A quick post to recommend this short essay, “The Political Imagination: Irish Fantasy Writers and the Easter Rising“, by Rob Maslen over on the City of Lost Books blog. The article examines reactions to the 1916 revolution in Dublin and elsewhere from two different, if not unrelated, points of view. On the one hand there was James Stephens, the nationalist novelist and journalist who was to become an influential figure in the literary careers of the Irish writers Flann O’Brien and C. S. Lewis. A friend with many of those who took up arms as volunteers of the Army of the Irish Republic (or as it would soon be known, the Irish Republican Army) his street-level, eye-witness account of the events that April, “The Insurrection in Dublin“, remains a must-read classic of the period.
On the other hand, and taking up the unionist and loyalist viewpoint, was the Anglo-Irish aristocrat Edward Plunkett, better known to the world of Fantasy fiction as Lord Dunsany, whose emulators were to include figures as diverse as J.R.R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft. A captain in the British Army during the First World War, his prolonged sojourn in a bullet-scarred Jervis Street hospital recovering from shrapnel wounds gained in an encounter with the forces of the Irish Republic gave him time to think about the unprecedented struggle taking place beyond its walls. Arguably after this period his writing shifted in tone and quality as the Irish Revolution overturned the cosseted world of the Ascendancy, the colonial aristocracy in Ireland to which the 18th Baron of Dunsany belonged.
Given your knowledge of Irish history being superior to mine, and our interest/knowledge of Fantasy is the same, I wonder if you could turn your great mind to Tolkien, in particular his early works. I find it interesting that his First Age mythology is so Irish/Celtic and that these writings are circa 1916 or so. His submission of the Silmarillion was rejected largely because of it ‘eye splitting Celtic names.” Anyone besides me find it interesting that Tolkien was mining Irish mythologyfor his English mythology as the Celts warred against the Empire?
I wrote something about Tolkien and Ireland a good while ago (that needs revising) where I touch upon that. It’s something I’d like to have another go at.