Benedict Kiely

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1919-2007 [occas. pseud. “Patrick Lagan”, with Sean J. White]; b. 15 Aug., nr. Dromore, Co. Tyrone, moving to the town of Omagh, 1920; youngest child of a family of six, son of Thomas Kiely a ‘a chain man’ working on the Ordnance Survey in Ulster (being in turn the son of a Donegal teacher, he at first enlisted in the Leinster Regt. and served in the Boer War without seeing action), and Sara Alice [née Gormley - of the Múinte Gormleys]; ed. CBS Omagh by Brs. M. J. O’Curry, at al.; introduced to Alice Milligan by a Fr. Paul, and for some time a frequent visitor (calaliere serviente )to her home at Mountfield; briefly worked in post-office, serving under Peter O’Curry, to whom Patrick Kavanagh dedicated A Soul of Sale ; played with amateur theatrical group, and met Gabriel Fallon when the latter was judging an amateur drama festival, 1935;
 
entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Emo, Co. Laois; suffered repeated back injury occasioned by spinal tuberculosis in the third lumbar [vertebra] and underwent convalescence at Cappagh Orthopaedic Hosp., 1938-39, and there treated by Henry Macaulay [surg.]; abandoned his shaky vocation; grad. BA (Hons), UCD, 1943, having borrowed money to do so from an older brother; contrib. Father Mathew Record ; m. Maureen O’Connell (with whom four children), 1944, settling in Dublin; commenced MA in history, resulting in Counties of Contention: A Study of the Origins and Implications of the Partition of Ireland (1945); taken on as leader writer with The Irish Independent, writing a column also; contrib. The Standard ; appt. lit. ed., Irish Press, in succession to M. J. MacManus, 1945-64 [var. 1950, Daniel Casey; Aosdána cites 1940-65]; met his present partner and later his second wife Frances, at the Irish Press; wrote a novel entitled “King’s Shilling”, later revised and published as a short story in Irish Bookman on advise of Francis MacManus;
 
issued his first novel, Land Without Stars (1946), a tale of sectarian dissension set in Donegal and Co. Tyrone and concerning two brothers, one of whom joins the IRA dies at the hands of the RUC; undertook occas. lectures in UCD English Department, attended by John Montague and others; issued In a Harbour Green (1949), set in the west of Ireland, concerns one man’s seduction of a woman and another’s devotion to her; issued Modern Irish Fiction: A Critique (1950), conceived of as the ‘first road’ across the subject, and covering some fifty Irish novelist after independence; issued Call for a Miracle (1950), dealing with sexual relationships in contemporary Dublin, and banned by Censorship Board; broadcast on William Carleton for Sam Hanna Bell at BBC, Northern Ireland (“Poor Scholar”, 2 Oct. 1951);
 
issued Honey Seems Bitter (1952), a ‘Catholic’ novel à la Graham Greene; The Cards of the Gambler (1953) combining folkloric morality-tale and incidents of modern life in a narrative of Heaven and Hell; There Was an Ancient House (1955) - the title being taken from Spenser, and recounting the story of a troubled novitiate; The Captain and the Whiskers (1960), retaling Owen Rodgers’s recollections of the martinet Captain Chesney - who drills his sons on uniform for the Boer War - and his daughter Greta, whose love for him Owen discovers from her diary long after; short story collections incl. A Journey to the Seven Streams (1963); sought leave of absence from Irish Press and refused; taught creative writing - ‘going through the motions of teaching’ - in Virginia (1964), Oregon University, Eugene (1965-66), and Emory University, Georgia (1966-68), accompanied by Frances; writer-in-residence, Hollins College, Virginia, 1964-65;
 
contrib. “Letters from America” to The Irish Times, stories to New Yorker, and reviews to New York Times Book Review, and stories and sketches to Kenyon Review ; also contrib. to The Nation, &c.; issued Dogs Enjoy the Morning (1968), pub banter set in Cosmona [‘all of human life is there’]; returned to Dublin, 1968; occas. [visiting] lecturer at UCD, from 1970; pub. in Penguin Modern Stories 5, with others, 1970; made numerous radio and tv appearances; introduced long-running “Sunday Miscellany” on RTÉ; with Seán White, contrib. lively round-Ireland newspaper column jointly as “Patrick Lagan”; issued “Down Then by Derry”, Dublin Magazine (1970); issued and A Ball of Malt and Madam Butterfly (1973); elected MIAL, and later member of Council and President; accepted invitation of Robert Hogan to teach at Univ. of Delaware, Spring 1976;
 
issued Proxopera (1977), based on the IRA kidnapping of the Dutch industrialist Herrema, and involving the refrain, with Proxopera (1977), the first of two novels dealing with the Northern Ireland troubles and involving the refrain, ‘the lake will never be the same again’; award of Irish Academy of Letters [IAL], 1980: founding-member of Aosdána, 1981; issued A Cow in the House (1978); ed. Penguin Book of Irish Short Stories (1981); received hon. degree from NUI, 1982; issued Nothing Happens in Carmincross (1985), a novel dealing with Ulster sectarianism and extremist violence; issued A Letter to Peachtree (1987), comprising rambling comic monologues and seeming badinage; issued Drink to the Bird (1992), an autobiographical volume; elected Saoi of Aosdána, March 1996; a celebration of his 80th birthday was held, with addresses by Tom Kilroy, Val Mulkerns, and others and readings by himself at the James Joyce Museum (N. Gt. George’s St.) and broadcast on RTÉ on 2 Jan. 2000;
 
lived in Rathgar and later in Donnybrook; d. 9 Feb. 2007; bur. Dublin Rd. Cemetery, Omagh; Irish Times obituary (10 Feb. 2007); there is a head by Majorie Fitzgibbon in the RDS and an oil portrait by Edward McGuire; The Wordweaver (dir. Roger Hudson, 2005), is an RTÉ documentary film on Kiely; his papers are held in the National Library of Ireland; an Annual Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend has been held at the Stride Arts Centre, Omagh, since 2001. DIW DIL IF2 FDA OCIL WJM

