Francis Sylvester Mahony [“Father Prout”] (1804-66)

[pseuds. “Fr. Prout, P.P. of Watergrasshill”; “Don Jeremy Savonarola”, “Benedictine Monk”; occas. err. Mahoney]; b. 31 Dec. 1804, Cork, 2nd son of Martin Martin Mahony, woollen-milling entrepreneur, latterly at Blarney; ed. St. Acheul, a Jesuit college in Amiens, from twelve; afterwards at Rue de Sèvres, Paris, and later in Rome; commenced teaching at Jesuit school of Clongowes as master of rhetoric with Canon Sheehan among his pupils, 1830; commended by Fr. Mathew for assisting fever victims in Cork epidemic of 1832; dismissed by Jesuits for leading boys on drunken outing at Celbridge, remaining thereafter a ‘half-pay soldier of the Church, without the half-pay’ (acc. Jerrold);
ord. Lucca, for the Cork diocese, having been refused orders by the Jesuits; moved to London after two years following disagreement with the bishop of Cork arising from Mahony’s plan to build chapel of ease to the North Cathedral; became ‘half-pay officer of the Church’ (Jerrold), continuing to say breviary throughout his life but otherwise not serving as a priest; encouraged by William Maginn (ed. Fraser’s Mag.); wrote for satirical sketches Fraser’s Magazine, 1834-36, in company with Coleridge, Thackeray, Southey, Lockhart, Maginn, Maclise and Count D’Orsay; issued as Reliques of Father Prout (18360, ill. by Maclise and purported edited by Oliver Yorke, introduced in turn by Cresswell [pseud.] in order to introduce Fr. Prout of Watergrasshill, a French-educated parish priest who claims to be the son of Dean Swift and Stella (“Dean Swift’s Madness: A Tale of a Churn”);
contrib. “The Apology for Lent” (April 1834), in scholarly praise of fish; contrib. “Songs of Horace” (December 1836); practised art of what he called ‘upsetting’ poems, and thereby noted for mock translations of Moore and others into classical languages, imputing plagiarism or those ‘originals’ by same (“The Rogueries of Tom Moore”); also contrib. [“Women and Plea for Pilgrimages”, addressed to Walter Scott, come to kiss the Blarney Stone, mocking his relations with Maria Edgeworth; “Wooden Shoes”; and “Frogs and Free Trade”, &c., as well as studies of Erasmus, James Barry and five articles on Horace and “Father Prout’s Self-Examination”; repeatedly satirised Milliken’s “Groves of Blarney”, providing ‘originals’; in Latin, Greek, and Norman French, as well as an Italian version as “I Boschi di Blarnea”, which he contends was sung by Garibaldi ‘in the woods above Lake Como’; made O’Connell his bête noir (‘vile Dan’, and the ‘bog-trotter of Derrynane’, also appearing allegorised as ‘Dandelone’ in his Sardinian essays);
assailed Lady Morgan, comparing her to the worst invaders of Italy and disparaging her linguistic pretensions with the assertion that she knew no more of the language that peppers her writing than she does that of the Celestial Empire (ie., China); quarrelled with colleagues at Fraser’s and later contrib. poems to Bentley’s Magazine for Dickens, issued in Bentley’s Miscellany (1937); met Robert Browning (who later wrote his obituary for Pall Mall Gazette) and frequented salon of Lady Blessington; persuaded by Dickens to act as Rome correspondent for The Daily News, 1849 [var. 1846 ODNB], writing as “Don Jeremy Savonarola”; visited Genoa; settled in Paris, acting as Globe correspondent, 1858-66; also travelled via the Balkans to Asia Minor and Egypt; increasingly effected by drink and suffered latterly from diabetes, being nursed by his sis. Ellen Woodlock from Cork up to his death at Rue des Moulins, May 1866; works issued as Reliques of Fr. Prout (2 vols., 1836), ed. by Oliver Yorke [pseud.], ill. Daniel Maclise; and The Last Reliques of Fr. Prout (1876), with a memoir by the editor Blanche Jerrold; later collected as The Works of Father Prout (London: Routledge & Sons 1881), edited by Charles Kent, BL. ODNB JMC DBIV ODQ MKA RAF OCEL DIB DIH FDA OCIL

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  • Reliques of Father Prout; collected and arranged by Oliver Yorke, 2 vols. (London: James Fraser 1836), ill. by Alfred Croquis, Esq. [details].
  • T. Crofton Croker, ed., The Tour of the French Traveller M. De La Bourllaye de Gouz in Ireland a.d. 1844, with notes and ill. extracts contrib. by James Roche, Rev. F. Mahoney, T. Wright and Croker (London 1837).
  • Facts and Figures from Italy, by Don Jeremy Savonarola, Benedictine Monk [pseud. Mahoney] addressed ... to Charles Dickens (1847) [var. as Roman Letters by Don Jeremy Savonarola]; coll. and ed., B[lanchard] Jerrold,
  • The Final Reliques of Father Prout [The Rev. Francis Mahoney] (London: Chatto & Windus 1876).
  • Charles Kent, ed. & intro., The Works of Father Prout (London: George Routledge & Sons 1881), 499pp.

