Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Color Our Collections: St. Patrick’s Day Edition

March 17th, 2020

We hope that you are all at home and safe and practicing good social distancing this St. Patrick’s Day. To help, we’re sharing four images from our Irish Collections for you to print out and color in shades of green (or really any color of the rainbow). Click here for the printable PDF file. The first two images are from the Supplement to The Irish Fireside from July of 1885, and feature “Heroines from Irish History.”

Picture of "Aideen Rescuing the Body of Oscar at the Battle of Gabhra" (Aideen on horseback with shield and Spear), converted to black and white drawing
“Heroines of Irish History–I: Aideen Rescuing the Body of Oscar at the Battle of Gabhra.” Supplement to The Irish Fireside (July 8, 1885). Call #: DK17:5b, Item 1. Click image to enlarge, click here to see what the original color version of the illustration looks like, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.
Illustration of from "Heroines of Irish History--III: The Rescue of Connor O'Byrne by Emmeline Talbot," showing Emmeline Talbot holding a torch pointing the way out to O'Byrne, converted to black and white.
“Heroines of Irish History–III: The Rescue of Connor O’Byrne by Emmeline Talbot.” Supplement to The Irish Fireside (July 22, 1885). Call #: DK17:5b, Item 3. Click image to enlarge, click here to see what the original color version of the illustration looks like, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.

The next two images are from Young Ireland: An Irish Magazine of Entertainment and Instruction, founded by the Irish Nationalist Alexander Martin Sullivan, and continued by his brother, T. D. Sullivan.

Cover of 1877 St. Patrick's Day issue of Young Ireland, featuring four men holding up clovers to "Erin" with her harp and Irish Wolf Hound, with St. Patrick above in the sky
Cover of St. Patrick’s Day issue of Young Ireland. Vol. III, No. 11 (March 17, 1877). Call #: O’Hegarty E144. Click image to enlarge, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.
Illustration for "Castle Daly" on the cover of the 28 July, 1877 issue of Young Ireland
Cover of the 28 July, 1877 issue of Young Ireland. Vol. III, No. 30 (28 July 1877). Call #: O’Hegarty E144. Click image to enlarge, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.

Looking for other things to do at home this St. Patrick’s Day? Browse some of our past St. Patrick’s day blog posts and posts featuring our Irish Collections. Want more coloring? Look at our recent blog post on Spencer Research Library’s contributions to this year’s #ColorOurCollections (hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine).

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Ireland’s Most Beloved Painter? Irish Art for St. Patrick’s Day

March 15th, 2019

With St. Patrick’s Day falling on Sunday, this week we highlight some original artwork in Spencer’s collections by a notable Irish artist, Frederic William Burton (1816-1900).

Photographic portrait of Frederic William Burton inlaid in Madonna Pia volume (MS E184)
Portrait of Frederic William Burton inlaid in Madonna Pia volume. Sir Theodore Martin Collection. Call Number: MS E184. Click image to see full volume page.

Though Burton may not be a household name in the United States, his best-known work, “Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs” (1864), was voted Ireland’s favorite painting in a 2012 RTÉ poll.

That painting, housed at the National Gallery of Ireland, draws its theme from a medieval Danish ballad. As the museum’s label explains, the ballad tells the story of “Hellelil, who fell in love with her personal guard Hildebrand, Prince of Engelland. Her father disapproved of the relationship and ordered her seven brothers to kill the young prince.” Burton’s painting captures a moment of longing: a final fleeting meeting between the ill-fated couple.

Frederic William Burton (1816-1900), 'Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs', 1864. © National Gallery of Ireland.
Frederic William Burton (1816-1900), ‘Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs’, 1864. © National Gallery of Ireland. Click image to enlarge.

One of the more astonishing aspects of the painting is that it is a watercolor (Burton always worked in watercolors rather than oils). To protect the painting from light damage, the National Gallery of Ireland has it on display for just two hours a week, keeping it behind protective panels the remainder of the time.

A more modest example of Burton’s artistry in watercolors resides at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in a series of costume designs he made for a play by the writer Theodore Martin (more on this soon).

A native of Co. Clare, Frederic William Burton was born to a wealthy land-owning family. He moved to Dublin at ten and by sixteen had exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy.  His early career was as a miniaturist and portraitist, always working in watercolors.

