Music and Nationalism: The Debate Continues

Music and Nationalism: The Debate Continues

In some recent writing on the history of music in Ireland, several Irish scholars have claimed that nationalist ideologies had a stultifying influence on the development of classical music here. These views have proved extremely controversial, and writers such as Barra ó Séaghdha and Patrick Zuk have challenged them in a number of articles and reviews. In this article, Patrick Zuk returns to the subject and outlines his principal reservations.

In the course of my review in the JMI last year of Musical Constructions of Nationalism, a collection of essays brought out by Cork University Press, I gave an account of some work published in recent years by Joseph Ryan and Harry White, two of the Irish contributors to this volume, on the history of music in Ireland. I was particularly concerned in this review to call into question a number of extreme claims made in their writings regarding the supposedly calamitous impact of nationalist ideologies on the development of an indigenous tradition of art music here. Readers will also recall my contention that these particular works were marred by a number of very serious flaws and should consequently be approached with some caution.

These criticisms have, it seems, engendered not a little controversy. Axel Klein has taken me severely to task in the letter column of these pages, suggesting that I would deny Harry White the freedom to express his opinions and that my review amounted to an unsavoury personal attack in which I more or less branded him a charlatan. This is surely an extraordinary over-reaction to what was in fact no more than the normal cut and thrust of academic debate and Klein ascribes motivations to me which are palpably unjust. Harry White’s entitlement to the free expression and dissemination of his views was never called into question by me, let alone his integrity as a scholar. Ironically, if anyone appears to be uncomfortable with the free expression of opinion, it is Klein himself, to judge from his letters.

More important, however, from the point of view of conducting fruitful further debate about these questions, is the fact that Klein has apparently failed to grasp a crucial distinction between sound scholarship and the expression of mere opinion. Scholarship, if it is to be regarded as authoritative, must present conclusions which are supported by reasoned arguments and which are grounded as far as possible in demonstrable fact. It is legitimately vulnerable to criticism if its fundamental premises or its methodology cannot withstand close scrutiny. Furthermore, as Barra Ó Séaghdha has pointed out, a scholar such as Harry White who contributes articles on Irish music to a number of important international publications bears a particularly heavy burden of responsibility because other researchers need to rely on his work. The views of White and Ryan have undoubtedly been influential – for evidence of this, one need look no further than the article by Richard Pine published in two recent issues of the JMI. But to the extent that writers such as Pine allow themselves to adopt the views of these authors uncritically, their work, too, will be marred by similar flaws. Unreliable interpretations and basic errors of fact are perpetuated. This is surely a most undesirable state of affairs.

If my criticisms of these publications have been severe, it is largely because I share Ó Séaghdha’s concerns. I have not voiced these criticisms lightly and I would certainly hope that nobody else except Klein believes that I went to the trouble of writing such a long article for any other purpose than that of contributing to an important ongoing debate. I also believe that I can demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that they are justified and that they cannot be airily conjured away by having recourse to some verbal formula which would relegate them to the status of mere opinion. However, Klein’s letters and Pine’s article prompted me to reconsider my position carefully to ensure that I was not being unjust. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the defects in the work of Ryan and White are even more considerable than I had at first supposed. I decided, therefore, that it would be worthwhile to take up the matter once again in another article. 

Let us start by summarising the principal points of contention briefly. In their various writings, Joseph Ryan and Harry White offer interpretations of Irish musical history which are broadly similar – indeed, White acknowledges his indebtedness to Ryan’s work, though his own contributions may differ in certain points of emphasis. Both of them create a portrait which is almost overwhelmingly negative. Ryan can scarcely find a positive word for any work written by an Irish composer and refers dismissively to ‘the jejune creative harvest of the past two centuries’.[1] The very title of Harry White’s major publication on this subject, The Keeper’s Recital, plainly suggests that White is presenting his account of music in Ireland in an elegiac vein akin to that of the ‘recital’ in the poem by Seamus Heaney to which this title refers – a lament over the desolate remnants of a ravaged culture. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that his narrative portrays the history of Irish music as a bleak chronicle of sterility, mediocrity and failure. Evidently, in the view of both writers, Irish musicians have achieved very little that is worthy of commendation.

Both present a highly dramatic thesis that the blame for this state of affairs can be laid squarely on the influence of nationalist ideologies, which both writers, it would appear, find deeply repugnant. While this stance is never precisely articulated, it is unmistakably implied by the highly charged and emotive vocabulary to which they have recourse. Ryan, for example, does not shrink from employing a section heading ‘The Curse of Nationalism’ in one of his articles, while White’s antipathy is abundantly in evidence in his treatment of figures such as Douglas Hyde, which, as I shall show later, presents such an unbalanced and misleading view of Hyde’s position as to border on a travesty. These striking examples could easily be multiplied. It is, in fact, exceedingly difficult not to arrive reluctantly at the conclusion that an anti-nationalist agenda informs the work of these writers, since that they do not scruple to omit crucial facts and distort others in their attempts to portray this phenomenon in a wholly negative light. 

These nationalist ideologies, they claim, had a sterilising influence on musical creativity in Ireland, because given the highly fraught political climate, it was simply impossible for artists not to become embroiled in ideological conflicts, mostly to the detriment of their creative endeavour. As the nineteenth century drew to its close, artistic concerns became increasingly subordinated to political ends as nationalists sought to exploit art for propagandistic purposes. Our heritage of folk music came to possess a heightened symbolic importance as an emblem of a native Irish culture of venerable antiquity that was wholly distinct from the culture of the coloniser. This symbolic significance, in White’s view, came to be so great that it completely overshadowed the importance of the actual music itself, and he goes so far as to claim that in Ireland, ‘music could not survive as an independent entity, so deeply was it indentured to cultural and political propaganda’.[2] One of the most unfortunate consequences of the influence of Irish nationalism, it is asserted, was that it produced a climate of insularity and cultural chauvinism in which art music came to be widely repudiated altogether as an alien colonial activity. Furthermore, the preoccupation with finding a basis in folk music for a school of modern composition which would have legitimacy in the eyes of nationalists caused Irish composers to become isolated from contemporary musical developments on the continent. As a result of these circumstances, not only was no work of any real significance produced, but Irish musical life as a whole became utterly stagnant, a condition that White describes as ‘cultural stasis’ and Ryan as ‘torpor’.

