“Spreading the News: Publicity, Networks and the Dun Emer Press” by Dr. Caoifhionn Ní Bheacháin.
I attended this seminar recently and it was very interesting. It was great to discover that not only was Irish publishing taking place, but that it was being done by female workers at a time when they were really not supported in such a profession. Not only was great Irish literature able to be published in Dublin, but young women were being trained, educated and paid to work in the profession. There was a great archive kept, with material being stored for future reference, which provides opportunity for future explorations into the Dun Emer Press and the work they published.
Founded in 1902 until 1908 by Evelyn Gleeson, Elizabeth Yeats, and William Butler Yeats. The studio was opened in Dundum and concentrated on printing and other crafts such as weaving, embroidery and binding. They trained the girls in all these professions successfully. They focused on Irish Artists including Yeats. Evelyn Gleeson even used her inheritance to get it started. Her ideas on both philosophy and politics influenced her choices. There was no other such printing press in Ireland at the time. If an author wanted to be published, they really needed to go to London to do so. But Dun Emer was about Irish Authors. They had an ideology for Irish artists to be published by Irish publishers. This was difficult to establish as publishers already in London had a much wider audience; it was very challenging indeed. But it did bring a revival back to Ireland. It was very much about Irish books; not just Irish stories.
It gave a great sense of female autonomy – the girls had independence, their own income and freedom. By 1905 30 young women were in paid employment. Prior to this they had no skills. In 1905 a news article stated that it became a co-operative and all workers were members, very unusual for female workers at the time. This turned them into skilled craft
women of their time. It promoted a different perspective of Ireland: less Anglicized, a different geography so to speak.
So in my last blog I discussed the issue of slavery in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I mentioned the ground breaking case Lord Mansfield ruled over regarding the slave James Somerset. Another important case he ruled over was the Zong case. The Zong was a ship bound for Jamaica in 1781 when 133 slaves were thrown overbroad. It seemed they were worth more in an insurance claim under British law. However, the insurers brought as legal case against the ships’ owners. This was murder after all. Lord Mansfield heard the case. When abolitionist Granville Sharp found out, he tried to have the ship’s captain tried for murder. Lord Mansfield ordered a re-trail, but the trail never took place. The massacre was shocking and disgusting to the public; it was a turning point in the campaign to end slavery.
One other important matter was that of Francis Barber who became the heir to Samual Johnson. Barber died on 13th January 1801 and was buried in Stafford. He started his life as a slave in Jamaica and was brought to England by Samual Johnson until Johnson died in 1784. He left Barber £70 pounds a year (that’s like £9,000 now !) which he opened a drapers shop with and married a local women. A very unusual outcome for salve indeed. One of the happier endings, but I don’t think it takes away from the dreadful practice that was slavery.
The following video is a great source of information about his life.
Read more in the following book;
Bundock, Michael. The Fortune of Francis barber. The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir. Yale University Press. 2015
I will be discussing Frederick Douglas in another post…..
This brings me to my latest essay and Mansfield Park. I discussed the issue of slavery regarding Mansfield Park. England was so corrupt and engaged in the dreadful practise of slavery. Many rich people had plantations in the British colonies and made a fortune on the back of slavery. This is referred to in Mansfield Park at least in-directly. Here, I will post some quotes from Mansfield Park that make a reference to slavery in Antigua, a former British colony.
I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen to him for an hour together…” [Fanny to Edmund, 197.]
“But I do talk to him more that is used. I am sure I do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?” [Fanny to Edmund, 198.]
“I did – and was in hopes the question would be followed up by others. It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.” [Edmund to Fanny]
“And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence! And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject, I did not like – I thought it would appear as if I wanted to set myself off at their expense, by shewing a curiosity and pleasure in his information which he must wish his own daughters to feel.” [Fanny, 198]
Sir Thomas found it expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his affairs… probability of being nearly a twelvemonth absent. [Narrator, 32]
…as his [Sir Thomas’s] own circumstances were rendered less fair than heretofore, by some recent losses on his West India Estate. [Narrator, 24]
“Why, you know Sir Thomas’s means will be rather straitened, if the Antigua estate is to make such poor returns.” [Mrs. Norris to Lady Bertram who responds “Oh! that will soon be settled. Sir Thomas has been writing about it, I know.” 30.]
