William O’Brien (1852-1928)


Life
b. 2 Oct., Mallow, Co. Cork, ed. Cloyne Diocesan School (though Catholic) and schol. to Queen’s College, Cork; related to Nagles, and hence to Edmund Burke, on his mother’s side; f. suffered business failure, and moved to Cork city, where he died shortly after; an uncle, James Nagle, acted as family supporter, until he lost his job for participation in Fenian procession; supported mother, sister and two brothers through journalism; ed. Queen’s College, Cork; prevented from completing through financial constraints and ill-health;
 
worked as a journalist on Cork Daily Herald, 1868-76, and Freeman’s Journal, 1876-81; death of siblings from T.B, 1879-80; death of mother from same, 1882; wrote ‘Christmas in the Galtees’ (Freeman’s Journal, 1877-78); encountered Parnell at Home Rule meeting in Tralee, 1878; undertook editorship of United Irishman at Parnell’s request, 1881-90; Secretary of National League, established at Parnell’s request; arrested with Parnell and imprisoned in Kilmainham, Oct. 1881; drafted (but did not sign) ‘No Rent Manifesto’, issued from Kilmainham, 18 Oct.1881, alienating Archbishop Croke and others; the Manifesto declared illegal, 20 Oct.;
 
released, April 1882; elected MP for Mallow while in prison, 1883; refused to wear prison uniform; later MP for Cork; conducted ‘Plan of Campaign’ in John Dillon, T. M. Healy, John Harrington, and others, 1886-91; accompanied John Redmond and Michael Davitt to Fenian Convention, Chicago, securing support for Parnell and IPP, Aug. 1886; arrested with Dillon, Loughrea, Co. Galway, Dec. 1886; tried and acquitted, Feb. 1887; MP North Cork, 1887; organised no-rent strike on Kingston estate nr. Mitchelstown; attempted arrest with John Mandeville, led to Mitchelstown Massacre, 9 Sept.;
 
imprisoned, 2 Nov., 1887, and went naked, refusing to wear prison clothing; released, 1888; arrested 8 April, 1888; appealed successfully against 3-month’s hard labour; arrests 24 Jan. 1889; escaped form courtroom, to England; sentenced in absentia; arrested Manchester, serving four months in Clonmel and Galway; fnd. Tenant Defence Association, 15 Oct., 1889; Parnell, represented at inaugural meeting by Thomas Sexton, provides support for the Association, Nov. 1889; O’Brien imprisoned, Sept.-Dec. 1889;
 
m. 11 June, 1890; issues When We Were Boys (1890), a romance in the Fenian days of 1860 concerning the involvement of miller’s son and ex-seminarian Ken Rohan, who stands up to the land agent; written during two spells in prison - the latter half without sight of the first manuscript section; Bram Stoker promotes unsuccessful efforts to stage the novel in London, 1890 [var. 1893]; New Tipperary project, 1890; jumped bail with John Dillon, Oct. 1890, travelling to America via France;
 
expressed initial confidence in Parnell by telegram from America, Nov. 1891; repudiated support after Parnell published his ‘Manifesto to the Irish People’, 19 Nov.; took anti-Parnellite side in Split (6 Dec. 1891); imprisoned with Dillon on their return; released from Galway jail, 30 July 1892; re-elected for Cork City, 1892; in response to famine in Mayo (where he was then living), fnd. United Irish League, with Michael Davitt as President, a tenant organisation advocating compulsory purchase and hence aiming to reconcile unionists and nationalists, Westport, 23 Jan. 1898;
 
launched and ran his own paper, The Irish People, 1899-1908; laid emphasis on ‘conference’ and ‘conciliation’; organised Irish Land Conference, 1902-1903, leading to Wyndham Land Purchase Act; from 1903; broke with IPP; fnd.-member of Irish Reform Association, 1904; returned for Cork, 1904; refused Party pledge, May 1905; unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with Sinn Féin; rejoined Irish Parliamentary Party, Jan. 1908; clashed over government attempts to dilute Land Act, and resigned in ill-health, 1909;
 
