Emily Lawless (1845-1913)

[Hon. Emily; occas. pseud. “Edith Lytton”;] b. Lyons House, Co. Kildare, 17 June 1845; dg. and 4th child of Edward Lawless, 3rd Baron Cloncurry [see under Valentine Lawless, q.v.], who died by suicide at Castle Lyons in 1896, and former Miss Elizabeth Kirwan of Castle Hacket, Tuam, Co. Galway; grand-dg. of Valentine Brown Lawless, friend of Grattan and Lord Edward Fitzgerald; raised in England, spending summers in the west of Ireland with Kirwan relative; at first interested in natural science, especially the botany of the Burren, but defeated by rigours of Linnean taxonomy; she was encouraged to write fiction by the novelist Margaret Oliphant, a friend of her mother; issued A Chelsea Householder (1882), a conventional romance centred on an artist heroine, followed by A Millionaire’s Cousin (1885), dealing with the love of Adolphus Bell and the title-character Hargrave for Hildegard Boson, a lovely girl entangled with a greedy mother and sibling whom they meet in Tangiers; issued Ireland: A History (1885) in the Unwin “Story of the Nations” series;
wrote Hurrish (1886), a story of love and betrayal involving the assassination of the landlord Capt. O’Brien and ending in the murder of the title-character by his opposite number Maurice; it features an especially blood-thirsty figure in Hurrish’s mother Bridget; set in the land-war torn landscape of the Clare Burren; said by Gladstone to have instructed him on the land question in Ireland; issued With Essex in Ireland (1890), purporting to be an authentic memoir of Essex’s secretary Harvey, and Maelcho (1894), dealing respectively with the first and second Desmond Rebellions ending at Smerwick; issued Grania (1892), set on Inishmaan and dealing with the story of a island girl of great beauty and natural vitality (‘a very wild queer girl […] leaping and dancing over the rocks of the sea’) who is misused by Murdough, the prime young male of the island, finally precipitating her suicide; issued Plain Frances Mowbray and Other Tales (1889), the title-story dealing with a clever woman who suffers misery when her brother, Col. Mowbray, announces his intention of marrying after forty years together;
issued Traits and Confidences (1897), containing an Edgeworthian story of Anglo-Irish decline centred on Lord Carrowmore, in ‘Mrs O’Donnell’s Report’ and a tale of love between landed scion and servant-girl in ‘Old Lord Kilconnell’; moves from Lyons House, to to Surrey for reasons of health, but maintained ‘corner of bog’ and Irish plants in her garden; issues Maria Edgeworth (1904), [subscribed Hazelhatch, Gomshall, Surrey, April 1904]; grows increasingly depressive; issues The Book of Gilly (1906), a children’s story in which the son of Lord Magillicuddy is sent from India to visit Inishbeg; her father and two of her sisters committed suicide, leaving her with the care of her mother; remained unmarried, though thought to have had romantic affairs with women; in later life a neighbour and friend of Shan Bullock; received D.Litt. from TCD; exchanged letters with W. E. H. Lecky; d. 19 Oct. 1913;

a collection of her papers were bequeathed by her br. Lord Cloncurry to Marsh’s Library, where there is a sole record of her visiting on 9 Dec. 1889; a sculptural port. of Lord Cloncurry [her f.] with Hibernia was for some years prominently displayed in the new atrium of the National Gallery of Ireland. NCBE IF DIB DIW DIL IBL OCEL DBIV IN JMC SUTH FDA ATT OCIL

[ top ]

  • A Chelsea Householder, 3 vols. (London: Sampson & Low 1882);
  • A Millionaire’s Cousin (London: Macmillan 1885);
  • Hurrish: A Study, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood & Sons 1886) [see details];
  • Major Lawrence, FLS, 3 vols. (London: John Murray 1887), and Do. [another edn.] (1888);
  • Plain Frances Mowbray and Other Tales (London: John Murray 1889) [incls. “A Ligurian Episode”, &c.];
  • With Essex in Ireland (London: Smith, Elder & Co 1890); Do. [new edn.] (London: Methuen 1902), and Do. [facs. rep.] (NY: Garland Press 1979);
  • Grania: The Story of an Island (London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1892), and Do., intro. by Robert Lee Wolff [facs. rep.] (NY: Garland Publ. 1979);
  • Maelcho: A Sixteenth-Century Narrative (Smith &c 1894);
  • Traits and Confidences (London: Methuen 1897), and Do. [facs. rep.] (NY: Garland Press 1979)[incls. “An Entomological Adventure”, “Mrs O’Donnell’s Report”, “Old Lord Kilconnell”, “Famine Road and Memories”, “What the Bag Contained”, &c.];
  • A Garden Diary - Sept. 1899-Sept. 1900 (London: Methuen 1901);
  • With the Wild Geese, with an intro. by Stopford A. Brooke (London: Isbister 1902);
  • Maria Edgeworth [English Men of Letters ser.] (London: Macmillan 1904; NY 1905) [details];
  • The Book of Gilly, Four Months out of a Life (London: Smith Elder, 1906);
  • with Shan Bullock, The Race of Castlebar, being a narrative addressed by Mr John Bunbury to his brother Mr Theodore Bunbury, acted to His Britannic Majesty’s Embassy at Florence, Oct. 1798, and now first given to the world (London: John Murray 1913);
  • The Inalienable Heritage and Other Poems (London, priv. 1914).
  • Ireland: A History [“Unwin Story of the Nations” ser.] (London: Fisher Unwin 1885), Do. [5th edn. ]1892); Do. [rev. edn.], as The Story of Ireland, with some additions by Mrs Arthur Bronson [i.e, 2 chaps.] (London: T. Fisher Unwin 1889, 1896), ill., ded. to The Earl of Dufferin, KP, GCB, FRS, &c., Viceroy of India / Sgeul na hEireann / Don h-Eireannach as Fiú [available at Gutenberg Project - online; Do. [another edn.] (1912).

