Asier Altuna-García de Salazar
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To commemorate the fourth centenary of the publication of the first part of the Spanish masterpiece of all times Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, this article approaches in an introductory manner some of the literary productions which sprang from Cervantes’s original within the Irish context. In the case of Ireland the Cervantine inspiration, albeit minor and neglected, has also been present; and, it is most probably the nineteenth century which provides the most ample and varied response to Cervantes’s masterpiece in many a different way. Our aim is to see briefly how the legacy of Don Quixote found distinct expression on the Emerald Isle. Indeed, all these Cervantine contributions from Ireland during the nineteenth century were also deeply imbued with the politics of literature and society in a country which experienced historical, social and cultural turmoil. The reference to Cervantes as a key writer in Spanish letters will not only be reduced to his masterpiece of all times; but, will also be tackled in critical pieces of importance in Ireland.

Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Cervantine1

The year 2005 marks the celebration of the fourth centenary of the publication of the first part of the Spanish masterpiece of all times Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. The influence of Cervantes’s work has already been covered in a myriad of scholarly studies in many languages in the course of these four centuries and it would be impossible to trace, even in the age of computers nowadays, the extensive amount of interference, intertextuality, inspiration and critical approaches Cervantes’s original has produced. To commemorate this literary event it is, therefore, not merely coincidental in time, but also peremptory, that the first issue of Estudios Irlandeses should approach in a brief introductory manner some of the literary productions which sprang from Cervantes’s original within the Irish context at large. In the case of Ireland the Cervantine inspiration, albeit minor and neglected, has also been present; and, it is most probably the nineteenth century which best provides the most ample and varied response to Cervantes’s masterpiece in many a different way. Accordingly, from many a number of critical responses in most of the contemporary Irish and Anglo-Irish periodicals and magazines, in which Cervantes’s mastery would be linked to the very essence of the Spanish character, through a minor theatrical adaptation of one of Miguel de Cervantes’s most famous independent episodes in Don Quixote — ‘The Novel of the Curious Impertinent’ — to other, more Irish perhaps, novelistic forms of adaptation and interpretation of the Spanish masterpiece, the legacy of Don Quixote found distinct expression on the Emerald Isle.

Indeed, all these Cervantine contributions from Ireland during the nineteenth century were also deeply imbued with the politics of literature and society in a country which experienced historical, social and cultural turmoil at the time: a country that view Spain and Spanish culture as a beacon in terms of continuity and nationhood in many respects. But, also, the place in which Britain’s supremacy over Europe was established, reinforcing therefore the aesthetics of Anglo-Irish unionism too. Thus, we will outline, firstly, the numerous critical references to Miguel de Cervantes and his work, which can be found in the principal literary periodicals of the time in Ireland, or should we say, Anglo-Ireland. These, as we will see, were undertaken by key figures —journalists, literary critics and writers — of both the Irish and Anglo-Irish discourses. After this overall and brief approach, we shall briefly pay attention to some of the works, which were produced within literary the discourse in Ireland, in a minor or major way, clashing at times with the idea of an Anglo-Irish canon. A Cervantine inspiration which would culminate, among many other examples, at the beginning of the twentieth century with a close-to-the-original theatrical adaptation by Lady Augusta Gregory for The Abbey Theatre in Dublin of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece in her intriguing and not much-approached by contemporary or even by today’s criticism, Sancho’s Master (1927).

Many critical approaches on Spain were present in periodicals and literary magazines in Ireland during the nineteenth century. For many, Spain provided a pivotal exemplar of nationhood, patriotism and a continuous cultural and literary discourse wished by Ireland. Lady Francesca Wilde in one of his reviews of the translation of Calderón by the main nineteenth-century Hispanist in Ireland, Denis Florence M’Carthy, already advocated the defence of culture and not war conflict as the solution to many international problems and also those in Ireland. For Lady Wilde, much imbued with the Young Ireland movement, this literary epoch in Spain in which Calderón and, especially Cervantes “reigned” was “a brilliant literary era, and no doubt the world thought it impossible successors should ever rise fit to wear the laurel wreath when death lifted it from such brows” (Wilde 1854: 353). But, critical approaches to Cervantes’s work would not only be tinged by words of praise, but would present a more detailed study. Interestingly, most of these critical accounts would be published by unionist The Dublin University Magazine. The importance of this literary magazine in the case of the representation of Spain has been clearly underestimated. It represented a wide-ranging analysis of many periods of Spanish history, literature and, most importantly, it included in its pages the best translations and novelistic forms of Spanish inspiration. Many of the novels with a Cervantine vein would be first published in the magazine in monthly instalments.

