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In order to reanimate the zombified and monstrous corpses of Irish Catholics, to try to make them human again, Irish history, and particularly the history internalised by Anglicans, would have to rewritten to read like something other than a horror story. Thomas Leland was an eminently respectable figure to write such a history. He was a classical scholar, an expert on rhetoric and author of a much praised biography of Philip of Macedonia, a professor of oratory and history and Fellow of Trinity College, as well as an ordained minister of the Anglican church and chaplain to Lord Lieutenant Townshend. He was also widely known as a tolerant and liberal man with deep friendships across Christian denominations including many who were Catholic (such as Charles O’Conor, for whom he had managed to secure access to Trinity’s collection of Irish manuscripts) and others who were Quaker. Certainly O’Conor believed that Leland had the skills to do the job properly as ‘a philosopher, as well as a Christian’.2 O’Conor’s trust in Leland was bolstered when he delivered one of the most ‘liberal’ sermons about 1641 on the annual commemoration in October 1771, in which he, while accepting that Irish Catholic had committed atrocities, spent much more time excoriating Protestants for marginalising loyal Catholics in the period leading up to the rebellion and attacked the continued impoverishment of Catholics in contemporary Ireland, urging his congregation to ‘reform our own conduct, and avert the return of God’s judgement’.3 Famously, Edmund Burke was also convinced that Leland was the right man for the job, and pressed him to take up the task.4
It would take Leland until 1773 to actually publish his ‘philosophical history’ of Ireland, a history that would eventually be read as a failure – a judgement I will argue was both premature and a misunderstanding of what Leland actually achieved. In the meantime, he composed the only fictional work that has ever been ascribed to him, Longsword; The Earl of Salisbury (March 1762), a novel which has attracted very little attention from literary critics or scholars, and none (as far as I can tell) from historians, who often neglect to even mention it when appraising Leland’s historical work on Ireland. This novel tells the story of the return to England in 1225 of William de Longespée, the third earl of Salisbury and illegitimate son of Henry II, after the wars in France. His journey home is beset with many trials and tribulations. He is shipwrecked on the way back to England on the Isle of Rhé and attacked by the allies of his bitter enemy the Count Mal-leon who spreads rumours suggesting that Longsword is actually attempting to invade France and take control of the entire region for his own enrichment. While defending himself against these attacks, he befriends one of Mel-leon’s initial supporters, Les Roches, and becomes deeply involved in Les Roches’s complicated family difficulties, ultimately taking his daughter Jacqueline under his protection. When Longsword eventually arrives back in England he finds his castle appropriated and his wife taken prisoner by Raymond, nephew of the king’s advisor Hubert, who have both insisted that Longsword is dead. Raymond hopes to marry Longsword’s wife, Ela, and Raymond’s brother Reginhald, a duplicitous monk living in a nearby monastery, assists in these plans. Luckily, Longsword arrives back in time to prevent the marriage from being (illegally) performed, has the culprits punished and regains control of his lands and the family he lost through the wars.
Leland’s novel was influential, and should be considered crucial to the emergence of the historical as well as the Gothic novel, an influence felt by later Irish writers especially. When Anne Fuller set her own historical fiction Alan Fitz-Osborne (1786) in the reign of Henry II during the Barons’ Wars, she combined Leland’s historical sensibility with Horace Walpole’s supernatural excesses. Fuller continued in the historical vein with The Son of Ethelwolf: An Historical Tale (1789), and James White, more specifically interested in a direct depiction of Ireland, wrote Earl Strongbow; or, the History of Richard de Clare and the Beautiful Geralda (1789), in which the narrator meets the ghost of Strongbow who tells him his life story in (sometimes mind-numbingly boring, sometimes mildly amusing) detail.
