Alex. Carmichael: Carmina Gadelica; David Comyn: The Boyish Exploits of Finn; the Periodical, “Folklore”; Lady Gregory: Cuchulain of Muirthemne, Gods and Fighting Men; Miss Eleanor Hull: The Cuchulain Saga in Irish Literature; Douglas Hyde: Beside the Fire, (a collection of Irish Gaelic Folk Stories), Leabhar Sgeulaicheachta, (Folk Stories in Irish); “Irish Penny Journal”; Patrick Kennedy: The Fireside Stories of Ireland, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celt; Standish Hayes O’Grady: Silva Gadelica; Wood-Martin: Traces of the Elder Faiths in Ireland, Pagan Ireland; W.Y. Wentz: The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries; Lady Wilde: Charms, Incantations, etc.; Celtic articles in Hastings’ Dictionary of Religion and Ethics.
By Charles L. Graves.
No record of the glories of Ireland would be complete without an effort, however inadequate, to analyze and illustrate her wit and humor. Often misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted, they are nevertheless universally admitted to be racial traits, and for an excellent reason. Other nations exhibit these qualities in their literature, and Ireland herself is rich in writers who have furnished food for mirth. But her special pre-eminence resides in the possession of what, to adapt a famous phrase, may be called an anima naturaliter jocosa. Irish wit and Irish humor are a national inheritance. They are inherent in the race as a whole, independent of education or culture or comfort. The best Irish sayings are the sayings of the people; the greatest Irish humorists are the nameless multitude who have never written books or found a place in national dictionaries of biography. None but an Irishman could have coined that supreme expression of contempt: “I wouldn’t be seen dead with him at a pig-fair,” or rebuked a young barrister because he did not “squandher his carcass” (i.e., gesticulate) enough. But we cannot trace the paternity of these sayings any more than we can that of the lightning retort of the man to whom one of the “quality” had given a glass of whisky. “That’s made another man of you, Patsy,” remarked the donor. “‘Deed an’ it has, sor,” Patsy flashed back, “an’ that other man would be glad of another glass.” It is enough for our purpose to note that such sayings are typically Irish and that their peculiar felicity consists in their combining both wit and humor.
To what element in the Irish nature are we to attribute this joyous and illuminating gift? No one who is not a Gaelic scholar can venture to dogmatize on this thorny subject. But, setting philology and politics aside, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Ireland has gained rather than lost in this respect by the clash of races and languages. Gaiety, we are told, is not the predominating characteristic of the Celtic temperament, nor is it reflected in the prose and verse of the “old ancient days”