Through his friendship with the Irish antiquarian, George Petrie, Burton was inspired to turn to the Irish landscape and consider Irish subjects in his paintings, as in his 1841 watercolor The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child.  

Burton’s connection to another friend, Thomas Davis, a leader of the nationalist Young Ireland movement, resulted in his contribution of the illustrated title page for The Spirit of the Nation (1845), an anthology of ballads and songs by Davis and other writers associated with periodical The Nation. At the time, however, Burton kept his contribution anonymous, reluctant to enter into the fray of politics. In a memorial tribute, Lady Gregory would recall that Burton had been in favor of Ireland’s union with England and did not share Davis’s nationalist politics, but that he had undertaken the title page to please his friend, “ there was nothing in the world he would not have done for Davis” [1].  Spencer Research Library’s multiple copies of The Spirit of the Nation deserve a St. Patrick’s Day post of their own.  The copy pictured below contains two inserted leaves of inscriptions of Young Irelanders Terence Bellew MacManus, Thomas Francis Meagher, Patrick O’Donohoe, and William Smith O’Brien, signed from Clonmel Gaol in Tipperary, following their 1848 attempted nationalist rising. The signature of O’Brien, is visible on the leaf tipped in next to Burton’s illustrated title page.

Image of Burton's illustration design for The Spirit of the Nation (1845), with tipped in inscription by Willliam S. O'Brien, Clomel Gaol, November 1848
Burton’s illustration design in The Spirit of the Nation (1845), with tipped-in leaf inscribed by young Ireland leader William Smith O’Brien, in Clonmel Gaol, Nov. 1848. Dublin: Published by James Duffy, 23 Anglesea-Street, 1845. Call Number: O’Hegarty C458. Click image to enlarge.

As noted earlier, Spencer Library’s collections also reveal another dimension of Burton’s career as an artist. We hold a copy of a special volume belonging to the attorney and writer Sir Theodore Martin (with his bookplate).  It comprises pages of the 1860 privately printed second edition of Martin’s play Madonna Pia: A Tragedy juxtaposed with 11 original watercolors of costume designs. Though the sketches are not signed, Martin included in his special volume a manuscript letter from the artist signed “FWB” alongside a portrait of Burton, signaling his identity as the artist. The letter was sent in November 1855, the date of the first edition of Martin’s play, from Munich, where Burton was serving as curator of the Royal collection for Maximilian II of Bavaria.

Image of the Madonna Pia title page with a watercolor and gouache painting of Giacomo's costume, with costuming notes
Frederic William Burton’s watercolor and gouache painting of the costume for “Giacomo.” [Munich, 1855], bound with the title page of Theodore Martin’s Madonna Pia (1860, second edition). Sir Theodore Martin Collection. Call Number: MS E184. Click image to enlarge.

In the letter, likely addressed to Martin’s wife, the actress Helena Faucit, Burton apologizes for the quality of his watercolors. He self-deprecatingly explains:

These hasty sketches are not indeed what I had intended – but just as I was engaged about them the Fine Arts were under a cloud from weather such as ever you Londoners need not have envied us. They are very scribbly & coarse — & I fear none of them will answer, – but you will gratify me by giving them to any little relatives you may have under five years of age to amuse themselves by sticking pins through them.

Frederic William Burton's watercolour and gouache painting of Madonna Pia in gold dress costume, with pencil notes on costuming
Pencil, watercolor, and gouache sketch of "Pia 3d Dress" and "Count Nello"
Burton’s watercolor and gouache painting and sketch of the costumes for “Madonna Pia / 2d dress” and “Pia 3d dress” and “Count Nello” [Munich, 1855], bound with Theodore Martin’s Madonna Pia (1860, second edition). Sir Theodore Martin Collection. Call Number: MS E184. Click images to enlarge.
Image of Frederic William Burton's watercolor and gouache costume painting for Nello della Pietra, with facing text
Frederic William Burton’s watercolor and gouache painting for the costume of “Nello della Pietra,” bound with Theodore Martin’s Madonna Pia (1860, second edition). Sir Theodore Martin Collection. Call Number: MS E184. Click image to enlarge.

