Morgan Kavanagh (?1800-74)


Life
[Morgan Peter Kavanagh; var. M. P. Kavanagh]; b. Tipperary [or Dublin]; prob. self-educated; visited London on literary business, 1823, and lived chiefly in London therafter; issued The Wanderings of Lucan and Dinah (1824), printed in London by a wealthy friend of his chance acquaintance Martin MacDermot, who wrote a preface; issued The Reign of Lockryn (1839), a Spenserian poem; m. Bridget née Fitzpatrick, c.1823, with whom Julia Kavanagh (b.1824);
 
moved with family to London; teacher of languages; moved to Paris, c.1834, returning to London in 1844; pre-occupied with linguistic theory supposedly accounting for the origin of all languages in terms of the words first given to the sun, viz., The Discovery of the Science of Languages (1844), called ‘a ridiculous work on philology translated into French the same year’ [ODNB]; living in London at 28 Dean St., Soho, in 1850; sub-lets two rooms to Karl Marx, Dec. 1850 at this address, where Marx settled longest;
 
separated from Bridget before 1851 and entered common-law marriage with Marie Rose, with whom an eldest son Alfred; visited Thomas Carlyle at Cheyne Row, Chelsea, and elicited literary support with John Gough, editor of Gentleman’s Magazine, by whom it was rejected; refused Carlyle’s subsequent offer to supply his name to a subscription list; Myths Traced to their Primary Source through Language (1856), unsuccessfully submitted by author for Prix Volney (Paris);
 
believed to have issued The Hobbies (1857), a novel, in his daughter’s name while citing her as an editor only and thus inciting her to repudiate it in the columns of The Athenaeum (9 June 1857) where it had been called ‘the most foolish novel we have ever read’ by a reviewer; resident in Paris during the 1860s; dg. Mathilda b. 1862; s. Alexander b. 1866; submitted fragment for Prix Volney, and challenged M. Littré to a 1,000fr. wager on the probability of his views;
 
issued same as The Origin of Language and Myths (1871), contesting the work of Friedrich Max Müller and others, and making philological conjectures on his own account based on his knowledge of Gaelic, Latin, French, Saxon, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek, Italian, Spanish and German; damningly reviewed in The Atheneum and Spectator (resp. Sept. & Nov. 1871); living at 13 Ashburton Grove (off Hornsby Rd., Islington), 1873; a Louisa Kavanagh presents herself at the coroner’s inquest as his wife;
 
d. Islington, Feb. 1874, of concupia, having suffered fractured skull following a street accident; left 680-page MS The Errors of Religion, acc. author’s note intended as third volume of Myths Traced [... &c.]. [ODNB] PI [OCIL]

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Works
Poetry
  • The Wanderings of Lucan and Dinah: A Poetical Romance, in Ten Cantos, pref. Martin MacDermot (London: Sherwood & Co. 1824);
  • The Reign of Lockrin: A Poem in Spenserian Stanzas ([Paris] 1839).
Fiction
  • Aristobulus: The Last of the Maccabees: A Tale of Jerusalem, 3 vols. (London; T. Cautley Newby 1855); The Hobbies, 3 vols. (London: T. Cautley Newby 1857).
Prose
  • The Discovery of the Science of Languages, in which are show the real nature of the parts of speech; the meanings which all words carry in themselves, as their own definitions; and the origin of words, letters, figures, &c., 2 vols. (London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans 1844),
  • Do. [in French as] La decouverte de la science des langues contentant: une opinion sur la manière d’opérer d’un esprit humain; l’explication de la nature réelle des parties du discourse et de la signification que tous les mot renferment en eux-mêmes commes leur propre definition; l’origine des mots, lettres, chiffres, &c., ainsi que les principes fondamentaux de la première religion de l’homme, traduit de l’anglais par Morgan Cavanagh et C. Joubert [2 vols in 1], au comptoir des imprimeurs-unis (Paris 1844);
  • Myths Traced to their Primary Source through Language, 2 vols. (London: Newby 1856);
  • An Author his Own Reviewer; or, An Analysis of “Myths Traced to their Primary Source through Language” by its author (London: J. R. Smith 1857);
  • Origin of Languages and Myths, 2 vols. (London: Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle 1871).

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Criticism
Robert J. Kavanagh, The Mysterious Irishman: Morgan Peter Kavanagh (Ottawa 2001), 44pp. [see extract]. See also Eileen Fauset, The Politics of Writing: Julia Kavanagh, 1824-1877 (Manchester UP 2009) [about his daughter].

