Thomas Davis, Selections from his Prose and Poetry

Thomas Davis
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Title: Thomas Davis, Selections from his Prose and Poetry
Author: Thomas Davis
Commentator: T. W. Rolleston
Release Date: April 24, 2007 [EBook #21210]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Juliet Sutherland and the Online Distributed?Proofreading Team at
[Illustration: Thomas Davis]
Selections from his Prose and Poetry
Library of Irish Literature
1. Thomas Davis. Selections from his Prose and Poetry. Edited by T. W. ROLLESTON, M.A. (Dublin).
2. Wild Sports of the West. W. H. MAXWELL. Edited by THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN.
3. Legends of Saints and Sinners from the Irish. Edited by DOUGLAS HYDE, LL.D. (Dublin).
4. Humours of Irish Life. Edited by CHARLES L. GRAVES, M.A. (Oxon).
5. Irish Orators and Oratory. Edited by T. M. KETTLE, National University of Ireland.
6. The Book of Irish Poetry. Edited by ALFRED PERCEVAL GRAVES, M.A. (Dublin).
Other Volumes in Preparation. Each Crown 8vo. Cloth, with Frontispiece net $1.00
In the present edition of Thomas Davis it is designed to offer a selection of his writings more fully representative than has hitherto appeared in one volume. The book opens with the best of his historical studies--his masterly vindication of the much-maligned Irish Parliament of James II.[1] Next follows a selection of his literary, historical and political articles from _The Nation_ and other sources, and, finally, we present a selection from his poems, containing, it is hoped, everything of high and permanent value which he wrote in that medium. The "Address to the Historical Society" and the essay on "Udalism and Feudalism," which were reprinted in the edition of Davis's Prose Writings published by Walter Scott in 1890, are here omitted--the former because it seemed possible to fill with more valuable and mature work the space it would have taken, and the latter because the cause which it was written to support has in our day been practically won; Udalism will inevitably be the universal type of land-tenure in Ireland, and the real problem which we have before us is not how to win but how to make use of the institution, a matter with which Davis, in this essay, does not concern himself.
The life of Thomas Davis has been written by his friend and colleague, Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, and an excellent abridgment of it appears as a volume in the "New Irish Library." In the latter easily available form it may be hoped that there are few Irishmen who have not made themselves acquainted with it. It is not, therefore, necessary to deal with it here in much detail. Davis was born in Mallow on October 14th, 1814. His father, who came of a family originally Welsh, but long settled in Buckinghamshire, had been a surgeon in the Royal Artillery. His mother, Mary Atkins, came of a Cromwellian family settled in the County Cork. It does not seem an altogether hopeful kind of ancestry for an Irish Nationalist, and his family were, as a matter of fact, altogether of the other way of thinking. But the fact that his great-grandmother, on the maternal side, was a daughter of The O'Sullivan Beare may have had a counteracting influence, if not through the physical channel of heredity, at least through the poet's imagination. As a child, Davis was delicate in health, sensitive, dreamy, awkward, and passed for a dunce. It was not until he had entered Trinity College that the passion for study possessed him. This passion had manifestly been kindled, in the first instance, by the flame of patriotism, but how and when he first came to break loose from the traditional politics of his family we have no means of knowing, unless a gleam of light is thrown on the matter by a saying of his from a speech at Conciliation Hall:--"I was brought up in a mixed seminary,[2] where I learned to know, and knowing to love, my countrymen."
At the University he sought no academic distinctions, but read omnivorously. History, philosophy, economics, and ethics were the subjects into which he flung himself with ardour, and which, in after days, he was continually seeking to turn to the uses of his country. By the time he had left College and was called to the Bar (1837) he had disciplined himself by thought and study, and was a very different being from the dreamy and backward youth described for us by the candid friends of his schooldays.
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