1. Early Biographical Works
The earliest books on Parnell were published in Parnell’s own lifetime and before the split in the Irish party. As well as catering for the public interest in Parnell’s ancestry and his meteoric rise to power, these works reflected the remarkable impact which he had already made even before Gladstone, faced with the strength of the Parnell movement, had committed himself to Home Rule. In chronological order these included:
T. Sherlock, Charles Stewart Parnell (New York, 1882; London edition, 1945)
J.S. Mahoney, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell (New York, 1885)
T.P. O’Connor, The Parnell Movement (London, 1886)
R. Johnston, Parnell and the Parnells: a Historical Sketch (London and Dublin 1888)
The divorce scandal, followed by the split in the party and the death of Parnell in 1891, resulted in a noticeable shift of emphasis. The personality whose characteristics had brought him to such dazzling heights and yet also had dragged him down to utter ruin required explanation. Fascination with this question of Parnell’s personality began with two books that appeared immediately after Parnell’s death. One was written by a former admiring colleague turned anti-Parnellite; the other, published in America, was a compilation including information (not always reliable) from Parnell’s mother, Delia. These were:
T.P. O’Connor, Charles Stewart Parnell: a Memory (London, 1891)
R.M. McWade, The Uncrowned King: the Life and Public Services of the Hon. Charles Stewart Parnell (Philadelphia, 1891)
In 1898 was published what for long afterwards was considered by far the best biography of Parnell, and was widely relied upon by successive biographers and historians. This was:
R.Barry O’Brien, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell (2 vols London, 1898. One vol. edition, London 1910)
O’Brien’s biography was based upon his personal acquaintance with the Irish leader and on interviews with several of Parnell’s colleagues and contemporaries. Loyal to Parnell throughout the split, R.Barry O’Brien has been described as Parnell’s Boswell.
2. Memoirs and Contemporary Narratives
Davitt, Michael, The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland (London and New York, 1904). Davitt acknowledged Parnell’s ‘claim to greatness’, but faulted him on the divorce scandal and held him solely responsible for the tragedy of the split.
Devoy, John, Recollections of an Irish Rebel (London, 1929)
Devoy’s Post Bag, 1871-1928, ed. William O’Brien and Desmond Ryan (2 vols, Dublin, 1948, 1953)
- a valuable collection of letters with many references to the Irish-American connection of Parnell’s career.
Healy, T.M., Letters and Leaders of My Day (2 vols, London, 1928)
- useful contemporary comments in letters to members of his family by Parnell’s arch-enemy
McCarthy, Justin, and R.M. Campbell Praed, Our Book of Memories (London, 1912)
- has comments on the split.
MacNeill, J.G Swift, What I have Seen and Heard (London, 1925).
O’Brien, William, Recollections (London, 1905),
O’Brien, William, An Olive Branch in Ireland and its History (London, 1910),
O’Brien, William, Evening Memories (London and Dublin, 1920)
- the first deals with the period up to 1883; the second with the split; and the third covers the years 1883-1890
O’Connor, T.P., Memoirs of an Old Parliamentarian (2 vols, London, 1929).
O’Donnell, F.H., History of the Irish Parliamentary Party (2 vols, London, 1910)
- bitterly anti-Parnell
O’Leary, John, Recollections of Fenians and Fenianism (2 vols, London, 1896).
Sullivan, A.M., New Ireland (London, 1894)
Sullivan, T.D., Troubled Times in Irish Politics (Dublin, 1905)
Wyse-Power, Jennie, Words of the Dead Chief: being extracts from the public speeches and other pronouncements of Charles Stewart Parnell from the beginning to the close of his memorable life, compiled by Jennie Wyse-Power, with an introduction by Anna Parnell (Dublin, 1892). Republished by UCD Press, 2009, with an introduction and notes by Donal McCartney and Pauric Travers.
3 Family Memoirs
Chronologically, the first of the memoirs by members of Parnell’s immediate family was written by his sister, Emily; the second was by his wife, Katharine; the third was by his brother, John Howard; and the fourth, which is different in nature was by his sister Anna and relates to the Ladies’ Land League.