elected MP for Cork, 1910; ed. The Cork Accent, and the Cork Free Press, its an anti-socialist successor; broke with United Irish League and fnd. All-Ireland League [var. All for Ireland League], 1910, in order to advance a policy of conciliation, embodying his preference for negotiations with the Irish Unionists rather than the British Liberals; voted against 3rd Home Rule Bill, 1914, as being opposed to partition in any form; spoke in favour of recruitment; mbr. of Mansion House committee opposing conscription in Ireland, 1918; did not contest the 1918 General Election following popular swing after 1916; opposed establishment of Irish Free State in view of partition and declined nomination for Senate;
 
his works include Irish Ideas (1893); A Queen of Men (1898); An Olive Branch in Ireland (1910); The Downfall of Parliamentarianism (1918); Evening Memories (1920); The Irish Revolution (1921); Edmund Burke as an Irishman ([1924]; 2nd edn. 1926); Irish Fireside Hours (1927); O’Brien completed Kickham’s For the Old Land for publication (1886); regarded as dictatorial by many contemporaries such as D. P. Moran; d. 25 Feb., London; bur. Mallow; there is a portrait by Sir William Orpen (Crawford Gallery, Cork); When we Were Boys is listed among Leopold Bloom’s books in Ulysses (‘Ithaca’); staunchly supported by D. D. Sheehan, from whom comments and quotations are drawn, infra. ODNB JMC IF DIW DIB DIH SUTH FDA OCIL

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Works
Fiction & Biography
  • When We Were Boys: A Novel (London: Longmans 1890), viii, 550pp.;
  • A Queen of Men: Grace O’Malley (1898);
  • The Parnell of Real Life (London: Fisher Unwin 1926);

See also Sophie Rafflovich O’Brien, ed., ‘Golden Memories: Love Letters and Prison Letters of W. O’Brien, with a personal appreciation by his widow, 2 vols. (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1929, 2nd imp. 1930) [Vol. II: letters to W. O'Brien from Sophie O’Brien et al.], .

Politics & Commentary
  • Ireland under Tory Rule. Speech ... in the House of Commons, Feb. 16th, 1888 (Manchester [1889]), 8° [NL Scotland];
  • The Influence of the Irish Language on Irish National Literature and Character (Cork 1892), 19pp.;
  • Irish Ideas (London & NY: Longmans 1893);
  • The Irish National Question and the Land Acts: Speeches delivered at Cork [...] 1903 (Dublin: Irish People Office 1903);
  • An Olive Branch in Ireland and Its History (London: Macmillan 1910) [available at Internet Archive online; accessed 3.11.2010];
  • The Downfall of Parliamentarianism: A Retrospect for the Accounting Day (Dublin: Maunsel 1918);
  • The Responsibility for Partition Considered with an Eye to Ireland’s Future (Maunsel & Roberts Ltd. 1921), 62pp. [4 speeches at Westminster];
  • The Irish Revolution and How It Came About (Dublin: Maunsel & Roberts; London: George Allen & Unwin 1923), vi, 462pp.; [available at Internet Archive online; accessed 20.10.2010 - see details infra];
  • Edmund Burke as an Irishman (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1924), and Do., [2nd edn.] (M. H. Gill & Son 1926), xvi, 335pp., 8º [with Burke’s Letter to a Noble Lord as appendix].
 
Memoir & Autobiography
  • Recollections (London: Macmillan 1905);
  • Sophie O’Brien [Mrs. W. O’Brien], Unseen Friends (1st edn. 1912);
  • Evening Memories - Being a Continuation of “Recollections” (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1920), 508pp.;
Miscellaneous
  • Intro. to W. P. Ryan, The Heart of Tipperary (1893);
  • ed., Irish Fireside Hours [1st Edn. 1927; new & enl. edn.] (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1928), 290pp.

