For W. B. Yeats, George Berkeley’s youthful reference to ‘We Irish’ marked the beginning of a national intellect based on a perceived distinction between Irish philosophical idealism and the materialism supposedly characteristic of the English. Upon this enigmatic remark of Berkeley’s, Yeats erected a system that offered to illuminate the national characteristics of eighteenth-century authors – most importantly, Swift, Goldsmith, and Burke – including a profound suspicion of abstract ideas. The wealth of eighteenth-century Irish writing, still in the process of recuperation, is not easily accommodated within Yeats’s scheme, however, more readily revealing diversity than similarity. Yet the fact of Irish birth, education, or employment, as much as their subject matter, did mark out writers as Irish, whether the identification was self-willed or imposed by those outside the island. The ways in which national identity manifested itself between 1700 and 1780 are explored through examples of prose, verse, and drama written or published both in Ireland and abroad. In so doing, the chapter outlines the first halting attempts, by male and female writers including John Toland, George Berkeley, Jonathan Swift, Henry Brooke, Frances Sheridan, Elizabeth Sheridan, and Edmund Burke, to create the idea of a national Irish literature in English.