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Douglas Hyde

Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Ireland

Janet Egleson Dunleavy
Gareth W. Dunleavy
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 475
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    Douglas Hyde
    Book Description:

    In 1938, at an age when most men are long retired, Douglas Hyde (1860-1949) was elected first president of modern Ireland. The unanimous choice of delegates from all political factions, he was no stranger to public life or to fame. Until now, however, there has been no full-scale biography of this important historical and literary figure. Known as a tireless nationalist, Hyde attracted attention on both sides of the Atlantic from a very early age. He was hailed by Yeats as a source of the Irish Literary Renaissance; earned international recognition for his contributions to the theory and methodology of folklore; joined Lady Gregory, W. B. Yeats, George Moore, and Edward Martyn in shaping an Irish theater; and as president of the Gaelic League worked for twenty-two years on behalf of Irish Ireland. Yet in spite of these and other accomplishments Hyde remained an enigmatic figure throughout his life. Why did he become an Irish nationalist? Why were his two terms as Irish Free State senator so curiously passive? Why, when he had threatened it earlier, did he oppose the use of physical force in 1916? How did he nevertheless retain the support of his countrymen and the trust and friendship of such a man as Eamon de Valera?Douglas Hyde: A Maker of Modern Irelanddispels for the first time the myths and misinformation that have obscured the private life of this extraordinary scholar and statesman.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90932-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Janet Egleson Dunleavy and Gareth W. Dunleavy
  4. 1 Douglas Hyde and the Generational Imperative
    (pp. 1-4)

    In an introductory tale to theTáin Bó Cuailnge, or “Cattle Raid of Cooley,” Senchán Torpéist, an Irish laureate of the seventh century, convenes the poets of Ireland for the purpose of reconstructing this most famous of Irish epics, the centerpiece of ancient Ireland’s mythic and cultural traditions. The poets are unsuccessful. As a last hope one of their number is sent to Gaul to recover what he can from a “certain sage” there. On the way he stops in Connacht, at the grave of Fergus mac Roich, a major figure of theTáinand the last man known to...

  5. 2 A Smiling Public Man
    (pp. 5-15)

    Douglas Hyde had lived a long and controversial life when, at the age of seventy-eight, he was unanimously elected first president of modern Ireland. His seven-year term (1938–1945) coincided with that crucial period in modern history when the war that swept Europe and Asia and buffeted the Americas not only threatened Ireland’s very existence but compounded the social, economic, political, and cultural pressures already at work in the self-proclaimed new nation.

    Born in Castlerea, a market town in county Roscommon seven miles west of the village of Frenchpark where he now lies buried, Hyde spent the first six years...

  6. 3 The Budding Branch
    (pp. 16-48)

    February 28, 1940, was brisk and cold. A chill wind swept through Phoenix Park, rattling the great windows of its three stately homes, former residences of British government officials. From the chimneys of Áras an Uachtaráin, official residence since 1938 of the president of Ireland, smoke from turf fires rose and quickly dispersed, its unmistakable scent evoking warm recollections of distant cottages in hearty Dubliners walking or cycling nearby. During the hard winter months past, to relieve distress caused by wartime shortages, the president had ordered that the mansion’s coal stores be distributed among the people of Dublin. A turf...

  7. 4 The Voices of the Fathers
    (pp. 49-80)

    Although years passed before Douglas Hyde again wrote of Seamas Hart, their relationship did not end at Hart’s grave but continued in Hyde’s consciousness throughout his long life, even into Áras an Uachtaráin. Hart had introduced Douglas to Irish history, folklore, myth, and legend; had shared with him his own store of poems and stories; had passed on to him, as if he were a son, theseanfhocail—fragments of ancient wisdom and folk belief—that he had received from his elders. It was from Hart—“the best reciter I ever knew,” Hyde later declared—that he had heard his...

  8. 5 First Flowering
    (pp. 81-102)

    On his first trip to the Continent in July 1878 Douglas continued the love affair with France begun when, as a boy of fourteen, he had first tried to compose poems and simple descriptive prose paragraphs in elementary French. Now quite competent in the language, he enjoyed reading French literature, especially romances. During the spring he had started St. Pierre’sPaul et Virginie. He finished it in Paris, then browsed in the stalls along the Seine, looking for similar books to buy.

    One disappointing purchase was Voltaire’sLady Babylon and Other Stories, chosen as much for its author as for...

  9. 6 Between Connacht and Dublin
    (pp. 103-135)

    Although formal admission to Trinity College in 1880 changed Douglas Hyde’s perception of his status, outlook, and prospects with obvious implications for his sense of self, it had little immediate effect on the day-to-day pattern of his life, for like his brothers before him he was enrolled initially in a nonresident program popularly known in Trinity jargon as the “steam-packet degree.” Instead of living behind high stone walls, shielded from the bustle and noise of late Victorian Dublin—instead of walking each day along tree-lined paths and across cobblestone courtyards shaped and worn by centuries of Trinity graduates, including Berkeley,...

  10. 7 To Canada
    (pp. 136-155)

    The purser on the Allan Line’sPolynesiaout of Liverpool, westbound for Quebec and Montreal, September 11, 1890, Captain R. G. Barrett, master, had “Dr. Douglas Hyde” on his list of saloon passengers. Hyde’s destination was Montreal. He had paid eighteen guineas for his passage—“six too much,” he complained to his sister, as he made his customary pre-trip reckoning of anticipated costs and money already expended. Easily singled out in the crowd of passengers boarding the ship, most of them more concerned about the whereabouts of their belongings than each other, Hyde was, at thirty, tall, dark-haired, broad-chested, and...

  11. 8 A Different America—A Different Ireland
    (pp. 156-168)

    “Your May is before you still,” Hyde had assured the ambivalent graduating class of 1891 on May 28, as, torn between anticipation and uncertainty, he and they prepared to part from one another and the University of New Brunswick. Few beside his sister Annette understood that it was the kind of assurance that he, too, needed on Wednesday morning, June 3, when having packed clothes, books, and memorabilia and made his last farewells but one, he was again torn between anticipation and uncertainty as he boarded the 7:45 train for Boston. It had been one thing to count the ways...

  12. 9 A Bridle for Proteus
    (pp. 169-192)

    Annette had driven the trap from the glebe house to Ballaghaderreen to meet Douglas at the station. He stepped down from the train into July sunshine and his sister’s smile. Eager to maintain their mutual involvement in each other’s life through their long separation of 1890–1891, they had kept up a thoughtful and detailed correspondence. Yet as always when they were face to face, there was still so much to say that their conversations flitted from subject to subject like butterflies in a meadow. They were, they agreed, the best of friends as well as members of the same...

  13. 10 The Happiest of Men
    (pp. 193-212)

    In January, 1894 Douglas Hyde was the happiest of men. He was married to a charming and intelligent young woman, a friend of his sister and a favorite of his aunts, who was interested in everything that interested him and whose personal income placed no strain on his own financial resources. Their home was Ratra, a bright and spacious Georgian house overlooking Lough Gara that he had loved as long as he could remember. From its windows he could see in the distance Rathcroghan, the Sligo mountains, and the steeple of St. Nath’s cathedral in Ballaghaderreen. The meadows and bogs...

  14. 11 Plays and Players
    (pp. 213-226)

    Before her marriage to Sir William Gregory of Coole Park, Lady Gregory had been Augusta Persse and her home had been Roxborough, a neighboring estate. Another near neighbor was Edward Martyn of Tullira whose distant cousin was George Moore, an established literary figure well-known in Paris cafés and London salons. Moore’s home was Moore Hall in county Mayo, but since 1873 he had spent little time there, living instead first in Paris, then in London, where he saw much of Martyn. By 1900 Moore’s published work consisted of more than twenty separate books and a number of items that had...

  15. 12 The Larger Stage
    (pp. 227-252)

    For Douglas Hyde, preoccupied with the new Irish theater, the success of his plays, and the growth of the Gaelic League, recognition that some things were going awry dawned slowly. Between 1893 and 1899 he had come to think of himself as the happiest of men. On January 17, 1900, when he turned forty, he was, in the opinion of those who knew him well, a practical, adaptable, resourceful, and optimistic leader. His best asset, as described by one acquaintance, was his “superb and adroit capacity for making the best of an opportunity.” He might have been more wary of...

