D. P. Moran. The Philosophy of Irish Ireland. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2006. xxxi + 126 pp. $32.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-904558-74-3.
Reviewed by Timothy McMahon (Department of History, Marquette University)
Published on H-Albion (October, 2007)
A New Philosophy
One of the recent additions to the useful "Classics of Irish History" series is D. P. Moran's The Philosophy of Irish Ireland, published as a book in 1905 and ably introduced by historian Patrick Maume. Moran (1869-1936) was one of those touchstone figures with whom modern Irish historians must contend because his essays--which appeared separately in the New Ireland Review between 1898 and 1900 and collectively in the present volume--served merely as the opening salvos of a campaign that he carried forward in his influential weekly newspaper the Leader for more than three decades. (His daughter continued the newspaper in attenuated form until the early 1970s.) In the Leader Moran rendered his insights into the cultural and parliamentary politics of his day with biting sarcasm and certainty, advocating for the Irish industrial and language revivals, and famously labeling friend and foe alike with memorable nicknames that, Maume points out, "gave regular readers a sense of initiation and familiarity" (p. xi).
Many of the themes that Moran fleshed out in his journalism were prefigured in the essays presented here, but as Maume cautions, subsequent generations have all too often read backward from the Leader into Philosophy. In so doing, they have taken an "Éire-centric" view of Moran's thought, missing out on many important themes that place Moran more squarely into the broader stream of British and European intellectual currents. For instance, one finds references to the literature of William Makepeace Thackeray and Thomas Carlyle, echoes of the Victorian conceit that Ireland was a feminized Britain, and allusions to Gustave Le Bon's studies of crowd psychology. Social Darwinism, as transposed through the late-nineteenth-century British movement for "national efficiency" and applied by Moran to the Irish nation he hoped to cajole into consciousness, practically leaps from the page. Indeed, one of the great pleasures of re-encountering Moran in the present format was in seeing these references more clearly thanks to Maume's opening commentary.
This short work will be useful for all interested in Irish--and indeed United Kingdom--history on the eve of the Great War. Tom Garvin, editor of the series, and Maume as editor of this volume are to be commended for introducing us again to this seminal work.
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Timothy McMahon. Review of Moran, D. P., The Philosophy of Irish Ireland.
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