Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921)

Life
[var. 1855; pseud. “Ruth Murray”]; b. Belfast, 2nd. of dg. Dr Joseph Stevenson Mulholland of Newry. and sis. of Ellen Muholland (later Lady Russell); her comic pictures, submitted to Punch at the age of 15 were rejected; spent time in the west of Ireland after death of father; her twenty-two stanza poem “Irene” was accepted by Cornhill, and published over pseud. “Ruth Murray” with illustration by Sir John Millais; friend of Charles Dickens, who serialised Hester’s History in All the Year Round [1869]; ‘The Late Miss Hollingford’ printed with his No Thoroughfare in Tauchnitz collection; Dunmara (1864), a first novel, as ‘Ruth Murray’, concerning Irish girl raised in Spain who makes her way in England as an artist;
 
issued Vagrant Verses (1886); m. John Thomas Gilbert, 1891, and became Lady Gilbert at his knighthood, 1897; early works published by Dickens in Household Words; Dumara (1864) appeared under the pseudonym Ruth Murray; Marcella Gray (1886), first serialised in The Irish Monthly (1885), a story in which a poor Catholic girl from Dublin with natural sympathies for the peasantry who inherits an estate in the West of Ireland and manages it with compassion (guided by her pastor Fr. Daly), thus offering Catholic-gentry landlordism as a solution to the Irish problem;
 
issued Giannetta (1889), in which Pierce Kirwan, relative of the landlord, takes the tenants side against the agent; the novel became the subject of controversy when 200 copies were acquired by Sheffield School Board for use as prizes in view of brutal eviction scenes depicted in it; contrib. ‘Wanted an Irish Novelist’ to Irish Monthly, 19 (July 1891), lamenting rarity of Irish subject-matter in works of Irish writers such as Mrs. Cashel Hoey; her Irish novel Marcella Gray (1891) answered in an anonymous novel , Priests and People (1891), with a similar plot though populated with greedy and dishonest peasants and a venal and overweening clergy, revealing Mulholland’s vision as an illusion through its disasterously different outcome;
 
issued The Wild Birds of Killeevy (1883), first published in The Irish Monthly, Vols. 6-8, 1880; also The Return of Mary O’Murrough (1908), in which the heroine travels to America and returns with money to secure her marriage to Shan Sullivan; contains subplot in Sullivan is convicted for a cattle-houghing actually perpetrated by the police; A Fair Emigrant (1888); The Hungry Death’, reprinted by W. B. Yeats in his Representative Irish Tales (1891), is deemed to be the original of Cathleen Ni Houlihan;
 
issued Nanno (1899), the story of a girl who has had a child out of wedlock and later calls of her engagement rather than deceive her fiancé; Hetty Gray (1899); Onora (1900); Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop (1900); The Tragedy of Chris (1903) concerns two sisters, Cheelia and the title character, the former of whom becomes a respectable domestic servant and saves the other from prostitution, though not from remorse and death; wrote increasingly with young female readers in mind, advocating independence; BL holds 49 titles. CAB DBIV PI DIW DIB DIL IF SUTH OCIL DUB

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Works
Fiction (novels & novellas)
  • [as “Ruth Murray”,] Dunmara (Smith Elder 1864), rep. as Story of Ellen (1907) [infra];
  • [anon.,] Hester’s History, 2 vols. (London: Chapman & Hall 1869);
  • The Wicked Woods of Toobereevil, 2 vols. (London: Burnes & Oates 1872); Do. [another edn.] (London: Burns & Oates [1897]), and Do. [new edn.] (1909);
  • Eldergowan, or Twelve Months of My Life, and Other Tales (London 1874);
  • Five Little Farmers (London 1876);
  • Four Little Mischiefs (London: Blackie 1883) [IF 1882], and Do. [another edn.[ ([1925]);
  • The Wild Birds of Killeevy (London: Burns & Oates [1883]);
  • Hetty Gray, or Nobody’s Bairn (London: Blackie 1883) [var. 1884];
  • The Walking Trees and Other Tales (Dublin: Gill 1885);
  • The Late Miss Hollingford (London: Blackie [1886]), another ed., [Seaside Library No.921] (NY: G. Munro 1887);
  • ed. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1886);
  • Marcella Grace, an Irish Novel (London: Kegan Paul 1886), another ed. (London: E. Mathews [1899]);
  • A Fair Emigrant (London: Kegan Paul 1888) [IF err. 1889];
  • Giannetta: A Girl’s Story of Herself (London: Blackie 1889), another ed. (1901;
  • reiss. 1925);
  • The Haunted Organist of Hurly Burly and Other Stories [The Idle Hours Series] [1891];
  • The Mystery of Hall-in-the-Wood (London: Sunday School Union [1893]);
  • ed., Fifty-Two Stories of Girl-Life at Home and Abroad [1894];
  • Marigold and Other Stories (Dublin: Eason 1894), and Do. [another edn.] as The Marigold Series of Tales (Dublin: Catholic Truth Society [?1911)];
  • Banshee Castle (London: Blackie 1895), and Do. [another edn.] as The Girls of Banshee Castle (London: Blackie & Son [1925]) [IF conject. 1894, new edn. (1902)];
  • Nanno, a Daughter of the State (London: Grant Richards 1899);
  • Onora (London: Grant Richards 1900), and Do. [another edn.], as Norah of Waterford (London & Edinburgh: Sands 1915);
  • Terry, or She Ought to Have Been a Boy (London: Blackie 1902), 119pp., ill. E. A. Cabitt [DIL conject. 1900];
  • Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop (London: Blackie 1900) ill G. Demain Hammond [DIL 1901];
  • The Squire’s Grand-Daughter[s] (London: Burns & Oates; NY: Benziger 1903);
  • A Girl’s Ideal (London: Blackie [1905] 1908);
  • The Tragedy of Chris: The Story of a Dublin Flower-Girl (London &Edinburgh: Sands 1902), another ed. [1925];
  • Life of Sir John Gilbert (London: Longman 1905);
  • Our Boycotting, a Miniature Comedy (Dublin: Gill 1907) [called a play by Hogan];
  • The Story of Ellen (London: Burns & Oates; NY: Benziger 1907), 434pp. [formerly issued as Dunmara, 1864];
  • Our Sister Maisie (London: Blackie 1907), 383pp., ill. Hammond, and Do. (reiss. [1940]);
  • Cousin Sara (London: Blackie 1908);
  • The Return of Mary O’Murrough (Edinburgh & London: Sands 1908), and Do. [reiss.] (1910;
  • pop. edn. 1915);
  • Spirit and Dust (London: Elkin Mathews 1908);
  • Cousin Sara, a Story of Arts and Crafts (London: Blackie 1909);
  • Father Tim (London & Edinburgh: Sands 1910);
  • The O’Shaughnessy Girls (London: Blackie 1911), and Do. [reiss.] ([1933]);
  • Fair Noreen, the Story of a Girl of Character (London: Blackie 1912), and Do. [reiss.] ([1925, 1945]0;
  • Twin Sisters, an Irish Tale (London: Blackie 1913);
  • The Cranberry Claimants (London: Sands 1913);
  • Old School Friends: A Tale of Modern Life (London: Blackie, 1914), and Do. [reiss.] ([1925, 1940]);
  • The Daughter in Possession: The Story of a Great Temptation (London: Blackie 1915);
  • Narcissa’s Ring (London: Blackie 1916) [var. 1915], and Do. [reiss.] ([1926]);
  • O’Loughlin of Clare (London & Edinburgh: Sands 1916);
  • Price and Saviour (Dublin: Gill n.d.). [cased on IF, BML, &c.]
  • and Hogan, op. cit. 1979, 1996].
Query: The Cranberry Claimants (London: Sands 1913; [1932]) [ listed in Murphy, op. cit. 1998];
 
Poems
  • Dreams and Realities (London & Edinburgh: Sands 1916), viii, 9-128pp., poems;
Miscellaneous
  • ed., Gems for the Young from Favourite Poets (Dublin: Gill 1884)
  • Our Own Story and Other Tales (London: CTS [1896]) [nine stories]; .
  • ‘Wanted an Irish Novelist’, in Irish Monthly, 19 (July 1891), pp.368-73*.
 
