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Part III

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    The Money Bill Dispute

    What, then, caused Irish Anglicans to start writing Gothic fiction rather than simply continue recycling the tropes of horror and terror which demonised Catholics and sealed the Anglican enclave behind a wall of defence forever? Here, the split in the Irish Anglican community in the 1750s is a crucial starting point, and the split itself needs to be carefully described and explained because of its lasting impact on the Anglican imagination for the rest of the eighteenth century.

    ‘It is a very striking and very shocking picture . . . to see a Protestant multitude attack a Protestant government, in a country where all together do not make up a sixth of the whole, without any imaginable cause of complaint but because it is government.’ This was the response of the Westminster-based Whig politician George Dodington to a major riot in Dublin on 3 December 1759 when a largely Anglican crowd assembled outside the parliament buildings on College Green and manhandled and threatened the politicians it thought were gathering to vote for a political union of Ireland with Britain. The crowd were motivated by a fervour of patriotic concern for Irish rights and privileges, which it believed were being threatened by external pressure coming from Westminster and betrayal within the Irish parliament itself. Dodington’s sense of the event was not quite accurate, however, as the Protestant multitude were not attacking a Protestant government so much as a section of it which it considered more committed to self-interest and subservience to the parliament in London than an assertion and maintenance of Irish liberty. Irish patriot politicians were largely exempt from the violence of the mob, and indeed some of them may have helped organise the riot. While to British onlookers the riot was evidence that Irish affairs had irrevocably changed and that the country now needed much more direct and intrusive management, within Ireland it was proof that the Irish Anglican ruling class was bitterly split between a patriot and a ‘court’ constituency, and also that this division would set the agenda for internal affairs for the foreseeable future.87

    The riot of 1759 was part of the working out of tensions that had bubbled and over-spilled within the Irish Anglican enclave during the 1750s, caused by the notorious Money Bill dispute of 1753. It is necessary to describe this dispute in a certain amount of detail, mostly because while it is an event (or series of events) very familiar to eighteenth-century Irish historians, literary critics have tended to pass by it very quickly, transfixed as they have understandably been by the Wood’s Halfpence affair of the 1720s,88 and the 1798 rebellion and the union debate at the end of the century.89 The Money Bill dispute is, however, central to the construction of Anglican opinion in Ireland; it split the Anglican community in very damaging ways, and it brought a permanent end to a period of relative calm in Ireland. It was also the reason for the termination of the so-called age of the undertakers, where the Irish parliament was more or less controlled by a small group of men who ‘managed’ it on behalf of the Irish executive (the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, and Dublin Castle officials). The executive was appointed directly by London, and it issued its instructions to the undertakers who were expected to handle the votes in the Irish parliament to ensure the desired outcomes. Although an inferior institution to its London equivalent because of Poynings’s Law (1495) and the Declaratory Act of 1720, it was still important to gain the consent of the Irish parliament in order to raise the revenue necessary to the workings of the government. In other words, it was very important to Westminster that the Irish parliament played ball, and to ensure this harmony, the undertakers managed the parliament, or they ‘undertook’ to do so, hence their title.

    What brought the dominance of the undertakers to a close were the Money Bill dispute and its fallout. The three most important undertakers at the time were Henry Boyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons; George Stone, the Archbishop of Armagh; and John Ponsonby, the Chief Commissioner of the Irish Revenue Board. Boyle was the main political player for most of the period, and this created tension with Stone and Ponsonby, who were jealous of Boyle’s position and eagerly looked for ways to overtake him politically. A major opportunity appeared to present itself in 1751 when Stone’s patron, the Duke of Dorset, became Lord Lieutenant, and Dorset’s son, Lord Sackville, was made Chief Secretary. For Stone, his supporters were now in major positions of power, and it was time to make some bold political moves. The tensions between the undertakers boiled over in 1751–3 in relation to two issues. In the first place, Boyle was determined to resist Stone’s power games and demonstrate his own authority by destroying the career of Arthur Jones Nevill, the surveyor general and one of the archbishop’s protégés, and he effectively had Nevill expelled from parliament for defalcation, which incensed Stone. Then, an Irish money bill, which had been sent over to Westminster for inspection in accordance with Poynings’s Law, was returned altered to the Irish House of Commons where it was rejected, mostly by Boyle’s supporters, thus precipitating a constitutional crisis.

