I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.
Hannah Lynch (1859-1904): Irish Writer, Cosmopolitan, New Woman, by Faith Binckes and Kathryn Laing, Cork University Press, 248+xii pp, €39, ISBN: 978-1782053330 Shelley, in the preface to his Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, excoriated the “savage criticism” of Keats’s Endymion in the Quarterly Review, describing the author as a “murderer”. The same publication had favourably reviewed works by the Reverend George Crolly, Eaton Stannard Barrett and the Reverend Henry Hart Milman, as well as “a long list of the illustrious obscure”. Literary, like other canons, are constructions often seen as unproblematic and the authors canonised regarded, a trifle profanely, as the fittest who have managed to survive. Shelley was, of course, using the oxymoronic term “illustrious obscure” ironically but, as this book splendidly and convincingly proves, it can also be semantically redeemed, rescuing from present obscurity the undoubtedly illustrious Hannah Lynch. Katharine Tynan’s obituary of Lynch spoke of one who left “a name writ in water”, quoting the self-inscribed epitaph on the gravestone of the same John Keats. Despite being written in the inhospitable element of water, his words remained and did not suffer the proverbial fate of those writ in air, the spoken words. We are greatly indebted to Faith Binckes and Kathryn Laing for their invaluable work in restoring Lynch to our memory. Having immersed themselves in many archives, spread over a number of countries, and using the rich resources of digital technology, the authors have produced a superbly scholarly volume. Lynch was not only the author of novels and short stories but of several novellas, travel and critical writings, including one of the earliest studies of the novelist George Meredith, and translations from French and Spanish. Frances Low, “a pioneering journalist and commentator on women’s affairs” wrote of her “scathing wit” and suggested that her articles in periodicals should be collected “into one volume, and once and forever settle the question of whether there is a woman who can write a melodious and graceful prose-style”. She was, Low continued, “equally brilliant whether she was writing criticism, often of a sufficiently pungent nature, upon decadent French novelists or vivid descriptions of Spain and Greece and Southern France, or social or political articles” and those “exquisite little stories she wrote for Macmillan’s Magazine”. Finally, “towering above all other literary productions of the day”, was her “Masterpiece that has never won the recognition it surely will, viz., The Autobiography of a Child”….
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