E. Owens Blackburne (1848-94)

Life
[nom de plume of Elizabeth O. B. Casey; var. d.1892] b. 10 May 1848, Slane, Co. Meath; dg. Andrew Casey and former Miss Mills; lost her sight at 11, and had it restored by Sir. William Wilde; ed. TCD [?externally]; contrib. to Nation. moved to London in 1873 or 1874 and worked as journalist; issed several popular novels incl. Molly Carew (1879), and The Heart of Erin: A Story of Today (1882), which unhappily coincided with the Phoenix Park Murders and resulted in the eclipse of her reputation;

received support from the Royal Literary Fund but lived in penury; died in a fire in Dublin, shortly after her 46th birthday [var. aetat. 59]; other novels incl. A Woman Scorned (1876), The Way Women Love (1877) and The Glen of Silver Birches (1880); Blackburne’s Illustrious Irish Women, 2. vols. (1877), can be seen as a response to her compatriot Julia Kavanagh’s English Women of Letters, 2 vols. (1862). CAB PI JMC DIW SUTH OCIL

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Works
Fiction
  • A Woman Scorned, 3 vols. (London: Tinsley Bros. 1876), and Do. [another edn.] (London: A. H. Moxon [1887]);
  • A Bunch of Shamrocks (London: Newman & Co. 1877);
  • Molly Carew, 3 vols. (London: Tinsley Bros. [1879]);
  • The Glen of the Silver Birches, 2 vols. (London: Remington & Co. 1880);
  • My Sweetheart When a Boy [Moxon’s Select Novelettes, No. 1] (London: Moxon [1880]);
  • As the Crow Flies [Moxon’s Select Novelettes, No. 4] (London: Moxon [1880]);
  • The Love That Loves Alway (London: F.V. White & Co. 1881);
  • The Heart of Erin: An Irish Story of Today, 2 vols. (London: Sampson, Low 1882);
  • Con O’Donnell, and Other Legends and Poems for Recitation (London: 1890);

Also Aunt Delia’s Heir; In the Vale of Honey; Shadows in the Sunlight; A Modern Parnassus; The Way Women Love; A Chronicle of Barham.

Miscellaneous
  • Illustrious Irishwomen, 2 vols. (London: Tinsley 1877); and Do. [facs. rep.] Illustrious Irishwomen: Being Memoirs of Some of the Most Noted Irishwomen from the Earliest Ages to the Present Century, 2 Vols. (Cambridge UP 2010), 798pp. [see contents].
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Bibliographical details
Illustrious Irishwomen: Being Memoirs of Some of the Most Noted Irishwomen from the Earliest Ages to the Present Century, 2 Vols. [1877] (Cambridge UP 2010), 798pp. CONTENTS - Volume 1. Preface. Part I: Early Irish Period: 1. Introductory chapter; 2. Queen Macha; 3. Queen Méave [sic for Maeve]; 4. Saint Brigit; 5. Dearbhforguill; 6. Eva, Princess of Leinster; Part II. Mediaeval Period: 7. Margaret O’Carroll; 8. The Old Countess of Desmond; 9. The Fair Geraldine; 10. Grainne O’Mailly; 11. Lettice, Baroness Ophaly; 12. La Belle Hamilton; Part III. Famous Actresses: 13. Margaret Woffington; 14. George Anne Bellamy; 15. “Perdita” (Mrs. Robinson); 16. Kitty Clive; 17. Dorothy Jordan; 18. Elizabeth Farren; 19. Maria Pope; 20. Miss O'Neill; 21. Catherine Hayes; Index. Volume 2. Part IV. Literary Women: 22. Susanna Centlivre; 23. The Honourable Mrs. Monk; 24. Constantia Grierson; 25. Charlotte Brooke; 26. Mrs. Mary Tighe; 27. Mary Boyle (Countess of Warwick); 28. Henrietta Boyle (Lady O'Neil); 29. Maria Edgeworth; 30. Felicia Dorothea Hemans; 31. The Misses Porter; 32. Sydney, Lady Morgan; 33. Marguerite, Countess of Blessington; 34. Eliz Ryves; 35. Helen Selina, Countess of Dufferin; 36. Lady Stirling-Maxwell; Part V. Miscellaneous: 37. The Lady Freemason; 38. The Beautiful Gunnings; Part VI. The Ladies of Llangollen: 39. Lady Louisa Conolly; 40. Sarah Curran; Index. [See Cambridge Univ. Press notice; online or copy.]