Another important article, which explains why Cervantes’s work was of interest for The Dublin University Magazine, came out to life in 1866. Entitled ‘Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra’ it traced not only the life of Cervantes; but, also the repercussion of his work in Ireland during the nineteenth century, especially at the beginning of the century when “ “The Life and Adventures of Don Quixote” was found among our Irish hedge-school manuals in the beginning of the present century, but was by no means such a favourite with the youngsters as the “Nine Worthies,” the “Trojan Wars,” “Monteleon the Knight of the Oracle,” or “Don Belians” (Dublin University Magazine 1866: 123). Indeed, it says a lot about the much-attacked school system in Ireland at the beginning of the century and the hedge-schools. In fact, the article reveals that it was the parents who favoured the reading of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece rather than the preferences of the students of those Irish schools:

The reverse was the case with the cottage elders when they could induce the children to read aloud for them on winter evenings. Daring adventures happily terminated formed the favourite topic of the young folk who did not trouble themselves about trifling inconsistencies or infringements of probability. The parents had experienced the woeful illusiveness of youthful hopes, they had witnessed the fading away of many a bright rainbow and charming cloud landscape. So that they saw much more likelihood in the cudgellings and blanket tossings inflicted on knight and squire, than in the mysteries of enchanted castles and the wholesale massacre of giants in the ordinary books of chivalry. Valued as the deathless work is by ourselves, we have never urged its perusal on any of our young friends (123).

This lengthy article will abound on the life of Cervantes and his influence upon a Spain in turmoil at the end of the sixteenth century, although the reaction of his contemporaries was not welcoming at times, albeit the lengthy article purports, following extensively the much-abused didactic character of The Dublin University Magazine, that during the years of Cervantes’s life:

In his numerous works he had it in purpose to improve the state of things in his native country, and to correct this or that abuse, but he obtained no striking success till the publication of this his greatest work

[Don Quixote de la Mancha]. Alas! While it established his character as a master in literature it excited enmities and troubles in abundance. (126)

The magazine will end the article after probably one of the best summary accounts of Miguel de Cervantes’s life to come out in nineteenth-century Ireland with a very and highly canonised version of what high literature constituted for the unionist editorial board of the magazine in which authors such as William Shakespeare and Walter Scott had to be included side by side with Miguel de Cervantes. It is because of this that Cervantes’s masterpiece inclusion in the curriculum of education in Ireland at the time had to be emphasised along with its political stance on how to design this literature list, because Cervantes’s example had deeply influenced the character and patriotism of his nation, Spain, in what constitutes a clear exemplar of the at-times Catholic-proned didactic enterprise of the magazine within the Irish and Anglo-Irish discourse:

And indeed in our meditations on the characteristics of the author and man in Cervantes, we have always mentally associated him with Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott. We find in all the same versatility of genius, the same grasp and breadth of intellect, the same gifts of genial humour, and the same largeness of sympathy. The life of Cervantes will be always an interesting and edifying study in connection with the literature and the great events of his time. We find him conscientiously doing his duty in every phase of his diversified existence, and effecting all the good in his power. When he feels the need of filling a very disagreeable office in order to afford necessary support to his family, he bends the stubborn pride of the hidalgo to his irksome duties, and it is not easy for us to realize the rigidity of that quality which he inherited by birth, and which became a second nature in every gentleman of his nation (137-8).