Bibliographical details
Reliques of Father Prout late P.P. of Watergrasshill in the County of Cork, Ireland; collected and arranged by Oliver Yorke [pseud. for Mahony], 2 vols. (London: James Fraser 1836), ill. by Alfred Croquis, Esq. [i.e., Daniel Maclise]; Do., [rev. and enl. edn.; Bohn’s Library] (London: Bell & Daddy 1866), ill. Maclise.; New ed., rev. and largely augmented (London: H. G. Bohn 1860), xi, 578pp., pls. [21 lvs.], 22 cm.; and Do. [copyright Edn.] (London: George Bell & Sons 1909). Note var., The Relics [sic] of Fr. Prout (London: George Bell 1881), cited in Donald Torchiana, Backgrounds for Dubliners (1986).

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  • C. Clemen, ‘A Neglected Humorist, Father Prout’, in Catholic World, CXXXVII (1933), pp.706-10.
  • Benedict Kiely, ‘Irish Potato and Attic Salt’, The Irish Bookman (November 1946), rep. in ‘A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays (Cork UP 1999), pp. 66-78.
  • E[thel] Mannin, Two Studies in Integrity (London: Jerrolds, 1954).
  • Davis & Mary Coakley, Wit and Wine ([London:] Volturna Press 1975).
  • Terry Eagleton, ‘Cork and the Carnivalesque: Frances Sylvester Mahony (Fr. Prout)’, in Irish Studies Review (Autumn 1996), pp.2-7 [see extract].
  • Terry Eagleton, ‘Prout and Plagiarism’, in Ideology in Ireland in the Nineteenth Century [19th-c. Ireland ser., 3] (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1998), pp.13-22.
  • Fergal Gaynor, ‘An Irish Potato Seasoned with Attic Salt’: The Reliques of Fr. Prout and Identity before The Nation’, in Irish Studies Review, 7, 3 (Dec. 1999), pp.313-24.
  • Fergus Dunne, ‘“The Independent Expression of Public Opinion”: The Paris Correspondence of Francis Sylvester Mahony’, in The Irish Review, 36, 1 (Winter 2007), pp.33-48 [see extract].
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Robert Browning (obit. in Pall Mall Gazette): ‘a priest and a Bohemian; a scholar and a journalist; a cork man familiar to everybody in Rome; a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic well known in the convivial clubs of London.’ (See Mary Leland, [notice on Father Prout],  “An Irishwoman’s Diary”, in The Irish Times, 31 Dec. 2004, p.15.)

Denis Florence MacCarthy
  In Memory of Father Prout

In deep dejection, but with affection,
I often think of those pleasant times,
In the days of Fraser, ere I touched a razor,
How I read and revell’d in thy racy rhymes;
When in wine and wassail, we to thee were vassal,
Of Watergrass-hill, O renowned P.P.!
             May the bells of Shandon
             Toll blithe and bland on
       The pleasant waters of thy memory!


There’s a grave that rises o’er thy sward, Devizes,
Where Moore lies sleeping from his land afar,
And a white stone flashes over Goldsmith’s ashes
In quiet cloisters by Temple Bar;
So where’er thou sleepest, with a love that’s deepest,
Shall thy land remember thy sweet song and thee,
             While the Bells of Shandon
             Shall sound so grand on
       The pleasant waters of the river Lee.

  —in Poems (1882), p.265; see full text under MacCarthy - as attached.
See also—
  Those Shandon Bells” (ibid., p.266)

Those Shandon bells, those Shandon bells!
Whose deep, sad tone now sobs, now swells -
Who comes to seek this hallowed ground,
And sleep within their sacred sound?

’Tis one who heard these chimes when young,
And who in age their praises sung,
Within whose breast their music made
A dream of home where’er he strayed.

And, oh! if bells have power to-day
To drive all evil things away,
Let doubt be dumb, and envy cease -
And round his grave reign holy peace.

True love doth love in turn beget,
And now these bells repay the debt;
Whene’er they sound, their music tells
Of him who sang sweet Shandon bells!

May 30, 1866.

  —in Poems, 1882, p.266.

‘M’ [pseud. unknown], writes in ‘Irish Politics and Irish Priests’, in Cornhill Magazine, Vol. I (1870): ‘It was to its transplanting [viz, the type of the Irish British priest] that poor Fr. Prout alluded when he spoke of the process of Italian Cullenisation.’ (p.493; see further under Card. Paul Cullen, supra.)

Daniel Corkery: ‘All those writers were, as much as Mr. Shaw, servants of the English people: - one wonders if their desertion of the land that most required their services was not their secret woe? From Prout’s bitter gibing at O’Connell-that great if imperfect figure - one thinks it may have been so; that his secret sorrow should have expressed itself not in tears but in tauntings of one who did lay his gifts at his country’s feet, must not surprise us, since the jester must find an unusual way.’ (Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature, 1931; Mercier Press Edn. 1966, p.19.)

William J. Maguire, Irish Literary Figures (dublin: Metropolitan Publishing Co. 1945): “The Reliques of Father Prout” first appeared in Fraser’s Magazine [between] 1836 [and] 1838. Mahony persisted in calling Moore’s Melodies, “Moore’s Plagiarisms”, to the author’s annoyance; he wrote translation-versions of Milliken’s “Groves of Blarney” in French, Greek, Latin, and Italian; worked for Dicken’s Bentley’s Magazine; his letters a Roman correspondent for The Daily News collected as Facts and Figures from Italy, under the pseud. Dom Jeremy Savonarola, Benedictine Monk; Oliver Yorke, editing The Last Reliques of Fr. Prout (1876), called his squibs and causeries ‘an Irish potato seasoned with Attic salt’; was described ‘trudging the Boulevards [Paris]’ by Blanchard Jerrold, ‘his nose in the air, his hands clasped behind him ... sarcasm - not of the sourest kind - playing, like Jack O’Lantern, in the corners of his mouth’; wrote inaugural ode for The Cornhill Magazine, for Thackeray, 1860; his reconciliation with the Church described by Monsignor Rogerson, English Catholic chaplain at Paris; ‘his genial Irish heart was full to overflowing with gratitude to God, as a fountain released at that moment, and the sunshine of his early goodness had dispelled the darkness of his after life.’ Buried in the vault of Shandon Church, where Bishop Delany conducted the funeral. (Maguire, op. cit., p.119ff.)

Robert Farren, Course of Irish Verse (NY: Sheed & Ward 1947; London 1948), remarks: ‘Still, Prout distinctly a non-contributor; a polyglot and belle-lettrist of patent ability, his ear hummed always with the Songs of Italy, the Songs of France, the Songs of Béranger - the songs of anywhere save those of Ireland and Irishmen, except when he chipped Tom Moore or made Millikin flummery. [...] might have meant much at home, sparked and sputtered wittily and wastefully abroad. (p. 11). ... the emancipation which training in Rome had bestowed on an Irish Catholic, at a time when most of his kind were self-conscious and craven ... this casual Catholicism ... is a calm acceptance of the place and power of the Church which could not have come from Callanan or Mangan’ [with reference to the allusions to Rome and Notre Dame in “The Bells of Shandon”] (p.16).

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Ethel Mannin, ‘Rev. Francis Mahony (“Father Prout”)’, in Two Studies in Integrity (1954), pp.135-262. Remarks that Father Andrew Prout, Mahony’s fictive character [created in 1835], was conceived in full as parish priest of Watergrasshill, born in Dublin, the son of Swift and Stella, and a ‘combination of Socrates and Sancho Panza, of Scarrion and the Venerable Bede’; he invented Oliver Yorke, to edit the Prout papers when they were collected as Father Prout’s Reliques. Mannin goes on, ‘for Father Prout was already dead when Mahony, alias Oliver Yorke, first introduced him to the reader s Regina - and to write signed introductions to some of them when they appeared in the magazine [Fraser’s]. He thus secured to himself a double anonymity, though the hoax was no secret to the Fraserians. The papers appeared every month for two years.’ (p.155.) The first, Father Prout’s ‘Apology for Lent’, introduces the alter ego with the Reverend father’s death, Obsequies and Elegy. [Mannin reproduces large parts of the ensuing discourse, pp.156-59.] In the next, Mahony rendered ‘The Groves of Blarney’ in Italian, French, Greek, and Latin, while contending that the Greek was the original. The Third, Father Prout’s ‘Carousal’, caused offence in Cork for mentioning the names of various citizens, and also includes the first wigging of Moore in giving the Latin original of ‘Let Erin Remember’; also ‘Dean Swift’s Madness’, which includes the French ‘original’ of a poem of Byron. The following month was devoted to The Rogueries of Tom Moore, accusing him of plagiarism of Greek, Latin, and French originals, here translated; this attack arising from Father Prout’s allegation that Moore ‘ran O’Brien down’ in the Edinburgh Review notice to latter’s book on the round towers of Ireland which he claimed were Buddhist remains, and this after Moore successfully negotiated a ‘joint-stock history of Ireland’ with him; he calls Moore ‘this Anacreontic little chap’, ‘incredulous Tommy’, and ‘prurient rogue’; styles his review of Hugh Boyd, Select Passages from the Fathers (Dublin 1914) ‘a feculent heap of trash’, &c.

Ethel Mannin, ‘Rev. Francis Mahony’ (1954) - cont.: In a footnote on p.165, Mannin cites a further attack on Moore by Edward Kenealy [q.v.], and refers to a comment by William Bates to the effect that the Fraserians, as conservatives, were getting at the radical in Moore, ‘it was the Politician that was aimed at not the Poet’ (Bates). Mannin calls his mockery of Moore cruel, but motivated by animosity to a best-seller rather than political feeling; whereas his hostility to O’Connell, his bête noir, bore about it, as Charles Kent says, ‘no more distinct character than that of malignity’. ‘The Lay of Lazarus’, attributed to Don Jeremy Savonarola and described by Kent as revolting, is Mahony’s anti-O’Connellite poem, forming the conclusion of a satire of 1845 in which England, Scotland, and Ireland are disguised as Piedmont, Savoy, and Sardinia; the whole was pro-Union; O’Connell appears as Dandeleone; the ballad concerns the drawing from the people by collection of a sum of £20,000 in the first year of Famine, ‘Hark, hark, to the begging-box shaking! / For whom is this alms-money making? / For Dan, who is cramming his wallet, while famine / SEts the heart of the peasant a-quaking ... At God’s door the PAMPERED once more / To plunder the PAUPer is plotting.’ [165-67]

Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘A strange sequence of parody upon parody has been recounted by Mr. Vivien [sic] Mercier in one of his essays on Irish humor. The doggerel of “Castlehyde” makes it a worthy candidate for the title of one of the worst poems in English. Its jingling rhythms have been attributed to an Irish poet’s imperfect knowledge of English poetic idiom: “The richest groves throughout this nation and fine plantations you will see there; / The rose, the tulip, and sweet carnation, all vying with the lily fair.” / Richard Milliken once won a bet that he could write something equally absurd. The result was “The Groves of [160] Blarney.” The game was on, and the unconventional priest and wit of Fraser’s Magazine, Father Mahony, added stanzas, as well as inventing a Greek “original” and Italian, French, and Latin versions! This master mixer of languages and predecessor of James Joyce, through his creation “Father Prout,” carried on a literary feud with the popular Irish versifier Tom Moore. His essay on “The Rogueries of Tom Moore” accused the poet of plagiarism through the dubious expedient of praising his translations from French, Latin, and Greek “sources,” all of them of course created by Mahony himself. After all, he said, translation “is the next best thing to having a genius of one’s own.” But when the translations are praised as almost equal to the presumed originals, we are in the looking-glass world of Sterne or Joyce! / Father Mahony had the unusual distinction of having been discharged from his position at the school later attended by Joyce, Clongowes Wood College. It seems that on an outing he and his charges imbibed so freely that they returned strapped to loads of turf in carts! He once characterized himself as “an Irish potato seasoned with Attic salt,” and said of Father Prout what he might just as well have said of himself that “his brain was a storehouse of inexhaustible knowledge, and his memory a bazaar.” (pp.160-61.)

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol 1, pp.19ff., notes that Father Prout - real name Mahoney - was enraged by Thomas Moore’s injustice towards his young archaeologist friend Henry O’Brien [and] perfected a system of diabolical persecution, using the writings of deceased scholar of whom he is the humble editor, he accuses Moore of plagiarising by quoting the ‘originals’ in Greek, Latin, Italian and French of his poems. the examples quoted (as Rafroidi) are minor masterpieces of their genre and remain good-natured though Prout was capable of gross satire also in the Irish mode. [19-20] See ‘The Rogueries of Tom Moore’, in Reliques of Father Prout, 1836, I, p.237ff.). ‘it will be seen that Tom Moore can eke out a tolerably fair translation of any given ballad; and indeed, to translate properly, retaining all the fire and spirit of the original, is a merit not to be sneered at - it is the next best thing to having a genius of one’s own. (op. cit. p.242). [Cont.]

Patrick Rafroidi (Irish Literature in English, 1980) - cont.: Rev Charles Woulfe’s ‘The Burial of Sir John Moore’ became under Father Prout’s pen ‘The Burial of Beaumanoir’ [25]. Further, Father Prout translated Hugo’s ‘Le voile’, and ‘La fiancée du timbalier’ (Reliques, vol. II, pp.178-85), and also Chateaubriand (p.95), Lamartine, ‘La Gloire’ (pp.124-7), Millevoye, and Delavigne. His greatest affection was for the likeable chansonnier Béranger (1780-1857). In all, he devotes one hundred and ninety pages to French songs, before turning likewise to Italian ones. Mahoney was a royalist and a partisan of the Ancient Regime, ‘it was a goodly scene! and compared to the ignoble and debased generation that now usurps the soil, my recollections of ante-revolutionary France are like dreams of an ante-diluvian world. (Reliques, II, p.9; ‘songs of France’) of Voltaire, et al, ‘never was there an inscription so bitterly ironical as that which blazed on the front of that temple’s [Pantheon] gorgeous portico ‘Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaisante’, saying - with jibes at Rousseau also - that Voltaire’s Pucelle ‘eminently entitled the writer to be waked by the most ferocious ruffians that ever rose from the kennel to trample on all the decencies of life, and riot in all the beatitude of democracy. (Idem, II, p.118-9). He admires the poets who have always founded ‘their lyrical effusion on the imperishable models of classical antiquity’ (idem, p.16), and praises Béranger in particular as ‘creat[ing] for himself a style of transcendent vigour and originality ... ... the plenitude of the inspiration that dwelt successively in the souls of all the songsters of ancient France seems to have transmigrated into Béranger, and found a fit recipient in his capacious and liberal mind’ [and quotes lines from Moore’s Lalla Rookh] (idem, p.18).

Patrick Rafroidi (Irish Literature in English, 1980) - cont.: quotes, ‘The minstrelsy of France is to me an inexhaustible source of intellectual pleasure, and it shall not be my fault if I do not carry the public with me in the appreciation I make of such refined enjoyment.’ (idem, p.62); Mahony calls Béranger ‘the French arbiter of song, the exquisite model of poetic expression - arbiter elegantarium - Béranger’ (idem, p.163). In Gallery of Illustrious Characters by Maginn, Mahony wrote the laudatory article on Béranger (No. 57, pp.152-6). Mahony compares him favourably with his own enemies Moore and O’Connell, ‘He is no tuft-hunter, no Whigling sycophant, no ungenerous trafficker in his merchandise of song ... It is not with the affectation and hypocrisy of a swindling demagogue, but with the heartfelt cordiality of one of themselves, that he glories in belonging to THE PEOPLE. (Reliques, II, p.168). Rafroidi prints an unpunctuated poem, ‘Where waitest thou / Lady I am to love?’, continuing, ‘must meeting be / Never before we die?’, and ending ‘And so dear wife goodnight!’ [47-55]. Further, Rafroidi cites that Mahony’s satire on Dionysius Lardner and his “Encyclopédie des Cabinets” [i.e., toilets], translating Béranger’s L’Epée de Damocles’ as ‘The dinner for Dionysius’ [‘O! who hath not heard of the sword / which old Dennis / Hung over the head of a Stoic? / and how the stern sage bore that / terrible menace / With a fortitude not quite heroic? / there’s a Dennis the “tyrant of / Cecily’ hight, / (Most sincerely I pity his lady, ah! ... now this Dennis is doomed for his / sins to indite / A Cabinet Cyclopaedia.’] [49-50]. Note also, Francis Mahony to Charles Gavan Duffy, speaking of Edward Keanealy, letter 2 June 1847, ‘is Repeal” become such a common Urinal that any blackguard can make a temporary convenience thereof? (Quoted in Ethel Mannin, Two Studies in Integrity, p.230. The letter, unpublished before then, is in NLI [24 and n.] See also Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980) Vol. 2: ‘[Mahony] lost his post as Vice Principal at Clongowes as the result of a racy escapade that his pupil John Sheehan has recounted ... quarrelled with the Bishop of Cork ... frequented Countess of Blessington’s literary circle in London ... singular and endearing figure.’ [BIOG as supra.]

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Francis Mahony (‘Father Prout’), b. Cork, 1804; ed. by Jesuits in France, where he learned fluent Latin, French, and Italian and gained a good knowledge of Greek; showed unusual aptitude in composing verses in hexameters, elegiacs, sapphics, and alcaics; refused admission to the Order; returned to Ireland to teach in Clongowes; ord. as a secular priest at Lucca, officiated in France, Italy and England; contributed to journals, esp. Fraser’s under editorship of his friend Maginn. His Songs of Horace, and Days of Erasmus, considered seriously as works of scholarship; other works ‘a rare combination of Teian lyre with Irish bagpipe; of the Ionian dialect blending harmoniously with the Cork brogue; and Irish potato seasoned with Attic salt’ (Oliver Yorke, in Kent, xix). ... His most spectacular tour de force was his translation of Milliken’s ‘Groves of Blarney’ into Greek, Latin, Norman-French, and Irish verse. A favourite device of his was to ‘discover’ fragments of classical verse, which were in fact his own translations of well-known contemporary verses [175]; also macaronic and ‘bog Latin’.

Peter Costello, Clongowes Wood (1991), p. 83f.: [Mahony was] gaining praise as temporary Prefect of Studies when disastrous overtook him; boys from Rhetoric to walk to Maynooth, take tea with the Sheehans in Celbridge, and return for prayers; got drunk at Celbridge, returned in a turf cart; one boy fell in vat and was badly burnt; ‘very soon Francis Mahoney was on his way to Europe, and to his future career as a writer and journalist.’ (q.p.)

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Terry Eagleton, ‘Cork and the Carnivalesque: Frances Sylvester Mahony (Fr. Prout)’, in Irish Studies Review (Autumn 1996), pp.2-7; discusses the practice of plagiarism, or ‘anti-plagiarism’ by which he [Prout] derived a classical original from his own version, ousting the original; notes that the editor, Oliver Yorke, professes Reliques to be ‘complete, as far as it does’, punning on L. ‘prout’ (meaning to that extent), as in Prout’s motto, Prout Stella Refulgens, inscribed in the locket containing the hair of Swift’s Stella discovered on his person when found in infancy exposed on a bleak summit in Waterhillgrass; ‘the conservative and the carnivalesque are ceaselessly at loggerheads in Mahony’s work, not to speak of his life, in all kinds of ways. He is, as he says of himself, “a rare combination of Socrates and Sancho Panza, of Scarron and the venerable Bede”.’ (p.167); apparently coined original of Skibbereen Eagle keeping its eye on Russia; ‘his main field of cultural enquiry the popular song; ‘a bohemian backwoodsman who moved with aplomb from Horace to claret, a polyglot of enormous erudition who seemed with deliberate perversity to trivialise his own talents and cultivate an assiduous hackery’ (p.4); ‘Certainly Maginn is in my view a very major kind of miner writer, so doggedly, brilliantly peripheral that like Oscar Wilde he ends up troubling the very distinction between that an centrality, as one might claim that the O’Connellite politics of the day were doing in their own way too.’ (p.4); ‘the Irish Frazerians ... denounced by Corkery’; ‘Mahony deplores the death of authenticity at the same time as his anti-plagiarism saps away at the whole illusion of it’ (p.5). [Cont.]

Terry Eagleton, ‘Cork and the Carnivalesque: Frances Sylvester Mahony’ (Autumn 1996), pp.2-7 - cont.: compares Prout to Joe Atlee in Charles Lever’s Lord Kilgobbin, ‘whose delight it is “to write Greek versions of a poem that might attach the mark of plagiarism to Tennyson, or show, by a Scandinavian lyric, how the laureate has been poaching from the Norsemen’ (p.5.) Eagleton stresses Prout’s play with ‘tradatorre’ and ‘traditore’ (traitor); called O’Connell ‘the bogtrotter of Derrynane’ and suspected Whiggism; cites from ‘Apology for Lent’; ‘A Plea for Pilgrimages’ addresses Walter Scott, come to kiss the Blarney Stone; Eagleton notes his parody of ‘The Groves of Blarney’, and asks, ‘Is the homesickness of “The bells of Shandon”, with its denigration of foreign exotica in favour of provincial Cork, straight, tongue in cheek, or poised on more likely some undecidable in-between?’ (p.5.) ‘This inbred, fragmentary form of writing then gives off all the resonance of a frustrated, self-involved colonial culture, not least in its ferocious literary sectarianism.... Their calculated trivialising, textual bastardry and semiotic sportiveness mischievously parodied the metropolitan literary culture, but also reinforced the idioms of its commercialised Grub Street sector. ... Mahony [is] a potentially major writer striving hard to become a minor one [&c.]’ (p.5). Notes that ‘the disaster effects of taking the poem [‘Bells of Shandon’] entirely straight] are betrayed in the earnest academicist comments of Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Understanding Poetry, Schocken Books, 1938, pp.133-38). Bibl. incl. W. Allingham, Leaves from a Diary (1907); Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Letters to her Sister (Routledge 1929); W. Jerden, Autobiography (Hall 1952); Davis and Mary Coakley, Wit and Wine (Volturna Press 1975); on Maginn, P. Webster, The Closing Day of William Maginn (Allen n.d.); D. O. Madden, Revelations of Ireland (1848). See also riposte to this article in Fergal Gaynor, ‘An Irish Potatoe Seasoned with Attic Salt’: The Reliques of Fr. Prout and Identity before The Nation’, Irish Studies Review, 7, 3 (Dec. 1999), pp.313-24.

Terry Eagleton, Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture (London: Verso 1995): ‘At just the point when the early-nineteenth century Celtic revival is struggling to retrieve an authentic Irish past, with which any curently valid work will necessarily be continuous, Mahoney impudently inverts this temporal relation, striking Tom Moore’s work retrospectively illicit by the power of the derivative.’ (Heathcliff and the Great Hunger, p.266; quoted in Yeats and Joyce: Cyclical History and the Reprobate Tradition, Aldershot: Aldgate 2008, p.187.)

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Mary Leland, ‘A half-pay soldier of the Church - minus the half-pay’, “Literary Landmarks” [column], in The Irish Times (1 July 2000), on Fr. Prout [Mahony]: quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in a letter to a school-friend: ‘A very singular person, of whom the world tells a thousand and one tales, you know, but of whom I shall speak as I find him, because the utmost kindness and warmheartedness and characterised his whole bearing towards us’. b. to woollen milling family; ed. by Jesuits, in Ireland and in Amiens; seminarian in Paris; master of rhetoric in Clongowes; his insistence that the city of Cork should have a chapel of ease and driven from diocese and church; buried at St. Ann’s, Shandon, among family graves; large funeral in Cork; loyal friend to Fr. Theobald Mathew; his body received in Cork by Bishop Delaney, whose post he had wanted for Fr. Mathew; requiem mass said in chapel of ease for which he had aggressively campaigned; calls ‘“Bells of Shandon” so light and sentimental that it would never have seemed to him to merit the longevity that eluded all his other work.’

Mary Leland, [notice on Father Prout], ‘An Irishwoman’s Diary’, in The Irish Times (Friday, 31 Dec. 2004), p.15: ‘[...] The comforts of religion, however, were denied to Mahony himself - except, perhaps, in their most personal sense. His temperament was incapable of restraint; his wit could not annul the impact of his sarcasm; his idealism could not tolerate political and clerical equivocation. When his plans to build a chapel of ease to the North Cathedral led to stern admonitions from his bishop, he left Cork altogether, only two years after his ordination. He left the priesthood too - whether formally or not is uncertain, though he continued to say his Office throughout his life and was later described by his biographer Blanchard Jerrold as “a half-pay soldier of the Church - minus the half-pay”. What is certain is that in London he entered on a career in letters, assisted by another Cork man, William Maginn, editor of Fraser’s Magazine of Town and Country. [...] It was in this company that Mahony developed the character of Father Prout, making the fictional priest the subject of the “Reliques of Fr Prout” as edited by the fictional Oliver Yorke. [...] The fluency and biting accuracy of these parodies ensured success, in England at any rate. Although never wealthy, Mahony must have enjoyed his acclaim and professional esteem. He had a gift for enmity - his hatred of Daniel O’Connell, for instance, never subsided. But he had a gift for friendship too, and the softer, compassionate side of his personality gained him the long-lasting affection of Thackeray, for whom he found a house in Paris soon after Thackeray’s marriage to Isabella Creagh Shaw of Doneraile.’ (See full text in RICORSO Library, Criticism > Revues, via direct or direct.)

Fergus Dunne, ‘“The Independent Expression of Public Opinion”: The Paris Correspondence of Francis Sylvester Mahony’, in The Irish Review, 36, 1 (Winter 2007), pp.33-48: ‘His Parisian journalism charts the evolution of the writer as he became actively involved in the formulation of a pro-Liberal public opinion in Britain and provided a unique commentary on how specifically Irish concerns were closely connected to broader European developments. The intention here is to examine how his articles on European affairs for the Globe - particularly, his extended analysis of the rapid spread of right-wing Ultramontanism on the continent - helped to clarify or bring out certain strands in his own thinking on mid-nineteenth-century Ireland.’ (p.33.) [Available at JSTOR Ireland - online.]

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Fr. Prout’s autobiography’: ‘During my short stay at Watergrasshill, a wild and romantic district of which every brake and fell, every bog and quagmire, is well known to Crofton Croker - for it is the very Arcadia of his fictions, I formed an intimacy with this Father Andrew Prout. He was one of that race of priests now unfortunately extinct, or very nearly so, like the old breed of wolf-dogs, in the island: I allude to those of his order who were educated abroad, before the French revolution, and had imbibed, form associating with the polisihed and high-born clergy of the Gallican church, a loftier range of thought, and a superior delicacy of sentiment.’ (N. source; quoted in Benedict Kiely, ‘Irish Potato and Attic Salt’, rep. in ‘A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays, Cork UP 1999, pp. 66-78, [formerly The Irish Bookman, Nov. 1946, p.70].)

Fr. Prout’s autobiography’ - cont.: ‘[Father Prout possessed] a rare combination of the Teirian lyre and the Irish bagpipe; of the Ionian dialect blending harmoniously with the Cork brogue; and Irish potato seasoned with Attic salt.’ (ibid., p.77.)

Fr. Prout’s autobiography’ - cont. [on the death of Fr. Prout]: ‘By the philosophic seclusion of his old age he fittingly wound up the adventurous period of his rambles over the continent. After such a fluctuating existence final repose was natural and desirable [...] His views were fixed on loftier objects than the pursuits of ordinary men [...] his musings were those of a priest, priestly. In his intercourse with the Nine Sisters he taught them not to imitate the foolish virgins in the gospel [...] and the waters of Siloa’s brook mingled in his cup wtih those of the classic Aganippe.’ (No source; quoted in Kiely, p.78.)

Jon. Swift & Dan O’Connell, to the disadvantage of the only true disinterested champion of her people will then be paid - the long deferred apotheosis of the patriot-divine will then take place - the shamefully-forgotten debt of glory which the lustre of his genius shed around his semi-barbarous countrymen will be deeply and feelingly remembered ... ... the prophetic seer of coming things’ (Fraser’s Magazine; cited in Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: The Irish Identity, 1996).

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“The Bells of Shandon”

With deep affection and recollection
I often think of the Shandon bells,
Whose sounds so wild would, in days of childhood,
Fling round my cradle their magic spells.
On this! ponder, where’er I wander,
And thus grow fonder, sweet Cork, of thee;
  With thy bells of Shandon,
  That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters of the river Lee.

I have heard bells chiming full many a clime in,
Tolling sublime in cathedral shrine;
While at a glib rate brass tongues would vibrate,
But all their music spoke nought to thine;
For memory dwelling on each proud swelling
Of thy belfry knelling its bold notes free,
  Made the bells of Shandon
  Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters of the river Lee.

I have heard bells tolling ‘old Adrian’s mole’ in,
Their thunder rolling from the Vatican,
With cymbals glorious, swinging uproarious
In the gorgeous turrets of Notre Dame,
But thy sounds were sweeter than the dome of Peter
Flings o’er the Tiber, pealing solemnly.
  Oh! the bells of Shandon
  Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters of the river Lee.

There’s a bell in Moscow, while on tower and kiosko
In St Sophia the Turkman gets,
And loud in air calls men to prayer
From the tapering summit of tall minarets.
Such empty phantom! freely grant ’em,
But there’s an anthem more dear to me:
  ’Tis the bells of Shandon,
  That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters of the river Lee.

Note: Similar versions, varying chiefly in punctuation, appear in Frank O’Connor, ed., A Book of Ireland (Collins 1970), and Brendan Kennelly, ed., Penguin Book of Irish Verse (Penguin 1970).
  The Grandmother” (‘Dors-tu? mère de notre mère.’) - in Works, III, 1823.

‘To die - to sleep.’ - Shakespeare


Still asleep! We have been since the noon thus alone.
Oh, the hours we have ceased to number!
Wake, grandmother! - speechless say why thou art grown.
Then, thy lips are so cold! - the Madonna of stone
Is like thee in thy holy slumber.
We have watched thee in sleep, we have watched thee at prayer,
But what can now betide thee?
Like thy hours of repose all thy orisons were,
And thy lips would still murmur a blessing whene'er
Thy children stood beside thee.

Now thine eye is unclosed, and thy forehead is bent
O'er the hearth, where ashes smoulder;
And behold, the watch-lamp will be speedily spent.
Art thou vexed? have we done aught amiss? Oh, relent!
But - parent, thy hands grow colder!
Say, with ours wilt thou let us rekindle in thine
The glow that has departed?
Wilt thou sing us some song of the days of lang syne?
Wilt thou tell us some tale, from those volumes divine,
Of the brave and noble-hearted?

Of the dragon who, crouching in forest green glen,
Lies in wait for the unwary -
Of the maid who was freed by her knight from the den
Of the ogre, whose club was uplifted, but then
Turned aside by the wand of a fairy?
Wilt thou teach us spell-words that protect from all harm,
And thoughts of evil banish?
What goblins the sign of the cross may disarm?
What saint it is good to invoke? and what charm
Can make the demon vanish?

Or unfold to our gaze thy most wonderful book,
So feared by hell and Satan;
At its hermits and martyrs in gold let us look,
At the virgins, and bishops with pastoral crook,
And the hymns and the prayers in Latin.
Oft with legends of angels, who watch o'er the young,
Thy voice was wont to gladden;
Have thy lips yet no language - no wisdom thy tongue?
Oh, see! the light wavers, and sinking, bath flung
On the wall forms that sadden.

Wake! awake! evil spirits perhaps may presume
To haunt thy holy dwelling;
Pale ghosts are, perhaps, stealing into the room -
Oh, would that the lamp were relit! with the gloom
These fearful thoughts dispelling.
Thou hast told us our parents lie sleeping beneath
The grass, in a churchyard lonely:
Now, thine eyes have no motion, thy mouth has no breath,
And thy limbs are all rigid! Oh, say, Is this death,
Or thy prayer or thy slumber only?

Sad vigil they kept by that grandmother's chair,
Kind angels hovered o'er them -
And the dead-bell was tolled in the hamlet - and there,
On the following eve, knelt that innocent pair,
With the missal-book before them.

—Trans. by Fr. Prout (Sylvester Mahony), in Poems of Victor Hugo (1888) - available online

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Stretching Larry: Mahony ‘translated’ [i.e., fabricated a French original of] “The Night that Larry was Stretched”, by Rev. Robert Burrowes, St. Finbarr’s Cathedral, Cork, as “La Mort de Socrates”, par L’Abbé de Prout, Curé du Mont aux Cresson, prés de Cork: ‘ À la veille d’etre pendu / [?] Lavent reçut dans son gîte / Honneur qui lui etait bien dû / de nombreux amis la visite [ .... &c.]’ (See Charles Kent, ed., Works of Fr. Prout, 1888, Routledge & Sons, p.179f.) See also “[James] Barry in the Vatican”, in Fraser’s, April 1835 (given in Kent, op. cit., pp.249-67.) Note, however, that “The Night that Larry was Stretched” is attrib. by D. J. O’Donoghue to William Maher [as supra].

