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The Green Book 7
– A.E., The National Being (1916)
Those living in Ireland will know that this country is in the midst of a year-long commemoration of a watershed event: the 1916 Easter Rising. If you don’t know about this event, take a moment to familiarise yourself with it. Suffice to say the rebellion was a major turning point in the centuries-long struggle for Irish independence. However, the violence that erupted in Dublin (and further afield) during that week in the spring of 1916 became the template for twentieth-century Ireland’s myriad political and social divisions over which much blood has been spilt, creating wounds that have not yet healed. A terrible beauty indeed.
The question in 2016 is not only how we commemorate such a controversial event, but in what ways do we represent the various and sometimes overlooked voices (unionist, republican, the role of women, the Anglo-Irish, et cetera) of such a complex moment?
With varying opinions of 1916 on everyone’s lips, why not — thought I with typical archness — do a centenary issue of The Green Book? I dismissed the idea at first, already growing weary of the superficial flag waving — not to mention those hideous chocolate bars depicting the executed signatories of the proclamation. But then I remembered Lord Dunsany’s reminiscences of the Rising published in his autobiography Patches of Sunlight (1938). Yes, the author of The King of Elfland’s Daughter witnessed action on Dublin’s main thoroughfare, Sackville Street (renamed O’Connell Street in 1924), and later recorded his impressions, which included lying in a bed in the Jervis Street hospital (now a shopping centre), after a piece of shrapnel lodged in his face. It is hard to imagine now these scenes in modern day Dublin, but for Lord Dunsany the Rising must have been quite real.
I get a similar chill at the northeast corner of Saint Stephen’s Green, recalling scenes so vividly illustrated by James Stephens in his unexpurgated, day-by-day account of the Rising. Of course Stephens is now primarily remembered for his delightful fantasy The Crock of Gold (1912), but his diary published later in 1916 as The Insurrection in Dublin (“not a history of the rising,” Stephens tells us) communicates a first-hand, visceral sense of confusion as gossip and rumours befell the news-starved citizenry of Dublin. Incidentally, my own copy of The Insurrection in Dublin bears the above lines from The National Being written in A.E.’s own hand.
Indeed, the authors that primarily concern us in the pages of this publication did in fact raise their voices in 1916, and so I set about assembling a sort of collage.
This issue commences with Rudyard Kipling’s unionist poem “Ulster”, published in 1912; this appears mainly as a prelude to A.E.’s “Open Letter to Rudyard Kipling”, a thorough rebuke to the nationalist poet’s inflammations. We have also selections from Stephens’s The Insurrection in Dublin, Dunsany’s Patches of Sunlight, plus A.E.’s essay “The New Nation”.
Some perspectives will surely be unpopular, such as Arthur Machen’s admonishment of the insurgency (in the guise of Doctor Johnson). And as so much political expression in Ireland takes the form of poetry, I hope you will not mind some verse — however, I will spare you Yeats’s “Easter 1916”, good though it is.
Perhaps one of the odder footnotes associated with the Rising is the strange case of Mr. Herbert Moore Pim, described as “the man with thirty lives” — he was a novelist and nihilist, a poet and political provocateur, an aesthete and quisling — and for a brief period the most prominent and influential member of Sinn Fein after Arthur Griffith.
The closing essay in this issue is by Peter Berresford Ellis on the republican historian Dorothy Macardle, author of The Uninvited (1942). While Macardle wasn’t directly involved in the Rising, it certainly touched her life, though not as profoundly as would what was to come in the next decade. Her story serves as a segue from the Easter Rising into the next phase of Ireland’s progression to independence. Indeed, Macardle’s first book, a collection of ghost stories entitled Earth-Bound (1924), was written while incarcerated in Kilmainham Gaol and Mountjoy Prison.
Finally, I would be amiss if I did not mention the significance of the cover. The background texture is a close-up of the stone facade of the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, still pock-marked from the rifle-fire of one hundred years ago. The G.P.O. served as headquarters for the rising leaders, and was one of many buildings held by the rebels. The central image on the cover is none other than the skull of Lord Dunsany. We see it here in profile with the jagged fragment of a bullet that lodged in his face during a skirmish near the Four Courts. The image is a startling reminder, I hope, of the Easter Rising, its historic reality and still complex legacy.
This issue of The Green Book is not meant to be a statement of any kind. Instead, I hope that the journal continues to do what it was created to do, and that is to explore the lives and writings of the people of this island who made contributions to the literature of the fantastic.
Brian J. Showers
29 February 2016
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Brian J. Showers
"An Open Letter to Rudyard Kipling"
"On Behalf of Some Irishmen Not Followers of Tradition"
"An Extract from The Insurrection in Dublin"
"Selections from Patches of Sunlight"
"The Man with Thirty Lives: An Indiscreet Portrait of Herbert Moore Pim"
"The New Nation"
"The Spring in Ireland — 1916"
"A Reflection of Ghosts: The Life of Dorothy Macardle"
Peter Berresford Ellis
"Sackville Street, 1917"
Lafcadio Hearn's Insect Literature (Paul Murray)
Dorothy Macardle's The Uninvited/Earth-Bound (Terri Neil)
Mairtin O Cadhain's The Key (Peter McClean)
John Connolly's Night Music: Nocturnes 2 (Bertrand Lucat)
"Notes on Contributors"
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