To a reader who is only superficially acquainted with the course of Irish musical history, these explanations might appear plausible. After all, while the work of Irish writers enjoys international appreciation and recognition, the work of Irish composers appears to have made little headway outside Ireland and occupies at best only a marginal position in the awareness of most Irish people. Perhaps the most likely reason for this state of affairs is that the music is simply not very good. Given the fact that Ireland is also just beginning to emerge from a long period of intense social and religious conservatism during which we were much given to ostentatious displays of nationalist fervour, it is surely also not improbable that in such a climate that Irish composers might have produced little work of substance or interest other than folksy Kitsch

Such conclusions would however be quite unjustified. I hope to show in what follows that it would be possible to present quite a different reading of Irish musical history which would emphasise the fact that our record of achievement, while modest in comparison with other European countries, is still not inconsiderable. That this was so is due to those composers, performers and teachers who struggled valiantly to maintain a semblance of musical culture here during the last two centuries under circumstances, that were, to say the least, often deeply frustrating and unpropitious to their endeavours, largely due to the lack of patronage, a poor educational system and a dearth of infrastructures. I do not wish to exaggerate the extent of what they achieved, but as I hope to show, some of these figures deserve better treatment than the ungenerous and utterly misleading accounts of their work and attitudes they have received at the hands of Ryan and White. I do not doubt either that there were probably some nationalist extremists who wished to repudiate art music altogether, but evidence of this seems to be rather inconclusive. One of the crucial points I wish to make in this article, however, is that, on the basis of our present state of knowledge, there is no reason to believe that such views were as widespread as Ryan or White seem to believe or that they were in any way a decisive influence inhibiting the growth of an art music tradition.

To gain some idea of how lopsided and distorted a view of Irish musical history Ryan and White present, particularly in their treatment of the nineteenth century, it is deeply instructive to compare their accounts with that of Aloys Fleischmann in his chapter ‘Music and Society, 1850-1921’ which was his contribution to Volume VI of A New History of Ireland.[3] It quickly becomes evident that White and Ryan omit to mention crucial facts that would cause the circumstances they discuss to be construed in quite a different light. Fleischmann’s chapter was based on many years of careful archival research by Fleischmann himself and his research assistant Dr Ita Hogan, author of Anglo-Irish Music 1770-1830.[4] The picture that emerges is dramatically different in emphasis. White in The Keeper’s Recital scarcely deals with musical activities at all and one is left with an unmistakable impression that a general stagnation and apathy prevailed for most of the last two hundred years. By contrast, short though his account is, Fleischmann documents a surprising amount of musical activity – much more so, in fact, than one might have imagined given the acute social and economic problems with which Ireland was beset at the time. He mentions in particular large-scale choral and orchestral concerts, church music, concerts by visiting artists of the calibre of Joachim and Jenny Lind, much opera as well as a considerable variety of amateur music-making. It is not that Fleischmann makes excessive claims for the quality of this activity and he certainly does not conceal the fact that Ireland presented few opportunities for musicians of talent, who were left with little choice but to emigrate. But there is no reason to believe that the general standards of musical performances and of composition in Ireland were on the whole any worse than in other provincial centres around Europe. Neither does Fleischmann provide any reason to believe there might be some justice in extreme claims that a state of ‘cultural stasis’ or ‘torpor’ prevailed.

Speaking of European music life generally in the nineteenth century, the English critic Ernest Newman pointed out, ‘The ordinary music lover of to-day, lacking a historical perspective, naturally assumes that musical conditions in the not very remote past were very much as they are now. […] The reader, and too often the writer, of to-day is apt to assume that as the musical world is now, so, more or less, it has always been, with opera and concert institutions flourishing everywhere, with a fairly high level of performance everywhere, with the present facilities for publication, and with the composer occupying much the same economic position towards the publishers and purchasers and performers of his music as he does now. But to suppose all this is to have a completely wrong conception of the musical world as it was even so recently as a hundred years ago.’[5] This is a crucial point, because without a sense of a wider contemporary European context, there is a real danger that the circumstances of Irish musical life in particular might be represented in an exaggeratedly negative manner. 

One only has to read accounts by eminent nineteenth-century musicians to realise that standards of performance were largely dismal across Europe for much of the nineteenth century, a very few large centres excepted. Moscheles’ accounts of the attitudes of English orchestral musicians, even in a large centre such as London, make one wonder how the performances can ever have risen above the level of low farce. In a diary entry for 1822, he describes his experiences of taking rehearsals with the orchestra of the Philharmonic Society: ‘Our method of rehearsal was quite different from what they are used to here, where they either dispense with rehearsals altogether, or half the orchestra turns up for a single run-through.’[6] Similarly, Spohr, writing of his tours in his autobiography, ruefully expresses his frequent dissatisfaction with the standards of orchestral playing he encountered even in England and Germany, describing some of the playing he endured as ‘fearful’ and ‘mediocre’. He also describes one particularly unhappy rendition of Haydn’s Creation under his baton at a Swiss festival during which the orchestra was so weak it was ‘frequently not heard at all’ and when it was the sound was ‘awful’. He goes on to recount how ‘The Violinists intonated unbearably false, and the wind instrumentalists, particularly the Hornists, and trumpets, brought out tones which sometimes excited general laughter.’[7] How much worse can comparable concerts in Ireland during the period have been?

One must also guard against arriving prematurely and hastily at an exaggeratedly negative evaluation of the quality of work produced by Irish composers during this period. One only has to look at the back cover of a vocal score published by a nineteenth-century English publisher such as Novello to realise just how many composers appear to have enjoyed quite substantial reputations in their lifetimes and whose work was quickly consigned to oblivion. We may not have given a Berlioz or a Wagner to the world, but then, neither did many other European countries. And there were nonetheless a number of native composers of talent. Philip Cogan (1748-1833), for example, who was born in Cork but spent most of his career in Dublin, enjoyed a very considerable reputation during his lifetime in England as well as Ireland as an executant and a composer. Some of his keyboard sonatas can certainly bear comparison with those of other minor composers of the period. He is not even mentioned in The Keeper’s Recital. Neither, for that matter, does White discuss the work of most of the important twentieth century figures – an extraordinary omission, surely, and one which results in an utterly distorted view of Irish musical history. It is very hard to avoid the impression that White simply does not consider the work of important composers such as Potter, Victory, Kinsella, Bodley, and Wilson significant enough to write about and these figures are relegated to a brief mention in a endnote. As I pointed out in my review ofMusical Constructions of Nationalism, these omissions are necessary if White’s thesis is to appear plausible, as is his failure to present the particulars of Irish musical history in a wider European context – a context in which it might not appear quite so impoverished. One must also therefore charge him with melodramatic overstatement when he declares that ‘music fell silent’[8] in Ireland – when it is quite clear from Fleischmann’s account that it did nothing of the kind. 

