John Francis O’Donnell

Life
1837-1874 [J. F. O’Donnell]; b. Limerick, contrib. to Kilkenny Journal at 14; reporter on Munster News and sub-ed. Tipperary Examiner; ed. Catholic Universal News (London), and contrib. prose and verse to The Nation, The Shamrock and The Irish People [var. The Irishman]; love poems in Dublin Review; Chamber’s Journal, and Dickens’s All the Year Round; back in Dublin in 1861, he worked on The Nation under A. M. Sullivan; ed. Duffy’s Hibernian Magazine, 1862, and later returned to London 1862; ed. or contrib. to Irish People, 1863-64; ed. The Tablet, London, 1865-1868; contrib. to Zozimus, ed. Richard Dowling; poems in The Nation, 1872-73; wrote a serial novel, Evictions and Evicted for The Lamp; also Sadleir the Banker, or The Laceys of Rathcore [1873], on John Sadleir, another serial novel; d. Kensal Green; the Southwark Literary Society established a J. F. O’Donnell Memorial Committee to publish his collected Poems (1891), with an introduction by Richard Dowling a d this became the founding project of Irish Literary Society in London. CAB ODNB PI JMC DBIV TAY DIH MKA FDA OCIL

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Works
The Emerald Wreath: A Fireside Treasury of Legends, Stories, &c
by Caviare [pseud JF O’Donnell], ills. by the Brothers Dalziel (Dublin: James Duffy 1864) [var. Dublin 1865], prose and verse; Memoirs of the Irish Franciscans (Dublin: James Duffy 1871), verse; Poems with an introduction by Richard Dowling (London: Ward & Downey 1891), xxi, 256pp.

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Criticism
David James O’Donoghue, ‘The Literature of ‘67’, in Shamrock, 30 (1893); Matthew Russell, ‘The John Francis O’Donnell Memorial,’ Irish Monthly 16 (188[?]), p.690-99.

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Commentary
Richard Dowling, [introduction to] Poems by J F O’Donnell, with an introduction by Richard Dowling (London: Ward & Downey 1891) [256pp.]; Intro., ppviii-xxi; “General Poems” [(1)-89]; “Poems Relating to Ireland” [90-252]. Dowling’s introduction departs from an account of Michael MacDonagh’s articles in Dublin Evening Telegraph on ‘Irish Graves in England’; ‘In 1870 Zozimus, a comic illustrated paper, was started by Mr A. M. Sullivan in Dublin with Mr John O’Hea as cartoonist; O’Donnell, from first to last, was one of its principle if not its chief contributor. It was while I was editing Zozimus that I became acquainted with him’ Further speaks of ‘memories of the Franciscans, a volume of verse, written at the suggestion of Fr Meehan, and published in 1871’. Among the poems is one to ‘John Mitchel’, reflecting invidiously on the pomp of an English state funeral, and ending in reference ot Mitchel, ‘crowned chief of my idolatry’; another to Edward Martin. (The Introduction is signed “London 1890”.)

W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival, Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities, 1894) reports that Michael MacDonagh lectures on ‘Irish Graves in England’; John T. Kelly writes to appeal that something be done for the grave of John Francis O’Donnell at Kensal Green, resulting also in the publication of his Poems [1890], issued at Christmas 1890, a volume which ‘stand unquestionable as one of the most creditable additions made to Irish literature in the latter half of our century’. [31] This event prompted Gavan Duffy to write from Villa Marguerite, Nice, saying, ‘I have often thought of forming a small Limited Liability Company for this purpose [of ‘publishing the verse and prose of men and women who have helped the national cause for the last generation’] (Ryan, op. cit., pp.32-33.)