    The alteration itself was significant. There was a surplus in the Irish Treasury, and the Irish Parliament decided that it would dispose of the surplus by reducing the (considerable) national debt. This disposal posed a serious financial threat to members of the Irish Monti since paying off the national debt would also involve paying off the principal loaned to the Irish Treasury by the Monti, and on whose interest payments many Irish Anglicans now depended. As Sean D. Moore highlights, ‘outcomes of earlier debates over taking such a measure suggest that the majority of subscribers and of Irish MPs opposed eradicating the national debt’ and were prepared to defend its maintenance against any external threats such as came from Westminster through appealing to ‘national interests’ and the discourse of patriotism.90 The Westminster decision required legislation, and the Irish Commons drafted the heads of a bill concerned with the allocation of the surplus. While the majority in the Irish parliament were prepared to accept the specifics of the actual bill itself, ceding control of the Irish surplus to Westminster was far too financially dangerous to be permitted, and this control was clearly what the executive wished to wrest away from the Irish parliament. In their desire to make it clear that these decisions were taken only with the ‘previous consent’ of the king (re-iterating the priority of the crown over the Irish Commons), the Irish executive ensured that the necessity for this consent was inserted into the preamble, an alteration which emphasised the dependence of the Irish parliament. Boyle’s faction rejected the altered bill in large part to score political points against the Stonesupporting Irish executive, but although much of the tension between the undertakers was due to political ambition and personal animosity, the battle between them concerning the money bill was actually fought using the rhetoric of patriotism. In other words, the rejection of the money bill was couched in patriotic terms as a denunciation of English interference with Irish parliamentary affairs, and Boyle’s supporters portrayed Stone’s camp as a ‘castle’ (i.e., unpatriotic) clique and themselves as defenders of Irish freedom from foreign interference.91

    Ultimately, the dispute concluded with a whimper rather than a bang. The English ministers given the job of overseeing the constitutional crisis managed to find a sufficiently lucrative pension for Boyle, and he made way for Ponsonby to become Speaker of the House of Commons. Indeed, by the end of the crisis all three undertakers were working together again and had been given plum jobs as Lord Justices in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant. Despite this deft management by the English ministers, however, the crisis had been fought in such a way that rifts were never, in fact, healed, and as Thomas Bartlett puts it, ‘the grounds on which Boyle chose to fight, the conduct of his campaign, its final outcome and its overall impact on Irish political life . . . were of the utmost significance for the future’.92 The parties had chosen to fight on national grounds, and Boyle and his supporters in particular depicted his opponents as traitors of the national interest. As Lord Sackville put it in 1753, Boyle essentially set himself up ‘as the protector of the liberties of Ireland’, and he consistently suggested that since Stone was English, he could not have the interests of the Irish Anglican community at heart.93 It was even rumoured, and this was an indication of things to come, that Boyle might have appealed to Catholics in his patriotic campaign, thus indicating that one way forward for patriotic interests was to unite with other like-minded inhabitants of the country, even if they were not co-religionists. Indeed, Boyle’s supporters ratcheted up the rhetoric so much that the fate of the entire country seemed to depend on blocking the passage of the altered money bill, the passing of which was portrayed as the end of Irish liberty.94 Sackville fulminated that the ‘question was represented as a struggle of Ireland against England, and there was not a common fellow in the streets that was not made to believe that, if we had carried the question, all the money was to be sent the next day to England, and that for the future parliaments were to be no longer held in Ireland’. So heated did the rhetoric become that ‘Ireland forever’ was the cry in Irish Anglican circles the country over.95

    It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Money Bill dispute in galvanising an Irish Anglican political consciousness. For Lord Clare the dispute had radicalised the Irish Anglican nation,96 evidence of which could be seen in the formation of a rash of patriot clubs, the making of patriot toasts (often at the point of a sword) and the explosion of a pamphlet war (which will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 2) between supposedly ‘patriotic’ and ‘court’ factions. The political outcome and the arguments of Boyle were quickly linked in this overheated rhetoric to the well-being of the Irish nation itself (or, at least, the Irish Anglican nation, though we should acknowledge that to its advocates, this was one and the same thing), with Stone being presented not merely as a traitor and a representative of English interference but a sexual pervert as well whose celibacy disguised his interest in beautiful young boys – the kind of pornographic insinuations usually directed at Catholic priests now focussed on a high-ranking Anglican.

    One pamphlet, written by ‘Hellen O’Roon’ indicated that for the country to fall into the hands of Stone would be disastrous because of ‘his Indiscretions, concerning with an effeminate Turn of Constitution, his Celebacy, and even his unblemished Chastity, have contributed to blacken his Character with ridiculous and shocking Aspersions, so galling, that it requires all his Innocence to support it’.97 The group which gathered around to support Boyle already had an acutely developed sense of patriotic consciousness. As Martyn J. Powell explains, Boyle’s supporters saw themselves as ‘the repository of a patriotic conscience’,98 although the financial self-interest fostered in this group by the Irish financial revolution should also be acknowledged. What the crisis helped these patriots to do was to communicate this patriotic fervour to a readership and constituency outside of strictly political circles. The crisis convinced English politicians that the undertaker system was not working well anymore and that the basis of Irish rule would have to change; they began to look beyond the Anglican Irish nation to woo those marginalised by Anglican hegemony, namely the Catholics and Presbyterians, in order to threaten the Irish Anglican elite with what could happen should they continue to make noises demanding independence, eventually turning to a policy of direct rule which cut out the undertakers, beginning with the administration of Lord Townshend in the late 1760s. By that stage, though, the stable door was off its hinges, and a large section of the Irish Anglican enclave was so addicted to the discourse of legislative independence that it could be satisfied by nothing else. Indeed, when the Money Bill constitutional crisis was actually resolved amicably, this actually exacerbated the political crisis.