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Bibliographical details
The Irish Revolution and How It Came About (London: George Allen & Unwin [Ruskin House, Museum Street] 1923) bears a title-page epigraph: ‘“Rosebery’s (‘predominant partner’) speech about convincing England in connection with Home Rule was most unfortunate and easily answered by Irishmen who might say (and here he became earnest and very serious) “How are we to convince you? Is it as we did by the Volunteers, by the Tithe War, when Wellington said it was yielding to Civil War, or by the Clerkenwell Explosion, which are the only means that ever have convinced England ?” —Gladstone to Sir Algernon West.’ CONTENTS: Introduction [11]; How the All-for-Ireland League Became a Necessity (1910) [55]; II: “A Desperate Venture” (191 l) [66]; III: A Psychic Analysis [77]; IV: THE Home Rule Liberal Destroyers of Home Rule [95] ; V: How “Ulster” Became the Difficulty [112]; VI: The Two Policies in Action [125]; VII: The Home Rule Bill of 1912 [142]; VIII:.Mismanagement and Deceit (1912) [156] IX. Neither Foresight nor Backbone 1912-13-14 [167]; X: The First Shadow of Partition [182] xi. Lord Loreburn’s Intervention [195]; XII: The Responsibility for the World War [209]; XIII: The Last Strage for Young Ireland [214]; XIV: The Outbreak of the War [228] ; XV: The Easter Week Rebellin (1916) [240]; XVI: “An Irish Provisional Government “ [256]; XVII: The Final Surrender of the Six Counties [281]; XVIII: How the Plot Miscarried [292]; XIX: A Talk with Mr. Bonar Law (1917) [309]; XX: MR. Lloyd George’s “Irish Convention “ (1917) [316]; XXI: To Take Part or Not To? [332]; XXII: The Death of Mr. Redmond [345]; XXIII: A True “National Cabinet” [357]; XXIV: Was it Still Possible to Reconstruct the Parliamentary Movement? [373]; XXV: The General Election and the General Judgement (1918) [385]; XXVI: Peaceful Self-Determination [394] XXVII: A Peace Offer That Was Spurned [408]; XXVIII: The Black and Tans [421]; XXIX: The Truce of the 11the July, 1921 [429]; XXX: And After? [446]; Appendix [459]. See pdf edition [online], or text version [online] - both at Internet Archive.

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Criticism
  • Michael MacDonagh, The Life of William O’Brien, The Irish Nationalist: A Biographical Study of Irish Nationalism, Constitutional and Revolutionary (London: 1928), 282pp. ill. [pls.; ports.];
  • P. J. Meehan, Life of John Dillon, MP, and William O’Brien, MP, Ireland’s Patriots (NY Law and Trade Printing Co. [n.d.]);
  • Joseph V. O’Brien, William O’Brien and Home Rule (1968), 90pp;
  • J. V. O’Brien, William O’Brien and the Course of Irish Politics 1881-1918 (Berkeley: California UP 1976) [available at Internet Archive online; accessed 3.11.2010];
  • Sally E. Warwick-Haller, William O’Brien and the Irish Land War (Dublin: IAP 1991);
  • Patrick Maume, ‘In the Fenians’ Wake: Ireland’s Nineteenth-Century Crises and Their Representation in the Sentimental Rhetoric of William O’Brien MP and Canon Sheehan’, in Bullán, An Irish Studies Journal, 4, 1 (Autumn 1998), pp.59-80;
  • Brendan Clifford, ed., Reprints from the “Cork Press Press”, 1910-16: An Account of Ireland’s Only Democratic Anti-Partition Movement (Belfast & Cork 1984);
  • James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), espec. pp.66-67.
See also Patrick Maume, The Long Gestation: Irish Nationalist Life 1891-1918 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1999) [on Redmond and O’Brien and the rise of Sinn Féin].

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Commentary
W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival, Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities (London: Paternoster Steam Press 1894; facs. 1970), gives a sketch of William O’Brien (pp.86-88), remarking of When We Were Boys that ‘no work that can be compared with as an Irish national novel - not so much for its brilliant and poetical descriptions of Irish scenes, or even its delineation of admirable types of Irish character, but for the crystallisation in the conversations and discourses of the poetry of the national struggle. It is the revelation of the mission and the gospel which the sentiment of nationality has been to our Celtic people’ (p.88).

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Benedict Kiely, ‘Ned McKeown’s Two Doors: An Approach to the Novel in Ireland’, A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays (Cork UP 1999), remarks of on When we were Boys: ‘it still is of amazing interest. It was written in twelve months or in two periods of six months, each period spent, with some space hetween,in prison uner English beneficence. So that when O’Brein worked in the second portion, he had not the first portion available for consultation. On that occasion Irish art was not the cracked looking-glass of the servant. But in hell or in Ireland, waht was it? (p.6.)

Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama in the English Language: A Short History (London: Nelson 1936), p. 113; William O’Brien, When We Were Boys ’... had a great vogue, deserved by fervid energy and a generous enthusiasm. Yet it is singularly devoid of artistic merit ’.

