Ethna Carbery (1866-1902)


Life
[“Ethna Carbery”, pseud. of Anna MacManus, née Johnston]; b. Ballymena, Co. Antrim, a dg. of Robert Johnston, Belfast Fenian, and Donegal wife, living at Donegall Park area of Belfast; moved to Glencoe, under Cave Hill; with Alice Milligan under auspices of Workingmen’s Club, fnd. and ed. Northern Patriot, 1894-97; taken over by McQuinzey, Dec. 1895;
 
co-fnd. The Shan Van Vocht, 1896-99, involving Douglas Hyde, Lionel Johnson, et al.; acted role of ‘Eithne the Fair’ in play about St. Patrick, Belfast 1899; m. Seamus MacManus, 1901, a schoolmaster from Donegal hills who had been freq. contributor; issued The Four Winds of Erinn (1902), a story-collection that attempts to unify Christian and Gaelic traditions - and sold 10,000 copies; also issued The Passionate Hearts (1903), and In the Celtic Past ([1904]);
 
moved to Revilinn, on the Eske estuary, Donegal, where she is buried, the name Ethna Carbery appearing on her gravestone; poetry later collected with Milligan and MacManus in We Sang for Ireland (1950). PI DBIV IF DIB DIW DIH DIL OCIL

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Works
  • The Four Winds of Erinn, with a preface by Seamus MacManus (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1902; num. edns. to 1934) [details].
  • The Passionate Hearts (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son; London: Ibister & Co. 1903) [cover-design by George (AE) Russell].
  • In the Celtic Past (Dublin: M. H. Gill [1904]), and Do. [another edn.] (Dublin & Cork: Educational Co. of Ireland [1928]; rep. Talbot Press [1929]).
  • with others, We Sang for Ireland: Poems of Ethna Carbery, Seumas MacManus, Alice Milligan (Dublin: M. H. Gill; NY: Devin-Adair 1950), incl. port. of Carbery.

Bibliographical details
The Four Winds of Eirinn, pref. by Seamus MacManus (Dublin 1902), many eds. incl. Do. [7th edn.] (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1902), with port., and; enl. edn. (Gill 1905); Do. [new enl. edn., with port & preface (Dublin: Gill; James Duffy & Co 1906), being the tenth thousand; Do., new edn. (1918); Do. [25th anniversary edn] (1927); Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1934); ill., with first edn. Preface and memoir of 1918 edn.; Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: M. H. Gill [n.d.]), with music by Charlotte Milligan Fox, ill. Seaghan Mac Cathmhaoil [Joseph Campbell]

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Criticism
Terence Brown, ‘Of Heroes, Gods and Peasants’ [Chap. 4], Northern Voices, Poets from Ulster (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975), pp.59-60; C. L. Innes, ‘“A Voice in Directing the Affairs of Ireland”, L’Irlande libre, The Shan Van Vocht, and Bean na h-Eireann’, in Paul Hyland & Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing, Subversion and Exile (London: Macmillan 1991), pp.146-58; Sheila Turner Johnston, Alice: A Life of Alice Milligan (Omagh: Colourpoint 1993).

See also Eavan Boland, ‘Beginnings (1900-1919)’, in The Fire i’ the Flint: Essays on the Creative Imagination, ed. Mary Shine Thompson (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2008) [draws attention to Ethna Carbery].

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Commentary
Seamus MacManus: ‘to this glorious day of the Gael, Ethna Carbery looked forward eagerly, longingly, lovingly; and she never ceased to sing ...’ (Preface to Four Winds of Erinn) ‘We yet shall win a gold crown for your head / [...] What day you rise in all men’s eyes a Queen / Mo Chraoibín Cno!’ (Ibid., prefatory poem.) Also, ‘She who wrote these stories of our people loved the with a love that was deep and tender beyond what words of mind could convey’’ ‘There lies one who gave her young life to Ireland’ [MacManus, Intro., Passionate Hearts; q.p.].

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Quotations
Willie Nelson”, a broadsheet poem by Anna Johnston, deals with the ‘gallant deeds’ and fate of “the widow’s blue-eyed boy” amid the United Irish “muster” for the Battle of Antrim [7 June 1798], ending with his death: ‘They’ve handed him to the clefted tree against his mother’s door; / His swinging shadow comes and goes upon her cottage floor’. Further: ‘Remember Willie Nelson at the Dawning of the Day, / When Freedom beckons fron her fight, and we have found the way / That brave men fought and died to find on many a battle field / And taught us how to fight and die but never how to yield. // Oh! Irishmen, when signal comes again be ye gathered there ... And strike then a stronger, surer blow than that day in Antrim town.’ [End; printed by J. W. Boyd, Academy St.] (See William O’Brien Collection in the National Library of Ireland, Cat. LO P115, Item 37.)