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
Grania: The Story of an Island, by the Hon. Emily Lawless (1892) [digital edition], at “Irish Resources”, ed. Michael Sundermeier, Creighton University. [Available online - acccessed 28.04.08].

Hurrish: A Study, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood & Sons 1886), 342, 14pp. [publisher’s list]; ded. to Mrs. Oliphant [‘with a great deal of admiration nd more affection ...’]- available at Internet Archive - online; Do. [4th edn.] (1888), and Do. [6th edn.] (London: Methuen 1895); Do. [another edn.] (London: Nelson’s Library q.d.); Do. [facs. rep. with pref. by Robert Lee Wolff] (NY: Garland Publ. 1979); Do., ed. Val Mulkerns ([1886] rep. Belfast: Appletree 1993), 196pp.;

Maria Edgeworth / by the / Hon. Emily Lawless / New York: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd. / 1905. CONTENTS: Chapter I - Early life [1 ]; Chapter II - Richard Lovell Edgeworth [18]; Chapter III - Father and Daughter [31]; Chapter IV - Arrival in Ireland – First Books [44]; Chapter V - Disturbed Days [59]; Chapter VI - Ninety-eight [68]; Chapter VII - Castle Rackrent – Irish Letters [86]; Chapter VIII - Belinda – Visit to Paris [98]; Chapter IX - Middle Life [113]; Chapter X - EnnuiThe AbsenteeOrmond [127]; Chapter XI - Memoir of R. L. Edgeworth –the Quarterly – Paris – Geneva [146]; Chapter XII - Friendship with Scott [162]; Chapter XIII - Later Life [180]; Chapter XIV - Conclusion [210]; Index [215]. [See extracts under Maria Edgeworth, Commentary, supra; or full text at Pennsylvania University “Celebration of Women” [online].

[ top ]

The following texts are available at Internet Archive [09.11.2011]:

Title Source
A Chelsea Householder
A Millionaire's Cousin Oxford
A Millionaire's Cousin Harvard
Grania, the Story of an Island Michigan
Grania, the Story of an Island Harvard
Hurrish: A Study Harvard
Major Lawrence, F.L.S.: A Novel Harvard
Maria Edgeworth Michigan
Traits and Confidences Harvard
The Story of Ireland NYPL
The Story of Ireland Harvard
The Story of Ireland Wisconsin
Search for Emily Lawless ...

See digital edition of Lord Cloncurry's Recollections of His Life and Times - at “Dublin Chapters”, index - accessed 06.11.2011.

[ top ]

  • [Q.a.], The Nation, review of Hurrish (20 Feb. 1886), [see extract];
  • [Anon.], ‘A Great Irish Novelist’, review of Grania, in United Irishman (30 April 1892) [see extract];
  • W. B. Yeats, [commentary on his list of 30 best books] Daily Express (27 Feb. 1895), , rep. in Letters, ed., Wade (London: Hart-Davis 1954), pp.246-51 [see extract];
  • W. B. Yeats, ‘Contemporary Irish Writers’, in The Bookman (Aug 1895), [q.p.];
  • [Q.a.], review of Hurrish, in New York Times (21 March 1886), [see extract];
  • Maurice Francis Egan, ‘On Irish Novels’, in Catholic University Bulletin, 10, 3 (1904), p.330 [see extract];
  • ‘Emily Lawless’ [obituary], in The Times (23 Oct 1913), [q.p.];
  • Edith Sichel, ‘Emily Lawless’, in The Nineteenth Century, LXXVI (July 1914), pp.80-100 [see extract];
  • Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama in the English Language: A Short History (London: T. Nelson 1936), p.115 [see extract];
  • Seamus Fenton, The Honorable Emily Lawless, [lecture to Women’s Social and Progressive League, Dublin, Nov. 1944] (1944);
  • Padraic Fallon, ed. & intro., Poems of Emily Lawless (Dublin: Dolmen 1965), 52pp.;
  • Robert Lee Wolff, ‘The Irish Fiction of the Honourable Emily Lawless’, pref. to Traits and Confidences (1897; rep. NY: Garland 1979);
  • Betty Webb Brewer, ‘She was Part of It’, in Eire-Ireland 18, 4 (1983), pp.119-31;
  • Elizabeth Grubgeld, ‘Emily Lawless’s Grania: The Story of an Island’ (1892), in Éire-Ireland, 22, 3 (1987) pp.115- 29;
  • James M. Cahalan, The Irish Novel (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), pp.80-84 [see extract];
  • James M. Cahalan, ‘Forging a Tradition: Emily Lawless and the Irish Literary Canon’, in Colby Quarterly, 27, 1 (1991), pp.27 39;
  • Bridget Matthews-Kane, ‘Emily Lawless’s Grania: Making for the Open’, in Colby Quarterly, 33, 3 (1997), pp.223-35;
  • James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), Part I: ‘Upper Middle-Class Fiction 1873-1890’, pp.34; 43 [see extract];
  • [Bridget Matthews-Kane,] ‘“With Essex in India?”: Emily Lawless’s Colonial Consciousness’, in European Journal of English Studies, 3, 3 (Swets & Zeitlinger, 1999) [q.p.].;
  • Gerardine Meaney, ‘Decadence, Degeneration and Revolting Aesthetics: The Fiction of Emily Lawless and Katherine Cecil Thurston’, in Colby Quarterly, 36, 2 (2000), pp.157-75.
  • James M. Cahalan, ‘Forging Tradition: Emily Lawless and the Irish Literary Canon’, in Border Crossings: Irish Women Writers and National Identities, ed., Kathryn Kirkpatrick (Dublin: Wolfhound Press; Alabama UP 2000) [Chap. 2];
  • Liu Jin, ‘Emily Lawless: A Prose Writer’ (MA Diss., UUC 2003) [see extract];
  • Kathleen Costello-Sullivan, ‘Novel Traditions: Realism and Modernity in Hurrish and The Real Charlotte’, in The Irish Novel in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Jacqueline Belanger (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2005) [c.p.164];
  • Heidi Hansson, Emily Lawless (1845-1913): Writing the “Interspace” (Cork UP 2007), viii, 234pp.
  • Andrea Mayr, The Aran Islands and Anglo-Irish Literature: a Literary History and Selected Studies, with a preface by Otto Rauchbauer (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang 2008) [incls. chap. on Lawless, pp.205-21].
  • Catherine Smith, ‘“Words! Words! Words!”: Interrogations of Language and History in Emily Lawless’s With Essex in Ireland’, in Irish Women Writers: New Critical Perspectives, ed. Elke d’Hoker, et al. [Reimagining Ireland, No. 40] ([Intern.] Peter Lang 2011), q.pp.

