Seumas O’Sullivan (1879-1958)

[pseud. of James Sullivan Starkey; err. Seamus; freq. err. Starkie]; b. Dublin; educ. privately, briefly attended Catholic Medical School (University College); worked in his father’s pharmacy; appeared as the Blind Man in On Baile Strand (Abbey Dec. 1904); contrib. 5 poems to George [AE] Russell’s anthology New Songs (1904); with George Roberts, he commenced publishing from premises in Dawson St. under the name of Whaley, previously used by Charles Weekes; arranged cut-price Irish sales of Yeats’s popular titles (The Celtic Twilight, The Secret Rose, Ideas of Good and Evil) with Bullen; on Weekes’s registering his dissent, O’Sullivan and Roberts brought in Joseph Hone to finance the company, adopting his middle name of Maunsell, henceforth trading as Maunsel & Co.; co-ed. Tower Press Booklets, 1906-08; fnd. New Nation Press (1909),
m. Estella Solomons [q.v.], 1926; fnd.-ed. The Dublin Magazine (1923-25; 1926-58), the first publisher of many Irish writers incl. Mary Lavin and others; fnd.-mbr. of the MIAL, instigated by George Russell and W. B. Yeats; winner of Gregory Medal, 1957; his poetry collections incl. Twilight People (1905); The Earth Lover (1909); Selected Lyrics (1910); Collected Poems (1912); Requiem (Dublin: priv. 1917); The Lamplighter (1929); Personal Talk (1936); Poems (1938); Collected Poems (1940); Dublin Poems (1946), and prose works incl. Mud and Purple (1917), Essays and Recollections (1944), and The Rose and the Bottle (1946); elected [first] President of Irish PEN, 1934; awarded D. Lit. TCD, 1939;
there is a caricature in black ink by Grace Plunkett (née Gifford) [NGI]; lived most of his life in Rathgar, Co. Dublin [D8]; a special issue of Neuphilologische Monatschrift was devoted to his work in 1938; his reflections on the young James Joyce are captured in a 1942 essay by Cyril Connolly. NCBE IF DIW DIB DIH DIL FDA OCIL

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  • Twilight People (Dublin: Whaley; London: Bullen 1905), [8], 49, [1]pp. [wrappers; Denson A1]; Do., set to music by R. Vaughan [Oxford Solo Songs] (OUP 1925)
  • Verse Sacred and Profane [Tower Press Booklets, 2nd Ser., No.5] (Dublin: Tower Press 1906), and Do. (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1908), 34pp. [17cm].
  • The Earth Lover and Other Poems (Dublin: New Nation Press 1909), 37, [3]pp. [ded. to F.S., E.F.S., W.A.S.].
  • An Epilogue to the Praise of Angus and Other Poems (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Co. 1914), 30pp. [Denson A7].
  • Requiem and Other Poems (Dublin: priv. 1917), 23pp. [ltd.edn. of 100].
  • The Rosses and Other Poems (Dublin: Maunsel 1918).
  • Common Adventures: A Book of Prose and Verse. Nicholas Flamel: A Play in Four Acts, from the French of Gérard de Nerval (Dublin: Orwell Press 1926), 53pp., 8° [contents]
  • The Lamplighter, and Other Poems (Dublin: Orwell 1929), 13pp. [ltd. edn. 100].
  • Twenty-five Lyrics, with an introduction by A.E. (Bognor Regis: Pear Tree Press 1933), iv, 27pp. [ltd. edn. of 150].
  • At Christmas (Dublin: priv. 1934), [6]pp. [ltd. edn. of 50].
  • Personal Talk: A Book of Veres (Dublin: priv. 1936), 20pp.
  • Poems 1930-1938 [Tower Press Booklets, 3rd Ser., No.4] (Dublin: Orwell 1938), 22pp..
  • Collected Poems (Dublin: Orwell Press 1940), 226pp. [ltd. edn. 300]; Do. (1941), 226pp. [contents].
  • This is the House and Other Verses (Dublin: priv. 1942).
  • The Ballad of the Fiddler (SF: Sunset Press 1942), 16p., ill. [drawings by Jack Fagan; copy with letter from Fagan to O’Sullivan slipped into copy in TCD Lib.].
  • Dublin Poems, foreword by Padraic Colum (NY: Creative Age [1946]), xvi, 176pp.
  • Translations and Transcriptions (Belfast: H. R. Carter 1950), 21pp. [from French, Italian, Japanese, and the classics from his prev. collections; ltd. edn. of 250 signed copies].

