1.367. The United Irishman: A National Weekly Review, No.274, Vol.11 (Dublin), 28 May, 1904, 3; No.275, Vol.11, 4 June, 1904, 1.
An article from The United Irishman, together with a clarification from the following edition, relating to the Dun Emer Press.
The following article by ‘Diarmuid’ appeared as a kind of codicil to the running debate in The United Irishman on why Irish books were predominantly produced by English publishers. Both the article and the newspaper’s subsequent clarification show how far the question of the ‘Englishness’ or otherwise of the Dun Emer Press was itself a matter for debate:
A LIST OF BOOKS AND THE MAD DREAM WHICH IT INSPIRED
¶¶In glancing through a recent list of books offered for sale by Messrs. W. Heffer and Sons, Cambridge, England, my attention was arrested by the words “Dun Emer Press.”
¶¶Being desirous of securing copies of the exquisite volumes issued from this little home of Irish industry I at once turned to the page referred to.
¶¶This particular work there described I found to be “Nuts of Knowledge,” by “Æ,” and as the price seemed fairly reasonable I had some thoughts of purchasing it, when — in a paragraph dilating on the merits of the Dun Emer Press, in that picturesque and glowing language of which the British tradesman is such a master — I came upon the following extraordinary remark: “Miss Yeats’ avowed object is … to present, in an attractive English form, the beautiful literature of the Irish Heroic Age,” &c.
¶¶Now, I confess that this view of the “avowed object” of the Dun Emer Press publications had never before struck me. Being a simple Irishman I had taken the uninteresting, commonplace view that Miss Yeats’ object in starting this Press had been to stimulate a taste in Ireland for well-turned-out Irish books, and thereby to encourage Irish publishers to take more interest in the general appearance of the books they put upon the market than they had hitherto done.
¶¶This enlightening note of Mr. William Heffer, however, completely dashed such thoughts from my mind. Of course, Miss Yeats could never have had such foolish, patriotic intentions. It was all clear to me now. Her object had been to dazzle the eyes of her poor, benighted countrymen with books produced “in an attractive English form.”
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¶¶While occupied with such thoughts, I not unnaturally fell into a kind of reverie — a mad, chaotic kind of reverie, in which ideas seemed to flash across the mind in hopeless confusion. Ideas of books — and of men — of Irishmen; and the smallness of them — of Englishmen; and the greatness of them.
¶¶When I could at all collect my senses, my whole mental system seemed to revolve round one or two apparently meaningless questions — “When is an Irish book not an Irish book?” “When is a book produced in Ireland not ‘in English form’?”
¶¶Yet it seemed to me that I might have been able to find some answer to these questions had it not been for one wretched little volume called “Nuts of Knowledge,” which, persistently floating into view, disconcerted me entirely and muddled up all my reasonings. For here was a book of poems by an Irish writer, printed in Irish ink on Irish paper, and bound by Irish hands in a cover designed — in so far as there was any designing in it — by an Irishman. Yet someone was telling me this was no Irish book at all — no, certainly not — for was it not merely a book produced “in an attractive English form?”
¶¶It was certainly very confusing; and the madness of my mood led me on to vaguer considerations. “Was there ever anything original produced in Ireland at all? — anything in any way peculiarly Irish?” The voice which had made plain to me the un-Irishness of the little book of poems — un-Irish, it would seem, because so very attractive — here cried out loudly, “No!” and this answer to my unuttered question was immediately re-echoed by hundreds of voices which sounded strangely similar in accent to the first. Some of these latter also added little sentences of their own; with great difficulty — for a violent tumult was now going on all around — I succeeded in patching together one or two of these exclamations: “Everything fair and profitable and beneficial comes from us” — “You look to us for inspiration and example” — “The sun never sets on our glorious Empire.” … This latter cry, I noticed, was in very great favour. It was repeated many times over by many different voices. I was very tired of hearing it myself, but it seemed to cause intense satisfaction to those who shouted loudest. To every question I heard uttered, to every request made, this same reply was given. It was not often very relevant, but that did not matter — the object of the shouters, apparently, was only to drown out with their own party-cry every other sound that stirred the air of heaven.
¶¶The suggestion that anything good, or useful, or beautiful could originate in Ireland seemed to cause such a furious uproar among my invisible companions that I dared not even think on the subject longer.
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¶¶With a mighty effort I woke from my reverie, to find myself sitting in an armchair with Mr. William Heffer’s list of books open in my hand.
The front page of the next edition of The United Irishman offered the following clarification:
¶¶We learn from our correspondent that one of our readers misunderstood the drift of “Diarmuid’s” article in our last issue. . . . We cannot afford that even one of our readers should do Miss Yeats the injustice of assuming from this that she was in any way responsible for the passage in Messrs. Heffer’s Catalogue. There is nothing imitative of the English in the Dun Emer industries at Dundrum, which now employ fifteen girls. The designers are Irish, the workers are Irish, the materials used are Irish, and the aptitude the girls have shown for the work is evidenced by the fact that after a year’s learning, they have been awarded two gold stars and five other decorations for embroidery at the Arts and Industries Exhibition at the Albert Hall, London. The Dun Emer Press is at present printing Dr. Hyde’s “Love Songs of Connacht,” and W. B. Yeats’ “Hanrahan Stories,” and it is good to learn that the productions of the Press are well supported in its own country.