Declarations of Intent
'I am trying to say that quickness is a great virtue… I enclose some more poems and hope you will be able to get rid of them for me. Every little helps and we want to get in as much money as possible; for the initial expenses, advertising, etcs. are very heavy...it's going to be a fine magazine, its “make up” at least will be better than any other magazine at whatever price and our job is to see that its contents are up to its apparel [sic]…' (James Stephens to Constantine P. Curran, February 8th 1911)
In a letter to Constantine P. Curran in February 1911, James Stephens trades some of his poems in the attempt to collect additional funding for the soon-to-published Irish Review. The Review would start publication a month later with the editorial supervision of Stephens, Thomas MacDonagh, Padraic Colum, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Mary Colum, and David Houston, the latter being the proprietor of the magazine Irish Gardening and the main financial backer for the Review project. In a document issued by the Irish Review Publishing Company containing a declaration of intent, the editors set themselves high standards to emulate, announcing that the Review ‘will be for Ireland what such periodicals as “The Quarterly Review,” “The Edinburgh Review,” “Le Mercure de France,” have been for neighbouring countries’ ("The Irish Review," 1). The Quarterly Review and the Edinburgh Review were two of the most influential (and rival) literary quarterlies of the nineteenth century, associated respectively with Tory and Whig politics. Both the theatres of famous literary disputes between Romantic poets such as John Keats and Robert Southey and both publishing leading Victorian essayist such as W.M. Thackeray, Matthew Arnold and Thomas Carlyle, the Quarterly and the Edinburgh both included extended review articles on literary, historical, social and political topics in a similar format and layout (e.g. both periodicals numbered the essays in each issue). Likewise, Le Mercure de France was one of the oldest and most prestigious French literary magazines. Though aspiring to the fame and influence of such predecessors, the Irish Review project was perhaps more akin to the Modernist little magazines, particularly for its emphasis on publishing several genres of literature and for its outspokenness about its position on Irish cultural and political matters.
Indeed, the Review also publicized Modernist periodicals such as Open Window and reviewed poetry published in other little magazines such as Poetry (IR May 1913), Poetry and Drama (IR Apr. 1913, Jan., May 1914), The Poetry Review (IR Aug. 1912) or The Egoist (IR ‘Futurist Poetry’, Sept./Nov. 1914). On a practical level according to Johann Norstedt, in the early-twentieth-century Irish periodical marketplace the Review actually filled a gap left by the New Ireland Review, which had ceased publication in February 1911 (96), taking leave of its readers in this way: ‘with the advent of better times, and the wider spread of educated thought […] we observe with satisfaction, that the bettered conditions are stimulating new enthusiasms and encouraging new and bolder enterprises’ (New Ireland Review Feb. 1911). The Irish Review certainly was one of these ‘new and bold’ ventures, announcing the intention of publishing Irish authors writing on ‘subjects of Irish interest’, and claiming a g-local synergy by being ‘produced and published in Ireland’ but ‘distributed widely over the English-speaking countries and on the Continent… [with] agencies in Paris, Berlin, New York and other cities’ (EPH C176, 1). A bolder assertion, however, came after the Review’s declaration of allegiance with ‘the cause of Irish nationality’—with its editors claiming that the magazine ‘will compete with no existing periodical [and…] will publish in its literary pages nothing of merely ephemeral interest’ ("The Irish Review", 1). Even if short-lived (1911-1914), to an extent the Irish Review stayed true to its initial intention of going beyond the ‘ephemeral interest’, becoming an important forum for intellectuals, writers, artists and political activists of the Revival period. The Review published, for example, part of Thomas MacDonagh’s literary criticism which would subsequently be included in Literature in Ireland; P.H. Pearse wrote for the Review a seminal article on education which would later be included in his pamphlet The Murder Machine.