Frederick Ryan

Life
1876-1913 [fam. Fred Ryan; var. b.1874]; secretary to Irish National Theatre Society in 1902 [and ?1913]; joined James Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party, and later national secretary of Socialist Party of Ireland, fnd. 1909; member of dissident Young Ireland branch of United Irish league with Thomas MacDonagh and Tom Kettle; co-edited Dana with John Eglinton [Wm. Magee], 1904 - and shared with him in rejecting Joyce’s early “Portrait” essay;

ed. National Democrat, with Skeffington, 1907; lived in Cairo as ed. of Egyptian Standard [var. Egypt] for Wilfrid Scawen Blunt until his death; member Celtic Lit. Society and sec. Irish National Theatre Society, pre-1904; pioneered realistic satire at the Irish National Theatre Society with The Laying of the Foundations (4-6 Dec. 1902, Camden St. Hall, ); d. London. DIW DIL FDA OCIL

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Works
Plays, Laying of the Foundations [1902], in John Kelly, ‘A Lost Abbey Play: Frederick Ryan’s The Laying of the Foundations’, in Ariel, Vol. 1, No. 3 (July 1970), pp.29-48 [play-text 37-48]; The Laying of the Foundations, Act II only, in Robert Hogan and James Kilroy, eds, Lost Plays of the Irish Renaissance (Newark 1970).

Miscellaneous, Criticism and Courage (Tower Press Booklets, Maunsel 1906); Manus O’Riordan, ed., Socialism, Democracy and Church by Frederick Ryan (Dublin: Labour History Workshop 1984); O’Riordan, ed., Sinn Féin and Reaction by Frederick Ryan (Dublin: Labour History Workshop 1984).

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Criticism
Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, ‘Frederick Ryan - the Saint of Irish Rationalism’, The Irish Review (May 1913), pp.114-19; John Kelly, ‘A Lost Abbey Play, Frederick Ryan’s The Laying of the Foundations’, in Ariel, Vol. 1, no. 3 (July 1970), pp.29-48.

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Commentary
Stephen Gwynn
, ‘the Irish Drama’, in Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (1904), Vol. X, gives an encomiastic account of The Laying of the Foundations: ‘the action of this comedy passes in the house of Mr O’Loskin, town councillor (and patriot), immed. after municipal election; to him come his friends Alderman Farrelly and another, to secure a building syndicate for erecting new asylum; Mr O’Loskin desire post of city arch. for his son Michael; their cabal unsettled by editor Nolan of the Free Nation, ‘and the worst of it is’, says Farrelly, ‘that I don’t believe the fellow can be squared.’ Michael however learns that the slums he has condemned are Farrelly’s, and with Delia’s backing (whom he marries) he resists the attempted to corrupt him and the wedding gift of 500. The play ends on his ‘righteous protestations’. Gwynn identifies the paper with the United Irishman and another clever paper, The Leader, for some time making things unpleasant for patriot publicans and others. Gwynn notes also the good playing of the part of Delia, Catholic bourgeoisie to the life, by Miss Honor Lavelle. He comments on Ryan’s superiority to Moore and Martyn in Bending of the Bough and Tale of a Town in his first-hand familiarity with local politics, and ‘that perfect knowledge of local types’; ‘I do not say that the play was a masterpiece. I do say that it was live art; and that here was a new force let loose in Ireland, the clear sword of ridicule, deftly used from the point of greatest vantage ... Here there was no reference to the stranger; here was Ireland occupied with her own affairs, chastising her own corruption’ [pp.xvii-iv].

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John Kelly, ‘A Lost Abbey Play, Frederick Ryan’s The Laying of the Foundations’, in Ariel, Vol. 1, No. 3 (July 1970), pp.29-48 [play-text 37-48]. Member of Celtic Literary Society from 1896, later the basis of Sinn Féin (fnd. by William Rooney and Arthur Griffith); occasionally acted with Frank Fay’s Ormonde Dramatic Soc., and Secretary in 1902; Laying [... &c.], produced for Cumann na nGaedheal at Ancient Concert Rooms, 29 Oct. 1902; revived that year at Camden St Hall as first play of Nation Theatre Soc.; pen-names Irial and Finian; fnd. Dana with Eglinton, 1904 [Kelly cites first editorial from copies in the Mary Hutton Papers, at NLI]; tried to establish National Democratic Committee under chairmanship of Michael Davitt; started National Democrat, 1907; asst. ed. Egyptian Standard, 1907-1909; organiser for Irish Socialist Party; ed. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt’s Egypt in London, and d. of appendicitis, London 1913. His only book, Criticism and Courage, Tower Press Booklets, No. 6 (Dublin 1906).