W. B. Yeats (‘Hopes and Fears for Irish Literature’, 1892): ‘There is a printed letter of John Francis O’Donnell’s, in which he claims to have written I know not how many columns of verse and prose in two or three days. Yet he who would write a memorable song must be ready to give often days to a few lines, and be ready, perhaps, to pay for it afterwards with certain other days of dire exhaustion and depression.. We produce good correspondence, good journalists, and good talkers, and few profound and solitary students.’ (United Ireland, 15 Oct. 1892; rep. in Uncollected Prose, ed. John Frayne, London 1970; also in Mark Story, Poetry and Ireland Since 1800: A Source Book, 1988 - where Story adds: ‘Yeats reviewed [O’Donnell] unfavourably in the Boston Pilot in April 1891’ (Letters to the New Island, New York 1934; Story, op. cit., pp.76-77.)

A. N. Jeffares, Anglo-Irish Literature (London: Macmillan 1982): ‘J. F. O’Donnell wrote with too great facility; in his work the effect of Tennyson produced some glibness, though his capacity for close obsevation can be rewarding, ‘Soft sleeps the village in the maze / Of dreamy elm and sycamore / Soft slides the river’s rosy tide ... The little boat moored in the cove / Takes no pulsation from the stream / But shadowed on the water lies / The lovely image of a dream.’ (Anglo-Irish Literature, 1982, p.137).

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Quotations
Tombs in the Church of Montorio, on the Janiculum” [on Hugh O’Donnell, Comes de Tyrconnel, buried on the Janiculum, Rome]: ‘Right glorious leader of our race, / Of faith profound, of purpose vast. / Around, above, this glittering dome / Soars the majestic bulk of Rome [...] Sleep on, stern souls, ‘t were wrong to shake / Your ashes - bid the dead awake / To bitter welcome. Ireland lies / Under the heels of enemies. / So she has lain since that curst day / That saw your good ship fly the Land; / Since Ulster’s proud and strong array / Dwindled to fragments, band by band. / And you two wept in leaving her / (Chased through the seas by Chicester) / Still buoyed with hope to find abroad / Aid to prostrate our ancient foe / .. / It came not, and in regal Rome / Died the O’Donnell sick for home .. / ..He closed his eyes in Christ our Lord, / No truer man had nobler birth / No braver soldier trod the earth / With pitying or destroying sword’ / ... Rest, rest! the glory of the life / Shines like tradition on the strife / Which Ireland wages hour by hour / Patient, yet daring for the best / And growing up, as worlds attest / To freedom, majesty, and power.’]; and some romantic verse, ‘Guesses’ [‘I know a maid, she is dark and fair..’] (Quoted in Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature, Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904; as infra.)

Where?”: ‘She lingered here, and then / Passed ... through yonder door..// Down the long passages, I heard her feet / Moving -a crepitating music slow / And next her voice, an echo exquisite ..// ..// .. Return, sweet wife, / And with they presence sanctify this pain; / Cling to my side, Ó faithful help of life! / Lest, in the hour when night is on the wane / The destinies divide us two again’]. (Quoted in McCarthy, op. cit., 1904; as infra.)

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References
Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); b. Limerick; contrib. Kilkenny Journal at 14; sub-ed. Tipperary Examiner; ed. The Universal News, an Irish weekly, in Lond, 1860; The Nation staff, Dublin 1861; returned to London, 1862; a novel, Agents and Evictions, appeared in The Lamp; wrote also for Dublin Review and The Boston Pilot, and ed. The Tablet for a time; also a long poem, ‘The Christian Martyr’; contrib. Boston Pilot and Dublin Review; ed. The Tablet. Befriended by Dickens, who saw his poems published in Chambers’ Journal; ‘Memoiries of the Irish Franciscans’, verse (1871); agent-gen. for New Zealand, 1873; poems collected ‘by the piety of the Southwark Irish Lit. Club’ intro. Richard Dowling. JMC gives ‘Paddy Fret, the Priest’s Boy’ [‘Sorra a one of me’’ gert married,’ remarked Paddy Fret, as he was furbishing up the priest’s stirrups ..’; much about Encumbered Estates Coort’ &c; ‘swear you’ll make an honest woman of my daughter before another week, or I’ll blow the roof off your skull’; and Paddy marries Kate]; ‘A Spinning Song’ [‘My love to fight the Saxon goes ... Amid the surging ranks he’ll go / And shout for joy of war’ // My love is pledged to Ireland’s fight ..’, with interspersed verse on ‘pretty spindle’ waving ‘damask doublet for my lover’s coat of steel’], and others including ‘Tombs in the Church of Montorio, on the Janiculum’, and ‘Guesses’ [as supra]; McCarthy comments, ‘‘he had a versatile pen, writing with great energy and speed, and his work is not therefore of uniform excellence, but he sometimes succeeds in uniting the impetuousity and spirit of an impromptu with a beautiful technique; also wrote a novel, The Lamp, Agents and Evictions, serialised in The Irish People [during short-lived existence] and legnthy poem called ‘The Christian Martyr’.

