Francis Hackett (1883-1962)

[Francis Dominick Hackett;] b. 21 Jan., Kilkenny, ed. St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny [var. Clongowes], where Thomas MacDonagh was his teacher; appt. editorial writer for Chicago Evening Post, c.1901, editing the Post’s weekly literary review; visisted Hull House, 1906; co-founded and acted as lit. critic for New Republic, 1912; m. Signe Toksvig, who also contrib. to the journal; moved to the South of France in 1923 to write That Nice Young Couple (1924), his first novel;
contrib. freelance political articles to Survey Graphic, financing four years’ of research for Henry the Eighth (1929), which he completed at Killadreenan House, Newtownmountkennedy, a cottage [sic] in Co. Wicklow, 1928-37; friendly with Bethel and Gertrude Solomons, following gynecological treatment of his wife Signe; issued Francis the First (1934); wrote a second novel, The Green Lion (1936), largely autobiographical and dealing with school-days with the Jesuits; banned in Ireland; left Ireland in 1937, following the banning of Toksvig’s Eve’s Doctor (1937); settled in Denmark in 1937-39; moved to America during wartime; returned to Europe after the war, and settled in Copenhagen, 1952;
moved to NY for the proposed dramatisation of Queen Anne Boleyn (1939); also issued The Senator’s Last Night (1939), a novel; resided on Martha’s Vineyard; acted as bi-weekly literary reviewer for The NY Times; his criticism incls. Horizons (1918) and Invisible Censor (1921); also issued Ireland, A Study in Nationalism (NY 1918; 3rd edn. 1919) and I Choose Denmark (NY 1940), an autobiography with political commentary, which was published in Germany by Ruhwoldt; d. 25 April 1962. DIW DIL IF2 KUN OCIL

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  • That Nice Young Couple (London: Jonathan Cape 1924);
  • The Green Lion (London: I. Nicolson & Watson 1936);
  • Queen Anne Boleyn (NY: Doubleday, Doran 1939);
  • The Senator’s Last Night (NY: Doubleday, Doran 1939).
  • Personal History of Henry the Eighth (London: Jonathan Cape 1929). 543pp. [infra];
  • Francis the Great, Gentleman of France (London: Heinemann 1934).
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  • Ireland: A Study in Nationalism (NY: Huebsch 1918);
  • Horizons (NY: Huebsch 1919) [lit. criticism];
  • The Irish Republic (NY: Huebsch 1920);
  • ed., On American Books (BW Huebsch 1920);
  • The Invisible Censor (NY: Huebsch 1921) [sketches & reviews];
  • American Rainbow (NY: Liveright 1922) [reminiscences];
  • The Story of the Irish Nation (NY: Appleton-Century 1922);
  • ... I Chose Denmark (NY: Doubleday, Doran 1940);
  • On Judging Books in General and Particular (NY: J Day 1947) [essays and reviews].
  • ‘Book of the Week: J. M. Synge’, in Literary Review (2 July 1909), p.1 [review of Poems and Translations, Cuala Press];
  • ‘[Francis Hackett] Says Playboy Foes have had Their Day’, in Do. (3 Feb. 1912), p.3 [letter dated 2 Feb.; ‘Green Sickness’, review of James Joyce, A Portrait [...&c.], in New Republic, 10, 122 (3 March 1917) [rep. in Robert Deming, ed., James Joyce: The Critical Heritage [2 vols.] (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1970), Vol. 1, pp.94-97; see under Joyce, infra];
  • review of Exiles, in New Republic, XVI, 206 (12 Oct. 1918), pp.318-19;
  • also “A Muzzle Made in Ireland”, in The Dublin Magazine, 11, 4 (1936), pp.8-17 [response to banning of The Green Lion].

Note: items 1 & 2 listed listed in Paul Levitt, Bibliography of Published Criticism (Shannon: IUP 1974)];

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Bibliographical details
Henry the Eighth
(London: Jonathan Cape 1929), 543pp., with index. Contents: The Background; Bk 1: Henry’s Boyhood; Book II: Henry and Catherine; Book III: Anne Boleyn; Book IV: Jane Seymour: Book V: Anne of Cleves; Book VI: Katheryn Howard; Book VII: Katherine Parr. [See infra.]

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James Cahalan, Irish Novel (1988), notices him as the author of The Green Lion, and remarks that ‘Peadar O’Donnell [was] more persistent than Francis Hackett who left Ireland because of disillusionment with the Free State.’ (p.192).