Ryan, for his part, has recourse to somewhat different strategies in his attempts to present Irish musical history in a similarly negative light. The first is to depict Irish musical life generally as hopelessly provincial and stagnant. Having created this context, he then tries to create the impression that many Irish musicians, but particularly those sympathetic to the aims of cultural nationalism, were xenophobic bigots, obsessed with Irish folk music to the extent that they wilfully cut themselves off from the potentially fructifying influences of musical life on the continent. This portrayal is achieved by placing highly questionable constructions on a small number of very selective quotations from contemporary writings. Ryan’s article ‘Assertions of Distinction: the Modal Debate in Irish Music’, which was published in Irish Musical Studies 2, provides a particularly striking example of this.

As the reader may be aware, one of the principal issues raised in musical circles from the 1890s onwards in discussions amongst Irish musicians during this period was the extent to which composers should draw on folk music for inspiration, particularly if they wished to evolve a mode of expression that could be regarded as distinctively Irish. (This was a question which preoccupied composers in other countries too, of course: Vaughan Williams and Holst were concerned around the same time with the question of evolving a distinctive English mode of expression emancipated from Austro-German influences which they had come to find inhibiting and oppressive.) One of the most valuable records of contemporary opinion in Ireland concerning this issue is the Journal of the Ivernian Society, a Cork-based periodical which ran from 1909 and which was founded ‘for the Study and Encouragement of the Literature, History, Language, Art and Archaeology of Ireland’. This periodical contains quite a number of articles on music by figures such as Annie Patterson, a prominent musician of the period who enjoyed a considerable national reputation as a composer and as a writer on musical subjects.[9]

Every issue of the periodical contained a section entitled ‘Notes on Music, Art, etc.’ which consist of a variety of unsigned contributions. One of these deals in part with the contemporary prospects of musical composition in Ireland and looks forward optimistically to the rise of an indigenous school of Irish composers. The author speculates on the sort of music this new generation of composers might write and suggests that music in a sub-Wagnerian idiom was unlikely to have much appeal in Ireland. He or she continues: ‘nor yet will the melody-loving Gael easily assimilate the noise-music of the Strauss and Debussy schools’.[10] Ryan attributes the authorship of the piece to Patterson – though this is unlikely, given the general tenor of her other signed contributions, as I shall presently show. He seizes eagerly on the passage I have just quoted, and wrenching it from its original context, moves on swiftly to infer that there was an ‘isolationist’ school of thought which repudiated foreign music in a spirit of ‘defensive insularity’.[12] As if this was not bad enough, this discussion appears under a section heading ‘The Chauvinist Approach’. To describe the author of the piece as a ‘chauvinist’ unambiguously suggests that he or she had an exaggerated estimation of the merits of Irish music and was blindly prejudiced against music written in other countries.

This is an extraordinary weight of interpretation to place on so slender a piece of supposed ‘evidence’. No further quotations from Annie Patterson are provided, nor does Ryan furnish any further information about her. There may be good reasons why he does not, which I shall discuss shortly. But on the basis of the ‘evidence’ he presents alone, Ryan’s conclusions are manifestly dubious. In the first place, even if Annie Patterson had penned the comment on Strauss and Debussy quoted above, it would still be quite unjust to attribute a general attitude of close-mindedness to her. Indeed, if she, or any of the other contributors to the journal for that matter, had been personally antipathetic to the ‘noise-music’ of Strauss and Debussy, they would have found themselves in very distinguished, even eminent, company at the time of writing in 1909. To many musicians of a conservative cast of mind, the work of these composers seemed the ne plus ultra of modernist decadence. In point of fact, Strauss’s Elektra, premiered only a very few years before this article appeared, shocked even Debussy, himself no stranger to controversy. The eminent French composer and pedagogue Vincent d’Indy openly condemned Pelléas et Mélisande as ‘formless’ and spearheaded what was regarded as the official opposition to ‘Debussianism’, while the Director of the Paris Conservatoire, Théodore Dubois, took the extreme step of forbidding his students even to go and hear the work. As late as 1915, Saint-Saëns wrote to Fauré: ‘I advise you to look at the pieces for two pianos, Noir et blanc [sic], which M. Debussy has just published. It’s incredible, and the door of the Institut must at all costs be barred against a man capable of such atrocities’. Saint-Saëns had his way. To a certain extent, ludicrous though they appear now, such responses are not incomprehensible, given the extreme novelty of scores such as En blanc et noir. If sophisticated continental musicians were troubled and perplexed by this music, Irish musicians can hardly be condemned as closed-minded in the context of reactions such as these. 

But it does not appear, in any case, as if the contributors on music to this periodical were in fact close-minded. Quite the contrary, it seems: in the ‘Notes’ of a later issue of the periodical, considerable space is devoted to a perceptive discussion of Debussy’s work which is very laudatory in tone. The author (who is not identified) singles out for particular praise Debussy’s remarkable powers to evoke mood and atmosphere, and goes so far as to suggest that he might serve as a model for modern Irish composers: ‘Here in Ireland, where our native scenery is so beautiful, mountain, lake and river might well inspire the native composer with some such striving to perpetuate these delightful natural impressions in tone. As Debussy has done for France, so do we want some Irish musician to write for Ireland some strong and vivid tone-poems.’12 The writer also comments: ‘We live in an age of remarkable musical progress, development and innovation, nor can Irish students of music afford to ignore what our near neighbours, the French, are doing in the matter of original musical output’.[13] These comments are scarcely indicative of ‘chauvinism’, ‘isolationism’ or ‘defensive insularity’.

Further careful scrutiny of the Journal of the Ivernian Society shows both Ryan’s claims about Patterson and his inference of a general climate of xenophobic intolerance to be completely unfounded. There is very little, if any, evidence of insular or chauvinist attitudes in the contributions on music in this periodical and the general tenor of these writings is in fact progressive in outlook, explicitly emphasising the need for Irish musicians to remain abreast of contemporary developments in other countries. Furthermore, the authors are anything but complacent in their evaluations of the contemporary musical scene in Ireland and its many shortcomings are frankly acknowledged. The author of the ‘Notes’ in the very first issue asks:

First, how is it that so little progress has been made in the cultivation of Irish Music, and that especially at a time when even ‘unmusical’ England is slowly, but surely, asserting its claim as a musical nation? Secondly, how can the Ivernian Society best help and forward the cause of Irish Music?[14]

The writer goes on to criticise the ‘exclusiveness’ and ‘monotony’ of concerts at which the ‘Irish Music’ on the programme consisted of nothing but arrangements of folk tunes. In an altogether commonsense vein, the author continues:

