Ella MacMahon

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
?1867-?1956; dg. of Chaplain to Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, b. Dublin, ed. at home; she wrote on Dublin local history; issued lush romances incl. A New Note (1894); A Modern Man (1895); A Pitiful Passion (1896); The Touchstone of Life (1897); and Fortune’s Yellow (1900); worked as a British civil servant, competently holding posts in the Intelligence Service during World War II; remained unmarried; received a Civil List pension in 1939 - apparently renewing an earlier one; said to have converted to Catholicism in later life through possible confusion with near namesake [as infra]. SUTH

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Works
Fiction
  • A New Note: A Novel, 2 vols. (London: Hutchinson & Co. 1894) [Vol. 1: 235pp.; Vol. 2: 251pp., 8°; Do., 345pp., available at Google Books online - 23.11.2010];
  • A Modern Man, with illustrations by Ida Lovering (London: Dent 1895), 192pp.; Do. (NY: Macmillan 1895), 192pp. [available Google Books online - 23.11.2010];
  • A Pitiable Passion (London: London: Hutchinson 1896), 348pp.
  • The Touchstone of Life (London: Hutchinson & Co. 1897), 366pp. [printed Nimeguen, Holland: H. C. A. Thieme]; Do. (Dublin: Mellifont Press [1947]), 160pp.
  • An Honourable Estate: A Tale (London: Hutchinson & Co. 1898), 351pp., and Do. [new rev. edn.] (London: Mills & Boon Ltd., [1918]), 319pp. [t.p. AN HONOURABLE ESTATE / Ella MacMahon];
  • Heathcote: A Novel, 2 vols. ([q. pub.] 1899);
  • Fortune’s Yellow: A Novel (London: Hutchinson & Co. 1900), 364pp.;
  • Such as Have Erred (London: Hutchinson & Co. 1902), 367pp. [Printed London & Aylesbury: Hazell, Watson & Viney];
  • Jemima (London: Chapman and Hall 1903), 329pp.;
  • The Other Son (London: Chapman & Hall 1904), vi, 345pp., 8°, and Do. [abridg.] (Dublin: Mellifont Press [1945]), 96pp.;
  • Oxendale (London: 1905);
  • The Heart’s Banishment (London: Chapman & Hall 1907), 314pp.;
  • The Court of Conscience (London: Chapman & Hall 1908), [8], 312pp.;
  • Fancy O’Brien (London: Chapman & Hall 1909), 314pp.; Do. [abridg.] (Dublin: Mellifont Press [1946]), 128pp.;
  • Straits of Poverty: A Study of Temperament (London: Chapman & Hall 1911), 365pp.
  • An Elderly Person and Some Others (London: Chapman & Hall 1913), 287pp.;
  • Divine Folly (London: Chapman & Hall 1913), 320pp.;
  • The Job (London: James Nisbet & Co. 1914), 383pp.;
  • A Rich Man’s Table: A Comedy of Values (London: Missl & Boon [1916]), 310pp.
  • John Fitzhenry: A Study (London: Mills & Boon 1920), 308pp., and Do. [abridg.] (Dublin: Mellifont Press [1945]), 128pp.;
  • Mercy and Truth: A Novel (London: Mills & Boon 1923), 283pp.;
  • Wind of Dawn (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head 1927 ), [8], 320pp. [cover in buff cloth with five vertical tape-like lines in flat link-chain design; the author’s name produced as MacMahon as underlined and superscript.
  • Irish Vignettes (London: J. Lane, The Bodley Head 1928), 279pp. [also Blackwood’s Magazine, 1921; see extract].
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Note: Blackwood’s Magazine [Vol. CCX] (July-Dec. 1921), incls. “Vignettes” [Oct. iss.], by Ella MacMahon, pp.515-763 - online at Intenet Archive [to read online, enter p.515].
See also [reprints without origs. listed in COPAC
  • The Beggar Rich (Dublin: Mellifont Press 1945), 128pp.
    Diana’s Destiny [Mellifont Library, No. 156] (Dublin: Mellifont Press [1949]);
  • A Great Attraction (Mellifont Press [1949]), 128pp.;

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Criticism
See John Wilson Foster, Irish Novels 1890-1940: New Bearings in Culture and Fiction (Oxford: OUP 2008).

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Commentary
[Unsigned,] Like May Other Men’, review of A Modern Man by Ella Macmahon [w]ith illustrations by Ida Lovering. NY: Macmillan & Co. [75c], in The New York Times (17 July 1875)

‘Since all the good stories were told long agao, one must judge a new novel by its manner rather than its matter. At least that is the feeling one has after reading such a literary confection as this. After a turn at Weyman or Crockett or Stockton we must feel tha the good new stories were not all told long ago. But A Modern Man is no story at all, in the true sense.
 A young advocate whose life began in poverty, and who has worked for years with a double purpose in view, first to achieve distinction, secondy to marry his patron’s daughter, has reached a point, at the age of thirty-five, when he may felicitate himself. Public honors are in prospect for him; the fair, rich woman, who loves him devotedly, has promised to marry him. Then [page] the strain he has undergone in his term of probation is relaxed.
  It was Goethe who observed that while solitude may develop genius and improve talent, character must be formed and strengthened in the battle of life. Merton Byng has lived in the world, but not been of it. Now, loosening his fetters, he goes forth, and his true character is soon revealed to himself. His modernity is not striking. He is a man no newer than Adam. His essential traits have belonged to all mankind.
 In the absence of his betrothed he makes move to another woman. He has long periods of introspection and self-examination to no avail. He loves Sybil as fondly as he loves Muriel. He avows his second passion. Sybil, however, cares nothing for him. That saves him, and he marries Muriel. When, some time later, he is impelled to confess his fault to his wife, he is shocked and chagrined to learn that she has known of it all along.
 That is all. The book is simply a revelation of a man’s character in its weakness. An ordinary man Merton Byng is, rather than a modern man. The style of the author is fresh and agreeable. There are suggestions or impreessions rather than pictures of places in her descriptions. The sixteenth-century garden and the glimpse of the Welsh shooting country in wet weather are particularly pleasing.’ [End.]

