The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001

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The first critical survey of an unjustly neglected body of literature: the autobiographies and memoirs of writers of Irish birth or background who lived and worked in Britain between 1725 and the present day. It offers a stimulating and provocative introduction to the themes, preoccupations and narrative strategies of a diverse range of writers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...a fascinating anthology of historical tales...The book challenges preconceived views about the Irish in Britain and illustrates a more diverse and multi-layered culture that has often been misplaced or forgotten." -- Elaine Sheridan, Irish Post
"Liam Harte's superb anthology of first-person a rare book, a real act of discovery that overturns inherited perceptions and opens up a rich terrain of Irish experience...Harte undermines the whole notion of 'the Irish in Britain' as a single entity and restores the complicating factors of class, gender, religion and geography. Above all, he restores in his wonderful book the individuality of each one of the millions of painful, hopeful journeys across the Irish Sea." -- Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times

"Liam Harte has collated a brilliant, valuable piece of work. If the departing Irish, particularly those who went to Britain, were said to have gone off into silence, Harte has set about breaking that silence with great gusto. Harte has delved deeply but not indiscriminately. If there is to be a better collection in years to come this will still remain the template. It will appeal of course to the academic audience who deal in these things but I can only hope that it will reach a wider audience too. A tremendous book." --Books Ireland
"Harte's achievement in putting together this anthology is all the more impressive given that he has made this subject of Irish migrant autobiography more or less his own. Historians and other scholars have consulted many of the published works and some of the unpublished accounts that he includes, but without the critical dimension and sharp insights that he brings to the study of this literature. By drawing our attention to these neglected autobiographies and memoirs, he also reminds us that the canon of Irish literature should be expanded to include the lesser known autobiographical work of migrants. In doing so, he has opened up new ways of looking at the Irish diaspora by seeking to recover how people made sense of their exile, dislocation and displacement. In restoring human experience to the centre of the story of Irish emigration, this volume will encourage others to seek out personal accounts of what it means for individuals to be Irish, either at home, abroad or some indeterminate place between these worlds." -- Enda Delaney, Dublin Review of Books

"Liam Harte's The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir is a major contribution to understanding this community. Those working in any area of modern Irish history or culture will find things to enthrall them." -- Conor Carville, Times Higher Education
"A wide range of very different kinds of writing is superbly anthologized by Liam Harte in his The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001, where the exile memories of W.B. Yeats and Elizabeth Bowen combine with the reclaimed voices of forgotten or previously unpublished Irish navvies, journalists and nurses to create a marvellous palimpsest of immigrant experience. It also provides an implicit commentary on the relationship of Irish consciousness to the English language." --Roy Foster, TLS Books of the Year 2009

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230296367
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

LIAM HARTE teaches Irish and Modern Literature at the University of Manchester, UK. He has published widely on contemporary Irish fiction and was Armstrong Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto in 2008. His recent books include Modern Irish Autobiography: Self, Nation and Society (2007) and Ireland Beyond Boundaries: Mapping Irish Studies in the Twenty-First Century (2007, co-edited with Yvonne Whelan).

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Migration and Autobiographical Authorship
Editorial Note
Mary Davys, The Merry Wanderer (1725)
Laetitia Pilkington, Memoirs of Laetitia Pilkington, Wife to the Reverend Mr Matthew Pilkington, Written by Herself (1748)
John Binns, Recollections of the Life of John Binns: twenty-nine years in Europe and fifty-three in the United States (1854)
John O'Neil, 'Fifty Years' Experience of an Irish Shoemaker in London' (1869)
Michael Fagg, Life and Adventures of a Limb of the Law (1836)
James Dawson Burn, The Autobiography of a Beggar Boy (1855)
Jane Jowitt, Memoirs of Jane Jowitt, the Poor Poetess, Aged 74 Years, Written by Herself (1844)
J. E., 'Life of an Irish Tailor, Written by Himself' (1857)
Robert Crowe, The Reminiscences of Robert Crowe, the Octogenerian Tailor (1902)
William Hammond, Recollections of William Hammond, A Glasgow Hand-Loom Weaver (1904)
Ellen O'Neill, Extraordinary Confessions of a Female Pickpocket (1850)
Owen Peter Mangan, 'Memoir' (1912)
Justin McCarthy, The Story of an Irishman (1904)
Jim Blake, Jim Blake's Tour from Clonave to London (1867)
Frances Power Cobbe, The Life of Frances Power Cobbe by Herself (1894)
John Denvir, The Life Story of an Old Rebel (1910)
Tom Barclay, Memoirs and Medleys: The Autobiography of a Bottle-Washer (1934)
William Butler Yeats, Reveries over Childhood and Youth (1916)
Joseph Keating, My Struggle for Life (1916)
James Mullin, The Story of a Toiler's Life (1921)
Michael MacGowan, The Hard Road to Klondyke (1962)
Francis Fahy, 'Ireland in London – Reminiscences' (1921)
John Sweeney, At Scotland Yard: Being the Experiences during Twenty-Seven Years' Service of John Sweeney (1904)
Walter Hampson, 'Reminiscences of 'Casey'' (1931)
Maureen Hamish, Adventures of an Irish Girl at Home and Abroad (1906)
Patrick Gallagher, My Story (1945)
Annie M. P. Smithson, Myself – and Others: An Autobiography (1944)
Elizabeth Bowen, Pictures and Conversations (1975)
Alice Foley, A Bolton Childhood (1973)
Bonar Thompson, Hyde Park Orator (1934)
Patrick MacGill, Children of the Dead End: The Autobiography of a Navvy (1914)
Jim Phelan, The Name's Phelan: The First Part of the Autobiography of Jim Phelan (1948)
Patrick McGeown, Heat the Furnace Seven Times More (1967)
Pat O'Mara, The Autobiography of a Liverpool Irish Slummy (1934)
Bill Naughton, Saintly Billy: A Catholic Boyhood (1988)
Margaret McAloren, 'The Wild Freshness of Morning' (1978)
Robert Collis, The Silver Fleece: An Autobiography (1936)
Darrell Figgis, A Chronicle of Jails (1917)
Elizabeth Hamilton, An Irish Childhood (1963)
Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False: An Unfinished Autobiography (1965)
Kevin FitzGerald, With O'Leary in the Grave (1986)
Sean O'Casey, Rose and Crown (1952)
Rearden Conner, A Plain Tale from the Bogs (1937)
Michael Stapleton, The Threshold (1958)
John Neary, Memories of the Long Distance Kiddies (c.1994)
Matt McGinn, 'Autobiography' (1987)
Peter Donnelly, The Yellow Rock (1950)
J. S. Collis, An Irishman's England (1937)
Nesca A. Robb, An Ulsterwoman in England, 1924-1941 (1942)
Mauyen Keane, Hello, Is It All Over? (1984)
Seán MacStiofáin, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1975)
Dónal Foley, Three Villages: An Autobiography (1977)
Elaine Crowley, Technical Virgins (1998)
John B. Keane, Self-Portrait (1964)
Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, An Irish Navvy: The Diary of an Exile (1964)
Richard Power, Apple on the Treetop (1980)
John Boyle, Galloway Street: Growing Up Irish in Scotland (2001)
John Healy, The Grass Arena: An Autobiography (1988)
George O'Brien, Out of Our Minds (1994)
Bob Geldof with Paul Vallely, Is That It? (1986)
John Walsh, The Falling Angels: An Irish Romance (1999)
William Trevor, 'Blockley, Gloucestershire' (1981)
Desmond Hogan, 'Catford' (1988)
List of Primary Works
Select Bibliography
Select Bibliography

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