While generally accepted as important in the development of the historical novel, Longsword has not been considered to have any relation to the important philosophical history Leland went on to write, and is certainly not felt to have anything to do with Ireland. Both of these assessments, I suggest, are mistaken. In 1764, two years after the publication of Longsword, Horace Walpole wrote a novel, set in Italy, about the internal collapse of a medieval aristocratic family. He claimed to have written it in order to ‘escape’ from politics, to examine a world far removed from eighteenth-century England. The idea for the novel apparently came to him in a dream and when he began to write his dream up ‘the work grew on my hands, and I grew fond of it – add that I was very glad to think of anything rather than politics’.5 However, scholars have argued persuasively that, despite its apparent temporal and spatial distance from eighteenth-century England, The Castle of Otranto is in many ways a novel about contemporary politics, and that a serious reading of the novel has to take account of its imbrication in political debates of the day in which Walpole’s family was deeply implicated.6
Interestingly, when scholars have mentioned Longsword, it has usually been in relation to Walpole’s much more obviously significant novel. Otranto was a controversial sensation after its second preface (April 1765) revealed that rather than being a mere reprinting of a ‘found manuscript’ from the Dark Ages this was in fact a product the age of reason and one, moreover, written by a son of the former Prime Minister. In other words, Walpole’s Gothic novel was a scandal because it had been written in the eighteenth century and seemed to grant emotional and imaginative power to the medieval, the Catholic, the supernatural and superstition in an age when all these things should have been banished.7 E. J. Cleary contrasts the near hysterical reaction to the second edition of Otranto with what she calls the ‘universal’ and ‘unproblematic’ approval of Longsword two years’ earlier, due she believes to the latter’s exclusion ‘of any hint of the supernatural or marvellous’.8 This assessment needs to be considerably qualified – Longsword did not receive anything near ‘universal’ approval given that it was only reviewed twice and greeted with mild praise. The Monthly Review called it an ‘agreeable Romance’ in which the ‘truth of history is artfully interwoven with agreeable episodes’, speculating that the anonymous publication was the ‘production of some elegant female pen’,9 while the Critical Review pronounced it ‘a new and agreeable species of writing, in which the beauties of poetry and the advantages of history are happily united’.10 This resembles the reception given to the first edition of Walpole’s novel, although clearly Otranto was believed to be an exhibit of the supernatural superstition of the Catholic Dark Ages and, set on the Continent, was distanced from the English readers and much ‘safer’ on a first reading.
Although it has generally been ignored by subsequent critics (and in fairness, it is not a very good novel), Longsword does deserve more attention. When they have examined it, critics have emphasised the novel’s relevance to contemporary British rather than specifically Irish politics. Fiona Price argues that Longsword is really about the struggle against absolutism that had dominated British history since the sixteenth century, and that, crucially, it was published at a time when tensions between Britain and France and Spain were high. For Price, ‘Leland’s novel uses the reign of Henry III, when territories had just been won in Gascony, to warn George III about the dangers of favouritism and absolutism . . . Britain, the novel argues, can keep the balance abroad only if the distribution of power at home is correct’.11 Toni Wein, too, believes that the novel is ‘about’ Britain, claiming as evidence a peon in Book V when the narrator asks ‘when shall our country feel the blessings of a wise and virtuous rule? Shall faction and tumult for ever disturb the land, and sordid avarice and slavish adulation for ever surround the throne?’ (Vol. 2, pp. 78–9) to (a never explicitly mentioned) George III as a ‘glorious Monarch’.12 For Wein, Leland’s novel is ‘chauvinistic’ in its (English) nationalism,13 a rather premature judgement given that an Irish context for the novel is never even considered. Seeing Longsword in relation to British politics is understandable, and even plausible, but it does require the critic to ignore the fact that when Leland was writing the novel he was deep in researching Irish as well as British history, and that, therefore, there may be lessons specifically for the Irish as well as the British reader in his only fiction.
The novel is certainly trying to tell its readers something. Leland informs the reader in the opening Advertisement that:
It is generally expected that pieces of this kind should convey some useful moral: which moral, not always, perhaps, the most valuable or refined, is sometimes made to float on the surface of the narrative . . . Although [the author of this novel] cannot pretend to be very deep, yet he hopes he is clear. And if anything lies at the bottom, worth the picking up, it will be discovered without his direction.
