New article on Harriet Martineau: contemporary responses to her writings on Ireland

The author Julie Donovan starts her article with this.

‘Nowhere is the complexity of Harriet Martineau’s legacy more evident than in her writings on Ireland. Martineau traveled to Ireland in 1831, a visit she followed up with a more extensive stay in 1852, when, with her customary zeal, she covered twelve-hundred miles, taking in all four provinces (Conway and Hill 47). Martineau’s first visit inspired “Ireland: A Tale” (1832), the ninth story in Illustrations of Political Economy (1832-34). Her second visit was instigated by Frederick Knight Hunt, editor of London’s Daily News, who requested eye-witness reports of Ireland’s post-famine socio-cultural recovery and economic progress, which Martineau would collate in her role as a traveling correspondent. Her findings from the 1852 visit were published in voluminous journalism, including Letters from Ireland (1852) and Endowed Schools of Ireland (1859), which formed part of her reporting for Daily News. In addition, numerous and formerly scattered pieces on Ireland, published in Daily News, Household Words, Westminster Review and elsewhere, have been collected in Harriet Martineau and the Irish Question: Condition of Post- Famine Ireland, edited by Deborah Logan.’

But as elsewhere, Harriet Martineau was forthright and fearless in her analyses of the Irish Question, and therefore attracted much criticism (as well as some) praise. This brilliant article analyses the responses of her Irish detractors: for example, ‘the proposition of removing the male prerogative of sexual desire and marriage was voiced by admirable female characters and written by an unmarried woman represented an abomination’ to Irish male critics. A must read!

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