Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Absenteeism of Irish Genius (Author: Thomas Osborne Davis)


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—


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,


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.