*[Repeatedly cited to good effect in Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11], p.473, 474-75, as infra.)
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Bibliographical details
The Wild Birds of Killeevy / by Rosa Mulholland (Lady Gilbert), Eleventh Edition / London / Burns, Oates & / Washbourne Ltd. [1883], 311pp.; PREFACE: ‘The sketch presented in this story, of the peasants of Killeevy and their pride and delighting their treasured Irish manuscripts, is taken from the account given by the late Professor Eugene O’Curry, RIA, of his recollections of the scenes and humble friends of his youth. At the present moment, when the Irish peasant is under a terrible cloud, it may not be uninteresting to some readers to get a glimpse of him from a favourable point of view.’ (R.M., June 1883.) Note: The preface is quoted in Freeman’s Journal (2 July 1890), p.2, and cited as such in James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), p.33, et passim.

Note: anon., Priests and People: A No-Rent Romance (1891), deemed a response to Mulholland’s Marcella Gray (1886), has been reprinted by Robert Woollf in Irish fiction from the Act of Union to the Death of Parnell ser., (NY: Garland 1979).

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Commentary
Justin McCarthy
, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), lists Rosa Mulholland, with var. birthdate c.1855- ; m. 1891; ‘spent some years in a remote mountainous region of the west of Ireland; and the picturesque scenery and the primitive people by whom she was surrounded doubtless did a good deal toward developing literary longings and talents. Her first idea was to be an artist, and when only fifteen she sent a set of comic pictures to Punch which were, however, reject. Her next attempt was in another direction, and was more successful. She sent a poem of twenty-two stanzas called “Irene” to the Cornhill Magazine, which was accepted. It was also accompanied by an illustration by Millais. The great artist was kind enough to offer his assistance to Miss Mulholland in the pursuit of her artistic studies; she found a friend in Charles Dickens [… &c.] She is the novelists of contemporary Ireland and very popular and gifted poetess, with a thought and diction peculiar to herself. not the least successful of her work has been the writing of stories for children, which have a distinction of character … out of the ordinary run of “juvenile books” [JMC, Vol. 4, p.1265] Note that PI and JMC share the conception that she was born in 1855. See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 13.]

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W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival (London 1894; rep. Lemma Publishing Corp. NY 1970); ‘Rosa Mulholland, in the Wild Birds of Killeevy, Miss Rosa Mulholland gave us a memorable idyll’ [8].

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James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), Part I: ‘Upper Middle-Class Fiction 1873-1890’; gives substantial account of the Mulholland-Russell-Gilbert nexus (pp.15ff.) General remarks: ‘For Mulholland and her class, though, that nationalism did not include the cultural or political separatism, espoused by other groups in Irish society. / It was on account of this key issue of nationalism that the upper middle class failed to achieve for itself the position of decisive cultural leadership in Ireland for which it longed. [Their] political outlook was too far removed from that of the Catholic lower middle class on the issue, though the two classes shared a similar ethos in many other respects. The result was that the upper middle class was able to exercise very little influence on the ethos of the lower middle class, when the latter came to [16] form the new Irish establishment. Indeed, the opposite happened. The ethos of the upper middle class was largely assimilated to that of the lower middle class. Distinctively upper middle-class values became decidedly mute and were to remain so for a large part of the twentieth century.’ [17]. Discussion of her works: ‘Stories of the moral probity of the peasantry are also prominent in upper middle-class writing. Rosa Mulholland was the acknowledged leader in the field of writing about the moral dilemmas faced by the peasantry […] with a special expertise in describing the conditions of the poorer class. […] Their greatest virtue is that they know their places.’ (pp.31); discusses Onora (1900), in which a servant girl leaves the family she works for rather than imperil the welfare of the young head of the family if he were to marry her rather than a returning American heiress (p.31); also discusses Nanno (1898), in which the title-character has had a child and left it in a workhouse, and now calls of her engagement for reasons of conscience; The Tragedy of Chris (1903), in the latter of which the virtuous sister saves the other from prostitution, but not from death; of Nanno: ‘In this novel, Mulholland, perhaps inadvertantly, opens up a gap between a Victorian, puritan ethic and a Catholic ethic which allows room for foregiveness … Mulholland opts for the puritan ethic precisely because Victorianism [32] could noly view Catholic forgiveness as a form of moral looseness, the very thing Mulholland wishes to avoid giving an impression of.’ (p.32); more extended commentary on Marcella Grace and Priests and People, the latter being seen as written from ‘an anti-Irish point of view’ but ‘at least serv[ing] to expose the delusions, or at best, the complacencies, of that version of Ireland in which the Catholic upper middle class preferred to believe, an Ireland amenable to good will and to the benign effects of a new ruling class.’ (pp.46-47.); quotes, ‘After that she went down again int o the abusse where there is no God and no hope, only the howling temptations that set upon the immortal soul given up to despair. And again Fr. Daly watched and waited for her retun, praying forher who could not pray for herself and at last he was rewarded by seeing her rise once more into the light of heaven and look at him with sane and seeing eyes.’ (Marcella Grace, p.273; here p.54); further remarks on The Return of Mary O’Murrpugh (1908), in which Shan Sullivan is convicted of cattle mutilation but freed when Fr. Fadhy finds evidence that the RIC have perpetrate the deed in order to stave off a cut-back in manpower (pp.69-70.)

