A. M. Sullivan (1830-84)

[Alexander Martin Sullivan;] b. Bantry, Co. Cork; joined Young Irelanders; worked as journalist in Dublin and Liverpool, 1853-55; proprietor and editor of The Nation, 1856, using it to advocate constitutional agitation and oppose the physical force doctrine of the Fenians (IRB); informed on the Phoenix Club to the police, 1857, and consequently marked for assassination by the IRB; launched National Petition Movement to ‘take England at her word’ anent the attestation of the right of national self-determination voiced by Lord John Russell in relation to Italy, 1859, resulting in a petition of 500,000 signatures, presented at Parliament by The O’Donoghue;
attacked in The Irishman after 1863 as felon-setter and ‘Sullivan-goulah’; owned Weekly News and imprisoned for article in it on the Manchester Martyrs, 1868; erected statue to Grattan with the proceeds of a public collection on his behalf; inaugurated Home Rule Party with Butt, 1870; Irish bar, 1876; passed The Nation to his brother, T. D. Sullivan, 1876; English bar, 1877; supported leadership of Parnell, 1877; MP for Meath, 1880; resigned after heart-attack, 1881; author of Story of Ireland (1867; edns. to 1894, etc.) and New Ireland (2 vols., 1878), et al; Mrs. Sullivan was a prominent member of the Ladies’ Land League; T. D. Sullivan wrote a Memoir (Dublin 1885) under his own imprint. CAB ODNB PI JMC DIW DIB DIL FDA OCIL

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  • Brilliant Chapters from Modern Irish History (Glasgow n.d.);
  • Ireland at the Bar! The State Trials - 1881 (Dublin: J. J. Lalor 1881);
  • The History of Ireland from the Rebellion of Robert Emmet to the Fenian Insurrection (Boston: Murphy & McCarthy n.d.);
  • New Ireland: Political Sketches and Personal Reminiscences of Thirty Yeats of Iris Public Life, 2 vols. (London: Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington 1877).
See also Irish Book Lover 3.

Bibliographical details
New Ireland: Political Sketches and Personal Reminiscences of Thirty Years of Irish Public Life, by A. M. Sullivan (London, Glasgow, Manchester & Birmingham: Burns Oates & Washbourne n.d. [1878]), 463pp. [Cameron & Ferguson Edn.] Preface, sign. London Sept. 24, 1877 [i]. CONTENTS incl. Looking Back; The Schoolmaster Abroad; O’Connell and Repeal; The Ribbon Confederacy; Father Mathew; The Black Forty-seven; Young Ireland; After -scenes; The Crimson Stain; ‘Lochaber no More!’; The Encumbered Estates Act; The Tenant League; ‘The Brass Band’; The Suicide Banker [Sadleir]; The Artbuthnot Abduction; The Phoenix Conspiracy; Papal Ireland; The Fate of Glenveih [Glenveigh]; The Fenian Movement; A Troubled Time; The Richmond Escape; Insurrection!; The Scafford and the Cell; ‘Delenda est Carthago!’; Disestablishment; Longford; ‘Home Rule’; The Kerry Election; Ballycohey; The Disestablished Chruch; Ireland at Westminster; Loss and Gain. Sequel: Gathering Clouds; ‘Obstruction!’; The Land League; Agarian Revolution. [Wrapper, 2/6; Cloth 4/-; note Lowe, Marston, Searle & Rivington edn. of 1877.]

The Story of Ireland, new. edn. (M. H. Gill & Son [q.d.]), brought up to recent times by a well-known author. To My Fellow Countrymen / at home and in exile / on the college and the mansion / amidst the green fields or the crowded cities /soon to be /the men of Ireland / I dedicate this little book, which contains / the story of our Country /and subscribe myself /their friend the Author. [Copy of Tessa Hurston, Library of QUB at Armagh]. The story of Ireland is available at LibraryIreland.com online [accessed 20.10.2010.]

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T. A. Jackson, Ireland Her Own (Cobbett Press 1949; rep. Lawrence & Wishart 1970) [epilogue Desmond Greaves], containing remarks on Stephen’s naming Sullivan a ‘felon-setter’ following arrest of Phoenix Club members in late 1857 [var. 1858], an event instigated by Sullivan’s securing William Smith O’Brien to write an article in The Nation advocating ‘moral force’, to which he then appended an editorial specifically addressed to Fenians in Kerry, supposedly resulting in the arrest of the Phoenix Club members; Jackson characterises Sullivan’s style as ‘sentimentally and hysterically pacifist’.