Visit Janeite’s blog below, it’s a great blog and great links for Jane Austen
Deb, Janeite. Jane Austen in Vermont.
This represents a “darker, sinister and most definitely, decadent perspective. This is a side of life that was in need of reform. That is, just how a large amount of this wealth in England was derived from the awful practice of slavery. England had fallen into a decadent way of life by means of obtaining wealth in this manner. There were, in fact, two sides to life. On one hand the high life of the gentry with prosperity, mansions, material things and exuberance. While on the other hand, hundreds of thousands of slaves were forced into hard labour in many British colonies to earn this wealth for the rich to enjoy their lifestyles” (Farley).
“One of the most interesting aspects, regarding Mansfield Park, is the reference Austen makes with her title of the novel. Lord Mansfield, or William Murray, actually came from an aristocratic family and became a lawyer. After positions of Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, and chief Justice of the King’s Bench he became a private councillor advising the king. He often spoke in the House of Lords, and became a very “influential and powerful Man” (Kelly 173). It is also important to note that the character of Sir Bertram is also a member of parliament. Unlike Sir Bertram, however, Lord Mansfield made a very notable and perhaps ground-breaking verdict in a court case; the case of the slave James Somerset. He was brought by his master from America to England in 1769 where he was later abducted and shackled to a slave ship. The intention was to transport him to Virginia where he could be sold. A habeas corpus was obtained by anti-slavery activists and he appeared in court. Lord Mansfield was reluctant to make a judgement; nonetheless he did rule that “contract for the sale of a slave is good here”. In contrast, he also declared that “the person of the slave himself is immediately the object of inquiry” and ruled that the imprisonment was illegal (Kelly 176/7). His intention was not to outlaw slavery; nonetheless it was a celebration for abolitionists. However, even with this, according to Bundock “what the law said” and how people actually behaved were entirely different (61). By Austen using his name as the title of the novel, she forms a link between it and the de-humanising practice of slavery that England accepted” (Farley).
Farley, Michelle. If Mansfield Park stands for England, then England as it is represented in Austen’s novel is decadent and in need of reform.” 2022.
The following link is good information about Mansfield Park.
Huff, Marsha. Sir Thomas Bertram and the Slave Trade. Jasna. Jane Austen Society of North America.
Well, after completing all those English essays, I went on to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Philosophy, also at UCC, last year. This was also a great experience. I read some fantastic texts and studied the ideas and thoughts of some of the great philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Isaiah Berlin, Jeremy Bentham, Plato, Aristotle and Descartes. Initially, I had to re-think my essay style and writing; philosophy essays are very different from other essays. So after many years writing in one style, I had to change the way I was writing. It was challenging to start, I was busy attempting to follow instructions and learn from reading other philosophy essays. But I got there! And do you know what? I really enjoyed writing them; it was an opportunity to really give my own strong opinion about an issue and therefore make a strong argument about it. Coming from a social care background, and working with people in difficult circumstances it was good to discuss a few things that I have come across, and are important to me. Human rights were a big one. I wrote an essay discussing the issue of human rights regarding mental health. Another discussed liberty and the lockdowns we faced during Covid. This aimed at the political side, governments and law. I found Hobbes’s ideas of natural law fascinating. He believed that one could do whatever to survive and defend oneself, even kill, in a state of nature. He suggests that we imaging a state of nature, a hypothetical situation without any political authority. He states “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes 91-92). So man must do what is necessary to survive. He states in Leviathan “hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is war; and such a war is of every man against every man” (Hobbes 91-92). So with no authority, law or government anything goes for your own survival. Pretty bleak. Locke comes in here with his notion of law. He declares that an authority is required to maintain social order, law and state-building.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Pp. 91-92/261-2; slightly modernized. Penguin Classics. 1651.
