Alfred John Webb (1834-1908)

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
b. Dublin; ed. Quaker day school and in later Manchester; apprenticed to father’s printing business; visited Australia for health, 1854; returned to Dublin, 1855; deck-hand on sailing ship; mgr. and owner of the printing firm; compiled Compendium of Irish Biography (1878), the appendix of which lists 350 biog. sources; early supporter of Home Rule movement; Anti-Parnellite MP for West Waterford, 1890-1895;
 
Dublin Corporation and Port and Docks Board; extensive travels, India and USA, where he spoke against slavery; elected President of Indian National Congress, 1898; contrib. travel articles to Freeman’s Journal, Irish Monthly, New York Nation; also Opinions of some Protestants Regarding their Irish Catholic Fellow-Countrymen (1886), and The Alleged Massacre of 1641 (1887);
 
d. in the Shetland Islands, on holiday; he is buried in the Blackrock Quaker burial ground; the Webb Collection of books was acquired by the National Library of Ireland. DIB DIW DIH

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Works
  • Compendium of Irish Biography, Comprising Sketches Of Distinguished Irishmen, Eminent Persons Connected With Ireland By Office Or By Their Writings (Dublin Gill 1878), and Do. [facs. rep.] (NY: Lemma 1970), xix, 597pp.];
  • ‘The Municipal Government of Dublin’, in Dublin University Review, 1 (Oct. 1885), pp.177-70 [cited in Carty, Bibliography of Irish History, 1870-1911, 1936];
  • The Opinions of Some Protestants regarding Their Irish Catholic Fellow-Countrymen [2nd enl. edn.] (Dublin 1886);
  • The Alleged Massacre of 1641 (London: Irish Press Agency, 1887), 30pp.
See also A. Webb’s Annual (Wolverhampton: 1896- ).
  • Marie-Louise Legg, ed., Alfred Webb: The Autobiography of a Quaker Nationalist (Cork UP 1999), vi, 100pp.

Webb’s Compendium is incorporated into the Library Ireland website [online; accessed 16.11.2009]. For a listing of persons treated in it, with links to the relevant pages of the online version see the attached.

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Criticism
Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, Cosmopolitan Nationalism in the Victorian Empire: Ireland, India and the Politics of Alfred Webb [Cambridge imperial and post-colonial studies ser.] (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2009), xiii, 229pp.

Contents [chaps.]: An Introduction to Alfred Webb; ‘Interested in people of all countries, especially of America’: A Quaker Family in the Atlantic World; ‘The labours and responsibilities nearly killed me’: Social Activism in Victorian Dublin; ‘Some curious characters floated on the surface’: Webb’s Entry into Nationalist Politics; ‘I am willing to take any dangerous part’: Webb in the World of Parnell and Gladstone; ‘A union of hearts firmly based on love of Ireland’: Cosmopolitan Friendship in the Imperial Metropolis; ‘I stand beside you as a comrade’: Irish and Indian Political Collaboration; ‘Politics is a difficult and anxious game’: An Assessment of Webb Bibliography.

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Commentary
R. F. Foster, ‘Remembering 1798’, in The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland (Penguin 2001): ‘Remembering 1798’: In September 1898 the Irish Quaker Alfred Webb, nationalist, printer, ex-secretary of the Land League and currently treasurer of the Evicted Tenants’ Fund, wrote to a colleague: “The country appears memorial mad.” He complained of “no less than 4” monuments to the United Irishmen in County Wexford and  remarked caustically that this expenditure was “absorbing funds that should go to supporting a Home Rule fight and towards relieving the evicted Ö What is going on is talk about the past, and inaction in the present.”’ (Alfred Webb to J. F. X. O’Brien, 21 Sept. 1898, and 21 July 1898, NLI, MS 13, 431(5); here p.219.)

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Quotations
‘All our absorbing interest in our own Irish affairs should not blind us to what is going on in other countries, should not lessen our sympathies towards men and women in other countries who are striving for free institutions as we are.’ (Quoted in publisher’s notice for Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, Cosmopolitan Nationalism in the Victorian Empire: Ireland, India and the Politics of Alfred Webb, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.)

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Notes
D. J. O’Donoghue claims in Irish Ability (1906), preface, [sel.] ‘Even Webb’s Compendium &c does not contain one-third of the men and women named in this book’. [v.]

Douglas Hyde: Alfred Webb, Compendium of Irish Biography (Dublin 1878) & The Opinions of Some Protestants regarding their Irish Catholic Fellow-Countrymen [2nd edn.] (Dublin 1886), were both held in the library of Douglas Hyde (see Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, n., p.205).

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Gulliver’s Travels (1726): The title page of a first-edition volume was acquired by the National Library of Ireland with the Alfred Webb Collection in 1908 (displayed on Front Page of NLI web site at 25 Sept. 2002.)

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Namesake: E. A. Webb, annot., &c., 17 Views of the Ancient Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London (West Felton 1900), and Do. [15th edn., rev., as] 18 Views [... &c.] (London: Freeman Dovaston [1922]) ... &c.

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Kith & kin? On the Present Condition of Ireland and on Government Aid for carrying out an Efficient Railway System[,] by C. Locock Webb, Esq., of the Middle-Temple, Barrister at Law, Fellow of the Statistical Society, &c. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., Cornhill; Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, Grafton St. 1852), 2s. [pamph.; LSE Library, Selected Pamphlets; V & A [bound pamphlets 1852-54; aso available at JSTOR online; accessed 1.07.2010.

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