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Commentary
Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11]: ‘The subject matter of these “factual fictions” [relating to the Land War] was not without its dangers for the individual writer. In 1882, Elizabeth Owens Blackburne Casey (1848-94), born in Slane, County Meath, published her fifth novel, The Heart of Erin, having moved from the Tinsley publishing firm to the more respectable Sampson and Low house. By the early 1880s, she was an established journalist and novelist working in London, and wrote under the pen name “E. O. Blackburne”. Subtitled “An Irish Story of Today”, her novel called for better understanding between England and Ireland, and offered a carefully negotiated analysis of the contemporary land agitation. Soon after the novel’s appearance, however, the Phoenix Park murders of 6 May took place, and in a review published on 20 May 1882 the London Athenaeum castigated Blackburne as a “thoroughgoing partisan of the Land League” (Review of Heart of Erin, in Athenaeum, 20 May 1882, pp.632-33); this proved to be the last novel published by Blackburne and she died in penury in Ireland twelve years later.’ (p.480.)

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References
Charles A. Read, The Cabinet of Irish Literature (London, Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast & Edinburgh: Blackie & Son [1876-78]) contains extract from “Biddy Brady’s Banshee”; also anthologised in and Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904).

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); lists Con O’Donnell, and Other Legends and Poems for Recitation, Lon. 1890; Elizabeth O. B. Casey, better known as E. Owens Blackburne, author of clever novels and IIlustrious Irish Women (1877) [in Nat Lib., Dublin]. Regained sight after treatment by Sir William Wilde. Speranza [Lady Wilde] and Centlivre [note error, in Centlivre, infra] are among her Illustrious Irishwomen. Short and briefly successful career in London; died in fire in Dublin, 1894.

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Brian McKenna, Irish literature, 1800-1875: a Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978) gives a description of Vol. 2: “Literary Women”, incl. Lady Dufferin, Maria Edgeworth, Lady Morgan, and Mary Tighe.

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Harlow: Longmans 1988); notes that she lost and recovered her sight; was a brilliant student at TCD; moved to London in 1874; born Elizabeth Owens [sic]; wrote under pen-name ‘Blackburne’; her novels have Irish settings and conventional melodramatic plots.

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Cambridge University Press: online notice accompanying reprint edition of Illustrious Irishwomen [1877] (2010): ‘Elizabeth Owens Blackburne (18481894) was an Irish professional writer, novelist and biographer whose novels were mostly set in Ireland. After attending Trinity College, Dublin she published her first work in 1869, and moved to London in 1873 to pursue her career as a writer. These volumes, first published in 1877, contain a series of detailed biographies of Irish women who Blackburne considered pre-eminent. The biographies cover a broad range of women, including the semi-mythical Saint Brigit and Queen Macha, and are arranged chronologically. These volumes were the first biographical reference of Irish women to be published, and the balanced descriptions and extensive use of original sources ensure that they remain of value as a reference for researchers and historians. Volume 1 contains historical figures and Volume 2 features writers.’

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Irish Libraries
National Library of Ireland holds Women Writers [check title] which includes English and Continental names. Belfast Public Library holds Illustrious Irishwomen [which includes essays on Centlivre, Clive, Lady Louisa Connelly [for ?Connoly], Sarah Curran, Lady Morgan, Felicia Hemans, Charlotte Brooke and Maria Edgeworth et al.]. Belfast Central Public Library holds Life of the Rt. Honourable Francis Blackburne, Lord Chancellor (1874) by E. Blackburne; this volume is by the son of the title-name. It incidentally includes a Unionist history of law in Ireland in the preface. Stern stuff. Irish Stories [n.d.], an anonymous collection of moral tales for children held in the Belfast CPL has been ascribed to her in pencil on the title-page.

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