[Rev.] James Wills (1790-1868)


b. Willsgrove, Co. Roscommon, 1 Jan. 1790, ed. TCD; joint inheritance squandered by brother; holy orders, 1822; Suirville sinecure curacy, 1835, and vicar, 1846; he held additional livings at Kilmacow, Co. Waterford, and Attanagh; compiled Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen (6 vols. 1839-47), from Ollamh Fodhla (600 bc.) to death of Whitley Stokes (1845) with extensive historical introduction summarising current antiquarian insight into the linguistic, literary and political make-up of the Gaelic world; later reiss. as The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography (1871) and afterwards by his son as The Irish Nation (1875); wrote The Universe (1821), which secured 500 for C. R. Maturin when published with his [Wills’] permission; also issued letters on the Philosophy of Unbelief (q.d.); d. Nov., Attenagh; MRIA; see also Irish Booklover, Vols. 2, 6. CAB ODNB PI DIW DIB DIH RAF OCIL

[ top ]

See Wills’s biographical notices of Arthur O’Leary [q.v.], Thomas Leland [q.v.], and Thomas Percy [q.v.], Matthew Young, [q.v.], from The Irish Nation, Its History & Its Biography, 4 vols. (London 1871).

  • The Disembodied and Other Poems (London & Dublin 1831);
  • Dramatic Sketches and Other Poems (Dublin 1845);
  • Moral and Descriptive Epistles (Dublin 1846);
  • The Idolatress and Other Poems (London 1868);
Historical writings
  • Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen from the earliest times to the present in chronological order and embodying a history of Ireland, 6 vols. (Dublin: McGregor Polson and Co.; Belfast: Sutherland: 1839-1847) [Vol. 1: Pt. I & II, 1839; Vol. 2: Pt. I & II, 1840: Vol. 3: Pt. 1 & II, 1840-41, Vol. 4: Pt. I & II, 1842, Vol. 5: Pt. I & II, 1843-44; Vol. 4: Pt. I & II, 1845-1847], and Do., all reiss. as The Irish Nation, Its History & Its Biography, 4 vols. (London 1871) [see reprint];
  • Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen (Wiltshire: Thoemmes Press 1997), 2880pp. [available in Internet Library online, from p.369, with port. plates; accessed 15.11.2009].

[ top ]

Dictionary of National Biography [ODNB], gives account of his involvement with family, law, church livings [copied in DIB DIW DIH].

Alfred Webb, Compendium of Irish Biography (1878) lists Illustrious Irishmen in his appendix of 350 sources; also acknowledged in Charles Read, ed., A Cabinet of Irish Literature (3 vols., 1876-78).

D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), discusses the Universe and Maturin in full; refers to Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen, properly called The Irish Nation: Its History and Biography [1875].

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), notes his contributions to Dublin University Magazine, Dublin Penny Journal, and Irish Penny Journal, sometimes pseud. ‘J.U.U.’; personal friend of C. R. Maturin; bibl. incl. The Universe, poem (1821), dedicated to Coleridge and publ. under Maturin’s name for the latter’s benefit. (See Patrick Rafroidi, Ireland and Romanticism, Vol. 2, 1988).

Ulster Libraries: Belfast Linenhall holds The Idolatress and Other Poems (1868). Belfast Central Library holds Lives and Dramatic Sketches; also The Irish Nation, being Lives …&., ed. by his son Freeman Wills.

[ top ]