Let us now pay attention to theatrical and fictional works that drew heavily on Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote de la Mancha and constitute clearly the nineteenth-century Anglo-Irish Cervantine. The minor case of Richard Chenevix (1774-1839) deserves a small mention with respect to his Cervantine inspiration. Chenevix of French ancestry was born at Ballycommon, near Dublin. After graduating from the University of Dublin he travelled to Paris where he was imprisoned during the reign of terror and shared a cell with French chemists. It is as a chemist and mineralogist Richard Chenevix is best known. Although he was a fellow of the Royal Society Irish Academy and was acquainted with the novelist Maria Edgeworth (Usselman 2004), his interaction in Irish affairs is scarce. In 1812 he published Two Plays: Mantuan Revels, a comedy in five acts, and Henry the seventh, an historical tragedy in five acts. The first play — “inspired partly by a novel by Cinthio and partly by an episode in Don Quixote (‘The Curious Impertinent’)” (Rafroidi 1980: II, 103) — is Chenevix’s Cervantine contribution, although none of his dramatic works seems to have been performed according to the French expert Patrick Rafroidi. The London Critical Review specified the play was clearly “a precise copy of Cervantes’s novel” (Critical Review 1812: 378) and the critics of the Critical Review were “most happy to be able to say with confidence” that Richard Chenevix really possessed a “genius that might be turned to better account” (381).

The second quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed a curious Anglo-Irish genre that would encapsulate much Cervantine inspiration. Two Anglo-Irish authors turned into Don Quixote for thematic inspiration although their characterisation and setting were “more” Irish: one of the originators of the military novel, the Newry-born William Hamilton Maxwell (1792-1850) and a more successful Dublin-born Charles Lever (1806-1872). Maxwell was also a student of Trinity College Dublin, and his life changed radically when he decided to get directly involved in Wellington’s European campaigns. After his service in the British forces, Maxwell was posted to the village of Ballagh in Co. Mayo, where he acted as Church of Ireland clergyman. Maxwell’s fiction has not been the subject of any serious critical study to date although some of his works do shed light not only on Wellington’s achievements — in the latest re-issue of some of Maxwell’s works Robert Lee Wolff believes that “Wellington remained Maxwell’s hero and the Peninsular War one of his favourite subjects” (Maxwell 1979: v) and Julian Moynahan attaches “determinate values in Lever’s lifelong admiration for the British uniformed service, for its code of honour, courage, and patriotism … most sharply focused in the cult the novelist made of Wellington” (Moynahan 1995: 91) — but, also, on stereotypical and stock characterisation and landscape description of some literary merit, very much imbued with Irish gothic features.

Even, if some of Maxwell’s and Lever’s fictions that have references to Spain can be part of what could be called late Anglo-Irish Wellingtoniana, their works underpin a social, cultural and literary debate still much alive at the time in Ireland. We will briefly approach the case of Maxwell, as he has been widely forgotten — except for his Wild Sport of the West (1832), which has been reprinted several times, was also translated into Irish in 19332, and, anecdotically, could have inspired Synge’s Playboy of the Western World too, as it contains an allusion to a murder committed with a loy strikingly like the subject Synge developed in the Playboy. Charles Lever’s case has received wider treatment although his Cervantine inspiration is still open for further research. Lever’s picaresque first novel Harry Lorrequer (1837) — much imbued with military lif — already provides a comic vein that would achieve Cervantine features in Charles O’Malley: The Irish Dragoon (1841), a soldier that travels through Spain in the days of the Peninsular War — the very first Dublin edition has a caricatural print of Charles O’Malley with Wellington in Spain — in a world of tricksters, pretenders and picaresque characters that clearly remind the reader of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote de la Mancha.

William Hamilton Maxwell published a significant amount of works with the Spanish contest as background. 1837. The Bivouac, or Stories of the Peninsular War, 3 vols. (1837), The Victories of the British Armies, 2 vols. (1839), his highly successful Life of Field-Marshall His Grace the Duke of Wellington, 3 vols. (1841), his clearly Cervantine masterpiece The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and His Man Mark Anthony O’Toole (1842-43) and Peninsular Sketches by Actors on the Scene, 2 vols. (1845) W.H. Maxwell’s significant The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and his Man, Mark Antony O’Toole — published in the Dublin University Magazine between 1842 and 1843 while Charles Lever was editor of the unionist magazine (Moynahan 1995: 87) — saw Ireland as the subject matter of his novel, as the reader is taken from the South of Ireland through Dublin and London to the Iberian Peninsula, a much popular issue and theme of Anglo-Irish fiction at the time.