    The heightened political fervour generated by the pamphlet war did not dissipate (as it had after the Wood’s Halfpence affair),99 and despite the attempts made to paper over the political cracks, ‘the heightened political consciousness that resulted from Boyle’s campaign could not be made to vanish’100 but instead shaped politics in Ireland until at least 1782 and the granting of legislative independence. The Earl of Charlemont argued that in 1753

    the people were taught a secret of which they had hitherto been ignorant, that government might be opposed with success, and, as a confidence in the possibility of victory is the best inspirer of courage, a spirit was consequently raised in the nation, hereafter to be employed to better purposes. Men were likewise accustomed to turn their thoughts to constitutional subjects, and to reflect on the difference between political freedom and servitude.101

    Boyle’s supporters were incensed when they found out that the supposed doyen of Irish patriotism had actually helped resolve the crisis through compromise, and they turned on him in print, depicting him as a traitor to Ireland’s cause. Indeed, once the settlement became widely known in March 1756, a large crowd congregated in College Green and burned Boyle in effigy and accused him of being bought out. One anonymous pamphlet, The Tryal of Roger for the Murder of Lady Betty Ireland (1756), represented Boyle as being put on trial for murdering ‘Ireland’, that is, for his betrayal of patriot principles.

    It is important not to exaggerate the size of the patriot faction in the Irish Anglican community, or the degree to which it was genuinely representative. Although patriotism became a convenient rhetorical shorthand after the dispute, Sean Connolly warns against a tendency to see the patriots as either a coherent group or as legitimately forming a ‘tradition’ of thought in the eighteenth century. He points out how ‘untypical most [patriots] actually were of the society in whose name they claimed to speak’, and he demonstrates that Molyneux, Swift, Lucas, Boyle and Grattan were not only very different from each other but also considered anomalous in terms of Anglican Ireland more generally.102 He also indicts the patriot group in the Money Bill dispute of political opportunism, being motivated by their personal ambitions rather than the general good of the Anglican community (and given the personal financial implications of the crisis for many of them, this is a convincing point), and describes the dispute as a ‘transparent attempt by a powerful parliamentary faction, threatened with displacement, to gain popular support by presenting itself as engaged in the defence of Irish interests against English encroachment’.103 I don’t here seek to suggest that a very strong element of self-serving was not part and parcel of patriot rhetoric in the eighteenth century, but it is also true that this rhetoric ignited a particularly strong patriotic fuse in its Anglican audience, and this helped generate a considerably motivated and active patriot public, quite willing to turn on supposed patriots like Boyle when they believed he had betrayed the cause for his personal enrichment.

    The split between the patriot and ‘court’ factions was both serious and long-lasting and felt everywhere in Irish Anglican culture, with the two factions taking opposing views on a variety of different issues, often apparently far removed from the crisis itself.104 Given that members of the enclave already felt threatened by external agents (Irish Catholics, Irish Presbyterians and English politicians), this internal split left them more psychologically vulnerable. It also meant that both Todorov’s fantasy of the ‘Not-I’ and of the ‘I’ could be useful to Irish Anglicans in coming to terms with their new position. The terror of ‘coming apart’ because of internal divisions, as expressed by many a Gothic hero, such as the poor bedevilled George Lutz of The Amityville Horror in the epigraph to this chapter, became a reality for the Anglican enclave in the 1750s, and, given the level of existential interrogation Irish Anglican identity had already undergone by that stage, it is not surprising that it is to this period that Irish Gothic fiction can be traced.

    This deep internal division was accompanied by an extraordinary outpouring of printed materials, primarily pamphlets directly related to the dispute and to the 1759 riot, that had thousands of patriotic Anglicans turning out on the streets to make visible their contempt for the conduct of their political betters. Sean Moore has brilliantly described how, earlier in the century, the Anglican Monti had effectively created what we now sometimes call ‘Anglo-Irish literature’ as a way to defend their investment in the financial revolution and prevent external interference in internal Irish financial affairs:

    If the Anglo-Irish Swift can be credited with helping to cultivate a new nationalism [in the 1720s and 1730s] . . . it was only because a distinct national identity, an ‘Irishness’ underwrote the colonial appropriation of traditional rights of sovereignty. A newly patriotic Irish press held the potential to protect leading citizens’ investments in their national security in the form of the Debt of the Nation. If the Irish popular imagination had to be mobilized to defend the Monti, friendly domestic print media organs were necessary for the task, and their production of works on Irish themes planted the seeds for a new market in Anglo-Irish literature.105

    Irish Anglican nationalist literature emerges out of this attempt to continually defend financial security of the enclave’s leading members by applying a rhetoric of Irish self-determination and perfidious English interference, and this helps to explain the explosion in print media at moments of financial threat like the Wood’s Halfpence affair.

