Annie Crone

Life
1915-1972; b. Dublin; ed. Methodist College, Belfast and Oxford; teacher in Fermanagh; wrote fiction about sectarian pressures as they effected young women in rural Ulster; d. Belfast. DIW DIL OCIL

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Works
  • Bridie Steen, with an introduction by Lord Dunsany (NY: Scribner’s 1948); Do. (London: Heinemann 1949), 328pp. [1st imp. Jan. 1949; 2nd imp. Feb. 1949]; Do. [rep. edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1984; Dublin: Arlen 1985) [Arlen circulating outside UK];
  • This Pleasant Lea (NY: Scribner’s 1951; London: Heinemann 1952);
  • My Heart and I (London: Heinemann 1955).

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Criticism
ee J. W. Foster, Themes and Forces (1974).

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists Bridie Steen (NY: Scribner’s 1948; London: Heinemann 1949); This Pleasant Lea (NY: Scribner’s 1951; London: Heinemann 1952); My Heart and I (London: Heinemann 1955).

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Belfast Public Library holds Bridie Steen [1949]; My Heart and I (1955); comments, Bridie Steen, a transatlantic best-seller, Bridie, the orphaned child of a mixed marriage, is raised by a Catholic aunt and pressured unsuccessfully to change her religion by her grandmother and her fiancé; driven by unhappiness, she accidentally drowns in a bog.

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Books in print (1994), Bridie Steen, rep. with intro. by Lord Dunsany (Blackstaff 1984), 300p pb (orig. NY: Scribner 1948; London: Heinemann 1949, 328pp) [08564 403 11 3]

Whelan Books (Cat. 32) lists Note also rep. ed., Bridie Steen (London: Heinemann 1949), intro. Lord Dunsany.

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Quotations
Bride Steen (1948; 1949 London Edn.), with an Introduction by Lord Dunsany; incl. disclaimer: ‘all characters in this book are entirely imaginary and have no relation to any living person.’ For Introduction, see under Dunsany, q.v., supra.

 

Bridie Steen ([1948] 1949): ‘The bog was beautiful, or so it always seemed to Bridie in the days when she played house in little sheltered nooks behind the turf-stacks. She held dominion over it. Other ehildren scampered across it on their way to school to avoid the less interesting road, but no dwelling broke the monotony of its three square miles of brown and purple, interspersed with patches of rushes, save that of Bridie Steen. Bridie instinctively knew that her playmates recognised her sovereignty. Not even the most agile of the lithe and brown-legged boys could leap the bogholes with the same complete abandon as she. Nor could the sharpest-eyed detect with her swiftness the hiding-place of a bog-lark's nest or the scanty vestiges of a moss-covered tree-stump, remnant of some buried primeval forest. They did not really know the bog. Only in summer, when luscious wild raspberries abounded in the fringe of sailies by the road, did they linger in it. But in the strange twilight hour, when shadows thickened over it, transforming the bogholes into yawning chasms, they sat secure in their chimney-corners with lighted lamp and drawn curtains, listening to the talk of the night's ceilidhers. And then the bog was Bridie's. Then, left to herself, she would do many ridiculous, childish things which satisfied the craving in her for doing and seeing. She would lie flat in the heather and gaze down into the deepest holes for the pleasurable thrill of feeling dizzy. She would climb with cat-like agility to the top of the highest stack, miraculously without displacing a turf, there to post herself, a solitary sentinel, watching dim passers-by upon the road. On summer evenings she would thread a swift way over the uneven, loneliest part of the bog, where the turf, wetter than elsewhere, sank beneath her light tread and the fewer bogholes had a blacker, sinister look, to where the brown surface abruptly changed into the flat, green “bottoms”, fringing the lough. There she would stop to contemplate. [2] There the world of wealth and ownership begin. Dreamily she would study the leisurely movements of the few red-and-white cows which strayed across the bottoms, ever and anon refreshing themselves in the waters of Lough Erne, and try to imagine what it would be like to live in a farmhouse and milk cows, and send them proudly to graze upon your own grass. (pp.1-2). [Cont.]

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Bridie Steen ([1948] 1949) - cont.: ‘Such a deep hole. Poor little thing, she must have slipped on the wet ground. Perhaps it was dark. So young! She couldn't have done it on purpose.’ / They laid her on the ground. The men still hung back. Taking off their caps, they made way for William Henry, who was the last to come. When they saw his face, they bowed their heads. At first he did not speak. He fell on his knees beside her, and his shoulders heaved in the emission of sounds which were more terrible than sobs. Then he fell upon her, kissing her face, cold as wet clay, hugging her, lifting her, crushing her, as if by an excess of energy he could have re-animated her flesh. Still supporting her, his hand entwined in the meshwork of her icy hair, he turned with a passion swift as the lighting-flash and spoke such words as made all the men, Protestant and Catholic, look directly into his eyes and never until their death forget them or the words which came from his lips. / Cursed be our religion!” he cried. “We fight about God and we have never known Him! We are poor mockeries of men with little jealous minds. We have broken her, torn her in two, made her suffer so that she could not live naturally, she who was so natural, so pure, so free. In her heart she was whole, in her heart she loved God, who is here above all our senseless differences.” He stretched out his arm over the bogland, choking with his words. “Why could we not leave her alone? Why must we always teach when we know so little? We are criminal, I tell you, murderers of God's creation which was she! God Himself should smite us!” / The men stood rooted to the ground, compassionate, Motionless, humble, acknowledging by their wet eyes that what he said was true. But helpless, each in his station doomed to play the part destiny and the social order had ordained for him, aghast before the mercilessness of naked truth, they said nothing. The impassioned words fell into emptiness. No voice from heaven or man rang out in response to them. Only the little breeze from the lough, wandering over the bog, shivered among the rushes and sighed.’ [328; End.]

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Notes
Bridie Steen: Bridie, the orphan of a Protestant-Catholic marriage, grows up in Fermanagh lakeland in inter-war years; raised by a piously cold aunt to be a fervent Catholic; goes into service at early age; falls in love with Protestant cousin, torn apart by irreconcilable bitterness in her family; ‘one of the great novels of our time’ (Lord Dunsany). (See Blackstaff Catalogue, 1984)

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