W. P. Ryan (1867-1942)


Life
[William Patrick Ryan, formerly O’Ryan; also Liam P. O’Riain; pseud. ‘Kevin Kennedy’]; b. nr. Templemore, Co. Tipperary, London journalist; The Heart of Tipperary (1893); issued The Irish Revival: Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities (1894); Starlight through the Thatch (1895), in which the progressive Gerald O’Hara meets with clerical opposition in his attempt to establish cottage industries, library and co-operative bank, and is also contrasted with the regressive Fenian Rooney; Plays for the People (1904); returned to Ireland to join John [James] McCann’s Irish Peasant at Navan, 1906-11;
 
took it over as his own vehicle; condemned by Cardinal Logue; reformed it as Peasant (Dublin), 1907-1908, later Irish Nation, 1909; went back to London, 1910; worked in labour journalism and acted as Ass. Ed. of the Daily Herald; active in Southwark Irish Literary Club and later the Irish Literary Society; The Pope’s Green Island (1912), gives an account of clerical opposition at the hands of Cardinal Logue; The Labour Revolt and Larkinism (1913); edited An tEireannach for the Gaelic League, 1911-13;
 
issued The Plough and the Cross (1910), in which Fergus O’Hagan, a young editor, is defeated by ecclesiastical power in his campaign for liberalisation of Irish society while Fr. Kenealy, a radical priest, is chastised by the diocesan bishop and set abroad to raise funds for a church at Tara; edited An tEireannach in London for the Gaelic League, 1911-13; The Irish Labour Movement (1919), and plays, novels and poetry (in Irish and English); d. London; called ‘one of the great crusading journalists of his day’ (Kiberd, 1995). IF DIW DIB FDA OCIL

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Works
Fiction
  • The Heart of Tipperary: A Romance of the Land League, with an introduction by William O’Brien, MP (London: Ward & Downey 1893);
  • Daisy Darley; or, the Fairy Gold of Fleet Street (London & Toronto: J. M. Dent 1913).
Poetry
  • Patria Poetica (London: J. M. Watkins; Dublin: Hodges, Figgis [1928]);
  • Poets in Paradise (Dublin: Sign of the Tree Candles 1931);
  • Gaelachas i gCein (Dublin: Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtas 1933) [check genre].
Drama
  • From Atlantis to Thames (London: Theosophical Publishing House 1926), in verse;
  • King Arthur in Avalon (London: A. S. Curtis [1934]).
Prose
  • The Irish Literary Revival, Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities (London: Paternoster Steam Press 1894), and Do., facs. rep. edn. (NY: Lemma Publishing Corp. 1970), v-vi, 184pp., ports. [see details infra.];
  • Starlight through the Thatch (London: Downey & Co. 1895);
  • Literary London: Its Lights and Comedies (London: L. Smithers 1898);
  • Sidheoga ag Obair (Dublin: Conradh na Gaeilge 1904) [var. 1910];
  • The Romance of a Motor Mission; With General Booth on His White Car Crusade (London: Salvation Army 1906);
  • The Plough and the Cross (Dublin: Irish Nation 1910);
  • The Pope’s Green Island (London: James Nisbet 1912);
  • The Labour Revolt and Larkinism (London: Daily Herald Office 1913);
  • Caomhin Ó Cearnaigh (Dublin: Gaelic League 1913);
  • The Celt and the Cosmos (London: David Nutt 1914), pamph. [var. 1913];
  • The Irish Labour Movement from the Twenties to Our Own Day (Dublin: Talbot 1918; London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1919);
  • Eden and Evolution (London: Noel Douglas 1926).
[Note: incomplete identification of genres.]

See also

See also Caoimhín Ó Cearnaigh: scéal úrnua, le Liam Ó Riain [W. P. Ryan]; réamhrá le Alan Titley (Binn Éadair [Howth], Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim 2014), 126pp. [originally published by Clódhanna Teo. do Chonnradh na Gaedhilge, 1913].

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Bibliographical details
The Irish Literary Revival, Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities, with portraits. Published by the Author at 1 Constance Road, East Dulwich, London S.E. (London 1894) [published by the Author at 1 Constance Road, East Dulwich, London S.E.; printed by Paternoster Steam Press]; rep. (NY: Lemma Publishing Corp. 1970), v-vi, 184pp. Note that the pages with plates are not numbered but not omitted from the numeration series either.] CONTENTS: See also Chap. II: The Southwark Departure; Chap. III: Pan-Celtic; Chap. IV: Remarkable Movement; Chap. V: Litterateurs; Chap. VI: The Movement in Dublin; Chap. VII: At Home and Abroad; Chap. VIII: Needs and Possibilities. (See extracts under Quotations, infra.)

