The Loeber Collection of Irish Fiction, acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2003, is the foundation of the Irish Fiction Collection. As suggested by the major bibliography, A Guide to Irish Fiction 1650-1900 by Rolf Loeber and Magda Loeber, the Loeber Collection began with the premise that fiction, regardless of its status in relation to the literary canon, is important for a variety of reasons.
As Seamus Deane observes, ‘fiction – quite as much as history, propaganda, or religious works – was a form of knowledge or, at the very least, a mode of writing that moulds attitudes towards knowledge’ (Loeber, xvii).
Since the Loeber Collection arrived, over two thousand editions have been added to the Irish Fiction Collection, including children’s fiction, detective novels, ‘Troubles Fiction’ of Northern Ireland, and romances. Novels from the nineteenth century and earlier are still sought and added.
Even where a text is available in multiple formats, such as scholarly edited texts of Maria Edgeworth or Sidney Owenson, early editions in their original printing and binding have many stories to tell us of the readership and of the value and popularity of individual novels.
Among the early examples of ‘Irish Gothic’ are Regina Maria Roche’s novels. The Children of the Abbey, first published in 1796, is her best-known novel today. It is referred to in Jane Austen’s Emma, an indication of its popularity. One of the most frequently reprinted novels of the nineteenth century (Loeber 1136), the Hesburgh collection holds many editions including illustrated editions and multi-volume editions. Shown here are two late nineteenth-century American editions, possibly abridged, both with illustrations by Philadelphia illustrator F. O. C. Darley.
The above cover shows The Girls of Kings Royal, a novel by one of the earliest and most prolific writers of stories for girls. L. T. Meade, or Elizabeth (Lillie) Thomasina Toulmin Smith, was born in County Cork in 1844 and spend most of her adult life in England. Besides stories of schoolgirls, she wrote fiction for adults, including crime novels featuring a female detective. With almost two hundred titles by L. T. Meade in the Hesburgh Irish Fiction Collection, possibly the largest L. T. Meade collection besides that at Cornell, it is probably only about two-thirds of her output.
The British edition shown here has gilt-edged pages and eight coloured illustrations by Gordon Browne. The collection includes also an American edition published by Hurst of New York also in 1913, and illustrated by Charles I. Wrenn.
Gerald Griffin’s The Collegians, a novel based on a murder that occurred in Limerick, was first published in 1829, and was popular throughout the nineteenth century, with many editions published. The story also inspired a play by Dion Boucicault. Editions in the Irish Fiction Collection span a century, from the first edition to the Talbot Press editions of 1919 and 1934 which have an introduction by Pádraic Colum.
Shown here is the Warne’s Library of Fiction edition copy which contains lists of novels from Warne’s various series in the inside covers. The back cover advertises Norton’s Camomile Pills, for ‘all who suffer from indigestion, sick headache, bilious and liver complaints, hearturn, and acidity of the stomach, depressed spirits, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, dispepsia, spasms, general debility, costiveness, &c.’
Katharine Tynan (1859-1931) wrote over one hundred novels along with poetry, memoirs, and articles of various kinds. She was involved in Irish literary society and was encouraged in her writing by W. B. Yeats, among others. Hesburgh Special Collections holds at least fifty titles by Tynan.
The Loeber Collection includes a first edition of The Dear Irish Girl, published in London by Smith and Elder in 1899, but the cover shown here is from the 1899 edition published in Chicago by A. C. McClurg. This copy came to us with the library of Captain Francis O’Neill, who gave his library to the University in 1931.
Thanks to the acquisition of the Loeber Collection and the continued work in building the Irish Fiction Collection, scholars of Irish Studies may find a large body of fiction from any time and in all genres, from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries.
This year’s American Conference for Irish Studies, or ACIS 2018, was held in the beautiful campus of University College Cork (UCC), in the south of Ireland. The biggest annual conference on Irish studies, it includes many disciplines, and over one hundred panels were convened during the five days in addition to plenary lectures, book launches and, importantly, regular breaks where colleagues could meet and discuss common interests.