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Works
Short Stories
  • A Journey to the Seven Streams: Seventeen Stories (London: Methuen 1963), and Do . [re. edn.] (Dublin: Poolbeg Press 1977), 143pp. [ The white wild bronco”; “The heroes in the Dark House”; “The Pilgrims”; “The House in Jail Square”; “Blackbird on a Bramble Bough”; “Homes on the Mountain”; “Soldier, Red Soldier”; “The Dogs in the Great Glen”; “A Journey to the Seven Streams”].
  • A Ball of Malt and Madame Butterfly: A Dozen Stories (London: Victor Gollancz 1973; rep. Penguin 1976), 270pp. [ A Great God’s Angel Standing”; “The Little Wrens and Wobins”; “A Room in Linden”; “Maiden’s Leap”; “Wild Rover No More”; “A Bottle of Brown Sherry”; “God’s Own Country”; “An Old Friend”; “The Green Lanes”; “A Ball of Malt and Madame Butterfly”; “The Weavers at the Mill”; “Down Then by Derry”].
  • A Cow in the House and Nine Other Stories (London: Victor Gollancz 1978), 191pp. [ My Contemplations Are of Time …”; “Make Straight for the Shore”; “There are Meadows in Lanark”; “Bluebell Meadow”; “A Cow in the House”; “The Night We Rode with Sarsfield”; “The Players and the Kings”; “The Fairy Women of Lisbellaw”; “Elm Valley Valerie”; “Near Banbridge Town”].
  • The State of Ireland: A Novella and Seven Short Stories, intro. by Thomas Flanagan (Boston: David R. Godine 1981), 389pp. [”White Wild Bronco”; “Heros in the Dark House”; “Little Wrens and Robins”; “A Great God’s Angel Standing”; “Homes on the Mountain”; “A Journey to the Seven Streams”; “Dogs in the Great Glen”; “God’s Own Country”; “There are Meadows in Lanark”; “Weavers at the Mill”; “Maiden’s Leap”; “Make Straight for the Shore”; “Room for Linden”; “A Ball of Malt and Madame Butterfly”; “Night We Rode with Sarsfield”; “Bluebell Meadow”; “Down Then by Derry”; “Proxopera”]
  • A Letter to Peachtree and Nine Other Stories (London: Victor Gollancz 1987; “Methuen 1987), 188pp.
  • Colm McCann, ed., The Collected Stories of Benedict Kiely (London: Methuen 2001), 780pp.
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Novels
  • Land Without Stars (London: Christopher Johnson 1946; Moytura Press 1990, 1994), 221pp.;
  • In a Harbour Green (London: Jonathan Cape 1949; Moytura Press, 1992, 1994), 277pp.;
  • Call for a Miracle: A Novel (London: Jonathan Cape 1950; NY: Dutton 1951), 228pp.;
  • The Cards of the Gambler (London: Methuen 1953), 242pp.; Do ., rep., with intro. by Thomas Flanagan (Dublin: Wolfhound Press; Chester Springs: Dufour 1995), 240pp.; Do. [reiss.] (Dublin: New Island Press 2010), 265pp.
  • Honey Seems Bitter (NY: DP Dutton 1952; London: Methuen 1954), and Do ., rep. in USA as The Evil Men Do (NY: Dell 1954);
  • There Was an Ancient House (London: Methuen 1955; reiss. Wolfhound Press 1997);
  • The Captain with the Whiskers (London: Methuen 1960; NY: Criterion 1961; Dublin: Poolbeg 1980) [ded. his father ‘who talked with the wizard Doran on the Cornavara Mountain’], and Do . [rep. edn.], with afterword by Tom Kilroy (London: Methuen 2005), 288pp. [infra];
  • Dogs Enjoy the Morning (London: Victor Gollancz 1968; Wolfhound 1996);
  • Proxopera: A Tale of Modern Ireland (London: Victor Gollancz 1977; Methuen 1989);
  • Nothing Happens in Carmincross (London: Victor Gollancz; Boston: David R. Godine 1985; rep. London: Methuen 2007), 269pp. [with epigraphs incl. James Joyce: ‘history is a nightmare … &c.’];
  • The Trout in the Turnhole (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1995, 105pp. [for children]..
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Commentary & Travel
  • Counties of Contention: A Study of the Origins and Implications of the Partition of Ireland (Cork: Mercier 1945), 188pp., and Do ., [rep. edn.], with new preface and intro. by John Hume (Dublin: Mercier Press 2004), 206pp.;
  • Poor Scholar: A Study of the Works and Days of William Carleton, 1794-1869 (London & NY: Sheed & Ward, 1947; Dublin: Talbot Press 1972), [ded. to my parents] 164pp. [see extracts];
  • Modern Irish Fiction: A Critique (Dublin: Golden Eagle Books 1950);
  • All the Way to Bantry Bay and Other Irish Journeys (London: Victor Gollanz 1978);
  • God’s Own Country (London: Minerva 1993) [not in COPAC]
  • A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays [intro. John Montague] (Cork UP 1999), 282pp. [see contents].
Autobiography
  • Drink to the Bird: An Omagh Boyhood (London: Methuen 1992) [see extracts].
  • The Waves Behind Us (London: Methuen 1999), 320pp.
Anthologies (collections)
  • Ed., Penguin Book of Irish Short Stories (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981), 544pp. [see contents];
  • Sel., Anthologie de Nouvelles Irlandaises, choisies par Benedict Kiely et traduites sous la direction de Jacqueline Genet [Centre de Littérature, Civilisation, et Linguistique des Pays de Langue Anglaises/RCP D’Études Irlandaises] (Université de Caen 1987), 584pp.
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Journalism (selected)
  • ‘Orange Lily’, in The Irish Bookman, 1, 10 (June 1947) [incl. remarks on Shan Bullock];
  • ‘Liam O’Flaherty: A Story of Discontent’, in The Month, [n.s.] II (Sept. 1949), c.p.185;
  • ‘Canon Sheehan, The Reluctant Novelist’, in Irish Writing 37 (Autumn 1957), pp.35-45;
  • ‘Moore of Moore Hall, [Reassessment 2], Irish Times, Jan. 14 1971;
  • ‘Orange Lily in a Green Garden’, Irish Times [four parts article on Shan Bullock [of which] Pt. 3, Irish Times (29 Dec. 1972);
  • ‘Among the Masters’, in Seán Dunne, ed., The Cork Review [Seán O Faoláin Special Issue] (Cork 1991), pp.87-89;
  • ‘From A Broken Tree’, in The Recorder: Journal of the Irish American Historical Society, 13, 1 (Spring 2000), pp.38-61. Review of James F. Carens, Surpassing Wit: Oliver St John Gogarty, His Poetry and Prose (1979), in The Irish Times (16 June 1979) [infra].
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Miscellaneous
  • Ed., Penguin Short Stories, 5 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1970);
  • See also ‘Moore of Moor Hall’, in The Irish Times (14 Jan. 1971), p.12 - extracts under Moore, infra;
  • ‘The Poets and Prosemen’, in Seán Lucy, Irish Poets in English (Mercier 1972), pp.118-130;
  • Ed., & intro., Myles Na Gopaleen [i.e., Flann O’Brien], The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman, and The Brother (London: Hart Davis & MacGibbon 1976), 156pp.;
  • ‘Dialect and Literature’, in The English Language in Ireland, ed Diarmuid Ó Muirthile (Dublin 1977), [c.p.99];
  • Intro., Paddy Tunney, The Stone Fiddle: My Way to Traditional Song (Dublin: Gilbert Dalton 1979);
  • ‘The Historical Novel’ in Augustine Martin, ed., The Genius of Irish Prose (Cork: Mercier 1985), pp.53-66;
  • The Aerofilms Book of Ireland from the Air (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1985, 1991), 160pp. [extended captions by Kiely];
  • Intro. Seamus O’Kelly, The Weaver’s Grave [Classic Irish Fiction Series] (London: Allison & Busby 1984); Yeat’s Ireland: An Illustrated Anthology (Aurum Press 1989, 1992), ills. incl. Jack B. Yeats’s ‘A Connacht Priest’ [from George Birmingham’s Irishmen All ];
  • [contrib.], James Horan, 25 Views of Dublin, with a commentary by Benedict Kiely & an essay by Peter Somerville-Large (Dublin: OPW/Town House 1994), 63pp.;
  • Ed., As I Rode by Granard Moat (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1996), 220pp. [three centuries of song and lyric];
  • Ed. & intro., William Carleton: The Autobiography [facs. of 1896 edn.] (Belfast: White Row Press 1996), 248pp. [replacing D. J. O’Donoghue’s older introduction; infra];
  • Forword to S. P. Haddelsey, Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 2000), 170pp., ill.

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Bibliographical details
A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays
(Cork UP 1999), pp.282, with index. [ded. Douglas Gageby and Jim McGuinness], preface by John Montague [xii-xiv]; reprints ‘Ned McKeown’s Two Doors: An Approach to the Novel in Ireland’, from Ireland and the Arts, ed. Tim Pat Coogan (London: Quartet [q.d.]) [1]; ‘Land Without Stars; Aodhagan O’Rahilly’, prev. in The Capuchin Annual, 1945-46 [8]; ‘The Great Gazebo’ [31-44; no source given]; ‘A Raid into Dark Corners: The Poems of Seamus Heaney’, prev. in The Hollins Critic (Oct 1978 [recte 1970]) [45]; ‘Love and Pain and Parting: The Novels of Kate O’Brien’, prev. in The Hollins Critic (December 1992) [55]; ‘Irish Potato and Attic Salt’, prev. in The Irish Bookman (November 1946) [66]; ‘The Cormorant and the Badger: The Stories of Patrick Boyle’, prev. in The Irish Times (16 March 1982) [79]; ‘Clay and Gods and Men: The Worlds of James Stephens’, prev. in The Irish Bookman (October 1946) [84]; ‘Praise God for Ireland: The Novels of Francis MacManus’, prev. in The Kilkenny Magazine (Spring/Summer 1970) [95]; ‘Charles Kickham and the Living Mountain’, prev. in The Irish Times [n.d.] [107]; ‘John Montague: Dancer in a Rough Field’, prev. in The Hollins Critic (December 1978) [119]; Chapters are ‘Sean O’Faoláin: A Tiller of Ancient Soil’ [no source; 124]; ‘The Whores on the Halfdoors: An Image of the Irish Writer’, prev. in The Kilkenny Magazine (Spring/Summer 1966) [134]; ‘The Coppinger Novels of Bruce Arnold’, prev. in The Hollins Critic (April 1984) [150]; ‘Chronicle by Rushlight: Daniel Corkery’s Quiet Desperation’, prev. in The Irish Bookman (January 1948) [156]; ‘Thomas Flanagan: The Lessons of History’, prev. in The Hollins Critic (October 1981) [161]; ‘That Old Triangle: A Memory of Brendan Behan’, prev. in The Hollins Critic [n.d.] [169]; ‘Canon Sheehan: The Reluctant Novelist’ [181; no source]; ‘Liam O’Flaherty: From the Stormswept Rock […]’, prev. in The Month, II (September 1949) [192]; ‘The Two Masks of Gerald Griffin’, prev. in Studies (Autumn 1972) [203]; ‘Orange Lily in a Green Garden: Shan F. Bullock’, prev. in The Irish Times (1972) [215]; ‘Dialect and Literature’ [no source; 232]; The English Language in Ireland, ed. Diarmuid Ó Muirthile, Dublin 1977]; Frank O’Connor and the Long Road to Ummera [no source; recte Kenyon Review, 1968; 241]; ‘Memories of the Mountainy Singer’ [no source; 248]; ‘The Thorn in the Water: The Stories of Michael McLaverty’, prev. in Hibernia (17 July 1970) [256]; ‘Green Island, Red South: Mary Lavin and Flannery O’Connor’, prev. in The Kilkenny Magazine (Autumn/Winter 1970) [259]. Note, ‘The Whores Above the Half-Doors: An Image of the Irish Writer’ also appeared in Owen Dudley Edwards, ed., Conor Cruise O’Brien Introduces Ireland (1969), pp.148-61; see Quotations, infra.] (Note that additions to the bibliographical sources cited in the volume have been made by J. W. Foster in his essay ‘Revisitations: Criticism and Benedict Kiely’, Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture (Dublin: IAP 2009) [Chap. 8], pp.101-17, espec. Notes, p.155ff. [as infra].