Tir-na’n-Og”: ‘The Sidhe desired my Heart’s Delight, they lured him / from my keeping / he stepped within a fair ring while all the world was sleeping. // In Tir-na’n-Og, / In Tir-na’n-Og, // He had forgotten hill and glen where misty shadows gather / The beating of the mountain sheep, the cabin of his father. [...] No memory hath he of my face, no sorrow of my sorrow, / My flax is spun, my wheel is hushed, and so I wait the morrow.’ (Four Winds, p.6; quoted in Emer Campbell, UU Diss., UUC 2001.)

Four Winds of Eirinn (1902). In “Oisin and St. Patrick (Celtic Past)”, when Oisin brings back a bird the size of a cow to Patrick, Patrick responds: “Now shall I ever believe, Oisin my soul, in the truth of the Fianna, though their God was not my God nor their ways my ways.” (p. 101) a little after, Patrick calls Oisin no less than “my soul” as if to say that the Irish Christian dispensation embraced the lyrical and heroic sense of the earlier pagan tradition. An ambivalent use of the tense is/was, carries the same sense of fusion in several of these stories. “Carbery’s ‘Conal Cearnach” offers a comparable synthesis when Conal moved in pagan style to slaughter the Jews at Golgotha, feels ‘a marvellous and unwonted peace’ at the foot of the Cross. Some of the stories are anti-Semitic in tone, as in this instance: ‘A sure and fierce revenge would overtake these Jews, aye, their city should be levelled and their name effaced had the chivalry of Uladh been here this day.’ [q.p.]. The accommodation between past and present that is, between pagan and Christian (and more specifically Catholic) Ireland is paralleled in the relationship between the urban and the rural, as when Dublin lawyer Gilchrist (i.e., Giolla Críosta servant of Christ) in the title story of The Passionate Hearts (1903) is astonished by hidden depths of feeling in the islandman Peadar Bán. His own death on the shore, when both men are heroically rescued by Brighid, the beauty of Inisgloir, signals the author’s preference for native Irish temperament and language, ‘more melodious than the cold speech of the Sassanach.’ [q.p.] [Note by BS.]

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919); ‘Her poems, The Four Winds of Erinn, are full of passionate love of Ireland’, according to her husband Seumas MacManus in the preface (1903); Brown lists and summarises the fiction works, The Passionate Hearts (1903), and In the Celtic Past (1904) which includes titles such as “Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne” and “How Oisin Convinced Patrick the Cleric”.

Brian Cleeve & Ann Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), bio-data: née Johnston [also pseud. Rodney McCorley]; lists poems for the Nation, United Ireland, etc.; ed. and contrib. The Shan van Vocht, a Belfast mag.; Married Seamus MacManus; published Four Winds of Erinn (Dublin 1902). The Farm by Lough Gur (1st ed. Longmans 1937) [Whelan Cat. 32].

A. A. Kelly, ed., Pillar of the House (Wolfhound 1988), bio-data: dg. of Robert Johnston, Belfast Fenian; fnd. The Northern Patriot with Alice Milligan, which became The Shan Van Vocht, 1896-99; lists works published [very] posthumously, with Milligan and MacManus in We Sang for Ireland (Dublin: Gill; NY: Devin-Adair 1950), with port. of Ethna Carbery.

Anthologies: Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1994), b. Ballycastle [err.]; Eilis Ní Dhuibhne, Voices on the Wind: Women Poets of the Celtic Twilight (Dublin: New Island Books 1995) [incls. poems of Ethna Carbery with others of Katharine Tynan; Eva Gore-Booth; Susan Mitchell; Nora Chesson Hopper; Ethna Carbery; Dora Sigerson Shorter].

The British Library holds The Four Winds of Erinn, ed. Seumas [sic] MacManus (Dublin: MH Gill 1902 [sic]), ninth and tenth eds.; x, 120pp.; enlarged ed. (Gill 1905), xi, 154pp.; new ed. with memoir and add. poems (Gill 1918), vi, 163pp.; another ed. (Gill 1927), xxv, 140pp. [sic]; ill. ed. (Gill 1934), xxv, 140pp.; In The Celtic Past [stories] (Gill 1904); another ed. (Educational Co. of Irel. [1928]); another ed. (Talbot 1929); The Passionate Hearts, intro. James MacManus (London: Isbister & Co. 1903), 128pp.

Ulster libraries: BELFAST CENTRAL holds Four Winds; Celtic Past; The Passionate Hearts (1903); Poems (1903). UNIV. OF ULSTER holds The Four Winds, ed. Seumas McManus (Dublin: Gill, Duffy 1913/1905).

Cathach Books, Cat. No. 12, lists Passionate Hearts (1903), cover design by AE [George Russell].

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Notes
Shan Van Vocht preached ‘true faith to the ever-widening circle of enthusiastic Young Irelanders’ (MacManus, Intro. to Carbery, Passionate Hearts, 1903, q.p.)

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