D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland (London: Routledge 1982; 1991), p.247-49: ‘[…] Sullivan, like most writers in the Davisite tradition, disagreed with the Gaelic leaguers in that he admired the Protestant patriots of the eighteenth century, who at last opened their eyes to the reality of English oppressions, only to be again betrayed. England once more broke faith with Ireland; Ireland was provoked into revolt; and Wexford rose, led by Father Murphy and other priests whose names “should ever be remembered by Irishmen when tempters whisper that the voice of the Catholic pastor, raised in worry or restraint is the utterance of one who cannot feel for, who would not die for, the flock he desires to serve.” After the ’98 rebellion the parliament of Ireland was extinguished and an independent country degraded into a province: “Ireland as a nation was extinguished”. With the great famine, the Irish as a race nearly went the same way, as the English press gloated over the “anticipated extirpation of the Irish race”. But Ireland was fated not to die; and although Sullivan could not approve of the “insensate” attempt at a rising in 1867, he praised the virtue, patriotism, and Christianity of some of the Fenian leaders: “Their last words were of God and Ireland”. And when Sullivan took his story of Ireland up to recent times, the land acts, the home rule bills, all provided proof of his contention that “there is a god in Israel”.’ [Cont.]

D. George Boyce (Nationalism in Ireland, 1991) - cont.: ‘Sullivan’s mixture of historical fact and fiction, of poetry and prose culled from writers like Moore, Davis and Gavan Duffy, his conviction that the Irish would triumph over all adversity, and move on to their “great purpose” was the kind of literature that his, and succeeding generation of Irish nationalists were reared on; Eamon de Valera was perhaps its most celebrated exponent. / The histories written by Abbe MacGeoghan, Mitchel and D’Arcy McGee were of exactly similar kind, even down to the detailed refutation of the massacres of 1641; and McGee’s publisher remarked that “A nation with such a strange history must have some great work yet to do in the world. Except the Jews, no people has so suffered without dying”. This was the stuff of the home rule movement and of the nationalist movement that succeeded home rule. It was embodied in almost every speech, pamphlet, newspaper editorial and poem. [… &c., p.249; includes page refs. with all quotations from The Story of Ireland, 1867.] Note also R. F. Foster remarks in Paddy and Mr Punch (1993) on G. D. Boyce’s ‘acute analysis of The Story of Ireland (1867)’, in Nationalism in Ireland [1982].[ top ]

Roy Foster, ‘The Magic of Its Lovely Dawn, Reading Irish history as Story’ [Carroll Inaugural Lecture] (Times Literary Supplement, 16 Dec. 1994), rems. on The Story of Ireland (1867 and eds.), one of the great best-sellers of all (Irish) time, rapidly shifting 50,000 copies and going into dozens of editions [25th in 1888]; based on ‘chief events’, ‘easily comprehended and remembered’, with minor incidents dropped as being likely to ‘confuse and bewilder’; addressed to ‘Irish Nation of the Future’, and told ‘after the manner of simple storytellers’; Ireland as Island of Destiny, invaded by Spanish Milesians [Catholic connection]; archaeology used to buttress claims of rule by accomplished sovereigns from 1500 b.c.; ‘liberal patrons of art, science and commerce’; ‘regularly convened parliaments’; Home Rule avant la lettre; St Patrick’s prayers ‘express such doctrines as are taught today in the unchanged and unchanging Catholic church’; ‘national unity’ as object of the quest-tale; Ulster plantation swept aside ‘lie the baseless fabric of a vision’; Stuart’s condemn Irish to suffer in the eighteenth century ‘an agony the most awful, the most prolonged, of any recorded on the blotted page of human suffering ... in cruelties of oppression endured, Ireland is like no other country in the world’; supplied the canon for Irish history as taught for generations by orders like the Christian brothers ... All conformed ... determinism was explicit. The formula brilliantly poularised by Sullivan in 1867 created the terms learned by successive generations.’; also cites oft-reprinted Speeches from the Dock.