It is unclear whether this is a kind of joke on the reader, since Leland’s moral is all but transparent, unless it is the simple moral that there is no such thing as transparency. This is, after all, a novel in which situations and characters are always being misunderstood and misinterpreted, requiring later revised explanation. Apparently obvious morals – that the French are universally corrupt, that plots and conspiracies are everywhere – and facts – that Longsword is dead – are all corrected by later pieces of information, so that the real moral may be that the apparent always requires a more rigorous hermeneutic than we might think. As Price points out, the novel continually highlights ‘the difficulty of distinguishing truth from falsehood in any immediate way’ – a point with which a scholar of rhetoric such as Leland would have been very familiar.14 And, if the apparently obvious really needs much greater scrutiny than it is generally afforded, this may be a clue that this novel is rather more complex – and about much more – than has previously been appreciated by its critics. Moreover, other supposedly ‘obvious’ things, like the universal barbarism of Catholics, may also be in need of greater investigation, because, if Walpole’s novel ultimately ends up displaying Catholics as superstitious and romanticised (while, perhaps, actually endorsing their view of reality), Leland’s novel makes very few compromises with the prejudices of his own class and readers.
Whether the novel is Gothic is another question. It has often been referenced, with The Adventures of Sophia Berkley, as one of the two Irish Gothic novels written and published before Walpole’s supposedly foundational Otranto.15 Historians of the Gothic, such as David Punter, have generally accorded it the respect of at least a passing reference (though Punter very strangely thinks that Leland, a professional historian, doesn’t know his history, while Walpole, a dilettante, does).16 As I indicated when considering Sophia Berkley, it is best to be suspicious of all arguments about origins, especially the origins of something as generically unstable as the Gothic novel. In Gothic Ireland I argued for a very diffusive and historically protracted growth of the Irish Gothic novel out of a large variety of ‘proto-Gothic’ genres and modes: martyrologies and horrific histories, anti-Catholic scatology, the sublime, antiquarianism, Graveyard Poetry. The historical novel is clearly another of these proto-Gothic ingredients, and obviously, Longsword is a major addition to this genre. Its contribution to the history of the Gothic novel is more substantial, however, than merely providing an appropriate medieval setting for a plot.
‘Medieval’, after all, is what ‘Gothic’ signified most straightforwardly in the eighteenth century, rather than the supernatural paraphernalia we now associate with the genre, so that in many ways Longsword is as unproblematically a Gothic novel as Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron, which its author describes as ‘a Gothic Story, being a picture of Gothic times and manners’.17 As Alfred Longueil points out, ‘Walpole’s Otranto and Clara Reeve’s Old English Baron were literary “Gothic stories” . . . [in that] they aimed at a medieval atmosphere by means of medieval background’,18 and exactly the same applies to Longsword. Reeve in The Progress of Romance (1785) claims that Longsword is, in fact, the opposite of Otranto, in that it is a carefully constructed historical novel rather than a supernatural flight of fancy. Although she acknowledges that it uses a great many of the same elements as Walpole’s Gothic story, she argues that it does so in a controlled rather than a crazed way.19 Reeve believed her own novel, The Old English Baron, was a riposte to Otranto, and therefore more of an imitation of Longsword; her decision to subtitle her novel ‘A Gothic Story’ demonstrates how the term signified a time period rather than the supernatural baggage she rejected.