Query: Selected Lyrics (1910) & Poems (Dublin: Maunsel 1912) commonly listed by not recorded in COPAC.

  • Pseud. J. H. Orwell, : ‘Two Impressions’, in Dana, No. 9 [‘from where I lay in my bed in the morning I could see the lawn outside my window’].
  • [...]
  • Ed., Editor’s choice : a little anthology of poems / selected from the ’Dublin Magazine’ by Seumas O’Sullivan (Dublin: Orwell Press 1944), 39pp. [19cm.]
  • Impressions: a selection from the note-books of the late J. H. Orwell [pseud.], with a foreword by Seumas O’Sullivan [pseud.] (Dublin: New Nation Press 1910), 34pp. [printed by Tower Press].
  • Mud and Purple: Pages from the Diary of a Dublin Man (Dublin: Talbot 1917; London: T. Fisher Unwin), [8], 96pp.
  • Common Adventures: A Book of Prose and Verse (1926).
  • Facetiae et curiosa: being a selection from the note books of the late J.H. Orwell, made by his friend Seumas O’Sullivan [Dublin: priv. 1937), [12]pp [23cm].
  • Essays and Recollections (Dublin: Talbot 1944), 143pp..
  • foreword to Rhoda Coghill, The Bright Hillside (Dublin 1948).

Query: Personal Tales (1936) [DIH]

See also Fifteen letters to Seumas O’Sullivan [from] Vincent O’Sullivan, with introduction and notes by Alan Anderson (Edinburgh: Tragara Press 1979), 36pp. [edn. ltd. to 100; 24cm; of which No.70 is in Oxford UL].
Dublin Magazine, 1924-1958; monthly from 1923; quarterly during 1958; ed. Seumas O’Sullivan - Indexes: Vols. 1-3; new series, vols. 1-33; 1923-1958 [36 vols. in all].

Note: There is an extant seasonal card containing poem “1939” signed Seumas O’Sullivan - ‘With every good wish for the new year from E. F. and J. S. Starkey’ (Dublin, 2 Morehampton Road [1939]), [4]pp. [13.5cm], and Do. [Copy B; [4]p. 10.7x15 cm], both held at TCD Lib.

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Bibliographical details
Collected Poems (Dublin: Orwell Press 1941), 226pp. CONTENTS: The twilight people (1905); Verses: sacred and profane (1908); The earth-lover and other poems (1909); Poems first published in 1912; An epilogue to the praise of Angus (1914); The Rosses and other poems (1918); The lamplighter and other poems (1929); Later poems.

Common Adventures: A Book of Prose and Verse. Nicholas Flamel: A Play in Four Acts, from the French of Gérard de Nerval (Dublin: Orwell Press 1926), 53pp., 8°. CONTENTS: The condoler; The lamplighter; Common adventures; Sunday morning; The policeman; Birds; Lawrenc; In Merrion Square; The bookman; The flag day; Beyond the poplars; Nicolas Flamel. Note: ‘The first three scenes [of Nicolas Flamel] are translated from fragments left unfinished by Gérard de Nerval at the time of his death, 1855. The fourth scene is new.’ (p.39.)

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Ernest A. Boyd, Ireland’s Literary Renaissance (Dublin: Maunsel 1916), pp.256-61 [Chap. XI: Poets of the Younger Generation; sect. on “Seumas O’Sullivan” - see extract]; Liam Miller, ed., Retrospect: The Work of Seumas O’Sullivan and Estella F. Solomons (1973); Jane Russell, James Starkey - Seumas O’Sullivan: A Critical Biography (Assoc. UP 1987).

See also Rudi Holzapfel, Dublin Bibliographical Series 1: “The Dublin Magazine: Index of Contributors” (Museum Bookshop 1966), p.94 [second series from p.26].