An ‘ad hoc group’ of librarians and archivists has been active in ACIS for some years now, carving out a niche within the conference to come together and learn from one another. Presentations at the five library and archives events were stimulating, informative and well attended, and participants have returned to their libraries inspired and invigorated.
We learned about specific collections and books, and about exciting and innovative projects. We share a mission to collect and preserve our collections, and we also strive to make our collections visible and accessible. In fact, the Hesburgh Libraries’ mission, to connect people to knowledge across time and space, implies the collection and preservation of that knowledge and emphasizes the connecting element, which was a recurrent theme in this conference.
As the conference was in Ireland, American librarians and scholars had an opportunity to learn about exciting projects at the National Library of Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast, Dúchas and the National Folklore Collection, and the Irish Traditional Music Archive. We also learned from one another of interesting collections, both historic and newly-developed, and of interesting ways to make specific collections available digitally. An unexpected pleasure was a special visit offered by the Boole Library at UCC.
Some of the highlights are mentioned here, with links for further exploration.
Sharing and Making Collections and Data Accessible
RASCAL is a database of descriptions of collections relevant for the study of Ireland, held at libraries, archives and museums. Louisa Costello of Queens University Belfast described this project and the latest developments which include both a new-look website and an improved data entry form that will make it easier for librarians to submit information on collections. Currently, only one of Notre Dame’s Irish collections, the O’Neill Collection, has been entered in the RASCAL database, and so news of the new data submission form was very encouraging, and we expect that the database will be much improved in coming months by data entered by librarians at U.S. institutions.
Immediate examples of RASCAL’s utility could be seen throughout the conference. Ciara Ryan, pursuing her Ph.D. at UCC, has been working with a fascinating manuscript collection of an Irish-speaker and storyteller who worked as a miner in Montana. She demonstrated some of this collection from the Butte-Silver Bow Archives at the Digital Projects Showcase. The RASCAL database could provide a way for researchers to learn of this unexpected collection in a Montana archives.
Other collections were described during the conference and as RASCAL was explained, we were all considering how these could be included in the RASCAL database for increased visibility. These include the various collections at the Ward Irish Music Archives in Milwaukee, the collections at ITMA, the Dion Boucicault Collection which is being digitized at the University of South Florida and the P. S. O’Hegarty Collection at the University of Kansas. Researchers might consider searching the Irish Traditional Music Archive to find sources on Irish music and related culture, but it is unlikely that a scholar would stumble on the rich collection of P.S. O’Hegarty in Kansas without some guidance.
Discussion of Collections
The conference provided a forum for many descriptions of collections and even of single items. These were attended both by librarians, who are generally interested in all collections, and by scholars who wished to learn more about specific collections. Presentations on collections discussed issues of organization and digitization in ways that made the discussion accessible and relevant to scholars, librarians and archivists alike.
In all, three speakers addressed the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin, and Fiontar, the digital humanities and Irish language group at Dublin City University that has developed websites on placenames, terminology and biography, and also the digitized folklore collection, Dúchas, or duchas.ie.
The National Folklore Collection, is recognized by UNESCO for its “outstanding universal value to culture”. Fiontar initially digitized the Schools Folklore Collection, and more recently the Photographic Collection has been added.
The Schools Folklore Collection was carried out in 1937-39 by the Irish Folklore Commission, the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organization. Children in primary schools all over the 26 counties of the Irish Free State were asked to collect folklore, often interviewing their parents, grandparents or neighbors.
A remarkable collection was amassed in this way, hundreds of thousands of pages, from more than fifty thousand school pupils. This has now been digitized on Duchas.ie, and the riches of the collection are already apparent. The collection can now be searched by place, name and topic, and the revision of the classification system to enable better searching in the digital collection made for a fascinating talk by Jonny Dillon.
To enable full-text searching, for which the handwritten pages need to be transcribed, Dúchas.ie initiated a Meitheal, the Irish equivalent of the American barn raising or gathering of neighbors to share in the work. Volunteers of the Meitheal have transcribed many of the pages, and at this point, 24% of the 95,511 Irish language pages are transcribed, and 31% of the 348,812 English language pages are completed.
