The Contraband of Hibernia
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Tonra, J. (2013) The Contraband of Hibernia. Conference Paper
In the early 1980s, Anthony Cronin identified Thomas Moore as "the necessary national bard" suggesting that his work was crucial to the coherent articulation of Irish national identity in the early nineteenth century. In his time, Moore was embraced as the unofficial national poet, thanks largely to the success of his Irish Melodies (1808-34). The strength of this national association overshadowed major aspects of his vast and diverse oeuvre, however, and contributed to a swift decline in his posthumous reputation.This paper argues that scholarly focus on Moore s Irishness and Irish writings does not adequately represent his relevance and importance in nineteenth century literature and culture. It draw attention to the early phase of Moore s writing career (from 1800-06) in order to illustrate that this neglected period was formative in shaping his authorial persona, his literary reputation, and his approach to communicating meaning in his work. Because Moore's developing views on these subjects are evident in the writings and events of his early career, the period is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of his mature work. However, the early writings have suffered from scholarly neglect partly because of the absence of Irish issues and perspectives that dominate later works such as the Irish Melodies and Captain Rock. In order to argue that greater attention be devoted to this period, this paper examines the polyonymity and multiple personae in Moore's first three books*, and the influence of critical responses to these writings on shaping the author s subsequent aesthetic strategies. Understanding these topics enables both a broader recognition of the importance of Moore to the literary world of the nineteenth century, and a more nuanced appreciation of his legacy to Irish literature and culture.