Susan Mitchell (1866-1926)


Life
[Susan Langstaff; occas. Susan L. Mitchell]; b. 5 Dec., Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim; dg. Michael (d.1873), Provincial Bank manager at Carrick-on-Shannon, formerly from Birr, and former Kate Teresa Cullen; moved with family to Sligo, then sent to 3 paternal aunts in Dublin, aged 6; ed. priv., Morehampton Rd. moved to Birr, where uncle was Crown solicitor; stayed with the Yeats family in London in 1900, where she attended doctors for treatment of a disease causing impaired hearing; temporarily helped two sisters run a school in Sligo; moved to Dublin 1901;
 
served as asst. ed. on The Irish Homestead, 1901; and Sub-ed. Irish Statesman, 1926, contributing estimated 200 articles; wrote the forgotten ‘Arts Club Verses’; close association with George Moore, whose temperament fascinated her; lived with her sister in Dublin; issued Aids to Immortality of Certain Persons in Ireland (1908); The Living Chalice (1908) [var. 1902]; George Moore (1916); Secrets Springs of Dublin Song (1918); there is a portrait by George Russell in chalk at the National Gallery of Ireland. DBIV DIB DIL DIW FDA OCIL

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Works
Poetry
  • Aids to the Immortality of Certain Persons in Ireland / charitably administered by Susan L. Mitchell (Dublin: New Nation Press, 1908), 37, [3]pp., and Do. [New edn., with poems added] (Dublin & London: Dublin: Tower Press 1913 ), 89pp.;
  • The Living Chalice and Other Poems [Tower Press Booklets; 2nd ser., No. 6] (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. Ltd., 1908), 36pp., and Do. [new & enl. edn.] (Dublin: Maunsel 1913), viii, 56pp.;
  • Ah Heart, The Seasons Come and Go [Dublin: Cuala Press] [1909]);
  • Frankincense and Myrrh ([Dublin:] [Cuala Press] [1912]), [16]pp, ill. [hand-coloured front. by Jack B. Yeats] [ltd. edn. of 300, December 1912];
  • Christmas Poems ([Dublin?]: priv. Christmas 1934), [12]pp., 15cm.
  • contrib. to Secrets Springs of Dublin Song (Dublin: Maunsel 1918) [see note];
Also “On a hill in Erin” [by Susan L. Mitchell] [Churchtown, Co. Dublin: Cuala Press] (s.a; s.d.), 18cm. [copy in TCD Library signed by Lily Yeats].

Prose

  • George Moore [Irishmen of To-day ser.] (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Co. Ltd. 1916), 152, 16pp.;
Miscellaneous
  • contrib. The Abbey Row, Not Edited by W. B. Yeats (Dublin: Maunsel 1907);
  • Preface to [Ernest Boyd], Secret Springs of Dublin Song (Dublin Talbot Press; London: T. Fisher Unwin 1918), xi, [1], 51pp. [ltd. edn. of 500; infra];
  • Intro. to K. F. Purdon, The Folk of Furry Farm [new edn.] (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. [1926]), pp.xii, 315, [1]pp. [copy in TCD Library].
Plays
  • Leaguers and Peelers; or the Apple Cart (1911) [a dramatic saga in 2 acts];
  • Last Feast (q.d.) [a ‘dramatic legend’ in poetic prose featuring Fionn Mac Cumhal, Caoilte mac Ronain [?], Grania, Niamh, and a fairy princess; ded. Fr. Eugene O’Growney].

Secret Springs of Dublin Song, ed. Ernest A. Boyd, with a preface by Susan L. Mitchell (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: T. Fisher Unwin 1918), xii, 51 p1[pp.] - Leeds Univ. Library calls it ‘variously attributed to George William Russell (AE) and Ernest Augustus Boyd'; British Library attributes it solidly to Ernest Augustus Boyd, as does TCD Library, a copy in which formerly belonged to Elizabeth C. Yeats and William Denis Johnston. Also named: Dermot Freyer and Oliver St. John Gogarty [contribs?]. Another copy in Cambridge UL).

Note: M. J. MacManus, A Jackdaw in Dublin: a collection of parodies and imitations of Irish contemporaries (Dublin & Cork: The Talbot Press [1925]), 48pp., is dedicated to Susan Mitchell [parodies and imitations of W. B. Yeats, Bernard Shaw, James Stephens, AE, James Joyce &c.] .

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Criticism
Richard M. Kain, Susan L Mitchell (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP 1972), 96pp.; Robin Skelton, ‘Susan L. Mitchell: Aide [sic] to Immortality’, in Celtic Contraries (Syracuse UP 1990) [Chap. 4], pp.61-68 [first published in Eire/Ireland in 1969]; Hilary Pyle, Red-Headed Rebel: Susan L. Mitchell, Poet and Mystic of the Irish Cultural Renaissance (Dublin: Woodfield Press 1998), 248pp. See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 8.

See also Willemijn Ruberg, ‘That Myriad-Minded Woman: Public and Private Worlds in the Journalism of Susan L. Mitchell’, in The Irish Review, 42 (Dec. 2010), q.pp.