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Criticism
Martin J. Waters, ‘W. P. Ryan and the Irish Ireland Movement’ [Ph.D. thesis] (University of Connecticut 1970); James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.107-10, 126-28; see also Irish Book Lover Vols. 4 & 13.

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Commentary
Maurice Headlam, Irish Reminiscences, 1947) describes Ryan as a ‘labour-historian’ and quotes his phrases on the Dublin Strike in 1913 which effectively called off the RDS Horse Show ‘to the indignation of snobs and pleasure-hunters.’ (The Irish Labour Movement; here p.126.)

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Ronald Ayling, ed., Sean O’Casey: Modern Judgements [Critical Essays] (Macmillan 1969), ‘Introduction’ notes the ‘similarity [of The Bishop’s Bonfire] in subject matter and even mood and atmosphere to the world evoked by W. P. Ryan in The Pope’s Green Island in 1912. Further: ‘This book embodied trenchant criticism of social evils and clerical authoritarianism, together with idealistic aspirations for Ireland’s future. Tribute was paid to the men and women who had stood up to clerical interference in national and cultural affairs, particularly within the Gaelic League, and to the young liberal-minded priests who had aided them in the struggle. [... &c.]’

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James H. Murphy, ‘Rosa Mulholland, W. P. Ryan, and Irish Catholic Fiction at the time of the Anglo-Irish Revival’ [unpublished paper]: Fergus O’Hagan, the hero of The Plough and the Cross (1910), edits a radical paper and campaigns for nationalism, Gaelicism and modernising Catholicism in conjunction with some liberal priests one of whom has written to him, “The great modern task of free Catholicism in Ireland from formalism and literalism, on the one hand, and of patronage or forgetfulness of the poor rather than love of them, on the other, and making it a profoundly move and enlightening spiritual and social force again demanded the most subtle delicacy as well as courage” (1910 edn., p.3). In Answer to the bishop who denounces his paper, O’Hagan writes, “Is there any reason why we should not have broad-minded, democratic and intellectual churchmen in Ireland - men who would show that the Church so far from being afraid of science, culture, democracy and progress, appreciates them and encourages them and has a mission and a spirit immeasureably greater than them all?” (p.306). In defeat, O’Hagan consoles himself, “When you come to think of it ... the great Ireland is in ourselves, and it is full of beauty, divine activity and boundless hope. The outer Ireland, agitated or stagnant, is something incidental to keep our souls in training.” (Ibid., p.373; also cited in Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922, Greenwood Press 1997, p.129.)

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James H. Murphy, Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (Conn: Greenwood Press 1997), see ‘Intelligentsia Fiction, 1900-1922’ [Pt. II], for discussions of The Heart of Tipperary; The Plough and the Cross; Rory of the Hill; pp92-143 passim; on Starlight Through the Roof, pp.107-10. Further, ‘W. P. Ryan, complained that the clergy, instead of resisting this tendency, had themselves become its promoters. “Many of the Irish Catholic clergy are religious folk-lorists. Theologically, they live and breathe in a folk-lore atmosphere, and much of Catholicism and Church history they have turned into folk lore, pure and simple. Even priests addressing fairly well-educated congregations adopt the folk-lore habit and attitude.”’ (The Pope’s Green Island, London: Nisbet 1912, p.225; here p.144); Murphy compares with this the bishop’s remark to Fergus O’Hagan in Ryan’s near-contemporary novel: “You want the one thing, intellectuality in the Church and you will not get it. For hundreds of years our religion in Ireland has been emotional and in a measure sentimental.”’ (The Plough and the Cross, 1910, p.304; here ftn. 2 [pp.150-51].)

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Quotations

The Gaelic League: ‘It began and encouraged a general national examination of conscience; every institution in the land was shown how it had sinned against itself and the soul and vitality of the nation by its neglect of the national language. Political leaders, on the whole, heard the plainest truths, mainly on the subject of the distinction between politics and nationality and on the flowerly phrase-making they had substituted for serious thinking.’ (Pope's Green Island , 1912, p.55; quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde , 1974, p.167.)

