Charles A. Read (1841-78)

Commentary


Life
[Charles Anderson Read; not to be confused with the better-known English novelist Charles Reade], b. nr. Sligo, the son of a landowner penurised by Encumbered Estates Act who turned to school-teaching; work as merchant in Rathfriland, Co. Down but failed in that business; joined Henderson’s publishing house, London, 1863; ed. and contrib. to Henderson’s Young Folks;
 
he issued novels and sketches, incl. Love’s Services and Aileen Aroon, or Savourneen Dheelish, and seven others, one of which appeared in Dublin University Magazine; compiled and edited A Cabinet of Irish Literature (3 vols., 1876-78), in royal octavo to which a fourth and final vol. was added by T. P. O’Connor [q.v.], with assistance from Mrs. Read (1880);
 
the whole later revised in three vols. by Katherine Tynan [q.v.], with additions and deletions laying more emphasis on the ‘literary’ genres and less on political and scientific writings (1902). ODNB JMC PI IF DIB DIW DIL SUTH

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Works

Note: The Cabinet of Irish Literature was issued in three volumes by ed. Charles Read during 1876-79 and completed by T. P. O'Connor with the addition of another voume in 1880. A new edition, with the addition of contemporary writers, many of them female, and a corresponding reduction of the contents of the earlier volumes, was produced by Katherine Tynan for Gresham Publishing Co. in 1902. Only the first to editions (i.e., 18766-79 and 1880) are listed here.


The Cabinet of Irish Literature: Selections from the Works of the Chief Poets, Orators, and Prose Writers of Ireland, with biographical sketches and literary notices / by / Charles A. Read, F.R.H.S. / Author of “Tales and Stories of Irish life”; “Stories from the Ancient Classics”, &c., 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Blackie 1876-1879) [see Preface, infra]; Do., Vol. IV [add. vol.,] ed. T. P. O’Connor (London & Edinburgh 1880) [see Preface, infra]; and Do., revised by Katharine Tynan (Gresham Publishing Co. 1902-03) [see further under Tynan, q.v.]

The Cabinet / of / Irish Literature / selections from the works of the / Chief Poets, Orators, and Prose Writers / of Ireland / with biographical sketches and literary notices / by / Charles A. Read, F.R.H.S. / Author of “Tales and Stories of Irish life”; “Stories from the Ancient Classics”, &c. [3 vols.] [with an additional vol. as] Vol. IV. / By T. P. O’Connor, M. A. / London: Blackie & Son, Old Bailey / Glasgow, Edinburgh, / and 89 Talbot Street, Dublin [1876-78]; Preface subscribed T. P. O’Connor, London April 1880; as infra].

For a full list of the contents of The Cabinet of Irish Literature (1879), Vols. I-IV, see under RICORSO, Bibliography > “Anthologies”, via index, or direct.

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Quotations
The Cabinet of Irish Literature (1876-79), Preface [by Read]: ‘A Roman historian in a well-known passage rebuked an ancient people for ignorance of their own land and their own race. Strong as is the attachment of the Irish people to their country, they cannot be wholly acquitted of the same charge. It is only within the last half century that a real attempt has been made to subject early Irish literature to severe and systematic investigation; and German scholars at one period seemed likely to anticipate Irishmen in the study of the Celtic tongue. The rise of men like O’Donovan, O’Curry, Petrie, and others, fortunately averted this national discredit, and an impetus has now been given to Celtic research which, so to speak, secures the future of that department of Irish literature. / But it is not the ancient literature or the elder generations of Irish littérateurs that alone have been neglected by the Irish people. There are few Irishmen, I venture to think, who have any conception of the number of well-known literary names which belong to Ireland […]’ [v.].

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The Cabinet of Irish Literature (1880), Front notice [by T. P. O’Connor]: ‘The conviction has been gradually growing that the literary wealth of Ireland is being scattered abroad, while yet no standard Work can be procured in which the genius, the fire, the pathos, the humour, and the eloquence of Irish Literature are adequately represented. / The aim of the Publishers is to supply this want … [&c.].’ Press notices incl. quotations from reviews as ‘Some Press Opinions’ - e.g., The Daily Express though that ‘there is one feature of the book which merits our hearty praise - namely, the manifest effort which the author has made to regard his subject from a purely literary point of view, and to avoid all political and theological bias.’ [Note: Irish reviews, north and south, are represented.]

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Commentary
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 - ‘Critical constructions of Irish nineteenth-century literature’ [final sect.]: ‘Other illuminating insights into the construction of a tradition of Irish writing at this period may be obtained from the four-volume Cabinet of Irish Literature (1879-80). The anthology, produced by Blackie publishers in an expensive and handsome “super-royal octavo” edition, was largely the work of author and journalist Charles Read (1841-78), who did not live to see it published; the fourth volume was completed by T. P. O’Connor, newly elected Nationalist MP for Galway, with the assistance of Read’s widow. The subtitle promised readers “selections from the work of the chief poets, orators, and prose writers of Ireland” - oratorical writing, given the political climate of the time, being a special selling point. In relation to its choice of prose writers, the contents of the Cabinet are impressively diverse, not only in terms of the ideological stance of the authors selected but also in relation to the genres featured. Oratorical writing ranged from an 1876 speech by Isaac Butt on the subject of land tenure, and the courtroom orations of James Whiteside (defence counsel for Daniel O’Connell and Charles Gavan Duffy), to House of Commons speeches by politician Hugh Cairns on Anglo-Indian affairs. The scientific writings of Dionysius Lardner and William Rowan Hamilton (both professors of astronomy) accompanied an extract, entitled “Scientific Limit of the Imagination”, from the highly controversial, pro-Darwinian address delivered by John Tyndall (born in County Carlow) to the British Association in Belfast, August 1874. Orientalist writings - from J. L. Porter (professor of biblical criticism and opponent of Tyndall), Richard Burton (most famous as translator of Arabian Nights) and Meadows Taylor (author of the 1872 “Indian mutiny” novel Seeta) -as well as travel writing and military memoirs also featured strongly in the Cabinet’s contents.’

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References
Dictionary of National Biography contains one entry for Charles Anderson Read (1841-1878), ed. Cabinet, and another for Charles Reade (1814-1884), English novelist and dramatist; the latter is the author of Masks and Faces, a play which he turned into the novel Peg Woffington that ‘attained to immense popularity’.

Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); ‘An Irish Mistake’ and ‘Beyond the River’, as in Cabinet, Vol. 4. See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 14.

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Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists Aileen Aroon [1870] and Savourneen Dheelish (1869; 1870, 6th ed.), based on the central incident in Carleton’s ‘Wild Goose Lodge’, and set around Dundalk; otherwise described as a tale of false accusation.

Belfast Public Library holds Peg Woffington (1899), illus. by Hugh Thomson [by Charles Reade]; also Aileen Aroon (n.d.); Cabinet (edn. of 1906); Savourneen Dheelish (1869).

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Notes
Paying homage: T. P. O’Connor [q.v.] included a selection of writings by Read in the additional fourth volume of Cabinet of Irish Literature (1880), together with a notice on him supplied by one Charles Gibbon.

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