In particular, the novel shows a clear influence of the Peninsular conflict, Wellington and — more importantly as the revealing title already shows — of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece Don Quixote. Tapping the picaresque vein, Maxwell’s exemplar of rollicking Anglo-Irish fiction — he is the initiator of the style before Charles Lever3, also a friend of W.H. Maxwell — was imbued with an Irish background epitomised by highway life, country and village settings and above all Irish picaresque, in which Maxwell’s young Quixote, Hector O’Halloran, enters a world of adventures and wanderings always followed by his Sancho Panza, Mark Antony O’Toole, in a clear Anglo-Irish exemplar of camaraderie. Accordingly, we are taken in a trip in space and time that includes one of the most detailed and precise accounts in the Anglo-Irish, and even English, fiction of the time of the Peninsular War. For McCormack, the start of Maxwell’s novel is very much “equipped to inaugurate a gothic novel” (McCormack 1991: 835) — and, to my mind, it resembles in many ways Charles Robert Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), which also has a Spanish setting in some of the stories, although it is an inquisitorial attack on Catholicism Maturin was more interested in when he published his popular work, at a time when he was starting to being ostracized by his own denominational group, most importantly his parish congregation in Dublin, a sermon to his parishioners is said to have triggered his work as he states in the preface of his novel (See Maturin 1824 and 1989).

A Gothic mode that would find ample coverage in nineteenth-century Ireland, rather Anglo-Ireland, with Charles Robert Maturin and, especially, during the second half of the nineteenth century in clearly Anglo-Irish writers such as Isaac Butt, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker later in the century, within a creatively literary atmosphere and discourse Luke Gibbons (2004) has recently denominated as “Gaelic Gothic”, a clearly “Irish only” genre, enmeshed in a distinctive aura of political, philosophical, economic and racial traits in an imperially and colonially subdued nineteenth-century Ireland. For W.J. McCormack, Gothic Irish novelists, among which some dealt with here are included, were “unable to impose the master’s [Scott’s] distinction between past history and present politics, and as a consequence the gothic mode endured there [Ireland] in a fugitive and discontinuous manner throughout the nineteenth century” (McCormack 1991: II, 831).

In Maxwell’s The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran the reader is introduced to the character of hector. Born in Knockloftie, the stronghold of the O’Hallorans, of an English catholic mother and a protestant father with a Gaelic surname, Hector is Colonel O’Halloran’s son, who fought together with the Anglo-Irish Arthur Wellington in the Low Countries as we are told later in the novel when Hector has an interview with the very “Iron Duke”. Hector’s father was “‘every inch’ a soldier; and in all relations between landlord and tenant, it was universally admitted that he was both liberal and kind” (Maxwell 1979: 2). The house will be attacked by a secret society, the Whiteboys, enabling Maxwell, with such a short narrative strategy, to present briefly “all the ideological combatants of the epoch, so that it appears to be not just the embodiment of a political class but of all classes and creeds” (McCormack 1991: 835) in contemporary Ireland. Thus, whereas the main topic and theme will be that of adventure and rollicking experience, Maxwell leaves a stamp of the social discourse that was still much of an issue in Ireland.

However, the rush abandonment of an analysis of the Irish social, political and religious situation of the start of the novel for a more comic and remote set of adventures has produced different appreciations of Maxwell’s narrative technique. Maxwell’s style and accounts about the Ireland of the time could be deemed as light — or “not profound”, as Wolff states (Maxwell 1979: ix) — at a time when the dire plight of pre-Famine Ireland started to grain ground in Irish and Anglo-Irish writing and an analysis of causes and effects in historical background seemed peremptory. W.J. McCormack also deems Maxwell as “third-rate novelist” and prefers to include him in “the comic side of Irish Gothic”. For McCormack, Maxwell’s work “identifies several anxieties that underpin Irish gothic fiction. One of these is simply the pressure that contemporary, local and actual events exercise upon an imagination seeking to represent things that are remote in time or space” (McCormack 1991: 834).

