[William] Monk Gibbon (1896-1987)


Life
b. Dublin, ed. St. Columba’s and Oxon. RASC Officer 1916-18; studied agriculture, and then taught in Switzerland, England, and Ireland; Gibbon was snubbed by W. B. Yeats, and bore him an enmity that found utterance in his study, The Man and the Masterpiece, Yeats as I Knew Him (1959); associated with Horace Plunkett; assisted AE (George Russell) on the Irish Statesman; befriended John Eglinton in old age in Wales; poetry collections incl. The Tremulous String (1926);The Branch of Hawthorn Tree (1927); For Daws to Peck At (1929);
 
issued Seventeen Sonnets (1932) and later This Insubstantial Pageant (1951), his collected poems; also, in prose, The Seals (1935), a compassionate view of nature relating the culling of these animals; his biographical and critical works incl. The Red Shoe Ballet (1948), The Tales of Hoffmann: A Study of Film (1951) his autobiographical writings incl. Mount Ida (1948), The Climate of Love (1961), and Inglorious Soldier (1968) in which he relates his neurasthenic experience in WWI leading to release from the army; also The Brahms Waltz (1970) and The Pupil (1981), the latter a self-justifying chronicle of his life-long passion for a school-age girl;
 
he edited his friend Michael Farrell’s novel Thy Tears Might Cease (1963) for publication, removing 100,000 words, and issued a study of George Russell as AE: The Living Torch (1937), largely drawn from the Irish Statesman and characterised as ‘A.E.’s table-talk, a note-book of his ideas and ideals’; he also issued The Man and the Masterpiece: Yeats as I Knew Him (1959), an unflattering portrait of W. B. Yeats, who had scorned him as a poet, and later to The Yeats We Knew, with Padraic Colum, Francis Stuart, Ernest Blythe [as de Blagh] and Austin Clarke; contrib. introductions to small collections of Douglas Hyde, Katherine Tynan and “Æ” Russell in Allen Figgis’s riverrun series of 1963;
 
Gibbon came to be admired as a stylist by Eavan Boland and others; lived on in the family home with distinctive bowed entrance hall, afterwards the premisses of a finance company prominently located on George’s St. Dun Laoghaire; latterly became testy representative of Anglo-Ireland. IF2 DIW DIB BREF OCIL FDA

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Works
Poetry
  • The Tremulous String (Fair Oak: A. W. Mathew 1926), [36]pp. [250 copies printed by A. W. Mathews at Foulis Court, Hampshire];
  • The Branch of Hawthorn Tree (London: Grayhound Press 1927), 83pp., ill. [colour designs by Picart Le Doux; 460 copies];
  • For Daws to Peck At (London: Gollancz; NY: Dodd, Mead 1929), 96pp., 8°;
  • A Ballad (Winchester, Grayhound 1930), fol. [ltd. edn. 500];
  • Seventeen Sonnets (London: Joiner & Steele 1932), 17pp.;
  • This Insubstantial Pageant (London: Phoenix House 1951), 191pp. [prose poems];
  • The Velvet Bow and Other Poems (London: Hutchinson 1972), 94pp.
Prose
  • The Red Shoe Ballet (London: Saturn [1948]), 48pp.;
  • The Tales of Hoffmann: a Study of Film (London: Saturn 1951), 96pp., ill.;
  • An Intruder at the Ballet (London: Phoenix House 1952);
  • The Man and the Masterpiece: Yeats as I Knew Him (London: Hart-Davis 1959), 226pp.
  • Netta (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1960), 255pp. [biog. of Hon. Henrietta (Montagu) Franklin], ill.
Travel
  • Swiss Enchantment [Windows on the World] (London: Evans Bros. [1950]), 171pp., ill.;
  • In Seach of Winter Sport (London: Evans Bros. [1953]), 223pp., ill. [pls.];
  • Austria (London: Batsford 1953), 258pp., ill. [pls.], and Do. [reiss. in pb.] (London: Batsford 1962), 216pp.;
  • Western Germany (London: Batsford 1955), 306pp., ill. [maps];
  • The Rhine and Its Castles (London: Putnam 1957), 255pp.
Architecture
  • Contrib. to Sachevill Sitwell, Great Houses of Europe (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1961) [on Nymphenburg, Pommersfelden, Brühl, Würzburg [Residenz], Russborough, and Benrath], and Do. [reiss.] (Feltham: Spring Books 1970), 320pp;
  • contrib. to Sitwell, Great Palaces (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson [1964]).
Autobiography
  • Mount Ida (London: Jonathan Cape 1948) [see extracts];
  • The Seals (London: Jonathan Cape 1935), [6] 15-247pp., and Do. [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1970), 247pp. [see extracts];
  • The Climate of Love (London: Gollancz 1961), 240pp.;
  • Inglorious Solder (London: Hutchinson 1968), xiv, 335pp. [see extracts];
  • The Brahms Waltz (London: Hutchinson 1970), 224pp., ill. [plate];
  • The Pupil: A Memory of Love (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1981), 121pp. [see extracts].
Miscellaneous
  • ed. & intro., George Russell, The Living Torch (London: Macmillan 1937), xii, 381pp., ill. [vignette from bust of AE by Oliver Sheppard];
  • foreword to Letters from AE, ed. Alan Denson (London: Abelard-Schumann 1961);
  • intro., Michael Farrell, Thy Tears Might Cease (London: Hutchinson 1963), and Do. (NY: Alfred A. Knopf 1964), xxv, [3], 577pp.;
  • ed. & intro., Poems from the Irish by Douglas Hyde (Dublin: Figgis 1963);
  • ed. & intro., The Poems of Katharine Tynan (Dublin: Figgis 1963);
  • contrib. to The Yeats We Knew, ed. Francis MacManus (Cork: Mercier Press 1965) [94pp.], pp 43-57;
  • ‘Murder in Portobello Barracks’, in Dublin Magazine (Spring 1966), pp.8-32 [extract from Inglorious Soldier dealing with killing of Francis Sheehy-Skeffingon by Colthurst-Bowen];
  • ‘The Unraised Hat’, in A Bash in the Tunnel, ed. John Ryan (London: Clifton Books 1970), pp.209-19 [see under Joyce for extract];
  • ‘Am I Irish?’, in Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies (1982), pp.113-14.