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The Irish Literary Revival: Its History, Pioneers and Possibilities [1894] (NY: Lemma Publishing Corp. 1970) - Preface: ‘... a record of Irish literary awakenings and endeavours during the past ten years ... in the stress and tension of Irish political interests ... unnoted in the background ... litterateurs of our time ... I find them for the most part a merry and a Celtic company ... &c. [v-vi]. Introduction [‘Introductory’]: ‘The revival which is known in a general way as the Irish literary movement (though it is really something more) has gone on and prospered in a manner which is surprising even to the Irish students and thinkers who, a decade ago, were dreaming what to others seeemd the vain dream of an Irish Renaissance. (p.1.) No study as yet has surveyed the movement as a whole, has taken cognisance of the several schools within it, has recognised how much wider it is than the rallying grounds of the existing literary societies, how really racy of the soil it is, how typical of certain Irish qualities, and how gradually its roots have grown from various elements of Celtic Ireland ... I believe that within there are men with missions which ought to be memorable ... [2] ... generous national and social ideals before them, as well as their essentially intellectual ones ... the striking way in which life, love or culture, literature, and scholastic enthusiasm are bound up in the Gaelic nature at its best. Perhaps with the expansion and success of this revival – always remembering the education and social, as well as the purely literary aims of it – the destinies of things Irish are more closely identified than many political students imagine. It is the visible evidence of that critical, studious Ireland which has been gathering itself to itself, and finding its strength behind the social changes and the political scene-shifting of the past few years.’ [3] (Cont.)

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The Irish Literary Revival ([1894]; rep. 1970), Introduction - cont.: ‘[Douglas] Hyde’s lecture of ‘The necessity of De-Anglicising the Irish Nation’ [Dublin Nat. Literary Society, 25 Nov 1892] was a startling revelation of the extent to which we had aped foreign fashions, of a nature the least suited to our character and requirements. It was a diagnosis of one of our worst diseases, one which we would make either literary or national revolutions impossible. [4] Realising this inborn love of the Celt for knowledge and lore of so many kinds, it is no wonder that there should be to-day a band of Irishmen whose first purpose is to convince their brethern that devotion to those scholastic [5] and literary ideals is the surest sign of their being true to themselves; that Ireland has need of men who would be apostles of study and culture, as essentially Father Mathew was an apostle of temperance. Another section of the movement ... is one of literary enthusiasts, pure and simple; some whose natures and intellects are Celtic to a fault; who would have Ireland’s literature really expressive of herself; a literature through which an Irish would sound as truly as through the Irish melodies themselves ... others who plan a literature which will have no land as its home, will be as wide as humanity, leaving us like Love in Mr Yeats’ poem, / “To pace upon the mountains far above, / And hide his head amid a crowd of stars.”’ [6] [Note, Ryan is here distinguishing between those who have a politico-cultural agenda, those who have a literary-national agenda, and those who have the notion of using Irish material as the springboard for a world-class literature. Ryan here quotes George Eliot’s “Many Theresas” from in Middlemarch:] ‘Has it not been so with the Celt? His story, rightly studied, shows his years to be long yearning for that epic life; but the battle-field, the scaffold, the famine grave, or the emigrant coffin-ship, have too often been the rude results, the end, the burial places of his spiritual grandeur. But a glorious revenge were his if, in an era when peace and the fruition of his national hopes had found him, gifted children should arise and interpret that epic soul to the world. / Such interpreters we have now to meet.’ (p.4-7.) (See longer extracts in Ricorso Library, “Criticism > Monographs”, via index or direct.)

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References
Stephen Brown
, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919): W. P. O’Ryan [sic; pseud. ‘Kevin Kennedy’; b. nr. Templemore, Co. Tipperary, 1867; lived for several years in London, where he took an active share in the activities of the Southwark Irish Literary Club and the Irish Literary Society; he has written a history of their beginnings; editor of The Peasant, and its successors, The Irish Peasant and The Irish Nation, in which he mingled anti-clericalism with much excellent writing strongly national in tone; The Plough and the Cross is largely autobiographical; also publ. The Pope’s Green Island (1912). [Item 1355:] The Plough and the Cross (The Irish Nation 1910), 378pp., 1s.: A story, how much of which is fact we do not learn, woven round certain real events of recent date, and in particular the stopping of a paper of which the Author was editor. Many of the characters may be recognised ts portraits of real personages, among others the Author himself, Mr. T. P. O’Connor (George Moore, Mr. James McCann, Mr. Edward Martyn, and Mr. Sweetman. The book is largely taken up with conversations in which the Author gives expression to his peculiar views on many subjects. Many of these belong to the class of ideas known collectively to Catholics as Modernism. Throughout the book there is constant criticism of the Irish clergy, much of this criticism being put into the mouths of ‘progressive priests’. The personages and the series of events dealt with are highly idealised. Distinctly well written, but somewhat exalté in style. Scene Dublin and the Boyne Valley.

