W. H. Maxwell (1792-1850)


Life
[William Hamilton Maxwell;] b. Newry, Co. Down; ed. TCD, BA, 1812; ord. 1813; Anglican clergyman in Connaught; vicar of Balla, Co. Mayo, 1820; contrib. Bentley’s Magazine and Dublin University Magazine; originated the military novel and provided the model for ‘rollicking’ Anglo-Irish fiction as practised by Lever in Stories of Waterloo (1829) and Wild Sports of the West (1832);
 
his claim to have been at Waterloo or, indeed, in the army, is unfounded; constantly embarrassed by financial troubles, he saw the fad for his books decline severely; Maxwell wrote a three-volume biography of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1834-41) and other historical studies, including an account of 1798 in The Irish Rebellion (1845), which was illustrated by George Cruikshank,
 
also issued likewise cautionary study of The Irish Movements (1848), addressing current dissensions from a Tory standpoint; d. 29 Dec., in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh; an obituary appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine (June 1851). CAB JMC IF ODNB NCBE DIB DIW DIH DIL/2 MKA RAF SUTH FDA OCIL

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Works
  • O’Hara, or 1798, 2 vols. (London: J Andrews 1825);
  • Stories of Waterloo and Other Tales, 3 vols. (London: Henry Colburn 1829);
  • Wild Sports of the West, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley 1832);
  • The Field Book, or Sports and Pastimes of the United Kingdom (London: Effingham Wilson 1833);
  • The Dark Lady of Doona (London: Smith, Elder 1834);
  • My Life, 3 vols. (London: Richard Bentley 1835), and Do. as The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, My Life ([London: Richard Bentley] 1836);
  • The Bivouac, or Stories of the Peninsular War, 3 vols. (London: Richard Bentley 1837);
  • The Victories of the British Armies, 2 vols. (London: R. Bentley 1839);
  • Life of Field-Marshall His Grace the Duke of Wellington, 3 vols. (London: A. H. Baily 1834-41);
  • Rambling Recollections of a Soldier of Fortune (Dublin: W. Curry 1842);
  • The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and His Man Mark Anthony O’Toole (London: R. Bentley [n.d.]);
  • Wanderings in the Highlands and the Islands, 2 vols. (London: A. H. Baily 1844);
  • Hints to a Soldier on Service, 2 vols. (London: T. C. Newby 1845);
  • History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 (London: Baily Bros, Cornhill 1845);
  • Peninsular Sketches by Actors on the Scene, 2 vols. (London: H. Colburn 1845);
  • Captain O’Sullivan, or Adventures, Civil, Military, and Matrimonial of a Gentleman on Half-Pay, 3 vols. (London: H. Colburn 1846);
  • Hill-Side and Border Sketches, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley 1847);
  • Brian O’Linn, or Luck is Everything, 3 vols. (London: Richard Bentley 1848);
  • The Irish Movements: Their Rise, Progress, and Certain Termination (London: Baily Bros. 1848);
  • Erin Go Bragh, or Irish Life Pictures, with a biographical sketch by Dr. Maginn, 2 vols. (London: R. Bentley 1859).

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Bibliographical details
My Life. By the Author of “Stories of Waterloo,” “Wild Sports of the West,” &c. &c. &c. In Three Volumes. (London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1835), Vol. I: xvi, 288pp.; Vol. II: 300pp.; Vol. III: 340pp., 12°. [boards 31s. 6d.; first noticed April 1835; copies held in 10 libraries incl. BL. Introduction, pp.[v]–xvi, end-dated ‘London, March, 1835’. Printer’s marks and colophons of Samuel Bentley, Dorset Street, Fleet Street. Bentley MS List records print run of 1,250 copies. Originally advertisement in Morning Chronicle (6 April 1835). Further edns: as The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, my Life (1836); as The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, my Life (1838); (London, Edinburgh, Dublin 1842); as The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, my Life (1849); as The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, my Life (1850); at least 2 more edns. to 1870.

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Criticism
Colin McKelvie, ‘Notes Towards a Bibliography of William Hamilton Maxwell 1792-1850’, in Irish Booklore, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1976) [q.pp.].

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Commentary
Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama (London: Elkin Mathews 1936): ‘W. H. Maxwell, a sporting clergyman [76] friendship with Lever … a shy child [who] used to creep into the room when he heard that [Dr Lever] was there, telling story after story’. (p.76.)