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Denis Gwynn, The Life of John Redmond (London: Harrap 1932; rep. 1971): ’William O’Brien, the maverick Home Ruler, suggested that “Ulster” should have a veto in the Irish parliament, a suggesting enthusiastically supported by Redmond.’ (p.238; see Joseph Lee, Ireland 1912-1985, Politics and Society Cambridge UP 1989, p.15.]

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Frank O’Connor, An Only Son (1961): ‘Father was devoted to the policy and personality of William O’Brien, who had married the daughter of one of the great Franco-Jewish bankers. It was Sophie Raffalovich who had started the romance by sending to O’Brien when he was in gaol a verse of Racine with an eagle’s feather enclosed, but I am glad that when Sophie O’Brien was old and poor in France during the German occupation, the Irish Government protected her and paid her an allowance.’ (p. 7.)

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George Dangerfield, The Strange Death of Liberal England ([rev. edn.] 1972), remarks that O’Brien condemned the partial Home Rule Bill in Westminster on 25 May, 1914 as ‘one of the grossest frauds ever perpetrated on a too confiding people [...] little short of a cruel political joke at the expense of their intelligence as well as their freedom.’ (p.290.)

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Quotations
Penal laws: ‘When the framers of the penal laws denied us books, and drew their thick black veil over Irish history, they forgot that the ruins they had themselves made were the most eloquent schoolmasters, the most stupendous memorials of a history and a race that were destined not to die. They might give our flesh to the sword and our fields to the spoiler, but before they could blot out the traces of their crimes, or deface the title deeds of our heritage, they would have had to uproot to their last scrap of cultured filgree the majestic shrines in which the old race worshipped; they would have had to demolish to their last stone the castles whih lay like wounded giants throgh the land to mark where the fight had raged most fiercest; they would have had to level the pillar towers, and to seem up the source of the holy wells. (William O’Brien, ‘The Irish National Idea’, in Irish Ideas, Longmans, Green 1893, p.4; O’Brien’s ‘heightened prose’, cited in Luke Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture, Field Day/Cork UP 1996, p.15.)

Extract from a speech at Bodyke (Sunday, 30 Jan. 1887): ‘I tell you candidly here to-day that though we allow these policemen to withdraw from this meeting, because they were weak - a mercy, which 1 am sorry to say, that they have never reciprocated to the people - I tell you, and I wish the Government reporter was here to listen to it, that if our people had power to meet them, man to man, and rifle to rifle (prolonged cheers) in the open field, I, for one, would cut short my speech-making this very moment, and the next speeches that the destroyers of your homes would hear would be the speeches out of the mouths of your guns. (Loud cheers.) We cannot meet them like that. Unfortunately we have not the power ; but we have a weapon to-day before which all the power and pride of landlordism is going down like the walls of Jericho. (Cheers.) It is tumbling down at the shout of an enfranchised and imconquerable Irish nation. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)" (Freeman's Journal, 31 Jan. 1887; quoted in quoted in The Home Rule Bill: Memoranda on Amendments [Union Defence League], London 1912 - No. 4 [“Reserved Services”] (12 Oct. 1912) - remarks on The Royal Irish Constabulary; available online; accessed 16.08.2014. )

 

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Party funds: ‘The invariable last word to all our consultations was the pathetic one, “Give me a fund and I see my way to doing anything.” And so we had travelled drearily for years in the vicious circle that there could be no creative energy in the Party without funds, and that there could be no possibility for funds for a party thus ingloriously inactive. Although myself removed from Parliament my aid had been constantly invoked by Mr Dillon on the eve of any important meeting of the Party in London, or of the Council of the National Federation in Dublin, for there was not one of them that was not haunted by the anticipation of some surprise from Mr Healy’s fertile ingenuity. There is an unutterable discomfort in the recollections of the invariable course of procedure on these occasions - first, the dozens of beseeching letters to be written to our friends, imploring their attendance at meetings at which, if Mr Healy found us in full strength, all was uneventful and they had an expensive journey for their pains; next, the consultations far into the night preceding every trial of strength; the painful ticking off, man by man, of the friends, foes, and doubtfuls on the Party list, the careful collection of information as to the latest frame of mind of this or that man of the four or five waverers who might turn the scale; the resolution, after endless debates, to take strong action to force the Party to a manful choice at long last between Mr Dillon and his tormentors, and to give somebody or anybody authority enough to effect something; and then almost invariably the next day the discovery that all the labour had been wasted and the strong action resolved upon had been dropped in deference to some drivelling hesitation of some of the four or five doubtfuls who had become de facto the real leaders of the Party.’ (Quoted in D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell, London: 1921, Chapter VI: “Towards Light and Leading”; access full text via Sheehan, q.v.)

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D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell (London: Denis O’Connor 1921) quotes the following from An Olive Branch for Ireland (1910):

“One of our first cares on my return to Cork was to restore vitality to the labourer’s cause, and formulate for the first time a precise legislative scheme on which they might take their stand as their charter. This scheme was placed before the country at a memorable meeting in Macroom on December 10, 1904, and whoever will take the trouble of reading it will find therein all the main principles and even details of the great measure subsequently carried into law in 1906. The Irish Land and Labour Association, which was the organisation of the labourers, unanimously adopted the scheme, and commissioned their Secretary, Mr J. J. Shee, M.P., in their name, to solicit the co-operation of the Directory of the United Irish League in convening a friendly Conference of all Irish parties and sections for the purpose of securing the enactment of a Labourers’ Bill on these lines as a non-contentious measure. If common ground was to be found anywhere on which all Irishmen, or at the worst all Nationalists, might safely grasp hands, and with a most noble aim, it was surely here. But once more Mr Dillon scented some new plot against the unity and authority of the Irish Party, and at the Directory meeting of the secretary of the Land and Labour Association was induced without any authority from his principals to abandon their invitation, and thus take the first step to the disruption of his own association.

“I bowed and held my peace, to see what another year might bring forth through the efforts of those who had made a national agreement upon the subject impracticable. Another year dragged along without a Labourers’ Bill, or any effort of the Irish Party to bring it within the domain of practical politics. The Land and Labour Association determined to rouse the Government and the country to the urgency of the question by an agitation of an unmistakable character. Mr Redmond, Mr Dillon and all their chief supporters were invariably invited to these demonstrations; but the moment they learned that Mr Harrington, Mr Healy and myself had been invited as well, a rigorous decree of boycott went forth against the Labour demonstrations, and as a matter of fact no representative of the Irish Party figured on the Labourers’ platform throughout the agitation. This, unfortunately, was not the most inexcusable of their services to the Labourers’ cause. When the Land and Labour Association held their annual Convention, the secretary, who had infringed their instructions at the Directory meeting, finding himself hopelessly outnumbered, seceded from the organisation and formed a rival association of his own; and sad and even shocking though the fact is, it is beyond dispute that this split in the ranks of the unhappy labourers, in the very crisis of their cause, was organised with the aid of the moneys of the National Organisation administered by the men who were at that very moment deafening the country with their indignation against dissension-mongers and their zeal for majority rule.

“It was all over again the dog-in-the-manger policy which had already kept the evicted tenants for years out in the cold. They would neither stand on a non-contentious platform with myself nor organise a single Labourers’ demonstration of their own. It has been repeatedly stated by members who were constant attendants at the meetings of the Irish Party that the subject of the Labourers’ grievances was never once discussed at any meeting of the party until the agitation in Ireland had first compelled the introduction of Mr Bryce’s Bill. Then, indeed, when the battle was won, and there was only question of the booty, Mr Redmond made the public boast that he and Mr Dillon “were in almost daily communications with Mr Bryce upon the subject.” The excuse was as unavailing as his plea that the finally revised terms of sale of his Wexford estate left him without a penny of profit. What concerned the country was the first announcement of 24-1/2 years’ purchase authorised under his own hand which had ‘given a headline’ to every landlord in the country. In the same way, whatever obsequious attendance he might dance on Mr Bryce, when the die was cast and the Bill safe, the ineffaceable facts remain that neither he nor anybody in his party whom he could influence had stood on a Labour platform, or touched upon the subject at the party meeting, while the intentions of the Government were, as we shall see in a moment, undecided in the extreme, but on the contrary were (it may be hoped unconscious but none the less indispensable) parties to an organised effort to split the Labourers’ Association asunder while their fate was trembling in the balance.

