Carleton’s ‘Traits and Stories’ and the 19th Century Anglo-Irish Tradition
21.6 x 13.8 cm. xiv, 432 pp. 1983 Irish Literary Studies series (ISSN 0140-895X) volume 12
The twenty-nine stories in William Carleton’s Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry each had a different publishing history. Some had appeared in periodicals as different as the Christian Examiner and the Dublin Literary Gazette; every story underwent revision when it first appeared in a book and in subsequent editions. These revisions were not slight. On occasion Carleton transformed the story almost out of recognition: ‘The Landlord and Tenant’ was doubled into ‘Tubber Derg or the Red Well’; he censored ‘An Essay on Irish Swearing’; ‘Going to Maynooth’ was improved by lengthy interpolations.
In this study, Dr. Hayley follows the development of all the stories from their earliest appearances, through all the editions of the First and Second Series of Traits and Stories, up to the definitive ‘New Edition’ of the collection of 1842-44, with observations on later editions. She comments on all the changes to each story in this important work, which was so popular and influential on both sides of the Atlantic in the 19th Century.
Traits and Stories marks a significant period in Irish letters and in Irish publishing. By having his books published in Dublin rather than London, Carleton led the revival of Irish literature and publishing that took place in the 1830s and 1840s. The revisions that he made to the collection were a response to the changing literary and political climate of Ireland, and also to the reactions of his wide readership abroad. For this reason, and for its own unusual history, this chronicle of the development of a book is an interesting and valuable study.