‘Our Darkest Century’: The Irish Eighteenth Century in Memory and Modernity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village (1770) and George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer (1706) embody the textual and ideological persistence of the Irish eighteenth century in our present. These texts inhabit contemporary culture as object of memory and as model of modernity. Eavan Boland’s poetry memorialises the eighteenth as Ireland’s ‘darkest century’, re-reading The Deserted Village as a front for a hostile colonial and capitalist modernity which took accelerated and influential shape in the Irish eighteenth century. Similarly, Farquhar’s play served throughout the eighteenth century to consolidate and extend the British fiscal-military state, an ideological function highlighted in Bertolt Brecht’s adaptation Trumpets and Drums (1955). The chapter focuses on two subsequent re-imaginings, Thomas Keneally’s 1987 novel The Playmaker and Timberlake Wertenbaker’s stage adaptation Our Country’s Good (1988). Both texts use metaphors of performance and rehearsal to illuminate the play’s function in propagating a political modernity grounded in the transitory and transitional cultures of eighteenth-century Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIrish Literature in Transition, 1700–1780
EditorsMoyra Haslett
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781108689045
ISBN (Print)9781108427500
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Feb 2020


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