…the music of other nations should not be altogether ignored; for by hearing what is being done elsewhere, the listener will be able to form a better idea of what might be accomplished in his own country, and it would help to take him out of the groove into which he has, unconsciously, fallen. The Ivernian Society can best help and advance the cause of Irish music, in the first place, by organising, from time to time, Concerts of a high-class standard, both in regard to selection of music and engagement of executants […]. Secondly, by encouraging in every way possible, the efforts made by Irish composers […]. Editions of Irish Melodies are excellent in their way; but they must be followed up by compositions of a more extended nature.[15]

Patterson herself presents similar views in the course of a substantial article entitled ‘The Interpretation of Irish Music’ which appears under her own name. If anything, she is direct to the point of bluntness in voicing her dissatisfaction with the current state of Irish musical life. The reader is left in no doubt that, in her view, Irish music was now at a critical juncture in its development and that Irish musicians were faced with a stark choice of ‘progress versus stagnation’. She contends forcefully that the want of ‘specific music culture and broader outlook’ will retard the emergence of a vibrant musical culture indefinitely and prevent the art from rising to any heights of accomplishment. Consequently, while Patterson is fulsome in her praise of our rich tradition of folk music, she also urges the vital importance of a solid training within the European art music tradition and of keeping abreast of musical developments in other countries:

We may as well face these facts in the face; for they are true. But if true now, they need not be true always; and the sooner all we who are really musical and have the honour of our native land faithfully at heart, set about pleading, exhorting and teaching a better order of things, the surer for our own musical fame and reputation. We cannot always live on records of the past. The ancient bards and harpers of Erin have left us a rich legacy whereon to base a glorious musical performance. How is it that we are squandering such brilliant prospects, or rather allowing them to lie fallow or hidden for want of knowledge and ability to use them to best advantage? We must walk with the times – we must do even more, we must keep well in advance of the times.[16]

She continues:

…opportunity for this knowledge [that is, a musical education] has, hitherto, been widely lacking. As for the education of travel; or, in a broader sense, that wide outlook upon life and things in general which characterises the great teachers and leaders of the world’s thought and progress, we Irish, while holding our little green isle dearest of all, should not despise any occasions of enlightenment which opportunity may throw in our way. In short, ere we approach our superb native music either as students or performers, we want a wholesome musical culture in musical science generally, as a particular comparison of our own native music and its possibilities with the music and musical output of the nations around us.[17]

These eminently reasonable views hardly smack of ‘defensive insularity’ or ‘torpor’.

Harry White cites this very article of Ryan’s in The Keeper’s Recital and, adopting uncritically Ryan’s very phraseology, refers the reader to it for evidence of ‘cultural chauvinism’. White too is clearly anxious to portray Irish nationalism as fundamentally hostile to art music and lead the reader to accept that the general cultural climate it engendered in Ireland was so oppressive and unpropitious to creative endeavour for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as to make silence or sterility on the part of creative artists inevitable. As I have already indicated, such is the general tenor of his argument in his major work on the subject, The Keeper’s Recital. In order to achieve a critical distance from White’s portrayal and arrive at a dispassionate estimation of the validity of his claims, it is vital to ask first of all what sources of evidence might have been available to him. Most obviously, these would comprise any documents in which discussions of the position of music in Irish cultural life can be found – contemporary newspapers, periodicals, letters, diaries, biographies, perhaps. 

It will not escape the attentive and critically alert reader that White’s sources for his discussion are distinctly thin. His narrative proceeds, therefore, largely in broad generalisations, which are seldom supported with appropriate references. Like Ryan, he often fails to provide crucial biographical or historical information that might cause such facts as he presents to be construed in quite a different light and the stances he ascribes to some of the leading figures in Irish cultural life of the period seem frequently rather far-fetched and questionable. His interpretation of such quotations from contemporary writings as he can marshal for his purposes is also frequently open to question.

Moreover, when one examines the manner in which White builds up his picture of intolerance towards art music during the period, one quickly finds it rests on decidedly precarious foundations. Given the thinness of his references, he has recourse to three principal strategies in order to flesh out his narrative. The first is to present an unrelieved picture of Irish musical life as backward and stagnant. He quotes from a rather sour overview of the musical events for the year 1881 from the journal Hibernia and from this solitary quotation we are left to form an impression of unrelieved dreariness, which, presumably, we are to understand is indicative of the state of musical life for the entire period. No positive reviews of any concerts are mentioned to balance this and White has recourse to a veritable armoury of negative descriptive terms such as ‘gloomy’, ‘dismal’, ‘depleted’, ‘outright cultural stagnation’ and ‘general sense of atrophy’ to reinforce the general impression of somnolent mediocrity. The frequent inclusion of music by Balfe in programmes is adduced as evidence of a low level of general taste and musical cultivation – though given Balfe’s European reputation, the fact that his music was so much performed is scarcely surprising. I have already indicated that there is no reason to believe that musical activities in Dublin were of an especially low standard. As for the question of mediocre operatic and concert fare, we have Berlioz’s testimony concerning the rubbish that succeeded in getting produced even at the Opéra in Paris while his operas were passed over for production. But one would imagine that Ireland had a monopoly on mediocre music making and composition. If circumstances in Ireland were frustrating, they could be equally frustrating, if sometimes for very different reasons, in other European countries. A composer of the calibre of Berlioz could come to the end of his life profoundly embittered by his failure to overcome the indifference and hostility of musical officialdom in Paris even at a time in his career when he enjoyed an international reputation – and this in a major European centre. This may all seem obvious, but White’s agenda makes him fail to place the circumstances of Irish musical life in any reasonable perspective. 

The second strategy is to create the impression that there was no real native compositional activity to speak of. The careers and compositional outputs of Irish composers working during the period are passed over quickly and, for the most part without any real discussion. Some important figures such as O’Brien Butler and Robert O’Dwyer are not even mentioned. One might have imagined that a discussion of the operas of these two composers would not have been out of place in a book of this nature, given that they were acknowledged as landmark achievements in Irish musical life of the period and excited a very considerable amount of contemporary interest.

Having painted such an unattractive and bleak picture, he implies quite unambiguously that the resurgence of cultural nationalism only made matters worse and engendered a general climate of outright hostility towards classical music. One would have welcomed at this point some quotations from contemporary sources which explicitly repudiate art music on the grounds perhaps that it is un-Irish and a colonial imposition. But despite the fact that White assures us that such documentation is abundant, telling us in an endnote that ‘antipathy to the art tradition in music was [emphasis his] widely shared in nationalist periodical discourse’,[18] mysteriously, he fails to quote from this literature. As far as providing sources for specific discussions of this crucial issue in his book goes, he attempts to bolster up his entire argument on the very meagre basis of two brief quotations, one taken from the text of a lecture by Douglas Hyde and the other from a pamphlet on Irish music by Richard Henebry, Professor of Irish[19] from 1909-16 at UCC. At this point, White loses control of the tone of his narrative and betrays his intense hostility towards cultural and political nationalism through his choice of grossly pejorative descriptive terms together with extremely dubious handling of the materials at his disposal. 