The way in which Hector O’Halloran gets suddenly involved in the Iberian Peninsular conflict is a clear instance of Maxwell’s technique. For The Dublin University Magazine in 1841, Maxwell is said to unite “with the sparkling wit of his native country the caustic humour and dry sarcasm of the Scotch” (222). Maxwell is “unrivalled in the easy portraiture of the Irish gentleman” although within the unionist editorial bias characteristic of the Dublin University Magazine, it is in Maxwell’s account of British military victories that the reader turns with “a proud swelling at his bosom to think that he also is a Briton” (222). Accordingly, he is more Anglo-Irish. Hector’s wanderings constitute an array of soldierly life together with a descriptive analysis of the main battles in which Irish regiments and soldiers took active part. Hence Maxwell combines the approaches to battles like Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Talavera with accounts of the picaresque life in the posadas or inns and the atmosphere of the guerrillas. It is in the world of these patriotic defenders of Spain that Maxwell develops his rollicking mastery. Together with references to historical characters such as Juan Diez “el Empecinado” — the Spanish guerrillero was not unknown for the Irish and Anglo-Irish readers. In 1823 Miss Alicia Le Fanu, R.B. Sheridan’s niece, had published Don Juan de las Sierras, or, El Empecinado — and his followers Jose Martinez “the Student”, El Manco, or “The Maimed”, “El Cura” [the priest], Maxwell offers the Cervantine Sancho in Mark Antony, strewn with stereotypical Irish wit, Hiberno-English lines and picaresque resolution.

Hector’s and Mark Antony’s lives start together when Mark Antony is adopted by Hector’s parents on knowing that his parents are dead and his father had served in Colonel O’Halloran’s battalion. To Hector Mark Antony is his “foster-brother”, although from an early stage Hector will be educated to enjoy a military career; whereas, Mark will be taught by the “village pedagogue” and become a county boxer later. Maxwell’s social stance is shown and will be repeated throughout the whole novel. Accordingly, whereas Hector will part riding his mare, Mark Antony, the Sancho Panza of the novel, is characterised as a hero and “true Milesian”, always carrying “a few necessaries required for his journey [which] were formed into a bundle of small dimensions, and suspended from the extremity of a well-tried shillelagh” (Maxwell 1979: 65). After Hector’s education he leaves for Dublin and it is on his trip to the Irish capital that the first Cervantine adventures occur: he is assailed by countrymen, as he was mistaken for a gauger, a big mistake in Ireland as Hector remarks, although his kidnappers vanish into thin air as a stranger appears and directs him to a house in which he will be introduced to a semi-Dulcinea, Isidora, who will give him a token, as a real knight and his lady. Maxwell sums up his Cervantine inspiration in Hector O’Halloran’s words after his first adventure, words which could apply to a Quijote character rather than to what is a clear epitome of his down-to-earth squire:

What a “whirligig world” we live in! I was but one day fairly flown upon it, and what a medley of adventure had it not produced! In the morning, starting full of “gay hope,” and for the first time master of myself; in the evening, captive of a gang of ruffians, who, in drunken barbarity, would have consigned me to the bottom of the lake, with less compunction than that with which a school-boy drowns a kitten. At night, inmate of a strange mansion, doubtfully received, half rejected afterwards, and now domesticated, as if I had been undoubted heir to every barren hill in view. All this was passing strange; and, lost “in wild conjecture,” and unable to read riddles, I betook myself to sleep (47).

