Chapter Two cont’d

In literary achievement, this group produced the brilliant work of Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, and most important of all, the great Jonathan Swift. Swift, a clergyman in the Anglican Church, became Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of Dublin, and his sympathy with the plight of the Dublin poor and his anger at the injustice of English rule led to his writing some of the greatest satire in world literature, including “Tale of a Tub,” “A Modest Proposal” (in which he suggests that the logical solution to the overcrowding of Dublin is for the Irish poor to begin eating their own young), and of course his masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels.



Jonathan Swift and St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Jonathan Swift, the great Irish writer, satirist, and Church of Ireland priest, became Dean of St. Patrick’s in 1713.  He became a champion of the Irish poor who lived in miserable tenement conditions all around the Cathedral.  His association with the Cathedral is evident throughout its structure.

The bust of Swift on the Cathedral wall

Swift’s tomb within the Cathedral

The tomb of Stella, the great love of Swift’s life


In his famous speech before the Irish Senate in 1925, Yeats claims kinship with this class and its heritage:  “We are no petty people.  We are one of the great stocks of Europe.  We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell.  We have created the most of the modern literature of this country.  We have created the best of its political intelligence.”  Thus in “Blood and the Moon,” his poem with which this History text opens, Yeats aligns himself with the cultural achievements of this era–at least as he poetically imagines those achievements–the poetic work of “Goldsmith and the Dean, Berkeley and Burke.”  The achievements of the Protestant Ascendancy certainly stand as one of the great moments in Irish culture.  However, as the 19th century would demonstrate, this Ascendancy was built upon injustice, an injustice that would require great suffering and tragedy before it would be replaced by a more equitable system.

End of Chapter Two