’, ‘The Piper and the Puca’, and ‘Munachar and Manachar’. Hyde is thanked in the introduction for ‘valuable and valued assistance in several ways’ and individual notes on Irish words and phrases are acknowledged to be Hyde’s. The preface also includes a notice of Hde’s forthcoming ‘volume of folk tales in Gaelic’ and an encomium, ‘He is, perhaps, most to be trusted of all. He knows the people thoroughly. Others see a phase of Irish life; he understands all its elements. His work is neither humorous nor mournful; it is simply life. I hope he may put some of his gathering into ballads; for he is the last of our ballad-wriers of the school of Walsh and Callanan - men whose work seems fragrant with turf smoke.’ [c.130]

A weekly column appeared in The Nation under heading ‘Gaelic Folk Songs’; the title was altered after three introductory articles to ‘Danta na mBard Connactac’, with the linking text in Irish, followed by an English translation of the whole. In 1890 he [Hyde] printed what he called three chapters of a single work, ‘The Songs of Connacht’, Songs of Carolan and his Contemporaries’, and Songs in Praise of Women’, while a fourth chapter, ‘Love Songs’, appearing in the Weekly Freeman, 1892-93, provided the plates used to print Love Songs of Connacht in 1893. [131].

Religious Songs of Connacht (1906), first serialised in New Ireland Review from June 189[?] to June 1905. Of his Literary History of Ireland (1899; [new ed. 1967]), which Maud Gonne wrote: ‘an inspiration to O’Leary’s group of young poets, writers and revolutionists; it supplied the intellectual background of revolt.’ (Servant of the Queen, p.94). [Daly 136].

It was Hyde’s prose translations which won Yeats’s unstinted admiration, ‘the prose narrative that flows about his Love Songs of Connacht ...; the prose parts were to me, as they were to many others, the coming of a new power into literature.’ (Samhain, 1902; rep. in Explorations, 1962, p.9.) [134].

Daly cites the great poems of Mangan and quotes from Autobiographies Yeats’s remark about ‘the great poet who died in his youth.’ (The Trembling of the Veil, 1922; rep. Autobiog., 1966, p.219.) [136].

Daly covers Hyde’s ‘Necessity ...;’ speech in great detail, commencing with the diary entry that records its deliver and reception, and then citing lengthily from parts of the speech itself. [157-59], ‘In conclusion ...; / ...; I appeal to every one whatever his politics - for this is no political matter - to do his best to help the Irish race to develop in future upon Irish lines, even at the risk of encouraging national aspirations, because upon Irishlines alone can the Irish race once more become what it was of yore - one of the most original, artistic, literary, and charming peoples of Europe.’ [159]

Quotes Hyde on Irish place-names: ‘On the whole, our place names have been treated with about the same respect as if they were the names of a savage tribe which had never before been reduced to writing, and with about the same intelligence and contempt as vulgar English squatters treat the topographical nomenclature of the Red Indians.’ ('Necessity, &c.’) [n., 220]

GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY cites Richard Irvine Best, Bibliography of Irish Philology and of Printed Irish Material (Dublin 1913), and Clár Litridheacht na Nua-Ghaedhilge 1850-1936, compiled by Ristéard de Hae and Bríghid Ní Donnchadha (Dublin 1938). Daly uses the symbols B and de Hae with numerals to show the corresponding entry in the respective bibliographies for each title in Hyde’s hand list of his own acquisitions at the end of vol. III of his diaries.

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