Fortunately for us, Martin preserved the watercolors and bound them together with a later edition of his play.  Madonna Pia takes its inspiration from a passage in Dante’s Purgatorio to tell the story of Pia’s imprisonment and poisoning by her jealous husband, Count Nello della Pietra. It was a popular subject during the Victorian era; KU’s Spencer Museum of Art holds a later painting, Pia de’ Tolomei, by pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti that references the same tale from Dante.

Three years after Frederic William Burton executed his “hasty sketches,” he took up residence in London. There, he was part of the circle of Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite artists, and it was during this time that he painted “Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs.” In 1874, Burton was made director of London’s National Gallery, and he retired from painting. Though he died in London on the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 1900, Burton returned to Ireland in death. He was buried in Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery, and his work was exhibited at Dublin’s National Gallery later that same year.  In her remembrance, Lady Gregory wrote that despite his years spent abroad, which left him “almost forgotten” in Dublin, Burton’s “heart was Irish to the last” [2].

Come examine Frederic William Burton’s watercolor sketches for Madonna Pia at Spencer Research Library, and then continue on to explore other materials in our Irish Collections.  Not certain where to start? Take a glance at some past blog posts or explore our Irish Collections LibGuide.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

 

[1] Gregory, Lady Augusta.  “Sir Frederic Burton.” The Leader: A Review of Current Affairs, Politics, Literature, Art and Industry. Vol 1, no. 15 (8 December 1900): 231. Call Number: O’Hegarty E98.

[2] ibid.

Works consulted include:

Caffrey, Paul. “Burton, Sir Frederic William (1816–1900), watercolour painter and art administrator.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press. Date of access 11 Mar. 2019, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-4127.

Clarke, Frances. “Burton, Sir Frederic William.” Dictionary of Irish Biography. James McGuire, James Quinn, Editors. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2009. http://dib.cambridge.org/viewReadPage.do?articleId=a1216.

How Well Do You Know Your Irish Fairies?

March 14th, 2018

With St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) just around the corner, grocery stores and pubs are suddenly awash in four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, and other trappings of the commercial elements of the holiday.  But why fixate on leprechauns when the world of Irish fairy folk is so much broader?  How well do you know your Irish fairies?

Frontispiece and title page of W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1893), an editon of his 1888 Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, with 12 illustsrations by James Torrance.

Title page and frontispiece from Yeats’s Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1893),
an illustrated edition of his earlier Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888).
Call Number: Yeats Y191. Click to enlarge.

The Irish poet W. B. Yeats wrote more than once about Ireland’s different varieties of fairies. In 1888, when Yeats was in his early twenties, he edited a volume titled Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, which collected stories and poems by a variety of writers on the supernatural elements of Irish folklore. In organizing the book, he assembled its pieces under several headings, including “Ghosts,” “Giants,” and “Saints, Priests.” However, he accorded fairies a place of particular honor (as is their due in Irish folklore) by beginning the anthology with them and including several short section prefaces detailing their ways. When a few years later Yeats published the anthology Irish Fairy Tales (1892) for T. Fisher Unwin’s “Children’s Library Series,” he penned  an appendix offering a “Classification of Irish Fairies.”

It would be a mistake to confuse one’s Leprechauns with one’s Merrows, since fairies — or the “gentry” as they prefer to be called — are easily offended. Thus in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we share a shortened version of Yeats’s classification below.

Yeats begins his schema by dividing Irish fairydom into two classes: the sociable (or “Trooping Fairies,” as he named them in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry) and the solitary. Of these two varieties, he writes, “The first are in the main kindly, and the second are full of uncharitableness.”

The Sociable Fairies “go about in troops, and quarrel, and make love, much as men and women do.”  They are subdivided into two main types:

  1. The Sheoques (in Irish, Sidheog, “a little fairy”): Sheoques are land fairies, whom Yeats describes as “the spirits that haunt the sacred thornbushes and green raths.” While Sheoques are on the whole good, they have one “most malicious habit”: “They steal children and leave a withered fairy, a thousand or maybe two thousand years old, instead.”  If this isn’t enough to inspire terror in Yeats’s child readers, he continues nonchalantly, “Now and then one hears of some real injury being done a person by the land fairies, but then it is nearly always deserved.  They are said to have killed two people in the last six months in the County Down district where I am now staying.  But then these persons had torn up thorn bushes belonging to the Sheoques.” I suspect Yeats’s proviso comes as little comfort to anyone who counts yardwork or landscaping among their chores!
  2. The Merrows (in Irish, Moruadh, “a sea maid)”: These are water fairies. Yeats writes that Thomas Croker, the author of Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825), suggests that “[t]he men among them […] have green teeth, green hair, pigs’ eyes, and red noses; but their women are beautiful and prefer handsome fishermen to their green-haired lovers.” Yeats, himself, is more skeptical and comments that he has never “heard tell of this grotesque appearance of the male Merrows” and judges it “probably a merely local Munster tradition.”

