Mervyn Wall

Life
1908-1997 [Eugene Welply]; b. Dublin, 23 Aug.; ed. Belvedere, and in Bonn, Germany, during his teens, where he was studying painting at 14; befriended there by Dr. John Ryan, later Prof. of Ancient Irish History at UCD, and thereby acquainted with Myles Dillon, also studying in Bonn; graduated from UCD; worked in Irish civil service for 14 years [1934-48]; plays incl. Alarm among the Clerks (1940); The Lady in the Twilight (Abbey 1941), and The Shadow (1945); and was then found employment at Radio Éireann [RTE] by Francis MacManus; critic of fatuities of the new Irish State; created The Unfortunate Fursey (1946), caught between the devil and the devious rogues of the Irish hierarchy, becoming in time a cult figure and the subject of a musical at the Dublin Theatre Festival, 1964; The Return of Fursey (1948); programme asst. Radio Eireann, 1948; m. Frances Feehan, 1950, fou children (one son); sec.-gen. of Irish Arts Council, proposed by Sean O’Faolain, from 1957-1973, remaining in that post until retirement; Leaves for the Burning (1952), concerning the alcoholic and never-accomplished journey of a group of friends towards Yeats’s burial in Sligo, voted best European novel of the year in Denmark; No Trophies Raise (1956), is a study of the civil service world of Dublin highlighting the role of the Knights of Columbanus; A Flutter of Wnigs (1975), short stories; The Garden of Echoes (1982) and Hermitage (1982), children’s books; long-term swimmer at forty-foot, Sandycove; supplied names of 150 artists and 27 writers to John redmond, chairman of Revenue commissioners, on the head of Charles Haughey’s tax exemption scheme for creative artists; d. 23 May; obit. Telegraph, 24 May, 1997. IF2 DIW DIB DIL OCIL

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Works
Novels
, The Unfortunate Fursey (London: Pilot 1946; NY: Crown 1947; Dublin: Helicon 1965; Dublin: Wolfhound Press 2000), 240pp.; The Return of Fursey (London: Pilot 1948); Leaves for the Burning (London: Methuen; NY: Devin-Adair 1952; rep. London: Millington 1973); No Trophies Raise (London: Methuen 1956); Hermitage (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1982) [first serialised in Journal of Irish Literature, Vols. VII, No.3 and VIII, Nos.1 & 2 (Sept. 1978; Jan. & May, 1979)]; The Complete Fursey (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1985). Short fiction, A Flutter of Wings (Dublin: Talbot 1974). Drama, Alarm among the Clerks (Dublin: Richview 1940); The Lady in the Twilight (Abbey 1941; Newark: Proscenium 1971).

Miscellaneous, Forty Foot Gentlemen Only (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1962), pamph. [local history]; ĎA Pilgrimage to St. Mac Dara's Islandí, Éire-Ireland, 4, 2 (Summer 1969), pp.26-30; Interview with Michael Smith, ‘Some Questions about the Thirties’, Lace Curtain, 4 (1971), pp.79-80; two initial chapters of work in progress, provisionally entitled Odious Generation, appeared in Agnes Birnelle, ed., Decantations, A Tribute for Maurice Craig (Dublin: Lilliput 1993), pp.233-39; contribution to Dermot Bolger, ed., Letters from the New Island, 16 on 16: Irish Writers on the Easter Rising (Dublin: Raven Arts 1988), 47pp., pp.11-12.

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Criticism
Michael Smith, ‘Some Questions about the Thirties’, [interview with Wall], Lace Curtain, 4 (1971), cp.79-80; Robert Hogan, Mervyn Wall (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP 1972); Patrick Rafroidi, ‘A Question of Inheritance: The Anglo-Irish Tradition’, in Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon, eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time (Université de Lille 1975-76), pp.13 & 19 [infra]; ‘Mervyn Wall Special Issue’, in Journal of Irish Literature, XI, 1&2 (Jan.-May 1982) [incl. interview, address in Delaware in capacity as Director of Arts Council; children’s story; and funeral oration for Arland Ussher, 29 Dec. 1980]; Fergus Linehan, ‘The Monk’s Progress’, review of The Complete Fursey, in Irish Times (22 Feb. 1986), p.4. See also James Cahalan, The Irish Novel (1988) [notices of The Complete Fursey; Hermitage, Leaves, for the Burning; No Trophies Raise, and The Return of Fursey]; Augustine Martin, Bearing Witness: Essays on Anglo-Irish Literature (UCD Press 1996).

