Never-Before-Seen Irish Letters on Display at NYU
By Adam Farley, Editorial Assistant
October 29, 2013
In 1757, in the middle of the Seven Years’ War, an Irish wine ship en route from Bordeaux to Dublin was captured by the British Navy. In 2011, the mailbag from the Dublin-based ship, the Seven Sisters, was discovered in the British National Archives by New York University professor Tom Truxes. The majority of the letters had never been opened. Now, the 125 letters are the subject of an exhibition at the Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery in NYU’s Bobst Library that places the letters in the historical context of the first truly global war and explicates the role of the Irish diaspora in 18th Century Europe and America. “The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters, 1757: The Voice of an Irish Community Abroad” will run through April 1st, 2014.
The letters offer fascinating insight into the little-known Irish community living in the French wine country and convey the importance of such Irish nodes on the European continent more generally. Ranging from love letters and gossip-filled correspondence to students asking for money and tales of hardship in French jails, the never-before-seen letters “reinforce a common humanity across time,” Professor Truxes notes. “The people we see in these letters are no different from people we know today . . . so once you get beyond the handwriting, 250 years just melts away.” Truxes is a clinical associate professor of Irish studies and history at Glucksman Ireland House and was in London researching international trade in colonial America when he discovered the long-lost mailbag.
The hitherto undiscovered letters are also being published by Oxford University Press and the British Academy with translations of the 25 that were written in French, and were the focus point for a recent conference hosted by Glucksman Ireland House, NYU’s center for Irish and Irish American studies. The book, The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters, 1757: Correspondence of an Irish Community Abroad, is edited by Louis Cullen, John Shovlin, and Thomas Truxes and will be released in the U.S. on January 1st, 2014, but you can view the table of contents here.
The exhibition is open to the public from 9:00am to 6:00pm daily on the ground floor of Bobst Library at 70 Washington Square South. A photo ID is required to enter the Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery.