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Symposium 2008

2008 Irish Studies Symposium: November 3 & 4

Early Canadian Readers of Thomas D'Arcy McGee: A Case Study in Irish-Canadian Book History 1845-1935
Dr. Daniel O'Leary, Concordia University

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First of all, I would like to thank the organizers for the opportunity to speak here today. Looking forward to the rest of the week. I was also a little horrified when I saw that I was speaking after David; a tough act to follow.

Today, I am going to be talking about Early Canadian Readers of Thomas D'Arcy McGee and offering a case study in Irish-Canadian Book History 1845-1935.

For the sake of economy, I will limit introductory remarks about my methodology to remarking that the approach followed here draws from both print cultural, or book historical, and literary critical approaches while answering Gerald Friesen's call for attention to what he terms the "plain people of Canada."

First, I have approached the bibliographic remains of the eventually middle class Saint John, New Brunswick Irish Canadian family of Bernard Patrick and Edward James Mooney from the point of view of Robert Darnton's now famous paradigm of the communications circuit, a model of analysis drawing on both economic and cultural materialist theories of interpretation. Also the following will provide some critical analysis of inter-textual and literary historical features of the subject texts. I have noted marginalia, underscoring, and other indications or residuum of "affect" represented in the surviving remnants of the Mooney library. And I have also considered physical aspects of these books as cultural artefacts. In this case a rich field for interpretation given the bibliophile tendencies of three generations of family, including the decoration of Irish related books with emerald green, orange and scarlet ribbons. In a sense, the following remarks initiate analysis of what is now a phantom or ghost library.

In 2004, the breaking up of the remains of the Mooney household at 16 Queen Street, just above Prince William Street in Central Saint John led to a used book scout's acquisition of several cartons of mixed books, formerly the property of the later descendants of the Mooney family. Initially, I planned to bring some of these books here but it seemed like bringing coals to Newcastle - but I did bring one or two, if anybody is interested. Some of these books were discarded and lost, and the books scout, also a collector with Irish interest, damaged many of the books by partially removing Edward Mooney's bookplates and obscuring and effacing signatures and inscriptions.

When Edward Mooney inherited the collection of Irish books from his father, Patrick, he elaborately signed all of those that appeared to be connected with the original New Brunswick family library from the early 60's in a florid hand, although, he later covered his signature with his unfortunately undistinguished bookplate. Subsequently, the books were offered to Mr. David Shoots, a prominent Saint John book seller and antiquarian who acquired several boxes of Mooney books including the bulk of the early Irish materials that together form a revealing selection of scarce imprints by Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Daniel Faughlon, Sir Jonah Barrington, Thomas Faughnan, Henry Gratton, and including an 1857 first edition of Edward Hayes', wonderful two-volume song collection, The Ballads of Ireland, this specimen decorated with both Bernard Mooney's emerald ribbons and his grandson Edward Mooney's bookplate.

Other miscellaneous imprints from the collection including some Irish related books, school texts and juvenile history and fiction were sold on to Loyalists Coin and Bookshop in Saint John. Over the past several years, I have managed to recover many of these books and Mr. Shoots has been very helpful in allowing me to study and photograph other volumes unrelated to my interest or beyond my resources. The books represent at least three and probably four generations of Irish Canadian reading providing the basis for a revealing book historical case study. The following will discuss some of the main features of the residuum of the library and offer interpretation both of the significance of this print to reconstruction of the thought of average Irish Canadian readers of the 1850 to 1930 period and to print cultural analysis of Irish Canadian book culture in general.

I start with a collection of Patrick James Mooney who was born in 1851 and died in 1918. Little information about the early Canadian generations of the working class Mooney family survives. Like his wife Mary Doyle, Patrick James Mooney was a native of County Derry, having arrived in New Brunswick from Londonderry in late April 1862 at the age of 11. Patrick Mooney's grand-father, Thomas Mooney was born in 1822 and died in 1890 an Irish Catholic, came to Saint John with his family on the ship Elizabeth, a vessel of Londonderry J&J Cooke line. With him, his adult son Bernard, daughter-in-law Sarah Krealy Mooney and their three boys, Patrick James, Michael Francis and Edward, the family eventually settling at 1710 Orange Street in a mixed neighbourhood in south end of Saint John. The Elizabeth made 8 trips carrying immigrants between Ireland and Saint John between 1857 and 1863. And by 1860, it was carrying as many as 200 immigrants. Although, earlier crossings were made with as few as 19.

