Vol. 13: Magennis, Eoin.

Type: Article

Magennis, Eoin. ‘A “Beleaguered Protestant”?: Walter Harris and the Writing of Fiction Unmasked in Mid-Eighteenth Century Ireland’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 13 (1998), pp 86-111.

This article looks at the attitudes and writings of the eighteenth-century historian Walter Harris within the context of Jacqueline Hill’s theory of the ‘beleaguered Protestant’. According to Magennis, Harris is an example of the complexity of Protestant opinions in mid-eighteenth century Ireland: he was an antiquarian enthusiast, yet sceptical of the Gaelic past and a ‘tribune for Ireland’s achievements and improvements but only in so far as these seemed to lessen the gap in civility with England’. Harris’s patriotism combined with anti-Catholic sentiments and a strong connection to the Church of Ireland, provided the basis of his writing of Fiction Unmasked. Magennis assesses the work in some detail and concludes that Harris’s position is too complex for him to fit easily into Jacqueline Hill’s definition. It would be wrong to see him as a throwback to an earlier age and more accurate to see him as a reflection of how diverse and complex Protestant attitudes actually were in the mid-eighteenth century.