Mark Bence-Jones

Criticism


Life
1930-2010 [Mark Adayre Bence-Jones; occas. pseud. “Mark Adayre”]; b. 30 May, in London, the son of Colonel Philip Reginald Bence-Jones, and grand-son of William Bence Jones [q.v.]; his mother May [née Thomas] was half-French and half-Egyptian and a Catholic, causing his father to convert to Catholicism; ed. Ampleforth College; confirmed by Cardinal Hinsley; lived with his family in India especially from the time when World War II rendered travel to school in England impossible; grad. Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read history and he was mentored by Fr. Monsignor Alfred Gilbey, the Catholic aristocrats’ chaplain;
 
afterwards studied agriculture at Cirencester and ran the family farm at Glenville Park, the family home at Lisselane, Co. Cork; m. Gillian Pretyman, dg. of E. P. Pretyman, MP (Conserv.), and cousin of Princess Alice of Gloucester, 1965; divided time between her house in Suffolk, and his in Cork; reviewed books for the Cork Examiner; wrote Palaces of the Raj (1973), Clive of India (1987) and The Viceroys of India (1982), and pioneered the serious study of Indian architecture; he acted as consultant on Burke’s Irish Family Records (1977); issued Ancestral Houses (c1984);
 
wrote The Twilight of the Ascendancy (1987), a study of the Anglo-Irish in decline; A Guide To Irish Country Houses (1978), covering more than 2,000 houses; also issued Catholic Families (1992) and Life In An Irish Country House (1996); also All a Nonsense (1957), and Paradise Escaped (1958), novels set in Ireland, London, and Rome; a devout Catholic, he attended the annual Lourdes pilgrimage in his capacity as chancellor of the Irish Association of the Knights of Malta, and a worker in in its Ambulance Corps; he commenced a biography of his friend Elizabeth Bowen but was prevented by ill-health from continuing with it; d. 12 April 2010, in Suffolk; passed on Glenville to his dg. Silvia; also survived by his wife and two sons. DIW

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Works
Irish Novels
  • All a Nonsense (London: Peter Davies 1957);
  • Paradise Escaped (London: Peter Davies 1958).
Non-fiction,
  • Burke’s Guide to Country Houses, Vol. 1, Ireland (London: Constable 1978);
  • Ancestral Houses [The National Trust] (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson [1984]);
  • The Twilight of the Ascendancy (London: Constable 1987, rep. 1993) 327pp. [see contents];
  • Catholic Families (London: Constable 1992);
  • Life In An Irish Country House (London: Constable 1996).
Also wrote a volume of The British Aristocracy (1979) with Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd.
Journalism
  • ‘Ireland’s Great Exhibition [Dublin 1853],’ Country Life, Vol. 153, No. 3951 (1973), pp. 666-69.

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Bibliographical details
Twilight of the Ascendancy (London: Constable 1987), 327pp., approx. 200 ills.; ded. to John Bellingham ( ‘a son of the ascendancy who is my no means in the twilight’). Chapters incl. ‘The Happiest Country I Ever Knew’; The Land War; Drama in Muslin [treating of George Moore]; Celtic Unionism; ‘George, George, the Bonus!’ [incl. account of Edward Martyn and the Kildare St. Club]; ‘A doomed aristocracy’ [after Birmingham]; The shadow of Home Rule; Terrible beauties; The Last September [after Elizabeth Bowen]; Both Side Admired the Atirrhiniums; ‘No petty people’; ‘No bells ring here’; ‘The heart is still sound’; ‘Dior and dogs’ dinners’; select bibliography; source references; index. Also listed by the same author along with titles in Works, Burke’s Country Houses of Ireland; The British Aristocracy, with Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd; The Viceroys of India; Ancestral Houses.

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Criticism
Obituary in The Times (24 April 2010) [as attached]; also obit. in The Independent (25 April 2010) [see online]. There is also a Wikipedia page online.

See Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s lines: “I left the Bence-Joneses in the long grass / And drove back to the cross / And downhill again past the secret monument // To the dead of the battle of Kilnagros / Where the spruces whistle to each other and the carved stone is lost.” (The Sun-fish, Gallery Press 2009.)

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References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists All a Nonsense (London: Peter Davies 1957), John wants to bring Caroline to tumble-down Rathgarden Castle, but both marry the wrong partners at first; set during religious controversies, Catholic and Protestant, and Paradise Escaped (London: Peter Davies 1958), high-born low-life pranking ’30s-style in Ireland find parish priest more tolerant of them than of parishioners; regards both as ill-judged explorations of social loyalties in post-Ascendancy Ireland.

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Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers [rev. 1 vol. edn.] (Dublin: Lilliput 1985): lives at Glenville, Co. Cork; author of novels, All a Nonsense (1957); Paradise Escaped (1958); Nothing in the City (1965); also documentary works, The Remarkable Irish (1966); Burke’s Guide to Country Houses, Vol. 1, Ireland (1978), as well as Palaces of the Raj; Clive of India; The Cavaliers.

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