CELT document E800002-020

Absenteeism of Irish Genius

Thomas Osborne Davis

Edited by D.J. O' Donoghue

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Absenteeism of Irish Genius

We are much concerned to find that the Dublin Magazine1 has ceased to exist. We fear the chief blame must fall on the public. The frequent changes of size and price, and other irregularities, certainly served to ruin it; but, after all, these were perhaps but fresh efforts to try and suit the public taste. I know the publication of Irish airs necessitated the increase both of size and price.

After the increase, the price was preposterously low. Besides sustaining its admirable articles on politics and literature, it gave for two shillings three or four airs from private collections, which would elsewhere have been published for 1/6 or 2/- each; and latterly it printed two airs arranged by James Barton for Temperance Bands, which, separately, would have been sold for 5/- each. And yet the magazine has failed. After the expenditure of much time and large sums of money, it has failed. The Temperance Societies, for whose service it went to such expense, neglected it—the public neglected it, and now it is gone. The press did its duty by it well, and the Temperance Societies and the public must bear the blame. The loss will be theirs, as the fault was.

It was impossible for any amount of ability or money to stand the drain of such a publication, unless the circulation was large enough to enable the editor to pay for the articles, and thus command a variety of contributions.


Propagandism is right and necessary; and because the magazine was propagandist of natural feelings and ideas, we earnestly wished it success. But writers are seldom wealthy; for wealth gives (for a time) power, without exertion of intellect—vanity, without troubling the imagination—and social honours, without requiring knowledge, wit, or accomplishment.

In the long run there is a retribution for all this, but, be that as it may, the temptation of luxury commonly keeps the rich from using their powers or embarking their money in literary projects. Such projects generally begin, therefore, with men of small means, strong passions and high training; and a probation, in which they have repeatedly and patiently to put out all their strength ere they are recognised as master spirits, is their lot—fortunately, profit teaches them humility, self-denial, and a whole bead-roll of virtues.

But there is a limit to this. If after having laboured through the most of the day—if, after having long and repeatedly deserved success, they are still neglected by a public too lazy to inquire, too vulgar to appreciate, or too stingy to sustain and reward such men—their hopes fall, their attention wanders, their union is shattered; they either abandon public literature altogether, or leave a country which they honoured in vain. That the Citizen and Dublin Magazine have worked well and long—well enough and long enough to be more prosperous—is certain; and yet it has not received sufficient support to ensure its continuance.

It behoves every people to “love, cherish and honour” its men of ability, its men of science—  p.110 the men who can adorn it with their pencil, make it wise by their teaching, famous by their pens, rich by their ingenuity, strong by their statesmanship, triumphant by their valour. Doing this, Athens became the pole-star round which the lights of the earth turn—doing this, Italy gave laws, literature, and arts to half Europe. “To go and do likewise,” if ye would be free and famous, is the bidding of Italy and Greece, of Pericles and Napoleon, of greatest nations and of greatest men, to all the men and nations of the earth. And this might be lesson enough for Ireland. Yet has she another motive.

There is an absenteeism of Irish mind—a draining away of ingenuity and learning—an emigration of the wit, wisdom and power of our land constantly going on. This results from our dependence on England, our adoption of her language and literature—and also from England's appetite for vanity, from her demand for more ability than she can supply, from her monstrous government, from her vast press, her splendid pay and her showy rank. From all these causes there is a constant and great temptation to Irishmen to transfer their services to England—a temptation which must continue as long as our present connexion, and for some time after, and which requires no ordinary attachment to this country to resist it.

If then, in addition to the rewards, the vanity, the station, which England offers to emigrant ability, there be added neglect, poverty, and want of recognition at home, the motives for the remarkable men of Ireland to enlist in England's service become what they actually are, too great to be withstood by most men.

The first and greatest duty of an Irish patriot,  p.111 then, is to aid in retaining its superior spirits. Men make a state. Great men make a great nation. Without them, opportunities for liberation will come and go unnoticed or unused. Without them liberation will come without honour, and resources exist without strength—corruption and slavery, if they do not keep watch, will resume their sway without alleviation or resistance.