    The Money Bill dispute is another of these moments, but here the crisis splits the Anglican enclave in two and therefore a different kind of literature is necessary to articulate and negotiate the split, one which addresses internal psychic division as well as external menace. There was also a new and more conspicuous consumption of fictional material by an Anglican reading public which probably translated its hunger for political food for thought into a desire for more imaginative literature, especially the new genre of the novel. Given the sheer amount of fictive material in the pamphlets being consumed in the 1750s (an issue that will be addressed in Chapter 2), there was not an enormous gap between politics and the novel anyway. For Mikhail Bakhtin the novel is, in part, a response to a collapse of authority (including political authority). He argues that the novel ‘begins by presuming a verbal and semantic decentering of the ideological world, a certain linguistic homelessness of literary consciousness, which no longer possess a sacrosanct and unitary linguistic medium for containing ideological thought’.106 Given the shift in and shattering of relative political unity in Anglican Ireland due to the Money Bill dispute, the growth in the production of Irish fiction is understandable – as long as it is also understood that such growth is not linear or without reversals, and as long as we don’t associate the growth in fiction exclusively with the novel form (all fictive forms should be included).

    As Rolf Loeber and Magda Loeber chart, there was a ‘slight rise’ in the publishing of original fiction in Ireland in the 1750s, a rise that only became secure in the 1780s,107 but this rise in the mid-century is accompanied by an explosion of fictional motifs and allegorical material in political pamphlets.108 As Irish Protestants, especially Anglicans, became increasingly politicised, they also became more interested in reading in general, and there is probably a connection between the two. One of the genres which can be traced to this turbulent period is the Irish Gothic novel, now accepted as one of the major forms of Irish writing since the 1760s. According to the Loebers, the Irish Gothic novel appeared for the first time in 1760 with the publication of The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley, and this is a genre which has maintained its hold on the Irish imagination since then.109

    As will become clear in subsequent chapters, I argue that Irish Gothic was initially written by members of the patriotic faction of the Anglican enclave, and if this is true it would mean that established accounts of the tradition as ideologically extremely (indeed, almost hysterically) conservative, need to be qualified. For Margot Gayle Backus, the Irish Gothic is an exceptionally reactionary form. In her study of the ‘Gothic family romance’ she reads the deployment of the Gothic by Irish writers from Swift onwards as a means by which the ‘Anglo-Irish’ reinforced a sense of communal identity in which uniformity was promoted in order to ‘protect rather than discredit the political interests of the group whose “unofficial” perceptions it records’.110 Rather than submitting the social and political structures underwriting the colonial subordination of Ireland to scrutiny, ‘the Anglo-Irish family romance posits a seamless coherence between intrapsychic and national subjectivities, extending and replicating settler colonialist symbolic relations by continually reinforcing Anglo-Irish settler colonialism’s dominant obsession with the veneration and maintenance of a national Other.’111 Luke Gibbons, too, sees the Irish Gothic as a highly conservative form and argues that through it Irish Protestants ‘expung[ed] the traces not only of feudalism but also its archaic Catholic remnants from the social order’.112 Gibbons is here extending the insight of critics like Chris Baldick and Robert Mighall who have emphasised the Gothic as an Enlightenment instrument, one aspect of which is an intensely Protestant desire to see Catholicism wiped from the face of the earth, their liberalism combined with the bigotry of modernity. Although, of course, in Britain, this combination led to a social and political revolution in 1688, in Ireland, where the majority of the population was Catholic, the colonial situation meant that Glorious Revolution principles were translated into a rigid adherence to a status quo far from liberal in practice. Enlightenment principles, ‘progressive’ in Britain, could be, and were, extremely retrogressive in Ireland. Reading the Gothic as the means by which these principles were defended in Ireland leads Gibbons to portray it as necessarily reactionary rather than subversive. Joseph Cleary suggests that given that they were surrounded by antagonistic elements Irish Protestants were more ‘prone to be darker in temper, more fundamentalist and less optimistically liberal’ than their English co-religionists, a darkness that led them to adopting the Gothic rather than the realist novel as their main fictional avenue of expression.113