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Colin McKelvie, ‘Notes Towards a Bibliography of William Hamilton Maxwell 1792-1850’, Irish Booklore, Vol. 3, no. 1 (1976). Notes that Maxwell wrote O’Hara, or 1798 (1825) his first book, at the Marquess of Sligo’s hunting lodge at Ballycroy; calls it a scarce book, set around Newry and Carlingford Lough, from where the action moves to the newly-independent American colonies and back to the North of Ireland … specific events about Battle of Antrim. At Ballycroy, Maxwell collected material for his Wild Sports, a fictional biography, and a detailed and important account of peasant life [in North-West Connnaught], ‘the ultima thule of civilised Europe’; Wild Sports available in mod. photographic reproduction; an excellent refutation of the charge of stage-Irishness often levelled against him; history of the Irish Rebellion is surprisingly free of partisanship (suggested by Cruikshank’s lurid ills.) and contains accounts of 1798 and 1803 events from eye-witnesses and participants. Maxwell, unthrifty, died in poverty at Musselburgh, nr. Edinburgh. McKelvie’s biographical note finally puts paid to the notion that Maxwell, though ambitious of a military life, actually visited the scenes of the Napoleonic campaigns either as a soldier or later.

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W. J. McCormack, ‘Irish Gothic and After, 1820-1945,’ in Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature (1991), Vol. II, pp.831-854: ‘He began to write a kind of fiction in which rollicking narrative incorporated incidents of military life and harmless picaresque scenes. Though far from gothic in its emotional rang - even the thought of battle is purged of any terror for the hero and the reader alike - Maxwell’s fiction certainly shares certain affinities with the gothic. It is, so to speak, the comic side of Irish gothic, responding to death with frivolous irresponsibility instead of endlessly reiterated excess. O’Hara (1825) deals with the 1798 Rebellion in Ulster; Erin Go Bragh (1859) gives a vivid account of Emmet’s rebellion; in other Adventures, Maxwell covers the French invasion … and the activities of the secret societies … Even if Maxwell remains a third-rate novelists, his work identifies several anxieties that underpin Irish gothic fiction. The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and his Man mark Anthony O’Toole (1842) takes the reader from the rural south of Ireland [near Clonmel] through Dublin and London, to the Iberian peninsula … opens with an attack on a small castle [in 1795] … McCormack reports that in … the family home thus assailed is called Knockloftie … recognisably the house of Hely Hutchinson, the Anglo-Irish parvenu-provost, thus rewriting Irish history and providing new pedigrees.’

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John Sutherland, review of Peter Garside, James Raven & Rainer Shöwerling, The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction published in the British Isles (OUP 2001), notes that W. H. Maxwell’s Stories of Waterloo (1829) was only preceded by G. R.Gleig, The Subaltern (1825) as fictional accounts of that historical episode. (Times Literary Supplement, 8 June, 2001.) [See also Notes, infra.]

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Quotations
Wild Sports of the West
(1832; 1850 ed. rep. EP Publishing 1972): ‘‘I carried prejudices as unfair as they were unfavourable [but] found my estimate of their chracter false, for kindnesses were returned tenfold and the native outbreakings of Kilesian hospitality met me at every step.’ [On a typical evening,] ‘the piper is merrily at work, for some of the peasant girls have come to visit us, attracted by the joyful news that a “pieberagh” was included in our suite. The fondness of these mountain maidens for dancing is incredible at times of festival, on the occasion of a wedding, or “dragging-home”, or whenever a travelling musician passes through these wilds, they assemble from prodigious distances and dance for days and nights together. … the piper, whose notes for the last half-hour had been exceedingly irregular, now evinced unquestionable symptoms of being “done up”. Instead of the lightsome and well sustained jig, strange and dolorous noises issued from the chanter, and as one of the fair sex observed … “a body could no more dance than do the Patre O’Pee [Battre au pied] to a coronach at a wake.”’ (Quoted in Allen Feldman, The Northern Fiddler [with Eamonn O’Doherty] , Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1979, Preface).

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References
Charles Read
, ed., A Cabinet of Irish Literature (3 vols., 1876-78), 1794[?2]-1850; b. Newry, Co. Down; father of military novel; travelled to battle-fields of Wellington; collected incidents in Bivouac, or Stories of the Peninsular War; wrote a life of Wellington; great success with Stories of Waterloo (1829), following his historical novel O’Hara. Rectory in Ballagh, Connaught, with shooting-lodge at Ballycroy; Wild Sports of the West (1833, with new ed. 1915). Erin go Bragh (1859) is prefaced with biog. sketch by William Maginn.

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Dictionary of National Biography, calls him an Irish novelist,, grad. TCD; served in Penisular Campaign and at Waterloo[??]; rector of Ballagh, 182-44; originated rollicking style of fiction, which culminated in Lever.

William Maginn [q.v.] has a biog. note on him describing him has a romancing rollicking kind of Irish gent [in Erin Go Bragh, 1859].

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Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists O’Hara (1825); The Dark Lady of Doona (1836, and Fr. trans.); Adventures of Capt. Blake; the Adventures of Hector O’Halloran and his Man, Mark Antony O’Toole; The Adventures of Captain Sullivan; Erin go Bragh (1859); Luck is Everything, or the Adventures of Brian O’Lynn (1860) See also Irishbook Lover, Vol. 1.

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Brian Cleeve & Ann Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985) , CITES Life of the Duke of Wellington, 3 vols. (1839-1841); History of the Rebellion in 1798 (1845); Hints to a Soldier on Service (1845); Erin-go-Bragh, or Irish Life Pictures, 2 vols. (1859); other works and novels listed above.

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), lists William Maginn, ‘Literary Portraits No. 6,’ in Bentley’s Miscellany 1 (1840), rep. as ‘Biog. Sketch of William Hamilton Maxwell’ in Maxwell’s Erin go Bragh [quotes Lever’s opinion]; J. S. Crone (Northern Whig 1906); and a pref. to the 1915 ed. of Sketches &c., ed. Earl of Dunraven, who calls Maxwell ‘an intelligent Anglo-Irishman’ who tackles his subject ‘much as an explorer might visit a newly discovered savage island’. Notes that Maxwell wrote for Charles Dicken’s Pic-Nic Papers (1841), and Tales from Bentley (1859), as well as Dublin University Magazine.

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. 2., give biog.: b. Newry, ed. TCD, ordained 1813; m. 1817 in Co. Down where he was a curate; moved to Connemara parish [Ballagh]’ author of ‘military’ novels; launched Charles Lever. Bibl. includes Victories of the British Armies … (Bentley 1839); ‘The Expedition of Major Ap Owen to the Lakes of Killarney and the reason why he returned before he got there,’ in The Pic-nic Papers ed. by C[harles] D[ickens] (London 1841). Rafroidi Remarks that ‘[h]is biographers have sent him, contrary to all likelihood, to Waterloo and other places.’ Cites no biogs. or commentaries. Rafroidi [ibid.], Vol. 1, remarks that one of W. H. Maxwell’s stories in Erin Go Bra is devoted to Robert Emmet. (p.136.)

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John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989), calls him a rival of Lever [but see FDA2, infra]; son of prosperous merchant; attendance at TCD “somewhat … desultory”; his service in Peninsular War lately disputed by Royal Gettmann, critic; married heiress; O’Hara (1825), the story of a Protestant landlord who involves with nationalists in 1798; semi-autobiographical and eyewitness accounts of Penininsular War [as entries above]; pop. Bentley’s author in 1830s; The Dark Lady of Doona (1834) is a gothic tale of 17th century Ireland; the vogue for bluff military adventures worn out by 1840s, as was the taste for comic Irish stories; wife died, money squandered, deprived of living for non-residence; failing eyesight and destitution; died at Musselburgh near Edinburgh. BL 14.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, 1256f. quotes at length Charles Gavan Duffy’s exposure of the plagiarisms of Charles Lever, including identical passages from Captain Blake, or My Life (1835; 2nd ed 1838) in Charles O’Malley. No other refs. The inference is that Maxwell is not only the original of the rollicking type, but the source of much of the actual rollicking. Also, INDEX FDA2 833 [ed. err. for Rev. William Hamilton, killed by agrarian assassins]; commentary by WJ McCormack, 833-841, following active service in the British Army [?] … rollicking narrative incorporating incidents of military life … comic side of Irish gothic … O’Hara (1825) deals with 1798 Rebellion in Ulster, and one of the stories in Erin Go Bragh (1859) gives a vivid account of the Emmet rebellion; in other Adventures, Maxwell covers the French invasion and secret societies … notable for the combination of incidental humour against an implicitly violent background which can shift rapidly and evasively from rural Ireland to the Napoleonic wars … [from Emmet] a sudden switch to largely non-fatal military escapade in Spain or other. McCormack makes a study of the setting, Knockloftie House [after the Donoughmore’s Knoclofty, scene of agrarian attacks], in The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran & (Tegg n.d.), p.12f. NOTE also that Bart Gibert-Moore extends the comparison to Castle Gaze in Irish Murdoch’s The Red and the Green (1965).

