The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-century Ireland

Book Review

Richard Brown, last updated: 26th October 2017

Vincent Morley

(Cork University Press), 2017,

362pp., €39 hard, ISBN 978-1-78205-208-1.

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 their vernacular literature. 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 nineteenth centuries, an essential source previously 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 cannot read the originals an opportunity to assess the temper of Irish popular culture during a formative period in the country’s history. This book is a valuable examination of eighteenth-century Irish literature that substantially revises, extends and updates the view presented in Daniel Corkery’s classical study, The Hidden Ireland.