The narrative strategy Maxwell develops in the novel presents Cervantine tinges as well; not only because of the use of Hector as narrator of his and Mark Antony’s stories — which he did not live — but, also because the novel is intertwined with a series of stories within stories, as in Cervantes’s Don Quixote, a closer influence can also be seen in William Carleton’s popular Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830), a work with which Maxwell was familiar. Thus, among many others we find: ‘The Story of the Wandering Actress’, ‘The Sailor’s Story’, ‘The Robbery of Tim Maley’, ‘The Matrimonial Adventures of Dick Macnamara’, ‘My Uncle’s Story’ (a long digression on the plight of Spanish South America) and ‘The Voltigeur’. Besides, Maxwell leaves the reader in suspense with the manner in which he finishes his chapters, very much like in Don Quixote: “but we must leave the reader in temporary suspense, as, with this occurrence, we intend to commence another chapter” (108). As in Don Quixote, Hector “quitted the Emerald Isle, on the pleasant and profitable pursuit of ‘the bubble reputation’” (103). But, already here Maxwell makes a difference as Hector leaves Ireland “for glory”; whereas, Mark Antony does it “for love” (104). The next step in their journey for adventure takes both protagonists to London, although the London Maxwell wants to portray conveys an idea of a much Irish London, as the reader is taken through streets and people that could well have been in any other place of the Ireland at the time.

In fact, Maxwell makes a statement, socially and politically about the Irish condition at the time; and also the condition of the Irish in London. Maxwell was much influenced by another Anglo-Irish writer John Corry (1770-1825), born in county Louth, whose Satirical View of London (1801) would be considered by many as a “tourist guide” of the age and the metropolis, in which we find a description of all levels of society in London and among them, especially, the numerous Irish community. Corry’s work was a source of the very much ingrained figure of stock-characterisation of the Irishman that had already been extensively shown by many Anglo-Irish playwrights, such as Charles Stuart and John O’Keeffe, whose productions would also be popular on the London stage for a number of decades. Maxwell, as well as Lever, was one among many Anglo-Irish writers who made use of the stock-characterisation of the Irishman for political and social purposes, mainly those of the Anglican Anglo-Irish ascendancy. In The Irishman in Spain (1792) Charles Stuart XE “Stuart” had already offered a stereotypical and much used version of the stage-Irishman. Stuart presents a plot enmeshed with the tribulations of servants and busybodies. For Truninger, XE “Truninger” two main reasons account for the appearance of the Irish as a servant far from the literary sphere which evince the representation of the Irish colonial subjugation by England. Accordingly, Truninger highlights “their excellence [and] exotic appearance”; but, most importantly, the fact that these Irishmen represent “a triumphant sign of the British mastery over the smaller island” (Truninger 1976: 23). The first presentation of Kilmainham, the Irish servant in Stuart’s play, already displays all the traits expected from a picaresque stage-figure: an Irish clown at the mercy of his master’s will. For Christopher Murray, “this particular version of the stage Irishman … was a continuing temptation … not to stress the ‘well known humanity’ of the Irish, but to depict the stage Irishman as ‘vacuous’”(Murray 1991: I, 504):

GUZMAN Kilmainham! – This damn’d Irish fellow I pick’d up in my travels, is always out of the way! [Enters Kilmainham.

KILMAINHAM Your honour’s pleasure, my lord! [ Bowing.
GUZMAN Psha! where have you been? I’m not a lord here, sirrah, but a Don: we gentlemen in Spain are all Dons.

KILMAINHAM Dons in Spain! – troth, we can have many Dons in Ireland too.

KILMAINHAM Many! we have Don-nell – we have O’Donnell – we have Mac Don-nell – we have Don-noughmore – we have Don-noughadee – we have – [Counting his fingers] (Stuart 1791: 7-8).

Stuart depicts a character seen as illogic, prone to excess, with a language in which mispronunciation and wit abound. Stuart’s representation of speech and behaviour as “deformed” accounts for the Irish “social and political condition as deformed” (Deane 1997: 55). Most Anglo-Irish authors of the time defended “some form of sobriety”: “a rational articulation that was beyond the capacity of the [Irish] national character to produce” (55). Behind Stuart’s “vacuous” representation of Kilmainham we find the belief in the need of English order and not French aid for Ireland. Indeed, Stuart’s caricature of an inarticulate Kilmainham advocates the need of English “orderly” presence in Ireland, i.e. the imperial colonisation of the union:

Irish eloquence became the index of Irish inarticulacy, speech removed from fact – blarney. Speech of this kind could not accurately define a condition; for Irish speech to be trusted, and for its account of the Irish experience to be acceptable, it must be subjected to the protocols of English speech and, in consequence, to the ‘improving’ English account of the Irish condition that accompanied the Union (55).

