Do, Not, Love, Make, Beds

David Wheatley

  • Irish Literary Magazines: An Outline History and Descriptive Bibliography
    Irish Academic, 318 pp, £35.00, January 2003, ISBN 0 7165 2751 0

For a country with one of the oldest book-making traditions in Europe, Ireland was a late arrival on the magazine scene: Tom Clyde’s first example is Swift’s Examiner, started in 1710, ‘written purely for English consumption, and reprinted in Dublin, unchanged, only as an afterthought’. A rash of Tatler imitators gave way to more nationally minded miscellanies by the mid-century, but the first golden age of the Irish magazine was the 1790s. Journals such as Anthologia Hibernica and the Microscope confidently addressed the world of Addisonian Enlightenment and gentlemanly antiquarianism, though pedlars of lost-tribe-of-Israel theories were ten a penny, and an undercurrent of sectarian polemic was never very far away. The combination of diehard Unionism and Gaelic antiquarianism may have seemed unlikely, but the Tory Dublin University Magazine didn’t see why Catholic nationalists should have it all their own way, and in 1834 it published perhaps the single most influential Irish book review ever written, Samuel Ferguson’s attack on Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy. The review, which was spread over four issues, criticised primitive cultural nationalism and formed a platform for the soon to emerge Irish Revival. All through the 19th century, Irish magazines provided a public forum for the emergent nation. For every priest enacting Stephen Dedalus’s vision in Ulysses of a never-ending Mexican wave of elevations, consecrations and consumptions of the host (‘Dringdring! And two streets off another locking it into a pyx. Dringadring!’), there will always be a subeditor on a paper like Mr Bloom’s Freeman’s Journal congratulating himself on the headline ‘Ithacans Vow Pen Is Champ’.

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[*] Coracle, 86 pp., £18, December 2002, 0 906 63017 7.