Origins, Contexts, Publics
Jim Shanahan ‘Vivid Irish History’: Frank Mathew’s The Wood of the Brambles and the Prehistory of Irish Modernist Fiction 31
Jim Shanahan ‘Vivid Irish History’: Frank Mathew’s The Wood of the Brambles and the Prehistory of Irish Modernist Fiction And there was Frank Mathew, whose book ‘The Wood of the Brambles’ gave earnest, we thought, of the Irish novelist we had long been waiting for. He wrote in a language which the English reader did not understand; and the Irish reader was too much occupied in going after half-gods or false gods to be aware of him. But one day a critic … will turn up ‘The Wood of the Brambles’ and say ‘Here is something that was too good save for the elect.’ And then Frank Mathew’s books may or may not come to their own, for the elect is but a handful anywhere …1 Thus wrote the novelist and poet Katharine Tynan of Frank Mathew and his novel The Wood of the Brambles in the third volume of her memoirs in 1916. The author of seven novels in a prolific period between 1896 and 1901, Mathew can today be safely regarded as a forgotten novelist. John Wilson Foster mentions him in passing in his recent work on Irish fiction, but you will search in vain for him in older histories of the Irish novel or indeed in any other modern book or series of essays about Irish literature.2 In 1924, the year of Mathew’s death, Tynan observed that The Wood of 1 Katharine Tynan, The Middle Years (London: Constable, 1916), 192. 2 John Wilson Foster, ‘The Irish Renaissance, 1890...
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