Charlotte G[race] O’Brien


Life
1845-1909 [var. 1905]; b. Cahirmoyle, Co. Limerick; dg. of William Smith O’Brien, with whom she lived in Brussels after his return from deportation and exile in Tasmania and America in 1854; became deaf; dedicated herself to human rights of Irish emigrants travelling to America, actually making the Atlantic crossing. 1881; her pamphlets on such conditions aboard White Star Line reprinted in Pall Mall Gazette (6 May 1881), resulting in Board of Trade investigation and stricter controls; opposed Coercion Act, 1881; supported Land League; contrib. The Nation and United Ireland [var. United Irishman];
 
knew Aubrey de Vere, John Boyle O’Reilly, and later Douglas Hyde; converted to Catholicism out of sympathy with the Irish peasant, 1887; contrib. to The Nation, six poems in The Irish Monthly (March 1879-May 1896); one in Dublin University Review, Nov. 1885; her novels include Light and Shade (1878), in which Lord Dunallan is warned of a intended Fenian assassination in return for his unsolicited kindness to a blind fiddler; also a play, A Tale of Venice (1881); there is a memoir by Stephen Gwynn, incorporated with a Selection from Her Writings (1909). PI JMC ODNB IF DBIV DIW DIH SUTH OCIL.

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Works
Fiction
  • Dominic’s Trials (1870);
  • Owen Netherby’s Choice (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge [1876]) , 60pp.;
  • Light and Shade, 2 vols. (London: C. Kegan Paul & Co. 1878), 8vo.;
  • Bessie Field: A Cottage Story (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; NY: Pott, Young & Co. [1878]), 104pp.;
  • A Tale of Venice (London 1881);
  • Lyrics (London 1887);
  • Cahirmoyle, of the Old Home (Limerick 1888);
  • Gipsy Marion: A Story of the New Forest (London: Gall & Inglis [1895]), [iii], 87pp., 2 pls.;
Poetry & Drama
  • A Tale of Venice: A Drama, and Lyrics (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1880), [1-5] 6-138, [2]pp.;
  • Wild Flowers of the Undercliff, Isle of Wight (London: L. Reeve 1881), vi, 143pp.
Miscellaneous
  • contrib. to The Best Hundred Irish Books: Introductory and Closing Essays by “Historicus” and Letters, ed. R. Barry O’Brien [pseud. “Historicus”] (Dublin: privately printed by the Freeman’s Journal, 1886), [pamphl.];
  • Stephen Lucius Gwynn, Charlotte Grace O’Brien: Selections from her Writings and Correspondence, with a [pref.] memoir by Gwynn (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1909), viii, 232pp., 8 pls. [front. photo of Charlotte Grace O’Brien.

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Criticism
See Mary Cullen & Maria Luddy, Women, Power, and Consciousness in 19th century. Ireland (Dublin: Attic Press 1995) [ incls. life of Cobb with 7 others]; commentary in James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), Part I: ‘Upper Middle-Class Fiction 1873-1890, passim, esp. ftn.18, p.24. See also very brief notice in W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival (1894), p.118.

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Commentary
Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde (1974), Daly draws attention to Hyde’s social truck with the ‘Ascendancy’, among them Charlotte Grace O’Brien, whose house Ard-an-oir, 24 miles from Limerick, he visits [146]. Note on Charlotte Grace O’Brien refers to the good reception of Light and Shade by the Spectator, Guardian, and Athenaeum, and especially her work for emigrant women; she went totally deaf in middle age. [n., 217.]

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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, p.21f, and ftn.18, p.24]: ‘At first sight it seems as if the Fenians are a maligned influence that exposes the defects of Irish character. “Ignorance in Ireland and passion in America called for the rising and to have resisted the cry would have asked a larger amount of moral courage than many men possess; and perhaps of all the nations the Irish are least likely every to abound in that quality.” (Light and Shade, n.p.)’ Further quotes: ‘The good poured out of the country, man and woman, girl and boy, carrying [21] with them hatred of English law and passionate love for Ireland’ (idem.) Murphy remarks that ‘most Fenians are presented as sincere and good, but that Eugene Meehane and his father are driven by personal bitterness ultimately motivated by the rape of Meehane senior’s mother by the landlord’s grandfather.’ (p.21).

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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]: ‘Charlotte Grace O’Brien’s Light and Shade (1878) is by far the most comprehensive treatment of the disparate elements within the Fenian movement and repeatedly insists on the authenticity of its sources, its author the daughter of 1848 veteran, William Smith O’Brien, and herself a pioneering social reformer with regard to emigrants’ conditions.

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References
Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), remarks, ‘her efforts to improve lot of female emigrants from Ireland to this country were most successful, as the accommodation now given them aboard the steamers testifies’; McCarthy selects “Bog Cotton on the Red Bog” [‘… Riding on her snow-maned horse, the gold-haired fairy queen/Oh, I have seen! I have seen!’]; “Song” in imitation of 17th century Celtic writers [‘Art thou sad-eyed Deirdré [sic] who mourns the Red Branch Knights …’]; no prose given here.

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John Cooke, ed., The Dublin Book of Irish Verse (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1909), gives bio-dates and selects “Sonnet” [‘When the heart presses hard against the bars / And all the aching senses seem to reach … the sonnet … draws near to us, as some soft-handed leech / giving our thoughts deliverance ..’); “The River” [‘Poor Mick was trotting on to the town / The side car under him going …’ [he drowns, mavrone]).

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Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists Dominick’s Trials: An Irish Story (Gall & Inglis [1870]), 120pp. [a tract telling of the conversion of the title char. to the Bible, his losing his job as scarecrow to a farmer, his conversion of his sister, their being sent together to a Protestant orphanage, after which ‘they never lost an opportunity of turning any poor benighte Roman Catholic to the light of God’s truth’]; Light and Shade, 2 vols. (Kegan, Paul 1878) [set on the Shannon, with a double love-story, and containing mater ‘grathered fro the lips of men who had been actors in the Fenian rising’, acc. to Stephen Gwynn, who writes: ‘violent, even melodramatic, in incident, it lacks the power of characterisation, but has many pasages of beauty …’].

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John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989), remarks that she passed most of her life in Limerick, where her uncle was a baronet; active in Nationalist politics and the Gaelic League; converted to Catholicism in 1887; effect on improving conditions of Irish women emigrating to US; Dominick’s Trials (1870) and Light and Shade (1878), the latter dealing with 1867, and containing a protest against the conditions in Mountjoy Prison; ends with hero and heroine carrying to America their ‘hatred of English law and passionate love of Ireland. BL 13.

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COPAC lists Bessie Field: a cottage story (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; NY: Pott, Young & Co. [1878]), 104pp.; Charlotte Grace O’Brien: Selections from Her Writings and Correspondence, with a memoir by Stephen Gwynn (Dublin: Maunsel 1909), 231pp.; Gipsy Marion: A Story of the New Forest (London: Gall & Inglis [1895]), [iii], 87pp., 2 pls.; Light and shade, 2 vols. (London: C. Kegan Paul & Co. 1878), 8vo.; Owen Netherby’s Choice (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge [1876]) , 60pp’; A tale of Venice: A Drama, and Lyrics (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1880), [1-5] 6-138, [2]pp.; Wild flowers of the Undercliff, Isle of Wight (London: L. Reeve 1881), vi, 143pp.

Eggeling Books (Cat. 44) lists Oliver Dale [rep. edn.] (Gardner, Darton 1898), 109pp.

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