France and Ireland (Paul-Dubois, 1908)

1.342. L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland, with an Introduction by T.M. Kettle, M.P. (Dublin: Maunsel and Company, Ltd.; New York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1908), pp.181-82. BL

An extract from L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland (1908), on Ireland and France.

In this passage, Paul-Dubois gives an account of the long-standing affection for France on the part of the Irish. Though he illustrates this section of his book with anecdotes drawn from his own personal experience that may sometimes give one pause – Irish peasants weeping over French defeats during the Franco-Prussian War, for example – Mulligan’s remark suggests that the admiration for the ‘Earthly Paradise’ that is France is not quite so universally-held in Ireland as is implied here. Equally, Mulligan’s ‘Ballad of Joking Jesus’ (1.584-99), to say nothing of Stephen’s thoughts on Catholicism, also suggest that aspects of the anti-clericalism which had greatly disturbed French society during the first decade of the twentieth century were not “bitterly deplored” by all Irishmen.

Is it an illusion to think that the sympathy which Ireland has always manifested towards France, and which is so precious to France, has a deeper source than mere hatred of England? It does not spring merely from remembrance of the hospitality which Irish exiles found in France, whether in the service of the Bourbons, or in the armies of Napoleon. Never was hospitality paid for at such a price; every field of honour was stained with the blood of gallant soldiers who had fallen under the banner of the Irish Brigade. There is between Ireland and France a certain affinity of character, a certain likeness of qualities, tendencies, and, let us add, even defects, the outcome in all probability of common Celtic blood and similar climatic conditions. “The Irish are the French of the West,” says M. Daryll; “we feel at once that they are our first cousins.” Priests and peasants, the bourgeoisie and the upper classes, all alike have a place in their hearts for our beloved and unhappy France. Nowhere in the world did our revolutions of 1789 and 1848 awaken wider reverberations than among the people of Ireland; and nowhere have more tears been shed over our reverses. . . . France has ever been, for the Irish, “the only sympathetic nation.” In spite of our reverses, our intestine struggles, and our present anti-Catholicism (which is bitterly deplored) Ireland still bends her eyes and reaches out her arms towards France. France is to her a sort of Earthly Paradise, a Land of the Free, a chosen place of rural democracy. She rejoices in our joys, weeps over our faults, glories in our glory, and will ever know us as “The Great Nation.”