The page shown here is exemplary of one of the very understandable demands made of this collection: “Can I see the pages contributed by my family members?” This page on folk cures, including the use of fried frogs for toothache, is by Richard Forrestal of Convent View, Tullamore. Richard, my father’s cousin, is now in his nineties and living in Long Island, New York. Thanks to the initial data entry of names, places and titles, such pages can easily be found in the database. And some of this data entry was carried out by student interns from Notre Dame.
In contrast to the large collections of the National Folklore Collection, an engaging presentation by Crónán Ó Doibhlin of UCC’s Boole Library described one book, Leabhar Mór na hÉireann, The Great Book of Ireland, a spectacular artistic creation composed of art and manuscript poems and music by Ireland’s leading artists, poets and composers. Another single-book discussion was the round table discussion devoted to the production of The Atlas of the Irish Revolution, in which the tools of digital humanities were used to great effect.
In addition to traditional panel presentations, this conference offered a Digital Projects Showcase in which presenters demonstrated their projects as attendees moved around the showcase area. This new “showcase” format, organized by Kathleen Williams of Boston College, worked very well and we hope to replicate and develop it at future conferences. It allowed those interested mainly in music, for example, to stop at the tables of Beth Sweeney who demonstrated Boston College’s digitized collection of musician Séamus Connolly, and Jeff Ksiazek, archivist at the Ward Irish Music Archives.
The Boston Pilot has been used by Boston College to extract data from many of its advertisements asking for information on Irish immigrants. These advertisements, common in the nineteenth century, frequently provided information on the sought-for person’s native county and the date and place of their arrival in America. Kathleen Williams of Boston College discussed the migration of the data from the original newspaper ads to eight printed volumes (Ruth-Ann Mellish Harris and Donald M. Jacobs, The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989), to an online database, and finally, to a dataset in Dataverse. Segments of the Pilot and Boston Pilot have been digitized by Boston College. An article titled “The Boston Pilot in the 1840’s” is available online from Boston College Libraries.
Using digital technology to improve access to documents that are already available online, ‘born digital’ was described by Emilie Pine in an account of a database created to make a lengthy and dense report accessible and meaningful for readers and researchers. Industrial Memories offers a way to search and analyze the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009), known as the Ryan Report. The Ryan Report is a hefty five-volume document detailing the investigation into abuse of children in institutions in the Irish Republic from 1936 on. The Industrial Memories Project makes it possible to search the report and the project has also used digital tools to interrogate the report to find hidden patterns in the text. These are demonstrated on the Industrial Memories website.
A digitization project that is in process, described to us by Deirdre Wildy of Queens University Belfast, is the important Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. This is exciting news for all in Irish studies, and it appears that the “women’s anthology”, or volumes 4 and 5 will be available from JSTOR before too long.
New Formats – New Collections
Joanna Finegan described the National Library of Ireland’s selective web archiving, and her data on the speed at which political web content disappears following an election made people sit up and realize the importance of the NLI’s project. Our collections here at Notre Dame include many political pamphlets printed around the time of the 1798 Rising; we have a good collection of Northern Ireland pamphlets and ephemera that helps students understand the political messages and propaganda of the time. But for recent referenda and elections, archived web pages will be invaluable for future historians.
From the National Library also, Elizabeth Kirwan described the development of the Irish Queer Archive, the most comprehensive collection of material in Ireland relating to homosexuality, LGBT literature and general Queer studies.
The presentation of Grace Toland, Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, also addressed the original formats of materials, and ways to both preserve and make accessible, recorded music performances. ITMA is exemplary of the new model of archive where sharing the archival resources is a major priority, and ITMA is also working to develop new and better ways to use digital methods to represent its collection.
The ACIS Conference
There was much information gathered at the conference that we would love to share more broadly. For anyone interested in learning more, a list of the libraries and archives panels mentioned above is appended below, followed by a list of links to the various collections and projects mentioned.