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Commentary
Stephen Gwynn, Irish Lit. and Drama (1936), writes: ‘Monk Gibbon, soi-disant “a dispossessed poet” ... author or The Seals, a book about West Donegal, fit to put beside Synge’s on the Aran Islands.’ (p.224.)

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (OUP 1965), quotes in interview with Gibbon conducted in 1953 in the course of which Gibbon recalls hearing from George Russell that his own first meeting with Joyce in 1902 resulting in his saying to the younger writer, ‘you have not enough chaos in him to make a world' (Ellmann, op. cit., p.103.

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Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘The value of Monk Gibbon’s recent memoir of Yeats may arise largely from the resentment which it expresses, for none of the biographical studies of the poet convey the unfavorable impression he sometimes created in Dublin during his life. On his return home from his teaching post [70] abroad, Gibbon always found it “an intoxicating experience to come back to Dublin and its great talkers.” Himself Irish, Gibbon was not content to listen. He felt impelled to question, and to contradict. And he sensed, perhaps wrongly, that Yeats would entertain no opposition, speaking ex cathedra on all issues, and showing no interest in contrary views. T. Sturge Moore once made a distinction between the “provocative truculence” of the public Yeats and his “seductive delicacy” in private. If this be true, Gibbon seems to have seen only the public man. The dramatic frankness of Gibbon’s account somewhat alleviates its bitterness, but the slurs which the young man suffered, or imagined, have apparently rankled for years. He suppresses neither his personal resentment nor his respect for Yeats, and one puts down the book with a vivid picture of both the greatness and the smallness of Yeats - his mastery of words and ideas, his occasional lack of mastery of his own vanity.’ (pp.69-70.)

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A. N. Jeffares (Anglo-Irish Literature, 1980, p.189), remarks on his almost wilfully archaic ‘poetic’ vocabulary; mentions, Mount Ida, and praises Seals for its vivid description and simple and effective narrative. (See The Masterpiece and the Man, Yeats As I Knew Him, 1959, see under Yeats, Commentary, infra.)

John A. Murphy comments in writing on Conor Cruise O’Brien, ‘Monk Gibbon’s question, “Am I Irish”? reminds us that neither language nor race nor religion should be the exclusive criterion of “Irishness”’. (Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1982.)

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Quotations
W. B. Yeats: Review of When [sic] I was Four and Twenty [by Yeats], in The Bell, 1, 2 (Nov. 1940), p.93: Gibbon comments on Yeats’ ideas about Swedenborg and modern spiritualists: ‘We may admit the subjectivity, in some degree, of most experience. But the visionaries leave us wondering whether subjectivity, the imaginative world which a man perceives or creates in himself, may not be the only truth. A dangerous thesis for in such a world let a man be only very little of a liar and he can mislead thousands.’ (p. 93; and note correction in The Bell 1, 3, p.85: ‘The W.B. Yeats’ book reviewed in our November issue should have been listed as follows: If I were Four and Twenty [...&c.])’.

—For extracts from The Man and the Masterpiece: Yeats as I Knew Him (London: Hart-Davis 1959), see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Major Authors”, via index or direct.
 
—For longer quotations from sundry texts see [infra]; and see also under James Joyce [infra].

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References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists only The Climate of Love: The Love-Story of a Man with Three Women (London: Gollancz 1961), and calls it a delightful story with a wealth of descriptive passages ... lane ... lawn ... London by the Thames ... &c.

Brian de Breffny, Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia (London: Thames & Hudson), remarks: though primarily a writer of poetry, his prose makes excellent reading ... autobiog. Inglorious Soldier is a beautiful piece of writing [TMcC.]

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, p.245, ftn., notes that he ‘wrote for an English as much as an Irish audience in a rather conventionally poetic way.’ Note that Gibbon is mentioned in Beckett’s Recent Irish Poetry (in The Bookman, Aug. 1934): ‘In “For Daws to Peck at” (1929) and “Seventeen Sonnets”, the Rev. Monk Gibbon follows his secret heart from the “lack-luck lot”. He is the poet of children (“Chacun San Gout”), and as such is bound to consider thought a microbe ... The sonnets, with so many definite and indefinite articles excised, recall the succinctness of the Cambridge Experimenters.’ [FDA3 246].

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Mrs. Yeats: Ann Saddlemyer writes: ‘Predictably, she did not care for “Monkey” Gibbon’s less than flattering book on her husband; when it was published she phoned him concerning the attribution of the photograph of Yeats on the book jacket and frontispiece, but refused to discuss the work itself. (Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats, Oxford: OUP 2002; p.627, citing Interview with Gibbon, 23 Aug. 1986.)

Richard Ellmann: Monk Gibbon in interview is the source of the remark passed George (“AE”) Russell during his first meeting with James Joyce: ‘you have not enough chaos in you to make a world’. (See Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959; 1965, p.103 [1982 Edn., p.99.)

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