Richard Ashe King

Life
1839-1932 [pseud. ‘Basil’; ‘Desmond O’Brien’] ; b. 9 Nov., Ennis, Co. Clare, son of headmaster of Ennis College, ed. there and at TCD; ord. Church of England; vicar of Low Moor, Bradford; gave up Church of England living to write in 1881; contrib. Cornhill Magazine and Pall Mall; moved to London; worked as extension lecturer of Oxford and London Univ. and private tutor; first novel, Love the Debt (1882), a story of English life ser. in Cornhill, ed. Leslie Stephen; followed by The Wearing of the Green (1884), first ser. in Belgravia; others include A Drawn Game (1884); Bell Barry (1891), a seaboard romance involving a gallery of racy Irish characters; A Coquette’s Conquest; A Geraldine (1893); contrib. Freeman’s Journal, Truth, &c.; Swift in Ireland [var. ‘Life of Swift’]; and Goldsmith; President of Irish Literary Society (London); gave paper on his “Memories” to the Society in 1930, aetat. 92; a frequent visitor to Ireland, he lived in Blackrock in the 1880s [viz., ‘a little cottage near Kingstown’, in Yeats’s Memoirs, p.54); d. London, 27 May; BL holds fiction 7 titles. JMC IF DIW SUTH OCIL

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Works
Love the Debt, 3 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus 1882); A Drawn Game, 3 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus 1884); The Wearing of the Green, 3 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus 1886), 299pp.; A Coquette’s Conquest (London: R. Bentley 1885); A Shadowed Life, 3 vols. (London: Ward & Downey 1886); A Leal Lass, 2 vols. (London: Ward & Downey 1888); Passion’s Slave (London: Chatto & Windus 1889); Love’s Legacy, 3 vols. (London: Ward & Downey 1890); Bell BArry, 2 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus 1891); A Geraldine, 2 vols. (London: Ward & Downey 1893); Swift in Ireland (London: T. Fisher Unwin 1895); Oliver Goldsmith (London: Methuen 1910). Qry, The Wearing of the Green, 3 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus 1884).

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Criticism
W. B. Yeats reviewed his Swift in Ireland in Bookman, June 1896; see also ‘The Silenced Sister: A Letter to the Editor of United Ireland Concerning a lecture delivered by Richard Ashe King to the National Literary Society in Dublin, Dec. 8, 1893) [infra].

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Commentary
W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival (1894), ... in Wearing of the Green the Land League found its illustration in fiction [8]; remarks, ‘[h]e is intensely Celtic, but too candid to overlook the Celt’s failings, as the Society is well aware. Since he gave up his living in the Church of England some years ago, he has devoted his powers to criticism and fiction. Truth has had keen critical studies from his pen, and a couple of years since he wrote Irish literary papers for the Freeman’s Journal over the signature of ‘Fergus’. As ‘Basil’ in Cornhill he became famous with The Wearing of the Green, a story of the Land League. Readers will not forget its clever characterisation, or the animated conversations wherein the “case of Ireland”; is stated anew, and with bracing effect. Irish and other novels have followed this success, though at long intervals. Mr King, we feel sure, is no more than in the midst of his best period. [149]

W. B. Yeats, ‘The Silenced Sister’ (1893): ‘It is of the very nature of oratory that the orator should make his hearers feel he is convinced of what he is saying, and, therefore, he is forever tempted to assume, for the sake of effect, a show of sincerity and vehement conviction, or, what is worse, to become really sincere and vehemently convinced about things of which he has no adequate knowledge. (‘[...] Letter to the Editor of United Ireland Concerning a lecture delivered by Richard Ashe King to the National Literary Society in Dublin, Dec. 8, 1893’; rep. in Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, Vol. 1, Macmillan 1970, p.308; see longer extract, infra.) See also remarks in Memoirs (ed. Denis Donoghue, Macmillan 1972): he was gentle and amiable, and “the only man”, O'Leary would say, “that I ever met who acknowledges that his will is weak” [...] I troubled his life a good deal for I got him to write and say unpopular truths, and he seemed overwhelmed when he say how unpopular they were. That anybody should be disliked for an idea filled him with wonder.’ (p.54.)

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References
Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde (1974), c.p.30., and note; Richard Ashe King, ed. TCD, retired from living in Low Moor, Bradford, to write novels. Apparently living at Blackrock when Hyde lunched with him there 13 Oct. 1889.

Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), gives bio-data: b. Clare, ed. Ennis, and TCD; pseuds. ‘Basil’ and ‘Desmond O’Brien’; extension lecturer of Oxford and London Univ.; W. P. Ryan called him ‘intensely Celtic, [sic] but too candid to overlook the Celt’s failings’ [as infra]; contrib. reviews to Cornhill Magazine, and Pall Mall Gazette; works incl. A Leal Lass, with Irish setting; Love the Debt; A Drawn Game; A Coquette’s Conquest, and a life of Swift; contrib. Freeman’s Journal, Truth, &c.; lived in Blackrock in the 1880s; wrote The Wearing of the Green (London: Chatto & Windus 1886 [?sic]), 299pp. [true-love romance, with caustic sketches of the English, and sympathy with Irish grievances]; Bell Barry (London: Chatto & Windus 1892), 332pp. [insufferable proselytising prigs, one of whom is reformed]; A Geraldine, 2 vols. (London: Ward & Downey 1893) [land troubles, heroine is dg. of rack-renting squireen, incl. villainous attorney and bigoted clergyman; author takes popular side against the RIC]. Bibl., Mrs. Hinkson [Katharine Tynan], Reminiscences of Twenty-Five Years.

Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904) selects ‘Politics at Dinner,’ an extract from The Wearing of the Green; this novel followed by Bell Barry ([1891]; new ed. Chatto & Windus 1892).

Belfast Public Library holds A Coquette’s Conquest (1887); A Geraldine (1893); Love the Debt (1887); Love’s Legacy (1892); Oliver Goldsmith (1910); Swift in Ireland (1875); ‘Wearing of the Green’ [sic] (1886); Six Lectures on the Lit. of the age of Queen Anne (1908).

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Notes
Susan Mitchell met Ashe King among others while in the Yeats household in London (as recounted in her George Moore).

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