Libraries, Archives and Digital Projects at ACIS 2018
The Environments of Libraries and Archives in Irish Studies 1: Issues in DigitiSation
Monday 18 June, 4 p.m. Chair: Aedín Clements
Joanna Finnegan, The National Library of Ireland’s Web Archive: Resources for the Study of Ireland Online
Anna Bale and Conchúr Mag Eacháin, The Dúchas Project and the Digitization of the National Folklore Collection
Grace Toland, The Irish Traditional Music Archive
Matthew Knight and Elizabeth Ricketts, Shifting Environments in the Archives: Creating an Online Dion Boucicault Collection at the University of South Florida
Libraries and Archives
Tuesday 19 June, 2 p.m. Chair: Christian Dupont
Conor Carville, Poetry, Crisis and the Arts Institution in Northern Ireland 1971-1972
Emilie Pine, Swipe Right: Gender, Commemoration, the Decade of Centenaries, and the Politics of Digital Spaces
Elspeth Healey, Collecting Ireland: Politics, Literature, and Bibliography in the Library of P. S. O’Hegarty
The Environments of Libraries and Archives in Irish Studies 2: Special Collections and Archives in the New Environment
Tuesday 19 June, 4 p.m.
Chair: Aedín Clements
Crónán Ó Doibhlin, The Great Book of Ireland – Leabhar Mór na hÉireann
Christian Dupont, The Environments of Libraries and Archives in Irish Studies
Deirdre Wildy and Louisa Costello, Special Collections at Queens University Belfast
Jonny Dillon, Preserving Tradition into the Future: The National Folklore Collection in a Transitional Phase
Twentieth-Century Irish Literary Archives
Wednesday 20 June, 9 a.m.
Chair: Paige Reynolds
Round Table participants: Ken Bergin, Elizabeth Kirwan, Aedín Clements, Adam Hanna, Florence Impens, and Ruud van den Beuken
John Waters (New York University), Spatializing Subscription Lists and Topographical Poems
Jeff Ksiazek (WIMA), The Ward Irish Music Archives
Ciara Ryan (UCC), The Family Papers of Seán “Irish” O’Sullivan, Butte-Silver Bow (BSB) Archives, Butte, Montana
Kathleen Williams (Boston College), Information Wanted: A Database of Advertisements for Irish Immigrants in the Boston Pilot Newspaper: A New Version of the Data, Available on the Boston College Dataverse Site
Elizabeth Sweeney (Boston College), The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music
The Irish-American periodicals in Special Collections give rise to many questions:
Who produced these publications? What demand were they satisfying? Who were the readers? What aims did the editors and publishers have? How did these publications fit into the larger periodical literature of their time?
Surprisingly little has been written about these Irish-American publications. A deep exploration of Hesburgh Library’s Irish-American periodical collection would be rewarding for many reasons, including an increased understanding of networks of Irish in America, of the emerging culture of Irish-Americans, and of the ways in which Irish-Americans connected with Ireland.
Our ‘Spotlight’ exhibit currently displays five publications selected from over a dozen titles held by the Library to demonstrate the range and types of these periodicals.
O’Neill’s Irish Pictorial began its existence as the Irish Miscellany, launched in February 1858 by Jackson, Foynes and Company of Boston. According to the prospectus which was printed in the early issues, the magazine is “dedicated to the diffusion of a more intimate knowledge of the literary and political history of Ireland, and to the mental, moral and political elevation of the Celtic race on the continent.”
Within months, the magazine was listed under a different printer’s name, and by July, it credited Thomas O’Neill as publisher. The transfer was unpleasant, to say the least, and the editorial for May 8, 1858 includes allegations of mismanagement and foul play by the former owners. According to this editorial, the way the paper managed initially was unsustainable.
The following year it was renamed O’Neill’s Irish Pictorial, and it is this volume of issues from 1859 that Special Collections holds. It was subsequently named The Irish Pictorial and Irish Illustrated Weekly. In all, the magazine lasted from 1858 to 1861.
The illustration of Irish poverty displayed in this issue is a recurring theme in American publications, sometimes accompanied by an exhortation to provide aid to Ireland. An example found in an issue of McGee’s Illustrated Weekly calls on Irish-Americans to forego the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day as long as Irish people are starving.
