By John Strachan, Claire Nally (auth.)

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The musical entrepreneur, having availed himself of an impressively neoclassical title for his store, both associates himself with royal patronage and boasts of his experience in the metropolis of London. As well as royal warrants and elevated patronage, also echoing through the Irish advertising freesheets are the cautions which were so common in nineteenth-century advertising copy in Great Britain. Kinahan’s of Dublin, for instance, whose whiskey ‘retailed at 18s 6d per gallon’, warned its customers in the Irish Weekly Advertiser of 27 May 1863 against – to borrow a phrase from Horace – a slavish herd of imitators: KINAHAN AND SONS, CARLISLE BUILDINGS, DUBLIN L.

In the nineteenth century, mercantile Ireland also had its own, generally more prosaic, panegyrists, the advertising copywriters, the visibility of whose efforts increased greatly from the 1850s onwards, and particularly from the year of the Dublin International. The spring of 1853, the period in which the festivities at Leinster House commenced, was a highly significant moment in the history of advertising in both Great Britain and Ireland. In the month before the opening of the Irish Exhibition, on 15 April 1853, the parliament of the UK had finally abolished the duty on press advertisements which had first been introduced in 1797 as part of William Pitt the Younger’s fiscal measures to fund the war against revolutionary France.

Instead of tempting references to the allure of ‘foreign’ goods, now the emphasis was, in the Revival, increasingly placed on the excellence of Irish products and the consumer’s national duty to purchase them. The remediation of Irishness in key parts of contemporary popular culture, such as dance and sport, is one of the defining characteristics of the Revival, and this phenomenon, we want to argue, was also evident in advertising copy. In a famous 1892 lecture which is perhaps the founding document of the Irish Revival, Douglas Hyde had called for ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’, and commercial culture, with its frequent genuflection to English products, was one place ripe for de-Anglicisation alongside language, sport and music.

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