His portrayal of the stance of Douglas Hyde, as I have indicated above, amounts to a travesty. Hyde, it will be remembered, was instrumental in reviving interest in the Irish language and Irish folklore at a time when it had come perilously close to extinction – a process which had accelerated rapidly since the Famine. Furthermore, he was also responsible for promulgating the view which subsequently became influential that Gaelic culture was something in which Irish people could and should legitimately take pride and, in particular, he sought to emancipate his fellow countrymen from feelings of cultural inferiority which all too frequently resulted in a servile and thoughtless adoption of English fashions and attitudes in an attempt to be taken for sophisticated. In his work for the Gaelic League, an organisation founded in 1893 to ‘maintain and promote the use of Gaelic as a spoken language in Ireland’, Hyde was deeply concerned to transcend the political and religious divisions prevalent in Ireland and make appeal to a fundamental stratum of Irishness which could unite all Irishmen, whatever their political and religious persuasions. In this, he was successful to a surprising degree. Hyde ultimately resigned from the League, however, in 1915, because of mounting internal tensions between advanced nationalists who were determined to involve the League in the struggle for increased Irish political autonomy and those, like Hyde, who wished it to remain apolitical and non-sectarian.

In 1892, when this event was still far in the future, Hyde delivered a famous lecture, ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’, in which his views on the Irish language and the question of a distinctive Irish culture are formulated in a mature and considered manner. Hyde takes as his starting point the declaration of the Italian patriot Giuseppi Mazzini that the Irish ought to be content to belong to the United Kingdom, as they had given up their native language and customs and, consequently, had no viable claim to a distinct cultural identity. Hyde reviews the evidence that might appear to support Mazzini’s remarks, and arrives at the conclusion that while the influence of English culture was now widely dominant, Gaelic culture was not yet lost beyond all hope of recovery. Hyde acknowledges the inherent contradiction in Irish claims to a distinct cultural identity while at the same time Irish people were rapidly discarding whatever remnants of that culture remained – or worse, regarding it with derision and contempt. In Hyde’s view, the moment had come to transcend this deep-rooted and destructive psychological conflict and attempt to outgrow it. In the words of Hyde’s biographers, Janet and Gareth W. Dunleavy, ‘it was now time for both Unionists and nationalists to […] transform their dim consciousness of the shaping force of place and tradition into an active and potent feeling, and thus to increase their sense of self-respect and honour’.[20] 

Above all, it was important that the paralysing psychological double-bind of simultaneously hating the English and yet aping them at the same time should be overcome. Hyde makes a number of practical suggestions regarding how best this could be achieved. First of all, he is at pains to point out that it would be foolish to give up the best aspects of English culture that we have adopted. As Hyde puts it in his very opening sentence: ‘When we speak of “the necessity for de-Anglicising the Irish nation”, we mean it, not as a protest against imitating what is best in the English people, for that would be absurd, but rather to show the folly of neglecting what is Irish, and hastening to adopt, pell-mell, and indiscriminately, everything that is English, simply because it is English’.[21] Accordingly, Hyde urges that attempts should be made to arrest the decay of the Irish language and that sustained efforts should be made to arouse interest in Irish culture generally: traditional customs, manners of dress, folklore, games and music. Hyde was completely realistic in acknowledging that it would not be possible, or even desirable, to return to a monolingual Irish-speaking culture. Neither was he urging a radical extirpation of English influence in Ireland. All Hyde wanted was, quite simply, for a climate to be created in which the Irish language and Irish culture would be regarded with respect and pride, in which they would receive encouragement to continue to exist and, most crucially of all perhaps, in which Irish people need no longer feel their Irishness to be a social handicap or a cause for apology or embarrassment.

Hyde’s programme, therefore, is a modest and eminently reasonable one of cultural nationalism in the tradition of Herder and his plea to Irish people to stop looking to England for models of behaviour calls to mind German nationalists such as Moritz von Arndt, who urged their countrymen to stop looking to France.[22] He emerges from the various studies and biographies of him as a wholly admirable man, whose advocacy of the Irish language required considerable personal courage. Indeed, in a climate where influential figures of the calibre of John Pentland Mahaffy, Professor of Ancient History at TCD (and later Provost of the College), were implacable in their hostility towards the Irish language, his personal integrity almost certainly cost him an academic post in his alma mater to which he would justly have been entitled by virtue of his brilliant academic achievements.[23]

Let us see how White portrays him. Discussing ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ White tells us that Hyde advocates a ‘cultural nationalism of the most stringent and programmatic kind […] which peremptorily ignores the racial and cultural complex of the embedded religious divide in favour of a linguocentric ideal which is loud in its explicit recommendations against “anglicisation” but which in its reading of political and cultural history is partisan to the point of absurdity’.[24] He goes on to state that Hyde advocated ‘a repudiation of things English (‘books, literature, music, games, fashions and ideas’)’ and also a ‘repudiation of things European, especially where music was concerned’.[25] In the light of what I have just described, I find myself rather at a loss to understand how this position can be extrapolated from the lecture in question.

We have already seen how Hyde explicitly declares that ‘de-anglicisation’ does not imply a wholesale repudiation of English culture. He was deeply attached to English literature and showed a keen interest in contemporary English philosophical and scientific thought, referring to Darwin, Huxley and Spenser in his letters.[26] Nor is there any foundation for White’s startling assertion that Hyde advocated a wholesale rejection of European culture. Hyde’s academic career began, it will be remembered, as a lecturer in modern languages. He spoke excellent French and German, and his diaries and letters are frequently written in these languages. He also had a good command of Greek and Latin, and knew Italian and some Hebrew. All his life he was an avid reader of continental literature and numbered Voltaire and George Sand amongst his favourite authors. It is frankly difficult to imagine anyone less likely than this highly intelligent and gifted man to hold the views that White ascribes to him.