See also ‘Moore of Moor Hall’ [“Reassessments” - 2], in The Irish Times (14 Jan. 1971), p.12 - extracts under Moore, infra; text in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, attached.

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The Penguin Book of Irish Short Stories, ed. Benedict Kiely (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981), 544pp. Introduction; Acknowledgements; Lady Gregory, “The Daughter of King Under-Wave” (from An Fianaiocht) [15]; The Cards of The Gambler’, Traditional, translated by the Editor [22], William Carleton, “Wildgoose Lodge” [28]; Stephen Gwynn, “St Brigid’s Flood” [48] Somerville and Ross, “Lisheen Races, Second-Hand” [68]; George Moore, “Home Sickness” [84]; Daniel Corkery, “The Ploughing Of Leaca-na-Naomh” [97]; James Joyce, “Grace” [108]; Liam O’Flaherty, “The Tent” [130]; Liam O’Flaherty, “The Conger Eel” [139]; Sean O’Faolain, “The Lovers of the Lake” [143]; Frank O’Connor, “The Luceys” [172]; Elizabeth Bowen, “The Cat Jumps” [190]; Mary Lavin, “A Memory” [201]; Michael McLaverty, “The Game Cock” [248]; Seamus de Faoite, “The American Apples” [258]; Julia O’Faolain, “First Conjugation” [275]; Patrick Kavanagh, “Fairyland” [287]; Mervyn Wall, “They Also Serve …” [291]; William Trevor, “A Meeting In Middle Age” [299]; Terence de Vere White, “Desert Island [316]; Patrick Boyle, “Meles Vulgaris” [329]; Bryan MacMahon, “Ballintierna in the Morning” [348]; Aidan Higgins, “Lebensraum” [357]; Michael J. Murphy, “Return of the Boy” [371]; James Plunkett, “The Eagles and the Trumpets” [386]; Brian Friel, “Mr Sing, My Heart’s Delight” [411]; John McGahern, “Gold Watch” [423]; Val Mulkerns, “A Cut above the Rest” [440]; John Montague, “That Dark Accomplice” [454]; John Jordan, “Let the Old Cry” [465], Tom MacIntyre, “The Bracelet” [471]; Edna O’Brien, “The Creature” [475]; Ita Daly, “Such Good Friends” [482]; Neil Jordan, “Sand” [494]; Eithne Strong, “Red Jelly” [499]; Bernard McLaverty; “Secrets” [515]; Gillman Noonan, “Dear Parents, I’m Working for the EEC!” [524]; Biographical Notes [537].

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Radio One: John Quinn, ‘Travels with Ben’, a new twelve part summer series in which John Quinn accompanies writer Ben Kiely on a tour of Ireland in ballad and comic and serious verse (RTE/Radio 1; from 10 June 2002, Mondays, 8.30p.m.): “Such is Ben’s gift as a reciter and storyteller listeners are transported to the most unusual places (from Drumquin Creamery to the “city” of Mullingar) and meet a range of unforgettable characters, from the Boys of Collooney to the Limerick Rake”.’ (RTE Online Guide.)

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Criticism
  • Grace Eckley, ‘The Fiction of Benedict Kiely’, Éire-Ireland, 3, 4 (Winter 1968), pp.55-65;
  • Francis MacManus, review of Modern Irish Fiction, in Studies (March 1952), pp.121-22;
  • William Kennedy, review of Carmincross in NY Times Review of Books, 27 Oct. 1952, pp.7;
  • Daniel J. Casey, Benedict Kiely [Irish Writers Series] (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP 1974); Grace Eckley, Benedict Kiely (NY: Twayne 1975);
  • J. W. Foster, Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1974), pp.72-81, 91-100;
  • Kevin Sullivan, ‘Benedict Kiely: The Making of a Novelist’, in Patrick Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon, eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time, l’Université de Lille 1975-76, pp.200-207;
  • Jennifer Clarke, ‘Q & A: an interview with Benedict Kiely’, in Irish Literary Supplement, 6, 1 (Spring 1987), p.10-12;
  • John Cooney, ‘Kiely Praises Novel’s Insight into Donegal’, in Irish Times (26 Aug 1985), p.11;
  • Julia Carlson [interview with Kiely], Banned in Ireland (Georgia UP; London: Routledge 1990), pp.23-35 [with photo-port.];
  • Daniel J.Casey, ‘Benedict Kiely’, in Rüdiger Imhof, ed., Contemporary Irish Novelists [Studies in English and Comparative Literature] (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag 1990), pp.25-39;
  • “Benedict Kiely Special Issue”, The Recorder: Journal of the American Irish Historical Society (Spring 1996) [celebration of his 75th birthday; contribs. Kiely; Kevin Sullivan; Thomas Flanagan; Val Mulkerns, Seamus Heaney, William Kennedy, John Montague, Thomas Kinsella, Thomas Kilroy, John Wilson Foster, Liam de Paor; Darcy O’Brien, Julian Moynihan, et al.].
  • [Shirley Kelly,] ‘Benedict Kiely, Writer and Saoi’ [feature article], in Books Ireland (Summer 2001), pp.157-58;
  • Derek Hand, ‘Something Happened: Benedict Kiely’s Nothing Happens in Carmincross and the Breakdown of the Irish Novel’, in Representing the Troubles: Text and Images 1970-2000, ed. Brian Cliff & Eibhear Walshe (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2004) [Chap. 2.]
  • John Wilson Foster, ‘Revisitations: Criticism and Benedict Kiely’, in Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture (Dublin: IAP 2009), pp.101-17 [see extract].
 

See also Bruce Stewart, unpublished review of Benedict Kiely, A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays (Cork UP 1999) [as attached].

 

See also Wordweaver: The Legend of Benedict Kiely, a documentary with Seamus Heaney, John Montague,Tom Kilroy and Colm McCann speaking on the writer; dir. Roger Hudson and produced by Simon Hudson (Stoney Road Films 2005; DVD edn. 2008); essay in Maurice Harmon: Selected Essays, ed. Barbara Brown (Dublin: IAP 2006) [q.p.].

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Commentary
Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’, in The Irish Short Story, ed. Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), writes of the troubles in recent Irish writing: ‘nor are the new writers much concerned with revolutionary nationalism […] the cause that never dies has in fact withered in the past ten yras and has little appeal to the literary imagination; the gunman lacks the mystique of nationalism, the myth of heroism, or the sanction of tradition. When the violence in Northern Ireland appears in the contemporary story, it does so as a context and background, and as something to get away from. John Morrow alone seems able to present it with a healthy black humour.’ (p.65.)

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John Dunne, reviewing Carmincross in Books Ireland (May 1987) calls it ‘one of the most overrated Irish books of recent years’; ‘gives full rein [her] to his own special brand of galloping garrulity […] one eye on the transatlantic market […] cast in the form of a letter home form an American academic (in which he recounts his exploits with Brinsley McNamara, and a motley crew of rollicking Irish men and women), it carries so much allusive baggage that, less than halfway through, it collapses under the strain. / But there is great stuff here [… &c.]’. Cited “Mock Battle”; “Bloodless Byrne of a Monday”,and “Through the Fields in Gloves”. Expresses disappointment at Leland’s new collection; cites “Epiphany”, “Passing the Curragh”, “Just Fine”, “Truth”, “From the Mainland”,and calls the characters ‘a fairly lifeless group of authorial mouthpieces’ on such subjects as broken marriages, the responsibility of children, new relationships. (Dunne, p.96f.

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J. W. Foster, Colonial Conseqences (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1991), for full discussion of Kiely, Honey Seems Bitter (1954), There was an Ancient House (1955), and Dogs Enjoy the Morning (1968); in all three, ‘the young hero “suffers”,from sexual inexperience, social isolation and worthless spiritual innocence, all of which are presented as forms of sickness of mind and soul metaphorised in his actual bodily sickness’ (p.36). Foster also cites Journey to the Seven Streams . Note that Foster calls Proxopera a ‘fictional departure for Kiely in as much as this attack on Republican terrorism in Northern Ireland is unwontedly bitter and outspoken.’ (See “Benedict Kiely”, in Robert Hogan, ed., A Dictionary of Irish Literature, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979).

