Alfred Williams

CriticismCommentary

Life
An American journalist; editor of Providence Sunday Journal, where he published Irish writers incl. Rose Kavanagh; he retired in 1891; having travelled to Ireland for the New York Tribune to report on the ‘Fenian disturbances’, he compiled the anthology Poets and Poetry of Ireland (1881) which was published ten years after his return to America and which he characterised prefatorily as a ‘labour of love’.

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Works
Poets and Poetry of Ireland
, with historical and critical essays and notes [sic] by Alfred M. Williams (Boston: James R Osgood & Company 1881), 443pp.; ded. to Sir Samuel Ferguson, who has done so much by genius to adorn, and by learning to illustrate The Poetry of Ireland [gothic type] this volume is dedicated.’

Contents: The Bards [e.g., Fearflatha O’Gnive; Peirse Ferriter; Owen Roe Mac an Bhaird; Carolon]; The Hedge Poets [e.g., John Clarach MacDonnell; John O’Cullane; The Street Ballads; Convivial and Humorous Songs; Thomas Moore [sect.]; Charles Wolfe; J. J. Callanan; John Banim; Gerald Griffin; Frances Browne; Francis Mahony; Thomas Davis and the poets of the Nation; James Clarence Mangan; William Allingham; Aubrey de Vere; Thomas Irwin; Charles J. Kickham; Sir Samuel Ferguson; Denis Florence McCarthy; Alfred Percival Graves; Miscellaneous [e.g., “The Deserter’s Meditation” (byCurran); &c., with authors names given].

John Hewitt: See copy in the John Hewitt Collection of University of Ulster. There is an MS correction by Hewitt under “My Ulick”, there attributed to Charles J. Kickham and corrected to Francis Davis. [Copy in John Hewitt Collection, Univ. of Ulster, Coleraine.] (See Preface under Quotations, infra.)

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Commentary
Rev. Mattew Russell, S.J., Rose Kavanagh and Her Verses (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1909) - cites Williams on Kavanagh - remarking ‘Williams was an American who, with a quiet, reticent manner, possessed an earnest and generous nature. He was enthusiastically devoted to Ireland, and proved his devotion practically by helping Irish writers and writing about Irish literature. Speaking after her death, he says: “Miss Kavanagh was remarkably endowed in her personality, her face and form being of a singularly refined beauty and grace, and her untimely death recalls to those of us who knew her magic lines of Walter Savage Landor: ‘Ah, what avails the sceptred race / And what the form divine? / What every virtue, every grace? / Rose Aylmer, all were thine.’ Rose Kavanagh was one of the best and loveliest creatures I ever knew.”[end. quote.]’ (See Russell, op. cit., p.6; and Rose Kavanagh, q.v.)

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Quotations
Poets and Poetry of Ireland, [ed.] Alfred M. Williams (1881), Preface: ‘The purpose of this volume is to present in connected and illustrative form the national Irish poetry, from the earliest period to the present time, with such historical and biographical information and criticism as would illustrate without overloading it. The aim has been to make it as completely national as possible without absolutely excluding everything not distinctively Irish in theme or dialect, and on the other hand, while not burdening it with verse of a merely antiquarian or historic interest, to have it contain what is fairly comprehensively representative of Irish poetry. With the purpose of confining it within national limits, the poetry of Swift, Goldsmith, and others who wrote exclusively for English readers and were Irish only by nativity so far as their literary product is concerned, has been entirely omitted. Less space is also given to Moore [than otherwise might] because a considerable portion of his poetry other than the Irish Melodies is devoted to other than national themes. [.../] There is no collection in any form that gives a connected series of Irish poetry from the earliest period, and in all forms of expression, from the bardic ode to the drawing-room song and street ballad, and it is hoped that this volume will supply the lack [...] and present to American readers a collection of poetry attractive in itself, and as original, strongly marked, and indigenous as Irish music is already known to be. [...] The work has been a labour of love for many years, since I first visited Ireland as a correspondent for the New York Tribune to report the Fenian disturbances, and has been the recreation of the scanty leisure of a busy life of journalism.’ [Claims to print new biographical information.] Signed: Providence R. I., April 23 1881.

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Notes
Namesake: This is not the Alfred Williams (1877-1930) styled a poet and song-collector who was born in Wiltshire, England. (See official website - online; accessed 10.12.2011.)

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