See also James M. Calahan, Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction (Syracuse; Syracuse UP 1999); Heather Ingman, A History of the Irish Short Story (Cambridge UP 2009).

[ top ]

The Nation, [q.a.] review of Hurrish, 20 Feb. 1886, Lawless looked down on the peasantry ‘from the pinnacle of her three-generation nobility’ and had written a work ‘slanderous and lying from cover to cover.’ (Quoted in James M. Cahalan, The Irish Novel (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), pp. 81 and Betty Webb Brewer, ‘“She Was Part of It”, Emily Lawless’, in Eire-Ireland Vol. 18, 1983, p.121.)

[ top ]

[Q. a.], ‘A Great Irish Novelist’, review of Grania: The Story of an Island, United Irishman(30 April 1892): ‘There is really - to speak, perhaps, a little bluntly - one thing which Irishmen who would like to see their country with a literature of her own must bear in mind: namely, that they will never have such if it is to consist solely of books which flatter our National vanities, glaze over our National defects, and exaggerate our National virtues. Let us have an end of this. We do not know whether Miss Emily Lawless is a Nationalist or the reverse - nor do we care; but we do believe that in ’Hurrish’ and the beautiful story now under review [Grania] she has given to Irish literature works which will add immensely to its reputation, and place her own name beside the first two or three of Ireland’s foremost novelists.’

[ top ]

W. B. Yeats, [commentary on his list of 30 best books] Dublin Daily Express (27 Feb. 1895), [q.p.] rep. in Letters, ed., Wade, pp.246-51; ‘I have included, though with much doubt, Essex in Ireland, because, despite - its lack of intensity, it helps one, when read together with the passionate and dramatic Bog of Stars, to imagine Elizabethan Ireland, and certainly does contain one memorable scene in which the multitudes, slain in the Irish war rise up complaining; … I, indeed, feel always that both Miss Lawless and Miss Barlow differ as yet from the greater Irish novelists in being only able to observe Irish character from without and not to create it from within. They have, perhaps, bowed to the fallacy of our time, which says that the fountain of art is observation, whereas it is almost wholly experience.’ Also; ‘Miss Lawless is probably like Mr Standish O’Grady on the unpopular side of Irish politics, but, unlike Mr O’Grady is in imperfect sympathy with the Celtic nature, and has accepted the commonplace conception of Irish character as something charming, irresponsible, poetic, dreamy, untrustworthy, voluble, and rather despicable, and the commonplace conception of English character as something prosaic, hard, trustworthy, silent altogether worshipful and the result is a twofold slander. This bundle of half-truths made her describe the Irish soldiers throughout Essex in Ireland as a savage, undisciplined, ragged horde, in the very teeth of Raleigh’s letters which prove them among the best disciplined in Europe; and made her Grania magnify a peasant type which exists here and there in Ireland, and mainly in the extreme west, into a type of the whole nation …’.

See also a footnote in The Celtic Twilight (1893; 1902): ‘Sometimes one hears of stolen people acting as good genii to the living, as in this tale, heard also close by the haunted pond, of John Kirwan of Castle Hacket. The Kirwans [see ftn.] are a family much rumoured of in peasant stories, and believed to be the descendants of a man and a spirit. They have ever been famous for beauty, and I have read that the mother of the present Lord Cloncurry was of their tribe.’ Ftn.: ‘I have since heard that it was not the Kirwans, but their predecessors at Castle Hacket, the Hackets themselves, I think, who were descended from a man and a spirit, and were notable for beauty. I imagine that the mother of Lord Cloncurry was descended from the Hackets. It may well be that all through these stories the name of Kirwan has taken the place of the older name. Legend mixes everything together in her cauldron.’

J. M. Synge, in The Aran Islands - Notebook (1907): Notebook 19 [written at the end of the first visit]: ‘To write a real novel of the island life one would require to pass several years among the people, but Miss Lawless does not appear to have lived here. Indeed it would be hardly possible perhaps for a lady [to stay] longer than a few days. Compare the peasants of [102] Grania with those of Fiona MacLeod who I feel sure has a real deep knowledge. Take the passage in Grania where he heroine makes up the fire of kelp before she goes home to her rest as an example [of] how superficially travellers speak. The kelp-fire lasts at most twenty-four hours and is tended all the time by some half dozen who pile on the weeds continually. Such at least is now the custom, and I am told none other could exist. Miss Lawless if she has erred has not done so as deeply as Pierre Loti in his Pêcheur d’Islande [&c.; …]’ (See further under Synge - infra.)

[ top ]

Shan Bullock, Preface to The Race of Castlebar (1913): ‘She was placcid and flaccid, with half-closed, near-sighted eyes and limp white hands. Her speech was slow and she was very delicate and rather hypochondriacal and untidy in her dressing.’ (Q.p.; quotedin Liu Jin, MA Diss., UUC 2003.)

[Anon.], review of Hurrish in New York Times (21 March 1886): ‘No other work today … will carry more weight or reach a larger circle’. [ q. source.]