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John Wilson Foster, ‘Revisitations: Criticism and Benedict Kiely’, in Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture, Dublin: IAP 2009), pp.101-17: ‘Benedict Kiely’s most sustained critical achievement was his slim book, Modern Irish Fiction - A Critique (1950), a pioneering map of Irish novels and story collections published between roughly 1918 and 1948 (though with some backward looks). The survey has all the energetic briskness of a young critic simultaneously engaged on his own aspiring first additions to the body of Irish fiction, and the critique appears to have been written while the first novels, Land without Stars (1946) and In a Harbour Green (1949) were in the process of being written or being published. His was the earliest critical harvesting of post- independence Irish fiction and one gathered by a would-be professional writer rather than professional critic, of whom there were very few in Ireland in 1949 when the book would have gone to press.’ (p.101.) Further: ‘As a critic, Kiely established and inhabited a kind of historical no man’s land between the Revival enthusiasts and these soberer lecturers and researchers; unsurprisingly, he gave himself greater leeway than academics in the conduct of his arguments and use of “secondary sources”. […] Certainly no one had surveyed the post-Revival fictive landscape before Kiely. He rightly called Modern Irish Fiction ‘to a large extent a journey across uncharted country’, [1] a metaphor that as we shall see has a particular pulse in Kiely’s attitude to life as well as literature.’ (p.102.)

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John Wilson Foster (Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture, Dublin: IAP 2009) - cont: ‘Although he himself became a short storywriter of the front rank, he championed the Irish novel against the critical denigrations he recorded in his critique. What was at stake was the truth or falsity of whether post-independent Ireland was the broken, divided, barren society O’Connor and O’Faolain claimed it was, thus preventing good novels, especially good realistic novels, being written.’ (p.106.) ‘Kiely’s tradition is a procession of personalities, of individual talents, rather than a transmission and alteration of techniques or preoccupations.’ (p.106.) ‘[I]f Kiely thought he was distancing himself from what he regarded as Carleton’s essential empiricism, the latter’s dependence on clear memory rather than imagination which Kiely thought was never strong (here Kiely came close to contradicting himself on the matter of Carleton’s inventiveness which he had already described as ‘unrestrained’), we are surely reminded of the elder writer when we are witness to Kiely’s fictive modus operandi in which memory and anecdote play a huge role. […] It became characteristic for Kiely in his writings to begin with the evocation of place, and his sharing of geography with Carleton was a kind of brotherhood across the generations.’ (p.109.) ‘Ideally for Kiely, the reading of an author whom you come to cherish and identify with inspires you to visit the author’s native haunts. Criticism itself, then, is a kind of itinerary.’ (p.111.)

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John Wilson Foster (Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture, Dublin: IAP 2009) - cont: ‘Kiely’s preoccupation is, in every genre he practised, with localities - of setting, of character, of scene of action, of dialogue, of plot - just as his patriotism is not nationalism but local pride (and affection) multiplied and extended to every shore of the island. His base unit of place that offers meaning, comfort and cause for celebration and commemoration is the country neighbourhood and unlike the more fundamentally religious Kavanagh, he does not have recourse to the parish, for that of course would be in the end sectarian. And neigh­bourhood is in practice inseparable from companionship: Kiely tramped and drove throughout Ireland but rarely alone (his inability to drive made companionship a practical benefit). His companions, like his writers (who were in the deepest sense also his companions), were chosen by neighbourhood. The writer came close to being the genius loci and critical survey was for him a kind of platonic Irish atlas. His most cherished companions when he walked abroad were the literary – scholars or creative writers who were natives or expatriates and who by courteous mutual agreement become his guides; he seemed to me the least rivalrous of writers. 27 In Bantry Bay he is accompanied on his revisits in turn by Heaney the poet, Flanagan the critic and novelist, and Kevin Sullivan the Irish-American academic. Should his writers and erstwhile companions be dead, his companions are ghosts who swell the living itinerants, as Kavanagh does in Bantry Bay. […]’ (p.114; for full text, see in RICORSO Library, “Irish Critical Classics”, via index, or attached.)

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Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature (London: Pluto Press 1998), pp.200-01, includes comments on Kiely’s entry as biographer of Carleton, ‘a standard literary biography’ entailing an extended analysis of the figure’s life and work [which] re-arranges the Irish literary canon while simultaneously [199] confirming the existence of the tradition formed by the canon’ (p.199-200); ‘although broaching the international perspective that was becoming dominant in Irish-related criticism at this time, therefore, Kiely’s discourse is still operating within the traditional parameters of decolonisation, still looking to confirm an Irish tradition and a symbiotic relationship between culture and nation.’; ‘[…] still coming to terms with the new times in Irish criticism. […] /] By the time he came to write Modern Irish Fiction Kiely had begun to find his critical voice and was happier dealing with the potential incongruities of Irish literature and universalist criticism […] had learned, that is, more of the techniques of the international critical trade and was now ready to compete with international critics on their own terms, speaking their language with their own accents. […] t]here is a sense of Kiely trying to get in first on what would soon be an incredibly fertile field of research. In other words, the book is written with an eye to the market and to the critic’s own career, and in all these ways Kiely tries to preserve a place for himself in a discourse to which he no longer necessarily has access by geographical consideration. […] &c.]’; Further, ‘Kiely still finds it difficult to escape the old politics of truth which demanded the critic’s allegiance to one or another strategy of decolonisation.’ (p.200); ‘[/ […] Kiely claims a key indicative role for literature in Irish history and a key function for his own deciphering discourse, and this strategy is typical of modern international criticism.’; ‘For expedient reasons, Kiely bends the knee to modern international criticism; yet he cannot escape the older orthodoxy, the one which claims his discourse as an intervention in the ongoing debate over Irish identity and the relationship with the former colonial power [/ […] /]; Kiely’s affiliations were first and foremost literary, and the same is true of most other Irish book-writing intellectuals […]’ (p.201.)

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Patricia Craig, review of Benedict Kiely, Drink to the Bird (Methuen 1992), 180pp. in Times Literary Supplement, April 24 1992, remarks on ‘blurred edges […] ebullient Irishness designed to take us in […] gives hardly anything away, neither his attitude towards his upbringing nor the reasons for his espousal and renunciation of the priesthood […] Kiely’s expansiveness is actually a way of being self-effacing […] his book consists of anecdotes, local lore, facts, figments, snatches of verse, scenes of childhood and outbreaks of out-and-out nostalgia […] the Christian Brothers never did him harm […] [the Order] had a history of self-sacrifice […] instilled into their pupils a bias towards Irish nationalism […] an old style nationalism [that] had nothing to do with blowing the legs off girls in coffee bars […] the degradation of nationalism […] has become a major theme of Kiely’s […] in Proxopera (1979 [recte 1977]) and intermittently in Nothing Happens in Carmincross (1985) […] what you crave is a touch of asperity […] Kiely’s celebratory cast of mind has served him well in novels […] the memoir allows a too easy access for the overblown approach ..’ Note that the same work is reviewed appreciatively in a Fermanagh literary journal, The Spark (Spring 1993).

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Brendan Kennelly, on As I Rode by Granard Moat (1996), in ‘Speaking Volumes’, ed. Seamus Hosey [RTÉ]. [T]he patterned evocation of a literary landscape recollected through friendship and acquaintance - with Douglas Hyde, Francis MacManus, Brinsley MacNamara, Donagh MacDonagh, Paddy Tunney, Maurice Craig, Louis MacNeice, Thomas MacGreevey, Bertie Rodgers, W. B. Yeats and other celebrants of their culture; divided into the four provinces of Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht, with transitions south of the Boyne and in the Boyne Valley itself; contains poetry by W. B. Yeats, A.E., F. R. Higgins, Louis MacNeice, Patrick Kavanagh, Francis Ledwidge and Oliver St John Gogarty; and songs of love, rebellion and in praise of nature including ‘The Yellow Bittern”, “The Bold Fenian Men”, “Ringletted Youth of my Love”, “Galway Races and “My Love is Like the Sun”. Cites book notices: ‘Kiely is a great storyteller, a very gifted novelist, an extraordinary writer of short stories, and a very good broadcaster. He is a writer whose work has been consistent and abundant; […] this man, together with John Millington Synge, is the best writer about places around Ireland that I have read.’ (quoted in publisher’s note for As I Rode by Granard Moat (1996), 220pp.)

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John Boland, ‘A rhyming ramble round Ireland, review of As I Rode by Granard Moat (Dublin: Lilliput 1996), 220pp., in Irish Times, 25 Jan. 1997; remarks that ‘something is always putting Kiely in mind of something else’, and a quotation: ‘It has just occurred to me that I may have taken on an impossible task: to move round Ireland […] and to move in an orderly way, remembering and reciting as I go’; also, ‘No one knows who wrote that lovely song [‘My love is like the sun’]. Where are they now, the nameless authors of old sweet songs? Waiting for us in the shadow of eternity’; review includes some slight personal reminiscence of Kiely, and photo-port.

[Shirley Kelly,] ‘Benedict Kiely, Writer and Saoi’ [feature article], in Books Ireland (Summer 2001), pp.157-58: quotes Colum McCann’s preface to The Collected Stories (Methuen 2001): ‘The manner in which Ben Kiely has been treated should be a point of anger among anyone concerned with contemporary Irish literature since the truth is that as much as any other writer in the past fifty years he has made the past durable and the present possible.’

