nti-Irish prejudice was fueled, in part, by a heightened sense of the many differences in character and moral stature which, it was argued, separated the Anglo-Saxon from the Celt. If Englishmen developed and held stereotypes of the typical Celt, so they did of the "pure" Anglo-Saxon. England was not immune from the spirit of aggressive nationalism that swept Europe in the nineteenth century, and Victorian historians and popular novelists, such as Sir Walter Scott, poets, and painters gloried in her heroic Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic past. Among the popular works which stimulated awareness of race and racial characteristics or a collective racial past were Scott's Ivanhoe, with its emphasis on "my race" and "thy race," Edwin Bulwer Lytton's Harold. The Last of the Saxon Kings, Charles Kingsley's The Roman and the Teuton, and John Keble's The Saxons in England.
Probably even more influential was the work of the historians, Edward Freeman, Regius Professor at Oxford, and J. R. Green. In his A Short History of the English People (1874), for example, Green traced England's basic freedoms to the Anglo-Saxon "free-necked man" living in the free, forest tracks of the mark. The popular journal, the Saturday Review, helped to disseminate this love of things medieval and "Teutonic."
The emphasis of these writers upon the political genius and the glories of Anglo-Saxon England combined with growing racial awareness in the post-Darwinian era of the New Imperialism to create a heightened sensitivity to racial differences and a social and intellectual atmosphere in which racial generalizations could flourish. Among the many Anglo-Saxon virtues manliness and pragmatism were stressed. By contrast, it was held , other, "inferior" races, Latins and Celts, for example, were feminine and impractical. Thus even Matthew Arnold, who opposed his father's (Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby school) anti-Celtic sentiments, could deliver a series of Oxford lectures, "On the Study of Celtic Literature" (1865-66, in which he argued for the importance of Celtic literature), which stressed the Celt's "sentimentality" which "lamed him in the world of business and politics." Thus the anti-Irish sentiments of the day were based, in part, on intense pride in Anglo-Saxon history and equally intense feelings of superiority. These, in turn, reinforced the English belief in their fitness to rule over the Irish.
Last modified 25 August 2003