Books, politics and society in
On 27 July 1662 James Butler, scion of one of the most prominent AngloIrish families and the newly created first duke of Ormond, arrived
in Dublin to take up his post of lord lieutenant of Ireland. Describing
that event in 1952, the architectural historian Maurice Craig used what
must be one of the most striking phrases in the historical writing about
seventeenth-century Ireland: ‘The Renaissance, in a word, had arrived in
Ireland.’1 In one sense Craig was right. It was only in the late
Translation and collaboration in
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Translation is an essential activity of a literate age, when that is also an
age of multilingual communication. This truth seems especially relevant
in Ireland, which like the rest of Europe inherits the polyglot culture of
a Christianity inflected by classical learning. In addition, Ireland (like
many European countries) is a place where the dominance of a single
vernacular has been impossible for almost one thousand years.1
While the Irish middle ages are alive with translation, the
RenaissanceDublin and the
construction of literary authorship:
Richard Bellings, James Shirley and
That quintessentially Renaissance literary project – the humanist dialogue
translated – was apparently undertaken in Dublin in the early 1580s by
the colonial administrator and writer Lodowick Bryskett. Not published
until 1606, Bryskett’s A discourse of civill life (adapted from the Italian
Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio’s Tre dialoghi della vita civile of 1565)
was careful to represent its author at the centre of another
From its Nobel laureates to its literary festivals, modern-day Dublin lives up to its role as a literary capital. The question of whether Ireland experienced a cultural and literary Renaissance has received increasing scholarly attention in recent years. This book extends the discussion by engaging with the specific literary culture of its capital city. It begins with an argument for the internationalised literary culture of late medieval Dublin by an analysis of James Yonge's 'Memoriale'. The citizens of Dublin engaged with and actively read texts imported from London, as Dublin's own printing was limited. The book presents case studies that establish Dublin as an emerging city of Renaissance literature by focusing on Edmund Spenser's political and social connections and by examining the literature of complaint emanating from late Elizabethan Dublin. It analyses the constructed authorial personae of Richard Bellings, James Shirley and Henry Burnell residing in Dublin, and discusses the concepts of literary friendship. Sir James Ware's scholarly achievements are analysed and his extensive intellectual community are investigated, revealing an open-minded Dublin community. In addition to being a representative Renaissance activity, translation was harnessed in the country as an 'instrument of state', as shown by translations of Gaelic poetry. The Renaissance literary production in Dublin had a multi-linguistic character with Latin orations taking place in the Trinity College Dublin. The book also addresses the question of whether the English-language drama composed and staged in Restoration Dublin is most accurately described as Anglo-Irish drama or 'English drama written in Ireland'.
36 See Empey’s chapter in this volume.
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through print and manuscript networks. It was this willingness to engage
with imported texts, even those composed in other vernaculars, which
established the international complexion of print culture in ‘Renaissance’
Dublin. Dublin’s literary culture was not emerging in isolation.
Dublin’s cultural landscape, in fact, bore many connections to that
of nearby London. Hadfield outlines similarities in the concerns of the
be just as
conscious of the broader patterns of consumption which could involve
reading large quantities of material published elsewhere, sometimes in a
different language. Book production can only reveal so much about the
This is not to suggest, of course, that in terms of vernacular reading
trends, those countries with very low book production levels remained
the passive cultural sponges of neighbouring nations. Even if, as is
suspected, the largest proportion of vernacular literature consumed
in RenaissanceDublin or Edinburgh was published in
Irish affairs on behalf of the earl
of Ormond, became a prisoner of parliamentary forces in the Tower of
London, and lived in exile in Caen, Paris and then in London.40
How Ware came to play such a central role in the intellectual milieu of
early modern Dublin can be partially explained by his extensive library
collection. His accumulation of manuscript sources is significant because
it reveals the scale of his intellectual interests. In 1648 he published
Librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca Jacobi Waræi equities aur. catalogus – apparently the
in Ireland was that of an
agent of the state in good standing. In January 1667, he was called to the
Irish bar, membership of which was probably necessary for him to hold
58 Kathleen Menzie Lesko, ‘Wilson, John’, ODNB, s.v.
59 Lesko, ‘Wilson, John’, ODNB, s.v.
60 Dougal Shaw, ‘Restoration through ritual in Ireland: the celebration of 1661’, in Thomas
Herron and Michael Potterton (eds), Ireland in the Renaissance (Dublin, 2007), pp.
325–36, at p. 330.
61 Lesko, ‘Wilson, John’, ODNB, s.v.
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Writing for the
of a fruitful symbiosis that might have been, but one that, unfortunately, was far too seldom achieved in and beyond RenaissanceDublin.40
38 DIB, s.v. ‘Haicéad (Hackett), Pádraigín (1610s?–1654)’.
39 Gillespie, Reading Ireland, p. 67.
40 Kane, ‘Languages of legitimacy?’, argues that the Irish language did not operate solely
on the social margins in the early Stuart Pale, but that it played an important political
and social role in Jacobean Ireland.
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