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Colum McCann, Introduction to The Collected Stories of Benedict Kiely (London: Methuen 2001), tells of visiting Kiely in Donnybrook having read all his fiction after his own father handed him the story called “A Ball of Malt and Madame Butterfly”, in which he recognised ‘the sheer depth and radical playfulness’ instilling a ‘silence which I recognise as a form of grace’, with further remarks about the silence which great writers create around themselves. Further, ‘Sometimes the process of mitosis is so srong that the writer becomes a national voice and, on very rare occasions, an international one. / Ben Kiely is one such writer. And yet even a complement can sometimes dig a man into a ditch. / There is a sense these days that Ben Kiley is the Grey Eminence of Irish literature. Even those people who don’t read him are aware they should, or at least they should have - some vague years ago , in the past, perhaps. But being a grey eminence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be […] / The danger is that it can freeze a writer in the public imagination […] This idea of Keily as a writer who somehow blongs elsewhere in time and even in the literary canon is of course, horseshit. But horseshit is sometimes fragrant and it helps to grow the roses. […] &c.] (Extract in Irish Times, Weekend, 26 May 2001, p.14.)

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Colum McCann, ‘Death closes a chapter but stories continue’, in The Irish Times (13 Jan. 2007), “Opinion & Analysis”, p.16.: ‘[…] Kiely’s books were given an old-fashioned taint that they never truly deserved. He has often, in fact, been called a seanchaí, which lends an unfortunate aura of the Grey Eminence to his work. But the “come-all-ye” rust around his writing is completely misleading. Even when he was bawdy and banned (three of his novels got the “national literary award” from the Irish Censorship Board), he kept quiet about it. No big film advances. No Booker prizes. He proceeded from a reckless inner need. He knew that truth threatened power, now and always. He worked beyond the piety of the Catholic Church. He put the boot in, but he didn’t sing about the bruises. […] In 1985 he followed Proxopera with the extraordinary Nothing Happens in Carmincross . It is a novel of exile and loss that should be on every Irish bookshelf. / Given all that, an initiated reader might think there would be no room for great laughs or music in his work. But in fact there has been no Irish writer, before or now, so exquisite in the realm of song and verse. He haunts our heads, our hearts with music. His stories find form in the realm of rhythm. Not only this, but he manages to make us laugh, even in the face of doom. There adheres in his work a sense of astonished being. He is acutely alive. His tales are never written in abstraction. It’s as if he reaches into our bodies - he touches the funny bone, but at the same time wrenches our hearts a notch backwards.’ (See full text in RICORSO Library, “Reviews”, infra.)

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John Kenny, ‘Love and Locality’, review of Benedict Kiely, The Collected Stories, intro. Colm McCann (London: Methuen 2001), 762pp., in Times Literary Supplement (20 June 2001), recalls Luke Kelly singing Kavanagh’s “On Raglan Road” while camera picks out Kiely in the audience intently mouthing the words; ‘wholly and calmly immersed in Irish literature, songs and folkways (to a degree matched today perhaps only by Ciaran Carson), and this cultural [bitus] is reflected in the style he has developed over the course of fourteen books of fiction’. Kiely called by Heinrich Böhl ‘the Irish Balzac’. Kenny refers with approbation to McCann’s introduction (though ‘somewhat reverential’): ‘The very point of Kiely’s created world, however, is that it is quite consciously pre-lapsarian […] He has the same permanent yearning for this locale [Dromore, Co. Tyrone] that he saw in his beloved William Carleton […] and his aesthetic project continues a tradition he outlined in “A Sense of Place” (1982): “The interweaving of love and imagination with locality is something that our ancestors wer particularly good at, back to the days of the earliest written records and beyond.” ‘[…] Kiely is a Mozart, not a Beethoven.’ Puckish above all else, Benedict Kiely is behind these stories chuckling volubly for very love of the world.’ [End].

Bridget O’Toole, review of The Collected Stories of Benedict Kiely (Methuen), in Books Ireland, Feb. 2002: remarks that each story intrigues, ‘not because the plots are made of tricks and turns […] it’s that Kiely’s subject is finally the mysteriousness of human beings. We are drawn in by a voice that is intimate, all-knowing and yet very slightly disbelieving, and we learn that people do not behave as we would expect. / We trust the story-teller’s low-key tone of certainty and respond sensuously to the world he creates. “Recreates” is important since he makes us believe it was always there. / The best story is “God’s Own Country” […].’ (p.24.)

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Alan O’Riordan, review of rep. edn. of The Captain with the Whiskers, in Books Ireland (May 2004): ‘In The Captain with the Whiskers it is a peculiarly Irish will to power that wreaks havoc: that of a the tyrannical patriarch. Captain Conway Chesney is a domestic brute who inflicts military strictness pon his offspring. The consequences of the captain’s tyranny are related in hindsight by the intriguing Owen Rodgers who, as a young man, became involved with the family in rural Ulster. For this reader at least, these consequences seem to outweigh the captain’s crime. The “dark secret” at the heart of the problems remains just that. Kiely either shies away from implying incest, or did not intend this inference. Regardless, the imbalance between cause and effect is unsatisfactory. / Benedict Kiely has not survived the shift into post-Catholic Ireland as well as Kate O’Brien or John McGahern. The Captain with the Whiskers does not, unfortunately, make a compelling case for his rehabilitation. This novel […] brings us right back to the mildly anti-clerical realism that once so dominated Irish novels. […] The Captain with the Whiskers is formally a very sophisticated book; its shifting time-frames are handled with ease. The descriptive passages are lyrical and not at all insipid. The story itself unfolds at a leisurely, atmospheric pace, and the Irish love of an anecdote is well indulged. The work is a fine, though not very powerful, piece of writing. It remains ironic, though, that a writer sophisticated enough to have one of his characters yearn to write an Irish novel free from “mud and misery … parish priests [and] girls having babies” should include in his own all the above.’ (p.121.)

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Obituary [anon.] (The Irish Times, 10 Feb. 2007): ‘[…] Kiely’s refusal to allow his origins and experience to lead him down the path of bigotry and hatred was one of the brighter illuminations of a dark time. In many ways it paralleled his response to his banning. / His response to what happened was a novelist’s one, focusing on the effects of external events on individual lives. These issues are explored in two novels, Proxopera (1976) and Nothing Happens in Carmincross (1985). / The first concerns the trauma of a man who has to drive a "proxy bomb" for the IRA. A highly effective novel, the attempt to adapt it as a stage play proved unfortunate. / The second, one of Kiely’s finest works, juxtaposes highly effectively the Ireland that Kiely loved, the Ireland of folklore, storytelling, gossip and rambling, with the inexplicable Ireland of death and destruction to which it had been reduced. / While continuing to write, Kiely had become known to an even wider public through his contributions to the long-running Sunday Miscellany radio programme, where his gentle, humorous style was given full scope. He was much honoured in his later years: perhaps the distinction that mattered most to him was being made a saoí of Aosdána in 1996. He received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in 1982. He wrote several volumes of memoirs which dealt principally with the Dublin of the late 1940s and the 1950s. / Naturally his contemporaries, Patrick Kavanagh, Brian O’Nolan and the somewhat younger Brendan Behan featured heavily. / But Kiely himself was a very different figure from these brilliant writers. He completely lacked their self-destructive urge; similarly, as a writer, he was highly traditional, not at all given to literary and linguistic pyrotechnics. So far was he from embracing new technology, he did not even type: all his works were written in flowing longhand. / It may well be that some of his early work, such as The Cards of the Gambler, a highly original and memorable blend of contemporary fiction and timeless folk tale, There Was an Ancient House, about his time in the Jesuit novitiate, and the eerie short-story, Dogs in the Great Glen, will be seen as his most lasting achievement. / There can be no doubt that some of the later work was marred by a tendency to ramble and digress. His well-known remark, “Everything in Ireland reminds me of something else”, has its dangers as well as its benefits. / As well as his substantial achievement as a writer, there will remain for a very large number of people the memory of a gentle, unhating person whose integrity and honesty shone like a good deed in a naughty world. […]’ (See also news report of Fr. Tom Stack’s oration at the removal in Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook [infra].)

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Fr Tom Stack (speaking at the removal at Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, 12 Jan. 2007): ‘Ben Kiely often recalled a story about the poet Patrick Kavanagh, Mgr Tom Stack told mourners at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin last night. It was a story which “on the surface appears disparaging and irreverent but in reality discloses its own strong, beguiling and even heartening metaphysic”, he said. / Both were working at the [Catholic ] Standard newspaper in Dublin. They had returned from the funeral of then Catholic primate of all Ireland Cardinal Joseph McRory (who died in 1945) and were preparing his obituary. As Kiely told it, “Kavanagh coughed and rasped and, referring to the deceased cardinal, said “now he knows what I knew years ago - there is no God!”’. Mgr Stack, discussing the use of paradox in the Bible to express truth, continued: “Whatever about Patrick Kavanagh’s contorted eschatology on that occasion, in fact the teaching of Jesus Christ is replete with paradox, for example in the Beatitudes, though certainly in a different key”.’ (See report in The Irish Times, 213 Jan. 2007.)