See also Nadia Clare Smith, ‘All about Eve: Signe Toksvig and the Intimate Lives of Irish Women, 1926-1937’, in The Irish Review, 42 (Dec. 2010), q.pp.

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Peter Costello, Clongowes Wood (1991), writes: ‘The Green Lion much concerned with Kilkenny ... Hackett came from Parnellite family there ... not as well written as the books of other authors ... Henry the Eighth and Francis the First ... fails to gain full mastery of personal material.’ p.106.) Further: ‘banned on first publication, The Green Lion remains a classic of modern Irish literature; records a thunderstorm during the Intermediate examinations, when Boyd-Barrett is the only boy not to abandon writing his paper.’ (p.150.)

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Aisling Foster, review of Lis Pihl, ed., Signe Toksvig’s Irish Diaries 1926-1937 (Dublin: Lilliput 1994), 450pp., in Times Literary Supplement (16 Dec. 1994), speaks of Toksvigs her cycle of infatuation cooling to dislike with each new acquaintance, and quotes remarks on Hone (‘limp. silent, gloomy’), Sean Keating (‘still a bit Catholic’); Yeats (‘lording it’ at the theatre); young Erskine Childers (‘crushed between the mother and the wife’); Aldous Huxley (‘twisted, soured, warped’); taken up by Bethel Solomons [a Dublin gynecologist] and family; ‘becomes too friendly’; sex-therapy in London; a trio was a failure; she wrote a gynaecological novel, Eve’s Doctor [q.d.], which was banned by the Catholic censors; packed their bags after ‘eleven years[... P]utrifying and penitential and instructive but no joy.’

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Hackett reads Dowson ...
JH Wheelock
Last Romantic: a Poet Among Publishers - The Oral Autobiography of John Hall Wheelock , ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman (S. Carolina UP 2002), p.173 - available online; accessed 23.05.2017.

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Mairín Martin, review of Lis Pihl, ed., Signe Toksvig’s Irish Diaries 1926-1937, in Books Ireland (Dec. 1994), remarks on technical help with Eve’s Doctor from Bethel Solomons; banned; writing in 1932: ‘[Francis is] is frightfully cranky at table about nothing at all, he’s so often like that now at meals especially if there are visitors ... He’s too well off really. I spoil him. We ought to get away from each other’; ‘Where am I to turn to I don’t know. I am so alone in this blasted country.’

Lis Pihl, ‘“A Muzzle Made in Ireland”: Irish Censorship and Signe Toksvig’, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 88, 352 (Winter 1999), pp.448-57: ‘The emancipation of women was among the articles of faith passed on to Signe by her father, an ardent advocate of liberalism in its broadest sense. No doubt, the entire concept of “the modern woman” was strengthened during her Cornell years, when she founded and edited The Cornell Women’s Review. Liberal and progressive ideas, nourished further at The New Republic, were powerful factors in Signe Toksvig’s early married life in America. By 1918 Hackett was a highly esteemed authority on the “Irish question”, and without becoming “a marital adjunct” Signe Toksvig became part of her husband’s Irish life fully shariqg his anti-British views. During the ensuing years in Irish history, Ireland came to be of increasing importance in their lives. Signe Toksvig’s letters of the time to family and friends frequently mention plans for their settling in Ireland in the hope of contributing a share of internationalism in the cultural upbuilding of the new state. / Signe Toksvig and Francis Hackett did not appear in the roles of innocents abroad when they settled in Ireland in 1926. Clearly, they cherished no false illusions, least of all as regards what they considered central democratic values, such as the emancipation of women and the freedom of speech. They were then keenly alert to growing anti- intellectual activities during the years preceding the introduction of the Censorship of Publications Act in 1929. [...].’ (p.449; see further on Toksvig under Notes, infra.)

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“The Dead Aviator” by Francis Hackett
  So endlessly the gray-lipped sea
Kept me within his eye,
And lean he licked his hollow flanks
And followed up the sky.

I was the lark whose song was heard
When I was lost to sight,
I was the golden arrow loosed
To pierce the heart of night.

I fled the little earth, I climbed
Above the rising sun,
I met the morning in a blaze
Before my hour was gone.

I ran beyond the rim of space,
Its reins I flung aside,
Laughter was mine and mine was youth
And all my own was pride.