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Ernest A. Boyd, Irelands Literary Renaissance (Dublin: Maunsel 1916) - “Seumas OSullivan


Almost all O’Sullivan’s poems are saturated with a wistfulness, springing from the consciousness that our moments of perfect happiness are gone before we can realise them, to return no more, except perhaps as the burden of some sad reverie.
Although the traces of Yeats’s influences are slight, he is the poet of whom one immediately thinks in studying the work of Seumas O’Sullivan. The latter is obviously of the same poetic lineage as the author of The Wanderings of Oisin and The Countess Kathleen, but his mood is very different from that of the later Yeats. He does not allow himself to be led away into symbolical elaborations of the kind that necessitate explanatory notes, whose bulk is no guarantee of increased understanding or poetical enjoyment. Such mysticism as O’Sullivan expresses belongs to the fairy order of Yeats’s early work. He is thoroughly Celtic in his perception of the mystic voices and the spiritual suggestion of nature. As a rule this faith is latent and implied, rather than stated. Occasionally, as in his latest volume, he confesses his belief, which appears to be analogous with that of A.E. “I cannot pray, as Christians used to pray,” he cries, “for I have seen Lord Angus in the trees.” But these avowals are unusual in one whose introspection has been for the purpose of discovering within himself the emotional harmonies corresponding to certain much-loved phenomena. He is the typical disciple of A.E., revealing the influence [260] of his master not so much in specific phrases as in the general attitude and colouring of his poetry.

pp.256-61; here pp.259-60; see full copy in Library > “Critical Classics” - as attached.

A. J. [Con] Leventhal, tribute to Seumas OSullivan [James Starkey], in Dublin Magazine (April-June 1958)
As this Magazine goes to press we regret to have to announce the death of its founder and Editor, James Sullivan Starkey, otherwise Seumas O’Sullivan, the name by which he is known in the world of letters. From the first number of the Dublin Magazine in 1923 up to the present issue there is continuous evidence of the product of a mind with one standard - the highest. The list of contributors’ names to be found elsewhere in this number, bears witness to Seumas O’Sullivan’s catholicity of taste in poetry and prose. Many of these writers found their first platform in this Magazine. While Ireland’s greatest writers shine magnificently in its files, there is no narrow nationalism. O’Sullivan could find room for English, French and American contributors if they fitted into his scheme of things. And through the annals of this journal there emerges the individuality of the Editor, stamping it with his brave decisions as much avant garde as traditional. Much will yet be written about Seumas O’Sullivan as poet, essayist and editor, much about the man himself but there is little need to address the readers of this Magazine in this respect.
 The future of this journal, now that its great artificer is gone, is uncertain. One would have liked at least one more issue in which writers could pay homage to this unique figure in the literary world. But many material and other considerations must be counted before a decision can be reached.


Quoted in Eoin O’Brien, ‘The Writings of A. J. Leventhal: A Bibliography’, in A. J. Leventhal 1896-1979: Dublin scholar, wit and man of letters, ed. O’Brien [Con Leventhal Scholarship Commitee] (Glendate Press, Glenageary 1984), p.24.

Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist (London: HarperCollins 1996), p.237: The Dublin Magazine was a review edited by the poet Seumas O’Sullivan, who had been a minor figure in the Irish literary revival. It was a well-produced quarterly publication whose main fault was a lazy eclecticisim which led the editor to publish almost anything submitted by any reasonably well-known Irish writer.’; further remarkstothe effect that Starkey offered Beckett the editorship with a stipend, poss. because his wife Estalla was friendly from art college with Cissie Sinclair, Beckett’s aunt. (pp.237-38).

Padraic Fallon, elegy: ‘We put James Starkey down today. / A few of us, old friends and went out way; / The last, said [h]e’d gone to galaxy.’ (Poems, 1974).

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Twilight People”:‘Twilight people, why will you still be crying / Crying and crying me out of the trees? / For under the quiet grass the wise are lying / And all the strong ones are gone over the seas.’ (New Songs, p.15).

The Lamplighter”: ‘Soundlessly touching one by one / The waiting posts that stand to take/The faint blue bubbles in his wake; / And when the night begins to wane/He comes to take them back again / Before the chilly dawn can blight/The delicate frail buds of light.’ (In Mud and Purple: Pages from the Diary of a Dublin Man, Dublin: Talbot 1917).