Emily Dickinson, A Patriot’s Mistake: Reminiscences of the Parnell Family by a Daughter of the House (London, 1905)
Katharine O’Shea (Mrs Charles Stewart Parnell), Charles Stewart Parnell: His Love Story and Political Life (2 vols, London, 1914. One vol. Edition, with an introduction by Martin Mansergh, Dublin, 2005)
John Howard Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memoir (London, 1916)
Anna Parnell, The Tale of a Great Sham: with an Introduction by Dana Hearne (Dublin, 1986)
Emily’s book reveals far more about herself and her tastes than about Charles. It is also factually unreliable. But for all its lack of modesty and its exaggerations, it does provide glimpses of the family life at Avondale. By comparison, John’s book is notably self-effacing; and although not always accurate on the larger political issues, insofar as it concentrates its attention on his famous brother, it has been indispensable for all Parnell’s biographers.
Because Katharine O’Shea was Parnell’s lover and confidante from 1881 until his death in 1891, her personal account of their love story and of his political life remains particularly valuable. And since Parnell committed comparatively little to writing, the inclusion of his many letters to her from Kilmainham is exceptionally useful. Anna’s impassioned memoir of the Ladies’ Land League was completed in 1907 but was not published until 1986.
4. Early Biographical
Between R. Barry O’Brien’s seminal biography in 1898 and F.S.L. Lyons’s scholarly full-length biography in 1977, a number of biographical studies of Parnell appeared. Although not altogether replaced by Lyons, they have been relegated to a role of lesser significance. These include:
Abels, Jules, The Parnell Tragedy (London, 1966)
Ervine, St John, Parnell (London, 1925)
Haslip, Joan, Parnell: A Biography (London, 1936)
O’Brien, William, The Parnell of Real Life (London, 1926)
- a defence of his former leader against St John Ervine’s biography.
Ó Broin, Leon, Parnell: Beathaisnéis (Áth Cliath, 1937)
O’Hara, M.M., Chief and Tribune: Parnell and Davitt (Dublin, 1919)
Robbins, Alfred, Parnell, the Last Five Years: Told from Within (London, 1926)
5. Special Studies
Harrison, Henry, Parnell Vindicated: the Lifting of the Veil (London, 1931)
Parnell and Mrs O’Shea had chosen not to offer a defence in the divorce court. Harrison’s book was a closely-reasoned vindication of Parnell’s role in the fatal triangle. It may also be seen as the final shot in the forty-year war of words between Parnell’s former colleagues.
Following what has been called the Irish historiographical revolution, which has been associated chiefly with the names of Professor T.W. Moody of Trinity College Dublin and Professor R Dudley Edwards of University College Dublin, academics began to give their attention to Parnell studies. In the early 1940s, Conor Cruise O’Brien began work on Parnell’s party as a thesis for the PhD. When the thesis was eventually published as a book, he acknowledged the guidance and ‘lucid judgements’ of T.W. Moody, the supervisor of his thesis, as well as the ‘stimulating criticisms’ of R. Dudley Edwards. O’Brien’s pioneering study represented the move away from the political controversy and partisanship of Parnell’s contemporaries to the more objective scholarship of the professionally trained historians.
O’Brien, Conor Cruise, Parnell and his Party (Oxford, 1957)
Another of Moody’s pupils, F.S.L. Lyons, became a leading specialist in the Parnell period with a succession of original studies:
Lyons, F.S.L., The Irish Parliamentary Party 1890-1910 (London, 1951)
Lyons, F.S.L., The Fall of Parnell (London, 1960)
Lyons, F.S.L., Parnell (Dundalk, 1963)
Lyons, F.S.L., John Dillon: A Biography (London, 1968)
Lyons, F.S.L., Charles Stewart Parnell (London, 1978)
- this latter work was the first full-length modern biography surpassing in depth and research all preceding ones.
While Lyons’s standard biography was still in the press, there appeared a work which had also begun as a thesis under Professor Moody’s supervision, namely:
Foster, R.F., Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and his Family (Sussex, 1976).
- this book proved invaluable for placing Parnell in the context of his family’s political background, the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy and his Co. Wicklow environment.