From end to end I knew the way
I had no doubt nor fear
The minutes were a forfeit paid
To fetch the landfall near.

But all at once my heart I held,
My carol frozen died,
A white cloud laid her cheek to mine
And wove me to her side.

Her icy fingers clasped my flesh,
Her hair drooped in my face,
And up we fell and down we rose
And twisted into space.

Laughter was mine and mine was youth,
I pressed the edge of life,
I kissed the sun and raced the wind,
I found immortal strife.

Out of myself I spent myself,
I lost the mortal share,
My grave is in the ashen plain,
My spirit in the air.

Good-bye, sweet pride of man that flew,
Sweet pain of man that bled,
I was the lark that spilled his heart,
The golden arrow sped.

So endlessly the gray-lipped sea
Kept me within his eye
And lean he licked his hollow flanks
And followed up the sky.

—Given in Padraic Colum, ed., Anthology of Irish Poetry (NY 1922; rev. 1948), as Item. 120; available online.

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Henry the Eighth
(1929), ‘[...] if Henry was anointed with holier oil than Rocerkefeller-Morgan or an Inchcape-Leverhulme, he pursued power in a manner no less typical and no less instinctive. He was [12] a magnate before he was a king. Hence, to make him intellible, he has to be seen in the complicationed throes of those rivaliries that create his personal drama and gice it such tremendous character. He has to be seen, particularly, in the Europe of 1500-1550, and in the company of Francis and Charles. / in the year 1500 itself, Henry and Francis and Charles were three small dukes . Within fifteen years they would come to power [...]’. (Cont.)

Further (Henry the Eighth, 1929): ‘[...] Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard look at us silently and enigmatically across four hundred years. Thomas’s picture was drawn by Holbein after he had become Earl of Wilsthire and Ormond. Holbein, one of the most veracious of historians, shows us a man still fresh and upstanding, dressed and barbered so beautifully as to proclaim the ambassador-earl. It is a cold face. The eyes, a little weary, have a direct but stony expression. They look towards a master. Under a moustache that has been much stroked and silkened, the mouth is that of a weakish and even a meanish man. A massive nose shows that this creature proposes to survive, but his low brow suggest that the survival will be prudent rather than brilliant. And yet it is not a bad face. The man is not sympathetic, but he is dapper and stylish; he is limited but he is reasonable. Such men are as necessary as door-knobs are to doors. They must [225] be sauve, smooth, hard and solid. They must fit the palm of their master. A soul in such a man would be needed if he had to mould policies, but for one who is essentially a subaltern it would be incongruous.’ [226.]

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James Joyce reviewed: Francis Hackett, always a sympathetic interpreter of modern Irish literature, reviewed A Portrait for New Republic in 1917, giving the book high words of praise, ‘There is a poignant Irish reality to be found in few existing plays and no pre-existent novel, presented here with extraordinary candor and beauty and power’. Hackett summoned such phrases as ‘invincible honesty’, ‘piercing knowledge’, ‘tenacious fidelity’, a ‘candor’ in wich there is ‘nobility’ (‘Green Sickness’, New Republic, 3 March 1917; rep. in Robert Deming, James Joyce: The Critical Heritage, 1970 [Vol. 1], pp.94-97; cited in Zack Bowen & James Carens, Companion to Joyce (1984), pp.262. [See further under Joyce, Commentary, infra; note that Hackett worked for Huebsch who published Joyce’s Portrait.]

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), describes The Green Lion (London 1936), a detailed picture of Kilkenny county and city; boy, virtually orphaned, is sent to Jesuits boarding college [Clongowes]; rebels against discipline; novel critical of celibate clergymen as teachers, and ‘conveys an extraordinary impression of the abnormality of spiritual life in Ireland’ [Clarke]. Banned under Censorship of Publications (Ireland) Act.

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979),, egalitarian politics; The Green Lion’s hero is a bastard child of passionate mountain girl and seminarian (neophyte); hero worship of Parnell; Last Senator represents all that is reprehensible, mogulism and fascism; Irish Republic pleads for Dominion Home Rule to save Ulster; Story is a skim; his histories discuss birth and tenure of nationalism; consolidation of crown authority; praises right to private judgement. [Cf. DIW err., Green Lion, 1935; Senator, 1943.]

