Carleton Summer School 2-5 August

“I endeavour to paint Ireland sometimes as she was but always as she is, in order that she may see many of those debasing circumstances which prevent her from being what she ought to be.”

– William Carleton in the preface to his novel The Tithe Proctor

The above quote, casually gleaned from an excellent article on Trash Face suggests why William Carleton is considered both a pioneer and figure of controversy of Irish literature in equal measure.

Born in 1794 in the Clogher area of Tyrone, the youngest of a family of 14, Carleton’s background was a simple one. He grew up on various small farm holdings and was educated in hedge schools, harbouring ambitions to enter the Catholic Church.

However an ill-fated pilgrimage to Lough Derg led a young Carleton, aged 19 to abandon any previous notion he had of entering the church. In fact he would later leave the Catholic church and become a Protestant.

Absorbing what knowledge he could muster from a stop-start education in rural Ireland, it was the classic novel Gil Blas, which finally inspired him to write. But it was not until his thirties that he would walk virtually penniless to Dublin and find his lucky break. Carleton’s stories, very much focused around the Ireland he grew up within, would find an audience in Dublin. ‘The Pilgrimage to Lough Derg’ would be his first published story.

However, throughout his life, his stories and politics would alienate him from the sympathies of the very Ireland he would so often write of. His fiction was often unsparing in its criticism and occasional exaggeration of the darker side of Irish character. As he asserted himself, he was the –

“Historian of their habits and manners, their feelings, their prejudices, their superstitions and their crimes.”

(Preface to Tales of Ireland)

The fact that he was reputed to have written to then Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel urging him against Catholic Emancipation, and associated with Caesar Orway, who W. B. Yeats described as an “anti-papal controversialist”, only further served to distance himself from his origins.

If this criminally brief summary of Carleton’s life has aroused any interest then perhaps the William Carleton Summer School 2010 might be worth looking in to. The annual ‘summer school’, held in Corick House, Clogher, in county Tyrone  every summer, began in 1992. It has attracted a vast range of academics and experts among Irish literature and culture who gather to explore the complexities of Carleton’s life and body of work. Take a look at page 19 of this year’s accompanying booklet for an idea of variety of names who have graced the summer school over the past 18 years.

The ‘school’ takes place between August 2-5, a timetable of events can be found here, including a concert by talented young Irish traditional group Cinnte. The group has featured on BBC’s Blas Ceoil, RTE’s All Ireland Talent show and BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Awards 2010.

William Carleton’s body of works can be digitally accessed through the immense Project Gutenburg.

About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

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