Title page for W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy Tales (1892), with frontispiece illustration by Yeats's brother, Jack B. Yeats.

What type of fairy is that? Title page for W. B. Yeats’ Irish Fairy Tales (1892) with frontispiece illustration
by Yeats’s brother, Jack B. Yeats. Call Number: Yeats Y194. Click image to enlarge.

Yeats next delineates nine subcategories of Solitary Fairies, whom he characterizes as “nearly all gloomy and terrible in some way”:

  1. The Lepricaun (in Irish, Leith bhrogan, “the one shoe maker”): Of this staple of St. Patrick’s Day, Yeats writes, “This creature is seen sitting under a hedge mending a shoe, and one who catches him can make him deliver up his crocks of gold, for he is a miser of great wealth; but if you take your eyes off him the creature vanishes like smoke.” Don’t expect to find him in outfitted in green, though. Yeats notes that according to McAnally, author of Irish Wonders (1888), the leprechaun wears “a red coat with seven buttons in each row, and a cocked-hat, on the point of which he sometimes spins like a top.”  One wonders if Yeats’s leprechaun might also be responsible for other types of mischief, such as the fact that Yeats spells his name “Lepracaun in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) but “Lepricaun in Irish Fairy Tales (1892).
  2. The Cleuricaun (in Irish, Clobltair-cean): Yeats notes that some writers “consider this to be another name for the Lepricaun, given him when he has laid aside his shoe-making at night and goes on the spree.” These fairies’ enthusiasms include “robbing wine-cellars” and “riding sheep and shepherds’ dogs.”
  3. The Gonconer or Ganconagh (in Irish, Gean-canogh, i.e. love-talker):  A “creature of the Lepricaun type” who, unlike his industrious cobbler brethren, is idle. Yeats notes he “appears in lonely valleys, always with a pipe in his mouth, and spends his time in making love to shepherdesses and milkmaids.”

[Would Yeats have concurred that modern St. Patrick’s Day celebrants perhaps possesses a touch of the Clericaun and Gonconer in their (admittedly sociable) revelry?]

  1. The Far Darrig (in Irish, Fear Dearg, i.e. red man): This fairy is “the practical joker of the other world” whom Yeats deems a “lubberly wretch.” Like the Pooka (below), “he presides over evil dreams.”
  2. The Pooka (in Irish, Púca, “a word derived by some from poc, a he-goat)”: Yeats notes that this fairy usually takes the shape of “a horse, a bull, a goat, eagle, or ass” and “most likely never appeared in human form.” He is of the “family of the nightmare” and “[h]is delight is to get a rider, whom he rushes with through ditches and rivers and over mountains, and shakes off in the gray of morning.”
  3. The Dullahan: This fairy must be a relative of the headless horseman who appears in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Yeats explains that he “has no head, or carries it under his arm,” and can be seen “driving a black coach called coach-a-bower (Ir. Coite-bodhar), drawn by headless horses.” If you hear his carriage rumble by, keep your door closed, for if you open it “a basin of blood is thrown in your face.”  As one might guess from such an unwelcome greeting, the Dullahan is “an omen of death to the houses where it pauses.”
  4. The Leanhaun Shee (in Irish, Leanhaunsidhe, i.e. fairy mistress ): Yeats writes, “This spirit seeks the love of men. If they refuse, she is their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding one to take their place. Her lovers waste away, for she lives on their life.” He also refers to her as the “Gaelic muse” and asserts that many of the Gaelic poets have had a Leanhaun Shee, “for she gives inspiration to her slaves.”
  5. The Far Gorta (man of hunger): An emaciated fairy who “goes through the land in famine time, begging and bring good luck to the giver.”
  6. The Banshee (in Irish, Bean-sidhe, i.e. fairy woman): In addition to the Leprechaun, the Banshee is perhaps the other Irish fairy who will be familiar to American audiences. Yeats notes that like the Far Gorta (and unlike the other solitary fairies), the Banshee possesses a “generally good disposition.”  He suggests that perhaps she isn’t really a solitary fairy after all, “but a sociable fairy grown solitary through much sorrow.” The Banshee wails over the impending the death of “a member of some old Irish family.”  Yeats observes, “Sometimes she is an enemy of the house and screams with triumph, but more often a friend.”  In Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, Yeats remarks that the “keen [caoine], the funeral cry of the peasantry, is said to be an imitation of her cry.” If more than one Banshee arrives to wail, it is a sign the dying person “must have been very holy or very brave.”