  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  17. 13 With The Irish in America
    (pp. 253-287)

    On Monday, November 6, 1905, the day of the Hydes’ departure from Ratra to Dublin, the featured news items in theIrish Times(then the leading Ascendancy newspaper) were the massacre of Jews in Odessa, a banquet held in London to celebrate the conclusion of an Anglo-Japanese treaty, and an account of student demonstrations—headlined “The Disorders at the Royal University”—that had broken out in Dublin when “God Save the King” was played at a Royal Irish University convocation. Not mentioned was the fact that a reception at the Gresharn Hotel on Sackville (O’Connell) Street and a giant torchlight...

  18. 14 Triumphs and Troubles
    (pp. 288-312)

    In the middle of an ocean, approximately equidistant from points of departure and arrival, the mind rests and the inner eye is able to look back and ahead with a clarity of vision rarely achieved in any other place. In mid-June, 1906, the middle of the Atlantic was sufficiently calm to provide travelers dozing in deck chairs with a particularly good perspective. Although soon after the Hydes had boarded theCelticthe mock-serious British captain had warned, shaking his head, “Dr. Hyde, if you pronounce the name of our ship with a hardCyou shall have a hard sea...

  19. 15 The Rocky Road to Revolution
    (pp. 313-328)

    At the moment of personal victory Hyde felt as if he had driven a team of powerful and unruly horses across a finish line. Whether the carriage could hold together, whether he could hold the reins through another contest, was a matter of grave doubt. He himself was still convinced that he had found, through the “nonpolitical” emphasis on national being in the Gaelic League and its policy of deanglicization, a way of separating Ireland from England in the most effective way possible. Once that task was accomplished—once Ireland felt and thought and moved like a nation—there was...

  20. 16 The Terrible Beauty
    (pp. 329-344)

    In the eight months following his resignation from the presidency of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde maintained a discreet distance from all but his closest league friends. Faithful others, still hoping that he would return to active participation on the Coiste Gnótha if not to the presidency, dropped him notes from time to time to keep him informed on league activities. He scanned their letters dutifully, grateful for the devotion and appreciation that had prompted them, and tried to avoid reading between the lines. Sometimes he felt frustrated and angry that after so many years of struggle he had not...

  21. 17 In and Out of Public Life
    (pp. 345-363)

    The facts had been confirmed: John MacNeill had indeed stated when he was arrested that although he had opposed the insurrection of April 24 he accepted responsibility for what had happened and wished to share the fate of the others who had been arrested. Fortunately the judges did not accept his request. On May 24 MacNeill was given a life sentence in Dartmoor Prison. Cautiously his friends began discussing how they might gather support for an appeal. It was clear that the British policy of swift and harsh punishment had been purposely chosen as a deterrent to others contemplating rebellion....

  22. 18 The Road to Áras an Uachtaráin
    (pp. 364-391)

    On November 10, 1937, Irish newspapers carried the announcement that Michael McDunphy, assistant secretary to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, had been chosen to fill the newly created position of secretary to the president of Ireland. The first official to be appointed under the new Constitution, he would bring to this post, declared theIrish Times, not only the “zeal and ability” he had demonstrated in previous sensitive posts but his gift for languages, his firsthand knowledge of the Irish countryside, and his Continental contacts: personal qualities with which already he had served Ireland well. On the...

  23. 19 The Presidency
    (pp. 392-429)

    Ceremonies over, almost immediately Hyde and his staff, joined by Annette, settled down to work in Áras an Uachtariáin. To Hyde’s relief and pleasure, Annette had agreed to stay on with him, to help Michael McDunphy look after his personal and social affairs and to serve as the president’s hostess. Struggling with the series of undefined illnesses that continued to plague her, Lucy remained at home. It was ironic that she who once wanted so desperately to sell Ratra and leave Roscommon, preferably for Dublin, now wished only to be left alone there. It was ironic too that after years...

  24. 20 Death and Dispersal
    (pp. 430-436)

    The decision to move Ireland’s first former president into the lodge in Phoenix Park that was the home of the lord lieutenant’s private secretary was made by de Valera and McDunphy some weeks before Hyde was to leave office in June 1945. Designated “Little Ratra,” the lodge that stood near the Blackhorse Avenue gate to the Park was Douglas Hyde’s last residence. There, under the care of Nurse Fitzsimons (Hyde called her “the dark little one”), who had been at his side since his stroke in April 1940, comfortable in a favorite old tweed jacket, he received regular visits from...

  25. Sources Consulted
    (pp. 437-450)
  26. Index
    (pp. 451-462)