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James Murphy writes in an unpublished paper, ‘Rosa Mulholland, W. P. Ryan, and Irish Catholic Fiction at the time of the Anglo-Irish Revival’: Marcella Gray [sic] … significant example of a novel which makes a bold attempt to tackle the complexities of the land question and to make out a case for a Catholic gentry solution. It charts the experience of a young Catholic girl, born into poverty in Dublin, who inherits an estate in the west of Ireland. Her background enables her to understand the experiences of ordinary people She is surrounded by variety of other responses, the absentee response chosen by Mrs O’Kelly, a Catholic unionist; the confrontational response of the rack-renting O’Flahertys; the egalitarian response of the Kilmartins who had given their lands away to their tenants; finally, the violent response of the Fenians themselves which is seen as sinister and counter-productive. Marcella adopts the moderate course urged on her by Fr Daly, and becomes a good landlord, and wins over the tenants though she has to face an assassination attempt on the way; ‘Were not these poor overjoyed creatures her actual children? Had they not been given bodily into her charge? Had not providence ordained that enough sustenance should be derived from the land for her and them?’

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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], speaks of the careers of late-nineteenth century Irish women writers such as Mrs. Hoey and Mrs. Hungerford, along with those of male writers such as Edmund Downey, Richard Dowling and Justin McCarthy as ‘fit[ting] more or less the pattern described by Rosa Mulholland in her article, “Wanted an Irish Novelist”, published in the Irish Monthly in 1891: “the noticeable fact that writers who produce one good Irish novel, giving promise of store to come, almost invariably cease to be Irish at that point, and afterwards cast the tributary stream of their powers into the universal river of English fiction”. And as Mulholland sardonically concluded, “Yet how can we quarrel with any of these bright spirits if they prefer to live their lives pleasantly and in affluent circumstances in the busy, working, paying world of London, rather than content themselves with the ideally uncomfortable conditions of him who elects to chew the cud of [474] sweet and bitter Irish fancies, with his feet in an Irish bog and his head in a rainbow?”’ (Mulholland, ‘Wanted an Irish Novelist’, in Irish Monthly, July 1891, pp.369-70; Kelleher, op. cit., pp.474-75.)