Moreover, because of Richard Hurd’s Letters on Chivalry and Romance (1762), the negative implications of ‘Gothic’ had been substantially neutralised in an ideological sense, and the term became to many ears simply a descriptive one, an adjective without prejudice signifying a period in time rather than a barbaric atavism. The late eighteenth century’s nostalgic attraction to the Middle Ages emerges partially from a deep investment in the concept of the ‘Gothic constitution’, which was a central feature of much political thinking in British circles in the eighteenth century. During the English civil wars of the seventeenth century it had been somewhat fashionable in Republican circles to attack the monarchist past as ‘gothick’, a tendency best seen in James Harrington’s Oceana (1656), which described a Europe whose classical republicanism had been destroyed by Gothic invaders and barbarians. This damaging attack on the Gothic transformation of the law was transformed after the Restoration. The common law, and the careful balancing of powers between monarch and parliament established through slow change and tradition, became a source of pride for many thinkers. Ancient rights and privileges which demanded respect and protection from the abuses of parliament or monarch were considered ‘gothic’ inheritances and prized as such.20 As Robert Miles points out, ‘Prior to the French Revolution, for any of those subscribing to Whiggism in its many varieties, “Gothic” possessed a positive rather than negative political valence. It was a common belief among Whigs and radicals alike that the English Parliament traced its origins to an ancient, or Gothic, constitution brought to England by the Saxons’.21 William Blackstone characterised the gothic constitution as being like a medieval castle the present generation inherited: ‘an old Gothic castle, erected in the days of chivalry, but fitted up for a modern inhabitant. The moated ramparts, the embattled towers, and the trophied halls, are magnificent and venerable, but useless. The inferior apartments, now converted into rooms of convenience, are cheerful and commodious, though their approaches are winding and difficult’.22 Although a central plank in much conservative English political philosophy, the ‘gothic constitution’ had actually been used as a radical measure to defend Irish politics against colonial incursions by the British parliament. William Molyneux, in his Case of Ireland, based much of his argument on the ‘ancient constitution’ which covered the peoples of both Britain and Ireland, because the ‘English and Britains that came over . . . with him [Henry II] retain’d all the Freedoms and immunities of Free-Born Subjects’.23 Molyneux configured the reign of Henry II as crucial in the transfer of the ‘gothic constitution’ to Ireland, and it is no surprise when Henry’s son turns up as the central figure in a liberty-loving Irish Anglican, Thomas Leland.
The ‘Gothic constitution’ reappeared in the work of a number of prominent Irish Anglican thinkers who wished to examine the provenance of Ireland’s independence from Westminster interference. Controversially, Charles Lucas, a radical Dublin apothecary who was the guilds’ representative on the city commons in the 1740s, made a name for himself as a campaigner for the recognition and restoration of the ‘ancient rights’ of Irish Anglican freeholders. In a series of pamphlets, Lucas argued that ‘liberty’ was a natural right given to all rational men, ‘liberty’ meaning the right to live in a society governed by the consent of the governed to laws, and religious freedom, a state of affairs given to humankind by God, activated in the ‘Gothic’ period in Britain, and embodied in common law. Lucas’s argument was that any attempt by a British parliament to make laws for Ireland, was illegitimate and a breach of this ancient constitution since Ireland had its own parliament. He praised George II as the defender of the Gothic constitution, ‘by divine Providence, called to the most exalted Station that is known in any Part of the Earth. You preside over the GREATEST, because the FREEST PEOPLE in the World.’24
For Edmund Burke, too, ancient rights were central to his thinking. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, he famously characterised the Glorious Revolution as a necessary evil ‘to preserve our ancient indisputable laws and liberties, and that constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty’, going back even further than Magna Charta to ‘the more ancient standing law of the kingdom’.25 He returned to William Blackstone’s metaphor of the constitution as a Gothic castle and pointed out, ‘Your constitution, it is true, whilst you were out of possession, suffered waste and dilapidation; but you possessed in some parts the walls, and in all the foundations of a noble and venerable castle. You might have repaired those walls; you might have built on those old foundations’.26 The Gothic castle may have fallen into disorder, in other words, but that is no reason to raze it to the ground; instead, focus should be shifted towards repair and consolidation. Respect for the past would help protect rights and privileges more than any revolution which involved destruction of existing structures. While not dependent on the image of the Gothic castle, Thomas Leland certainly wished to retain respect for the Gothic, or ‘ancient’ constitution, as he called it in Longsword. As Fiona Price points out, a central episode of the novel returns to the signing of the Magna Charta, which takes place off-page, in an episode where the ‘ongoing fight