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Quotations
Poor Scholar [1947] (Dublin: Talbot Press Edn. 1972), Prologue: ‘[…] He gave offence, wrote his more-or-less official biographer [D. J. O’Donoghue, Life of William Carleton, 1896], “to every class of Irishman in one or other of his books, and all that can be done by way of extenuation or excuse is to explain the incidents which seem to have occasioned his conduct.” / I do not know if they can even be explained as simply as all that. For the mystery of the man’s soul, or of the soul of any man, is hidden from us as completely as the awful secret behind that century-old suffering, the awful secret behind all suffering. In his own chaotic and entangled soul he has mirrored all our own complication, has hinted at the chaos into which we plunged, almost to perish, but ultimately to survive. / I only know that, in the one place in the world where he found men and women and made them immortal, the meaning behind the mystery, the secret lost somewhere in chaos, do not seem to be of any account.’ (pp.6-7.) ‘In agreement with several respectable economists he [Carleton] pointed out that the potato was the curse of the country. The people were dependent on the potato and the potato was particularly subject to failure and decay. There were other reasons. The potato was, when untouched by failure, easy to produce and, on that account, encouraging to early marriages. It was popularly supposed, as was the important yellow meal, to increase fertility and to add disastrously to the population of an impoverished country.’ (Poor Scholar, 1947, p.72; see longer extracts [infra].)

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There was an Ancient House (1955): ‘It was a white world. He opened his eyes slowly, wondering. He said to himself. How and When? Why? He repeated several times: Where? Pure white curtains on railings around his cubicle trembled in the flow of air from the open window. He touched the white coverlet with his right hand and thought that his hand was suddenly white, fragile. Sunlight came with the air through the window and brightened the white wall. Beyond the curtains somebody scraped a foot on the wooden floor, and coughed. Outside in the sunshine and free air a great-tit was squeaking, like an unoiled bicycle-pump. He thought again: Where? And, now that he was properly awake, he laughed at his own attempt to deceive himself, for he knew when and where and how but he wasn’t too sure of why. / So he shut his eyes and looked back and saw a town, a school, his first Communion morning, several girls, a clerestory window, angels carved in wood, a lifted golden monstrance, a visit to wise priests in a tall still house behind a church in the middle of a city. / On his first Communion morning he had worn a jersey as white as the cubicle curtains and been chill with worry in case the host might touch his teeth. Afterwards, kneeling beside his mother he had prayed that he might be a priest. Dear Jesus, who hath this morning come into my soul for the first time, help me, when I grow up, to be a priest. Three Hail Marys that I may be able to be a priest. Then home to porridge, rasher and eggs, tea, lemonade, money to spend and down the sunny hometown to a photographer in a room above a sweetie shop, and sixpence and a smile from the photographer, and sweets in the shop on the way out from a smiling shopgirl who patted him on the head, to his great pride and delight, becase seeing her dressed up and walking the way between her home and her shop he had always thought her the stateliest lady in that town. / The town, too, was the centre of the world. It wasn’t always sunny as it had been on that morning […]’. (Quoted in Drink to the Bird, London: Methuen 1991, pp.5-6, where it is followed by the sentences: ‘So here I am home again, in that ineluctible town. / Many thanks, Mr Joyce, for the loan of that lugubrious adjective.’ Idem.)

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William Carleton: The Autobiography (Belfast: White Row Press 1996), Foreword: ‘William Carleton’s more-or-less official biography, David O’Donoghue, wrote of him:“He gave offence to every class of Irishman in one or other of his books, and all that can be done by way of extenuation or excuse is to explain the incidents whcih seem to have occasioned his conduct.” (Life of Carleton, intro. by Mrs Cashel Hoey, London 1896) / But considering the character of the man, and the choatic time in which he lived, I do not know if O’Donoghue’s remark can be explained as easily as all that. [sic] it is just possible that, anyway, what it needs is not explanation but the considerate contemplation that years of comparative calmn should give to years of uncertainty and suffering. / For William Carleton knew the Irish people in the cabins in a time of hunger and unease and miserable change, in a time of chaos when even the strongest were not sure of their footing. […]’ (p.1; see longer extract in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, attached; and see Drink to the Bird, 1991, for account of Kiely’s original encounter with the Carleton country, infra.)

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Modern Irish Fiction : A Critique (1950): ‘Steady and continuous contemplation of a degraded people is the best possible discipline for the emotions. One result of that discipline, as far as an Irish writer is concerned, is that it becomes possible to accept Ireland […]. There is less softness of feeling in the acceptance displayed by Francis MacManus than in the rejection made classical by James Joyce and so subtly analysed and sensed like a burning in the bowels, in Sean Ó Faolain’s Come Back to Erin .’ (p.83; quoted in James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room: The Irish Historical Novel, 1983, p.124.) ‘The struggle for national independence and distinctiveness has coloured the whole development of Irish literature written in English, and the removal of the necessity for that struggle was bound to affect writers - as it was also bound to affect civil servants, businessmen, and farmers […] It is my hope that the following pages will at least show that the stories did not end when the struggle ended, and that the Irish prose fiction of the last thirty years - probably more important than Irish poetry [200] or Irish theatre during the same period - opens a wide window into the soul of the people of this island. (Modern Irish Fiction, p.vi-xii; quoted in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, London: Pluto Press 1998, pp.200-01.)

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A Raid into Dark Corners (Cork UP 1999), ‘William Carleton accepted his own people at the price of a dozen denials that, in his worst writing completely separated him from his own people. James Joyce denied them horse, foot, artillery, and then experienced and defined the agony of the man who has torn up everything except the roots of his own soul. [..] Sean O’Faolain’s […] formula for acceptance made allowance for the way a castaway feels about his coral island; while Frank O’Connor could be as outrageously at home with his people as a country parish-priest skelping the courting couples out of the hedges. That was one of the ironies of Ireland and of Irish fiction at that time; and of Frank O’Connor. (p.101.) Note, Kiely goes on to speak of of ‘the hard racial memories that can draw the generations together and squeeze blood through the pores’. (Ibid., p.103; the foregoing remarks all in “The Novels of Francis MacManus”.)

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A Raid into Dark Corners (Cork UP 1999), “Dialect and Language”: The ignorant absurdity, say, of the attack made on the language of Synge by St. John Ervine and others, who tried to argue that it was a mode of speech never heard on sea or land, was never so clearly brought home to me as on a day on a road in Tyrone when I heard two countrymen talking in a language as rhythmical and stylised as John Synge ever offered to the stage. And that was not in the west or the south-west, nor in any Gaeltacht, but in English-speaking country and among “the preaching Luthers of the holy North”. / The advantages that dialect and local usage can bring to the writer is in giving a new sinew to the languge, and a variety and a freshness. The disadvantages, in pedantry and eccentricity, can at times be even more obvious./ The Irish novelists of the early nineteenth century found themselves, in that way, in a strange situation. they were caught between two languages, or, you might say, even somewhere in the centre between three: English, Anglo-Irish, and the Irish that was still flowing on the tongues of the people. The occasional efforts made to render the Irish speech in an English phonetic spelling could at times be unhappy, and they persisted right to the end of the century in the efforts made by, say, Jane Barlow to catch in phonetics the speech of Irish people in the villages that she called Lisconnell and Ballyhoy. / [238; quotes from Barlow as in Barlow, Rx.] And so on in the best or the worst style of Kitty the Hare. (p.239).

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A Raid into Dark Corners (Cork UP 1999), From Maria Edgeworth onwards, Ireland’s writers of the nineteenth century were very conscious that they had a responsibility: they must delineate, as they called it, the Irish people for a readership that knew little about them and that quite often regarded them as ignorant and uncouth savages. Since William Carleton, Gerald Griffin and Michael and John Banim came closer than any others to the heart of the people, they, meritably, saw that responsibility all the more seriously and were the better able to live up to it. / Carleton was almost certainly a native speaker of Irish. His father and mother were, and his father was a story-teller and his mother a renowned folk-singer. There was the famous story that when somebody asked her to sing an English version of ‘Bean an Fhir Ruaidh’, she refused. She said that the English words and the music were like a man and his wife quarrelling. But that the Irish words melted into the music, like a man and his wife living in harmony. Her words, perhaps, could be taken as a permanent image of the quarrel, or the concord, between standard English and the English spoken by people whose mouths, almost unknown to themselves, had been shaped by Irish. (pp.238-40.) See Table of Contents [supra], and note: sundry information and remarks from this text are disrupted passim in Ricorso .