A common theme in these magazines is also that of encouraging Irish immigrants to travel west rather than remain in the cities, and in fact McGee’s Illustrated Weekly maintains a sustained argument for traveling to the midwestern states. The issue in our display includes a picture of a flier advertising Bishop Ireland’s Irish-American Colonisation Company’s scheme to assist Irish to settle in Minnesota.
McGee’s Illustrated Weekly was a Catholic weekly that included stories and news of Ireland, and appears to have been directed largely towards an Irish readership. For some time it was edited by Maurice Francis Egan, later a professor of literature here at the University of Notre Dame.
The Irish Freeman describes McGee’s as follows:
McGee’s Weekly is the Catholic illustrated paper in bodily presence and mechanical form, like Harper’s Weekly, but in essence and spirit as opposite as it is possible to imagine. It is chaste, choice and chatty; interesting, independent, ingenious; pithy, pointed and pungent. Its illustrations are beautifully engraved and surprisingly various. It whacks small abuses in social and religious customs with the neatness of a black-thorn wielder, and the taste and delicacy of a French dancing master. No Catholic family that can afford it should be without the lively, literary, lightsome publication of McGee.
In 1880, McGee’s published a series of illustrations and commentary on “The Distress in Ireland.” McGee’s also reported on the funeral of Daniel O’Connell and on Irish political and social affairs. Additionally, small snippets to be found in the Personal Column include items such as the following:
Miss Cusack, the Nun of Kenmare, is at present engaged on a history of Irish literature . . . the proceeds to be devoted to the foundation and endowment of a home and school combined, where girls could spend some time, from a few weeks to a year, and learn plain sewing, cutting out, plain washing and cooking, housework, etc., and in some cases even fancy work and a few of the higher branches of education, sufficient to fit them for governesses.
Among the other periodicals displayed is An Gaodhal (The Gael) a magazine founded in New York in 1881 by Michael Logan (Mícheál Ó Lócháin), an Irish-speaker who emigrated in 1871. Logan was principal of a Brooklyn school and led an effort to promote the Irish language, teaching language classes in New York. The issue on display is edited by Geraldine Haverty, who became editor after Logan’s death.
Special Collections’ holdings of An Gaodhal was part of the gift received from Francis O’Neill, the Chicago police chief remembered for his collections of Irish dance music. His volumes of An Gaodhal are bound with extra pages inserted for a hand-written contents list.
A number of our periodicals were acquired from Rolf and Magda Loeber in a large collection of Irish periodicals of the nineteenth century. Special Collections holds at least a dozen titles, with runs varying from two issues to many years.
Also on display through the end of April:
From Distant Waters: Whaling Manuscripts in Special Collections
On display are three whaling manuscripts dating from the golden age of the American whaling industry in the first half of the nineteenth century. These include two ship’s logbooks, from the whaling vessels Meridian and Corvo, and a letter written aboard the whaler Columbus.
The main exhibit this spring is In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru. This exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.
The spotlight exhibits during early April are From Distant Waters: Whaling Manuscripts in Special Collections and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, both curated by George Rugg. The baseball exhibit will end mid-month, with the exhibit Chaste, Choice and Chatty: Irish-American Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century, curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, opening for the second half of the month and continuing through the summer.
This lithograph was printed in Philadelphia at a time when the general impression of Irish immigrants was that of an impoverished people, unfavorably viewed by native-born Americans. Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1830s and 1840s was becoming dominated by poor, unskilled rural Catholics, and in the decades following the Great Famine, American cities were inundated by waves of impoverished Irish peasants.
“St. Patrick’s Day in America. Commemorative of Ireland’s unswerving fidelity to her ancient religion and the devotion of her exiled children to the sacred principles of her freedom and redemption as a nation.” Washington: John Reid, 1872. Lithograph by Hunter and Duval. [i]
Hence, according to historian Kerby Miller, all Irish immigrants were viewed negatively, including those who arrived with education, skills, or capital. He states that “in the eyes of native-born Protestants, middle-class Irish Catholic immigrants were by religion and association not ‘good Americans’, but in the opinion of many of their own transplanted countrymen, they were not ‘good Irishmen’ either.” [ii]
Considering this attitude to Irish immigrants, then, the lithograph doubles as an effective piece of propaganda and a heartwarming picture of family life. The mother and children are respectably dressed, and the sewing machine suggests an industrious household. Symbols of Ireland include the statue of St. Patrick while the portrait on the wall, of an American soldier, suggests a relative, perhaps even the absent father, fought in the American Civil War.
