Mary Pierse

Taking and remaking the Irish audience in a fraught nineteenth century.

Taking and remaking the Irish audience in a fraught nineteenth century.

The Freeman’s Journal and the Irish Times were the broadsheets that completely dominated the daily newspaper market in Ireland in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  In both papers, the advertisements for books and literary magazines might be viewed as suggesting the implied readership perceived by publishers and booksellers. The variation in their content over a forty-year period, from 1860, must surely reveal the changing preoccupations of those readers, and the shifting and evolving practice of littérateurs in Britain and Ireland.  The chosen subject matter for the occasional review columns, entitled ‘Literature’, could be seen as reflecting more closely the outlook of the newspapers’ editors, and their particular appraisal of readers’ expectations.

However, over those years of considerable political unrest and campaign, the advertisements and book reviews cannot be considered in isolation.  At least on the printed page, they are closely aligned with strong editorials that take a given audience, and attempt on many occasions to remake it.  Influencing the readership is to be accomplished not just by the editorial voice in the leader’s column but also by the inclusion (and exclusion) of chosen snippets from British newspapers.  Moreover, it is to be reinforced by advertisement of a newspaper’s own magazines or sister publications, the fliers for which mix literature and politics on a regular and deliberate basis.

Working from the newspaper advertisements and their situation in politicised publications, this paper will seek to identify the putative contents of Irish bookshelves, investigate the nature of ‘an Irish audience’, and consider the possible reciprocal influences of book readership and the powerful Freeman’s Journal and Irish Times.

Making Books, Shaping Readers

School of English, O' Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Ireland.