The Half Door

Dark eyes, wonderful, strange and dear they shone
A moment’s space;
And wandering under the white stars I had gone
In a strange place.

Over the half door careless, your white hand
A moment gleamed;
And I was walking on some great storm-heaped strand
Forever it seemed.

I would give all that glory to see once more,
A moment’s space,
Your eyes gleam strange and dark above the half door,
Your Hand’s white grace.
—Available at - online; accessed 19.03.2024.

The Starling Lake

My sorrow that I am not by the little dún
By the lake of the starlings at Rosses under the hill,
And the larks there, singing over the fields of dew,
Or evening there and the sedges still.

For plain I see now the length of the yellow sand,
And Lissadell far off and its leafy ways,
And the holy mountain whose mighty heart
Gathers into it all the coloured days.

My sorrow that I am not by the little dún
By the lake of the starlings at evening when all is still,
And still in whispering sedges the herons stand.
'Tis there I would nestle at rest till the quivering moon
Uprose in the golden quiet over the hill.
—Available at - online; accessed 19.03.2024.

The Land War” - Prelude: ‘Sorrow is over the fields, / The fields that can never know / The joy that the harvest yields / When the corn stands row on row.// But alien the cattle feed / Where many a furrow lies, / For the furrows remember the seed, / And the men have a dream in their eyes. // Not so did the strong men dream / Ere the fathers of these were born, / And their sons have remembered their deeds /As the fields have remembered the corn.’ (Given in Lennox Robinson, A Golden Treasury of Irish Verse, London: Macmillan 1930, p.153.)

On the 1916 Leaders: ‘Even as the empty spaces / That front the intruding sky, / Are the absent faces / In the crowds that pass me by. / The brave salute of John McBride, / The quick transforming smile, / Thomas MacDonagh’s laughing mouth / And eyes of a happy child, / The strange prophetic glance of Pearse, / The half-averted eyes. / Even as the empty spaces / That front the intruding sky / Are the absent faces / In the crowds that pass me by.’ (Quoted in Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture, Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds 1962, p.161.)

Lament for Sean MacDermott

They have slain you, Sean MacDermott; never more these eyes will greet
The eyes beloved by women, and the smile that true men loved;
Never more I’ll hear the stick-tap, and the gay and limping feet,
They have slain you, Sean the Gentle, Sean the Valiant, Sean the Proved.

Have you scorn for us who linger here behind you, Sean the Wise?
As you look about and greet your comrades in the strange new dawn.
So one says, but saying, wrongs you, for doubt never dimmed your eyes,
And not death itself could make those lips of yours grow bitter, Sean.

As your stick goes tapping down the heavenly pavement, Sean, my friend
That is not your way of thinking, generous, tender, wise and brave;
We, who knew and loved and trusted you, are trusted to the end,
And your hand even now grips mine as though there never were a grave.

—in Padraic Colum, Anthology of Irish Poetry (NY: 1922, rev. ed. 1948) - Item 121; available online.

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University of Ulster Library holds Tower Press Booklets were edited jointly by Seumas O’Sullivan (James Sullivan Starkey) and James Connol[l]y – appar. not the labour leader – [and] published by Maunsel. [The Tower Press Booklets, 1st and 2nd series, 1906-1908, by Frances-Jane French (1968).

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects from Verse, Sacred and Profane, ‘Glasnevin, 9 Oct 1904’; from The Earth-Lover and Other Poems, ‘The Land War (Prelude)’, ‘In Mercer Street’; from collected Poems, ‘Dublin (1916) [755-756]. 780 [recte 781], BIOG, b. Dublin, ed. UCD; appeared as the Blind Man in On Baile Strand (Abbey Dec. 1904); co-ed. Tower Press Booklets, 1906-08; fnd. New nation Press (1909), and Dublin Magazine, ed., 1923-58; founder-member of IAL; Lady Gregory medal, 1957; Bibl., M. J. MacManus, Bibliography of Irish Authors, No. 3, Seamas O’Sullivan’, in Dublin Magazine, 5, No. 3 (1930); Liam Miller, ed., Retrospect, The Work of Seamus O’Sullivan and Estella F. Solomons (Dolmen Press 1973); see also Austin Clarke, Poetry in Modern Ireland (Cork: Mercier Press 1966), Clarke, The Celtic Twilight and the Nineties (Dolmen Press 1969).

