George Roberts

Life
1873-1953; b. Belfast; worked as traveller in ladies’ underwear; joined Abbey Theatre as an actor; fnd. with Stephen Gwynn and Joseph Maunsel Hone the publishing company Maunsel, being named after the latter who invested 2000 and became its chairman; published Yeats, Synge, Lady Gregory, George Russell, James Stephens, Hyde, et al.; involved in a prolonged wrangle with Joyce over the publication of Dubliners in the so-called Maunsel Edition (1910), published over five hundred titles, 1905-1923; received compensation for the destruction of the Maunsel store of - largely unsellable - books by fire during 1916 Rising; the imprint name changes to George Roberts in 1917-20, and to Maunsel & Roberts, 1920-23; certainly concerned in the fiasco of Joyce’s Dubliners (1916); Roberts printed the illuminated Ireland’s Memorial Record of the Great War, marginally ill. by Harry Clarke; George Russell [“AE”] included his verse in New Songs (1904); Maunsel acquired by Robert West, c.1996.

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Quotations
Warm, odorous night,/As a mother to her breasts,/You press the Earth’s sun-wearied face;/While a babe in her arms she rests.’ [&c] Also cited from New Songs, ‘The Prisoner of Love’, ‘Still although I know our ways/Are divergent through all time/Following love will shed its rays/On the path you choose to climb[... &c]’ (From A Celtic Christmas [The Irish Homestead, Christmas Number, Vol. 10; 3 Dec. 1904; p.22; rep. in Donald Torchiana, Backgrounds to Dubliners, 1986, p.131.) ‘By day the Dagda hunts fair / While silent is each unseen star ... In dreamy rivers flowing past – Sleep / Unveils the vast mysterious deep’ (Torchiana, op. cit, pp.133-35; with one other.)

References
John Cooke, ed, Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909), selects gives ‘A Lark in the City’; ‘The Convent Bell’; ‘Your Question’ [‘You ask me sweetheart to avow/What charm in you I most adore;/But how can I discriminate/From your innumerable store.’]; with no bio-details.

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Notes
James Joyce wrote to his brother Stanislaus, ‘What is wrong with all these Irish writers – what the blazes are they always snivelling about? Isn’t it funny to read Roberts’ poems about a mother pressing a baby to her breasts? O blind, snivelling, nose-dropping, calumniated Christ wherefore were these young men begotten?’ (Richard Ellmann, ed., Letters of James Joyce, 1966, Vol. II, p.78; cited in Torchiana, op. cit. [supra], pp.133-35; and note, Torchiana cites the above as models for the poetic ambitions of a Little Chandler, giving added force to Joyce’s derision.)

 

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