See also Foster, The Story of Ireland [Inaugural lecture ... Univ. of Oxford, 1 Dec. 1994] (Clarendon Press 1995): ‘The point of the Story of Ireland as retailed in classic form was, in fact, that though all the elements were there (villains, heroes, helpers, donors) it had not reached its ending yet. But through omission of elements that did not suit the fairytale, and adherence to established narrative forms, the right ending could be inferred. This might be illustrated by looking at the most famous book written under the title The Story of Ireland, first published by A. M. Sullivan in 1867.
 [...] Sullivan, a journalist and politician from Cork, helped create the popular Irish [8] concept of nationalism through his newspaper The Nation and his oft-reprinted Speeches from the Dock. In The Story of Ireland, written (he said) “hand to mouth ... with printers like wolves at my heels for copy”, he produced one of the great bestsellers of all (Irish) time, rapidly shifting 50,000 copies and going into dozens of editions. It is worth dwelling on this text, not only because of its huge influence, but because it best encapsulates the formalities, motifs, elisions, parallelism, and - of course - gaps that characterize the story. Sullivan defended his decision to present a narrative based on “chief events”, “easily comprehended and remembered”; minor incidents or qualifications which might “confuse and bewilder” were dropped. He addressed himself to the young, the “Irish Nation of the Future'”, telling them Ireland's story “after the manner of simple storytellers”. But the sequence and emphasis were really aimed at a far wider target. The theme was established from the beginning: Ireland as the Isle of Destiny, invaded from Spain by Milesians (and thus implicitly linked from its origins to Catholic Europe). Archaeology was used to buttress claims of. rule by accomplished sovereigns from about 1500 BC, “liberal patrons of art, science and commerce”, instituting orders of chivalry and “regularly convened parliaments”. The themes are legitimate independence, equal status with other European nations, the capacity for self-government: Home Rule three thousand years avant to lettre. This mercilessly present-minded preoccupation drives on through Christianity, accomplished peacefully in Ireland alone: St Patrick's prayers and litanies “express such doctrines as are taught in our own day in the unchanged and unchanging Catholic Church”. Columba, the wandering saint, is presented as the first involuntary emigrant [...] in fact, he goes off to Scotland and [9] brings about “the independence of the young Caledonian nation” - Home Rule all round. [...; 10]; There is, however, an end in sight and it uses the language of another story: nation becomes religion [...] But if the message is the right to revolt, Sullivan's own politics were those of a moderate Home Ruler; Ireland would thus, in the end, export virue back to England, where family life, Sullivan airily remarked, was “one black catalogue of murdering, wife-beating and infant-choking”. Most importantly, the Story of Ireland must not be absorbed into England's corrupt narrative, substituting “her history of falsehood, rapine and cruelty for ours of faihtfulness, noble endurance and morality - giving us the [11] bloodstaine memoirs of her land and sea robers in place of the glorious biographies of our patriots and our saints.”’wife-beating and Most importantly, )’ (Foster, pp.8-12.) [Citations incl. R. Moran, ‘Alexander Martin Sullivan (1829-1884) and Irish Cultural Nationalism’, unpub. thesis, Univ. of Cork [NUI], 1993.]

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Luke Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture (Cork UP 1996), p.15, contesting Foster’s view of A. M. Sullivan’s history as determining without exceptions the form of Irish school historiography and tradition in view of the Sullivan’s ‘conservative project’ and in particular his ‘sustained opposition’ to Fenianism. Further, ‘[T]heir orderly stories can be seen as an attempt to co-opt and control the more unruly a refractory narratives of vernacular history, in which the past was embossed in material form on the landscape and worked in the very texture of social experience’.

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New Ireland: Political Sketches and Personal Reminiscences of Thirty Years of Irish Public Life (1878): ‘It may be that, even if the tempting idea of “colonisation” had never affected their minds, a certain section of the Irish landlords would have had to pursue, in a greater or less degree, the course that followed. What were they to do? Penniless landlords, it seemed a miserable necessity that they should sacrifice the latter [viz., the tenants]; as one drowning man drives another from a plank insufficient to support them both. Be this as it may, in the track of the Irish Famine came such wholesale “clearances” as never had been known in the history of land-tenure.’ (p.114.)

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D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); b. Castletownberehaven [sic], 1830; journalist and ed. of The Nation, 1855; afterward proprietor; contrib. poetry to The Nation, 1856-70; included in Irish Penny Readings (4 vols., 1879-85); MP Louth, 1874; later MP Meath; bar, 1876; Story of Ireland [n.d]; New Ireland [n.d.]. d. 17 Oct.; bur. Glasnevin.

Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985); b. Bantry, joined The Nation in 1855 and succeeded C G Duffy as editor and proprietor of The Nation, 1855 [var. 1858 DIB] to 1876 when he handed over to his brother TD Sullivan; insistent but moderate nationalist strongly opposed Fenians militancy; served six months sentence for article protesting the execution of the Manchester Martyrs, 1867-68, and erected statue to Grattan with the proceeds on a collection on his behalf; Nationalist MP for Louth (1874) and Meath (1880), he also practised law in London after 1877. he wrote a popular Story of Ireland, 1870; also New Ireland, 2 vols. (1877). [ERR, Author of the ballad ‘God Save Ireland’].