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Title (uniform): Absenteeism of Irish Genius

Author: Thomas Osborne Davis

Editor: D.J. O' Donoghue

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

proof corrections by: Margaret Bonar

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2. Second draft.

Extent: 2170 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2006

Date: 2008

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E800002-020

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

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  • First published in The Nation 17 June, 1843.

Editions of this text; other writings by Thomas Davis

  1. Thomas Davis, Essays Literary and Historical, ed. by D. J. O'Donoghue, Dundalk 1914.
  2. Thomas Davis: selections from his prose and poetry. [Edited] with an introduction by T. W. Rolleston. London and Leipzig: T. Fisher Unwin (Every Irishman's Library). 1910. [Published in Dublin by the Talbot press, 1914.]
  3. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (ed.), Thomas Davis, the memoirs of an Irish patriot, 1840–1846. 1890.
  4. Thomas Osborne Davis, Literary and historical essays 1846. Facsimile reprint, with an introduction by John Kelly, 1998, Washington, DC: Woodstock Books.
  5. Essays of Thomas Davis. New York, Lemma Pub. Corp. 1974, 1914 [Reprint of the 1914 ed. published by W. Tempest, Dundalk, Ireland, under the title 'Essays literary and historical'.]
  6. Thomas Davis: essays and poems, with a centenary memoir, 1845–1945. Dublin, M.H. Gill and Son, 1945. [Foreword by an Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera.]
  7. Angela Clifford, Godless colleges and mixed education in Ireland: extracts from speeches and writings of Thomas Wyse, Daniel O'Connell, Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy, Frank Hugh O'Donnell and others. Belfast: Athol, 1992.

Selected further reading

  1. Arthur Griffith (ed.), Thomas Davis: the thinker & teacher; the essence of his writings in prose and poetry. Dublin: Gill 1914.
  2. William O'Brien, The influence of Thomas Davis: a lecture delivered by William O'Brien, M.P., at the City Hall, Cork, on 5th November 1915. Cork: Free Press Office, 1915.
  3. Johannes Schiller, Thomas Osborne Davis, ein irischer Freiheitssänger. Wiener Beiträge zur englischen Philologie, Bd. XLVI. Wien und Leipzig, W. Braumüller, 1915.
  4. Michael Quigley (ed.), Pictorial record: centenary of Thomas Davis and young Ireland. Dublin [1945].
  5. Joseph Maunsell Hone, Thomas Davis (Famous Irish Lives). 1934.
  6. M. J. MacManus (ed.), Thomas Davis and Young Ireland. Dublin: The Stationery Office, 1945.
  7. J. L. Ahern, Thomas Davis and his circle. Waterford, 1945.
  8. Michael Tierney, 'Thomas Davis: 1814–1845'. Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 34:135 (1945) 300–10.
  9. Theodore William Moody, 'The Thomas Davis centenary lecture in Newry'. An t-Iubhar (=Newry) 1946, 22–6.
  10. D. R. Gwynn, O'Connell, Davis and the Colleges Bill (Centenary Series 1). Oxford and Cork, 1948.
  11. D. R. Gwynn, 'John E. Pigot and Thomas Davis'. Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 38 (1949) 145–57.
  12. D. R. Gwynn, 'Denny Lane and Thomas Davis'. Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 38 (1949) 15–28.
  13. N. N., Clár cuimhneacháin: comóradh i gcuimhne Thomáis Daibhis, Magh Ealla, 1942. Baile Átha Cliath (=Dublin) 1942.
  14. K. M. MacGrath, 'Writers in the