Maurice Francis Egan, ‘On Irish Novels’, in Catholic University Bulletin, 10, 3 (1904), p.330; ‘The Hon Miss Lawless, Miss Laffan, Miss Jane Barlow, even the exquisite Moira O’Neill, who has the point of view of a novelist, though she is not one, all have sympathy and understanding but it is a sympathy and understanding not unconscious. Thackeray’s characters are more evidenly painted from the outside than many of Lever’s and Lover’s.’

Edith Sichel, ‘Emily Lawless’, The Nineteenth Century, LXXVI (July 1914), p.83; ‘She liked bareness and endurance better than fertility and ease […] The strongest remembrance of her kept by an old friend of her youth was that of a girl with “tossing corn-coloured hair” galloping about Co. Clare’. [See also under Quotations, infra.]

Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama in the English Language: A Short History (London: T. Nelson 1936), p.115; ‘… Miss Lawless disliked all that was revolutionary in the Ireland of her day, and despised much of it. Yet, when she threw her imagination back into the past, instantly she became a rebel.’ (p.115); ‘Hurrish and Grania appeared at a time when no novel of Irish life approaching them in literary quality had been seem for many years. … in love with the wind-swept expanses of rocks … [and] the beauty and the tender charm of Irish women. But she is estranged from a race whose marriages are arranged without regard for anything but convenience and whose courtships are singularily bloodless affairs. See further remarks on ‘unlikely’ plot of Hurrish, op. cit.

James M. Cahalan, The Irish Novel (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), pp.80-84: ‘Another novel that had a tremendous impact on the nationalist scene was Emily Lawless’s Hurrish (1886) […] Yet Irish nationalists were not hospitable to Lawless. The Nation accused her of grossly exaggerating the violence of peasants, on whom she looked down from “the pinnacle of her three-generation nobility”, and called Hurrish “slanderous and lying from cover to cover.” […] Nationalists also did not like the fact that Lawless, Like Anna Hall with her Edward Spencer, had developed a model landlord character, … Ironically, the Ascendancy myth-maker Yeats, grudgingly included two of her books among his list of the “Best Irish Books” but cautioning that she was in “imperfect sympathy with the Celtic nature” […] Rather, Lawless was in “imperfect sympathy” with Yeats’s romanticised view of “the Celtic nature”. Her novel Grania examines the peasantry more truthfully than anything Yeats ever wrote about peasants and is a close precursor to Synge’s Riders to the Sea and other later, naturalistic treatments of the peasantry such as the stories and novels of Liam O’Flaherty.’ (pp.80-81.)

[ top ]

James M. Cahalan, ‘Forging a Tradition: Emily Lawless and the Irish Literary Canon’, in Border-crossings: Irish Women Writers and national Identities, ed. kathryn Kirkpatrick Alabama UP 2000) - on Grania and the Aran Islands: ‘[T]he patriarchy of its culture as embodied in the exploitative do-nothing Murdough overwhelms her in the end.’ (p.50; quoted in Tina Calvell, UU Essay, 2008.)

James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), Part I: ‘Upper Middle-Class Fiction 1873-1890’, pp.34; 43: her novels were “note received with so much favour [in Ireland] as in England”. her faults werw “sense of the inevitableness of Irish failure”, and “lack of true insight into the all embracing faith” of the Irish’ (p.34; quoting various issues of Irish Book Lover and Freeman’s Journal.); further remarks, ‘Emily Lawless was often credited with sympathy toward Ireland by the Catholic upper middle class. However, her highly influential novel, Hurrish (1886), contains a version of actions based on goodwill that would not have pleased upper middle-class writers. When a local man is murdered the police suspect a law-abiding farmer, Hurrish O’Brien. However, Major O’Brien, the landlord and magistrate, refuses to have Hurrish arrested, believing him to be innocent. The major becomes irnmensely popular among the people who believe Hurrish to be guilty but wish him, nonetheless, to escape justice. Here goodwill is seen by the people as a quality to be exploited in furtherance of their resistance to authority rather than as a step toward making peace with it.’ (p.43.)

Liu Jin, ‘Emily Lawless: A Prose Writer’ (MA Diss., UUC 2003), remarks on Maelcho and With Essex in Ireland: ‘Just as in her Irish peasant novels [Hurrish and Grania], Lawless tries to show the full complexity of the relationship between Ireland and England in these historical tales. Even though her attention to historical authenticity is precise her main concern is to show the virtues and flaws of both sides of the divide. In doing this she is presenting the equality of the parties involved but it also means that she presents them in a fatalistic dance from which neither party can escape. In her Irish novels Lawless tries to take the impartial observer stance of the scientist examining her material without comment. At times though she cannot help her own point of view emerging in the text and at these times the pluralism of her view is more often than not coloured by her own class and it becomes clear that, no matter how flawed she sees the English, she also feels that the real dignity and honour of the Celt is long dead and that what remains is a squabbling class unfit to rule itself. Her call is therefore for a change in English attitudes to Ireland.’ (p.46.) Further, on Maelcho (1894): ‘Although the novel is named Maelcho, the character Maelcho makes a very late appearance. In the second part of the novel, when Hugh and Maelcho meet, he is not young any more but his strength and height are still awesome. However, his devotion to Fitzmaurice’s two little daughters undermines his image in Hugh’s mind while Fitzmaurice’s reasons for rejecting Maelcho as a messenger, reveal the flaws in his personality as he is not “possessed with a silent tongue and an observant eye” nor could he do what he was told and no more than exactly, what he was told”. Lawless portrays Maelcho as a noble savage with animal instinct. He is faithful to his master but it is not “man-fidelity” but “dog-fidelity”. (Maelcho, p.60.) [Cont.]

