Paul Hyland & Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing: Exile and Subversion [Insight series] [from Bath College of Higher Ed.] ] (London: Macmillan 1991), pbk., 256pp. with index [0 333 52541 8/6]

CONTENTS: Stephen H Daniel, ‘The Subversive Philosophy of John Toland’ [1-12]; Hyland, ‘Naming Names: Swift and Steele’ [13-31]; Robert Phiddian, ‘The English Swift/The Irish Swift’ [32-44]; ‘Bryan Coleborne, ‘They sate in counterview: Anglo-Irish Verse in the Eighteenth Century’ [45-63]; Alan Booth, ‘Irish Exiles: Revolution and Writing in England in the 1790s’ [64-81]; Margaret O’Brien, William Carleton: The Lough Derge Exile’ [82-97]; Graham Davis, ‘Making History: John Mitchel and the Great Famine’ [98-115]; Declan Kiberd, ‘Yeats, Childhood and Exile’ [126-145]; C. L. Innes, ‘A Voice in Directing the Affairs of Ireland: L’Irlande Libre, The Shan Van Vocht, and Bean na hEireann’ [146-58]; Bonnie Scott Kime, ‘James Joyce: A Subversive Geography of Gender’ [159-72]; Keith Williams, Joyce’s Chinese Alphabet: Ulysses and the Proletarians’ [173-87]; Charles R. Lyons, ‘Fin de partie as Political Drama’ [188-208]; R. K. R. Thornton, ‘Friel and Shaw: Dreams and Responsibilities’ [224-33]; Neil Corcoran, ‘Strange Letters: Reading and Writing in Recent Irish Poetry’ [234-47; END].

Introduction: Wilde said what captivity was to the Jews, exile was to the Irish, it made them what they are, in ‘Pen, Pencil and Poison (1891); also noted fondess for green, indicating artistic temperament and laxity of morals. [xi]

Richard Ellmann says of Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett that their work, shares with their island a struggle for autonomy and a disdain for outside authorities. [xiii]

Stephen H Daniel, ‘The Subversive Philosophy of John Toland’ [1-12]
Toland is characterised as a rational free-thinker on the periphery of communal discourse, who regard the written or the spoken word as of its nature an anuthority in itself, requiring no ‘mysterious’ meaning to justify it: ‘By the original right of Nature, and the main principle of the Reformation, tis the privilege of every man, whether by word or by writing, to inform others, or to seek information from them … to confine writing on [religious] subjects to any set of men, wou’ be the certain way in a short time to have neither true doctrine nor true history; as is tyhe case in fact, where and whenever this practice has been sottishly authoris’d or even indulged, ignorance becoming triumphant begets Credulity, as Credultiy unavoidably occasions Lyes; and Lyes have recourse to Force for their support against Reason, which left free would soon expose them to contemt, and then quite explode them.’ (”Mangoneutes”: Being a Defence of nazarenus’, in Tetradymus (1720), p.142.

Bastard son of an Irish cleric in Londonderry, christened distinctively Janus Junius; renounced Catholicism at 16; studed in Scotland and Holland, arriving at Oxford in 1693; researched on Irish dictionary and tract showing that Ireland had been colonised by Gauls, leading to life-long study of druids; notoreity of Christianity Not Mysterious, showing that the religion contained no true miracles; biographies of Milton and Harrington; supported Protestant succession in 1688; offended clerics with new applications of biblical criticism; in his last years resorted to secretive esoteric/exoteric doctrine; his interest in Druids and the ancient practice of distinguishing recondite doctrine from public announcement evident from Letters to Serena (1704) on, marks him as leading 18th century theorist of discretion; concerned with way in which orthodox interpretations of scripture are supported by centres of political power [~3]; distinguishes two kinds of doctrines: 1] ‘the one internal and the other external, or the one private and the other publick; the latter to be indifferently communicated to all the World, and the former only very cautiously to their best Friends, or to some few capable of receiving it, and that wou’d not make ill use of the same’ (Letter to Serena); reactions to his Christianity, with its subversion of communal doctrine, led to the concuion that ‘one Thing should be in the Heart, and in a private Meeting; and another Thing Abroad, and in Public Assemblies’ (Pantheisticon); suspicion that, under these conditions, communicant in dispute cannot be accorded full credibility sets him apart from other [franker] deists: ‘When a man maintains what is commonly believ’d, or professes what is publicly enjoin’d, it is not always a sure rule that he speaks what he thinks: but wen when he seriously maintains the contrary of what’s by law establish’d, then there’s a strong presumption that he utters his mind.’ (‘”Clidophorus”, or of the Exoteric and the Esoteric Philosophy’, in Tetradymus); for Toland when a belief is communal it makes the individual holding that belief superfluous.