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Commentary
Patrick Rafroidi, ‘A Question of Inheritance: The Anglo-Irish Tradition’, in Rafroidi and Maurice Harmon, eds, The Irish Novel in Our Time (Université de Lille 1975-76), pp.13 & 19; underscoring ‘the feelings of disillusionment, boredom and bitterness in most Irish fiction between the end of the twenties and the fifties’, and quoting extensively from Leaves for the Burning, set in 1939, and concerning the civil servant Lucian Brewse Burke and his attempts to save Barrettstown Castle ; viz., ‘cramped and jacketted by the smallness of [the] country’ (p.164), &c.

John Jordan writes on Mervyn Wall’s Hermitage, in Hibernia ([?]15 Jan. 1980), [q.p.]; the novel published in Journal of Irish Literature as three parts, Sept. 1978-May 1979. His first novel was No Trophies Raise (1956); Leaves for the Burning was reissued by Millington in 1973. In Hermitage, Tony Langton, a 62-yr old civil servant, is imprisoned for a murder, and recounts many previous deaths in his family. We do not learn the nature of his crime until the last pages. ‘Thus on one level Hermitage is a metaphysical thriller But on a much more important level it is a study of violence as it may affect the psyche over a lifetime.’

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References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt II] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1985), lists The Unfortunate Fursey (London 1946); The Return of Fursey (London 1948); Leaves for the Burning (1952; rep. 1973); No Trophies Raise (London: Methuen 1956); also Hermitage (Wolfhound 1982); Abbey plays, Alarm among the Clerks (1940); The Lady in the Twilight (1941).

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, cited with other authors whose literary image of the provinces has been a caustic reply to the extravagant Revival love of Ireland [JW Foster, ed., 937 & 938].

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Quotations
On the social origins of his contemporaries Wall noted that many of his contemporaries were of ‘urban origin, and like myself they had probably never had the experience of listening, as had probably O’Faolain, O’Connor, Kavanagh and others who had been born in the provinces to aged relatives cracking their swollen knuckles over the fire as they told tales of old Land League days, of evictions and of the lucky shot that winged a land agent. I, and I suppose most of my acquaintances, only learnt about small town and rural Irish life through visits to the Abbey Theatre and subsequent reading. Many of the writers ... had brilliant academic careers. Many came from prosperous families and no doubt from childhood on believed that a secure place in the world awaited them. // It was natural for these people to turn to Europe where culture was, just as the writer of provincial origin nowadays turns to America where the money is. Provincial Ireland has a long tradition of American emigration behind it. Dublin has not. I hate mentioning myself, but by doing so I may make things clearer. My father had the means and leisure to spend a great deal of his time from 1895 onwards travelling all over Europe and even to the West Indies. Our house was full of books that dealt with other lands, and I never heard when young a single place name in Ireland mentioned. All the talk was of Paris, the Italian lakes, Vienna and Dresden ...’ (Mervyn Wall, in an interview with Michael Smith, ‘Some Questions about the Thirties’, in Lace Curtain, 4, 1971, pp.79-80).

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Notes
Julia Carlson, Banned in Ireland (Georgia UP; London: Routledge 1990), footnotes and allusions to Mervyn Wall interview by Julia Carlson, 6 Oct. 1987, Dublin.

Home Rule: Wall reiterates without qualification Myles Dillon's view: ‘[Home Rule] would have brought about a united Ireland under one government, and independence in the course of time. But the 1916 Rising had fastened partition on to the country, and divided North and South beyond all hope of unity.’ ([‘Mervyn Wall’], in Dermot Bolger, ed., Letters from the New Island, 1988, pp.11-12; p.12.)

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