A Future Ireland under German Rule: Dystopias as Propaganda during World War I

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Research on Irish utopias is still in its infancy. This is particularly true for the period on which I intend to concentrate, the years preceding and during World War I. In several recent pieces, Ralph Pordzik has made valiant first efforts at periodising and classifying Irish utopian texts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but he moves rather swiftly over this period which in my view was particularly rich in utopian discourses. (1) It is in this period that members of the Gaelic League imagined a cultural revolution which would result in a totally de-anglicised Gaelic-speaking Ireland, a utopian vision if ever there was one. Others developed the concept of an Irish Literary Theatre where the new Ireland to come would find dramatic expression. The period also saw the formulation of some of the most powerful political visions of a future Ireland, for example the political programme of the radical separatist political party of Sinn Fein (founded in 1905). In the years before World War I, we encounter new considerations of the impact the growing tension between the colonial power Britain and its antagonist Germany might have on Irish political prospects, as those considerations surfaced in the writings of Roger Casement. (2) The years of World War I, then, produced arguably one of the most iconic and visionary political documents in the whole struggle for Irish independence: the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, as it was posted on walls and barricades in Dublin during the Easter Week Rising of 1916. That document declared "its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally" (Curtis and McDowell 317).

Even if we apply a more precise definition of utopian literature in the way Lyman Tower Sargent suggests in "The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited," we find that the period produced not a few utopian texts. In this essay, I intend to discuss two of these utopian visions, from 1917, which portray a future Ireland under German rule. Admittedly they are not "specifically dedicated to the struggle for Irish independence," as Pordzik seems to demand as a requirement for Irish utopian texts ("Postcolonial View" 334). Rather the opposite. However, they are very Irish nevertheless. I will then formulate some conclusions concerning Irish utopian writing in this period, which given the current state of research must take the form only of hypotheses. And lastly, I will make a few brief comments on what my reading of the two texts in question may contribute to our understanding of what characterizes dystopian literature.

Many Irish utopian texts will reveal themselves only after a considerable amount of digging. The texts discussed in this essay are certainly of the "forgotten" or "obscure" type of which the Ralahine project at the University of Limerick will no doubt unearth more? Not even their authors are commonly known; the British Library, for instance, does not identify either of them. Both texts appeared anonymously in the early months of 1917. The earlier of the two--The Germans in Cork: Being the Letters of His Excellency The Baron von Kartoffel (Military Governor of Cork in the Year 1918) and Others--was published anonymously by Talbot in Dublin. Its author, Mary Carbery, only much later (in 1937) publicly admitted to being its author, doing so in the first edition of her best-known work, The Farm by Loch Gur. Carbery was born Mary VanessaToulmin in 1867 near St. Albans in England. She acquired the title of Lady Carbery after her marriage to Algernon, the 9th Baron Carbery of Castle Freke in County Cork, in 1890. She thus became a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. After the early death of her husband, she married Arthur Sandford, a Cork surgeon, in 1902. These biographical details all inform the book: the dedication of the book "to the Lady we all love" can be understood as either an ironic allusion to herself or a sarcastic comment on the citizenry of Cork and their attitude towards her. …