Nora [Jane] Hopper


1871-1906 [married name Chesson]; b. Exeter, dg. of Irish Army officer [British Army] and former Miss Francis; ed. privately, first published in Family Herald, 1887; m. W. H. Chesson, author, in 1887; Ballads in Prose (1894), which contained the ‘Temple of Heroes’ on a Shannon island which Yeats emulated, and which caused him to call it ‘an absolute creation, an enchanting tender little book full of style and wild melancholy’; poems incl. ‘The Dark Man’, ‘April in Ireland’, and ‘The Wind Among the Reeds’ [sic]; poems in New Ireland Review, Oct. 1897; contrib. The Dome [new ser.] (Oct.-Dec. 1898), with Yeats; The Celt, Sept. 1903; at first encouraged by Yeats, and listed among his ‘Best 30 Irish Books’ (Feb 1895), though her plagiarism increasingly irritated him; see also Irish Book Lover, March 1913. DBIV NCBE IF DIL OCIL

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Ballad in Prose (London: John Lane 1894); Under Quicken Boughs, poems (John Lane 1896); Songs of the Morning (London: Grant Richards 1900); Aquamarines (London: Grant Richards 1902); Mildred and Her Mills, and Other Poems (London: Raphael Tuck 1903); Old Fairy Legends in New Colours, by T E Donnison, with verses by N. Chesson (London: Raphael Tuck 1903); With Louis Wain to Fairyland (London: Raphael Tuck 1904); The Bell and the Arrow, An English Love Story (London: T. Werner Laurie 1905); Dirge for Aoine and Other Poems (London: Alston Rivers 1906); A Dead Girl to her Lover and Other Poems (London: Alston Rivers 1906); Jack O’Lanthorn and Other poems (London: Alston Rivers 1906); The Waiting Widow and Other Poems (London: Alston Rivers 1906); Poems, Selected (1908); Father Felix’s Chronicles, W. H. Chesson, ed. (London: Unwin 1907); Children’s Stories from Tennyson [1914]; also Muirgheis, an Irish opera in three acts, trans. by Torna [Tadhg O’Donoghue], Ireland Review (Sept. 1910).

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Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), entry on Hopper notes that she was admired by Yeats, who nevertheless felt she came near to plagiarising Tynan and himself; wrote libretto for The Sea Swan. Theatre Royal, Dublin (1903), with help on the plot from Moore; Yeats reviewed her Ballads; ‘haunted me ... spoke in strange wayward stories and birdlike little verses of things and persons I remembered or had dreamed of’, presumably because he was being plagiarised; Yeats lost sympathy with her by the third volume, Under Quicken Boughs (1896), ‘our Irish fairyland came to spoil her work.’

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; Hopper, Norah [sic] (Chesson); Yeats devoted his postscript to Literary Ideals in Ireland (1899) to ‘The Poetry and Stories of Miss Nora [sic] Hopper’, ‘.. Miss Hopper merely describes the Temple of the heroes as being on an island in the Shannon, and is sometimes even less certain about the places of her legends, though she has much feeling for landscape; and this uncertainty is, I believe, a defect in her method. Our legends are always associated with places ..’; he also refers to Aodh, a character in her poetry whom ed. adduces as an influence on Yeats’s story ‘The Binding of the Hair’ (1896), 958-59; cited with Lionel Johnson by Thomas MacDonagh as one of a few ‘who were born and who lived their whole lives out of Ireland, and yet are truly Irish’ (Literature in Ireland, 1916), 990.

William Sharp, Lyra Celtica; Dublin Book of Irish Verse, contains her ‘Dirge for Aoine’; ‘The Dark Man’; ‘The Fairy Music’; ‘Mo Bouchaleen Bwee’; ‘The Cold Wind’, ‘Gold Song’.

Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919); Ballads in Prose called ‘strange wayward tales of far-off pagan days ... soaked in Gaelic fairy and legendary lore’.

Eilís Ní Dhuibhne ed., Voices on the Wind, Women Poets of the Celtic Twilight (New Island Books 1995), selects her poetry [with Katharine Tynan; Eva Gore-Booth; Susan Mitchell; Ethna Carbery; Dora Sigerson Shorter].

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Stephen Gwynn quotes her lines in ‘The Irish Drama’, in Justin McCarthy ed., Irish Literature (1904), Vol. IX, p.xv: ‘He follows on for eery, when all your chase is done,/he follows after shadows, the King of Ireland’s son’; the poem concerns how Connla, son of Conn the Hundred-fighter, left a profffered throne to follow a fairy woman; Gwynn considers the two lines more effective that James Cousin [Seamus O’Cuisin’s] play on the subject in The Racing Lug.

W. B. Yeats: ‘Miss Hopper belongs to that school of writers which embodies passions, that are not the less spiritual because no Church has put them into prayers, in stories and symbols from old Celtic poetry and mythology.’ (“Modern Irish Poetry”, in Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature, 1904, Vol. III, p.xiii.) Note that Yeats previously wrote to the Mrs. [Eliz. Amelia] Sharpe [sic], the wife of William Sharp [aka Fiona MacLeod], ending a short letter with a postscript, ‘Do you know Miss Hoppers [sic] verse. She is very Celtic.’ (Letter of 12 July [1895], in Letters, Vol. 1, ed. John Kelly, p.469.) Sharp later accused Hopper of plagiarism in a letter to Katharine Tynan (Letters, ed. Hone, vol. I, pp.425-26 [January 1898]).

Weak lyric: Patrick Crotty writes: ‘A weak lyric of Nora Hopper anticipates the eponymous title of Yeats’s The Wind Among the Reeds’ (Review of W. J. McCormack, ed., Ferocious Humanism, Dent 2000, in Times Literary Supplement, 2 June 2000, pp.4-5.)

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