to preserve ancient liberties is highlighted’.27 In the constitutional clashes between the Irish patriotic and court factions, of which the most serious had been the Money Bill dispute, the ‘ancient liberties’ of the Irish kingdom had been constantly evoked, so that it is highly unlikely that Leland’s recourse to such a highly controversial discourse has no Irish resonance. The entire novel revolves around an attempt to trample on ancient rights, to replace the rightful heir with a usurper, and the conclusion ensures that these ancient rights are preserved. Only the corrupt and self-serving seek to destroy ancient rights for their own benefit, and they are themselves routed and dead by the end of the story. As Price emphasises, ‘confronted by anxieties concerning absolutism and the spread of luxury, Leland fashions a historical romance in which rupture (of inheritance, of political power) threatens but is ultimately avoided; here (as for Burke), inherited constitutional liberties and proper rule save the political day’.28
Leland’s respect for ancient traditions included a healthy appreciation for (though not uncritical adulation of) Irish prehistoric society. In opposition to negative depictions of the ancient Irish as incestuous, uncivilised barbarians, he took a balanced approach to the misty past and saw much to praise in ancient Ireland. In the ‘Preliminary Discourse’ to his History of Ireland, Leland admits that he is ‘disqualified’ to speak about ancient Ireland in any detail because he is ‘totally unacquainted with the Irish language’, a subtle but devastating dismissal of figures like David Hume who had written so scathingly about ancient Ireland while being simultaneously unable to read the source documents in their original language. Leland thanks his friend Charles O’Conor, a Catholic, for providing him with help on this issue,29 and carefully warns that
if we enquire into the manners of the ancient Irish from English writers, we find their representations odious and disgusting; if from writers of their own race, they frequently break out into the most animated encomiums of their great ancestors. The one can scarcely allow them any virtue; the other, in their enthusiastic ardour, can scarcely discover the least imperfection in their laws, government, or manners . . . Yet, when we examine their records . . . [we find] an imperfect civilisation.30
‘Civilisation’ is the key word in this description, even if it is employed in a qualified way, especially given that prejudiced versions of Irish prehistory depicted the island as a squalid place of barbarity and atavism. Leland’s assessment of the Irish past is always as judicious as possible, and he concludes that, far from the English presence being an unqualified benefit to the Irish inhabitants, ‘we must confess that they were not taught [their] love of justice by the first English settlers’ – the clear implication here being that the opposite is in fact the case.31
Respect for the Gothic past is a consistent feature of Leland’s thinking in general, and of Longsword in particular. However, there are other reasons to consider the novel as an important beginning to Irish gothic fiction. In a short consideration of Longsword, Alison Milbank suggests that what makes the novel Gothic, and worthy of inclusion in a Gothic canon, is ‘the strong emphasis on tropes of imprisonment, usurpation and forced unions within specifically Gothic sites of monastery, castle and dungeon, in a plot that involves fear, pain and other strong emotions’.32 Certainly, in the light of Walpole’s novel Otranto, Longsword’s Gothic foundations become clearer. While without Walpole, it would be difficult to read Longsword as a Gothic text, in Walpole’s wake, the connections between Leland’s novel and the Gothic become rather clearer. Other Gothic elements in the novel include a remarkably convoluted narrative system – stories within stories within stories – and most of all, the presence of that Gothic staple, the monkish villain, here in the guise of the despicable Reginhald.
And it is with this character that the connection between Leland’s later philosophical history of Ireland and his only novel also becomes clearer. Leland was clearly under some pressure from the end of the 1750s and into the 1760s and 1770s to agree to produce his objective history of Ireland, and the main obstacle in his way was not so much the question of how to deal objectively with the 1641 massacres as how to handle the apparent ‘cause’ of 1641, the perfidious nature of Catholics as delineated by Temple and reiterated by Walter Harris. For both of these earlier historians, Catholics were monsters so warped by the doctrines of their church as to be incapable of being normal humans. Massacring Protestants is simply what Catholic monsters do as far as Temple is concerned, and to expect any different is to misunderstand the very nature of the Catholic threat. As Joseph Liechty puts it, the questions every eighteenth-century Irish Protestant had to answer in a post-1641 world were ‘Are Irish catholics human? . . . is accounting for Catholic behaviour a subject for demonology?’33 A philosophical history of Ireland could not be written while the answer to these questions remained a straightforward ‘yes’, so the Catholic had to be completely de-contaminated before a fair and even partly objective version of 1641 could even be contemplated. Longsword, I argue, amounts to a kind of de-contamination chamber in which Leland could experiment with unmonstering the monstrous Catholic before he could go on to defang them in a history of the island.