Yeats closes his taxonomy by alluding to other varieties of fairies “of which too little is known to give them each a separate mention.” Among these are the Bo men fairies of County Down, whom Yeats suggests are “Scotch fairies imported by Scotch settlers.”  This last detail offers us some hope of encountering Irish fairies on American shores, for its seems that, like us, fairy folk can travel.

To read Yeats’s “Classification of Irish Fairies” in full click here to access the appendix in PDF form or visit Spencer Research Library’s reading room to explore further writings on the topic by Yeats, Lady Wilde, Thomas Crocker, Douglas Hyde, and others in Spencer’s Irish Collections.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Irish Ephemera for St. Patrick’s Day

March 14th, 2014

Some things are built to last, and others…well…are not. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day (this upcoming Monday), we are sharing five examples of ephemera from Spencer’s Irish Collections.  “Ephemera” is the term applied to a variety of everyday documents originally intended for one-time or short-term use, including posters, playbills, political pamphlets, broadsides, advertisements, and newspapers (to name but a few).  Such materials form the background of everyday life and furnish researchers with important information about the material, political, and cultural conditions of the past. Since Spencer’s Irish Collections include ephemera in addition to major works by significant authors, they serve as particularly fertile ground for students and scholars.


1.  Color “Supplements” from United Ireland and The Irish Fireside, 1884-1885.

These colorful cartoons and illustrations are examples of loose supplements that sometimes accompanied late nineteenth-century Irish periodicals.  The first three cartoons are from United Ireland and reflect that weekly’s Parnellite politics. Earl Spencer (John Poyntz Spencer), then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, is depicted with his distinctive red hair twisted into horns.  The third cartoon shows Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish nationalist leader, handing Earl Spencer his walking papers following the fall of William Gladstone’s administration in June of 1885.  The final two illustrations come from The Irish Fireside, a periodical whose subtitle spells out its mission: Fiction / Amusement / Instruction.  These illustrations celebrate Aideen and Emmeline Talbot as part of a series depicting heroines of Irish history.

Image of Color Supplement from United Ireland, Cartoon featuring valentines to Erin (Ireland), February 16, 1884.
Image of Color Supplement from United Ireland, Cartoon featuring "Erin" and Earl Spencer, March 28, 1885 Image of Color Supplement from United Ireland, Cartoon featuring Parnell and Earl Spencer, June 20, 1885.

Above: Color Political Cartoons, “Supplement Gratis with ‘United Ireland.'” [Dublin]: [United Ireland], 1884-1885. Call Number: DK17, Folder 16.  Below: Heroines of Irish History–Aideen and Emmeline Talbot, “Supplement to The Irish Fireside.” Dublin, [The Irish Fireside], 1885. Call Number: DK17, Folder 5. Click images to enlarge.

