As the nineteenth century progressed, England expanded its empire over much of the globe; indeed, it was said, "the sun never set" upon it. In spite of rebellions all over its empire, no subject nation seemed to make the English as uneasy as did the Irish. Perhaps it was because of the close proximity of the Irish to England, and its Catholicism, but in the popular art of the period, the Irish leader Charles Parnell was depicted variously as Frankenstein's creature and as a vampire bat. If the Irish were both family (albeit naughty members, as in one Punch cartoon in which the monstrous child Ireland cavorts in the lap of Britannia) and outsiders, it is perhaps no wonder that J. Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker, both Irishmen, both penned vampire tales: Le Fanu Camilla, and Stoker Dracula.


An Arabian Tale, from an unpublished Manuscript: with Notes critical and explanatory. London: J. Johnson, 1786. Half-title: The History of the Caliph Vathek. By William Beckford. First edition. The Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Novels. The first Vathek in any language. William Beckford originally wrote this tale in French, but it was published in England without his knowledge or permission by his translator, Samuel Henry. The French original was not published until 1787. Ostensibly a philosophical novel, it features a half-European caliph, orgies, harems, a thinly disguised incestuous relationship with his mother, and great violence. Present in the book is the English fascination with, and repulsion by, the culture and customs of the East.

Vathek: With the Episodes of Vathek. By William Beckford. Edited with introduction and notes by Guy Chapman. Cambridge: University Press, 1929. The Special Collections Department. This edition is limited to 1000 copies. The reprintings of Vathek over the years has proven Victorian author Harriet Martineau's summation: "Vathek remains."

Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Engravings on wood by Lynd Ward. New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934. The Special Collections Department. These engravings, made in 1934, demonstrate the lasting hold Frankenstein's creature has on the human imagination. As one can see from the Punch cartoon, this relationship is a complicated one. The creature and his violence, like that of the Irish revolutionary, Parnell, is depicted as being partly to blame, while the hubris of Frankenstein is largely responsible for the tragedy, as England and her imperialistic policy is in the cartoon.

Punch. Volume 58. March 19, 1870. "The Irish 'Tempest.'" The artist, Sir John Tenniel, has chosen to portray the Irish Fenians as the monstrous Caliban from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Ireland herself is here the lovely lady Hibernia, protected by British prime minister William Gladstone, here as Shakespeare's magician Prospero. The Irish Land Bill is here Prospero's magic staff, in contention here with Caliban for his claim to the land of Ireland.

Punch. Volume 88. May 20, 1882. "The Irish 'Frankenstein.'" England regarded the countries it colonized with a strange mixture of affection, fascination, and repulsion, often depicting the rebellious colonies as naughty children. The Sir John Tenniel illustration here portrays the Irish revolutionary Charles Parnell as a Frankenstein's monster; implicit in the cartoon is a criticism of England which, like Victor Frankenstein, is at least partly to blame for its hubristic aspirations.

Punch. Volume 8. 1848. "The Greedy Boy Who Cried for the Moon." The Irish famine of 1845-1848 led to increased political activity on the part of the Irish. Daniel O'Connell's movement for the dissolution of the English-Irish union resulted from the famine. The disunion would have reinstated the Irish legislature, which had been voted out of existence in 1800. This cartoon is a response to the political uprising in Ireland which resulted from the Irish Famine of 1845-1848. Again we see the notion of the Irish as monstrous children: the overgrown Irish baby, here, squalls in the lap of calmly composed Britannia, the child reaching for the moon it would never reach, (and for which the artist evidently believes it has no need) the repeal of the English-Irish union.


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