Tag Archives: “Ireland’s Disease”

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Battling books

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“This sort of ostrich fury is common enough among the regular drumbeaters of the Irish agitation.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

An earlier post in this series mentioned Hurlbert’s reference to French journalist Paschal Grousset’s 1887 newspaper dispatches from Ireland, which were collected into the book Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland. It was among numerous books published during the 1880s by visitors to Ireland, including Hurlbert’s Ireland Under Coercion.

In a late February 1888 diary entry from Partumna, County Galway, Hurlbert discussed two other recently published books about Ireland, also both written in French: Chez Paddy (Paddy at Home), by Baron Edmond de Mandat-Grancey, and the rebuttal, Pour l’Irlande (For Ireland), by Emile Piché, a French-Canadian priest. The former book favored the conservative government in London, the latter title was sympathetic to Irish tenants.

Hurlbert’s view of Piché’s book is summarized by his quote at the top. He scoffed at Pour l’Irlande’s  frontispiece, which featured a three-headed Cerberus-type monster with three collars labeled, in French, “Flattery,” “Famine,” and “Coercion.” The creature stands atop a pedestal with the inscription: “1800 to 1887. Erected by the grateful Irish to the English Government.”

The year 1800 refers to the Act of Union, which dissolved the Irish parliament and created direct rule from London, which prompted the Home Rule efforts of the 1880s. The labeling of one of beast’s collars as “coercion” refers to government actions against the agrarian uprising. It is opposite of how Hurlbert used the word in his book’s title and throughout its text to refer to the tactics of the Land League and other agrarian activists against landlords and the government.

Hurlbert complained that Piché’s description of the 1887 Glenbeigh evictions wasn’t fair to the land agent or the police. Remember, he had just visited Glenbeigh a few weeks earlier to report about landlord-tenant relations. The American also wrote he was “quite certain” that de Mandat-Grancey came to Ireland “with no prejudice in favor of the English Government, or against Nationalists.”

In discussing other contemporary reporting about Irish issues, Hurlbert knew that his own book would face scrutiny when it was published later that year. The conservative Times of London would write that Ireland Under Coercion was “quite different in character” but “not less interesting” than Chez Paddy, largely because both opposed Home Rule and agrarian reforms. The pro-Nationalist United Ireland described Hurlbert’s “libelous book” as being “fit to take its place amongst other grotesque foreign commentaries [such as] Chez Paddy.” In his criticism of Pour l’Irlande, Hurlbert described United Ireland as “that dumb organ of a downtrodden people.”

More reviews and reactions to Hurlbert’s book in a future post.

NOTES: From pages 249-252 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Times of London, 18 August 1888, and United Ireland, 25 August, 1888.

NEXT: Pope’s decree

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan