Matthias James O’Conway

Life
1766-1842 [Matias Ó Conmhair; occas. Mathias]; b. Galway; learnt English in Galway at eight, and also fencing; cononected with Irish Volunteers; left Ireland after ‘imprudent act’ and emig. to America; travelled in Indian lands as trader with one John Ridgway, a Quaker from Mountmellick; m. Rebecca Archer [cailín darb], 1787, with whom a dg. Cecilia; travelled to Mexico and New Orleans; settled in Philadelphia, where he was appointed State Interpreter and opened a translation office and language school at 108 Union St.; wrote autobiographical essay in 1798, describing himself as a ‘Catholic and Republican’; d. Philadelphia; prepared an English-Irish dictionary in manuscript before his death, now missing; National Library in Dublin holds more than a dozen boxes of material from his work on Spanish, French, Irish, &c.

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Works
Rasgos historicos y morales sacados des autores celebres de diversas nacionalidades y destinados a la instruccion y entretenimiento de los estudiantes del idioma espanol por Santiago Matthias O Conway (Philadelphia; printed by Thomas & William Bradford 1809); The Knights Templares, a Historical tragedy, with notes as it was represented on the French theatres. To which is prefixed, an interesting story of the origin, character, and persecution of that illustrious order; trans. from the original of M. Raynouard (Philadelphia: Brown & Merritt 1808), 80pp.; Hispano-Anglo grammar, containing the definitions, structure, infelctions, reference, arrangement, concord, government and combination of the various classes of words in the Spanish language. Also an appropriate vocabulary, familiar phrases, dialogues, and a complete index (Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson 1810).

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Criticism
Lawrence F. Flick, ‘Mathias James O’Conway, Philologist, Lexicographer and Interpreter of Languages’, in Records of the American Catholic Historical Society, X, 3 (Sept. 1899), pp.257-59; Do., X, 4 (Dec. 1899), pp.385-422; Do., XI, 1 (March 1900), pp.9-32; and Do., Vol. IX, 2 (June 1900), pp.156-77.

See also David Barnwell, ‘Maitias ó Conmhaí: Teangeolaí (1766-[18]42) [paper read in School of Celtic Studies/DIAS, 22 Samhain 2002], published electronically by on the DIAS webpage [link & email].

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