In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anglo-Irish Poetry, 1500–1800

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies

British and Irish Literature Anglo-Irish Poetry, 1500–1800
Andrew Carpenter
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0116


Despite its obvious limitations, the term “Anglo-Irish” is useful to describe material written in the English language by people closely associated with Ireland. Though Irish was the language of the indigenous people of Ireland before the arrival of Anglo-Norman forces in the 12th century, the influx of English and Scottish soldiers, administrators, adventurers, and planters in the Tudor and Stuart periods led to increasing use of English; by 1800, English was widely used throughout Ireland—in poetry as well as in other communications. This article on English-language poetry from Ireland 1500–1800 is divided into two parts: the 16th and 17th centuries, and the 18th century. The watershed is 1690, when English Protestantism, embodied in King William III, defeated Irish Catholicism, which was embodied in James II at the Battle of the Boyne. Those interested in Anglo-Irish poetry 1500–1800 can find excellent up-to-date anthologies and good critical material; however, only major writers are available in modern editions. The work of other poets is available in the original editions (not listed here) or through online databases such as Early English Books Online (EEBO) or Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), which provide photographic reproductions of the texts. Facsimile printouts based on those electronic resources are recommended when no modern edition exists. One thing readers have to be aware of is old-fashioned criticism: before the second half of the 20th century, disparaging and dismissive judgments were often made about Anglo-Irish verse written before 1800. Tastes changed in the 1960s, however: Swift scholars began a reevaluation of his poetry, which led to interest in that of his Irish contemporaries, and the political turmoil in Northern Ireland stimulated critical inquiry into “Irish” writing as a whole. The result of these changing attitudes was the appearance of major anthologies of Irish and Anglo-Irish poetry: An Duanaire, 1600–1900: Poems of the Dispossessed (Kinsella and Ó Tuama 1981, cited under the 16th and 17th Centuries: Anthologies); The New Oxford Book of Irish Poetry (Kinsella 1986, cited under Anthologies); The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Deane, et al. 1991, cited under Anthologies); Verse in English from Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Carpenter 1998, cited under the 18th Century: Anthologies) and Verse in English from Tudor and Stuart Ireland (Carpenter 2003, cited under the 16th and 17th Centuries: Anthologies). Lonsdale’s The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse (Lonsdale 1984, cited under the 18th Century: Anthologies) and Zimmerman’s Songs of Irish Rebellion (Zimmerman 1967, cited under the 18th Century: Anthologies) consolidated the position of Anglo-Irish verse in popular anthologies. Finally, the circulation of Anglo-Irish verse in manuscript is considered in passing in many studies and more fully in Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript (Karian 2010, cited under Book-Length Criticism on Swift the Poet).

General Overviews

The best modern overview of Anglo-Irish writing of the 16th and 17th centuries, including verse, is Fogarty 2006, and the most useful overviews of 18th-century Anglo-Irish verse in English are Schirmer 1998 and Carpenter 2006 and Carpenter 2010. Leerssen 1996, though primarily a cultural study, considers some of the poetry of the age, while Alspach 1959 covers the mythological background.

  • Alspach, Russell K. Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1959.

    An unusual (if by now rather dated) assessment of Anglo-Irish verse aiming to show, among other things, how the stories of Irish mythology were put into English before Yeats, “thereby bringing about an Irish poetry more distinctively Irish than anything that had gone before” (p. vii).

  • Carpenter, Andrew. “Poetry in English, 1690–1800: From the Williamite Wars to the Act of Union.” In To 1890. Vol. 1 of The Cambridge History of Irish Literature. Edited by Margaret Kelleher and Philip O’Leary, 282–321. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    Provides a comprehensive, modern overview of 18th-century Anglo-Irish poetry.

  • Carpenter, Andrew. “Parnell and Early Eighteenth-Century Irish poetry.” In A Companion to Irish Literature. Vol. 1. Edited by Julia Wright, 142–160. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444328066

    A useful supplement to Carpenter 2006 containing extra material on Swift’s poetic friend, Thomas Parnell.

  • Fogarty, Anne. “Literature in English, 1550–1690: From the Elizabethan Settlement to the Battle of the Boyne.” In To 1890. Vol. 1 of The Cambridge History of Irish Literature. Edited by Margaret Kelleher and Philip O’Leary, 140–190. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    An excellent and comprehensive chapter, marked by original insights and an impressive grasp of the contexts in which verse was written in 17th-century Ireland.

  • Kelleher, Margaret, and Philip O’Leary, eds. The Cambridge History of Irish Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    Volume 1 covers the period 800–1890. This is a reliable, balanced, modern history of all genres of Irish and Anglo-Irish writing. Comprehensive, readable surveys of Anglo-Irish poetry 1550–1690 (Volume 1: pp. 140–190) by Anne Fogarty and 1690–1800 (Volume 1: pp. 282–319) by Andrew Carpenter. Select bibliographies to each chapter.

  • Leerssen, Joep. Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior to the Nineteenth Century. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1996.

    A seminal work and highly influential in modern Irish literary and cultural studies.

  • Schirmer, Gregory A. Out of What Began: A History of Irish Poetry in English. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

    Chronologically arranged from Swift to Heaney. The first (and so far the only) book-length history of Anglo-Irish poetry to take the output of the poets between Swift and Tom Moore seriously. Clear accounts of Swift and his circle and of major Anglo-Irish poets of the rest of the 18th century. An excellent starting point for scholars studying this particular period.

  • Wright, Julia, ed. A Companion to Irish Literature. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444328066

    A two-volume work, the first volume of which contains twenty-nine substantial essays covering Irish and Anglo-Irish literature to 1900. Balanced introduction and well-written essays on the poetry and poetic drama of the 18th century. Excellent bibliographies and suggestions for further reading. Intended for graduate students and other researchers.

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