Seminar: Irish Studies, 535
Meeting Date: December 5, 2003
Chair: Martin J. Burke
Speaker: Prof. Patrick Tuite
Assistant Professor of Drama, The Catholic University of America.
Title of Talk: Published by Authority and Represented with License: The Figures and
Narratives that Linked Ireland’s Print Media, Church, and Theatre, 1690-93
Rapporteur: Cóilín Parsons
Attendees: Frank Naughton (Kean University); Alice Naughton; Rita Loughlin (American Irish Teachers Association); Peter M. Leahy (CUNY Graduate Center); Ed Hagan (Western Connecticut State University); Bob St-Cyr (Blackwater Valley Museum); Paul Fitzgerald.
“Published by Authority and Represented with License: The Figures and Narratives that Linked Ireland’s Print Media, Church, and Theatre, 1690-93”
A copy of the paper that Prof. Tuite gave has been deposited with University Seminars. The following is a synopsis.
Following the conquest of Dublin in 1690 by Williamite forces, a small group of pro-Williamite Protestant leaders mobilised its followers using a combination of developing technologies and institutions, the most important of which were the printing press, the pulpits of the conforming Church and the Theatre Royal at Smock Alley. Prof. Tuite’s paper traces three key figures in each of these institutions in order to better understand the links between the institutions—Andrew Crook, a printer; William King, Dean of Derry and later Archbishop of Dublin; and John Ashbury, manager and partial patent holder at the Theatre Royal.
Andrew Crook, in partnership with Samuel Helsham and Benjamin Tooke, was the king’s printer in Ireland, having wrested the business away from his mother. Crook and Helsham printed documents for Dublin Corporation (despite not having the patent), government proclamations for Parliament, papers for the Royal Dublin Society, and sermons and other ecclesiastical materials for the Church of Ireland. William King was an influential pamphleteer and sermon-writer in Britain and Ireland. The son of a Scots Presbyterian, he was an unlikely candidate for the Archbishopric of Dublin—he rose primarily as a result of his prominence as a writer. King used the Crook-Helsham-Tooke team to print his sermons and pamphlets in London and Dublin after the Williamite Wars.
The Smock Alley Theatre Royal, where John Ashbury was manager, was the second theatre in Dublin. The first, John Ogilby’s Werburgh Street theatre, was opened in 1637 and closed after the 1641 rising. After the Restoration John Ogilby opened a new theatre with a royal charter in Smock Alley. Ashbury took over the management of the theatre in 1668. In 1684 Ashbury and Crook each gained a monopoly over one of Dublin’s growing media. There were significant links between Ashbury and the Church and the Administration in Dublin.
None of these links suggests that the clergy, printers and theatre practitioners presented a unified whole that supplied homogeneous cultural production. However, those responsible for the development of Ireland’s communication technologies at the time shared certain beliefs, and, in publications, sermons and plays, welcomed the taking of Dublin by Williamite forces. King’s sermon of thanksgiving for the deliverance of Dublin celebrates safety from “France and Slavery”, and associates duplicitous Catholics with Turks and Tartars. In Crook and Robert Thornton’s paper, the Dublin Intelligencer, rapparees, Tories and Turks harass the heroes of Protestant Europe from Wicklow to Belgrade. That Ashbury chose to stage Shakespeare’s Othello in this climate is significant. Given the composition of the cast—mostly officers of the King’s Guard from Dublin Castle—it is not unreasonable to suggest that this 1691 Othello used metaphor and analogy to reenact the violence Dublin’s Protestant population witnessed during the Williamite Wars. The analogies between Cyprus—a colony of Venice—and Ireland allow for a rich interpretation of the links between political figures in Ireland and characters in the play.
King’s sermon and histories, Ashbury’s production, and the penal codes that Andrew Crook printed after the wars disciplined Ireland’s administrators and soldiers and warned Dublin’s Protestant population of the dangers of degeneracy. Ireland’s media attempted to consolidate the power of the Kingdom’s Protestant population.