John Cooke, ed., Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909); 1837-1874; ‘A Spinning Song’ (”My love to fight the Saxon goes, / And bravely shines his sword of steel ... My love is pledged to Ireland’s fight; / My love would die for Ireland’s weal, / To win her back er ancient right, / And make her foemen reel. / Oh, close I’ll clapse him to my breast / When homeward from the war he comes ..”). See also Geoffrey Taylor, ed., Irish Poets of the 19th century (1951).

Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), gives bio-details: d. aged 35; Memoiries of the Irish Franciscans, verse; wrote for many magazines; further, ‘I am informed that he published novels entitled Evictions and Evicted [recte Agents and Evictions], and Sadleir the Banker, but I have not been able to trace them further.’ He does however list the contents of Emerald Wreath, A Fireside Treasury of Legends, Stories &c (Duffy 1865), frontis. in colour and num. engravings by Bros. Dalziel, contains two poems and the following stories:‘Sybil Grey’s Secret’; ‘Benevolent Freak of an Old Gentleman’; ‘The Double Shadow’; ‘Tom Hickey and the Good People’; ‘Mike O’Driscoll and the Fairies’, the last two humorous in the dial. of Adare and Castleconnell.

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), incl. bibl., Matthew Russell, ‘The John Francis O’Donnell Memorial,’ Irish Monthly 16 (188), p.690-99, based on an article by Michael MacDonagh rep. as Irish Graves in England (1888); the Southwark Literary Society founded a J. F. O’Donnell Memorial Committee, which publ. his collected Poems in 1891, with an introduction by Richard Dowling.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects from Poems “The Return”, “Drifting”, “My Jack”, “A July Dawn”, “Reminiscence of a Day”, “An Interview” [‘And you’ve just come from Ireland; that’s your plear / For all those sickening substances of though / Steeped in your brain, a jelly-fish at sea / Or with the limpets blue in rock-craft caught, / You left us when you brain was overwrought / By the slow precesses of decimals / And piling on interminable nought / Souls rises, but sense wavers, staggers, falls, // Down to a wholly terminable degree / Well, not of meanneass; for, I like you yet, / Spite of your office and your pageantry / And your poor goose-quill, never dry, never wet, / What quill which time, experience, will not whet, / But go on jargoning from base to top / Let who will be waiting on who’ll let / With here and there the dumb official stop.’, ‘Happy Christmases’, ‘By the Turnstile’, ‘To Spring’ [67-75]; 114, BIOG, and notes: O’Donnell finally got an official appointment with a steady salary after twenty-five years of punishing hackwork for more than a dozen journals and newspapers; but in four months he was dead, aged thirty-seven, 2-3; J. F. O’Donnell kept [the political and picturesque elements prevailing in Irish poetry at the time] separate in a manner that is a telling comment ont he divions of labour which the Irish poet, split between two audiences, was condemned. [Deane, ed.], 8. Note the comparatively large selection of J. F. O’Donnell [FDA 67-75], who represents to Deane the predicament of the Irish poet with two audiences, an Irish politicised and an English one, as indicated in the section preface (p.8). The biography is correspondingly long [114], though no commentary is cited.

British Library holds only Poems, ed. Richard Dowling (London: Ward & Downey 1891 [1890]), xii, 256pp.

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