Thomas and Bernard Mooney were originally semi-skilled labourers employed in the building trade and one or both may have worked for a time in the north of England. In the early 1870's, Bernard founded the firm of Bernard, Mooney and Sons, General Contractors, a business that continued until Edward James Mooney's retirement in 1931. Bernard Mooney also came to own an extensive brickyard in Fairview, New Brunswick, eventually becoming one of the foremost builders in the city.

A period in New Brunswick history that has been characterized by Scott C. and some others as a time of intense bigotry, conflict and Orange extremism, the Mooney firm involvement in projects for government customs house, inter-colonial railway and both the Methodist and Baptist Churches as well as the Orange Lodge itself, evidences instead that generally non-sectarian character of the Saint John construction business during this time at least.

It is almost certain that Patrick Mooney inherited at least part of the library of Irish books from his father or grandfather, although neither left their signatures in the specimens that have survived. The earliest books in the collection are from Sir Jonah Barrington, The Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, issued with an 1845 New York imprint by the important Catholic Irish Canadian publishers, Denis and James Sadlier. Thomas D'Arcy McGee's Historical Sketches of O'Connell and his Friends produced in the same year by the Boston Irish firm Donohoe and Rohan, and Daniel O'Madden's 1853 edition of Henry Gratton's speeches and letter on the union, produced by James Duffy's Dublin Press at 7 Wellington Key.

The specimen of the Madden book is interested in that it features the signature of "D" probably Douglas Monty Hubert, a member of an aristocratic family with connection in Sutherland in Newcastle. The book also contains a stamp from the Hughes Paddison Filling Chemical Works workman's library and Edward Mooney's signature which makes it likely that the Mooney family or at least part of it spent time in Sutherland before leaving Britain for British America. If so, they may well have lived at Paddison town, the company village for workers at the Filling Chemical Works. The book shows signs of extensive use and is in a battered state, thumb and finger prints and water stains throughout. The book includes early green and scarlet ribbon bookmarks, associated with most of the surviving volumes that belong to the family in the early period after their arrival in Saint John.

Grattan's closely printed and lengthy speeches from the early 1780's through to 1819 on such subjects as the declaration of Irish Rights, Catholic Rights, the Corn Laws and Anti-Jacobinism, are still very instructive and make very good reading. And they would have provided much towards an informed Irish Nationalist political education. The twentieth century signature of Edward Mooney confirms that the book was preserved and used for more than half a century.

With the copy of Madden's Grattan, another book in the collection that is likely to have been brought from Ireland by Patrick's father or grandfather is a straight first volume of James Wills' sixth volume Lives of Illustrious Irishmen. Double in imprint to the Edinburgh Firm a Fullerton printed in 1847. The first volume includes Wills' scholarly introduction and the section of the bibliographical encyclopedia that deals with the earliest period of recorded Irish history, including extensive materials on legends relating to the ancient Irish figures who later figure prominently in the works of the Irish revival by such figures as William Butler the Eight, Lady Gregory and Douglas High.

Patrick Mooney's repeated use of green and red ribbons for bookmarks for Irish books seems to indicate patriotic, political and cultural sentiments. And the possibility that the use of colours was accidental or purely decorative or seasonal is contradicted by the fact that the Irish books in the library were acquired over time and various fabrics were used for the green ribbons including one with an ornament of Irish green, white and black pattern in a very interesting and scarce copy of the third edition of Thomas D'Arcy McGee's Historical Sketches of O'Connell and his Friends, and by another similar ribbon orange and green and a copy of McGee's Catholic History found in orange cloth. Later Patrick's son, Edward, would use orange and green ribbons in his books, doing politics, the younger Mooney developed into liberal imperialist with strong interest in labour politics.

