Catholics with money can be a rare sight in Irish history, a sort of mythical, unlikely creature. This chapter examines the reasons for the binary impulse in Irish historiography, confining its analysis to the second half of the nineteenth century. It argues for a more nuanced treatment of the whole spectrum of Irish Catholic wealth and for a considered reappraisal of the role played by the richest Catholic families in Irish society in this period. The chapter highlights the importance of education in relation to Catholic social mobility in the period. The temptation for historians interested in the dynamics of Irish Catholic power and wealth is to focus almost exclusively on the secular clergy. Historians of Irish education have tended to concentrate much more on the provision of elementary education and, to date, there exists no large-scale examination of elite education in Ireland.

in Irish Catholic identities

This chapter traces the link between ambition and the city through the novels and works of several Irish women writers 1890-1910. Writers such as Hannah Lynch, Katherine Cecil Thurston and George Egerton frequently embedded authorial achievements or ambitions in their female (and male) characters. A common theme in such novels of the period is the use of the metropole (in most cases Dublin or London) as a site of greater potential liberty for young female characters, building on earlier work by May Laffan and Rosa Mulholland. This renaissance of the city as a site for either corporal or intellectual freedom in the ‘Irish Ireland’ or ‘Revival’ period offers us an opportunity to shift the focus from Irish writers and their glorification of the west of Ireland as a refuge from the horrors of rapidly advancing capitalism and materialism.

This chapter looks at what this glorification was defined against. By looking at upwardly mobile women in Irish writing this chapter argues that the mirror image or corollary of the noble male peasant was the dynamic young woman in the city and that she too ought to be taken seriously as a feature of the Revival.

in Irish women’s writing, 1878–1922