H. Halliday Sparling

Life
fl.1888; [Henry Sparling; Henry Halliday Sparling]; Irish Minstrelsy, being a selection of Irish Songs, Lyrics and Ballads (Enl. ed. London 1888), which incl. Mangan’s “Kathleen-ny-Houlihan”; m. May Morris, dg. of William Morris, with whom Elizabeth Yeats worked, and who had an affair with G. B. Shaw; he was a recipient of letters from Yeats in 1887, &c.

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Works
H. Halliday Sparling, ed., Irish Minstrelsy: Being a selection of Irish Songs, Lyrics, and Ballads (London: Walter Scott 1888) [24 Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row], with notes and Introduction, by H. Halliday Sparling, 516pp. contains selections from William Allingham; Anon; Anon [Street Ballads]; J. Banim; M. J. Barry; Lieut-Col. William Blacker; Dion Boucicault; J. Brenan; Frances Browne; J. J. Callanan; J. T. Campion; Andrew Cherry; H. G. Curran; J. P. Curran; John D’Alton; Francis Davis; Thomas Davis; Arthur Dawson; Thomas Dermody; Sir Aubrey de Vere; Aubrey Thomas de Vere; Ellen Mary Patrick Dowling; William Drennan; Helen Dufferin [Lady Blackwood]; C. G. Duffy; Stephen Nolan Elrington; F. A. Fahy; Samuel Ferguson; Ellen Forrester; John de Jean Fraser; George Fox; Thomas Finlay; Arthur Gerald Geoghegan; A. P. Graves; Gerald Griffin; C. Graham Halpine; Michael Hogan [Bard of Thomond]; J. K. Ingram; T. C. Irwin; R. D. Joyce: Rose Kavanagh; J. Kegan; E. M. Kelly [Eva]; C. Kickham; Samuel Lover; Edward Lysaght; D. F. McCarthy; R. R. Madden; Thomas D’Arcy McGee; J. C. Mangan; R. A. Milliken; Rosa Mulholland; Attie O’Brien; C. Grace O’Brien; Charles P. O’Conor [‘Ireland’s Peasant Poet’]; George Ogle; John O’Hagan; Ellen O’Leary; Peadar O’Murchadha; James Orr; George Petrie; John Edward Pigot; G. Nugent Reynolds; Mary O’Donovan Rossa; John Savage [Fenian]; Edward W. Shannon; R. B. Sheridan; George Sigerson; ‘Sliabh Cuillinn’T. D. Sullivan; Katharine Tynan; Ralph Varian; Aubrey de Vere; Aubrey Thom de Vere; ‘Duncathail’; J. F. Waller; Edward Walsh; John Walsh; ‘Speranza’ [J. F. Wilde]; R. D. Williams; W. B. Yeats. Intro. [xvi-xxv]: ‘In this small volume to which these pages are prefixed, an attempt had been made to provide form the lyric wealth of Ireland, a collection that shall fulfil two distinct important functions - the furnishing for all readers a fairly adequate opportunity of judging Irish character, as it is shown in the most self-revealing of all means of expression; and the providing Irish readers with a book that, in its scope completeness, and accuracy, may be found worthy to take rank on their shelves beside Gavan Duffy’s Ballad Poetry and the Spirit of the Nation. This two-fold aim, ambitious though it be, has been kept steadily in view; every song, ballad, or lyric is by an Irish writer, upon an Irish theme, and clearly Celtic in thought and feeling. Wherever possible it is one, also, that has actually been popular among the peasantry, who have always been the depository of the song, music and simple story, that are now finding securer keeping in printed books. From them, and those in sympathy with them, can the force which again and again revived the hope and courage that strove against unrelenting encroachment during dreary centuries in which the feet of war went to and fro over the face of the land. ... Like Anteus must Humanity renew its vigour by the touch of Mother Earth. From the conscious, rule-encumbered art of a complex civilisation must we turn to the truth, freedom, and tenderness of the spontaneous art of a simple nature-moulded life; from the perennial fountain thus kept fresh all really Irish writers have drawn their inspiration; and until tried by the test thus furnished no song or lyric can be unquestioningly received as truly Irish. [xvi] [on Croker]. His knowledge of history was more than equalled by misapplication of its meaning, and Popular Songs of Ireland gave to the world the though and feeling of a class as that of a nation, and seemed for ever to confirm the slander that Irish songs were “either pure English, or mere gibberish”. [Synopsis of history beginning with ‘the suicidal folly of inviting foreign intervention in Ireland’ xviii] Concanen, Congreve, and O’Keeffe must be counted as English writers. [xix] Congreve was so anxious to hide even that he was born in Ireland that he persuaded Jacob to write him down as born in Bardsley in Yorkshire, a lie still copied to the compilers of biography. [xix] The eighteenth century opened with the Irish people ‘pacified’ into seeming death. The country was in the hands of an enormous garrison, supplemented by the imported proprietors and Shoneen [‘upstart’] aristocracy. That part of the island that had lain without the pale was crushed into quietude; the Anglicised portion had not yet become national; Swift’s Drapier’s Letters, and the movement connected with them, interested but a small section of the country ... [xx] The first great blow struck at the British Empire, and at monarchical government - a blow from which they bleed yet - was struck by Irish refugees. ... A number of exiles, driven out by excessive rents in Ulster, went to America, where they soon had a chance of revenge upon English they were not slow to seize. [xxi] ... Moore ... unhappily tinkered most of the old tunes he used into drawing-room shapes and wedded them to words that were only Irish in their sentiment and their swiftness and [xxii] melody. For the rest - intonation, inflection, character - they might have been written by an educated Cockney with an ear or music; quotes Hazlitt to the effect that Moore had ‘converted the wild harp of Erin into a musical snuff-box’; calls the founding of the Nation ‘a great development’ [xxiii]; it is not too much to say that Irish history took a new meaning, a fresh departure, with the starting of the Nation; that the fresh departure found expression in the rebirth of the national literature, of which the songs and ballads of its poets and their successors were not the least important part. [xxiv] ... Today the Irish race, world-scattered though it be, is solidary and united; with an ever-growing literature distinctively its own, and yet a part of the literature of the English-speaking peoples./ To those who have erected fanciful theories of Irish character, and come to this little book for confirmation, disappointment must result. There is revealed no glaring difference between the Irish and the English people that need prevent them from meeting and mingling as close friends, from uniting as one folk. In the lyric of love, war, or fancy, the Celtic singer gives utterance to thought and feeling that appeal to all men. The difference is one of manner rather than of matter; swifter perception, and a lighter touch; [Sparling regards the Scots as the masters of songmaking, the Elizabethans second, and the Irish ‘not far behind’, xxiv]; she has given soldiers and statesmen to the building of the Empire; poets, artists, and musicians to its adornment; writers and historians to its records and description. In none of these things has she been more successful, or conferred a greater boon, than in singing the hope and fear, the passion and aspiration of humble common folk - in giving us so many moving songs ‘that a child or peasant might sing and feel.’ [Special acknowledgements to Rev. Matthew Russell and CG Duffy]. [xxv; END]