    Likewise, in an attempt to explain why Irish Protestants would be so attracted to the Gothic, Christopher Morash has pointed to its role in a conservative attack on Irish Catholics and Irish Catholicism. He argues powerfully that Irish Gothic is not a celebration of the weird and the occult so much as an attempt to exorcise these elements from Irish society. Rather than accept the version of Ireland as Gothic inherited from the English Gothic tradition, the traditional narratives of Irish Protestants attempt to find ways of destroying this image: the Irish Gothic

    is a riposte to a Celticist project which almost invariably celebrated the survival of the past in the present (often in racial terms), a narratologically produced demand for a stake to be driven in the heart of all that confounds the project of modernity, particularly when that agent of resistance is the blood of an ancient race unaccountably flowing through the veins of the present.114

    Just as Count Dracula must be staked at the end of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, so too the version of Ireland as atavistic must be banished (and, the suggestion goes, its Catholic representatives as well) and Protestant modernity ushered in. Given that the patriot faction in Irish Anglican politics developed in part at least as an attempt to protect the parasitic drain of the Irish Treasury by the Monti, even associating the Irish Gothic with this faction in politics may not appear to diffuse the intensely chauvinistic strain that has been read as fundamental to its construction. Backus, Gibbons, Cleary and Morash offer a fascinating reading of the entire Irish Gothic tradition as one aspect of the wider project of Protestantising and modernising Ireland. Rather than an indulgence in a form of political escapism from the realities of power loss, as Roy Foster argued, these critics claim that the Gothic is an attempt to re-assert the kind of cultural realism deemed necessary for a nation to enter the modern world and be accorded the full privileges of nation status.

    A conservative reading of the Irish Gothic would certainly help in explaining why it emerged in the 1760s, since this was the period when the Catholic ‘threat’ became increasingly visible to conservative Irish Protestants after a period of relative quiet. The Catholic Committee, dedicated to agitation for repeal of the Penal Laws, was formed in 1756, and the beginnings of agrarian agitation (construed by some radical conservative thinkers as evidence of a Catholic plot) with the appearance of the Whiteboys in the 1760s. The arrival of the Whiteboys, a group of agrarian agitators bound together by an oath of secrecy, in County Tipperary in 1761, sent shockwaves through the Irish Protestant community, and inspired some hysterical reaction in its more paranoid figureheads. Fear was partly fuelled by the fact that the Whiteboys would meet at night dressed in white linen and were easily perceived as highly organised in their perpetration of violence. The Whiteboys were largely interested in settling local disputes, mostly caused by what they considered to be immoral incursions on traditional farming by the enclosure of common pasture – though this specific grievance soon expanded to embrace other causes, at times gesturing towards a more national project. Moreover, the agitation quickly spread to nearby counties and was seen by many conservative Protestants as the mobilisation of Catholic interests as a start to a reprise of 1641. This fear was confirmed by the Rev. John Hewetson, from Co. Kilkenny, who infiltrated the secret society and claimed he had obtained evidence of a conspiracy which took in the whole of Irish Catholic society and was funded by French agitators preparing for invasion. The agitation continued for about four years, keeping Protestant fears on a constant simmer, fears which would eventually result in the trial and execution for treason of Fr Nicholas Sheehy in 1766 (fingered by Hewetson), one of the most traumatic incidents of eighteenth-century Ireland.115

    However, while there was certainly an intensification in antiCatholicism in the late 1750s and early 1760s which fed into the split in Irish Anglican opinion caused by the Money Bill dispute and its aftermath, and which did feed into the Gothic novel, two other intellectual developments also came to fruition in this period too, developments which provoked an admiration and desire for Catholicism rather than its demise. Two publications in particular are important for this change: Edmund Burke’s Enquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757) and James MacPherson’s Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760), followed quickly by Fingal (1761) and Temora (1762), which launched the Ossianic cycle and was a literary sensation. These publications more or less rehabilitated the primitive and the previously ‘savage’ as potent sources of inspiration, with Ossian in particular manufacturing the Highland warrior as an example for a British military culture. Luke Gibbons has astutely pointed out that, ‘The Ossian controversy, the rise of the Gothic novel, and the development of the aesthetics of terror . . . all coincide with the Seven Years’ War in America and India, and the unprecedented expansion of the British Empire’, and all can be seen as spaces and places for the remaking of British masculinity and power in the face of new global challenges.116 Moreover, with the fetishisation of the ‘primitive’ in the nostalgic glow of an Ossianic longing, Celts and Celtic regions could look particularly attractive as rehabilitative vantage points for those vitiated by the pressures of modernity. The Ossian poems functioned to legitimise a sentimental reading of the Celtic past as a lost age of heroes and poets from which we moderns could draw some much needed power – though this had the knock-on effect of making the past itself appear attractive, even if that past had the garb of Catholic medievalism wrapped around it. As Clare O’Halloran notes, ‘the success of [Macpherson’s] poems was instrumental in enhancing the status of Gaelic culture and encouraging a new interest in it, both in Scotland and Ireland’, an interest that would flower in the 1780s’ work of Irish Protestants like Joseph Cooper Walker and Charlotte Brooke,117 what Seamus Deane has called the first ‘Celtic Revival’.118