Liu Jin (‘Emily Lawless: A Prose Writer’, 2003) - cont.: ‘After leaving Sir John’s prison he wanders as “a wild best prowls” (Ibid., p.335). When he rushes back to Smerick hoping to find his girsha ladies, his pace is like “the long loping gallop of a wolf” (p.341). As he finds that everything is gone at Smerick, his desperate roar is “the bellow of some wounded bull” (p.348). When he discovers a hiding-place of the woman and her children in the wood, he beams “a gleam as a dog’s face” (p.264). He is a “Child-man” (p.355). In contrast to Hugh, he refuses to face things and after disasters he cannot keep a cool head and work out a plan to tackle the situation. Instead he imagines that the destruction and atrocity caused by the war is a lie or a bad dream. When he is overwhelmed by despair, the only way he can calm himself is to destroy everything. His natural power is gone and the spell broken so it seems he can only be a good nanny. Maelcho’s characterisation is typical of the colonial stereotypes employed in the sixteenth century to represent the Irish individual and the whole race as well, in which the savage appearance and violent temper are the epitome of the Irish people. Meanwhile, the childish, almost feminine personality fits the depiction of Ireland as female, lacking the masculine characteristics necessary to manage her own affairs. […] It is easy to see Maelcho as a confirmation of Lawless’s belief that Ireland was ill-fitted to be an independent country and her opposition to Home Rule, but a closer reading shows thatwhile this is [37]certainly the case, her position is again a more reading of the inter-relationship of Ireland/England.’ (see also Bibliography, infra.)

[ top ]

Clíona Ó Gallchoir, ‘The case for the defence of a writer out of step’, review of Heidi Hansson, Emily Lawless, 1845-1913: Writing the Interspace, in The Irish Times (26 May 2007), Weekend: ‘In Lawless’s case, history was even more evidently against her than it was against Edgeworth. Her writing coincided with the high point of the Literary Revival, and she knew and corresponded with some of its leading figures, such as Lady Gregory, even spending a weekend at Coole Park with Gregory and W. B. Yeats: this served only to underline the differences between them, however. According to Heidi Hansson, Lawless referred to Yeats privately as a “disloyal”, and Gregory noted in her journal that Lawless and Yeats spent the weekend quarrelling, Lawless taking issue with Yeats’s insistence that a writer’s first duty was to his - or her - art, rather than to practical considerations such as supporting a family or earning a living. Gregory was quick to point to the “British” and “commercial” origins of Lawless’s family to explain her concern with the mundane and material, and thus a picture emerges from this incident of a woman and a writer who was both ambivalently Irish and out of step with the dominant artistic and cultural movement of the time.’ Further, ‘The inspiration for [Hannson’s] approach comes from Lawless’s own concept of “interspace”, a word she coined to describe the unique landscape of north Clare, where land, sea and sky meet. According to Hansson, Lawless’s love of and close attention to this landscape and her description of it as something that is both/and as well as neither/nor provides a key to her writing, frequently characterised by a doubled perspective, and throws light on her position, not only as an Anglo-Irish patriot who upheld the Union, but also as a woman writer within the patriarchal literary culture of the 19th century.’ (For full text, see Ricorso Library, “Criticism”, infra.)

Heidi Hansson, Emily Lawless 1845-1913: Writing the Interspace (Cork UP 2007): [Grania] ‘reveals the inherent duality of gender politics; that is, how she [Grania] both criticises and upholds values of the patriarchal society she belongs to.’ (p.26.) ‘Murdough never gorws beyond his original patronising acquaintance with her as a little girl and is unable to deal wiwth Grania as a mature, strong woman.’ (p.48.) ‘[Grania’s strength is] too masculine to be really acceptable in a society where changes, no matter of what sort or from what cause, are naturally condemned.’ (Ibid., p.77.); Tina Calvell, UU Essay, 2008.)

[ top ]

Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11]: Notes William Gladstone's expression of gratitude to Lawless for her novel Hurrish, which conveyed ‘not as an abstract proposition, but as a living reality, the estrangement of the people of Ireland from the law’ (Gladstone, Special Aspects of the Irish Question […], [Daily Chronicle,] 1892) and cites the praise of contemporary reviewers in The Irish Times, the Scotsman who applauded her realism about existing conditions in Ireland; contrasts the Nation reviewer who accused Lawless of grossly exaggerating peasant violence ‘from the pinnacle of her three-generation nobility’ in a novel that is ‘slanderous and lying from cover to cover’. Also quotes Yeats’s view of Lawless as remaining ‘in imperfect sympathy with the Celtic nature’. (Cites Betty Brewer, ‘“She Was a Part of It”: Emily Lawless, 1845-1913’, in Eire-Ireland, 1983, pp.119-31, p.123, and Yeats, in ‘Irish National Literature, II: Contemporary Prose Writers’, The Bookman, Aug. August 1895; rep. in Uncollected Prose, ed. John Frayne, Macmillan 1970, Vol. 1., p.369. [Cont.]

Margaret Kelleher (‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, 2006, Vol. I) - cont. ‘Lawless’s ascendancy ancestors had much more complex political loyalties: on her father’s side, an earlier Lord Cloncurry was involved with the United Irishmen, and supported both Catholic emancipation and the anti-tithe campaign. […] Hurrish, published by Blackwood in 1886, is set […] towards the end of the 1879-81 land war, but written also in the context of the Ashbourne Land Act and of Gladstone’s unsuccessful Home Rule Bill of 1886. Its cast of characters unfolds as a series of types: Hurrish, the Arnoldian Celt; his Caliban-like enemy, Mat Brady; the saintly heroine, Ally; the aboriginal, paternalist landlord, Pierce O’Brien; heroically loyal Phil Rooney; and the coming young man, Maurice Brady Lawless’s success in this early novel - developed to even greater effect in her later Grania (1892) - lies rather in her portrayal of place, the landscape of the novel emerging as more vibrant, and significantly more complex, than its inhabitants. From the contours of the land may be traced not only the layers of prehistory, which “rejoice the soul of the antiquary in these Celtic solitudes”, but also the bleak scars of the recent past: rocks as skeletons, “;starvation made visible, and embodied in a landscape”.’ (Hurrish [1886], rep. Belfast: Appletree Press 1992, pp.32, 3; here p.481.) [Cont.]