“Their war upon the Land and Labour Association was all the more wanton, because Mr Dillon’s persuasion, which gave rise to it that the Association had been brigaded into my secret service for some nefarious purpose of my own, was as absurdly astray as all the rest of his troubled dreams of my Machiavellian ambitions. To avoid giving any pretext for such a suspicion, I declined to accept any office or honour or even to become a member of the Land and Labour Association, attended no meeting to which Mr Redmond and Mr Dillon were not invited as well as I; and beyond my speeches at those meetings, never in the remotest degree interfered in the business or counsels of the Association. A number of men on the governing council of the Association were to my knowledge, and continued to be, sympathisers with my critics. Beyond the fact that their president, Mr Sheehan, M.P., happened to be the most successful practiser of my Land Purchase plans in the county of Cork, as well as by far the ablest advocate the Labourers’ agitation had called into action, I know of no shadow of excuse for the extraordinary folly which led responsible Irishmen, with the cry of ’Unity’ on their lips, not only to decline to meet me on a common platform, but to make tens of thousands of absolutely unoffending labourers the victims of their differences with me.

“Despite their aloofness and their attempts to divide the Labourers’ body, the agitation swept throughout the south of Ireland with an intensity which nothing could withstand. Demonstrations of amazing extent and still more remarkable resoluteness of spirit were addressed by my friends and myself in Charleville and Macroom, County Cork; Kilfinane and Drumcolliher, County Limerick; Tralee and Castle Island, County Kerry; Scariff, County Clare; Goolds Cross, County Tipperary; and Ballycullane, County Wexford; and by the time they were over, the field was fought and won. One last difficulty remained; but it was a formidable difficulty. So far from Mr Redmond’s ’almost daily communications with Mr Bryce’ reaching back to the critical days of the problem, we were already in the first days of summer in the session of 1906 when a communication was made to me from a high official quarter that the Irish Government were so deeply immersed in the Irish Council Bill of the following year that they shrank from the labour and the financial difficulties of a Labourers’ Bill in the current session, and an appeal was diplomatically hinted as to whether there was any possibility of slowing down the Labourers’ agitation so as to make a postponement to the following session practicable. My reply was undiplomatically clear: - that, if the Government wanted to deprive the Irish Council Bill of all chance of a hearing, they could not take a better means of making the country too hot for themselves than by proposing to fob off the labourers for another year, and that not only would I not, if I could, but could not if I would, moderate their insistence upon immediate redress.

“A short time afterwards, I met Sir Antony MacDonnell in the House of Commons, and he asked ‘What is your labourers’ minimum?’ I gave him a brief outline of the Macroom programme. ‘No rational being could object,’ he said, ‘but what does it mean in hard cash?’ I replied, ‘Roughly, four millions.’ And the great Irishman - ‘the worst enemy that ever came to Ireland’ of Mr Dillon’s nightmare hours - ended the interview with these laconic words: ‘The thing ought to be done and I think can be.’ At the period of the session at which the Bill was introduced, the opposition of even half-a-dozen determined men could have at any stage achieved its ruin. Thanks, however, to the good feeling the precedent of the Act of 1903 and the admirably conciliatory temper displayed by the labourers themselves in their agitation had engendered, the Bill went triumphantly through and has been crowned with glory in its practical application. I never pass through any of the southern counties now and feast my eyes on the labourers’ cottages which dot the landscape - prettier than the farmers’ own homes - honeysuckles or jasmines generally trailing around the portico - an acre of potato ground sufficient to be a sempiternal insurance against starvation, stretching out behind - the pig and the poultry - perhaps a plot of snowdrops or daffodils for the English market, certainly a bunch of roses in the cheeks of the children clustering about the doorsteps - without thankfully acknowledging that Cork was right in thinking such conquests were worth a great deal of evil speech from angry politicians. [q.pp.]

 
—Sheehan, op. cit., Chapt. XIV: “Land and Labour” (access full-text via Sheehan, q.v.)
 
Sheehan also quotes O’Brien on the Party differences in 1906 during a speech in Ballycullane, in Mr Redmond’s native constituency, Mr O’Brien formulated proposals for reunion, the first of which is so notable as a declaration of Nationalist principle that I quote it fully: “No man or party has authority to circumscribe the inalienable right of Ireland to the largest measure of national self-government it may be in her power to obtain.”