The mother is pinning a shamrock on the boy’s lapel. The shamrock, emblematic of St. Patrick, is a popular symbol of Irish identity. The family is clearly preparing to take part in the celebration of their Irish identity, while at the same time the image proclaims American middle-class orderliness and industry.
To read about St. Patrick’s Day, see the following books in the Hesburgh Library:
Cronin, Mike and Daryl Adair. The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. Routledge, 2002. Hesburgh Library GT 4995 .P3 C76 2002
Skinner, Jonathan and Dominic Bryan (eds.) Consuming St. Patrick’s Day. Cambridge Scholars, 2015.
Hesburgh Library GT 4995 .Pe S556 2015
Fogarty, William L. The Days We’ve Celebrated. St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. Printcraft Press, 1980. GT 4995 .P3 F63.
Dupey, Ana María (ed.) San Patricio en Buenos Aires: Celebracionse y rituales en su dimensión narrativa. Buenos Aires: Editorial Dunken, 2006. GT 4995 .P3 S25 2006.
[i] To learn more about the lithographers of Philadelphia, see Erika Piola (ed.) Philadelphia on Stone: Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia 1828-1878, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012.
[ii] Kerby A. Miller. Ireland and Irish America: Culture, Class, and Transatlantic Migration. Dublin: Field Day, 2008, p. 260.
Ronald Wells, emeritus professor at Calvin College, Michigan, is author of a number of books and articles on peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. In the course of over two decades of research, he gathered together a collection of material on the work of groups, particularly religious groups, working towards peace and reconciliation. Many of the materials are ephemeral—newsletters and communications on the activities of those groups—and the collection is a valuable source for understanding the work of those groups, the environment in which they worked, and the obstacles they faced.
In 2017, Dr. Wells donated his research materials to the Hesburgh Libraries. The collection is arranged mainly according to organization and accompanied by Dr. Wells’ notes on each group, and it extends to five boxes of papers, mainly print ephemera, and a number of pamphlets and books.
The materials on the Clonard-Fitzroy Fellowship, one of the groups represented, provide insight into the relationship between a Catholic monastery and a Presbyterian congregation, which came about because of the friendship between the Rev. Dr. Ken Newell of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church and Fr. Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery. Included are sermon texts, press releases, programs, newsletters, letters, and newspaper clippings.
The Wells Collection includes also materials from The Gospel in Conflict Program of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, The Hard Gospel Project of the Church of Ireland, the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation, Healing Through Remembering, the Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI), and The Consultative Group on the Past.
The print materials of these groups provide a documentary glimpse into their work and the issues they faced. The well-produced publications of the Healing Through Remembering project trace the ideas and work of this organization from the initial event that led to its founding, the 1999 visit to Northern Ireland of Dr. Alex Boraine, Deputy Chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
Included in the collection are pamphlets and reports. Many are on peace and reconciliation, and some are publications of a more propagandistic nature, such as Ian Paisley’s address, ‘The Ulster Problem’, delivered at Bob Jones University in South Carolina in 1972.
Books in the collection include books on Northern Ireland and also on peacebuilding in general, as in the example shown here.
In this book’s preface Dr. Scott Appleby describes the project directed by John Darby, professor at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies until his death in 2012, to study peace accords and their implementation. The project mentioned in the book, the Peace Accords Matrix database, is now available online at https://peaceaccords.nd.edu.
Oscar Wilde’s book for children, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, published in 1888, has attracted many artists and printers over the years. The stories have also been adapted for stage performances including, as I discovered recently, a ballet which will be performed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2018.
