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38 GEORGE MOORE'S USE OF CELTIC MATERIALS! WHAT AND HOW By Jack Wayne Weaver (Winthrop College) According to George Moore's puckish friend, Oliver Gogarty. Moore "knew nothing about Irish - Old, Middle, or Modern."1 According to a more recent biographer, Janet Dunleavy, Moore grew up in the midst of Celtic lore, learned Irish phrases and listened to Celtic stories in childhood, and, in middle age, simply recalled his Celtic heritage and used it in novels, plays, short stories, and biographical writings.2 In her opinion, Moore's earlier works were French and English only because Ireland's time had not yet come. Since Dunleavy's interpretation of Moore's Celtic culture disagrees with the testimony of his contemporaries, such as Gogarty, with the opinions of an earlier biographer, Joseph Hone,3 and with what many of us have assumed were Moore's own writing practices,^" more than assertions are needed to make her case. Let's usppose, however, that the truth lies somewhere between Gogarty's "Tabula Rosa" and Dunleavy 's "emotion recollected in tranquillity." If Moore did acquire some Celtic lore in childhood, as a middle-aged man he might have remembered all, some, or none of it. If he remembered much, he could have used it sympathetically, as counterpoint to the frivolousness of Castle society, in A Drama in Muslin (1886) or satirically, in Parnell and His Island (1887). Since he used Celtic lore in neither the novel nor the volume of essays, one may properly wonder whether he had any to use. The fact is, he first began to exhibit a knowledge of things Celtic in Evelyn Innés (I898), after having listened to Yeats tell stories, and he continued to use such materials through Ulick and Soracha (I926), long after he had returned to England. Still, I have no desire to commit the post hoc fallacy. Because the question of the degree of Moore's Celtic knowledge prior to I898 appears irresolvable,5 I will focus my discussion on what Celtic materials" he used and how he used them. For the purposes of this essay, such materials will be classified as folklore/mythology of pre-history, Old Irish saga literature, and Middle Irish historical figures and artifacts . The first group includes the Pùca, Sidhe, and Murrigu; the second makes use of Ossianic and Red Branch cycles, with attendant characters such as Diarmuid and Grania, Finn, Usheen, Cuchulain, Bran, and Connla and the Fairy Maiden; the third includes Marbhan, Guaire, Mad Sweeney, Liadain and Curithir, and assorted nuns and monks,? as well as lyrics and art works. Moore's use of folklore/mythology was often for purposes of humor. Such, for example, is the case in Salve,0 where he has AE refer to him as a "Phooka." The Phooka (or Pùca), according to Donegal legends, was a "howling, formless mass that lumbered down roads and frightened people," particularly women and children.9 Of course, we do not and cannot know whether AE actually made the remark Moore attributes to him, or whether Moore invented it and attributed it to AE to enliven that section of Salve. However, since Moore's decadent 39 reputation had preceded him to Ireland, AE's remark is humorously accurate. It also, in its wit and allusiveness, helps to characterize AE and parallels his parodie practice of criticizing Moore in his own writings.-1-0 In his depiction of Julia Cahill, in an Untilled Field story perhaps based upon Mayo gossip, Moore delves further into the realm of folklore and this time uses it for atmosphere. Julia, according to the storyteller's driver, acquired her ability to curse the village by nightly visits with the fairies^-1 and, having been with them, will remain forever young. Her antagonist , Father Madden, according to the boy's account, saw her as "the evil spirit who sets men mad" (218), perhaps the Lenéhan Sidhe. Her flirtatious actions, as condemned by the Church, certainly suggest her as an archetypal temptress of some sort. The narrator is himself momentarily persuaded by the story and imagines a "dancing girl becoming the evil spirit of a village that would not accept her delight" (219...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 38-49
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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