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Clare O'Halloran
Proceedings of The Royal Irish Academy Section C-Archaeology Celtic Studies History Linguistics Literature
Recalling the View: Edmund Spenser and Ireland in the eighteenth century
In Press
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This article focuses on the continuing influence of Edmund Spenserís View of the present state of Ireland (1596) in the second half of the long eighteenth century in Ireland. The Elizabethan authorís bleak anatomy of Ďthe Irish problemí still had strong resonances for Protestants, particularly after the outbreak of Whiteboy agrarian violence in Munster in the 1760s. Focusing firstly on conservative Protestant antiquaries such as Edward Ledwich and Thomas Campbell, it argues that their perspectives, on the present as well as the past, were shaped by Spenserian concepts of civility and barbarism, even if these were adapted to fit fashionable Enlightenment theories of the evolution of human society. These perspectives were balanced by the more liberal position of others such as Joseph Cooper Walker, whose attitude towards the View reflected his relatively optimistic political outlook, which was characteristic of Grattanite Whigs. The traumatic experience of the 1798 Rebellion marked the defeat of that attitude, and the post-Union period was marked by the republication of classic colonist texts such as the View, as well as a more ambiguous harnessing of the latter by the key Protestant novelists after 1800, the consideration of which forms a concluding coda to the article.
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