So after all of this, here I am completing (or trying to!) my Masters Degree in English at UCC. First module, Theories of Modernity, was great. I read some great texts, and we looked at the theories behind the literature. Two I found interesting were Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Andrew Ure’s1835 article The Philosophy of Manufacturers. Ure argues that technology, manufacturing and the factory system that developed in England were good for workers. “The principle of the factory system then, is to substitute mechanical science for hand skill, and the partition of a process into its essential constituents, for the division or graduation of labour among artisans. On the handicraft plan, labour more or less skilled was usually the most expensive element of production…. but on the automatic plan, skilled labour gets progressively superseded, and will, eventually, be replaced by mere over lookers of machines” as stated by Ure. So human man power becomes less, and the machines take over. That is, of course, exactly what happened. Technology and machines have taken over so much of life that once was done by human hand.
Darwin discusses how any certain species can change over time; a new species can actually come from one that already exists. All of the species will share a common ancestor; however, different traits will be passed on from parent to offspring. Every type of species will have its own unique genetic differences, which will take a long time to develop. Darwin called this natural selection. The good qualities passed down enable offspring to adapt to new environments and thrive. He makes a significant link between variety and how a particular species survives and thrives. However, he further goes on to explain that any one species cannot become over populated due to the availability of resources such as water, shelter, food and many other required resources. Geography and not having enough room also play a part. So an infinite number cannot survive. This, in turn, creates species fighting with not only each other, but the environment in which they live. Here we have natural selection. Darwin maintains that any species with better, or more advantageous, traits will be better equipped to survive and adapt to their environment than those with less such attributes. So it will go on over time. Those less well adapted may well become extinct.
If we relate both of these readings to humans it becomes even more interesting. Humans who are better equipped with inherited traits will no doubt do better in life. If we add in availability of resources, education, health and living conditions a bigger picture about human life evolves. Those who are well educated, healthy, with good living conditions and a good income (job) will thrive. The weaker, uneducated and those living in poorer conditions will not do so well. The worker who has enough skill to work in Ure’s idea of the factory system will get a job, and therefore, a better standard of life. Those who cannot work technology or machines will be left behind. Also Ure suggests that children and women can be employed to save a lot of money as they are a lot cheaper! Not really such a great system. The younger male with good skill to work the machines will fare better.
So I wrote an essay based on these two readings, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Andrew Ure’s The Philosophy of Manufacturers. I attempted to demonstrate the negative side of technology on humans, as it may relate to Darwin and his idea of survival of the fittest. Humans also compete for resources to survive; the better equipped usually does better than those more marginalised and disadvantaged. Oh my goodness! I am now trying to go back to writing English essays after a year of writing Philosophy essays! I have attempted to bring in some of the philosophy style to make my points, but does not seem to be working that well so far. I thought it may help to make a strong argument about the negative side of technology. But I am not happy with it, and now it is too late to worry about it! However, I think I will just return, if I can, to English essay writing style! It got complicated. Or maybe it was the flu I was struggling with while writing it – I could tell myself that. I will see in the next essay.
Secondary reading for this essay was very interesting to research. One book I found beneficial was Julian Hanna’s Key Concepts in Modernist Literature (Palgrave 2009). Issues such as urbanization, industrialization, technology , education , women’s struggles and class are dealt with. A good reading to back up points in my essay.
Currently, I have been studying the module Romanticism and Modernity. I loved Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I hope an essay question will come up regarding the issue of slavery contained in the book; this is an issue that I am particularly interested in, especially regarding human rights.
Writing and walking go hand in hand for me and have for some time now. In 2020-21 I completed a Higher Diploma in English at UCC and I always found that walking helped with my writing. It clears the head and allows for new thinking; sometimes to think outside the box, so to speak. It was essential during Covid and those dreadful lockdowns. Previously I spent four great years studying social sciences in my undergraduate degree. All through this time my faithful companion and best friend, Lady, was by my side. Her little sister, Gracie, took over when she passed away. Of course, Gracie being a puppy needed lots of walking! So now Gracie and I walk the paths, beaches and woods that once Lady and I did.