    The beginnings of this ‘revival’ can be discerned in the 1760s. In this kind of atmosphere it is unsurprising that a historical novel which looks back to the medieval period with some longing (while still keeping it sufficiently distant), like Leland’s Longsword, could find a readership. The Sublime, too, while denoting an aesthetic experience close to terror, was also desired for its ability to excite the enervated modern subject through its excessiveness and superfluity. This was an era, indeed, when such excess was beginning to be viewed with less of a jaundiced eye anyway. Peter De Bolla has argued at length that there is a connection between the discourse of the Sublime and that of debt in the eighteenth century, claiming that it is no coincidence that it was during the Seven Years War, when the British National Debt expanded exponentially to extraordinarily excessive proportions in order to finance the continuation of the war, that discourses of excess such as the Sublime were pervasive.119 Moreover, both become productive of a certain kind of subject, the subject defined by excess or difference, whereby individuality is signified by difference.120

    What highly conservative readings of the Irish Gothic fail to account for is the fact that rather than simply reproduce and attempt to exorcise the atavistic past and Catholic present, Irish Gothic is initially indulged in by liberal Anglicans who wish to recruit Catholics (or at least articulate a less intolerant kind of anti-Catholicism) and the Sublime and the primitive to their patriotic agenda. Of course, anti-Catholicism and liberal thinking went hand in hand in the eighteenth century, and for many Enlightenment thinkers, Catholicism remained a vast spectre looming over the Continent in need of exorcising.121 Although there was a gradual drift away from a straightforward anti-Catholicism in elite circles hostility certainly remained and erupted during particularly anxious moments. It is well to remember that Catholic Emancipation did not take place until 1829, and that this was more or less forced upon the English political establishment. As Colin Haydon remarks, it was difficult to give up anti-Catholic rhetoric because it was a powerful social glue holding British society together, so that ‘the survival and wide appeal of anti-Catholicism was bound up with its function of social bonding. In general terms, it provided a negative definition of what was good and acceptable, by showing its wicked, deviant antithesis’.122

    Liberalism and anti-Catholicism certainly co-exist in the Gothic novel. Yet, while Gothic fiction in Ireland was, initially at least, written by an Anglican elite, this was a disaffected, alienated and angry elite, and one willing to reconsider the political status quo. Joseph Cleary’s comments on the Irish novel in general can be certainly applied more specifically to the Irish Gothic novel: it was

    developed, especially in its initial stages, primarily by intellectuals descended from what was historically a creole colonial settler community. These writers typically displayed either a mixture of alienation from, or contempt for, the local indigenous culture, as well as considerable anxiety about the antimodern backwardness of the colony compared to the mother-country. But in many cases the colonial settler elites, sensitive to the rise of mass democracy and cultural nationalism across Europe, were also compelled to attempt imaginative appropriations of the indigenous cultures to bolster their own national legitimacy.123

    Even this, though, grants too little to the early Anglican writers of the Irish Gothic since, while they retained a suspicion of Irish Catholicism and Irish Catholics, they were also motivated by very legitimate patriot concerns about representation and were moving (or indeed had moved) to a more tolerant attitude to Irish Catholics and Catholics more generally and did want to grant them some place in the political nation. While I can certainly endorse the claim that Irish Anglicans felt a ‘realist’ disjuncture with their English co-religionists, this does not mean that Irish Gothic is therefore more ‘reactionary’ than its English equivalent. There are certainly reactionary elements in the Gothic, and in Irish Gothic, but these are not divorced from the general liberalism of the genre. Irish Gothic fiction (unlike the proto-Gothic horror narratives found in the work of Sir John Temple and Archbishop William King, and which are continued in the hysterical writings of Archbishop Richard Woodward in the 1780s and Sir Richard Musgrave in the 1790s) is much more ambivalent, conflicted and liminal in fictional terms, and also much more ideologically elastic.

    In a suggestive analysis of the romance, Bridget Fowler (invoking the arguments of Marxist Antonio Gramsci) argues that in societies where a significant section of the public are denied political agency, popular literature offers a kind of compensatory fantasy in which this agency is granted back to them. Popular fiction is therefore, simultaneously, ‘escapist’ (in that it offers fantastic resolutions to real life problems) and highly political, a way for deprived groups (or groups which selfperceive as deprived) to imaginatively grasp what they feel is denied to them in reality.124 It is patently clear that by the mid-1750s, Irish Anglican patriots felt deprived of agency by their colonial masters and their fellow Anglicans who had submitted to ‘court’ politics. This feeling of alienation was confirmed by the outcome of the Money Bill dispute. Patriot politics might have originally been mobilised to protect the interests of the Monti, but it spilled over into the public sphere through literature, and out of the control of its original inventors. In this kind of atmosphere emancipatory fantasies could easily be exploited by writers and publishers, and the conditions for the explosion of popular literature of all kinds (including what would eventually be called the Gothic) were set in place.

