Native Muses and National Poetry: Nineteenth-Century Irish-Canadian Poets

Type of resource
Native Muses and National Poetry: Nineteenth-Century Irish-Canadian Poets
The author examines the writing of four Irish-born Canadian poets -- Montreal-based Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825-1868), Quebec City-based Adam Kidd (1802-1831), Sorel and Montreal-based Standish O'Grady (b.1789 or 1790), and Toronto-based Isabella Valancy Crawford (1850-1887) -- in the context of Irish cultural nationalism, which arose when Irish writers and politicians attempted to demonstrate that their country not only had a long history of civilization that was distinct from Britain, but also that the Irish, if given religious liberty and prosperity under British rule, would be its most loyal citizens. In delving into their own history, music, literature and culture to vindicate Irish character and to argue that the Irish deserved the same rights awarded to British colonies in the Canadas, the author points out that these Irish-Canadian writers revealed that Irish nationality was the product of diverse ethnic groups, languages, religions and classes. Irish writers in Canada helped to create a literary nationalism that celebrated the liberties and prosperity that the emigrant could enjoy in Canada, and emphasised diversity and tolerance, rather than uniformity or chauvinism. They also helped to establish a Canadian national poetry which celebrated the unique landscape, history and cultures of the country. Moreover, the author argues, the concept of Irish cultural nationalism influenced Canadian nationalism directly. Irish nationalists had used cultural resistance, including the creation of a national literature, in order to create a united Irish identity across ethnic barriers, and to revive self-respect and independence among the Irish people as a prelude to their regaining a voice in their own political and economic affairs. The Montreal-based politician and poet Thomas D'Arcy McGee applied the cultural programme of Young Ireland, a political and literary nationalist movement of the 1840s, to Canada, arguing that the new nation required a literature of its own, in order to survive being overwhelmed, culturally or politically, by older, powerful countries such as America and Britain.
PhD dissertation
University of Western Ontario
London, ON
Holmgren, Michele J. “Native Muses and National Poetry: Nineteenth-Century Irish-Canadian Poets.” PhD dissertation, University of Western Ontario, 1997.
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