Thomas Davis

Eileen Sullivan

1978
87 pages
ISBN 0-8387-1234-7
Contemporary Irish Writers

Thomas Davis is another-and the last-contribution to the Irish Writers Series. These monographs have been designed to treat in individual volumes the significant Anglo-Irish writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The studies will prove helpful both to literary scholars and to students of literature. Now completed, the series, encompassing discussions of thirty-nine writers, constitutes a significant history of modern Anglo-Irish literature.

Because of the poems, songs, ballads, and essays that Thomas Davis (1814-1845) wrote for The Nation, a newspaper he founded with Charles Gavan Duffy and John Blake Dillon, he is generally known as a nationalist writer and a journalist. His ethnocentrism was such that his works rarely cite the vices, shortcomings, and biases of his people. Propagandistic and peculiarly Anglo-Irish, he used the newspaper to communicate his ideas. Moreover, because of his Protestant background and his sensitivity to the emerging Catholic population. Indeed, he acted as a catalyst to Catholic patriotism by giving direction and support to the nationalist feelings of Catholics. Writing to forge a nation that would include the Catholic majority, he also appealed to the imagination of the Protestant Ascendancy. In the process he created a lasting collection of poems, songs, and essays that transcend the purpose for which they were written.

Davis, with a poet's soul, sought to play the role of nation builder. His death in 1845, when he was only 31, deprived the national movement of a driving force and an invigorating intellect, but his thoughts inspired the revolutionaries of 1916.

About the author:

Eileen Sullivan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and received her B.A. from Hunter College, her M.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida, where she has since been teaching. She is a member of the American Committee for Irish Studies, the Carleton Society, the Yeats Society, and the James Joyce Foundation. For five years Professor Sullivan edited the Carleton Newsletter and is now editing Eire-19, a journal of nineteenth-century life and letters. She also established the Irish Studies Discussion Circle in the South Atlantic Modern Language Association to enlarge the scope of Irish studies in America.

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