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Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919) - see also under Ryan: The Heart of Tipperary (Ward & Downey 1893), 256pp. foreword by William O’Brien [land league romance, nationalist, not much occupied with politics]; Starlight Through the Roof (Downey 1895), pseud. Kevin Kennedy [set in Munster village, peasant life; Utopian reforms established by returning peasant; opposed by agent and priest; partial conversion of later; arrest of reformer on false charge of murder; prison rescue; strongly nationalist; called ‘early and crude effort in fiction’ (Brown, p.270); lists under W. P. O’Ryan, The Plough and the Cross (The Irish Nation 1910), 378pp. [largely autobiographical, concerns stopping of a paper like his own; chars. incl. T. P. O’Connor; James McCann; Edward Martyn; Mr Sweetman; peculiar ideas ... known collectively to Catholics as Modernism; Dublin and Boyne Valley]; under W. P. Ryan, The Heart of Tipperary, intro. by William O’Brien [former MP] (London: Ward & Downey 1893), 256pp. [Land League romance]; Starlight through the Roof (London: Downey & Co. 1895), 240pp., pseud. Kevin Kennedy [returning emigrant reformer opposed by agent and landlord’s priest whom he partially converts; arrested falsely for murder; prison break-in and rescue; strongly Nationalist; ‘early and crude effort’]. NOTE also that Peadar Ó Laoghaire wrote in The Irish Peasant. Brown ranks Ryan with Gerald O’Donovan, M. J. M. McCarthy and others, as sensational anti-clerical writers (p.238).

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Doherty & Hickey, A Chronology of Irish History Since 1500 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989), gives account of Irish Peasant: started by James McCann, at first a local paper in Meath, but made into a nationally important journal by W P Ryan until it met with the opposition of Cardinal Logue (‘a most pernicious anti-Catholic print’), resulting in its being closed by the proprietor’s family in 1906, after which Ryan took it over as The Peasant, and started it up in Dublin, folding within a year; Ryan’s The Plough and the Cross gives an account of the business.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2: selects The Pope’s Green Island, extracts from Chaps. II, III, VII, tackingly Ne Timere decree [see infra] and other aspects of clerical reaction [359-66]; his first paper Irish Peasant fought for rights of layman and nation, his second, Irish Nation, concentrated on labour, housing, land-purchase etc.; wanted to make Irish-Ireland policy free of sectarianism and provincialism [359]; Sigerson, Ryan, MacNeill and others emphasised the mixture of races that constitute the Irish people and derided any notion of an exclusively ‘Celtic’ spirit, 722; Sigerson’s influence acknowledge in his writings, 779; WP Ryan’s spiritual socilaism was such that he published a visionary tract entitled The Celt and the Cosmos (1913) [954; note, this date, in luke gibbon’s editorial essay, at variance with that listed in the bio-bibl. at 371], BIOG. b. near Templemore, Co. Tipperary, moved to London 1867, worked as London journalist on The Catholic Times, The Sun, The Weekly Sun, The Morning Leader, and The Daily Chronicle; active in Irish societies, esp. Gaelic League and Southwark Literary Society and Irish Literary Society; returned to Ireland 1905 to edit Irish Peasant, Co. Meath, making it a leading national paper; condemned by Cardinal Logue and closed 1906; story told in The Plough and the Cross (1910), novel; ed. Irish Nation 1908-10; returned to London; his son is Desmond Ryan, journalist and historian; d. London. FDA2 100 [quotes Ryan on the [R.C.] clergy), ‘The tragi-comedy of the Irish conservative clerical attitude to woman and literature, and the efforts to keep both in the way it is imagined in episcopal “palaces” and priests’ houses that they ought to go, are beyond telling. The censors strive with a certain sadness in their hearts, for they feel that whatever they do the trouble cannot really be removed, only “regulated” in a haphazard way. Woman cannot be abolishd, and literature, which finds her so dangerously interesting, cannot be suppressed. The trouble did not originate in Ireland; it really began with “Eve”, on whom Irish ecclesiastics preach with extraordinary feeling and emphasis. If Adam could have sufficed at the morning-time of the manifestation of the world! had there been no Eve and no womanhood there would probably have been no trouble with literature; nothing in its pages would have shocked a curate or brought a blush to the brow of the most sensitive bishop. Eve is the eternal shadow on the Irish ecclesiastical landscape.’ (Do., Chap. VII.)

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: remarks on complex understanding of relation between past and present, Gael and Gall, overlooked [by official ideology; ed., Luke Gibbons], 568; published Connolly’s ‘Sinn Fein, Socialism, and the Nation’, in The Irish Nation, 23 Jan 1909, where Connolly makes references to another author’s article in The Peasant with which Connolly is in sympathy, 720-21; represents ecumenical aspect of the Revival [ed., Declan Kiberd], 1309.

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