White continues:

To read this lecture a century after it was delivered is to recognise the static chauvinism of Hyde’s Ireland: a nation drilled in every department of the life and mind to conform to some dreadful programme of cultural identity, vice-like in its grip […]. [Hyde’s] image of cultural regeneration, impossible to contemplate now without irony, given what we know of enforced ‘cultural revolution’, was contained in its own day by the practical considerations of an Anglo-Irish polity not nearly as ill-disposed as Hyde to the influence of ‘anglicisation’ …[27]

In other words, White implies that if circumstances had been different, and there had not been counterbalancing forces to hold them in check, Hyde and his supporters would have sought to bring about an enforced ‘cultural revolution’ of the sort which occurred in China in the 1960s under Chairman Mao in which wholesale attempts were made to brainwash and terrorise the population into passive and uncritical acquiescence in the dominant ideological orthodoxies through the ruthless and violent extirpation of any contrary opinions. This interpretation is extraordinarily far-fetched and has no bearing on historical reality. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Hyde would have favoured the employment of techniques used in totalitarian dictatorships such as China to promote Irish culture – indeed, from what we know of Hyde’s personality, the evidence suggests overwhelmingly that such methods would have horrified him.

As a teacher of Irish, Hyde was frequently criticised by his colleagues for being insufficiently exacting in the standard of spoken and written Irish he expected from his students. For his part, he seems to have arrived at a pragmatic realisation that most people who began to learn Irish as adults would probably never achieve complete mastery of such a difficult language. Under such circumstances, it was surely better that he should encourage his students as best he could rather than discourage them through excessive severity or pedantry. As for the totalitarian impulses that White seems to discern in his personality, there is every reason to suppose that he valued individual freedoms very deeply and he was quite progressive in his general social views for his time. Even as an undergraduate, he was prepared to speak in a debate in favour of the emancipation of women – a cause that he regarded as important.[28] He was also remarkably open-minded in religious matters, free-thinking even.[29] And as President, there is every indication that he fulfilled his obligations in a spirit of irreproachable high-mindedness. But White once again has recourse to an array of pejorative descriptive terms (‘loud’, ‘absurd’, ‘partisan’, ‘static chauvinism’, ‘drilled’, ‘conform’ ‘vice-like in its grip’, ‘splenetic’, ‘rhetorical extremes’, ‘bombast’) to leave us with the impression of a strident bigot, a xenophobe of the most repellent and unimaginative kind and a proto-fascist.

White then quotes from the only short passage in the lecture which mentions music. Hyde expresses regret that the native musical traditions are in decline and laments the fact that the majority of the population prefer even the most inane products of English mass culture such as music hall songs to the riches of Irish traditional music. He expresses his hope that ‘people may be brought to love the purity of Siubhail, Siubhail, or the fun of the Modereen Ruadh in preference to “Get your Hair Cut”, or “Over the Garden Wall” or, even, if it is not asking too much, of “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay”’. Although Hyde makes no mention whatsoever of any other kind of music (with the exception of ‘German band[s] and the barrel organ’), White insists however that an ‘unconditional association’ is implied in this passage between English music in its entirety and ‘the vulgarities of the musical hall’ and goes on to assert that ‘the musical language of European art music is an anathema to Hyde, just as the English language is’.[30] This is a completely unwarranted interpretation of the passage in question.

For one thing, it is most unlikely that anyone of intelligence would adopt such a position, let alone someone of Hyde’s intellectual calibre and general outlook. But there is, quite simply, no evidence whatsoever from any other source to support this contention of White’s. The reader will search in vain for any discussion of Hyde’s attitude to classical music in the standard biographies or studies of him and his interest in music in fact seems to have been fairly minimal. Moreover, if one turns to contemporary periodicals during this period, Hyde’s objection to the music hall can be understood in quite a different light. 

Many people objected to the ethos of the music hall not only because of the generally trivial fare on offer but also because these shows often contained comedy routines which portrayed Irish people in a deeply offensive manner, drawing on crude racist stereotypes of the stage Irishman sort then prevalent. In the early years of The Leader, the weekly paper founded by D. P. Moran, there is any number of articles satirising this sort of mindless entertainment and the audiences who paid to see it. And certainly if the descriptions of these music hall shows are accurate – and there is no reason to believe they are not – it is not difficult to see why people should have reacted so strongly to them. I have chosen at random one article headed ‘Our Duty to Our Native Music’ which appeared in the issue of 25 May 1901. The author describes some of the more inane and tasteless comic songs then fashionable which presented Irish people after the manner of John Tenniel’s infamous cartoons in Punch. He quotes lyrics of songs about ‘a great big round lump of an Irish agricultural girl’ and ‘the personal traits of an old woman who “aits when she is hungry and dhrinks when she is dhry”’. The author comments wryly: ‘If we had no national music we might still deserve a heavy censure for taking to our bosoms such sorry stuff as the class of songs I have named, but having, as I think we have, the best, most varied, and most richly-coloured folk-music in the world, I think we deserve to be simply obliterated for so degrading ourselves.’ Hyde would probably have found himself in whole-hearted agreement with these sentiments and I would suggest that they constitute a far more plausible underlying basis for his objection to music hall songs than the wholesale rejection of art music proposed by White.

If his quotation from Hyde’s lecture provides little persuasive support for White’s arguments, his quotation from the Rev. Richard Henebry does not help him greatly either. Henebry occupies a rather shadowy place in the history of Irish music. Although he was not a trained musician,[31] he was passionately enthusiastic about traditional music and wrote a pamphlet, Irish Music, which was brought out in 1903 and a longer study, A Handbook of Irish Music, which appeared posthumously in 1928, as well as making pioneering recordings of traditional musicians. He was convinced that the subtleties of rhythmic flexibility and of pitch inflexion in Irish music could not be satisfactorily notated in conventional staff notation without doing complete violence to the music and proposed instead the adoption of a rather peculiar system of notation of his own devising. He also participated in a long and very involved debate concerning the nature of the modes employed in Irish music and their relationship to other modal systems. 

While Henebry seems to have been a highly intelligent man, even brilliant in an erratic way, it would also appear that he was deeply eccentric. He certainly had a reputation for being excessively quarrelsome and disputatious, which is quite easy to credit, since the tone that Henebry adopts in his writings is frequently anything but temperate in the expression of his enthusiasms and animadversions. A sharply polemical spirit is in evidence from the very opening of his pamphlet Irish Music, in which he seeks to persuade the reader – or perhaps intimidate him – into acceptance of his contention that traditional music is self-evidently immeasurably superior in every respect to art music, which he refers to as ‘vulgar music’ in his own eccentric terminology. Those who might doubt this are contemptuously referred to as ‘nescients’ – that is, ignoramuses. White quotes a portion of a sentence that runs ‘the more we foster modern music the more we help to silence our own’.[32] And it is certainly undeniable that Henebry appears to be openly hostile towards art music.

