The Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789) by Charlotte Brooke (1740-1793) was a groundbreaking work for a number of reasons.1 Apart from the fact that it was undertaken by a woman in a world dominated by male scholarship, it was the first substantial anthology of Irish poetry translated into English, incorporating extensive scholarly apparatus and a commentary to each of the poems. Its seventeen verse translations – poems from the mythological cycles, up to more recent folksongs – were laid out in chronological order, with the Irish-language originals printed at the end of the book in the distinctive Irish character. The inclusion of folksongs provides an early example from Ireland of the awakened interest in popular culture by the upper classes that had been taking place throughout Europe from the middle of the century.2 Drawing on Irish-language manuscript sources, Brooke sought to present authentic Gaelic texts, together with English translations, to an English-speaking public; her Reliques was therefore the first major point of intersection between oral tradition, the manuscript tradition, and print culture in Ireland.3 It was informed by important contemporary antiquarian and historical debates on issues such as Celticism, Orientalism, Gothicism, primitivism, the progress of civilization, and the nature of oral tradition. It also engaged, albeit implicitly, with the controversy sparked by James Macpherson’s so-called translations from Scottish Gaelic in Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760), Fingal (1761/2), Temora (1763), through the inclusion of a number of

genuine Irish Ossianic lays. Reliques can therefore be read as an important Irish contribution to that controversy.4