The Politics of Culture

  • Martyn J. Powell


This chapter will look at the relationship between politics and the Irish cultural scene, moving beyond works by the likes of Swift and Maria Edgeworth, whose testimony peppers most of the chapters in this work, to look at the ways in which politicians and the populace interacted with culture. By the 1770s Ireland had a burgeoning cultural scene: a new public sphere – formed by the interlinking growth of print culture, coffee houses and clubs and societies – where culture was publicly and patriotically consumed by a populace ever more aware of the political significance of their activities. The Ascendancy class, now happy to take on the British government, had an increased sense of national pride in its cultural achievements. Indeed the outrage that Richard Twiss caused, when he ‘abused their Buildings, execrated their Paintings, and ridiculed their Manners’1 is indicative of the Ascendancy’s new found confidence in the cultural sphere. As Toby Barnard notes: ‘The habitués of the Dublin drums worried first about how nearly they measured up to the English or continental standards. Then, as patriotism swelled during the 1720s and 1750s, the Dubliners strove to differentiate themselves from and surpass the British.’2


Trinity College Irish Theatre Volunteer Corps Coffee House History Painting 
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© Martyn J. Powell 2005

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  • Martyn J. Powell

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