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Olive Branch in Ireland and Its History (1910): ‘To look over the fence of the famine-stricken village and see the rich green solitudes, which might yield full and plenty, spread out at the very doorsteps of the ragged and hungry peasants, was to fill a stranger with a sacred rage and make it an unshirkable duty to strive towards undoing the unnatural divorce between the people and the land.’ (Quoted in D. D. Sheehan, op. cit., [Chap. VIII:] “The Birth of a Movement and What It Came To” [q.pp.]. Note: An Olive Branch is available at Internet Archive online; accessed 3.11.2010.

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Ireland a nation: ‘[It was a] mathematical and absolute certainty that the day was coming when [...] that principle of Ireland a nation would be recognised and welcomed just as warmly by the working millions of Great Britain as it was by that audience [n Ireland], and when the only wonder of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen in future would be that it had taken seven centuries to discover the justice, the safety, and the indestructability of the principle of Irish nationality, for which Sarsfield once filled the breach at Limerick, and for whuch Robert Emmet died on the scaffold.’ (quoted in E. Larkin, The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Fall of Parnell 1888-1891, Liverpool 1979, pp.176; cited in D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland, London: Routledge 1982; 1991 Edn., p.221.)

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‘“Constitutionalism” in a country whose grievance is that it possess no constitution is an historical humbug. Parnell built up his movement, not by railing at Fenianism in the spirit of a professor of Constitutional history, but by incorporating its tremendous forces in his ranks and acknowledging no criterium [sic] of the rectitude of his political action, be it “constitutional” or “unconstitutional” except whether it was, in the circumstances, the best thing to be done for Ireland.’ The Downfall of Parliamentarianism, 1918; Boyce, op. cit., 1982, p.289.)

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Catholic Ireland: ‘Woe’s the day this high-strung Irish race of ours gives up its faith! It is to us what purity is to a woman. Without mystery, without the supernatural, both in religion and in politics, every fruit we ache for turns to ashes upon Irish lips … Why will Rome goad and forces us to rend the Celtic race asunder? Irish youth is the lonely youth in Christendom that does not want to pick a quarrel with Rome, and Rome will insist on picking a quarrel with us.’ (When We Were Boys, 1890, p.14; quoted in James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922I, Conn: Greenwood Press 1997, p.68.)

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References
Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904), selects ‘A Plea for the study of Irish’ from “The Influence of the Irish Language”, a lecture delivered May 13 1902 to Cork National Society, ‘The story of the belief in, and the clinging to, the Gaelic language is in itself a romance pathetic enough for tears. Age after age, while the native tongue was a badge of contempt, a passport to persecution, even a death warrant - the schools suppressed, the printing press unknown, the relics of the national literature scattered in mouldering manuscripts, secreted as damning evidence of superstition or treason - there were always to be found the poet, the scholar, the ecclesiastic, to foster the sacred fire, the outlawed treasure of the Gael, in his bosom - to suffer, and hunger, and die for its sake./ In the days of Elizabeth it was Duald Mac Firbis, dedicating his great Genealogy to his ruined Celtic prince with the pathetic lament that no Irish prince any longer owned enough territory to afford himself a grave. . . Michael O’Clery [...] Keating [...] O’Flaherty [his Ogygia purchased for 20 guineas; ‘the great Burke responsible for saving the priceless Brehon Law Code after its century of wanderings, neglect, and decay in the cabins of Tipperary’; ‘Drimmin don dilis’ purchased for £3.13s.8d.] [...] Petrie, O’Donovan, O’Curry [...] Approached thus with the loving ardour of a nation’s second youth, the tongue of Tara and Kinkora may realise the fond prophecy that ‘the Gaelic will be in high repute yet among the music-loving hosts of Erinn’ and the men who clung to it when it was persecuted, who believed in it when it was scorned, who in the watches of the night hoped on the reward of knowing that they have preserved unto the happier coming time a language which will be the well-spring of a racier national poetry, national music, national painting, and of that richer spiritual life of simplicity, of equality, of good-fellowship, of striving after the higher and holier ideals, with which the Celtic race alone seems to have the promise of brightening the future of a disenchanted world.’ ALSO selects ‘The Irish in America’ from Irish Ideas.

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Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists When We Were Boys [1890]; A Queen of Men [1898], eulogising the first as a very brilliant book, nationalist and Catholic but not blinkered, full of intellect and wit. Justin McCarthy, Irish Lit., gives extract from ‘A Plea for the Study of Irish’; also extract, ‘The Irish in America’, from Irish Ideas.