Poetry was never a strong point for me; I never really gave it much thought. It just seemed too difficult to comprehend. That is until I studied the H Dip in English. I completed two poetry modules, Poetry of the Vikings, and What a Literary War. Both opened my eyes to a different ways of writing, and understanding the content in them. Poetry can tell us so much; it’s not just the feelings, emotions and ideas of the author, it also tells us so much about history, the cultural and societal aspects of the time and the lives of people. Take Poetry of the Vikings for example. The poems, chants and writings, originally written in Old Norse, tell us about the mythology, beliefs, battles and lives of the Vikings. The collection of poems in the Poetic Edda by Carolyne Carrington is well worth taking the time to read. The original manuscript, known as the Codex Regius is kept very safely and contains 31 anonymous poems. It was written during the 13th century. Also worth reading alongside the poems is Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda which is a text book rather than poems. It helps readers understand the poems and the stories behind them.
Two of my more favorite poems are about “the story of the creation, and indeed destruction, of the world as written in the Vǫluspá, told by a Seeress, a female Shaman, who has access to the world of sprites, both good and evil. Hávamál , although a didactic poem giving ethical advice about human relations and social behaviour, warms men about women, particularly ones who refuse to be controlled. But the poem also goes on to recount Óðinn’s own bad behaviour in the seduction of giantess Gunnlod” (Farley 1)
Please follow the link below to watch a video that will tell you all about the Norse God Óðinn
Farley, Michelle. “Stories about Norse goddesses may have been suppressed in the transmission of the poetry, but accounts of female figures that survive still complicate our notion of women’s roles in early medieval society.” 2020.
Now, of course, I cannot write poetry, this goes without saying. However, I am starting to write down some little ideas that come into my head. Hence, Lady, above. I may even get to write one about Gracie soon, so watch this space !
What a Literary War was very interesting. I especially liked the poetry by Vera Brittain. She not only recounted the horrors and traumas of the First World War from her experiences as a VAD nurse but also from the experiences of her own brother, two friends and fiancée, Roland Leighton (1895-1915). They all died during the war, and left her very badly affected. The poems also are very emotional, and tell a love story developing between Brittain and Leighton. “Chronicle of Youth: The War Diary, 1913-1917 (1981) was based on Brittain’s diary and is maybe one of the most accurate writings she has published. This diary was written from childhood on a regular basis, throughout the war, and contains vivid information about the experiences she went through, her reactions to them and her feelings and emotions at the time. Letters From a Lost Generation (1998) contains letters written during the First World War between herself, her fiancé Roland, her brother Edward and their two friends, Victor and Geoffrey. Both these genres are important as they give, perhaps, a more accurate account of her experiences rather than her autobiography Testament of Youth (1933)” (Farley). This is an extract from one of my own essays, and I think reflects the way I see Brittain’s books. I read them alongside each other, and it all gives a great understanding of the First World War, how people’s lives were shattered and the conditions of the time. The descriptions of the trenches in France and the human suffering feel as real now as it actually was at the time. Her poetry is very vivid.
Farley, Michelle. “Vera Brittain makes use of various genres to articulate her personal experience of the First World War”. 2021.
Follow the link below to watch an interview about Testament of Youth and her memoirs being made into a film –
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) wrote a moving poem titled My Boy Jack. Many believed it was about his son who went missing in action while serving with the Irish Guards in the Battle of Loos during World War One after only 3 weeks in France in 1915. His body was never found: he was just 18. Kipling had great difficulty accepting his son’s death.
Actually it is not about his own private grief. It is about a 16 year old boy called Jack Cornwall, the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross, who stayed at his post on board ship during the Battle of Jutland. I have posted it here because I believe it is so moving and sad. It must reflect the loss of many parents during the war.
Have you news of my boy Jack? ” Not this tide. “When d’you think that he’ll come back?” Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?” Not this tide. For what is sunk will hardly swim, Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?” None this tide, Nor any tide, Except he did not shame his kind— Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more, This tide, And every tide; Because he was the son you bore,