However when we place this quotation in a wider biographical context, Henebry’s credibility is deeply undermined. Materials providing reliable information about his life appear to be scant, but we do possess two accounts of him by his close friend W. F. P. Stockley, who was Professor of English at UCC.[33] Unfortunately, Stockley is an appalling writer, who seems quite incapable of presenting his thought in an ordered manner and his reminiscences are disconnected and rather incoherent.[34] Nonetheless, we glean some interesting facts about Henebry’s personality and opinions. It seems that he was remarkably fecund of crackpot views on all subjects. He denounced the influence of Greek thought on Western culture as wholly pernicious. He dismissed English literature almost in its entirety, belligerently asserting that ‘nothing brings home to one so poignantly the direly decadent effects of the English literature absorbed in our schools as the cackle of our juvenile art critics. For they have been mercilessly fed on the products of Ruskin and Carlyle, and Macaulay and Wordsworth, and all the other crockery poodles of the English chimney-piece; and having half-learned the patter of those they regard as their betters, nothing will serve them but they must bestow their rancid information on us.’[35] He also poured scorn on the efforts of the Gaelic League, as they resulted in what he called ‘Revival Irish’ and wrote scathingly about attempts at contributing to a modern literature in Irish such as Pearse’s Iosagán.[36]

Stockley also tells us that his personal behaviour was very strange. Despite the fact that his health was very poor – he was tubercular and died quite young – he insisted in dressing in a completely inappropriate manner during the most inclement weather, recklessly undermining his health by sleeping in the open in damp fields by the river Lee. He even took to slitting open the soles of his boots in order deliberately to let in the wet.[37] It is not clear whether these bizarre practices were carried out on religious grounds for the purposes of self-mortification or whether Henebry believed they might somehow do him good – perhaps he was as fertile of strange medical theories as he was of other eccentric notions. In any case, he emerges from the pages of Stockley’s account as being not a little dotty.

This information places quite a different complexion on Henebry’s views concerning music, which definitely belong to the lunatic fringe of cultural nationalism, while I have no doubt that Henebry personally was wholly sincere in his belief that traditional music was of infinitely greater intrinsic worth than western art music. However there is no evidence whatsoever to support White’s assumption that such views were widely accepted or Richard Pine’s contention that they were influential. Indeed, Dr Colin Hamilton, who wrote the entry on Henebry for the Companion to Irish Traditional Music edited by Fintan Vallely, was kind enough to confirm when I contacted him that he has never come across any evidence that Henebry’s views on classical music were influential and while he emphasised that he could not make a categorical statement on the matter, he was inclined to believe that they were most unlikely to have been so. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that Henebry has had no influence to speak of even on traditional musicians – in fact, very few of them seem aware of his existence, and it would appear that professional academics interested in Irish music are mostly unfamiliar with his writings. 

With this quotation we reach the end of the evidence from contemporary sources that White adduces for his argument. Such then, is what Richard Pine can declare to be ‘cogent’ argumentation in his recent article in these pages. As I have pointed out above, Pine depends heavily on the work of Ryan and White for his account and adopts their position largely uncritically and even draws on their work for the same quotations from Hyde and Henebry in his recent piece for the JMI. This article adds very little to the discussion and contains more than its fair share of inaccuracies. Thus, Bax never ‘exhorted’ anyone to write ‘Irishly’ at all – this is a figment of Pine’s imagination – and his contention that it is only since Ó Riada that any attempt at ‘cross-fertilisation between Irish and non-Irish musical idioms […] could […] be essayed’ is also demonstrably false. What of the works of O’Brien Butler and O’Dwyer? What of the very fine Sreath do Phiano and Trí hAmhráin by Fleischmann, two extremely interesting and wholly successful attempts to forge a compositional idiom rooted in folk music? Gaffes like these suggest a less than impressive command of sources and material.

It is also somewhat disconcerting to discover that he does not always represent the views of other writers accurately. For example, in my review of Musical Constructions of Nationalism, I quoted the extraordinary statement by White that music ‘could not survive as an independent entity, so deeply was it indentured to cultural and political propaganda’ and commented: ‘Someone from outside Ireland reading such a pronouncement might imagine that Irish composers worked under the expectation of producing compositions such as their counterparts in the Soviet Union felt constrained to write […].’ The word ‘propaganda’ is hardly a neutral term and in the context of White’s discussion it inevitably leads the reader to believe that there existed a body of Irish compositions analogous to the Marxist or Maoist works by composers of the 1960s who felt it was their duty to promote these ideologies through their work (or worse, the various works penned by Soviet composers in praise of Stalin and his accomplishments) and which were specifically written to propagate crude nationalist sentiment.

Pine quotes a portion of my remark, but in such a context as to make it appear as if my scepticism about the influence of nationalist ideologies is quite excessive and unwarranted. He omits any reference to White’s original statement as well as any mention of the crucial word ‘propaganda’. He then goes on to dismiss my remarks as ‘crassly self-evident’. I too believe that it is crassly self-evident that Irish composers wrote nothing of this nature – but this fact is apparently not so self-evident as far as Harry White is concerned. It is therefore entirely legitimate and reasonable to counter White’s comments. Perhaps my remarks have been misrepresented in this way simply through carelessness. Unfortunately, however, once one discovers such errors in a writer’s work, one’s trust in the author’s reliability tends to be undermined.

Pine also shares White and Ryan’s habit of indulging in wholesale attributions of motives to composers on the basis of very little evidence. Although he does not go so far as them in suggesting that the work of Irish composers amounts to little more than nationalist propaganda, he tells us that Irish composers felt ‘obviously and self-consciously’ constrained to choose Irish subjects for their work. He instances a number of works by Irish composers, including Seóirse Bodley’s Second Symphony I have Loved the Lands of Ireland[38] and John Kinsella’s Fourth Symphony, each of the movements of which evokes one of the four Irish provinces. The first and obvious objection to his theory is that in the case of quite a few of these composers the number of works dealing explicitly with Irish subjects comprises only a small fraction of their extensive outputs. If they had felt ‘constrained’ to ‘write Irishly’ there is certainly very little evidence of it in terms of sheer productivity.