NY Times online; retrieved 23.11.2010

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Quotations
“The Station-master of Aghole”, in ‘Vignettes’ [No. XV], Blackwood’s Magazine CCX (July-Dec. 1921): ‘The dream of Bartholomew Mooney’s life is to be station- master at the “Joonction”. He always speaks as if the position could be his for the asking, and this in spite of the fact that many station- masters have come and gone at the Junction during the years in which he has been at Aghole. Yet he persists in the belief that he may be sent there any day. He intends, so he says, when he gets there, to expend some of his enormously increased pay in taking a trip to London. He has an extraordinary desire to see London, and he seems to separate it in his regard completely from England which he hates. / “There’s no one is rightly a man o’ the worrld till he’s seen London,” is one of his most emphatic pronouncements, “and I’ll see it, please God, before I die, and be the aiquil of the best yet.” / That, I imagine, has a good deal to do with his aspiration. He cannot bear to think that so many of the travellers over whom he lords it should have the advantage of him in this. / He is intelligent enough to realise that London is the greatest city in the world, and, like most of his race, he has an unquenchable craving for greatness and splendour. All this, however, does not prevent him from being very offended [518] with any persons of his acquaintance who go to live there. He has never forgiven me for doing so ; and though his welcome to me when I visit my native land is for him very gracious, he cannot refrain from ironical and mocking allusions to the supposed state and magnificence which I enjoy “in it!”’ (pp.517-18; and note: The issue for October [inst.] contains Nos. XV & XVI - see full-text, attached. The whole series was later rep. as Irish Vignettes, London: John Lane 1928.)

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References
John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989) lists A New Note (1894); A Modern Man (1895); A Pitiful Passion (1896); The Touchstone of Life (1897); Fortune’s Yellow (1900); BL holds 23 titles; biog. details as in Life, supra - incl. the remark, ‘remained single and apparently converted to Catholicism in later life’ - but this seems to be an error based on the coincidence of her name with that of Ella McMahon, translator of pious texts by Adrien Sylvain, &c. [see under further Notes, infra.].

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Notes
Namesake: Cf. Ella McMahon, translator of sundry pious Catholic works from the French origs. of Adrien Sylvain, chiefly published in English by Benziger, and by D. & J. Sadleir (New York) but also by Gill & Son (Dublin) - e.g.,

Miscellaneous
  • Vacation Days: A Book of Instruction for Girls [by Adrien Sylvain], trans. Ella McMahon (D. & J. Sadleir 1879), 368pp.
  • trans. Golden Sands: A Collection of Little Counsels for the Sanctification and Happiness of Daily Life [3rd Ser.], translated from the French [of Adrien Sylvain] ([NY:] Benziger Bros.1882);
  • trans., Spiritual Directions for the Use of Religious Communities [by Adrian Syvlain] (NY Benziger 1884), 264pp.
  • The Little Month of May, by Adrien Sylvain, trans. Ella McMahon (Benziger Bros. 1885), 96pp.
  • The Little Month of the Souls in Purgatory [by Adrien Sylvain], trans. Ella McMahon [5th edn.] (q.pub.)
  • trans., Maxims and Counsels for Every Day in the Year (Dublin: Gill & Son 1885 [1884]), 144pp. [32°/24cm]. [t.p. orth. McMahon];

Adrien Sylvain [var. ‘protonotaire apostolique’ and ‘a chaplain, pseud.’], author of Golden treasures: counsels for the happiness of daily life, translated from the French by Theo; edited by the author of “The Divine Master” (J. Masters & Co. 1850), 83pp. ... &c.; Vacation Days: A Book of Instruction for Girls, trans. Ella McMahon (D. J. Sadleir 1879), 368pp.; Golden Sands: A Collection of Little Counsels for the Sanctification and Happiness of Daily Life [3rd Ser.], translated by Miss Ella Macmahon from the French [of Adrien Sylvain] ([NY:] Benziger Bros.1882) [available at Google Books online; 23.11.2010 - and note that the 2nd ser. of same was prev. issued in 1878, without a translator’s name on t.p. [online]. Other titles by Sylvain in English incl. Virtues and defects of a young girl at school (D. & J. Sadleir 1888), 183pp. [here called a ‘chaplain, pseud.’ - online]; Household lessons, or practical lessons in home life (1888), 183pp.; and see also Gold Dust: A Collection of Golden Counsels for the Sanctification of Daily Life, by Adrien Sylvain, E.L.E.B., trans. by Charlotte Mary Yonge (Bond St. [London]: J. Masters & Co. 1900), 177pp. [online]. Titles in French incl. Leçons élémentaires de logique pratique: spécialement rédigées pour les pensionnats de demoiselles ([Paris:] W. Belin 1898), 125pp.; Petit Mois du Sacré Coeur: extraites du Livre de piété de la jeune fille (Imprimerie Léger Brousseau 1884), 35pp.; Au peid de l’Autel (Aubanel 1921), 32pp., ... et al. [See Google Books for all such titles incl. pedagogic and devout guides, trans. in sundry European languages.]

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Notes
Civil Penson List: London Times (5 May 1939) incls. Miss Eleanor Harriet MacMahon (“Ella MacMahon”) among the Civil List pensions granted at that date “in recognition of her services to Literature” and in addition to her original pension. Her date of birth is given as c.1867 in the Registry of Deaths (UK). [Information supplied by John Harrington in email communication of 17.10.2014.]

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