Q. You obviously did a lot of research for this paper. Where did you find all the sources?
A. I wanted to find out about real relations between the people I have described. Mary Pollard and Robert Munter have done excellent work on Irish print history, and Dix, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century had excellent records. Many theatre documents, including patents and records of theatre buildings and performances, are reprinted in The Early Irish Stage. The actors were not regulated, so they are not in these records.
Q. Of the three kingdoms, Ireland was the only one with a Catholic majority. For a few years in London there was a thriving print culture among Catholics—were Catholics intervening in Dublin’s print culture too?
A. Some of the quarter brothers of the Stationers’ Guild were Catholic. James Malone, who receives a patent from Tyrconnell is a quarter-brother. Helsham and Crook, both Protestant, were producing documents without patent, and Malone was not.
Q. The simple narrative of the penal laws seems to fall apart when it comes to print culture.
A. Yes. There were many Catholic printers in Kilkenny, among them one called Burke—there were Old English producing material in Kilkenny and Dublin. After the 1690s the Dublin guild tried to clamp down on it.
Q. When was the efflorescence of printing under James II?
A. It happened right from the beginning of James’ reign, and was primarily in religious printing.
Q. Were the divisions that existed in London not found in Dublin?
A. In Dublin the divisions are not confessional, but commercial. James Crook, for example, is divided for commercial reasons against his own mother. There were indeed divisions. In 1689 there was a private reading of Dryden, to try out his Tory material—it seems not to have met with any success.
Q. By Tory do you mean Church of Ireland?
A. Yes—Church of Ireland, high church, and in favour of the king. But affiliations are much more complex than confessional, Toryism at this time was simply a question of “who is the monarch?” It was later made out by Whigs to be Jacobitism.
Q. You craft a convincing argument about the close-knit nature of the publishing and entertaining industry in Dublin, but I wonder whether the story becomes less coherent if you look at who is buying what, and whether there are differences across genres.
A. We have some records that help us understand what was being published. One of these is Helsham’s daybook, a ledger from his office, which is analysed by Mary Pollard. Some things we do know are that there were more pamphlets than books published; there was a used-book trade; there were more transactions between Dublin and London than between Dublin and the rest of the country. Many of the writers were preaching to the choir—there were more pro-Whig tracts post-war than anything else. Much of the reading was done in inns, alehouses and coffee-shops. As for print runs, Helsham printed 250 of one pamphlet. Some were reprinted—one pamphlet by King was reprinted four times before 1700. When Dodwell wished to publish in Dublin he was told that he would do better to publish first in London, where he would get more vent, and then in Dublin.
Q. Could you talk a little bit more about how you see the allegory in Othello?
A. I think you could read Venice as England and Cyprus as Ireland, with the Moor being either James or Tyrconnell. I think Iago is more likely to be Tyrconnell. The Turks could stand for the Turks or the French, as King’s speech suggests.
Q. You started this paper by saying that you were responding to a conference on the enlightenment. How is the paper a response, and to what?
A. It was a conference on the Enlightenment, and I was disappointed by how the history of ideas was divorced from empirical research. I was hoping that we would talk about a network of political exchange.
Q. Were there significant differences among the audience of Crook, King and Ashbury?
A. Dublin at the time is a diverse and complicated city. Crook and Thornton’s paper reported on the celebrations after the arrival of William of Orange in Dublin. Only a small group would have attended, but thanks to the newspaper, the even would have trickled down to a much larger audience—it is a case of representing the re-enactment of power. Theatre was interesting. For the first time in the 1690s the theatre as we know is, with the proscenium arch, emerged. There was room for about 650-750 seated. In the uppermost balcony there were footmen and servants, while the stalls and boxes were for the gentry. It was probably a diverse audience, but we don’t know.
Q. There were many displays of power for which the audience was the administration and the gentry themselves. Was there nervousness of apostasy?
A. Yes. I think this goes back to the fears that Spenser and Temple express. Peter Manby, the dean of Derry, converted to Catholicism during the war. These displays of power were ways to keep the English clean, untainted and English.