George Darley (1795-1845)


Life
[pseuds. “Guy Penseval” and “John Lacey”]; b. Dublin, educ. TCD, maths and classics; grad. 1820; went to London, 1821, writing drama criticism and ‘dramaticules’ and verse regularly for the London Magazine from 1823, meeting Beddoes, John Clare, Lamb and Hazlitt; and for Athenaeum from 1824 as drama critic; author of successful mathematics works, Popular Algebra and Familiar Astronomy, et al., between 1826 and 1830; issued Errors of Ecstasie and Other Poems (1822), and - as Guy Penseval - The Labours of Idleness; or Seven Nights’ Entertainments (1826);
 
also issued Sylvia, or the May Queen (1827); The New Sketch Book (1829); wrote Nepenthe (1839), a sprawling account of the poet’s imaginative and spiritual longings; dramatic chronicles, Thomas aBeckett (1840) and Ethelstan, or the Battle of Brunanburh (1841), subtitled ‘scenes for the study’; Sylvia, The May Queen (1827); Plighted Troth, a play by Charles Darley, was produced by Macready at Drury Lane in 1842; friend of Darley, of whose love for Mary he used the phrase ‘dumb music’) contributed a critical essay to Moxon’s edition of The Works of Beaumont and Fletcher;
 
his six “Syren Songs” were included in The Tribute, a publication gathered for the benefit of an impoverished writer; suffered from stammer, ill-health and depression; his wide literary acquaintance included Tennyson; Dion Boucicault, a nephew, said that the family regarded him as a schoolboy who should be whipped back to his lessons; corresponded with his br. at Queen’s College, Cork, as ‘Fodla Dun’ [var. ‘Fodladeen’]; the Complete Poetical Works were edited by Ramsay Colles (1908); a brother Charles had a tragedy produced at Drury Lane. CAB ODNB PI JMC DIB OCEL MKA RAF OCIL FDA

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Works
  • The Error of Ecstasie, A Dramatic Poem, with Other Pieces (London: G. &. W. B. Whitaker 1822), vii, 72pp.;
  • The Labours of Idleness, or Seven Nights’ Entertainment, by “Guy Penseval” (London: John Taylor 1826), 330pp. [Epistle Dedicatory to the Reader;“The Enchanted Lyre”; “Love”s Devotion”; “Pedro Ladron”; “Aileen Astore”; “The Dead Man’s Dream”; “Ellinore”; “Lilian of the Valley”, being starting-point of Sylvia];
  • The New Sketch Book, 2 vols. [priv. printed] (London 1829), with ‘epistle dedicatory’ by ‘G. Crayon, Jun.’;
  • Nepenthe (London: Matthews 1897);
  • Sylvia; or, The May Queen, A Lyrical Drama, in 5 acts (London: J. Taylor 1827) [James Duncan for Taylor], vii, 217pp.;
  • Nepenthe [priv. printed] (London: [?]1835), 69pp. [incomplete edn. in BML]; Do. [rep. edn.], intro. R A Streatfeild (London: E: Mathews 1897), xvi, 61pp.;
  • Thomas a’ Becket, A Dramatic Chronicle, in 5 acts (London: Edward Moxon 1840), vi, 144pp.;
  • Ethelstan, or the Battle of Brunanburh: A Dramatic Chronicle in 5 Acts (London: Edward Moxon 1841), 95pp.;
  • Poems: A Memorial Tribute [priv. printed] (Liverpool 1890), 211pp.;
  • R. A. Streatfeild ed. [intro. & notes], Selections of the Poems of George Darley (London: Methuen 1904), viii, 180pp.;
  • Ramsay Colles, ed. & intro., The Complete Poetical Works of George Darley [now first collected, and reprinted from the rare orig. edns. in the possession of the Darley family] (London: Routledge; NY: E. P. Dutton 1908), xxxvii, 538pp.;
  • A[nn] Ridler, ed., Selected Poems of George Darley (London: The Merrion Press 1979).

