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By Foster Hirsch

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Extra resources for A Portrait of the Artist: The Plays of Tennessee Williams

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3 Edward Stephens, My Uncle John: Edward Stephens’s Life of J. M. Synge, ed. Andrew Carpenter (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 157. 20 Literary Antecedents of the Revival Tinker of an actual contemporary Traveller culture. The following discussion details the native and European sources of the nomad construct, while the opening of chapter two will outline the manner in which Synge’s ‘tinker play’ ultimately subverts the literary traditions from which it so knowingly draws. None of this is to suggest that Synge was necessarily intimately familiar with each and every early text referred to below, more than to posit that his reading in a wide variety of genres, periods, and languages exposed him to the broad current of European literature from which the tinker figure of Revival-era literature emerged.

Indeed, a self-styled ‘Protestant Conservative’ accused the Survey of spreading the seditious notion amongst ‘beggars and tinkers’ that they were the descendants of dispossessed gentry, thereby undermining the British plantation. 18 The hypothesis that Travellers issue from a vanquished caste that descends unbroken to this day, be it Phoenician, Fir-Bolg, or disenfranchised Gaelic gentry, has become a convention amongst those writing about the community. Sympathizers have described the minority as scions of those conquered by the Celts, while Jane Helleiner begins an analysis of anti-Traveller racism by outlining the occupations of peripatetic peoples of ancient Ireland, as does an anthropologist editor of a collection of Traveller life stories.

In light of the sudden visibility of the Irish tinker in the Victorian era, there is one extremely significant aspect to the contributions of Irish scholars to eighteenth-century debates concerning Gypsies: although the Gypsy construct they helped invent fostered the Revival Irish tinker trope, no one of them ever refers to a minority within Ireland that approximates to the European Gypsy. Despite the fact that Twiss and Pococke had considered Gypsies in their accounts of Spain and the Middle East, neither made reference to similar populations in their accounts of Ireland.

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