Joseph Brenan (1828-57)

Life
b. Cork; distinguished contributor to Nation and United Irishman during ’48 period over signature “J. B., Cork” [PI]; involved in attack on Cappoquin police barracks in abortive rebellion of 1848, influenced by the earlier rising of William Smith O’Brien and a disjoined Chartist plot hatched for London on 16th Aug., 1848; escapeed to America in ’49; staff of New Orleans Delta and [editor of] the New Orleans Times; continued to send poems to The Nation up to his death in 1857;

became partially blind after an attack of yellow fever; he married an sister of John Savage [q.v.], who was auth. of ’98 and ’48: The Modern Revolutionary History and Literary of Ireland (NY 1856), and other works; friend of Mangan, and the addressee of a poem; he possibly affiancéd to Ellen Downing [q.v.], aka “Mary” of The Nation, who entered a convent out of disappointed love for him. PI MKA RAF

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Criticism
Brendan Kiely, The Waterford Rebels of 1849 (Dublin: Geography Publications 2000), 151pp.

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Commentary
Namesake: Louise Imogen Guiney refers to one John Brenan, the addressee of a poem by James Clarence Mangan and the dedicatee of his one volume of poems. Brenan was born in Cork in 1828; imprisoned in 1848 (‘got fitly and promptly into the Nationalist Movement’), travelled to New York, where did some journalistic work. Then he married the sis. of John Savage, and moved ot New Orleans; served on staff of New Orleans Delta, later appt. ed. of New Orleans Times; d. May 1857. Guiney compares his youth and early death to Shelley’s. She goes on to relate that Brenan gave a copy of Mangan’s Poems in Mitchel’s edition to James Ryder Randall, and that ‘the wierd melodies and wasted life and melacholy death of the unfortunate Irish poet made an indelible impression on his mind’ - so much so that the melody of “The Karamanian Exile”, which ran constantly in his brain, fused with the events in Maryland when Massechussetts troops passed through his native town, result in his poem “Maryland, My Maryland”, which Brenan duly printed in the New Orleans Delta (See Guiney, James Clarence Mangan: Selected Poems, London: John Lane 1897, n.47, p.3359-60 - referring to p.319.)

TO JOSEPH BRENAN” : ‘Friend and brother, and yet more than brother, / Thou endowed with all of Shelley’s soul! / Thou whose heart so burneth for thy Mother, / That, like his, it may defy all other / Flames, while time shall roll! // [...] Friend! thou warnest me in truly noble / Thoughts and phrases: I will heed thee well. / Well will I obey thy mystic double Counsel, through all scenes of woe and trouble, / As a magic spell! // Yes! to live a bard, in thought and feeling: / Yes! to act my rhyme, by self-restraint, / This is truth’s, is reason’s deep revealing / Unto me from thee, as God’s to a kneeling / And entranced saint! // Fare thee well! We now know each the other; // Each has struck the other’s inmost chords; / Fare thee well, my friend and more than brother: / And may scorn pursue me, if I smother / In my soul thy words!’ (James Clarence Mangan, Selected Poems, London & NY 1897, pp.319-21.)

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References
Brian McKenna
, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), notes that Brenan founded The Cork Magazine (Nov. 1847-Dec 1848), The Irishman (Dublin Jan 1849-Aug 1850), the latter on the suppression of the Nation. According to McKenna, Brenan attempted to foster the idea of a national literature.’ Bibl., an article by D. J. O’Donoghue in Irish Book Lover, Vol. 5 (1914).

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 2, gives bio-data: 1828-1857; J.B. Cork, or J.B. –n.; friend of Mangan, ed. The Irishman (1849); d. New Orleans, blind for several years before his death.

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