As for most of the books in the other Mooney's library, this copy of the historical sketches was purchased second-hand. And significantly, the book contained signatures from two previous owners named Samuel and Hughes K. Tuffs on graphicological evidence, probably father and son, originally from Ulster. The New Brunswick Tuffs family formed part of the United Empire Loyalist migration and the first owner of the book, in either case would have been at least 60 years old when it was purchased, according to the New Brunswick archives. Although the date of publication predates the arrival of the Mooney family in British North America, the Tuffs' signatures confirmed that the D'Arcy McGee books in the collection produced by Donahoe and Rohan of Boston including O'Connell and his Friends in the Catholic History, and Hayes' Ballads of Ireland, were purchased in Saint John rather than carried from Ireland.

From the perspective of McGee's studies, the Hayes' Ballads are interesting in that of 68 poets that's included, McGee afforded the most space with 36 of his poems reproduced, more even than James Clarence Mangan and Thomas Moore. In fact, the book is the most substantial collection of McGee's first to appear before the Montreal Lovell edition of the Canadian Ballads that were printed many of the same poems in 1858.

Intriguingly, from the point of view of trans-Atlantic Victorian print distribution, the specimen copy of Sir Jonah Barrington, The Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, which was issued by Denis and James Sadlier was printed in New York, although it was probably first acquired in Ireland.

Now the collection of Edward James Mooney who is born in 1886 and died in the late 30's… Much more information of Edward Mooney survived than it is the case for the earlier members of his family. He attended Saint John public school, St. Francis Xavier College and later attended Business College. He was athletic, played hockey and football (soccer) and was considered an excellent rower in a city where rowing was taken very seriously.

Before World War I, Mooney was involved in the militia and received a commission as Lieutenant in 1911. He served as a highly decorated machine-gun officer in the Sixth Canadian Mounted Rifles from the outbreak of the war and later joined the Fourth Battalion at Passchendaele, was badly wounded afterwards returning to Halifax on sick leave and later serving as a Captain in the military police until the end of the war. He returned a very successful contracting business in Saint John until 1931 when he retired to become a member of the Board of Assessors in the city of Saint John. He was a member of the Canadian Club and Vice-President of the Canadian Cavalry Association and of the New Brunswick Historical Society.

Not surprisingly, over the course of his life, Edward acquired more than half of the books that survived from the Mooney collection. It is difficult to gauge the exact extent of Edward's identification with Irish culture or how he conceived his ethnic identity but he did preserve the Irish books inherited from his father's collection and added the Fennings Taylor biography of the Honourable Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Sketch of His Life and Death, which appeared in 1868 and several other works related to Irish politics and history.

Edward's childish signature also appears on the inside cover copy of Mary Anne Sadlier's edition of the poems of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a Mooney family book that at one time had been part of the collection of the Portland New Brunswick St Aloysius Association. But aside from McGee's poems and the Hayes' anthology, poetry does not form a substantial part of the Mooney materials. Although an elaborate, young adult signature over the head of the preface of McGee's poems provides some evidence that Edward returned to the book after childhood and the state of the book indicates that it was well thumbed by someone.

In early life, Edward appears to have been especially interested in British military and imperial history. This interest was warm enough to tempt him to retain, not to say pitch, a Saint John high school copy of William Collier's very widely circulated History of the British Empire, used in schools across Canada and elsewhere in the Empire for more than 30 years, although Collier's literary value is disputable.

In his youth, Edward also owned a copy of The Great Battles of the British Army, an illustrated, patriotic history issued in London by George Rutledge some time in the 1890's. A more interesting Mooney book is Edward's copy of Poet and Liberal Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Sir James David Edgar, or Sir James David Edgar's Cavaliers and Roundheads or Stories of the Great Civil War, first published in 1888. Although the book was published with the Toronto imprint of George McLean Rose House, it was printed by the Ballantine Press in Edinburgh, a house that specialized in romantic adventure stories for youth.