Image of Color Supplement from The Irish Fireside, Heroines of Irish History: Aideen, July 8, 1885 Image of Color Supplement from The Irish Fireside, Heroines of Irish History: Emmeline Talbot, July 22, 1885

2. “Programme” for the Abbey Theatre, [1910]

The Abbey Theatre was a key site for the Irish Literary Revival at the beginning of the twentieth century.  W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and (as seen below) J. M. Synge were among the playwrights active there.  The Abbey Theatre’s printed programs record not only the dates of performances and the actors who played each role, but they also shed light on local businesses through the advertisements that appeared in their pages.  Moreover, if you examine the ads closely, you’ll discover little gems, such as this 1910 announcement for James Joyce’s Dubliners by publisher Maunsel & Co. (“Ready in September” it promises).  As Joyceans know, this “Dublin” first edition of Dubliners never did come to pass. Following long delays at the publisher over concerns about potentially objectionable content, the printed sheets for the edition of 1000 copies were destroyed (burned!) by the printer in September 1912, after Joyce tried to retrieve them.  Understandably bitter, the author left Ireland for good, and satirized the incident in his poem “Gas from a Burner.” Dubliners would not reach the shelves until 1914, when it was published by the London firm Grant Richards.

Cover of Abbey Theatre Programme, 1910 Abbey Theatre Programme, 1910, open to play credit lists.

Abbey Theatre Programme, 1910, open to Dubliners Ad (circled).

Abbey Theatre, “Programme.” Dublin, [1910]. Call Number: D134, vol. 194. Click images to enlarge.

3. Gaelic League Carnival Poster, 1912

The Gaelic League was founded in 1893 to revive the Irish language, which was falling increasingly out of use, especially in urban areas where English was dominant.  The majority of its members were middle- and working-class English-speakers, and by 1908 it boasted roughly 600 branches, primarily in cities.  One of the ways that the organization attracted new members was by offering opportunities for socializing and fun alongside Irish language study.  An tOireachtas, the annual national festival (also advertised below) was launched in 1897.  As the poster notes, by 1912, there were even special excursion trains to carry visitors from Cork, Limerick, Galway, Belfast and other locales to the festivities in Dublin. After all, who can resist a hornpipe championship and £ 1,200 in prizes?

Poster for Gaelic League Carnival (Oireachtas)

Gaelic League Carnival: Jones’ road, Dublin, … [June 29 to July 5, 1912]. Poster. Dublin: O’Loughlin, Murphy & Boland, Ltd., [1912]. Call Number: O’Hegarty Q36. Click image to enlarge.

4. “Ticket of admission to public meeting […] to form a Cork City Corps of the Irish Volunteers,” [1913]

Eoin MacNeill, a founder of the Gaelic League, was also a leader of the Irish Volunteers, a paramilitary organization. As this ticket shows, MacNeill was to be the headliner at a recruitment event in Cork, held just a month after the group’s formation in November 1913.  Spencer holds over 40 tickets for this event, several of which bear the stamp of the “Irish Transport and General Worker’s [sic] Union, Dublin” on the reverse.  Interestingly, though the tickets themselves clearly state that capacity of the venue hall is limited to 1500, there are tickets in the lot numbered almost as high as 3000 (see below, bottom right).

Image of a set of tickets to an Irish Volunteers public meeting, December 14 (1913), City Hall, Cork.

“Ticket of admission to public meeting: to be held at 8.30 o’clock in the City Hall, Cork, on Sunday night next, 14th December, to form a Cork City Corps of the Irish Volunteers / Professor Eoin Mac Neill, B.A., Dublin, and local speakers will address the meeting. …” [Cork : s.n., 1913]. Call Number: O’Hegarty AK7. Click image to enlarge.

5. A sheet of “slip songs” from the mid-to-late 1800s

Ballads were popular street literature in Ireland, as in England.  The earliest English printed broadside ballads can be traced back to sixteenth-century London; however the sheet pictured below was printed in Dublin during the second half of the nineteenth century.  A large sheet like this would be cut up into slips by the printer or bookseller and sold individually,  giving us the term “slip song.” Though often ornamented with woodcuts, these ballads and songs did not actually include music (only the occasional reference to a tune). Many of the songs on this particular sheet treat Irish themes, with the tone ranging from comic to satiric to elegiac to patriotic.  History, politics, and love were all popular subjects, as were drinking songs and accounts of contemporary events, including crimes (“murder ballads”).  Slip songs were meant to sell cheaply and quickly, so their paper tends to be thin and the printing rather shoddy.  The staff at Nugent’s General Printing Office in Dublin must have been having a particularly bad day when they printed the sheet below.  Skim through it and and you’ll find slanted text, uneven inking, inked “spaces,” and many, many typographical errors (we dare you to count the mistakes in “The Rakisk [sic] Bachelor”)!

