- Feb 2018
‘My Dear Dr. Sigerson’ (iv)
The Dr. Sigerson in question is George Sigerson (1836-1925), a physician and an eminent translator of Gaelic poetry. When the Gaelic League was founded in 1893, Hyde was elected as its present, and so absented his role as president of the National Literary Society. Sigerson succeeded him, and was the society’s incumbent present when Love Songs of Connacht was published.
A direct address to the National Literary Society was famously performed by Hyde in 1892. The central idea of his speech titled ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ was that there was an indissoluble link between a nation’s language and its culture, and that it was a sign of cultural weakness to mimic English ways and habits of thought.
The beginning of Love Songs of Connacht reminds us of the ideological backdrop from which the book emerges. For in-depth accounts of the development of the idea that language and nationhood are inextricably linked, see Diarmuid Ó Giolláin’s Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity (2000), and Joep Leerssen’s National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History (2006). You can read the text of Hyde’s 1892 speech to the National Literary Society at http://historymuse.net/readings/HYDENecessityforDeAnglicizingIreland1892.html