Oliver St John Gogarty, Irishman

  • A. Norman Jeffares


Maurice Headlam in his Irish Reminiscences remarked that though Lord Dunsany had said there is no ‘typical Irishman’ he himself thought Gogarty1 ‘a type of contradictory qualities’,2 which is as far as the civil service caution of Headlam’s book would allow him to go in the direction of saying that Gogarty seemed to him a typical Irishman. The reasons he gives for this are not very satisfactory: ‘his fluent witty speech, his stories good, bad and indifferent, his brilliant professional reputation, his wide knowledge of literature and the classics.’ All that Headlam said of Gogarty is true: the fluency and wit, the brilliant professional reputation, the wide knowledge of literature and the classics, all are there at work in his poetry;1 but these are not exclusively Irish qualities, they are the kind of qualities we might equally well posit in, say, an Elizabethan Englishman. They would fit Sir Walter Raleigh, would they not? Provided, of course, that we remember that both Sir Walter Raleigh and Gogarty had also an abundant appetency for life, for beauty and bravery.3 Or, if we look for another parallel we might say the terms fit another poet known for fluency and wit, Herrick, a man with wide knowledge of literature and the classics, but less known, perhaps, for a brilliant professional reputation: for Herrick was a man after Gogarty’s poetic heart, though he did not have the worldly good fortune of the Irish poet in his (perhaps perforce) unworldly role in the Church.


Wide Knowledge Contradictory Quality Golden Stocking Collect Poem Irish Quality 
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© Felicity Anne Jeffares 1970

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  • A. Norman Jeffares

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