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Libraries
Belfast Linenhall Library holds History of the Rebellion in 1798 (1894) NOTE, edition? cf date of this work supra; also Luck is Everything, Adv. of Brian O’Linn (1856).

Belfast City Library, holds Stories of Waterloo (1833, 1844); Wild Sports and Adventures (1855); Wild Sports of the West (1832?, 1833, 1843.

University of Ulster, Morris Collection holds History of the Rebellion in 1798, with memoirs of the Union, and Emmett’s [sic] Insurrection in 1803 (1891).

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Booksellers
Whelan Books (Cat. 32) lists Wild sports of the West (1832); The Field Book, or Sports and Pastimes of the British Islands (1833); Life of His Grace the Duke of Wellington, 3 vols. (1839); The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and his man Mark Anthony O’Toole (n.d. c. 1841, Bentley); History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with memoirs of the Union and Emmett’s [sic] Insurrection in 1803, ill. George Cruikshank (Bell, 1884).

De Burca Books (Cat 18) lists Wilde Sports of the West (Gresham Ed. n.d.), ill. by Frank Gillett.

Richard Beaton (Lewes, S. Sussex), lists:—

The Bivouac; or, Stories of the Peninsular War (1837)*
The Bivouac; or, Stories of the Peninsular War†
The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, My Life

 

*The Bivouac; or, Stories of the Peninsular War (1837] (London, Routledge & Co. 1857), hb. Reprint. Mid 19th c. rebinding in green beaded cloth and mottled, paper-covered boards; lilac endpapers.

The Bivouac; or, Stories of the Peninsular War [1837; Bentley's Standard Novels] (London, Richard Bentley 1851), hb., frontispiece; brown cloth; blindstamped frames on boards, lettered and decorated in gilt on spine; yellow endpapers printed with publisher's booklists [...] Sadleir's binding style D.

The Adventures of Captain Blake; or, My Life [Bentley's Standard Novels] (London, Richard Bentley 1850), hb., frontispiece; brown cloth; blindstamped frames on boards, lettered and decorated in gilt on spine; yellow endpapers printed with publisher's booklists [...] Sadleir's binding style D.

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Notes
Lit. progenitor: The epithet ‘father of the ‘military novel’ apparently comes from the Dublin University Magazine obituary; a short reference to Maxwell in Cahalan, Irish Novel (1988), p.68, merely says that his Irish military and student novels had become very popular.

First in: G. R.Gleig, The Subaltern (1825) was the only early work to present fictional accounts the battle dealt with in W. H. Maxwell’s Stories of Waterloo (1829). See John Sutherland, review of Peter Garside, James Raven, and Rainer Shöwerling, The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction published in the British Isles (OUP), in Times Literary Supplement (8 June, 2001).

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F. J. Bigger asks: ‘In The Native , a Belfast weekly paper, for 22nd January, 1910, two poems are given: “The Triumphs of O'Neill” and “The Spellbound Chiefs of Clannaboy”. It is there stated that the poems were written by W. H. Maxwell, rector of Balla, author of Wild Sports of - the West . Is there any corroboration for this statement?’. (See “Queries”, in The Irish Book Lover, Vol. I, No. 8, March 1910, p.11; signed “F. J. B.”)

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Errata: It is frequently said that Maxwell ‘served in the Peninsular War’ [ODNB], an error occasioned by the character of his novels.

Namesake: The young reformist landlord in Canon Sheehan’s novel Lisheen (1907) is called Bob Maxwell; John Montague has a poem entitled “Wild Sports o the West”.

A literary sense of the title is to be seen in John Bickerdyke, Wild Sports in Ireland (London 1897) [Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast).

Split with a loy : Wild Sports contains an allusion to a murder committed with a loy strikingly like the subject Synge developed in The Playboy of the Western World.

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