Although the Canadian version is now rare, the London Frederick Warren edition of Edgar's book had a very large sale in Britain and stayed in print for 20 years or more. Although Cavaliers is generous to the Puritans and gives a sympathetic portrait of Cromwell, its general tone is royalist and monarchist. It is a very engaging book, well written and full of incident, and provides another example of the seldom-remarked Canadian contribution to British and Imperial popular culture during the later Victorian period. It seems to have been a favourite of Edward Mooney, who kept it into adulthood, placing a copy of his bookplate in the book in the late 1920's or early 1930's. It is also possible that he had it with him when he was overseas during the war, as he affixed an account of the execution of Charles I, taken from the July 4th,1916 edition of The Times into the back of the book.

Edgar's book is not the only Mooney-related item that can be classed as juvenile historical romance. George Alfred Henty's 1887 adventure novel, With Wolfe in Canada, issued under the imprint of the London firm Blackie and Son and including the imprints of both Copp Clark and Williams Brigg of Toronto also formed a part of this collection. The book is richly illustrated and offers a lively and detailed account of Wolfe's campaign from a strongly imperialist point of view. The climax of the novel presents an account of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the death of Wolfe before the novel's hero returns to happy life in rural England.

While recuperating from war wounds in Halifax, Mooney also acquired and read Thomas Boyle Murray's Pitcairn Island: the Island, the People and the Pastor in a late Victorian edition, printed in London by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Although Mooney remained a practicing Catholic throughout his life, Protestant and evangelical publishing houses produced many of the books that he owned, and he seems to have been consistently non-sectarian in his choice of reading matter.

There was a good deal of popular fiction among the Mooney books, but unfortunately these books now have little commercial value and most have been dispersed or destroyed. Three interesting Irish-related novels do survive, however: the semi-anonymous W.A.C.'s Tim Doolan: The Irish Immigrant, which was published in 1869, Thomas Faughnan's The Young Hussar or Lady Iris's Adventure and J.A. O'Reilly's The Last Sentinel of Castle Hill published in 1916. Both Tim Doolan and The Young Hussar are now scarce, and neither had a very extensive circulation, but their publishing histories are quite distinct.

Tim Doolan, published in London by the Protestant Religious Press, SW Partridge, chronicles the life of an emigrant family from Ireland who experience anti-Irish prejudice in the United States before removing to Canada, where they prosper as happy subjects of Queen Victoria. The Young Hussar shares this anti-American tone and presents a fictionalized autobiographical memoir of the author's travels and experiences. Thomas Faughnan was an Irish-Catholic Canadian ex-soldier who emigrated to Picton, Ontario after having served in Malta, the Crimea, Quebec and Jamaica. Faughnan's first book, also part of the Mooney library, was his fascinating autobiography, Life of a British Soldier, self-published in 1879 using the Toronto Hunter Rose Press and dedicated to the Marcus of Lorne, the widely popular Governor General of Canada. That book he retained the copyright and distributed it himself. The book includes a long section dealing with Ireland during the 1847 famine period and is especially valuable for its documentation of Catholic sentiment in the army during this critical period.

The enormous success of Faughnan's life, which sold more than 29,000 copies, encouraged the author to self publish in Picton, The Young Hussar in 1890, a rollicking tale in the style of Charles Lever. In the novel, in traveling through the American slave states before the Civil War, the genteel Irish hero is saved from a degenerate American mob by appealing to the Irish patriotism of the crowd that has gathered to watch the fun. Faughnan contrasts British civilization of middle class Ireland and Canada with the debased and chaotic state of American culture, and he includes reference to the negative effects of American influence on Canadian political life.

The third Irish-related novel to survive in this collection, is the Catholic priest J. A. O'Reilly's The Last Sentinel published in London by Elliott Stock in 1916 and probably acquired by Edward Mooney while overseas. This episodic novel deals with the Newfoundland Irish and a Newfoundland election, stressing both the British identity and the Irish cultural nationalism and trans-Atlantic sentiment of the Newfoundland-Irish community. In general, the novel suggests that Edward Mooney's interests were historical rather than literary, and aside from a prized volume of the poems of Alexander Pope, none of the surviving volumes document strong literary interests.

