“Higher universal language of the heart”
This chapter focusses on the reception of the Irish Melodies within the United States, offering a fresh perspective on Moore’s American reputation in the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the collection’s influence was most deeply felt in American song, music is an especially crucial site of inquiry for this study. Music worked to produce the image of Ireland that so strongly resonated with US perspectives and values. Stevenson’s accompaniments, often maligned for an old-fashioned classicism that is unresponsive to Moore’s material, can be seen to adopt aspects of musical romanticism – a style that had gained associations with revolutionary causes around Europe. By conjuring the style of Ludwig van Beethoven’s romantic work, Stevenson and Moore constructed a product that was understood as part of a cosmopolitan, art-music practice that was popular around Europe and the New World. It also carried associations with the wave of revolutions (against perceived tyranny) that characterised the age. A study of newspaper articles dating from the first three decades of the nineteenth century reveals that the Irish Melodies collection was often perceived as an Irish nationalist product, although some journalists in the United States viewed Moore as English. Indeed, the category of “Irish” was fluid and contested during the tumultuous opening decades of the nineteenth-century United States.