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John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Harlow: Longmans 1988); notes When we Were Boys (1890), set in Fenian times, incls. some high society London episodes; Ken Rohan, sentence to life, declares at the end, “Courage, this is not the end!”; records progress of republican American ideas [sic]; his other novels, A Queen of Men (1897), Grace O’Malley had ‘plenty of mustard, little beef’ according to contemporary. English reviewers.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; extracts The Downfall of Parliamentarianism (1918) [346-53], sometimes bitter, sometimes melancholy and generally perceptive retrospect [Seamus Deane, ed.]; 211; even William O’Brien’s UIL of 1898 could not make the party look particularly inspiring in the centenary year [idem.], 213; Parnell (speech at Listowel, 13 Sept. 1891), ‘Boulogne negotiations [...] the only portions of them Mr. O’Brien begged me not to publish, in case during his imprisonment I found it necessary to publish any of them, were the proposals composed by Mr. O’Brien, with the help of Mr. Dillon, in America, before he left, accepted by Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Sexton when he arrived in France, and actually proposed to me as a solution to the question, and which I found so absurd and ridiculous, and so traitorous to the Liberal allies of these men that they were obliged to admit that they were utterly untenable and unsuitable. Mr. O’Brien can publish these proposals if he chooses, and also the counter-proposals I made afterwards ...’, 311; and 311n, O’Brien, journalist and politician, repeatedly imprisoned for his support of tenant causes, became anti-Parnellite at the split, 315-16n; Land War renewed with the Plan of Campaign (1886-91) by O’Brien, Healy, Dillon, and Harrington, 323n; [compared with Healy in his recognition that the Party lost respectability through the divorce scandal, 329; fund-raising in American with McCarthy and Dillon when the news of Gladstone’s ultimatum arrived; reactions an cables, 333; Irish council Bill, 1907, rejected by Sinn Féin and O’Brien’s United Irish League, as well as John Redmond, 740;. BIOG, 370 [vide supra]. NOTE FDA3, 507, Hobson quotes H. R. Nevinson as reporting that William O’Brien told him Pearse said ‘we are going out to be slaughtered’ (Nevinson , Between the Wars, 1936).

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British Library holds The Responsibilities of Partition Considered with an Eye to Ireland’s Future (1921) 66pp.; Sinn Fein and its Enemies [Westminster speech, 23 Oct. 1917 [1917], 16pp. See also Sophie O’Brien (his wife; née Raffalovich], Rosette (1907), a novel; Under Croagh Patrick, reminiscences; and Amidst Mayo Bogs.

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Belfast Public Library holds When we Were Boys (1880); A Queen of Men (1898); Under Croagh Patrick (1904); Recollections (1905); The Party, who they are and what they have done (1917); Edmund Burke as an Irishman (1924); Evening Memories (1920); Golden Memories (1929); Irish Fireside Stories (1927, 1928); Irish Ideas (1895); An Olive Branch in Ireland (1910); Irish Revolution and How it Came About (1923); The Parnell of Real Life (1926); Around Broom Lane (1931); Also, biog., M[ichael] McDonagh, Life of William O’Brien (1928).

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Notes
Portraits: William O’Brien by William Orpen [NGI; signed]; see Irish Portraits Exhibition, Ulster Mus. 1965; there is portrait group by Charles Paul Renouard showing O’Brien with Tim Healy, Thomas Sexton and Justin McCarthy (presented to National Gallery of Ireland by Theobald Matthew, 1934).

James Joyce: When we Were Boys is part of the library in Leopold Bloom’s home (see Ulysses, Bodley Head Edn., p.832).

Kith & Kin: Madame O’Brien: Madame William O’Brien, author of Silhouettes d’autrefois ([S.l.]: [s.n.] [n.d.]), (Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan 1926), in French.

Brian Ó Cuív: ‘William O’Brien made a convincing case for the restoration of Irish at Cork National Society, in 1892 [viz., The Influence of the Irish Language on Irish National Literature and Character, Cork, 1892; William Vaughan, ed., A New History of Ireland, Vol. VI: 1870-1921, OUP 1996, p.402, citing Ó Cuív in ‘Irish Literature and Language, 1845-1921’ [q.p.].)

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