Now the next section is about economy and politics in the Mooney library. Edward Mooney's military experiences and interests are revealed in several volumes associated with his collection.

He owned a copy of John A. MacDonald's, not the Prime Minister, another fellow, he owned a copy of John A. MacDonald's Troublous Times in Canada: A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870 published in Toronto in 1910 by the ephemeral W. S. Johnson house. He read and lightly annotated Charles Sarolea's The Anglo-German Problem, a London imprint of Thomas Nelson issued in 1912, and later he also read Reginald Escher's sympathetic account of The Tragedy of Lord Kitchener published by John Murray in 1921. A copy of Noah Brook's Short Studies in Party Politics also was added to his library before the war. It was published by Charles Scribner in 1895.

Edward was keenly interested in economics and was a committed social democrat. Of special interest is a copy of socialist Carroll D. Wright's, The Battles of Labour produced in Philadelphia by the George W. Jacobs Press, collecting the 1906 William Levi Boule lectures, a series that included Jacob Reese, Lyman Abbott and Booker T. Washington. In 1923, Edward annotated the entire text and clearly read it with close attention. On the inside front cover of the book, Mooney has written in an emphatic hand, and I think I have an image of that up there, "read page 167." So, of course, I was quick to do so.

The passage marked by Mooney reads, "The change gradually came to the world from militancy to industrialism; not the struggle for existence but the struggle for subsistence. Then when the struggle for subsistence ceased, primarily by doing away with the old, iron law of wages, the struggle was broadened to that for some of the aesthetic potentialities of life. Some of those things which mean culture, in some degree, and those are tributes of man, which are necessary for becoming not only an economic, but a social and political factor."

Of all the books in the collection, Wright's Battles of Labour is the one most distinctly recording Edward Mooney's thought and character. His marginalia revealed that his experiences in the construction industry and in the war both contributed to political opinions of the mature man, and Mooney combines a strong Canadian Imperial nationalism with an equally strong and even radical Fabian Socialist views, a subject that clearly interested him.

Now, as a Shavian, I'm gratified to be able to say another Mooney book on economics relevant both in documenting the role of American publishing and the distribution of British print in Canada, and also is further indication of Social-Democratic tendencies in Edward Mooney's thinking, is Fabian Essays on Socialism, a collection of essays edited by George Bernard Shaw.

In conclusion, perhaps the most unusual feature of the early portion of the Mooney family library is that it documents the reading of a working-class immigrant Irish family in Victorian Canada. Although the surviving remnant of the collection is not extensive, those books that do remain explicitly reveal the phases of sentiment of an Irish family gradually being transformed and assimilated into Canadians. The cache of mid-century Irish materials evidences strong Irish cultural nationalist feeling and an intellectual curiosity that stands against the racist stereotypes of the anti-Irish bigots of the time.

The books also document the family's persistent interest and identification with Thomas D'Arcy McGee at a time when revolutionary nationalists were calling for, and possibly planning his assassination as a traitor to the Republican cause. Although some of the early books in the collection would fit comfortably into a militant Republican's library, subsequent acquisitions are non-sectarian and suggest that pro-Imperialist print culture disseminated to reinforce the general Canadian consensus at the time, was accepted and adopted by later members of the family.

But if the Mooneys had become Canadian Imperialists, they remained Catholics in matter of religion and on the left in matters of economics, and they served as good examples of what George Grant, Gad Horowitz, Charles Taylor and others have called "Red Tories." Despite this, or rather in addition to this, Edward Mooney's careful preservation and sustained interest in his grandfather's Irish books, elaborately signed in youth and decorated with his bookplate in prosperous maturity, demonstrates that the process of assimilation did not completely efface his Irish identity and a love of things Irish persisted throughout a varied and storied life.

Thank you.

Session I

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