Charles Stuart’s way of pleasing the London stage audience also corroborates his views to “normalcy” in Ireland at the end of the eighteenth century. Charles Stuart’s process of normalization “depends on the success of a system of representation in which all that is extreme is brought under narrative control” (19). For Deane, the function of the author is “to communicate to an audience that shares her or his values a sense of the radical difference of the other territory or condition and … to claim that this territory and condition, once relieved of the circumstances or causes of its extraordinary condition, can be redeemed for normality”(19). William Hamilton Maxwell’s depiction of Mark Antony does not celebrate difference or otherness in the “vacuous” stage Irishman. On the contrary, he mocks and subjugates identity and characterisation through his approach to this Irish character in London and the Iberian Peninsula.

He does not formulate the principles of “equality” between Irish and English either, and if he does, these are “overwritten by the values of the dominant subject” (Smyth 1998: 16). Maxwell is directly opposing the “liberal, egalitarian and universalist strategies” — which sprang from the Enlightenment and the French revolution — in the portrayal of the Irish national character. Instead he uses a representational system “which confirm[s] the original opposition between coloniser and colonized” (16). Mark Antony O’Toole, the real Irishman in London, does not want to disappear in the “splendid model” (Memmi 1974: 120) of the coloniser. This analysis could also ignite further postcolonial criticism on these examples, although the extension of the paper does not allow us to dwell into those matters with depth and can be left open for further research.

From London they embark for the Peninsula “that scene of British glory” (256), arriving in Portugal, as it was the norm with British troops at the time, ready for the final stage of the campaign, although as McCormack suggests, both Hector and Mark Antony “set off to recolonize Spain for Maxwell’s particular brand of harmless, distinctly unsatirical picaresque, immune to the mortality normally associated with violence and warfare” (McCormack 1991: 834-835). Hector’s mishaps in the Peninsula commence with Wellington, as an effective way of luring the reader to the campaign. After the reference, once again, to the Anglo-Irish “Iron Duke”, the reader is introduced to a more Cervantine landscape — central Spain — although the events do recall the previous narrative line in terms of satire and comedy: the visit to a Spanish inn, where Hector meets “El Empecinado”, and gives a prolific description of the inn and how the innkeepers maintain their business, amid French occupation. Both Hector and Mark Antony save a French voltigeur from a guerrilla squadron, a deed that increased the bond established since infancy. It is in Spain that William Hamilton Maxwell refers back to Cervantes’s original as a way of substantiating his inspirational source. This is clearly exposed, when Hector O’Halloran and Mark Antony O’Toole see two wayfarers they are explicitly described by Hamilton Maxwell in a hint to the source of his whole idea and theme behind his rollicking novel, as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza:

One seemed an hidalgo of the Quixotic school –a thin, tall, shabby half-starved looking gentleman. His gait was stiff and lofty; and at first, the unhappy man seemed to labour under a delusion that we would resign a corner in his favour. Speedily that error of opinion was removed; and he ascertained, that upon us the imprint of his dignity was lost. He therefore contented himself with taking a place before the fire, demanding, in lordly tones, attendance, and more fuel, – ‘but none did come, though he did call for them’.

The other was a round, stumpy, well-fed, happy-looking little man, now touching close upon the grand climacterie. The word had evidently gone well with him, to judge by what, in Ireland, they would term ‘a cozey-character’ of countenance. He poked the fire, but complained not; talked of the wild evening, and blessed the saints he was under shelter; hoped, rather than expected, that we might obtain a supper; concluding with a Christian-like expression of resignation, that really would have done honour to a Turk (308-9).

William Hamilton Maxwell precipitates the end of the novel. Hector’s and Mark Antony’s adventures in the Iberian Peninsula take place in the Basque provinces, particularly in Vitoria and San Sebastian, at a time when Napoleonic France was being defeated by the Duke of Wellington. Hector is interviewed by the very Wellington and wounded in San Sebastian before returning to England, where his Dulcinea, Isadora, awaits him in a happy ending of the novel, much in accordance with the highly-read romantic tradition at the time of Maxwell’s publication.

