This book is a study of the Irish popular mind between the late-seventeenth and the early-nineteenth century. It examines the collective assumptions, aspirations, fears, resentments and prejudices of the common people as they are revealed in the vernacular literature of the period.
The topics investigated include: politics, religion, historical memory, European conflicts, Anglo-Irish patriotism, agrarian agitation, the tumultuous decade of the 1790s, and the rise of Daniel O’Connell.
Extensive use is made of contemporary song and verse preserved in literary manuscripts from the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries – an essential source that has previously been neglected by historians. Elements of both continuity and change are identified, and the evolution of popular attitudes is traced over the hundred and fifty years from the Williamite conquest to O’Connell’s campaign for Repeal of the Union.
The texts of eight important works composed between 1691 and 1830 are presented in full – seven of them translated for the first time – to allow those who are unable to read the originals an opportunity to assess the temper of Irish popular culture during a formative period in the country’s history. This book substantially revises, extends and updates the view of eighteenth-century Irish literature that was presented in Daniel Corkery’s classical account, The Hidden Ireland.