Fanny Parnell

1849-1882 [Frances Isabel; var. 1854]; 8th of 11 children; gdg. of Admiral Stewart (Old Ironsides) and favorite sister of Charles Stewart Parnell; ed. privately; first poem appeared in The Irish People, May 1864, signed ‘Aleria’; also wrote for The Nation, Irishman, et al.; cared for wounded soldiers in Siege of Paris; travelled to America with her mother and settled at Bordenstown on death of her father (d.1869); suffered poor health from 1874; confidante and host to Michael Davitt; fnd. American branch of Women’s Land League, 1881, simultaneously established in Ireland by Anna Catherine; set up collections in American for Irish famine victims; issued Hovels of Ireland (1879), a pamphlet attacking Irish landlords;

also issued Land League Songs (1882), in which “Hold the Harvest”, a ballad compared with “La Marseillaise; contracted mysterious disease; d. 18 July, at Bordenstown, NY (aetat. 33), her funeral was attended by John Howard Parnell but not by her br. Charles, who refused to allow her body to be shipped to Ireland (‘Wherever you die you should be buried’); bur. in the family vault, Cambridge; a memorial in rough-hewn granite from Avondale was raised to her at Mt. Auburn by Seán O hUiginn, Irish Ambassador to America, 2001, bearing the inscription, ‘Fanny Parnell / 1848-1882 / Poet and patriot’. ODNB JMC DBIV DIH MKA OCIL

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W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival: Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities (London: Paternoster Steam Press 1894), writes: ‘Miss Fanny Parnell, in a few of her lyrics, gave expression to the tumultuous life and passion of the time.’ (p.9.) Note, Yeats first made his way to the Club in March 1888, when Daniel Crilly MP was lecturing on Fanny Parnell [ibid., 29]

Frank Callanan, The Parnell Split (Cork 1992?), reviewed by Robert Kee, in Irish Times (5 Dec. 1992). Kee commends this ‘brilliantly penetrating study of the last ten months of CS Parnell’s extraordinary life’, which delves into unprecedented detail in documenting the combat between the protagonists, Parnell, his honest Iago Tim Healy, and Gladstone. ‘The political argument, here most skillfully illuminated as never before by extensive coverage from contemporary (mainly newspaper) sources, was fought out on Parnell’s side with an unwonted fury that sometimes made people, including the late Professor Lyons, but not Callanan, think he had literally gone mad. On Healy’s side it was fought out with a scabrous venom that still horrifies by the unashamed viciousness of its personal attack.’ As for Parnell, ‘because he was morally guiltless in his own eyes he characteristically ignored the fact that othrs could not see it that way too and his eventual marriage to his “Queen” only made things worse.’ Kee talks about the ‘emotional sense of slighted ancient identity’ that contributed to Home rule politics, and also Parnell’s ‘near-magical hold over the Irish people’ brought about by a ‘calculated ambivalence about the constitutional limits of the independence he sought for Ireland ... he had purveyed the Fenian mystique without the dogma. Kee regards as significant the image of the then politically superannuated James Stephens following Parnell’s cortege to Glasnevin in a cab, and Healy becoming Governor-General in 1921, ‘after the successful Fenian Rising’ as significant of the future turn of events. Hence his remark at the outset where he characterises Healy as the ghost of Irish nationalism past and the spirit of Irish nationalism present.’

Máire Toibin [Parnell Summer School}, Irishwoman’s Diary, Irish Times ([q.d.] May 2001): memorial stone raised to her at Mt. Auburn by Seán O hUiginn, Irish Ambassador to America; stone from Parnell estate at Avondale, Co. Wicklow; author of “Hold the Harvest”, compared to French Marseillaise; issued pamph. The Hovels of Ireland, a hard-hitting attack on landlords; arranged Famine Relief Fund boxes to be placed in Pos all over the US; her poem ‘After Death’ written in the year before she died; object of ‘The Dead Singer’, a lament by John Boyle O’Reilly [‘The singer who lived is always alive, we hearken and always hear’]; gdg. of Admiral Stewart, Old Ironsides, returned with her mother to life in Bordentown on his death in 1869; hosted Michael Davitt; still standing; John Howard Parnell alone in attending her funeral; Charles Stewart Partenll having expressed the view,‘Wherever you die you should be buried’.

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Hold the Harvest

Now, are you men, or are you kine, ye tillers of the soil?
Would you be free, or evermore the rich man’s cattle toil?
The shadow on the dial hangs, that points the fatal hour —
Now, hold your own! or branded slaves, for ever cringe and cower.

The serpent’s curse upon you lies — ye writhe within the dust,
Ye fill your mouths with beggars’ swill, ye grovel for a crust;
Your lords have set their blood-stained heels upon your shameful
Yet, they are kind — they leave you still their ditches for your
       beds !


The yellow corn starts blithely up; beneath it lies a grave —
Your father died in "Forty-eight" — his life for yours he gave —
He died, that you, his son, might learn there is no helper nigh
Except for him who, save in fight, has sworn he will not die.


The hour has struck, Fate holds the dice, we stand with bated breath;
Now who shall have our harvest fair? — ’tis Life that plays with Death;
Now who shall have our Motherland? — ’tis Right that plays with Might;
The peasants’ arms were weak indeed in such unequal fight!

But God is on the peasants’ side, the God that loves the poor,
His angels stand with flaming swords on every mountain moor,
They guard the poor man’s flocks and herds, they guard his ripening
The robber sinks beneath their curse beside his ill-got gain.

O, pallid serfs ! whose groans and prayers have wearied Heaven full
Look up! there is a law above, beyond all legal wrong;
Rise up! the answer to your prayers shall come, tornado borne,
And ye shall hold your homesteads dear, and ye shall reap the corn!

But your own hands upraised to guard shall draw the answer down,
And bold and stern the deeds must be that oath and prayer shall crown;
God only fights for them who fight — now hush the useless moan,
And set your faces as a flint and swear to Hold Your Own!

See full text in Gill’s Irish Reciter: A Selection of Gems from Ireland’s Modern Literature, ed. J. J. O’Kelly [Seán Ó Ceallaigh] (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1905), pp.250-52 [available at Internet Archive - online].

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Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), selects “Post Mortem”, “Hold The Harvest”, and “Erin My Queen”.

John Cooke, ed., The Dublin Book of Irish Verse (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1909) gives bio-dates 1855-1883; and selects “After Death” [‘Shall mine eyes behold thy glory, O my country? / ... When the nations ope for thee their queenly circle, / as a sweet new sister hail thee, / Shall these lips be sealed in callous death and silence / that have known but to bewail thee?’].

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), cites Land League Songs (Boston 1882); The Hovels of Ireland (NY: T Kelly 1879); contrib. Irish People. See David James O’Donoghue, ‘The Literature of ‘67’, in Shamrock, 30 (1893).

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), follows ODNB in assigning bio-date 1854; Hickey and Doberty (Dict. of Irish History, 1980) give 1849; sic Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (1988).


Portrait: There is a port. of Fanny, posed half-profile waist to head, in National Library of Ireland [printed in History Ireland, Summer 1994, p.33).

Fateful lovers: W. B. Yeats retales in A Vision Mrs Parnell’s description of a stormy night on Brighton Pier: ‘she lay still, stretched upon his two hands, knowing that if she moved, he would drown himself and her.’ (Cited in Drew Milne, review of Maria Di Battista & Lucy McDiarmid, eds., High and Low Moderns: Literature and Culture, 1889-1939, OUP 1996, in Irish Studies Review, Dec. 1998, p.341.)

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