Margaret Kelleher (‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, 2006, Vol. I) - cont. ‘Following Hurrish, Lawless turned to historical fiction: With Essex in Ireland, an account of the Irish campaign of Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, in 1599, was published in 1890, and Maelcho, set during the Desmond rebellion of 1579-82, followed in 1894. In her now most acclaimed novel, Grania, geographical remoteness replaces historical distance as a narrative tool: the scene is Inis Meáin, the middle of the three Aran Islands, off the coast of Galway. Contemporary, international discourses on racial degeneracy permeate the story, as Geraldine Meaney has shown, and are evident in the doomed fate of its heroine whose passionate yearnings for self-fulfilment render her the most powerfully realised of Lawless’s characters. (Meaney, ‘Decadence, Degeneration and Revolting Aesthetics: The Fiction of Emily Lawless and Katherine Cecil Thurston’, in Colby Quarterly, (2000, pp.157-75.) The novel clearly deploys a number of the traits of late nineteenth-century New Woman fiction, including progressive aspiration and pessimistic conclusions, but its portrait of social degradation has also distinct national implications not lost on the author’s early critics.

[ top ]

After Aughrim” [infra]. ‘So said, “they gave me of their best ,/ They lived, they gave their lives for me; / I tossed them to the howling waste, / And flung them to the foaming sea[”]// …// “Go knows they owe me nought,/I tossed them to the fomaing sea, / I tossed them to the foaming waste / Yet still their love comes home to me”.’ (Cf. ballad of same title by Arthur Gerald Geoghegan).

Hurrish (1886): ‘If here and there a rib or so of rock protrudes, they merely seem to be foils to the general smoothness. But these Burren hills are literally not clothed at all. They are startlingly, 1 may say scandalously, naked. From their base up to the battered turret of rock that serves as a summit, not a patch, not a streak, not an indication even, of green is often to be found in the whole extent. On others a thin sprinkling of grass struggles upwards for a few hundred feet, and in valleys and hollows, where the washings of the rocks have accumulated, a grass grows, famous all over cattle-feeding Ireland for its powers of fattening. So, too, in the long vertical rifts or fissures which everywhere cross and recross its surface, maiden-hair ferns and small tender-petalled flowers unfurl, out of reach of the cruel blast. These do not, however, affect the general impression, which is that of nakedness personified - not comparative, but absolute. The rocks are not scattered over the surface, as in other stony tracts, but the whole surface is rock.’ (p.2). Further, ‘We are all children of our environment - the good no less than the bad - products of that particular group of habits, customs, traditions, ways of looking at things, standards of right and wrong, whcih chance has presented to our still growing and expanding consciousness’ (p.134; both quoted in Lin Jiu, op. cit., 2003.)

Grania (1892): ‘The most unconventional of all countries under the sun, Ireland has a few strict conventions of its own, and one of the strictest of those conventions was standing like a wall of brass right in her path at the moment. True, she and Murdough were betrothed - might be said to be as good as married - but what then? Even if they had been married, married a hundred times, convention stronger than anything else, the iron convention of their class, would have forbidden anything like open demonstrativeness from him to her, still more therefore from her to him.’ (p.93.) ‘If all humans are themselves island[s], as the poet has suggested, this tall, red-petticoated, fiercely handsome girl was decidedly a very isolated, and rather craggy and unapproachable, sort of island.’ (p.104). ‘She was immensely strong, he [Murdough] knew, the strongest girl on Inishmaan, as well as the best off, for both reasons evidently, the most suitable one as a wife for himself.’ (pp.107-08.) ‘Better fed than most of her class, her own mistress, without grinding poverty, the mere joy of life, the sheer animal zest and intoxication of living was keener in her than it often is in those of her own rank and sex in Irland. Of this she was herself dimly aware. Did others find the same pleasure merely in breathing - merely in moving and working - as she did, she sometimes wondered.’ (p.177.). ‘The youth in her vein cries for life, life! sharped-edged life, life with the blood in it, not for a thin bloodless heaven that no one could touch or prove.’ (p.226; all the foregoing quoted in Liu Jin, op. cit., 2003.) Further: ‘if humans themselves are islands, then this tall, red petticoated, fiercely handsome girl [Grania] was decideldy a very isolation, and rather craggy and unapproachable sort of island.’ (Pt. II, chap. 1; quoted in Tina Calvell, UU Essay, 2008.) [See also full-text version at Michael Sundermeier site, online.]

[ top ]

The Story of Ireland (1896 Edn.) - Chapter 1

[...] Geographically, then, and topographically it was no doubt in much the same state as the greater part of it remained up to the middle or end of the sixteenth century, a wild, tangled, roadless land, that is to say, shaggy with forests, abounding in streams, abounding, too, in lakes - far more, doubtless, than at present, drainage and other causes having greatly reduced their number - with rivers bearing the never-failing tribute of the skies to the sea, yet not so thoroughly as to hinder enormous districts from remaining in a swamped and saturated condition, given up to the bogs, which even at the present time are said to cover nearly one-sixth of its surface.
 This superfluity of bogs seems always in earlier times to have been expeditiously set down by all historians and agriculturists as part of the general depravity of the Irish native, who had allowed his good lands, - doubtless for his own mischievous pleasure - to run to waste; bogs being then supposed to differ from other lands only so far as they were made “waste and barren by superfluous moisture.” About the middle of last century it began to be perceived that this view of the matter was somewhat inadequate; the theory then prevailing being that bogs owed their origin not to water alone, but to the destruction of woods, whose remains are found imbedded in them - a view which held good for another fifty or sixty years, until it was in its turn effectually disposed of by the report of the Bogs Commission in 1810, when it was proved once for all that it was to the growth of sphagnums and other peat-producing mosses they were in the main due - a view which has never since been called in question.
 A great deal, however, had happened to Ireland before the bogs began to grow on it at all. It had - to speak only of some of its later vicissitudes - been twice at least united to England, and through it with what we now know as the continent of Europe, and twice severed from it again. It had been exposed to a cold so intense as to bleach off all life from its surface, utterly depriving it of vegetation [...]’ (pp.2-3.)