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Nothing Happens in Carmincross (1985): ‘Then was when fighting for Ireland had been a clean business, the handful of brave men with muskets and rosary beads standing up to privilege and the might of empire. Patrick Pearse surrendered in 1916 to prevent further slaughter of the civilians of Dublin; the heroes of the ‘Seventies aren’t so choosy. John O’Leary, the Fenian whose nobility had affected the poet Yeats, said that there were things a man might not do, not even to save his country: he meant telling lies, being dishonourable, not being a gentleman. Blessed are the gentlemen for they shall make no mark in guerrilla warfare.’ (p.19; Mervyn Kavanagh reflecting on Irish History and tells the tale of a young girl who witnessed the murder of her UDR mother; employs extensive counterpoint with Irish ballads and country and western lyrics.)

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Drink to the Bird (1991) - I: ‘One of the evil effects of present horrors is that a man may feel guilty about singing even in privacy […] The Provos and/or the conditions that produced them have even polluted the old songs.’ (p.48.) ‘But higher than the barracks on the hill above the river, higher than anything except Scott’s flying circus which in those days visited the Town, so high that they were halfways to heaven and indicating to sinners the way to go to get there, were the spires. On the Church of Ireland, a slender sylph, plain, unadorned, good enough for Protestants with no more ritual than a Jesuit in Holy Week. But up above the Church of Rome, or of the Sacred Heart, and thanks to Almighty God and the pounds and crowns of the faithful at home and the dollars of their relatives in the United States, two giants, one taller than the other, to challenge Cologne and out-Pugin all the Pugins, and to show the Prods that anything you can do we can do better. Winston Churchill must have passed this way. It is one of the few things we have against him that he may have had those three wonders in mind, the naked sylph and the encrusted giants, when he wrote about the integrity of the quarrel represented by the dismal spires of Tyrone and Fermanagh: in the face of the collapse all over the world of crowns and realms, and the breaking of nations and the rolling-up of maps. We had never so thought when we looked at those spires: for never anywhere in the world did I meet an [87] Omagh man, Protestant or Catholic, or atheist or anything else, who dad not some sort of pride in those aspiring structures.’ (pp.87-88.). [Cont.]

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Drink to the Bird (1991) - cont.: ‘[T]he part of the world I come from and the absurd political contrivance set up there by the British and history and ourselves in 1920 was falling or being blown to pieces’ (p.145; ensuing pages give account of occasion and setting of Proxopera [see longer extract in RICORSO Library, “Authors”, infra]; ‘You who have not had the good fortune to come from that hallowed place […] if you had the above-mentioned good fortune you would say with pardonable pride, “As an Omghaigh mé / Out of Omey I”’ (p.146.)

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Drink to the Bird (1991) - cont.: ‘‘Then in the 1940s I was wandering a lot around the Clogher valley of South Tyrone, and up and down Knockmany Hill, a mythological place, and through the dark canyon of Lumford’s Glen. The purpose of my wanderings was to write a book about the life and times and works of the novelist William Carleton (1794-1869). In Con Corrigan’s pub in Clogher town I met MacKenna, the saddler, from Springtown, a few miles away, where he lived in the cottage in which Carleton had spent his last youthful years in the valley before, like Gil Blas, he took the road from Santillane to Salamanca and went out on the world. The saddler had married into that cottage and into another family called MacKenna who had lived there since the death of Carleton’s father in 1810. He and his wife Annie became my friends. He died a few years later and Annie remained my friend until her death in 1979. She is still, I hope, my friend./ But on my first visit to that cottage where Carleton, he recorded, had lsistend to the blackbirds in the hazel glen, below, singing their souls to the rich cool evening, I encountered another visitor, or two in one, Wilson Guy and Matt Mulcaghey […; 137] resident local authority on the boyhood of Carleton.’ (pp.137-38; note: Mulcaghey was author of The Rhymes of a Besom Man .) Further, ‘Here also, as we know, is the Clogher valley of South Tyrone, the country of William Carleton, and of the Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry . Here in the late 1940s, as I’ve said, I had a happy time cycling hither and yon, and talking to Wilson Guy, and to Annie McKenna who then lived in Carleton’s father’s cottage, now a museum, and thinking I should write something in honour of William Carleton, and camping with my old schoolfriend Frank Fox, then teaching here in the town of Ballygawley: and drinking, me not Frank, in Con Corrigan’s Pub in the town of Clogher. / Research, by God! Drink to the bird of time!’ (p.175.) [Cont.]

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Drink to the Bird (1991) - cont.: [References to Irish history and particularly in the context of Northern Irish Troubles]: [British soldier’s at Christmas 1939] ‘marching down the slope that led in from Enniskillen and Bundoran and the western ocean. They were singing that there would always be an England. Their singing was awkward as their marching. They may have had sore feet. Anyway, a boozer is the place for singing. Not a cold, damp roadway in an alien town./ A publican in the Town lamented to me that the world would never be the same again, that the military barracks contained nothing but Englishmen. Being a polite class of young fellow I had not the nerve to point out to him that it was, after all, a bloody British army barracks and Englishmen were entitled to enter. / There were a lot of Irishmen in there, too, and later on, and on far foreign fields, and some of them old friends of mine. They were neither compelled nor conscripted.’ (p.17.) ‘[…] in the bloody 1970s, the Destabilisers, the creators of Éire Nua [here Núa] (the New Ireland), planted a bomb there [Knocknamoe Castle Hotel- where Eisenhower and Montgomery reputedly met prior to D-Day] and destroyed the panelling and killed three British soldiers.’ (p.28.) ‘There seemed to be a quiet understanding between St Eugene’s and the imperial bands that one Sunday would be civilian and the nect Sunday military. If you were an RC in the British army, and in Omagh barracks at that time the majority of the Skins and the Royal Irish propbably were, one reason for getting up early and going to first Mass was that you might dodge church-parade.’ (p.34.) ‘For there is a dogged and somewhat repetitive ballad that follows our history from away back right up into these times, and the last line of each verse runs: ‘“Ireland’s [sic] betrayed by Blanky Blank in Blanky Blanky Blank.” The second blank is for the relevant year of betrayal. Not for some time have I been in a company in which the ballad has been sung, so I do not know who was last awarded that Nobel Prize.’ (p.151.) ‘pathetic horrors of the last twenty years’ (p.166.) [Of his older brother:] ‘In his earlier years he was somewhat involved in Irish revolutionary, or underground, politics in relation to the partition of Ireland and the problems of the Six Counties of the northeast: and as a continuation of what he would have regarded as a brave and honourable tradition. But the unfortunate and often appalling events of the last nineteen years reduced him, I have heard, to the business of giving the young what reasonable and restraining advice he could. He knew Lord Mountbatten and the murder of that aged man, who had so loved and trusted Ireland, afflicted him with a sad silence into whcih one did not dare intrude.’ Kiely speaks further of the ‘odd fellows who had cut on the face of Ben Bulben mountain […] the message “Brits Out” [a]nd desecrated an ancient mountain with a message of hatred…’ (pp.179-80.) [Cont.]

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Drink to the Bird (1991) - cont.: ‘Back then in the 1930s the army blew its bugles and the soldiers came and went between Omagh and Aldershot and India: and, on Sunday mornings, the brass or pipes shook the windows of old Castle Street: and no young girls were brutally balded and painted green. But Ireland approaches closer to the great moment of liberation and sixty milliona Chinamen may yet die in the Valley of the Black Pig and out Mother Eire who is always yong, dew ever shining and twilight grey, though hope fall from her and love decay, burning in fires of a slanderous tongue, may require, to perpetuate her youth, such symbolic oblations of young flesh. Or, alternatively, there may just be a lot of kinky guys around.’ (p.[1]86.) [See longer extracts in RICORSO Library, “Authors” [infra], and also extract on the origin of Proxopera in Kiely’s reaction to IRA violence, with remarks on Dan Breen, in do., [infra].

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Patrick MacGill: ‘In the far Rosses, there were at the time three predominant wills, the will of God, the will of the priest and the will of the gombeen man.’ (‘Return to the Rat Pit’, The Irish Times, 23 Feb.1973).