Quotes long section from Propositions, in which Toland discusses differences of opinion with a friend, remarking that whereas he himself is ‘extremely easy and unconcern’d’ amid the expression of differences, the friend ‘cou’d never enjoy Tranquillity’ because—Toland conjectures—the former is happy so reach ‘a further knowledge of human Nature’ while the latter prefers to hold in view the correct opinion: ‘you represent Mankind to your self, such as they ought to be, and [that] I consider ‘em but just such as they are; you are uneasy to see ‘em continue their own Enemies, and [that] I am easy since they cannot become their own Friends’ [5] (Socianism Truly Stated, 1705)

Promoted interests of foreigners and Jews in England: ‘There is no Contry in Europe more divided than England; and … we cherish all the kinds of Difference which in any place or Time disturb’d the Peace of the World.’ (Propositions for Uniting the Two East India Companies).

Daniel: What is significant is not that Toland had any particular esoteric doctrine but that there is always the prospect that an esoteric doctrine underlies and comprises the exoteric and publicly regulated pronouncement. [6] … exegesis is possible only if texts are treated as ‘other’ and remote; Fascinated by the mysterious, the individual often fails to recognise the alterity of meaning that is of his or her own making and is part of the attempt to understand; indeed the mystery or otherness of the text provides precisely the metaphysical basis for the appeal to the esoteric-exoteric distinction in philosophic practice[~7]; compares Toland’s view with Foucault and Jean-Francois Lyotard’s theory of epistemological disruption by which a strategy of self-imposed exile from political sanctioned interpretation establishes the gap between intelligible (public) and sensible (individual) interpretation [8]

ON DRUIDS [Daniels paraphrases]: His History of the Druids (1814) refuses to draw druidical themes into the universal vortex of the Judaeo-Christian, Graeco-Roman canon; … their existence challenges the bias of cultural integrity implicit with syntheses of nominally different cultures [9]; any attempt to explain the meaning or rationality behind the practices or language of the Druids misses the essential point that for them the performance and sensual immediacy of their speech constitute, in each figural expression, meaning; The secret of the Druids reveals itself in their Celtic language because, in this ancient language, the secret writing is the secret of writing; to write is not to provide an external expression of some internal knowledge, just as to speak is not to clothe some idea verbally; writing is nothing other than itself, its incantations describe the sounds that make reality … [12].

Why are Gallic or Irish superstitions more unfit to be transmitted to posterity, than those of the Greecs and Romans? Why shou’d [St] Patric be more squeamish in this respect than Moses or the succeeding Jewish prophets, who have transmitted to all ages the idolatries of the Egyptians, Phenicians, Caldeans, and other eastern nations? What an irreparable destruction of history, what a deplorable extinction of arts and inventions, what an unspeakable detriment to learning, what a dishonor upon human understanding, has the cowardly proceeding of the ignorant, or rather of the interested, against unarm’d monuments at all times occasion’d! And yet this bok and letter murdering humor, tho’ far from being commanded by Christ, has prevailed in Christianity from the beginning. (History of the Druids).

BIBL: “Mangoneutes”: Being a Defence of nazarenus’, in Tetradymus (1720); (‘”Clidophorus”, or of the Exoteric and the Esoteric Philosophy’, in Tetradymus (1720); A Collection of Several Pieces of Mr John Toland, ed. P. Desmaizeaux, 2 vols. (1726); Pantheisticon: or, the Form of Celebrating the Socratic Society [Latin 1720; trans. anon., 1751); Propositions for Uniting the Two East India Companies (1701); Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland on the Same Foot with All Other Nations (1714); Reasons for Address His Majesty to Invite into England their Highnesses, the Electress Dowager and the Electoral Prince of Hanover (1702); Reasons … Why … an Act for the Better Securing the Dependency of the Kingdom of Ireland upon the Crown of Great-Britain, Shou’d not Pass into a Law (1720); Socianism Truly Stated (1705); also ‘A Memorial to the Earl of [Oxford], 17 Dec. 1711, in A Collection of Several Pieces, and Toland’s footnotes to Matthew Cardinal Schiner, A Phillick Oration to Incite the English against the French (1707); Modern Editions: G. Gawlick, ed., Letters to Serena [1704] (Stuttgart and Bad Cannstatt:Freidrich Frommann 1964). COMM: Daniel, Stephen H., John Toland: His Methods, Manners, and Mind (Kingston, Ont. & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP 1984);


[ back ]
[ top ]