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Criticism
  • R. A. Streatfeild, ‘A Forgotten Poet, George Darley [rep. from Quarterly Review] (1902), 13pp.;
  • Irish Book Lover, 3, 2 (1911), pp.17-19;
  • Claude C. Abbot, The Life and Letters of George Darley, Poet and Critic (London: OUP/Humphry Milford 1928);
  • Graham Greene, ‘George Darley’, in London Mercury, XXIX (1929);
  • Claude C. Abbot, Further Letters of George Darley [in] Durham Univ. Journal (Dec. 1940), 45pp. [offprint];
  • A. J. Leventhal, George Darley, 1795-1846 (Dublin UP 1950) [given as Trinity Monday Address];
  • J[ohn] Heath-Stubbs, The Darkling Plain: A Study of the Later Fortunes of Romanticism ... from George Darley to W. B. Yeats (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode 1950);
  • Graham Greene, ‘George Darley’ in The Lost Childhood and Other Essays (London: Jonathan Cape 1951);
  • Ann Ridler, Selected Poems of George Darley (1979);
  • Brendan Kennelly, ‘G. D., Poet & Mathematician’, in Hibernia, March 20 (1970), p.13.
 
See also Robert L. Stevenson, [essay on Darley,] in Retrospective Reviews: A Literary Log 1892-95, 2 vols. (John Lane 1896).

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Commentary
Robert Farren, The Course of Irish Verse (1948): ‘Darley had a strong poetic vein and one of Irish loyalty, but they did not mingle ... [he] could modify metres, and one of his songs gave Meredith his rhythm for Love in the Valley. He fooled Palgrave with a Cavalier lyric which would fool us all by its style if we did not know the authorship. ... near [to] writing stage-worthy plays in verse.’ (p.10).

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984): ‘Ecstatic Hellenism exuberantly expressed in Darley’s Nepenthe (1839) [sic], a rhapsodic description of a journey through classical and oriental lands in the company of excited bacchanals and nymphs ... it made a curious sequel to his Errors of Ecstasie (1822) a poetic dialogue between the moon and a mystic.’ Cites A. J. Leventhal, George Darley, 1795-1846 (Dublin 1956).

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 2; , ‘Poor, melancholy, stammering, he was a fitting representative of the generation of Romantic decadence ...’. (q.p.)

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References
Charles A. Read, The Cabinet of Irish Literature, [1876-78]; Bibl. Familiar Astronomy (1830); Popular Algebra, Geometrical Companion; Geometry and Trigonometry, all many eds.; Thomas a Becket, tragedy (1841); Ethelstan [or, The Battle of Burnanburh], dramatic chronicle (1841); ‘his last production was Extasie [sic] and Other Poems’.

Arthur Quiller Couch, ed., Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918 (new ed. 1929), gives three extracts [items 648-51].

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 2, cites no plays and remarks that Darley Wrote works of note on mathematics; extensive bibliographical notes.

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Henry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), refers to Lillian of the Vale, a story in the manner of Washington Irving, as his least forgotten work, and dates his mathematical works 1826-28.

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature (1978), cites essays by Padraic Colum (Irish Writing, 1950), A. J. Leventhal (Dublin Mag., 1950), Derek Stanford (Envoy, 1951). In all of these the debate concerns Darley’s Irishness.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects Nepenthe; 2, 6-7, 111, BIBL & COMM [as supra].

 

Belfast Public Library holds Selections from Poems (1904); Sylvia, or The May Queen (1892).

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Notes
Nepenthe (1839), set in Arab and Africa, and extending from the upper reaches of the Nile to the mountains of the moon, gives a sprawling account of the poet’s imaginative and spiritual longings.

Kith & Kin: St. Patrick’s Cathedral contains a monument to Capt. Joseph W. Darley, 4th Dragoons Guards, killed in action at Battle of Abu-Klea[?], Sudan campaign, 17 Jan. 1885, aetat. 21.

Dartmouth Sq.: freehold ownership of the Dublin square (between Ballsbridge and Lesson St.), formerly owned by the Darley family since its first development, was acquired for €10,000 by Athlone businessman Noel O’Gara in 2005 and offered for sale at €100 million in 2007 in face of a Corporation compulsory purchase offer of €100,000.

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