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Dictionary of National Biography lists the autor as Mahony - as he is also named in several near contemporary works. Ditto Harry Boylan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Biography (1988).

Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), gives “Rogueries of Tom Moore” from Reliques, and “Bells of Shandon”.

Anthologies: Oxford Dict. Quotations gives “The Bells of Shandon” only. Arthur Quiller Couch, ed., Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918 (new edn. 1929), 684. See under Milliken, for its relationship with “The Groves of Blarney”.

Frank O’Connor (Book of Ireland, 1969 Edn.) selects “The Bells of Shandon” [‘With deep affection / And recollection, / I often think of / Those Shandon bells, / Whose sound so wild would, / In days of childhoo’ / Fling around my cradle / Their magic spells. ... thy bells of Shandon / That sound so grand on / The pleasant waters of the River Lee.’]. Also incls. jejune rhymes such as ‘Moscow’ and ‘Kiosk, O’.

The Oxford Companion to English Literature , ed. Margaret Drabble (OUP 1986), calls him a Jesuit who admitted he had mistaken his vocation; mentions among contribs. to Fraser’s Magazine ‘mystifications in the form of invented originals in French, Latin and Greek for well known poems by Thomas Moore, Charles Wolfe, and others’; his contributions collected as Reliques, 1836. Globe correspondent in Paris, 1858-66.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, selects from The Reliques of Father Prout ‘The Bells of Shandon’, ‘The Attractions of a Fashionable Irish Watering-Place’ [38-40]; among those remembered for one lyric [Deane, ed.], 3; contrib. prolificly to Blackwood’s Magazine, co-founded by William Maginn, supplying folk-custom miraculously preserved in the amber of poverty and illiteracy, a historicised version of stage-Irishman [ed.], 4; playful drollery anticipated by John O’Keeffe (of ‘Amo, Amas’), 9; [?28]; Corkery instances Prout under expatriation, and Luke Gibbon ed., notes, the pen name of FSM, a defrocked priest whose remarkable satirical essays on Irish literature and other themes were collected in The Reliques of Father Prout (1836), 1008; with Lever & Lover synonymous with popularising the stage Irishman, 1011; BIOG & WORKS, 112 [as supra].

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), bibl. incls. Ethel Mannin, ‘Rev Francis Mahoney’, in Two Studies in Integrity (NY 1954), a definitive biography that unravels the confused web spun by prev. biographers; Benedict Kiely, Irish Bookman (1946) [see supra], writing of his work as ‘[...] multicoloured as shot silk’; also L.A.G. Strong (Irish Writing, 1950); James Hannay [George Birmingham], ‘Recent Humorists, Aytoun, Peacock, Prout’, in North British Review, 45 ([?1896]), pp.75-104, in which the author remarks that Prout’s humour is thoroughly Irish ‘in its brilliance, its extravagance, and its waywardness of fanciful epigram - a kind of practical joking in literature.’

British Library holds [under Father Prout] The Reliques of Father Prout, late P. P. of Watergrasshill in the County of Cork [...] Collected and arranged by Oliver Yorke, Esq. Illustrated by Alfred Croquis, Esq. [i.e. Daniel Maclise.]. 2 vols. London 1836. 8o. [No listings under Francis Sylvester Mahony.]

Hyland Books (Cat. 214) lists Reliques of Father Prout [2 vols.] (1836), ill. Daniel Maclise, good condition [£95]; also Reliques of Father Prout [rev. and augmented] (1886) [Hyland 220; 1996].

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Noctes Ambrosianae (1855): In the preface to the revised edition of Noctes Ambrosianae published in Edinburgh in 1855, John Ferrier tells us a story from John Lockhart in which a certain Gabriel, called a licentiate preacher of the Kirk, was working as a domestic tutor in the household of an Edinburgh family whose sons he murdered in an open field in sight of numerous witnesses because they had witnessed him kissing her chambermaid and told their mother, probably in a spirit of curiosity and fun. In the custom of the day - which Ferrier doesn’t mention - Gabriel was peremptorily hanged as having been caught ‘red-handed’, the bloodied knife being tied around his neck. Lockhart’s book in which the story is told appeared in 1819 as Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk. According to Ferrier’s redaction of his tale, ‘the idea of having been detected in such a trivial trespass’ as to kiss the lady’s abigail - as her personal servant is called - was enough to poison for ever the spirit of this juvenile Presbyterian.’ The tutor first stabbed one boy in the heart, then chased the second and killed him too, and then ‘sat down upon the spot immediately after having concluded his butchery, as if in a stupor of despair and madness, and was only roused to his recollection by the touch of the hands that seized him.’ The tutor’s name was Gabriel and the street built on the scene of the crime was named after him and later become the location of the hostelry called Ambrose’s where the hilarious Noctes Ambrosianae published in Blackwood’s Magazine from 1825 to 1835 were set. Most of these were written by an ingenious ‘professor’ at Edinburgh University called John Henry Wilson, others by William Maginn the chief exponent of a style of Irish anti-plagiarism called Cork Carnivalesque after the place of origin of himself and his literary confrère Sylvester Mahony (“Fr Prout”).