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Quotations
Gaelic League: ‘[I]t is contended that English literature and habits of thought are debased and debasing, whilst the Irish language and literature are superior and elevating./ These arguments have always appeared to me rather faulty.’ (‘Is the Gaelic League a Progressive Force?’ (in Dana, 1904; extract in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature, Vol. 2, pp.995ff.)

Metaphysical habit: Ryan took An Claidheamn Soluis to taks for ‘the metaphysical habit of regarding politics which I am afraid is one of our constitutional vices in this country.’ (‘On Language and Political Ideals’; quoted in The Field Day Anthology, 1991, Vol. 2.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, gives variant birthdate [(1874] and selects from Dana (1904), selects ‘Is the Gaelic League a Progressive Force?’ [as supra]; and ‘On Language and Political Ideals’ [taking an Irish-Ireland editorial on the indispensibility of the Irish language to ‘Irish nationality’ in Claidheamh Soluis to task for ‘the metaphysical habit of regarding politics which I am afraid is one of our constitutional vices in this country’; for seq., see Pearse, q.v.] [all 995-1000]. Biog. [1019-10; as supra]. See also The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991), Vol. 3 which selects Criticism and Courage and Other Essays, ‘Political and Intellectual Freedom’; ‘The spoil of Egypt, A Sordid Story of Modern Empire-Building’, being a review of Theodore Rothstein’s Egypt’s Ruin, a book prefaced by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt of whom Ryan says that he ‘ably sets out the fallacies and pseudo-history [of Egypt] now current in England’ [706-07; see further under Blunt, q.v.].

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Luke Gibbons [sect. ed.], in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. Seamus Deane (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2: Frederick Ryan, giving an example of ‘that metaphysical habit of regarding politics which I am afraid is one of our constitutional vices in this country’, quotes Pearse’s response to his own article in The United Irishman: ‘There is here an opposition of two things which are on totally different planes - nationality and politicial autonomy [...] like the prisoner who would sell his soul to the Evil One that he might be freed from his bodily chains.’ (from An Claideamh Soluis; see further under Pearse, Quotations, supra.) [FDA2 1000]. Further, gives an account of a controversy between Arthur Griffith and Francis Sheehy-Skeffington arising from the former's backhanded tribute in an obituary for Ryan in Sinn Féin (12 April 1913): ‘At one time he almost fell under the fascination of the Irish-Ireland Revival, and if he had succombed to the Gael in him we know we men whose intellectual powers, thawed by the national sun from a frozen cosmopolitanism, could have served Ireland as well.’ Griffith notes that he contributed to Sinn Féin as “Irial”, and edited the Egyptian Nationalist papers and Dana, while a play (Laying of the Foundations), ‘too good although topical not to be revised and revived’, and a small volume of essays, Criticism and Courage [... &c.’; 1003]. Gibbons remarks: ‘In an outraged response to Griffith’s notice of Ryan’s death [Sinn Féin April 1913], Sheehy-Skeffington states that Griffith’s attempt to define a “Nationalist” so to exclude Ryan was characteristic of what Ryan called a “metaphysical” way of looking at concrete questions; impugning Ryan with loving other half-a-dozen other nations equally, Griffith replied, “The castaways on a coral island would have been as much a nation to Mr. Ryan as Ireland that stretches back to Emain Macha [...] Mr. Ryan loved Ireland as a geometrician might love an equilateral triangle ... The man who declared he wanted National freedom in order to promote social reform does not understand the meaning of the nation.”’ [1004]. Gibbons concludes: ‘The significant aspect of [Eglinton and Ryan’s] critical [outlook] was that it emanated from within the shifting boundaries of the nationalist revival [...] Ryan’s outlook was thoroughly internationalist but, like Tom Kettle, he was careful to distinguish this from a shallow cosmopolitanism which, in an Irish context, was simply imperialism masquerading under the guise of universal or civilizing values.’ [952].

Belfast Public Library holds Criticism and Courage (1906); Essays (1906).

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