    Title (periodical): Nation

    , 1842–5.' Irish Historical Studies 6, no. 23 (March 1949), 189–223.
  15. Christopher Preston, 'Commissioners under the Patriot Parliament, 1689'. Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 5th ser., 74:8 (1950) 141–51.
  16. W. B. Yeats, Tribute to Thomas Davis: with an account of the Thomas Davis centenary meeting held in Dublin on November 20th, 1914, including Dr. Mahaffy's prohibition of the 'Man called Pearse,' and an unpublished protest by 'A.E.', Cork 1965.
  17. Theodore William Moody, 'Thomas Davis and the Irish nation'. Hermathena, 103 (1966) 5–31.
  18. Malcolm Johnston Brown, The politics of Irish literature: from Thomas Davis to W. B. Yeats. Seattle (University of Washington Press) 1973.
  19. Eileen Sullivan, Thomas Davis. Lewisburg, New Jersey: Bucknell University Press, 1978.
  20. Mary G. Buckley, Thomas Davis: a study in nationalist philosophy. Ph.D. Thesis, National University of Ireland, at the Department of Irish History, UCC, 1980.
  21. Giulio Giorello, "A nation once again": Thomas Osborne Davis and the construction of the Irish "popular" tradition. History of European Ideas, 20:1–3 (1995) 211–17.
  22. John Neylon Molony, A soul came into Ireland: Thomas Davis 1814–1845. Dublin 1995.
  23. Robert Somerville-Woodward, "Two 'views of the Irish language': O'Connell versus Davis." The History Review: journal of the UCD History Society, 9 (1995) 44–50.
  24. John Neylon Molony, 'Thomas Davis: Irish Romantic idealist'. In: Richard Davis; Jennifer Livett; Anne-Maree Whitaker; Peter Moore (eds.), Irish-Australian studies: papers delivered at the eighth Irish-Australian Conference, Hobart July 1995 (Sydney 1996) 52–63.
  25. David Alvey, 'Thomas Davis. The conservation of a tradition.' Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 85 (1996) 37–42.
  26. Harry White, The keeper's recital: music and cultural history in Ireland, 1770–1970. (Cork 1998).
  27. Joseph Langtry; Brian Fay, 'The Davis influence.' In: Joseph Langtry (ed.), A true Celt: Thomas Davis, The Nation, rebellion and transportation: a series of essays. (Dublin 1998) 30–38.
  28. Joseph Langtry, 'Thomas Davis (1814–1845).' In: Joseph Langtry (ed.), A true Celt: Thomas Davis, The Nation, rebellion and transportation: a series of essays. (Dublin 1998) 2–7.
  29. Patrick Maume, 'Young Ireland, Arthur Griffith, and republican ideology: the question of continuity.' Éire–Ireland, 34:2 (1999) 155–74.
  30. Sean Ryder, 'Speaking of '98: Young Ireland and republican memory'. Éire–Ireland, 34:2 (1999) 51–69.
  31. Gerard Kearns, 'Time and some citizenship: nationalism and Thomas Davis'. Bullán: an Irish Studies Review, 5:2 (2001), 23–54.
  32. Ghislaine Saison, 'L'écriture de l'histoire chez la Jeune Irlande: quelle histoire pour une nation du consensus et de la réconciliation?' In: Centre de recherche inter-langues angevin, Écriture(s) de l'histoire: Actes du colloque des 2,3 et 4 décembre 1999. (Angers 2001) 435–46.
  33. Ghislaine Saison, 'Thomas Davis et la nation irlandaise'. Cercles, 4 (2002), 121–31.
  34. Helen Mulvey, Thomas Davis and Ireland: a biographical study. Washington, D.C., Catholic University of America Press, 2003.

Davis, Thomas Osborne (1914). ‘Absenteeism of Irish Genius’. In: Essays, literary and historical. By Thomas Davis. Centenary edition, including several pieces never before collected.‍ Ed. by D.J. O Donoghue. Dundalk: Dundalgan Press, pp. 108–111.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {Thomas Osborne Davis},
  title 	 = {Absenteeism of Irish Genius},
  editor 	 = {D.J. O Donoghue },
  booktitle 	 = {Essays, literary and historical. By Thomas Davis. Centenary edition, including several pieces never before collected.},
  publisher 	 = {Dundalgan Press},
  address 	 = {Dundalk},
  date 	 = {1914},
  pages 	 = {108–111}


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Creation: by Thomas Davis

Date: 1843

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Keywords: literary; prose; 19c

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  1. 2008-02-15: File updated; keywords added and re-parsed; new SGML and HTML version created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2006-08-07: File parsed. SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2006-08-07: File proofed (2), structural and content markup applied; header inserted. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2005-09-08: File proofed (1). (ed. Margaret Bonar, Dublin)
  5. 1996: Text captured by scanning. (ed. Audrey Murphy)

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