Image of large uncut sheet of Irish slip songs, with woodcuts.

Can you spot the typos? (hint: zoom in on the “Rakisk [sic] Bachelor,” to start…): Uncut sheet of Irish slip songs.
Dublin: Nugent’s General Printing Office, after 1866. Call Number: R43, Item 6. Please click to enlarge.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Bloomsday 2013: Buck Mulligan / Oliver Gogarty Edition

June 16th, 2013

Each June 16th, fans of James Joyce’s Ulysses celebrate “Bloomsday” in commemoration of the day on which the novel is set.  The annual fête (often marked by marathon readings) takes its name from the modernist classic’s central character, Leopold Bloom.

Though the novel belongs primarily to Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, or (in the last episode) Molly Bloom, it is another character who graces its famous first sentence: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

Picture of the first page of the first episode of Ulysses (1922)

First page of the first episode of Ulysses by James Joyce. Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922.
Call Number: Joyce Y116. Click image to enlarge.

Buck Mulligan, the flippant friend of Stephen Dedalus, was in part modeled after a friend from Joyce’s younger days, Oliver St. John Gogarty.  According to Joyce’s biographer, Richard Ellmann, the two young men met at the National Library of Ireland when Joyce was approximately twenty.  Both had medical aspirations and wrote poetry, though only Gogarty would go on to become a doctor.   While Gogarty admired Joyce’s writing, Joyce was less enthusiastic about his new friend’s, which he felt lacked weight and depth.  Joyce did, however, appreciate the satire and bawdiness of Gogarty’s more humorous poems, and he incorporated this into Mulligan’s verse in Ulysses.

Perhaps somewhat to his chagrin, Joyce found himself in Gogarty’s company in his first book appearance. Both men had poems titled “Two Songs” published in the annual anthology The Venture (1905). By this time, Joyce and Gogarty had already fallen out.  Ellmann notes that from the outset the friendship between the two would-be writers was also a rivalry. The character of Buck Mulligan in Ulysses is entertaining in his wit and pleasure-seeking, but he is also depicted as insensitive and disloyal.

Image of the cover of The Venture, 1904

Image of Two Songs by James Joyce, published in The Venture (1905)  Image of "Two Songs" by Oliver St. John Gogarty

Which young writer’s poems are more to your taste?: “Two Songs” by James Joyce and “Two Songs” by Oliver
St. John Gogarty from The Venture; An Annual of Art and Literature. London: John Baillie, 1905, p. 92, p. 138.
Call Number: Joyce Y243. Click images to enlarge and read poems.

Readers curious to investigate Gogarty through his own words will find plenty to peruse in Spencer’s collections. Gogarty published verse, plays, novels, and memoirs. His book, As I Was Going Down Sackville Street: A Phantasy in Fact (1937), offers depictions of writers he knew, including Joyce, Yeats, and George Moore, as well as the politicians with whom he associated, such as Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins (Gogarty performed the autopsies on both of these men and subsequently served as a Free State senator).

For those eager to delve into Gogarty’s more obscure writings, Spencer Research Library holds a copy of his play Blight the Tragedy of Dublin: An Exposition in 3 Acts (1917), published under the pseudonym “Alpha and Omega.” Even scarcer is Gogarty’s eight-page pamphlet, “A Suggested Operation for Turbinal Catarrh” (1921), which provides insight into his work as a doctor.

Image of the medical pamphlet, "A Suggested Operation for Turbinal Catarrh" by Oliver St. John Gogarty

“A Suggested Operation for Turbinal Catarrh” by Oliver St. John Gogarty. Dublin: pr. for the author, 1921.
Call Number: C3118. Click image to enlarge.

Since this medical pamphlet is indeed rare (the only other copy recorded in WorldCat is housed at the National Library of Ireland) we’ve scanned it and posted it in its entirety here.  So this is what “Buck Mulligan” was up to when he wasn’t composing ribald rhymes!

Photograph of Oliver St. John Gogarty's signature from a 1924 letter to P. S. O'Hegarty.

Signature of Oliver St. John Gogarty, taken from a letter to P. S. O’Hegarty,
17 September, 1924. Call Number: MS P415:1a.

Searching for more Bloomsday fun?  For a list of Ulysses “firsts,” check out last year’s Bloomsday post.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian