Conal O’Riordan

1874-1948 [Conal Holmes O’Connell O’Riordan; pseud. ‘F. Norreys Connell’]; b. 29 April, Dublin, son of QC; ed. Clongowes Wood and Belvedere; intended a military career until he suffered a spinal injury in fall from horse; The House of the Strange Woman (1895), love and marriage, sardonic and jejune; issued The Fool and His Heart (1896), containing satire of fin de siècle, to some extent autobiographical; played in J. T. Grein’s Independent Theatre production of Ibsen’s Ghosts; [opening as the first production, 13 Mar. 1891]; played ‘Bill’ in Lord Dunsany’s The Glittering Gates, opp. Fred O’Donovan; chosen by Yeats and Lady Gregory on death of Synge to replace him on Abbey board; appt. manager of Abbey, 1907; revived Playboy;

wrote The Piper (Abbey, 13 Feb. 1908), a play that was the object of first night protests and was excused by Yeats as a patriotic allegory (though from the start he thought it to be grotesque and ‘pretty dangerous’); resigned from Board on receipt of an ‘incomprehensible letter’ from Miss Horniman demanding an apology for failing to restraint Miss [Sally] Allgood from reciting at a supposedly political meeting, July 1908 - actually a gatherng with sufffrage focus at the home of Mrs. Edith Lyttleton; served in World War I with the YMCA; wrote breezy comedies, Napoleon’s Josephine (London, Fortune Theatre, 1928); settled in London; issued series of 12 novels tracing fortunes of connected Irish families from Napoleonic wars to about 1920; In the Green Park, or The Half-Pay Deities (1894), fancifully connected short stories; also The Pity of War (1906), a Kiplingesque stories of courage in less worthy cause;

issued the “Soldier” series, Soldier Born (London: Collins 1927), opening in the Dublin of Castlereagh and Toler, and moving to Regency London; Soldier of Waterloo [1928], Soldier’s Wife (1935), Soldier’s End (1938), unfacetious relative of Flashman novels, the hero David Quinn compares with Henry Esmond, becomes involves with Princess Charlotte, Dan O’Connell, Great Famine, American Civil War and Abe Lincoln, before dying in the Franco-Prussian war; also issued the “Adam” series, Adam of Dublin (1920); Adam and Caroline (1921); In London: The Story of Adam and Marriage (1922); Rowena Barnes (1923); Married Life (1924); The Age of Miracles (1925); Young Lady Drazincourt (1925); also Judith Quinn, a Novel for Women (1939); Judith’s Love (1940)d. 18 June, 1948. DIW PI DIB DIL KUN IF IF2 JMC OCIL

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Prose & Drama
  • In the Green Park, or The Half-Pay Deities (London: Henry 1894);
  • The House of the Strange Woman (London: Henry 1895);
  • The Fool and His Heart (London: Leonard Smithers 1896);
  • How Soldiers Fight (London: James Bowden 1899);
  • The Nigger Knights (London: Methuen 1900);
  • The Follies of Captain Daly (London: Grant Richards 1901);
  • The Pity of War (London: Henry J. Glaisher 1906), stories;
  • The Young Days of Admiral Quilliam (Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood 1906);
  • Adam of Dublin (London: Collins [1920]);
  • Adam and Caroline (London: Collins [1921];
  • In London: The Story of Adam and Marriage (London: Collins [1922]);
  • Rowena Barnes (London: Collins [1923]);
  • Married Life (London: Collins [1924]);
  • The Age of Miracles (London: Collins [1925]);
  • The King’s Wooing (London & Glasgow: Gowan & Gray 1929), 1-act play;
  • Napoleon Passes (London: Arrowsmith 1933), history;
  • Captain Falstaff and Other Plays ([London:] Arrowsmith 1935);
  • Young Lady Drazincourt (Collins [1925]);
  • Soldier Born (London: Collins 1927),
  • Soldier of Waterloo (London: Collins [1928];
  • Soldier’s Wife (London: Arrowsmith 1935), Soldier’s End ([q. pub.] 1938);
  • Judith Quinn: A Novel for Women (Bristol Arrowsmith 1939);
  • Judith’s Love (Bristol: Arrowsmith 1940).
Irish Drama
  • The Piper (Abbey Th., 13 Feb. 1908);
  • Shakespeare’s End and Other Irish Plays (London: Stephen Swift 1912);
  • Rope Enough (Dublin & London: Maunsel 1914), play;
  • His Majesty’s Pleasure, A Romantic Comedy in Three Acts (London: Ernest Benn 1925) (x), 11-121pp.;

Note - Shakepeare’s End was read by him before the Irish Literary Soc., as reported in Irish Book Lover; reprinted with other works in ‘Conal O’Riordan Special,’ in Journal of Irish Literature [ed. Robert Hogan], XIV, No. 3., Sept. 1985 [contains The Piper, and Shakespeare’s End].

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Judith O’Riordan, ed., ‘Conal O’Riordan Special Number’, Journal of Irish Literature, Vol. XIV No. 3 (Sept 1985), which includes The Piper, Shakespeare’s End, plays, and My Friend Yoshiama, prose; contains also a horoscope of Conal O’Riordan by WB Yeats]; Diane Tolomeo, in ‘Modern Fiction’ in Recent Research on Anglo-Irish Writers, ed. James K. Kilroy (MLA 1983); James Cahalan, Irish Novel (1983); Irish Book Lover, 3, 16, p.26; review of Shakespeare’s End and Other Irish Plays (1912) in Irish Book Lover, 3 (April 1912), p.150; review of Soldier Born by J. S. Crone in Irish Book Lover (Jan-Feb. 1928), p.3; also Shakepeare’s End read by him before the Irish Literary Soc., reported in Irish Book Lover [see index].