    Given the extent of the alienation, popular fiction acted as what Ernst Bloch has called a ‘utopian’ form, generated by The Principle of Hope (1947). For Bloch, even the most deeply conservative and reactionary of popular genres has a utopian element that should not be ignored, a desire for a possible future, a ‘not yet’ that might be, not realisable in the mire of contemporary reality but potentially realisable in a different future. In such putatively escapist fiction, disaffected population groups could have their social and political desires satisfied. This popular literature appeals to the ‘Not Yet Become’ in which even the vaguest possibility for social change is reaffirmed in imaginative terms, as what Bloch calls this fiction’s ‘cultural surplus’.125 What is particularly important about popular fiction is that it is an appeal to a community – usually a ready-made community – waiting to be re-affirmed through its reading practices. The Irish Anglican patriotic community had already made a brief appearance in the 1720s during the Wood’s Halfpence controversy and demonstrated its appetite for reading political pamphlets then. However, this faction was completely radicalised by the Money Bill dispute. Reading popular fiction offers a kind of vicarious pleasure in which deeply held desires and fantasies can be satisfied in a very safe way, and given that the Irish Gothic novel emerged at this very moment, it seems apposite to read it alongside the political controversies of the 1750s.

    Political alienation made fantastic and phantasmic forms such as that which would eventually be called the Gothic attractive to Irish Anglicans. A straightforwardly realist view of life was more or less denied them by the fact of their marginality in both a broader British setting (alienated and rejected by the English) and a more narrow Irish setting (outnumbered and generally disliked by Irish Catholics). As Joseph Cleary puts it, ‘the Irish Protestant middle class could not share with its English Protestant counterpart the same sanguine faith in historical progress and evolution through gradual reform’, mostly because such reform threatened to ‘scupper Protestant dominance’.126 So popular did Gothic novels become in Ireland that by the 1790s their conventions were sufficiently well understood that parodies began to appear, including Wolfe Tone’s Belmont Castle, or Suffering Sensibility (1790) – which more or less takes on and subverts the novels of Anne Fuller – and Mrs F. C. Patrick’s More Ghosts! (1798), a burlesque poking fun at the abundance of supernatural entities crowding out real people in the fiction of the period.

    Irish Anglicans were living through a liminal period as the old homogenised enclave was broken and a new grouping (a patriotic one) was being formed, for which liminality, liminal forms are required. In a study of such liminal periods, Victor Turner has emphasised the way in which, for the community undergoing traumatic transition, the moment of crisis must be continually returned to symbolically in an attempt to come to terms with the psychological breach endured.127 Gothic literature is a literature of the liminal that obsesses over moments of fracture and dissolution and re-enacts such moments repeatedly in an attempt to come to grips with them. During the liminal stage the subject has to suffer a period where binaries are dissolved, boundaries are crossed, and dualities are merged together.128 Gothic literature, the literature of hesitation and hyphenation, is a particularly apt form to use to explore dissolutions, crossing and mergings. For Todorov, the reader of the fantastic is caught in a kind of nervous hesitation between the uncanny and the marvellous. Although such hesitation may ultimately be decided one way or the other (as in the work of Anne Radcliffe, where the supernatural is ‘explained’), the most important moment of the text is indeed that hesitatory one of suspense and anxiety. For Todorov, the fantastic is ‘that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event’.129 The fantastic text begins in a recognizable reality then brings the characters through a period of radical uncertainty and out the other side to a different but still secure reality. It is a form that must be extraordinarily attractive to those undergoing such transitions in history, and this partially explains why it emerges at moments of extreme hesitation and in historical communities stuck in liminal spaces and liminal times. The Gothic is a means not so much to escape from everyday realities as to transmogrify them and confront them in different guises. William Patrick Day insists that readers of the Gothic wished to tackle fears and anxieties rather than avoid them, and that the Gothic is a kind of homeopathic cure for such anxieties, solving existential problems with the actual causes of such anxieties.130

    The full-dress Irish Gothic can be seen as a meeting of Irish Anglican paranoia, anti-Catholicism and psychological claustrophobia with nostalgia (for a past of which they were never a part), desire for the Catholic Other, and sublime respect for history. This division is expressed in two competing tendencies in Irish Gothic writing: a Whiggish, ‘progressive’, modernising view of the contemporary world as moving away from and expelling the superstitious trappings of the Catholic past found in ruined churches and castles, libidinous monks and priests and female rape towards a new and prosperous future; and a nostalgic longing for the existential and social security of the past and the sublime power of the chivalric Middle Ages, including its religious expressions. Paranoia and monstrosity dialogue with desire and toleration; the ability of the Gothic to express such competing positions explains why it pervades Irish Anglican writing – as existential and geographical hesitators (between England and Ireland, Anglicanism and Catholicism) they needed a language of hesitancy and ambivalence to articulate identity, and the Gothic was uniquely positioned to provide that language. The following chapters will investigate whether the beginnings of the Irish Gothic tradition met these expectations.