Hull House (Chicago): Founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Starr, on the lines of Toynbee House in London’s East End, Hull House was host to Francis Hackett in 1906. The Hull House website contains the following information: Francis Hackett: born in Ireland in 1883, arrived in America in 1901 and after working as an office by for a law firm in New York, he moved to Chicago where he found employment as a journalist on the Chicago Evening Post. In 1906 Hackett became a resident of Hull House. The web site entry on Hackett quotes his contribution to Survey Magazine (June 1925): ‘[...] I went there as one always goes into a new experience, on the terms and in the light of the inappropriate things I already knew. Only very slowly did I frame for myself the kind of experience I was having. As I trusted myself to it gradually and suspiciously, and felt it gave back more than it was receiving from me, I began to realise the peculiar quality of this strange American creation, its quality of goodness, of intelligence, of decent conscience, which filled Hull House almost to overflowing, and which renewed itself constantly from Miss Addams as a fountain is renewed. Hull House not only recruited strong characters, it was excited about them. [...]’ (See Hull House online; still available 15.01.2011.)

Belfast Central Public Library holds The Story of the Irish Nation (1924).

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Forebears? (I): Sir Thomas Hackett, Lord Mayor of Dublin during the ‘Patriot Parliament’ of 1689-90, is indicted by Archbishop William King in his State of the Protestants of Ireland under … King James II (1691) for ‘many brutish and barbarous things’. (See The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, p.869.)

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Forebears? (II): Légende de John Hackett, du Munster’, extract in H. Hovelaque [professeur au Lycée Saint-Louis], Anthologie de la Littérature irlandaise des Origines au XXe siècle (Paris Libraire Delagrave 1924),pp.282-86; in this tale, the brave Hackett, having fought several successful actions against the English after the Williamite campaign, is watching on guard while his troops sleep when a band of elfs transport him to Paris and then to London; in Paris, with his help, the elfs capture the dg. of the king of France, Hackett having relieved her of an ‘épagneul’ which protects her from the elfs; in London, he threatens the King with his épée and succeeds in gaining the royal signature to his pardon; returning to Ireland, he asks for the Princess and is refused but produces the spaniel so that the elfs are sent packing; on telling her his story, she falls in love with our hero, and they married in the the Church of Holy Cross.

Kith & Kin: Francis Hackett’s brother James Dominick Hackett [fam. Dominick or Dom Hackett] was Thomas MacDonagh's correspondent and lasting friend with whom he corresponded extensively. Francis Hackett was also a friend. The National Library of Ireland contains typescript copies of letters from Thomas McDonagh to J. D. Hackett [in New York], on literary, political and personal matters - including many references to McDonagh's own writings, and to the Abbey Theatre, the Gaelic League and The Irish Review, 1903-1915. (See NLI MS 22,934.)


Signe Toksvig: emig. with family from Denmark to USA at 14; ed. Cornell Univ., 1916; employed as asst. ed. New Republic, of which Francis Hackett was a founder; m. Hackett, 1918; visited Ireland with him in 1920 & 1922; settled there in 1926-37; left for Denmark with Hackett after the banning of her ‘Irish gynecological novel’ Eve’s Doctor (1937); spent WWII in America; returned to Europe in the 1950s; settled finally in Denmark; her other novels are The Last Devil (1927); Port of Refuge (1938), Life Boat (1941) - all published by Faber. She was friendly with Ellen Glasgow, Karen Blixen, Sigrid Undsert, Lady Ottoline Morrell and Shiela Wingfield. Her book Eve's Doctor (1937), based on her knowledge of the Rotunda following treatment by Bethel Solomons, was listed among the best-read books by The Irish Times in March 1937, following on Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Liam O’Flaherty’s Famine, prior to its banning. Toksvig gave a radio interview in Danish in 1971 in the course of which she spoke of the banning of The Green Lion and her own book, remarking that she had advocated birth control in Ireland having seen women who had born 23 and 24 children many of whom had died while the mothers ‘looked like rags, before their time .. and they banned my book as well.’

(See L. Pihl, ‘“A Muzzle Made in Ireland”: Irish Censorship and Signe Toksvig’, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 88, 352 (Winter 1999), pp.448-57 [online; accessed 07.0.2010. For more work by Lis Phil [1930-2010], see under Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, infra]. ]

Dooley Says: Hackett wrote a feature on Peter Finley Dunne for the New Republic [presum.] during his editorship of that journal (q.d.)

Query: Which of his historical studies was Book of the Month in the USA?

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