"During the twenty years from the early 1950s to the  publication of Ten Thousand Saints Hubert Butler amassed, by hand, every possible reference to every possible saint in the Irish corpus in Irish and Latin ... His understanding of Ireland as part of the bigger picture of prehistoric Europe is refreshing and his ability to trace the traditions of the historical Irish back to that picture is exciting." - Introduction by Alan Harrison. When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Butler's pioneering masterwork was received with scepticism by his contemporaries. He used linguistics to trace the origins of myths and saints back to pre-Celtic Ireland and Europe, and showed how these stories and names - ancestors of half-forgotten tribes - became absorbed by Christian mythology. The early Irish wove their stories, as did the Greeks, the Hebrews and all early peoples, from the migration of tribes and by wordplay with their time-battered, unstable names. Ten Thousand Saints raises fascinating problems that take us beyond the frontiers of recorded history to the remote movements of European peoples, to the clash of tribes and tongues. As modern DNA sampling and genome-mapping, seen in the regional patterning of today's Irish surnames, reinforce Butler's findings, his methods and thesis are now gaining scholarly recognition. This new edition, amplified and updated, demonstrates ingeniously coded histories - via place names, legends, hero-figures, saints and ancestors - hat relate to the wanderings and minglings of all the great tribes of Europe, extending back to Neolithic times.
The finest and most penetrating essayist this country has produced this century ... there is not a dull page in this civilized and witty book.' - The Irish Times A third volume of essays - autobiographical, polemical, political, exploratory - by the most distinctive Irish writer of the age, in the highest tradition of Swift and Shaw. Hubert Butler's remarkable consistency of vision and clarity of mind make him unique among Irish essayists in reconciling diversity of content with unity of impression. The focus of his writing is local, its force and application universal. Like Chekhov, he is an abiding humanist whose work evinces an unsurpassed moral and spiritual integrity. 'The writer for whom I feel instinctive love - not just for the work, but for the human being who thought and shaped it - is Hubert Butler. ... When the first collection of his articles and columns and lectures was published in 1985 he was 84 years old. But by the time of Butler's death in 1991, readers throughout Europe and America were asking in amazement why he had not been part of their common culture before.' - Neal Ascherson, Independent on Sunday 'A late and luscious windfall. Imagine an impossible combination of Flann O'Brien and Isaiah Berlin. Well, Butler comes close.' - Ferdinand Mount, Spectator 'A humanistic essayist in the tradition of Montaigne, Butler also belongs in the company of George Orwell and the American Dwight Macdonald: political-literary-moral critics for whom we lack a exact word. He was spared writing about everyday politics, but he discussed the tragedy of the twentieth century with exceptional clarity and depth.' - Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Times Literary Supplement
In The Land of Nod is the fourth and final volume of Hubert Butler's essays and crowns a remarkable literary odyssey. As Neal Ascherson writes: 'When the first collection appeared in 1985 he was already an old man/ His fame began to spread across his native Ireland and then across the world. By the time of his death in 1991 readers throughout Europe and America were asking in amazement why he had not been part of their common culture before.' This final offering contains some of Butler's most characteristic and revealing work. Its subjets are, variously, literature, language and religion' the politics and culture of the Balkans and Mitteleuropa; and Irish history. Essays on Henry Flood, Wolfe Tone, Pushkin, Chekhov (an unintended self-portrait). F.R. Leavis and Shaw accompany others on Fichte, Maria Pasquinelli, Himmler, Alexi Gierowsky and Martin Luther King. Butler's themes embrace nationalism versus racialism, Communism versus Christianity, the writer as independent spirit, puns and tribal ancestors in the Bible, the workings of history, the interrogation of self. His humanism and range of sympathies, his prescience, his voice, reveal him as one of the outstanding thinkers and writers of the age.
With Escape from the Anthill, his first volume of essays, Hubert Butler became universally acclaimed as one of Ireland's most enduring and distinctive writers. In this long-awaited sequel he writes with emphasis on Europe and travel in Russia, China, the Adriatic and America during the mid-century. 'His main literary legacy ... is the body of essays on a wide range of subjects, written over some sixty years for newspapers and magazines ... but not gathered into book form until 1985, when Escape from the Anthill, the first of four volumes, was published by The Lilliput Press in Dublin. For this endeavour, the world owes a great debt of gratitude to Lilliput's director, Antony Farrell, whose energy and enthusiasm spurred Butler to agree to the assembling of these wonderfully rich and stimulating collections. ... The breadth of Butler's interests and concerns is remarkable, even for a writer whose career spanned the greater part of this tumultuous century ... whether he is writing about wartime atrocities or local history, the slaughter of the Jews or Celtic hagiography, he speaks with authenticity. In this he is a member of a dying species.' - John Banville, The New York Review 'Like Milosz from Poland or Holub from Czechoslovakia, Butler is a true cosmopolitan, and his writing has something of their unruffled astringency and meditative humour.' - John Bayley, Times Literary Supplement 'These collected essays contain a unique distillation of the Anglo-Irish spirit, asidiosyncratic, mellow and stimulating as poteen matured in a brandy-cask... To me, they are all flawless gems.' - Dervla Murphy, The Irish Times 'A writer of rare elegance and grace and with an even more rare moral and intellectual courage. He was a literary artist of vivid and often exquisite prose.' - Thomas Flanagan, The Washington Post
An important study of the dynamics behind Tone's ideal, which disentangles the roots of racialism and nationalism in Ireland, and questions the causes of division between North and South. Butler contends - with precision and passion - that the way forward lies through an understanding of the past and a return to the world of small-scale and personal dimensions.
Opening Hubert Butler's book of essays is like discovering gold. He has all the essayists's gifts: a clear, strong prose, a fascination with everyday affairs and their significance sub specie aeternitatis, a readiness to generalize, the ability to digress without wondering from the point, to inform without pedantry and enlighten without condescension, to give us pleasure simply by sharing his thoughts. I have touched only on the provocative riches contained in this excellent book. It will be treasured by those who possess it.' - Hugh Bredin, Fortnight 'I soon realized I had stumbled on an Irish talent of European stature.' - Chris Agee, The Linen Hall Review 'Opening the contents page, one has an impression of disparateness; closing the book, of having discovered an ouvre ... Butler has the Anglo-Irish antennae for place; his unadorned style expresses atmosphere with extraordinary clarity.' - Roy Foster, The Times Literary Supplement 'This is not a book to borrow. It is a book to keep. It is not only intelligent, urbane and scholarly. It is most entertaining.' - Liam Robinson, New Hibernia 'Hubert Butler's great figt is his ability to comprehend the workings of the mind of Catholic Ireland.' - Ulick O'Connor, Sunday Independent