[ Lawless later speaks of the Formorians as a ‘dark, low-browed, stunted race’, and the Firbolgs as ‘a Belgic colony ... of a somewhat higher ethnological grade, although, like the Formorians, short, dark, and swarthy.’ (p.6.) She goes on: ]

‘Doubtless the latter were not entirely exterminated to make way for the Firbolgs, any more than the Firbolgs to make way for the Danaans, Milesians, and other successive races; such wholesale exterminations being, in fact, very rare, especially in a country which like Ireland seems specially laid out by kindly nature for the protection of a weaker race struggling in the grip of a stronger one. / After the Firbolgs, though I should be sorry to be obliged to say how long after, fresh and more important tribes of invaders began to appear. The first of these were the Tuatha-da-Danaans, who arrived under the leadership of their king Nuad, and took possession of the east of the country. These Tuatha-da-Danaans are believed to have been large, blue-eyed people of Scandinavian origin, kinsmen and possibly ancestors of those Norsemen or “Danes” who in years to come were destined to work such woe and havoc upon the island.’; (pp.6-7.)

Chapter II: Legends and Legend makers

‘Better far than such historic shams - cardboard castles with little or no substance behind them - are the real legends. These put forward no obtrusive pretensions to accuracy, and for that very reason are far truer in that larger sense in which all the genuine and spontaneous outgrowth of a country form part and parcel of its history. Some of the best of these have been excellently translated by Mr. Joyce, whose Celtic Romances ought to be in the hands of every one, from the boy of twelve upwards, who aspires to know anything of the inner history of Ireland; to understand, that is to say, that curiously recurrent note of poetry and pathos which breaks continually through all the dull hard prose of the surface. A note often lost in unmitigated din and discord, yet none the less re-emerging, age after age, and century after century, and always when it does so lending its own charm to a record, which, without some such alleviations, would be almost too grim and disheartening in its unrelieved and unresulting misery to be voluntarily approached at all.’ (p.13.)

‘No system of representation seems ever to have prevailed in Ireland. That idea is, in fact, almost purely Teutonic, and seems never to have sprung up spontaneously amongst any Celtic people. The family was the real root. Every head of a family ruled his own household, and submitted in his turn to the rule of his chief. Blood-relationship, including fosterage, was the only real and binding union; that larger connection known as the clan or sept, having the smaller one of the family for its basis, as was the case also amongst the clans of the Scotch highlands. Theoretically, all members of a clan, high and low alike, were held to be the descendants of a common ancestor, and in this way to have a real and direct claim upon one another. If a man was not in some degree akin to another he was no better than a beast, and might be killed like one without compunction whenever occasion arose.
  Everything thus began and centred around the tribe or sept. The whole theory of life was purely local. The bare right of existence extended only a few miles from your own door, to the men who bore the same name as yourself. Beyond that nothing was sacred; neither age nor sex, neither life nor goods, not even in later times the churches themselves. Like his cousin of the Scotch Highlands, the Irish tribesman's life was one perpetual carnival of fighting, burning, raiding, plundering, and he who plundered oftenest was the finest hero.
 All this must be steadily borne in mind as it enables us to understand, as nothing else will, that almost insane joy in and lust for fighting, that marked inability to settle down to orderly life which runs through all Irish history from the beginning almost to the very end.’ (pp.29-30.) [The chapter ends with an illustration of the ‘mouth of sepulchral chamber at Dowth’. (See Gutenberg edition - online; accessed 09.11.2011.)

[ top ]

Traits and Confidences: ‘Even for this aspiring naturalist, for this embryo discoverer, life had its drawbacks. If less pressing upon her than upon others, there still were certain respects in which the long-recognised limitations of her sex continued to assert themselves. The most formidable, perhaps of these was the early recognition of the fact that under no circumstances, by no possible stretch of indulgence, would this coming Cuvier or Buffon in short frocks ever be entrusted with a gun! This plainly tyrannical, and heartless regulation had the natural effect of curtailing at one fell swoop the entire realm over which her future activities were to range, and in which she was to record her triumphs.’ (pp.8-9; quoted in Liu Jin, ‘Emily Lawless: A Prose Writer’, MA Diss., UU 2003.)

Suffragettes: ‘I have no sympathy with Suffragette methods, I need hardly say, and have personally no wish for a vote, but the helplessness of great bodies of women-workers even against admitted wrongs, simply because there is no one whose interest it is to speak for them, is too plain a fact for any fair-minded person, man or woman, to deny.’ (Quoted by Edith Sichel, ‘Emily Lawless’, in The Nineteenth Century, LXXVI, July 1914, p.98; cited in Liu Jin, op. cit., 2003.)

Home Rule: The Home Rule movement, in Hurrish, she characterises as a folly based in an ‘unquenchable expectation of a millenium which would make them rich [and] happy … as if by miracle.’; (to Horace Plunkett), ‘I am not anti-Gaelic at all as long as it is only Gaelic enthuse and does not include politics’; also ‘the long-repented sin of the stronger country was the culprit.’ (q. source).

The wind in Inishmaan: ‘Now shrill, now menacing; now sinking into a whisper - an angry whisper filled with a deep sense of wrong and inhury and complaint. Then, as if that sense of wront was really troo strong to be suppresed any longer, it swells and swelled into a loud waspish tone - one which, like some scolding tongue, appeared to rise higher and higher the less it was opposed; then at its highest pitch, it would suddenly drop again to moan and muttering, full, it seemed, of impotent rage and dull unuttered malice.’ (Grania, p.194; quoted in Lin Jiu, op. cit. 2003.)