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Sundry quotations: [the young author:] ‘I am an Irishman living in London ... [with] no settled convictions as to the government of my country, bimetallism, or the interior economy of penny-in-the-slot machines.’ (Preface to Green Park.) ‘I wish I had not been educated a Christian. It impresses one so horribly with one’s own importance’ (The House of the Strange Woman, 1895).

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Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919) cites ‘brilliant novelist’, In the Green Park (1894), The House of the Strange Women (1895), The Fool and His Heart (1896); also Shakespeare’s End and Other Irish Plays (1912)

Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists Adam of Dublin (1920) [1900-1913, mild and sensitive artistic boy, with contemp. celebrites; embittered about Belvedere and Clongowes; suffering of Dublin poor]; Adam and Caroline (1921) [sexual adolescence and adventures, love affair with Caroline Brady]; In London (1922) [cont. prev., goes to London, drifts on stage], 1914-18]; Married Life (1924) [cont., marriage to Barbara Burns, a heartless beauty, Irish friends reappear, glimpses of Black and Tans in Ireland; return [to Dublin] with his crippled little son David and his staunch friend Stephen MacCarthy]; Soldier Born: A Story of Youth (1927) [1797 onwards, David Quinn, son of Quaker banker’s daughter and irreligious Irish Captain, a Union baronet; Mallow; ancestral home Derryvoe, Muskerry; grandparents under penal laws; ed. Westminster Sch., and schooldays]; Soldier of Waterloo (1928) [cont.; hero’s face horribly mutilated at Waterloo, and caused to wear mask for rest of his life]; Soldier’s Wife (1935) [further adventures; rackety racy shabby genteel Irish family; O’Connell appears]; Solder’s End (1938) [returns in middle age to Dublin during Famine years; good intentions thwarted by rascal brother, Bonaventure; returns to London, meets Mazzin[i] at public execution, also Earl of Shaftesbury]; Judith Quinn (1939) [Victorian Dubln; Judith dg. of a man shot by military commanded by his brother; grd-dg. Sir David Byron Quinn; approaches to marriage, foiled; marries beneath her Dinny Muldoon, whom she doesn’t love]; Judith’s Love (1940) [Mrs Muldoon; her love concentrated on her son; more analysis than plot; Catholic religion a compound of superstition and hypocrisy].

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); entry under O’Riordan, Conal Holmes O’Connell; b. Dublin about 1874; 3 of his shorter plays produced by Abbey.

Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904) gives an extract from The Fool and His Heart.

Patricia Boylan, All Cultivated People (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988), pp.21-22, &c.: Yeats to the fore in defending the Abbey production of Riordan’s The Piper, in January [sic] 1908; O’Riordan, then living in London, joined the Arts Club 24 Jan.; invited by Yeats and Lady Gregory to join Abbey directorate, but rebelled against Miss Horniman’s interference in a few months. Boylan quotes Robert Hogan’s view that O’Riordan’s cycle of novels, its scope ‘so vast, and its virtues so many ... must establish [him] as one of the major Irish writers of his day’. The Duncans feature as the Burns family in Adam of Dublin, and his Club of the Six Muses appears to be the Arts Club. [Other references identifying models for his characters.]

W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival (London: Pater Noster Row 1894) cites F Norreys Connell, pseud. of Conal Holmes O’Connell O’Riordan, contributor to Westminister Review and The Stage, and suggested the name The Speaker for the Liberal magazine; played Jacvob Engshand in Ibsen’s Ghosts for the Independent Theatre; In the Green Park, Half-Pay Deities, and engaged on a novel; ‘a merry wit and much power of satire and humour’ [119].

Peter Costello, Clongowes Wood (1991), Conal O’Riordan ed. Belvedere 4 yrs, then Clongowes at 13; memoir of Clongowes quoted from Journal of Irish Literature, ed. Robert Hogan, Vol. XIV (Sept. 1985).

Belfast Public Library holds Adam and Caroline (1921); Adam of Dublin (1920); Age of Miracles (1925); In London (1922); Married Life (1924); Napoleon Passes (1933); Rope Enough (1914); Shakespeare’s End and other Irish Plays (1912); Soldier of Waterloo (1928); Soldier’s Wife (1935); Soldier’s End (1938); Young Lady Dazincourt (1926).

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A. E. Malone, The Irish Drama (London 1929), writes that The Piper includes as central character Black Mike who ‘has some very unpalatable things to say about the Irish character. The play is rather obvious satire upon Irish political tactics of the then recent past […]’ (p.104; cited in Vivian Mercier, ‘Irish Literary Revival’, in W. E. Vaughan, ed., A New History of Ireland: Ireland under the Union II, 1870-1921 [Chap. XIII], Vol. VI, Clarendon Press 1996, p.373.)

Cornelius Weygandt, Irish Plays and Playwrights (1913, rpt. 1979), summarises The Piper (Abbey, 13 Feb. 1908).

The letter: His letter of resignation to Yeats is reprinted in Adrian Frazier, Behind the Scenes: Yeats, Horniman, and the Struggle for the Abbey Theatre (Berkeley: California UP 1990), p.225 [dated 2 July 1908 in text but 2 July 1909 in ftn.]

Augustine Birrell, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was deceived by the satirical burden of The Piper into supposing that no revolutionary action could be mounted in Dublin; see under Birrell, Rx.

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