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects from New Ireland (1877); A M Sullivan, proprietor of The Nation from 1855 to 1876; renowned for hostility to Young Ireland, counterbalance to [Mitchel’s] genocidal view of famine, [192]; as sole proprietor of The Nation he was v. influential, but renowned for hostility to left-wing element in Young Ireland and the genocidal view of the Famine, to which he attributes ‘painful misunderstanding and bitter recrimination’; he considers the condemnation generally heaped on the landlords ‘too sweeping ... the bulk of the resident landlords manfully did their best in that dread hour’; his writings characterised by fulsome sentiment and political mildness [Deane, ed.; 192-98]; 248 [no notes]; A. M. Sullivan, although corrected in a public letter by the principal actor in restoring the captive [James Stephens] to freedom, says, even in the last edition of his New Ireland, that Stephens made his exit through the front door of the prison’ (John Devoy, Recollections, 1929), 268; [confusion with A. M. Sullivan (his son) defending Casement in 1916, 295]; English speaking (Frederick Ryan) 999, and biog. ftn; Uncle of Tim Healy; journalist in Liverpool and Dublin and in 1855 proprietor of The Nation; called by James Stephens ‘a felon-setter’ in The Irishman; founder member of IPP, imprisoned for supporting Manchester Martyrs; passed The Nation to his brother in 1876; d. Beckenham, Kent; BIOG, 207-08. FDA3, A. M. Sullivan, The Story of Ireland (1867), perhaps the most influential nationalist history [FDA3 583]; joined The Nation in 1855; opposed to Fenianism; Story of Ireland (1870) the bible of popular nationalism [FDA3 999].

LibraryIreland.com holds a digital copy of The Story of Ireland [online - accessed 20.10.2010] ... with the lead-in remark: ‘Sullivan leaves you in doubt to his religious persuasion and political beliefs in this history. The book was published as part of the Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, 1900.’

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Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); 1830-1884, b. Bantry; Story of Ireland (1870); sided with Healy against Parnell (the Bantry Gang); arrested in 1868 for his article on the execution of the Manchester Martyrs, he used the public subscription of 400 to erect the statue of Henry Grattan facing TCD. Formed the Home Rule Party with Isaac Butt but turned to Parnell in 1877. The anthology selects 16 poems incl. ‘The Wearing of The Green’, ‘On the Colleen Bawn’, ‘The Native Irishman’, et. al.

Ulster Libraries: BELFAST LINENHALL LIBRARY holds New Ireland, 2 vols. (1877). BELFAST PUBLIC LIBRARY holds Modern Irish History (n.d.); New Ireland (n.d.); Speeches and Addresses 1859-1881 (1882); Story of Ireland (1887). UNIVERSITY OF ULSTER CENTRAL LIBRARY [Morris Collection], holds New Ireland, Political Sketches and Personal Reminiscences, 2 vols. (1878); The Story of Ireland, a narrative of Irish History from the earliest ages to the present times (1889).

Hyland Books (Cat. 219; 1995) lists The Story of Ireland (1894 edn.), ills; also Sullivan Bros., Irish Penny Readings, 2 vols. (1st edn. 1879), both 319pp.; Speeches from the Dock, or Protests of Patriotism (Boston n.d.), 236+91+84pp.

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Joseph Lee, The Modernisation of Ireland (Cambridge 1973), writes: ‘A. M. Sullivan, leader of the moderate constitutional nationalists whose ambition to claim the coffin for themselves [at Terence Bellew McManus’s Fenian funeral, 10 Nov. 1861] Stephens thwarted, concluded that the funeral ‘gave the Fenian chiefs a command of Ireland which they had not been able to command before’ (p.55).

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Edith Somerville, in Irish Memories [copying Martin Ross’s memoir of her brother and her father’s house at Ross], makes reference to A. M. Sullivan’s view that ‘No adequate tribute has ever been paid to those Irish landlords - and they were men of every party and creed - who perished, martyrs to duty, in that awful time; who did not fly the plague-reeking workhouse, or fever-tainted court.’ (Irish Memories, p.17.) Note poss. family connection between A M[artin] Sullivan and the Martins of Ross.

Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock includes a comic allusion to The Story of Ireland by A. M. Sullivan, here confused with J. L. Sullivan, the singer (Pan Edn., 1980, p.33.)

Liam O’Flaherty: A.M. Sullivan’s The Story of Ireland and the Gaelic version of Fairies at Work by William P. Ryan are the only books we hear of in the O’Flaherty household. (see Patrick Sheeran, The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism, UCG 1972, p.55.)

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