Origins, Contexts, Publics
Edited By Edwina Keown and Carol Taaffe
James Matthew Wilson Late Modernism and the Marketplace in Denis Devlin’s The Heavenly Foreigner 159
James Matthew Wilson Late Modernism and the Marketplace in Denis Devlin’s The Heavenly Foreigner In January 1968, the Irish Independent ran a review of the ‘luxury’ variorum edition of Denis Devlin’s meditative poem The Heavenly Foreigner. Devlin’s literary executor, Brian Coffey, had edited the edition and it appeared nearly a decade after the poet-diplomat’s death. At the conclusion of ‘Ireland’s Eliot?’, Philip O’Sullivan caps his laudatory summary of the book and Cof- fey’s rigorous scholarly work upon it by observing, ‘The owner of a copy [of the edition] will find himself the object of envy and congratulation.’1 Earlier, O’Sullivan had observed that Devlin ‘was, and perhaps still is, better known outside Ireland than at home’, an observation that has not merely been echoed by more recent critics, but has come to constitute a central theme in assessments of Devlin’s importance in literary history.2 As pen- ance for this lack of domestic recognition, suggests the review, the variorum edition provides the Irish an opportunity to appreciate, study, but above all to purchase this belated relic of Devlin’s cosmopolitan reputation. Its potential buyers will be congratulated because, like Devlin himself, they 1 Philip O’Sullivan, ‘Ireland’s Eliot?’, Irish Independent (27 January 1968). 2 The obscurity and ‘absence of influence’ of Devlin’s cosmopolitan strain of literary modernism upon his countrymen serves as a fact to be lamented and built upon chiefly in Alex Davis’s A Broken Line: Denis Devlin and Irish Poetic Modernism (Dublin: UCD Press, 2000), but also in Terence Brown’s...
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