English Romanticism and the Celtic World

English Romanticism and the Celtic World

English Romanticism and the Celtic World

English Romanticism and the Celtic World


English Romanticism and the Celtic World explores the way in which British Romantic writers responded to the national and cultural identities of the 'four nations' England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The essays collected here, by specialists in the field, interrogate the cultural centres as well as the peripheries of Romanticism, and the interactions between these. They underline 'Celticism' as an emergent strand of cultural ethnicity during the eighteenth century, examining the constructions of Celticness and Britishness in the Romantic period, including the ways in which the 'Celtic' countries viewed themselves in the light of Romanticism. Other topics include the development of Welsh antiquarianism, the Ossian controversy, Irish nationalism, Celtic landscapes, Romantic form and Orientalism. The collection covers writing by Blake, Wordsworth, Scott, Byron and Shelley, and will be of interest to scholars of Romanticism and Celtic Studies.


Gerard Carruthers and Alan Rawes

The growth of 'four nations' British literary history in the last decade has brought with it new approaches to the 'Celtic' idea in eighteenth-century and Romantic studies. Yet there is a danger of losing sight of the extent to which Celticism was used as a tool in the construction and expansion of the post-1745 British state. This is one of the central concerns of this volume. We can see the British use and abuse of the Celtic in its starkest, most jingoistic form in a song by the patriotic English songwriter, Charles Dibdin. At the height of the Napoleonic wars, he writes:

Fra Ossian to Bruce,
The bra deeds to produce,
Would take monny and monny a long hour to scan;
For mickle were the bairds
Sung the feats of Scottish lairds,
When the swankies in array,
The canty pipes did play—

'There never was a Scot but was true to his Clan.'

From Egypt's burning sands,
Made red by Scottish hands,
The invincible Skybalds fled, aw to a man;
For the standard that they bore
From the keeper's grasp we tore,
And the French were all dismay'd,
'There never was a Scot but was true to his Clan.'

Here we find the confection of Scoto-British Celticism in the service of British military aggression. Ancient history has been overwritten with eighteenth-century literary history as James Macpherson's identification of the legendary 'Ossianic' materials with Scotland rather than Ireland has taken root and this Celtic Scotland is seen as seamlessly antecedent to the Anglophone medieval Scotland of Robert the Bruce. Ethnic distinctions . . .

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