Defences by Catholics against monstrous stereotyping, as for example by John Curry and considered in the previous chapter, were too biased to be effective, especially as Curry had simply reversed the accusation and painted Irish Anglican perfidy as the real reason behind the massacres of 1641. To be effective, a truly objective history needed to treat Catholics not as angels or demons but as human beings, perhaps overly influenced by a despotic theology but generally fair and decent and deserving of toleration and respect on political grounds (though not, and this also had to be clear, on theological grounds). What was needed, in other words, was what we would now call a thoroughly liberal account of Irish history that would decouple metaphysics and history. An ‘objective’ Anglican history needed to accept simultaneously that while many Catholics may be bad people, capable of committing atrocities, that did not make them agents of the devil, or satanic instruments of pure evil. Catholics needed to be unmonstered. What needed to be revealed to the Anglican reader was the great ‘unthought’ of Irish Anglicanism: the nearness, the familiarity of the Catholic as well as his alterity, because only in this way could the Anglican reader be convinced to move beyond horror towards fraternity. What Leland needed to show was that the Other is as basic to identity as the Self, or, as Michel Foucault puts it, that ‘the Other . . . is not only a brother, but a twin, born, not of man, nor in man, but beside him and at the same time, in an identical newness, in an unavoidable duality’.34 That Catholics and Anglicans are, in fact, brothers as well as enemies is central to de-fanging the Catholic vampire. To be a Protestant, after all, requires there to exist such a thing as a Catholic, and therefore the existence of the Protestant is dependent on the Catholic to a degree that is simply not true of the Catholic on the Protestant.
Catholicism was generally held to be a kind of perverse supplement, or heretical addition, to a pure ‘Protestant’ Christianity, a paganism grafted on to the primitive church from which true Christianity had only emerged since the Reformation. However, in being generated imaginatively as a horrific antithesis to Protestant righteousness, Catholicism also occupied a central position as a guarantor of Protestant identity. One commonality between the two denominations is, of course, their shared history before the Reformation. Writers who wished to by-pass the sectarian rancour of the post-Reformation period in order to locate ways and means of reconciliation could set their novels in the medieval period and effectively avoid all mention of religious divisions. Thus, Leland’s decision to write a novel set in the thirteenth century is understandable coming from a reconciling historian in eighteenth-century scholarship. By delving into a pre-Reformation past, in much the same way as Archbishop James Ussher when he was trying to argue for the a priori presence of the Anglican Church in early Christian Ireland and recognising St Patrick as a kind of Anglican avant la lettre in his Discourse on the Religion Anciently professed by the Irish and British (1622), Leland can return to a safer time away from the acrimony of the post-1641 period.
The pre-Reformation past is a version of what Mary Louise Pratt calls a ‘contact zone’, a ‘space and time where [separated] subjects . . . are co-present, the point at which their trajectories now intersect’.35 The Middle Ages is an in-between space and time where contiguity as well as congruence can be explored, exchanges made. Milbank argues that Longsword depicts the Catholic Middle Ages in romantic mode, nostalgically harking back to a heroic and chivalric age. In fact, like most Gothic novels, there is a palpable tension between the cosmic orderliness (under threat from disorder within the state) of the Middle Ages and the current disorder evident in understandings of the cosmos in the eighteenth century. Leland returns to this past and allows readers to encounter a real ‘monster’ in the mad monk Reginhald, but he surrounds him with Catholics who are perfectly respectable and generous-hearted and in contrast to whom he looks anomalous rather than typical. This technique neutralises the general monstering of Catholicism I examined in Chapter 4, and allows the contemporary Irish Anglican reader to look around at his Catholic neighbours and begin to see them as, if not exactly ‘normal’ as such, at least unmonstrous.
