‘They sate in counterview’: Anglo-Irish Verse in the Eighteenth Century

  • Bryan Coleborne
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


In The Drapier’s Letters (1724–5), Jonathan Swift referred to the attitude of the English towards the Irish:

As to Ireland, they know little more than they do of Mexico; further than that it is a Country subject to the King of England, full of Boggs, inhabited by wild Irish Papists; who are kept in Awe by mercenary Troops sent from thence: And their general Opinion is, that it were better for England if this whole Island were sunk into the Sea: For, they have a Tradition, that every Forty Years there must be a Rebellion in Ireland.1

By 1724 the cycle of rebellion must have appeared to the English onlooker to be deeply embedded in Irish history, reaching past the Williamite wars to the Cromwellian period, and passing beyond living memory to the reign of Elizabeth I. Pervading the consciousness of the English, the tradition of rebellion in Ireland stretched beyond the pattern of these events back to Henry II’s ‘conquest’ of the country in 1171 before disappearing in the mists of popular misconception about recurrent conflict among the Irish themselves.


Eighteenth Century Irish Society Late Seventeenth Century Archaeological Society Popular Misconception 
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  1. 1.
    J. Swift, The Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland against Receiving Wood’s Halfpence, ed. H. Davis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965) p. 128.Google Scholar
  2. See also J. Swift, The Drapier’s Letters and Other Works 1724–1725, ed. H. Davis (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966) p. 103.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    E. M. Johnston, Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1974) p. 20.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    J. Montague (ed.), The Faber Book of Irish Verse (Faber and Faber, 1974) p. 34.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Collected in ‘Poetry and Legendary Ballads of the South of Ireland’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 1894, p. 270.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    C. M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966) p. x.Google Scholar

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© The Editorial Board, Lumiere (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan Coleborne

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