But did they in fact feel such ‘constraint’ at all? Fortunately, since two of the composers Pine mentions are still very much alive, I took the obvious step of writing to both of them to ask if they ever experienced constraints to compose ‘Irishly’ in the manner he suggests – or, for that matter, if they ever envisioned their work as a vehicle for nationalist sentiments. Both composers answered decisively in the negative. Seóirse Bodley expressed his puzzlement that Pine could not have contacted him to clarify what his attitudes actually were. He went on to say that ‘no influence was ever exerted on me to write in an Irish style and only once in all the years did I even get a suggestion as to the style in which I should write, and that from a rather inexperienced person. (Even then it was not an attempt to make me write in an “Irish” style.) This I immediately rejected and said that I have to have complete freedom to write as I felt like. This has remained my attitude.’ Regarding his Second Symphony, which was commissioned by the Irish government for the Pearse centenary in 1979, he comments: ‘I would simply point out that the idea here was to go back to the sources of Pearse’s inspiration in Irish myth rather than simply compose a work glorifying the revolution. […] It is certainly not simply a piece of Irish Nationalism, unless the view is a very superficial one.’[39] 

John Kinsella expressed himself in a rather pungent fashion on the subject: ‘This is quite extraordinary bilge that White, Pine and Co. are coming out with.’ He continues with disarming modesty: ‘From my own point of view I am almost totally self-taught in composition and owe nothing to anyone or anything other than my Maker. I have never been constrained by anything other than my own shortcomings and if I have occasionally written works based on Irish subjects what could be more natural than that! I’ve never heard anything about the Finns jumping on Sibelius for his use of the Kalevala. Or the Czechs jumping on Dvorák and Smetana etc. etc. etc. My musical style is something I have forged myself and there is nothing consciously Irish about it. The only bit of Irish music in all my eight symphonies is the trio of the Scherzo of my First Symphony where I quote a tune called “The Four Courts” out of O’Neill’s collection but this does not have any bearing on the musical style of the work as a whole – it’s simply a quote. The Fourth Symphony is called the Four Provinces but this has nothing to do with the style of the music.’[40] So much, then, for theories of ‘constraint’ and ‘indenture’ in the case of these two composers.

In the review of Musical Constructions of Nationalism alluded to earlier, I voiced my concern that some of the recent writing on Irish music is misleading and rather unhelpful. I believe I have demonstrated in this article that this view is not unjustified. A great deal of work remains to be done on Irish music and there are still very considerable lacunae in our knowledge. It is only when these are filled that we can proceed to make broad statements concerning complex questions such as the impact of nationalist ideologies on musical activities in Ireland with some measure of confidence.

See the previous review here and here.


1. Joseph Ryan, ‘Nationalism in Irish Music’ in Gerard Gillen and Harry White (eds), Irish Musical Studies 3: Music and Irish Cultural History, Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1995, 113.
2. Harry White, ‘Nationalism, Colonialism and the Cultural Stasis of Music in Ireland’ in Harry White and Michael Murphy (eds), Musical Constructions of Nationalism: Essays on the History and Ideology of European Musical Culture 1800-1945, Cork University Press, Cork, 2001 (hereafter MCN), 269.
3. A New History of Ireland, Volume VI: Ireland Under the Union, II, 1870-1921, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.
4. Cork University Press, 1966.
5. Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner, Volume I, Cassell and Co. Ltd, 1933, 131-2.
6. Quoted in Emil F. Smidak, Isaak-Ignaz Moscheles, Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989, 27-8. Interestingly, Moscheles found Dublin audiences responded in a much more appreciative fashion than those in London; a diary entry at the end of his three-week stay in Dublin in 1826 reads: ‘On the whole, I find the Irish nation more receptive to music than the English, although their leading composer, Sir John Stevenson, fails to arouse my interest.’ (ibid., 41).
7. Louis Spohr’s Autobiography, Translated from the German, London, 1865, 248.
8. MCN, 269.
9. This periodical featured articles on music, most of which appear anonymously or under pseudonyms. Patterson is a likely (but not the only likely) candidate for their authorship.
10. Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. I (June 1909), 264.
11. Joseph J. Ryan, ‘Assertions of Distinction: the Modal Debate in Irish Music’, in Gerard Gillen and Harry White (eds), Irish Musical Studies 2: Music and the Church, Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993, 65.
12. Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. II, 59.
13. Ibid., 57.
14. Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. I, 59.
15. Ibid., 59-60.
16. Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. II, 32.
17. ibid., 33.
18. Harry White, The Keeper’s Recital: Music and Cultural History in Ireland, 1770-1970, Cork University Press, 1998, 185 (n. 65).
19. Not Old Irish, as White styles him.
20. Janet Egleson Dunleavy and Gareth W. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Ireland, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991, 184.
21. ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ in David Pierce (ed.), Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader, Cork University Press, 2000, 2.
22. For a discussion of German nationalist opposition to the prevailing climate of Francophilia during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, see Elie Kedourie, Nationalism, London: Hutchinson and Co., 1960, 59-61.
23. For an account of the attitudes towards Irish on the part of prominent Trinity academics and of their rather unedifying behaviour during some of the controversies in which they became embroiled, see Tomás Ó Fiaich, ‘The Great Controversy’, in Seán Ó Tuama (ed.), The Gaelic League Idea, Cork and Dublin: The Mercier Press, 1972. Concerning Hyde’s failure even to be seriously considered for a professorship of Irish in TCD, despite his international reputation as a scholar, see Janet Egleson Dunleavy and Gareth W. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Ireland, 200-201.
24. The Keeper’s Recital, 66.
25. ibid., 67.
26. See Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Ireland, 151.
27. The Keeper’s Recital, 66-7.
28. Janet Egleson Dunleavy and Gareth W. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Ireland, 119.
29. See the letters to his sister quoted in Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Ireland, 150-1, which were written during his stint as a lecturer in Canada.
30. The Keeper’s Recital, 67.
31. In his Irish Music (Dublin, n.d. ?1903) he tells us that ‘I have never received a lesson in music, and am unlearned in the science of modern music’ (12), while in his late Handbook (Cork, 1928) he declares he ‘most fortunately escaped a musical education’ (316).
32. Richard Henebry, Irish Music, Dublin (n.d. ?1903), 14.
33. Stockley published a two-part memoir of him in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. XXIV, December 1924, 603–620, and Vol. XXV, January 1925, 20–37. It would appear he later re-worked this for inclusion as a chaper in his book Essays in Irish Biography (Cork University Press, 1933).
34. He also cannot refrain from constantly interrupting the flow of his narrative with quotations of various kinds, which suggests that Seán Ó Faoileán’s unflattering account of his lectures in his autobiography Vive Moi! in which he alludes to this irritatin habit is not altgether unjust.
35. Quoted in W.F.P. Stockley, Essays in Irish Biography, 159–60.
36. See Stockley’s article in the Irish Ecclestiastical Record, Vol, XXV, December 1924, 30 ff., as well as Ruth Dudley Edwards, Patrick Pearse: The Triumph of Failure, London: Faber, 1977, 96–97. Henebry attacked Iosagán in three issues of the Leader in a manner which Edwards describes, rightly, as petty.
37. See Essays in Irish Biography, 144.
38. Not I Have Loved the Lands of Erin, as Pine incorrectly renders the title.
39. Personal communication by email, 27 April 2003.
40. Personal communication by email, 1 May 2003.

Published on 1 July 2003

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