Experimenting with this technique in a historical novel was for Leland a safe way of unmonstering the Catholic and testing the political waters before attempting the much more dangerous job of writing of a history of Ireland. This is an experiment through a work of imaginative fiction, though one thoroughly grounded in history (a history with a happy ending), in which all the characters, because of the medieval setting, are Catholics, but also where a truly bad Catholic is placed under the spotlight and examined as if a witness in a trial to determine the origins of Catholic evil. Put simply, given the general benevolence of the other Catholic characters of the novel, that one monk is contemptible sets him as the exception rather than the rule and makes Catholic villainy particular rather than general. Catholics are not villains; particular Catholics are. And the cause of their villainy is not their Catholicism per se but rather the fact that they are disordered individuals. This is not a method of absolving Catholicism of being a pernicious theological system. It remains, in the novel, more open to abuse by evildoers than any potential Protestant system. However, it is merely an instrument rather than a cause of evil. And more than that, it can sometimes be used for good.
As I have pointed out, the early Gothic is often accused – rightly – of a deep anti-Catholicism, of seeing Catholicism and Catholics as the source of evil in the world, and the Gothic is correctly read as a profoundly Protestant form. As Leslie Fiedler famously argued, ‘like most other classic forms of the novel, the gothic romance is Protestant in ethos’ with a ‘natural’ aversion to Catholicism, a judgement echoed by Chris Baldick, who insists that ‘the consciously Protestant pioneers of the Gothic novel raise the old ghosts of Catholic Europe only to exorcise them’.36 This is absolutely right. However, running alongside this deeply reactionary, exclusionist politics, many critics have also recognised a concomitant nostalgia for, and love of, the Catholic past (and even the Catholic Church as a whole). That the Gothic contains a powerfully nostalgic element has also been vigorously denied. Baldick and Mighall have, in fact, argued that ‘the assimilation of Gothic fiction into romantic and pre-romantic nostalgia for the Middle Ages’ has been a serious error in Gothic criticism. They point out that most of the early Gothic novels were not set in the Middle Ages and insist that even those that were never idealised this period but instead depicted it as nightmarish, populated by demonic priests and repressive patriarchs: ‘Most Gothic novels have little to do with “the medieval world”, especially not an idealised one; they represent the past not as paradisiacal but as “nasty” in its “possessive” curtailing of individual liberties; and they gratefully endorse Protestant bourgeois values as “kinder” than those of feudal barons’.37 While certainly a bracing deviation from the ‘transgressive’ hypothesis of previous Gothic criticism, the argument put forward by Baldick and Mighall overlooks the desire for an ordered, metaphysically stable world that suffuses the Gothic, and they also pass over the fact that, in consistently sexualising the supposedly reviled Catholics, Gothic writers also (sometimes completely unwittingly) revealed a voyeuristic craving to at the very least gaze upon that which they rationally rejected as repulsive.
Rosemary Jackson argues that Gothic should be seen as a literature of desire for that which is external and excluded, that which is taboo,38 and for Protestant cultures, Catholicism has long occupied the space of the forbidden and the weird. For this reason, anti-Catholicism can be read as a form of Orientalism, in that it is a discourse motivated by a hatred for that which it sees as inherently attractive and sexually desirable. As Richard Hofstadter points out, anti-Catholic rhetoric is the ‘pornography of the Puritan’.39 In the Catholic, the Protestant sees everything which he has been denied, and this denial allows him to see Catholicism as what Edward Said in another context called ‘a living tableau of queerness’.40 Thus, for the Protestant spectator, the Catholic Other represents not only absolute difference from the Self, and a repository of all that is abjected and rejected from normality, but also, and for that very reason, a site of illegitimate and transgressive desire. In other words, the Gothic, pervaded by anti-Catholicism, is often powered by an ‘attraction–repulsion’ for Catholicism and Catholics. This schizoid Protestant relationship to Catholics is brought to bear on Thomas Leland as he came to write Longsword, where he had to figure out how to combine a conviction that Catholics have been guilty of terrible atrocities in the past (notably in 1641) and an Anglican abhorrence of Catholic theology with a sense that Catholics are not really all that different and should be brought into public life and normalised. The Money Bill dispute had created a constituency certainly more open and receptive to the possibility that Catholics could be potential allies as well as deadly enemies, but a very vocal conservative group in the Anglican enclave was still unwilling to countenance any change of attitude toward the zombie hoards.