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References
Stephen Brown
, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists Dunmara by ‘Ruth Murray’ (1864) [Ellen, wrecked on the west coast]; anon., Hester’s History 2 vols. (1869) [pastoral life in the glens of Antrim]; The Wicked Woods of Toobereevil (1872) [hero is a scion of a family on which a curse]; Eldergowan, or twelve months of my life, and Other Tales (1874) [a girl’s varying moods]; Five Little Farmers (1876); Four Little Mischiefs (1882) [BML 1883] [humorous children’s adventures and a tragedy]; The Wild Birds of Killeevy ([1883]) [exquisite little tale set where the people treasure religiously their Irish MSS]; The Walking Trees and Other Tales (1885) [stories, incl. Irish fairy tale]; The Late Miss Hollingford ([1886]) [evils of landlordism and Fenianism]; A Fair Emigrant (1889) [returns from America in the 1870s to clear her dead father’s name]; Giannetta, a Girl’s Story of Herself (1889) [Italian child comes to Ireland]; The Haunted Organist of Hurly Burly, and Other Stories [The Idle Hours Series] [1891]; Banshee Castle (1895), another ed. retitled The Girls of Banshee Castle (London: Blackie & Son [1925]) [IF conject. 1894, new ed. (1902)] [3 London girls migrate to Galway pending the discovery of the missing heir]; Our Own Story and Other Tales [1896] [nine stories]; Nanno, a Daughter of the State (1899) [workhouse child adopted and raised to high moral feeling & purpose, her most realistic work]; Onora (1900), another edn., retitled Norah of Waterford (1915) [Land League Waterford on the Ponsonby estate, with the sterling goodness of obscure people such as Onora/Nora]; Terry, or She Ought to Have Been a Boy (1902), ill. E. Aa Cabitt [children get by in West of Ireland while the parents are in America]; Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop (1900) [ill G. Demain Hammond [daughter of impoverished Connaught woman opens London bonnet shop to support her]; The Tragedy of Chris, The Story of a Dublin Flower-Girl (1902) [tale of white slavery, told with perfect delicacy]; Our Sister Maisie (1907) [she comes from Rome to take charge of family, owns an island in the west]; Cousin Sara (1908) [set in N. Ireland, Italy, and London; ill by Frances Ewan]; A Girl’s Idea (1908) [Irish-American girl comes to spend a fortune in Ireland; incls. description of RDS horse show; ills., and cover ‘not in perfect taste’]; The Return of Mary O’Murrough (1908) [girl comes back from America to find her lover in jail owing to perjury of the police]; Father Tim (London & Edinburgh: Sands 1910) [zealous curate, harrowing pictures of Dublin slums]; The O’Shaughnessy Girls (1911) [concerns Lady O’Shaughnessy and two unmarried dgs., one taking interest in things Gaelic, the other, Bell, a runaway to the stage; Munster and London]; Fair Noreen, the Story of a Girl of Character (1912) [west coast of Ireland; ten-year old claims to be dg. of Lord Finbarr, supposed dead on Arctic expedition, but who finally returns]; Twin Sisters, an Irish Tale (1913) [in which the girls return from Spain and prove themselves]; Old School Friends, a Tale of Modern Life (1913), reiss. [1925, 1940] [Brigit invites the Aylmers to stay in Ireland]; Narcissa’s Ring (1916) [from Ballyhuckamore to Egypt and then to Moscow]; O’Loughlin of Clare (1916) [set c.1746, featuring Mrs. Delany]. ANTH, Dublin Book of Irish Verse no bio-dates; ‘Immortal Morning’; ‘Autumn’; ‘The Faery Earl’.

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Robert Hogan, Dictionary of Irish Literature (Conn: Greenwood Publ.; Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979): became prolific writer for popular press; fiction informed by real knowledge of peasantry of West of Ireland but overly romantic and heavily religious. Quotes damningly, ‘… the choirs of angels that have witnessed this new utterance of a strong man’s soul …’. Bibl. incls. Hester’s History, anon. (1869); The Wicked Woods of Tobereevil (1872; 1897); The Little Flower Seekers [1873]; Eldergowan, … and Other Tales (London 1874); Four Little Mischiefs (1883); The Wild Birds of Killeeevy (1883); The Walking Trees, and other tales (Dublin: Gill 1885); Hetty Gray, or Nobody’s Bairn (1884 [sic]); Marcella Grace [sic], an Irish Novel (1886); A Fair Emigrant (1888); Vagrant Verses (1889); Onora (Grant Richards 1900, republished as Norah of Waterford, 1915); Terry, or She Ought to Have Been a Boy (1900); Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop (1901); The Squire’s Grand-daughters (1903); The Tragedy of Chris (1903); A Girl’s Ideal (1905); Our Boycotting (1907) a play; Our Sister Maisie (1907); The Story of Ellen (1907); The Return of Mary O’Murrough (1908); Spirit and Dust (1908); Cousin Sara (1909); Father Tim (1910); The O’Shaughnessy Girls (1911); Fair Noreen (1912); Twin Sisters, an Irish Tale (1913); Old School Friends (1914); The Daughter in Possession (1915); Dreams and Realities (1916, poems; Narcissa’s Ring (1916); O’Loughlin of Clare (1916); The Cranberry Claimants (1932). Non-fiction, Life of Sir John Gilbert (1905).

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Belfast Central Public Library holds Banshee Castle (1895); Dreams and Realities (1916); Spirit and Dust (1908); Vagrant Verses (1886); The Walking Trees and other tales (1897); Wild Birds of Killeevy (n.d.); MORRIS holds Life of Sir John Gilbert (1905).

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