A paper by Jacques-Philippe Saint-Gerand (Université Blaise-Pascal Clermont Farrand II) can be read on his internet page - online , or else in a version conserved here - as attached

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Commentary
Robert J. Kavanagh, The Mysterious Irishman: Morgan Peter Kavanagh (Ottawa 2001), details as above; note also details: Morgan Kavanagh resided in Paris at 9 cité du Marché, 45 rue Lepic, and 23 rue Berthe, Montmarte (all in the 18ième Arr.), as well as 95 rue Nollet Batignolles (17ième Arr.); Aristobobulus (1855) was reviewed in The Atheneum for 25 Sept. 1855; Julia Morgan is shown to have submitted The Hobbies previously to Chapman and Hall in the editor s concluding note to the controversy in The Atheneum. [&c.]; contains appendices of selected passages from the writings and a chart of reviews of Morgan’s publications, printed in Gentleman’s Magazine, London Literary Gazette, Athenaeum, Jewish Chronicle, Spectator and Leader. [Note: RJK is a great-grandson of Morgan Kavanagh through his ‘marriage’ to Rose Marie.]

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Quotations
Native land a grave: ‘Then why, fair maiden, thus distracted view?/And why those tears, that from thine eyes do start?/Away the thoughts that can but such renew -/What ’vail it now to wake they bitter smart?/But no - weep on - O weep! for proud thy part:/Thou weepest thy ruin’d land; thy knight a slave,/And cursed be they, whose more than cruel heart,/Can smile on such - who can from weeping leave,/B’lieving their knight in chains, their native land a grave.’ (Wanderings of Lucan and Dinah; quoted in Robert J. Kavanagh, op. cit., 2001; Appendix 1, p.27.)

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Origin of Language and Myths (1871), Ending: ‘Hence, in many ages to come, this discovery may be referred to, as forming a new epoch in the history of the world and the human mind, and that I now breathe may be then not only known but felt. But whatever it may effect, it must, at least, endure; so that if I have ever had “immortal longings in me”, they ought to be satisfied, for of the endless future I cannot be deprived, since what I have done must, wherever civilisation is known over the world, live as long as words themselves; or only with their science - if many ages hence it is to be again forgotten - find a grave.’ (Quoted in Robert J. Kavanagh, The Mysterious Irishman: Morgan Peter Kavanagh, Ottawa 2001, p.14.) Further, ‘Some fourteen years ago I published a work entitled Myths traced to their Primary Source through Language; and though I was then as it were, only feeling my way, I was not the less convinced that the discovery to which I laid claim was real; and however strange it may now appear, I cannot help still entertaining the same opinion. In that work I showed, as well as I could, how man must have first acquired the use of speech; and by the knowledge thence derived I was enabled to account for the ancient belief in the Divine origin of language, to trace letters to their birth, to discover the primary forms and meanings - hitherto unknown - of many words; and finally, to prove that the fables of the heathen mythology, as well as those of religion and ancient history, were first suggested by the several meanings that a name had at different times obtained.’ (Origin of Languages and Myths, Vol. 1, p.vii; Robert J. Kavanagh, op. cit., p.15.)

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The Errors of Religion [1856]: ‘And do we want to know that we ought do unto others, as we should wish others to do unto us? If so, that reason which assures us that God must be just, and consequently tells us what justice is, teaches us this rule also, which is so plain as to have been ever known to all people, even to individuals so imperfectly constituted as not to have the power of believing in a supreme Being. / Thus we know without the help of written revelation, supported by pious frauds, that there must be a creator and governor of all things, a being of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, whom we are consequently bound to love and revere. We also know that there must be a future state of rewards and punishments, and that our conduct through life should be kind, just and merciful. All this we know, acquiring it from the study of God in the creation, and a proper use of our reason; and in as much as our happiness both here and hereafter is concerned, this is the only religious system we need. And what a blessing it would have been for the whole world had it never known any other!’ (The Errors of Religion, MS, transcribed in Robert J. Kavanagh, op. cit., 2001, p.42 [App. 3].

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References
Dictionary of National Biography lists under Julia Kavanagh the follows works actually written by Morgan Kavanagh: The Reign of Lockrin, a poem in Spenserian stanza (1838); The Discovery of the Science of Languages (1844), ‘a ridiculous work on philology translated into French the same year’; Myths traced to their Primary source through Language (1856), and The Origin of Language and Myths (1871). The Hobbies, a novel disowned by Julia Kavanagh though her name appears on the title-page (Vide Athenaeum, 1857). Also cited in Boase’s Modern Biographia.

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