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Commentary
Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde (1974), cites Douglas Hyde’s disparagement of Irish Minstrelsy (1887; enl. 1888), compiled by Herbert Halliday Sparling in Walter Scott’s ‘Canterbury Poets’ ser.; disparaged by Hyde for its nonsensical use of lines and phrases of Irish, in general a more sober appraisal of the Davisite balladeers and closer to what Daly considers Hyde’s true opinion, especially on translation, ‘The truth is that Gaelic songs mostly depend for their effect upon the alliteration and collocation of words and that this effect is wholly and of necessity lost in any and every attempt to transfer them into another language, so that what in Irish are the most gorgeous and decorative verses imaginable, may become in English poor and bald ...’, Further, when Yeats referred to a poem of Allingham’s in United Irishman, 12 Dec. 1891; he was misprinted as meaning ‘sparkling Irish minstrelsy’ [n.16; p.214]. Francis Thompson reviewed Sparling for the Dublin Review, vol. XXI, 1889, ‘we look in vain for Irish singers to companion Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats ... a fact so patent would seem to argue for a racial defect ... the present volume bearing out such a conclusion.’ [n., 214-15].

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References
See McKenna, Irish Literature (1978), under “Anthologies”, poetry;

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Notes
W. B. Yeats prob. met Sparling at the home of William Morris, acc. A. N. Jeffares (New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, p.322), who ascribes the source of his phrase ‘bomb-balls’ to a poem on ‘The Boyne Water’, included therein; but see note under Robert Young.

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