Wilde’s stories, in the tradition of literary fairy tales such as those of Hans Christian Andersen, depict poverty, suffering, cruelty and arrogance, with sacrifice or martyrdom occurring more than once. In the title story, the statue of a prince who had been sheltered in luxury while he lived, could now view from his pedestal the poverty and suffering in his city, and so he convinced a swallow to carry each of the statue’s jewels to someone in need. The Happy Prince and Other Tales consists of the following five stories: ‘The Happy Prince’, ‘The Selfish Giant’, ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, ‘The Devoted Friend’, and ‘The Remarkable Rocket’.
Wilde published a second collection of fairy tales, The House of Pomegranates in 1891. These stories are generally more complex and dark, but over the following century many books have included a selection drawn from both books. Out of the four stories in this book, ‘The Star Child’ and ‘The Young King’ are more likely to be included in selections intended for children. ‘The Fisherman and his Soul’ and ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ are rarely considered suitable for child readers.
A glance at the editions in our collection, with their range of illustrations and book production styles, demonstrate ambivalence in terms of identifying the appropriate audience for Wilde’s stories. Illustrators Walter Crane and P. J. Lynch both illustrated the book for a child audience, while many editions produced in the intervening century are more appropriately seen as gift books for adults.
The Happy Prince and Other Tales was first published in 1888 by Alfred Nutt and is illustrated throughout. The frontispiece is by Walter Crane, as are a plate illustrating ‘The Selfish Giant’ (shown below) and one illustrating ‘The Remarkable Rocket’. Crane (1845-1915) is frequently cited along with Randoph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway as one of the premier illustrators of children’s books in Victorian Britain.
Small illustrations by illustrator and engraver Jacomb Hood decorate the head of each story. The stories are also richly decorated with vignettes or small decorations.
Another early edition was illustrated by Charles Robinson (1870-1937), one of three brothers who were all prolific book illustrators. This 1913 edition includes eleven color plate illustrations in addition to the frontispiece. As these plates are tipped-in, or attached to pages of the book, it is rare to find an original copy with all plates intact.
With over fifty pages decorated by Robinson, this is what booksellers would call a ‘lavishly-illustrated book’, and these illustrations are reproduced in many later editions and adaptations.
The Overbrook Press produced a limited edition of The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde with wood engravings by Rudolph Ruzicka. This 1936 edition is part of the Hesburgh’s collection of 135 books from the Overbrook Press of Stamford, Connecticut.
Another fine printing, clearly not intended for the hands of children, is the silk-bound edition published by Kurt Volk, New York, in 1955. This book includes the title story, a short essay on ‘Oscar Fingall O’Flahertie Wilde’, and a slightly abbreviated version of W. B. Yeats’ introduction to a 1923 edition of The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales. [i]
One of the most recent editions is illustrated by leading Irish illustrator P. J. Lynch, also known for the award-winning book The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and his recent book The Boy who Fell off the Mayflower. This edition of Wilde’s Stories for Children, published in 1990, includes ‘The Young King’ in addition to all five stories from The Happy Prince. Lynch has not placed ‘The Happy Prince’ in first place—rather, the book begins with ‘The Selfish Giant’.
Authors of introductions range from W. B. Yeats, who knew Oscar Wilde, to Stephen Fry, the actor who played Oscar Wilde in the film Wilde.
The bibliography below lists the editions held in the Hesburgh Library’s Special Collections.
[i] The full text of this introduction is online in The W. B. Yeats Collection (a Chadwyck-Healey subscription database) which includes the following source information: Introduction to Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales (1923). According to catalog records such as in the Hathi Trust, this appears to be volume 3 of a multi-volume collection of the works of Oscar Wilde.
… on Sunday, the 29th March, at 8½ A.M., we cast off from the Yard, with a fine breeze at the N. W., and clear cold weather, the steam Tug, “R. B. Forbes,” in company, with some of the members of the Committee, on board. In about one hour we parted from them, with hearty cheers, and made sail on our course.
A remarkable voyage to bring relief to the Irish in the Great Famine is the subject of Captain R. B. Forbes’ report, The Voyage of the Jamestown on Her Errand of Mercy, published in Boston in 1847. His report for the “Committee of Distribution” combines his account with a substantial appendix of correspondence and other documentation.