Eric Stevens Cat.
(1992), Jane Russell, James Starkey/Seumas O’Sullivan, a critical biography (Assoc. UP 1987) [1st ed.], 148pp. [£8]. Editor’s Choice: A Little Anthology of poems selected from the Dublin Magazine (1944).

Belfast Public Library holds The Earth-Lover (1909); Editor’s Choice, poems [from] the Dublin Magazine (1944); Essays and Recollections (1944); Mud and Purple, pages from the Diary of a Dublin Man (1917); The Rosses (1918); The Twilight People (1905).

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Dublin Magazine: Letters of Seumas O’Sullivan to Mary Lavin on her contributing her early stories to the Dublin Magazine are reprinted in Robert W. Caswell, ‘Mary Lavin: Breaking a Pathway’, in Dublin Magazine ( Summer 1967), pp.32-44; note also that O’Sullivan’s name is given as ‘Starkie’ in the adjacent article by Austin Clarke (‘Early Memories of F. R. Higgins’), although he appears as ‘Starkey’ in the acknowledgements associated with the co-option of the title of the magazine on the front pages.

New Songs: George [AE] Russell included 5 of his poems in his anthology New Songs (Dublin: O’Donoghue 1904) - commencing the book with his “A Portrait” (‘As in wild earth a Grecian vase ..’), later renamed “A Poor Scholar of the Forties”

Pseud.: Seumas O’Sullivan publ. ‘Two Impressions’ under name of J. H. Orwell, in Dana, No.9 - the the first of which [‘from where I lay in my bed in the morning I could see the lawn outside my window’] echoes Moore’s “Moods and Memories”.

W. B. Yeats: O’Sullivan is intended as one of the ‘bad poets’ in the poem “To a Poet who would have me Praise certain Bad Poets, Imitators of His and Mine”; and also intended in the allusion to ‘the fools’, in “A Coat”. (See A. N. Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats (1984), p.127.

James Joyce [1]: O’Sullivan is one of ‘that mumming company’ in The Holy Office (1905) - Joyce’s the first of his two verse-pamphlets, and written on departing from Dublin in Oct. 1904 and printed in 1905 for circulation in Dublin. (see James F Carens, ‘A Portrait &c.’, in Zack Bowen & James Caren, Companion to James Joyce, Greenwood 1984).

James Joyce [2]: O’Sullivan answered Joyce’s call for help and removed his trunks [i.e., luggage] from the Martello tower that the latter had briefly shared with Oliver St John Gogarty in August 1904.

James Joyce [3]: Joyce recorded a dismissive remark by Starkey on Henrik Ibsen: ‘Starkey thinks Ibsen’s mind a chaos. “Hedda should get a kick in the arse.”’ (See “The Pola Notebook”, in Workshop of Daedalus, ed. Robert Scholes & Richard Kain, Northwestern UP 1965, p.88.)

James Joyce [4]: A little book by O’Sullivan called Impressions (1911) [publ. under pseud. J. H. Orwell] seems to imitate Joyce’s Portrait (1916) in spite of earlier date - perhaps remembering the MS shown to him in Dublin: ‘Every day the greyness of the Dublin sky seemed to fold him in more closely, every day the struggle against its crushing influence grew weaker, the desire to escape became a more hopeless passion’.

SignedS”: ‘The attribution of “The Greatest Miracle”, signed “S” in the United Irishman ( 16 Sept. 1905), to [James] Stephens is a canard: Seumas O’Sullivan wrote it and republished it in Essays and Recollections (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1944), pp.141-43.’ (See Vivian Mercier, ‘John Eglinton as Socrates: A Study of “Scylla and Charybdis”’, in James Joyce: An International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Bernard Benstock, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982, p.66, n.)

Portrait: There is a portrait of William Starkey by Estelle Solomons (William Starkey, father of James Starkey, otherwise Seumas O’Sullivan, whom she married); See also under Patrick MacDonogh, infra, for for misattribution.

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