New Critical Perspectives
Faith Binckes and Kathryn Laing
A Vagabond’s Scrutiny: Hannah Lynch in Europe The narrator of Hannah Lynch’s best-known work, Autobiography of a Child,1 describes herself both as ‘a born traveller’ and as ‘a hopeless wan- derer’ (1899: 134, 194). Although Lynch refuted suggestions that this novel was in any way autobiographical, the figure and perspective of the travel- ler, the wanderer and the vagabond feature in much of her writing. The predominance of this trope in her work, published between 1885 and her death in 1904, is deeply rooted in her own experience of growing up during a period in Ireland when class, religion and gender all contributed to a sense of exclusion and dif ference. She was born in Dublin in 1859; her Catholic middle-class upbringing was both intellectual and nationalist, generating political and literary contacts that would shape her later career. In addition, her position as a single woman with literary leanings and the need to make an income for herself (and possibly for her extended family) necessitated taking employment as a governess in and around Europe, which provided some of the sources of her travel writing.2 Hannah Lynch’s vagabondage began earlier, as she travelled from Dublin to attend a convent school in France (and possibly England 1 Lynch’s publications were all out of print, with the exception of her critical appraisal of George Meredith (George Meredith: A Study, 1891) reprinted in 2006, and Autobiography of a Child from which extracts have been selected for Jane Eyre: A Student Casebook to Issues,...
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