After the Irish potato crop failed due to blight in 1845 and again in 1846, knowing that the potato provided most of the subsistence for a large part of the Irish population, concern for this famine grew throughout the world, but especially in places such as Boston where there was a considerable population of Irish birth or descent. Those who provided assistance in early 1847 expected that the harvest later that year would bring an end to famine, but in fact the blight persisted and the Great Irish Famine lasted until 1852. [i]
The Weekly Freeman Cartoons contains 48 full-page cartoons bound into a single volume. The cartoons cover the period from December 1886 to December 1887 and were published on Saturdays as weekly supplements to the Freeman’s Journal.
The Freeman’s Journal, the major Irish nationalist newspaper, was published in Dublin from 1763 to 1924. During the 1880s the newspaper was owned by Edmund Dwyer Gray, who was a Home Rule MP. During his ownership, circulation went up to over 30,000 copies per day.
“IN THE HOUSE” (12 February 1887) shows Charles Stewart Parnell, MP, leader of the Irish Party and of the Irish National Land League (founded by 1879), addressing Prime Minister Salisbury, who sits uncomfortably beside a woman representing the evicted tenants of Glenbeigh. Like most cartoons in this volume, this one comments on relations between Britain and Ireland, and in this case refers to the Land War and to the infamous evictions at Glenbeigh, County Kerry.
While the eviction of tenants for nonpayment of rent was relatively frequent, the Land War brought new attention to the Irish and British public about individual evictions through the use of images and descriptions. The Glenbeigh Evictions were much reported at the time and dramatically illustrated in the Illustrated London News. Glenbeigh, County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland was the scene of these evictions. An economic recession and poor harvests had increased agitation among tenant farmers faced with eviction. The landowner received very little rent on the many smallholdings on his land that he inherited, and with high arrears owed in rent, a court ordered 70 of the 300 tenants to pay one year’s rent. However, Father Thomas Quilter, the tenants’ parish priest, and J. D. Sheehan, their MP, advised the tenants to reject this offer.
And so the evictions began on 11 January 1887. Bailiffs burned down cabins and broke down walls to ensure that the evicted families could not return. These evictions received widespread attention, and by the end of January forty families had been evicted. The Detroit Free Press of 22 January 1887 reported on the evictions with the following headline: “POVERTY-STRICKEN PEOPLE. Father Quilter, of Glenbeigh, Says His are too Poor to Pay Rent. THEY ARE LARGELY DEPENDENT ON THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF OTHERS.” Newspaper reporting fluctuates widely between sympathy for the tenants in the face of barbarity such as in the Chicago Daily Tribune and consistent condemnation of the tenants and their leaders from the Irish Times.
The caption for “IN THE HOUSE” in the Weekly Freeman from 12 February 1887 reads:
Parnell to Salisbury. — You thought to force this poor creature into the Poorhouse, and shut her up there, but I have brought her into your own House, where she shall be seen and heard too.
Accompanying the cartoon is a ballad, “Parnell to Salisbury” that expands upon this theme. In the second verse, the victim, represented by the woman in the cartoon, also represents the many stories and illustrations of this eviction. The Roe mentioned here is Lanford Roe, the landlord’s agent who directed each eviction in Glenbeigh.
The truth is out! your victim stands
And tells her tale of confiscation,
Of burning cots, evicting bands,
Famine, and widespread desolation!
You little thought Roe’s brutal brands
Would raise so fierce a conflagration!
This volume of cartoons and accompanying ballads and verses appears to have belonged to nationalist archbishop Thomas William Croke (1823-1902). On its flyleaf appears the following inscription:
To His Grace, The Most Revd. Dr. Croke, Archbishop of Cashel.
White Abbey Bazaar 1888
With Father Staples Prayers and Best Wishes.
Felix M, Larkin’s essay, “‘A Great Daily Organ’: The Freeman’s Journal,” History Ireland 14 (2006): 44-49 is an excellent introduction to the newspaper. For information on the Glenbeigh Evictions, see L. Perry Curtis, Jr., The Depiction of Eviction in Ireland 1845-1910, University College Dublin Press, 2011.