Following the convention and as any combination between romance and comedy requires, William Hamilton Maxwell’s Cervantine novel precipitates into the final romantic marriage of Hector O’Halloran and his Isadora. But, Maxwell, following his suspense technique ends his novel with a reference to Mark Antony O’Toole and his wife, both surrounded by a throng of children, as it was probably expected by readers both in Ireland and the English discourses during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Intertwined with social, political and cultural representation and much imbued with the features of the gothic genre the nineteenth century witnessed what could be termed as Anglo-Irish Cervantine. Taking Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece of all times Ireland and Anglo-Ireland adapted to their purposes the main ingredients of this Spanish novel among novels. In the Irish newspapers of the time, which constantly referred to political and military turmoil in nineteenth-century Spain, Don Quixote de la Mancha clearly represented the character of Spain and her literary genius at a time of political, religious and social turmoil in Spain, which to a certain extend could find a reflection in nineteenth-century Ireland. The authors briefly analysed above, and many other minor Irish and Anglo-Irish instances left for further research, saw in Cervantes’s work a serviceable inspirational source from which to expand their creativity, always having a special say —albeit minor or anecdotic— of their view to Ireland in terms of society, politics and religion.

The twentieth century, which witnessed the coming and birth — as the phoenix myth — of a new Ireland, in religious, social and political terms, much in accordance to the article on Cervantes in the unionist and Tory-proned Dublin University Magazine in 1866, to which we referred above, also saw an adaptation of Don Quixote for the stage. Lady Gregory’s play Sancho’s Master (Abbey Theatre 14 March 1927) also encapsulated her main ideal design for the real Ireland she lived in. Gregory’s recurrent allusions to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza constituted referents in key moments of her ideological and literary production, contributing to the Irish literary scene in creative and political ways. What we could even term as Lady Augusta Gregory’s Cervantine ideology — mainly because she made use of this figure of Sancho — the noble and attendant squire — and Quijot — the day-dreamer but instigator of reflection, thought and commiseration owing to his much-erred philosophy and way of life — extensively in her production and personal diaries — would lead her to state in 1916, a mythic year for Ireland, her belief in the universality of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece and the validity for her troubled Ireland at the time, as Lady Augusta Gregory’s much-beloved country contained “tragedy and comedy, idealism and common sense, the knight errant and the squire erred, the Don Quixote and the Sancho Panza” (Gregory 1995: 290).

  1. I owe great thanks to the Department for Education Eusko Jaurlaritza-Gobierno Vasco for postdoctoral fellowship support BFI03.224 that made this research and writing possible. I am also grateful to Profs Tadhg Foley and Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh at NUI-Galway, whose reading discussions on this paper provided valuable suggestions. Besides, and most importantly, I owe special thanks to Dr Pedro J. Pardo who guided me on the Cervantine inspiration, and provided me with a manuscript version of his study on Barrett, which I read before publication in the forthcoming Enciclopedia Cervantina, and used to put me on track to search further Cervantine connections in Ireland. []
  2. Maxwell, William Hamilton. 1933. Sealgaireacht an Iarthair. Trans. Seán Ó Ruadháin. Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais. []
  3. Stephen Gwynn recalls the first meetings of the Lever and Maxwell. Gwynn, Stephen. 1936. Irish Literature and Drama. London: Elkin Mathews, 76. For Patrick Rafroidi, Maxwell actually launched Charles Lever’s career as a writer, Rafroidi, Patrick. 1980. Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe. Vol. II, 276. On who was the initiator of the rollicking style in nineteenth-century Irish fiction McCormack even quotes almost fully Charles Gavan Duffy’s analysis of the plagiarisms from Maxwell’s My Life (1835) in Lever’s Charles O’Malley (1841), McCormack, William John. 1991. “The Intellectual Revival”. Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Ed. Seamus Deane. Derry: Field Day. Vol. I, 1173-1300. []

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