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Commentary
Patricia Boylan, All Cultivated People: a history of the United Arts Club, Dublin, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988): ‘Her most ambitious poetry book was The Living Chalice, also 1908; poet, drama critic, essayist, book reviewer, and general factotum at The Irish Homestead ... now judged to be a minor writer ... it is not of her as a writer that her friends who loved her wrote. Seumus O’Sullivan describes her as ‘one of the most fascinating women I have ever met ... Still lovely to look upon ... lovely to listen to with her deep musical voice, her glorious and irresistable laugh which lit up the stream of witty talk, like sunlight on a river’ (p.23-24).

Francis MacManus, ed., M. J. MacManus, Adventures of an Irish Bookman (Dublin: Talbot Press 1952), ‘The Playboy of the Irish Literary Revival’, comments on Susan Mitchel, ‘poet, wit, a very beautiful woman with a very beautiful singing voice, wrote a brilliant study of Moore int he same series which gave us Mr St John Ervine’s rollicking Sir Edward Carson’. [122]; ensuing pages give account of her study of George Moore. [122-26]

Maurice Headlam, Irish Reminiscences (1947), which contains an account of the United Arts Club, Dublin: ‘The only unpleasant incident I remember was when Miss Susan Mitchell, one of the staff at the Plunkett house, sang a song of her own composing - she had written a volume of poems - called “God of the Irish Protestant.’ I suppose I looked annoyed, for she crossed the room to me and asked if I did not like her song. I could not help replying, knowing that she was a Protestant: “I don’t care for people who foul their own nests.” Which I’m afraid annoyed her - she was very deaf and I had to shout - but I hope it taught her not to bring politics into a mixed assembly.’ (p.48.)

Katie O’Donovan, review of Voices on the Wind, Women Poets of the Celtic Twilight (New Island Books 1995), 144pp., in Irish Times ([?10 Sept. 1995), notes that she wrote wickedly about Abbey furore when “shift”! was used in first production of The Playboy: ‘My players’ clothes I will have wan and plain - / Ah, I forgot, from clothes they must refrain. / A pious thought, and near to Nature’s plan, / My theatre of the primeval man! - / A thought I hold by one long gleaming tress, / A though of delicate dim loveliness.’ Reviewer comments on the omission of Mitchell’s “Daughters of Erin”.

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, selects from Aids to the Immortality of Certain Persons in Ireland, Charitably Administered, ‘The Irish Council Bill 1907’, ‘Ode to the British Empire’, ‘George Moore becomes the Priest of Aphrodite’ [740-42]; 780, WORKS [as supra]. FDA3 416, compared with Katharine Tynan as precursor of Irish professional women writer.

John Cooke, ed., The Dublin Book of Irish Verse (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1909), selects  “Immortality”; “Amergin”; “Homeless”, and “Exile”.

Eilis Ní Dhuibhne, Voices on the Wind, Women Poets of the Celtic Twilight (New Island Books 1995), includes selection [with Katharine Tynan; Eva Gore-Booth; Nora Chesson Hopper; Ethna Carbery; Dora Sigerson Shorter]; e.g., ‘Oh No! We never Mention It’, a witty comment on the Playboy controversy.

Belfast Central Public Library holds Aids to the Immorality [sic] of Certain Persons in Ireland (1913); George Moore (1916); Leaguers and Peelers (1911); Living Chalice and other Poems (1913).

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Quotations
These were the [ascendancy] homes ...: ‘These were the homes of those who pushed aside / The broken children of a sweeter race: / These are the cast-off garments of their pride / Because of whom a thousand heroes died: / Alien and sinister, these hold their place. // ... O dark inheritors, who hither came, / The flotsam of that splendid brazen sea, / For tain on this your heirship ours the blame, / The shame that coulds your beauty is our shame / On us and on our children it shall be. ... // ... Are these grey dwellings, shutting out the Lord, / The fairest nursery we could afford / For such bright blossoms of the Tree of God?’ (Epigraph to Kevin C. Kearns, Dublin Tenement Life: An Oral History, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1994, being taken from K. F. Purdon, Dinny on the Doorstep (Talbot [c1920]).

Leaguers and Peelers; or the Apple Cart (1911): ‘There must be nothing written in this land / An RIC man cannot understand ... Who fears to write his Gaelic name / Along his apple cart.’ (Q. source.)

See under George Moore, infra, for verses from Aids to Immortalit quoted in W. P. Ryan, The Pope’s Green Island (1912), 46ff.

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Notes
Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama (London: Nelson 1936): ‘Susan Mitchell [...] best remembered for Aids to the Immortality of Certain Persons Charitably Administered, light hearted pasquinades on Yeats, Martyn, and chiefly on George Moore.’ (p.166).

Aids to Immortality (conclusion of introduction): ‘Yes, I have written a splendid book. How happy all those who are mentioned in it will be’; [she implores all those not mentioned] ‘not to be discouraged, everything cannot be said in 300 pages [sic].’ Further, ‘I may write another book.’ (Quoted in Patricia Boylan, All Cultivated People: a history of the United Arts Club, Dublin, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988.)

On the Dublin poor: ‘We dance unto your piping, we weep when you want tears, / Wear a clown’s dress to please you, and to your friendly jeers, / Turn up a broad fool’s face, and wave a flag of green, / But the naked heart of Ireland, who, who has ever seen?’ (In Boylan, op. cit., p.14.)

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