Mary Letitia Martin (1815-50)


Life
[Letitia Bell Martin;] b. 28 Aug. 1815 at Ballinahinch Castle [var. Ballynahinch], Co. Galway; only dg. of Thomas Barnewall Martin, MP, and g-dg. of “Humanity Dick” Martin, the animal lover and duelist; inherited mortgaged estate of 200,000 acres which was lost under Encumbered Estates Act; called ‘Princess of Connemara’ for expenses incurred supporting peasantry during the Famine;
 
wrote St. Etienne, a Tale of the Vendean War (1845), and Julia Howard: a Romance (1850); model for the heroine of Lever’s Martins of Cro’ Martin; Maria Edgeworth was the guest of her f. Thomas Martin, for 3 weeks in 1833; her house was visited by Thackeray in 1842; m. Arthur Gonne Bell, who took her name, 1847; emigrated to Belgium, then travelled to New York, before dying in childbirth on 7 Nov. 1850 [var. in France]. ODNB DIW DIB DIH RAF OCIL DIL2
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Works
Novels, [as Mary Martin,] Fanny O’Hara: A Schoolgirl of 1793 (Pilgrim Press [1920]) 192pp. [‘popular printing’]; St. Etienne: A Romance of the First Revolution, 3 vols. (London: T.C. Newby 1845); Julia Howard: A Romance, 3 vols. (London: Richard Bentley 1850).

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Criticism
Julian Moynihan, ‘Declensions of Anglo-Irish History: The Act of Union to the Encumbered Estates Acts of 1848-49 … With a Glance at a Singular Heroine’ [Chap. IV], in Anglo-Irish (Princeton UP 1995), pp.74-83; espec. 79-83.

See also Tim Robinson, intro., Connemara After the Famine: Journal of a Survey of the Martin Estate, 1853 (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1995), xx,102p. [infra].

Commentary
Frank O’Connor, Book of Ireland (London: Fontana 1979), pp.194-96, notes that Maria Edgeworth’s Tour of Connemara includes a remarkable description of the naive, ingenious, and provincial Miss Mary Martin of Ballinahinch Castle [as follows]: ‘Now do you think of a girl of seventeen, in the wilds of Connemara, intimately acquainted with Aeschylus and Euripedes, and having them as part of her daily thoughts …’; when Sir Culling Smith asks her to put a question to ‘her people’, he reproaches her for asking it wrong, to which: ‘“No”, she said, with colour raised and head thrown back, “no, because I knew how to put it that our people might understand it. je sais mon mètier de reine.”’ (Described by Edgeworth in letters to her brother in India, 1834; Hare, ed., Life and Letters, 1894; Harold Edgeworth Butler, Tour in Connemara and the Martins of Ballinahinch, 1950; text cited in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, pp.236-37, and notes, p.331.)

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References
Dictionary of National Biography
article concerns Mary Letitia, Mrs Martin Bell of Ballinahinch Castle, m. Arthur Gonne Bell, 1847; impoverished; Julia Howard (1850), and other works, d. New York. DIH, known as ‘Princess of Connemara’ for her charity; d. following a difficult birth.

Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), Mrs Bell Martin, dispossessed of 200,000 acres through encumbrance, went to France; Julia Howard reflects her experience, Alister O’Connor loses his estate and becomes a soldier of fortune.

Brian Cleeve & Ann Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), gives biog.: b. Galway; novels include St. Etienne (1845); Julia Howard (1850), of small merit, or only autobiographical interest.

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Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988), calls her Harriet [err.] Martin whom Patrick Rafroidi (Irish Literature in English, Gerrards Cross 1980) identifies Harriet as a different author (1801-1891), who produced Canvassing, bound with Banim’s The Mayor of Windgap (3 vols., London 1835); and also The Changeling (3 vols., 1848). Rafroidi also cites a French translation [of Canvassing as Le candidat, moeurs irlandaises (Paris 1836), attrib. to Banim. Note err dg. for g-dg. [Review this notice.]

Ann Owens Weekes, Attic Guide to Published Works of Irish Women Literary Writers (Dublin: Attic Press 1994), gives bio-details: inherited family property in 1847; mortgaged estate of 200,000 acres lost; m. with husband to Belgium, supported herself and him with writing; travelled pregnant to USA in 1850 and died in childbirth in NY; Julia Howard, 3 vols. (London: Bentley 1850), autobiographical, dealing with famine in Ireland. [Cites Riana O’Dwyer and DIW as sources.]

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Notes
Charles Lever
: Lever’s novel The Martins of Cro’Martin (1856) is said to be partly based on the fate of the Martin family especially as narrating ‘the efforts of Mary Martin, niece of the local landowner, to restore feudal relationships are doomed, as the authority of the ‘demagogue’ [i.e., Daniel O'Connell] has come to replace that of the landed proprietor and O’Connellite politics prevail.’ (See Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11], p.468.)

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Kiltartan tale: Lady Gregory tells a story about the Col. Martin of Ballinahinch, narrating how Col. Martin detected his wife in adultery by a clever trick and gave away the gold he gained in a civil case against her wealthy lover, a resident of Oughterard, winning the people to his side. (See ‘At the Time of the Famine’, in The Kiltartan Books Comprising the Kiltartan Poetry History and Wonder Books , NY: OUP 1971, pp.107-11.) Note also W. B. Yeats’s poem of that title.

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Connemara After the Famine: Journal of a Survey of the Martin Estate, 1853, intro. Tim Robinson (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1995): a recently discovered record kept a Scotsman called Scott who was sent by London Life to report on the - 200,000-acre Connemara estate, called by him ‘this inhabited desolation’. Gives account of survivors of the famine in the area, of thieving beggars and squalid hostelries, rent-evading tenants and the activities of the ‘Papistry’.

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