[ top ]

Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); gives extract from Grania, and ‘A Retort’ from With The Wild Geese.

See refs. in Irish Book Lover, Vols. 5, 7, 32

Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists Hurrish ([rep.] 1902); With Essex in Ireland; Grania; Maelcho; Traits and Confidences; The Book of Gilly (1906); with Shan Bullock, The Race of Castlebar (1914), about Humbert.

[ top ]

Arthur Quiller Couch, ed., Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918 (new edn. 1929), 852; see also The Dublin Book of Verse, ed. John Cooke (1909).

[ top ]

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989), notes Swinburne’s encomium but lists Grani a disparagingly, as ‘little more than a vehicle for [her] densely regional depiction of a distinctive local way of life in an unusual community that she knew at first hand … map of the island appended to Smith, Elder’s first edn.’ In Who’s Who, she described her recreations as ‘dredging, mothing, gardening, geologising’; her novels updated versions of Banim brothers’ studies of Irish Peasantry and occasional historical romance; Hurrish … was topical in the context of Home Rule agitation, though her loyalist views were controversial; Grania her most successful novel, read and enthused over by Gladstone [prob. error for Hurrish]; Race of Castlebar (1913) a light-hearted work about a threatened [sic] French invasion … died leaving Bullock to write the last chapter by himself. Last years in Surrey in poor mental and physical health.

[ top ]

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, dg. 3rd baron Cloncurry; grandfather, 2nd baron, involved with United Irishmen, emancipation and anti-tithe campaigns; corresponded with Gladstone following Hurrish; her father and two sisters committed suicide; retired disillusioned to Surrey. Gives extract from Hurrish p.1027ff. See also pp.990, 1021; 1217; 1216.

Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own (1984), Bio-note, b. Co. Kildare, daughter of a barn; ed. home, remained single; Some travel; first book, A Chelsea Householder (1882).

Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1994), selects “After Aughrim” [infra].

[ top ]

Library catalogues
Belfast Central Public Library holds The Book of Gilly (1906); Grania (1892); Hurrish (1888, 1902); In Alienable Heritage [sic] (1914); Ireland (1892, 1912); Maelcho (1905); Maria Edgeworth (1904); Plain Frances Mowbray (1889); The Race of Castlebar (1913); Traits and Confidences (1898); With Essex in Ireland (1890); With the Wild Geese (1902).

Belfast Linenhall holds Ireland (1887); With Essex in Ireland, extracts from the diary kept by H. Hervey, 1599 (1890); With the Wild Geese, verse (1902).

Richard Beaton (Lewes, S. Sussex), lists Hurrish: A Study [1886; Nelson's Library] (London, T. Nelson & Sons [1913]), hb., pocket edition in original red cloth, lettered in gilt on spine; frontispiece. [£10].

[ top ]

Grania (1892) is set on Inishmaan and deals with the story of a island girl of great beauty and natural vitality - the title character (‘a very wild queer girl […] leaping and dancing over the rocks of the sea’) - who is misused by Murdough, the prime young male of the island, finally precipitating her suicide. Her sister Honour is ‘a saint - a tender self-doubting, otherwise all-believing soul’, obedient to her father and the church. Honour is the child of her father's first wife, Grania of his second, Delia Joyce, in ‘a genuine love-match on both sides - that rarest phenomena in peasant Ireland.’ Delia is not a native islander but from ‘the continent’ (i.e., mainland) and is tall, with wild eyes, being a (‘magnificently handsome creature, with an umistakable dash of Spanish blood in her veins’ - i.e., mainland.) Grania, unable to accept her role as wife to the condescendingly patriarchal and dismissive Murdough, commits suicide on the Atlantic rocks while Honour also comes to a tragic end.

William Gladstone considered Hurrish an explanation of the ‘estrangement of the people of Ireland from the law’ [cited in Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919)] and further said that she had presented to her readers ‘not as an abstract proposition, but as a living reality, the estrangement of the people of Ireland from law and order’ (cited in Betty Webb Brewer, ‘“She Was Part of It”, Emily Lawless’, in Eire-Ireland Vol. 18, 1983, p.121.)

Hugh Lane Appeal: Emily Lawless joined with Augusta Gregory, S. H. Butcher, Douglas Hyde, Somerville & Ross, George Russell and W. B. Yeats in ‘An Appeal from Irish Authors’ (Freeman’s Journal, 13 Dec. 1904), protesting against Corporation judgement on Hugh Lane’s gallery. See Adrian Frazier, ‘Paris, Dublin: Looking at George Moore Looking at Manet’, in New Hibernia Review, 1, 1 (Spring 1997), pp.19-30. See also in Alan Denson, Letters from AE (London: Abelard-Schuman 1961), p.54, - as given under Jane Barlow, Notes [supra].

Times obituary associated her with the ‘Young Celtic’ movement and remarked that ‘she was a lady of decided opinions and speech’.

Aran Island: In Grania, Emily Lawless wonders if Arran [sic] could support a literature; cf. the Anthology of the Aran Islands (c.2003).

W. B. Yeats borrowed his famous phrase, ‘the walk of a queen’ (in Cathleen ni Houlihan, 1902) from her Grania; and cf. Cathleen Ni Houlihan; cf. also A Vision, where Yeats writes of ‘beautiful women [who] walk like queens [and] ‘are gentle only to those who they love, [have] chosen or subdued.’ Note that the original occurrence of the phrase is in in Torcmharc Edain.

Mrs O’Donnell’s Report’, story, contains a character Maria, whom Lawless uses as a female version of Thady Quirk the Castle Rackrent (cited in William Galloway, UUC MA Dip., 1997.)

Maria Edgeworth: for Emily Lawless’s remarks on Maria Edgeworth’s Thady as a servant to the Anglo-Irish, see entry for Edgeworth, supra.

Tim Cook at Kingston Univ., London, was working on Lawless in Summer 1994 [personal corr.].

[ top ]