    Shifting analysis away from futile attempts to discover the ‘first’ Irish Gothic novel to a more fruitful examination of why the Gothic novel emerged in Ireland in the mid-eighteenth century is central to the aims of this book. Joseph Cleary has issued a call for an end to the Anglo-centric model of Irish literary history where Irish literature is either praised or decried because of its apparent (realist) paucity or (non-realist) plenitude as compared to English literature. He points out that ‘the history of the Irish novel is always assessed in terms of its English counterpart; never in terms of other peripheral societies that were also struggling in the same period against strong metropolitan rivals for literary recognition’.131 This study will try to shift the emphasis away from a direct comparison between English and Irish Gothic of the eighteenth century (in which comparison Irish Gothic literature will always come off worst), towards locating the Irish Gothic within a much more expansive field of Gothic Studies. Alongside this re-placing of the early Irish Gothic, the book advocates a move away from the current tendency towards survey and guide in Gothic Studies. In terms of the Gothic the preponderance of surveys has been understandable,132 since newcomers to the area need a trustworthy guide to the sheer mass of critical material that now exists. Indeed, in terms of Irish Gothic, there is indeed still a need for a survey of the available primary material so that the field can be mapped out empirically.

    Close study of a small number of texts has become rather unfashionable, though. In literary studies, there has been a gravitation towards the kind of work brilliantly performed by scholars like Franco Moretti. Moretti has a global perspective and is interested in mapping world literatures in order, as he explains, to make the material available ‘historically longer, geographically larger, and morphologically deeper than those few classics of nineteenth-century Western European “realism” that have dominated the recent theory of the novel’.133 More controversially, he has appealed for a literary history ‘without a single direct textual reading’,134 which would make the present study completely irrelevant.

    This is, indeed, the age of quantitative analysis, and understandably so, as scholars grow excited about the possibilities opened up by the digital humanities. I note that as I write the Loeber’s Guide to Irish Fiction is being digitized, and there is a growing lack of interest in the close analysis of individual texts. Matthew Wilkens, one of the best advocates of the digital humanities, urges his colleagues to turn to ‘algorithmic and quantitative analysis of piles of texts’ because ‘we gain a lot by having available to us the kinds of evidence text-mining . . . provides’. By digitizing an enormous body of material and searching it with a computer program we can, according to Wilkens, arrive at relatively safe and supportable generalisations looking for ‘potentially interesting features without committing months and years to extracting them via close reading’.135 Other scholars have been less convinced of the need to move away from close reading, however. Ian Campbell Ross has queried the clarion call for the abandonment of detailed textual analysis:

    Moretti himself provocatively suggested that reading individual works has become as irrelevant as trying to describe the architecture of a building from a single brick – though, perhaps wisely, he did not enquire too closely into what happens to buildings if single bricks, or at least too many of them, and especially those foundational bricks at the bottom of the building, go missing.136

    In his article on ‘Mapping Early Irish Fiction’ (2011), Ross indicates that looking closely at these individual building blocks can help transform current understandings of Irish literary history as a whole. This present study examines one important element of Irish fiction, the Gothic, tracing it to its initial instantiations, which are placed carefully in their ‘institutional’ setting in terms of Irish studies, history, literary studies and Gothic studies, in order to see if such a placing is helpful for understanding all these fields.

    The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction is an examination of texts which have hitherto been almost completely absent from literary history except when they have been gestured towards or glanced at briefly. Restoring such texts to prominence is not against the spirit of Moretti’s argument that canonical fetishising needs to be undermined. Thomas Leland is not Jonathan Swift; The Adventures of Miss Sophia Berkley is not Castle Rackrent (1800). As Ross insists, there is a need to show that ‘many, many books, that neither are, nor have ever formed, part of the canon, do matter.’137 Indeed, Clare Connolly rightly warns against literary critics becoming lost in statistical analysis and insists that ‘our current sense of the quantity of Irish fiction has rather outstripped our interpretive procedures’. Her view that ‘critical challenges outweigh bibliographical ones at present’,138 echoes that of James Watt, who has urged literary historians to ‘focus in detail on the functioning of specific works’ rather than providing more general accounts, and such focus and specificity is precisely what this book intends to provide in examining the reasons for the emergence of the Irish Gothic in the late 1750s.139 Such readings of Gothic literary texts are only possible if we continue to believe that the texts themselves matter, that these texts signify something, and in the next chapter I turn to some of the problems now associated with such interpretive assumptions.

    This page titled Part III is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jarlath Killeen via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.