Vol. 4: McCormack, W. J.

Type: Article

McCormack, W. J. ‘Eighteenth-Century Ascendancy: Yeats and the Historians’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 4 (1989), pp 159-181.

This article looks at present and historical usages of the terms ‘Anglo-Irish’ and ‘Protestant ascendancy’, attempting to determine their first appearance in the English language. According to McCormack, this poses a difficult task: “All representations in language involve complex layerings of mediation, generic and transmissive”. The article analyses problems associated with various Irish works: Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland 1600-1972; James Kelly’s, “Inter-Denominational Relations and Religious Toleration in Late Eighteenth-Century Ireland: the ‘paper war’ of 1786-88.” Eighteenth-Century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr 3 (1988) :39-67., his essay in Parliament, Politics and People (1989); and Richard Woodward’s The Present State of the Church of Ireland (1786). W. B. Yeats and Elizabeth Bowen are discussed in the context of the term ‘Protestant ascendancy’. McCormack concludes that, “There has been for many years a direct political investment in presenting a large and largely undefined area of the past as coming under the rule of ‘the Protestant Ascendancy’: it has served two parties, the nationalist (and predominantly catholic) by providing a focus of resentment, and the unionist/colonialist (predominantly protestant) by providing a compensating image of lost greatness”