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James Joyce ‘The Artist on the Giant’s Grave’, in A Bash in the Tunnel, ed. John Ryan (Clifton Books 1970), commenting on N. Richmond St., &c.: ‘Brown, perturbed, even outraged faces, here and elsewhere, looked on the man who had written “Araby” and more besides.’ [Tells of a teacher Brother who taught him to approve of Joyce as a ‘national possession’ in face of his criticism, an ‘unusual approach’ for an Irish Christian Brother] (p.236.) ‘Joyce was, then, the writer who proved to whatever was chauvinistic in one that an Irish writer could shake the world: it was also pretty obvious that he was neither uneducated nor uncultured although Virginia Woolf, God help her, had her own ideas about that. Then he was in the style of “scrupulous meanness” of Dubliners, the guide to the city.’ (p.236.) Compares Joyce’s pronouncement about Dubliners [‘I do not think that any writer has yet presented Dublin to the world …’] with Pearse’s speech at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa; ‘When he wrote of Dublin as the centre of the country’s moral paralysis he was attacking not the city which he loved and celebrated but a narrow group of narrow minds that one could easily identity as being still with us. A Dublin daily newspaper, renowned for success through dullness, did the young man of that time a favour by failing to carry even a news report of Joyce, and thus helping to identify and delineate the enemy.’ (p.237.) Discusses the library of the novitiate in Laois which he [Kiely] attended, in which a Library with no Joyce; ‘I found out it really mattered to some people whether James Joyce was an O.B. or an O.C. But brotherly charity could be preserved adn the controversy resolved by realising that he had been both: that is, an old boy of both Belvedere and Clongowes.’ (p.239.) ‘For the Irish writer after him Joyce did not dictate an attitude towards the Catholic Church in Ireland, but he certainly helped to form it, just as the Jesuits, even by his revolt and contraddictions, had helped to form him. The Jesuit Kinch had his summer residence in Mecklenberg Street and the cave of Circe was only a hop and a jump downhill from the sodality chapel.’ Offers a comparison with Yeats: ‘In the Yeats country you can experience a sense of floating unreality that makes it possible to ask: which came first, the poetry or the country? So skilfully has the poet used rock and reed, cairn and thornbush, quayside and old houses. But here in this city there is no question as to which came first: ancient established city or the artifice [240] to map it as the model of all cities and in so doing to forge the uncreated conscience of his race.’ (pp.240-41.). End with a trope about ‘the young man Joyce’ walking on the grave of the of the giant HCE turning in his sleep in Howth. (p.241.)

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Samuel Beckett, &c. (On Pozzo’s speech [‘… astride the grave’ in Waiting for Godot ): ‘To be able to convey in that way the delicate fragility of human joy, always transient, frequently depending for its existence on the human power for unconscious self-deception may be just one of the faculties of a comprehensive, creative spirit. But in Carleton’s Ireland it [was] made pitifully obvious the fact that all joy was only a little, brief light against wide, overshadowing gloom, that all dancing was over the grave or under the gallows.’ (Poor Scholar ; 1947, p.149; check - Beckett’s play was not issued until 1952.)

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References
Desmond Clarke , Ireland in Fiction [Pt. II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists Land Without Stars (London: Christopher Johnson 1946); Cards of the Gambler (London: Methuen 1953) [Irish seanachie in Donegal tells story in Irish of drunken gambler meeting God. When God baptised the Gambler’s child, Death is the godparent. Scene changes to modern clubhouse; a doctor loses everything gambling and thinks himself damned; meets God disguised as a young priest in public house among drunken dancers; meets Death in another; God batpises his child in pro-Cathedral, Dublin, with Death as sponsor; Lunching with these in a café after, he is promised the power to win at gambling, to heal his patients, and to have a unwelcome passenger stuck in the seat of his car [!]; when he breaks the undertaking with Death not to attempt to save life on certain occasions, he dies, and is ‘admitted to heaven with some difficulty’] ; Honey Seems Bitter (Methuen 1954); Call for a Miracle (London: Methuen 1948), 228pp. [var. J. Cape 1950; IF2; FDA DIW & DIL OCIL]; In a Harbour Green (London Jonathan Cape 1949); There Was an Ancient House (Methuen 1955 1955) [minute, accurate picture of life in Jesuit novitiate; Barragry, once a journalist, finds life there uncongenial and returns to his profession; McKenna, something of a poet, falls into ill-health and is sent to a sanitorum; other sketch with certainties, doubts, aspirations and weaknesses; portrait of Master of Studies sympathetic and appreciative]. Note inconsistency in publication dates; Note also, Land Without Stars (1947) [sic DIW].

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JRank - Biographies

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Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1980), contains ‘Homeward Bound’, part of the opening of a novel to be called, perhaps, Nothing Happens in Carmincross, with photo-port., pp.[86-90].

Library of Congress lists Nothing Happens in Carmin Cross [sic] (Boston: D. R. Godine [c.1985]), 279pp. 1. Irish Americans – travel – Fiction – N. Ireland. 2. Weddings – N. Ireland - fiction 3. Family – N. Ireland – Fiction.

Books in Print (1994), Land Without Stars (London: Christopher Johnson 1946; Moytura 1990, 1994); In a Harbour Green (London: J. Cape 1949; Moytura Press, 1992, 1994); Honey Seems Bitter (NY: Dutton 1952; London: Methuen 1954; [also as The Evil Men Do NY: Dutton 1954]; Moytura 1992, 1994); The Captain with the Whiskers (London: Methuen 1960; Poolbeg 1980); A Journey to the Seven Streams and Other Stories (London: Methuen 1963; Poolbeg 1978);A Ball of Malt and Madame Butterfly, A Dozen Stories (London: Victor Gollancz 1973; Penguin 1976); Proxopera (London: Victor Gollancz 1977);A Cow in the House and Other Stories (London: Victor Gollancz 1978);A Letter to Peachtree (London: Victor Gollancz 1987; Methuen 1987); God’s Own Country (Minerva 1993); Penguin Irish Short Stories (Penguin 1981; 1991) [0 14 0053 40 9]; Drink to the Bird: An Omagh Boyhood (Minerva 1992, 1994); ed., Dublin (OUP 1983)]; Benedict Kiely, Yeats’s Ireland (Aurum Press 1989, 1992); All the Way to Bantry and Other Irish Journeys (Victor Gollancz 1978); Kiely, intro. Paddy Tunney, The Stone Fiddle, My Way to Traditional Song (Dublin: Gilbert Dalton 1979), 179pp.; intro., Myles Na Gopaleen, the Various Lives of Keats and Chapman, and The Brother (HartDavis MacGibbon 1976), 156pp.; Aerofim Book of Ireland from the Air [new ed. pb.] (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1991); intro. Seamus OKelly, The Weaver’s Grave (Allison & Busby 1984) [Classic Irish Fiction Series 0332-1347; 6]

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Belfast Public Library holds The Cards of the Gambler (1953); Counties of Contention (1945); Honey Seems Bitter (1954); In a Harbour Green (1949); Land Without Stars (1946); Modern Irish Fiction (1950); Poor Scholar (1947); There Was an Ancient House (1955).

Peter Ellis (Cat. 20) lists The Cards of the Gambler (London: Methuen 1953), 242pp.

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Notes
Captain with the Whiskers (1960; rep. 2005): Capt. Chesney Conway’s tyrannical hold over his family (incl. dg. Gretta) living in an Atlantic-facing town is described by Owen Rodgers, the son of the local doctor and thus the normal son of a normal man’ who, in a combination of fantastical and realist regard for private and public experience respectively, tells of his own growth and relations with the captain’s daughters. (See John Kenny, brief notice, in Irish Times, 11 June 2005.) Note: Books Ireland (March 2005) reports that the afterword by Kilroy is missing from the printed rep. copy of The Captain with the Whiskers that reached them (p.66).

Nothing Happens in Carmincross (1985): ‘[…] a complex, gleefully self-mocking and hilariously funny novel, …] it documents virtually every atrocity on both sides of the divide. Historian Mervyn Kavanagh travels to Carmincross for a wedding. Neither Mervyn nor the sleepy town can know that, for the first time, something is going to happen in Carmincross which will brutally sweep them into the company of more than 2,000 victims since 1969.’ (Paperback review, Val Mulkerns, in The Irish Times, 31 March 2007.)

The Cards of the Gambler (1953): A doctor ruined by gambling wanders into a pub to nurse his remorse; there, a tall, fair handsome man in clerical clothes pays for his drink and says he is God; he will grant him three requests which the doctor makes: to be the best gambler and the best healer in the world, and a Cadillac. In the ensuing stages, Death enters the scene to spoil the bargain. The doctor is haunted by the death of his wife’s cousin, a charity worker with whom he shares an idyllic childhood memory of helping her wring out her knickers after she falls into a stream. The novel is marked by a descent into zany humour and light travelogue as the doctor makes his way to France and Spain, but ends with a sojourn in purgatory and final ascent into heaven. The text is marked by erudite allusions to Proust, Hamlet, Keats, Verlaine, Shaw, Merriman and others. (See Books Ireland, review of rep. edition, Dec. 2010, p.268.)

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Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend was established at the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in September 2001. The third such gathering (17 to 19 Sept. 2004) included an opening keynote speech by John Hume and lectures by Maurice Harmon (on Kiely’s mastery of the short story), Owen Dudley Edwards (an historical overview of his work), John Wilson Foster (Irish fiction and the wars) and Ciaran Carson.

Jesuit Novitiate: The Jesuit Novitiate House at Emo, Co. Laois, where Kiely studied, occupied the former home of Lord Portarlington, designed by James Gandon. The earlier location of the Jesuit Novitiate has been Tullyabeg, Co. Offaly - which was also the first location of the school that evolved into Clongowes Wood and the place that Daniel O’Connell sent his sons.

Flann O’Brien: Ben Kiely supplies memories for the Flann documentary on “Bowman” on RTÉ Radio 1 (9 Sept. 2011; uploaded on 9 Oct 2011) in the form of a collection of interviews from the RTE archives of those who knew O’Brien. Hear and see online [accessed 01.01.2017.]

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