Meanwhile, an American historian was working on a multi-volume history of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland (1780-1918). Three of his volumes related to the Parnell period:
Larkin, Emmet, The Roman Catholic Church and the Creation of the Modern Irish State 1878-1886 (Dublin, 1975)
Larkin, Emmet, The Roman Catholic Church and the Plan of Campaign in Ireland 1886-1888 (Cork, 1978)
Larkin, Emmet, The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Fall of Parnell 1888-1891 (Liverpool, 1979)
- based on the private correspondence of the bishops, these volumes give a clear indication of the role of the clergy during the Parnell era.
Alongside the seminal works of Cruise O’Brien, Lyons, Foster and Larkin listed above, other scholars have made important contributions to several aspects of Parnell studies. These include:
Bew, Paul, C.S. Parnell (Dublin, 1980)
an excellent short assessment which emphasises the social and political context more than the individual life.
Bew, Paul, John Redmond (Dublin, 1996)
a useful short study of Parnell’s successor as leader of the Parnellite faction.
Bew, Paul, Land and the National Question in Ireland, 1858-1882 (Dublin, 1978)
Bew, Paul, Conflict and Conciliation in Ireland, 1890-1910: Parnellites and Radical Agrarians (Oxford, 1987)
- two valuable accounts of agrarian politics.
Brown, Thomas N., Irish-American Nationalism 1870-1890 (Philadelphia and New York, 1966)
Boyce, George, and O’Day, Alan (eds.), Parnell in Perspective (London, 1991).
- essays written for the centenary of Parnell’s death.
Callaghan, Mary Rose, Kitty O’Shea: a Life of Katharine Parnell (London, 1989)
Callanan, Frank, The Parnell Split, 1890-91 (Cork, 1992)
Callanan, Frank, T.M. Healy (Cork, 1996).
both are important in-depth examinations of their topics.
Samuel Clarke, Social Origins of the Irish Land War (Princeton, 1979)
Côté, Jane McL., Fanny and Anna Parnell: Ireland’s Patriot Sisters (Dublin, 1991)
- provides a welcome account of the Parnell sisters whose contribution has tended to be under-estimated by some historians.
Curtis, L.P., Jr., Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland 1880-1892: A Study in Conservative Unionism (Princeton, 1963)
Eugene Doyle, Justin McCarthy (Dundalk, 1996)
Foster, R.F., Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (London, 1993)
A collection of essays three of which relate directly to Parnell
Hurst, Michael, Parnell and Irish Nationalism (London, 1968).
Jordan, Jane, Kitty O’Shea: An Irish Affair (Sutton Publishing, 2005).
Kee, Robert, The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism (London, 1993). The most recent full-length biography.
King, Carla, Michael Davitt (Dundalk, 1999)
McCartney, Donal (ed.), Parnell: The Politics of Power (Dublin, 1991). A selection of papers read to the Parnell Society
McCartney, Donal and Travers, Pauric, The Ivy Leaf: The Parnells Remembered (Dublin, 2009)
Marlow, Joyce, The Uncrowned Queen of Ireland: The Life of Kitty O’Shea (London, 1975)
Moody, T.W., Davitt and Irish Revolution 1846-82 (Oxford, 1981)
Murphy, William Michael, The Parnell Myth and Irish Politics 1891-56 (New York, 1986) - an interesting exploration of the nature and dimensions of the Parnell ‘myth’.
O’Day, Alan, Parnell and the First Home Rule Episode 1884-7 (Dublin, 1986)
Ward, Margaret, Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism (Dingle, 1983)
Sally Warwick-Haller, William O’Brien and the Irish Land War (Dublin, 1990)
There have been several significant works which allow Parnell’s career to be placed in the context of British politics. These include Gladstone’s diaries which have been published and a number of excellent biographies of Gladstone.
A.B. Cooke and J.R. Vincent, The Governing Passion: Cabinet Government and Party Politics in Britain, 1885-1886 (Brighton, 1974)
J.L. Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation (London, 1964)
Roy Jenkins, Gladstone: a Biography (London, 2002)
H.C.G. Matthew (ed.), The Gladstone Diaries with Cabinet Minutes and Prime Ministerial Correspondence (vols 10-12, 1990, 1994)
H.C. Matthew, Gladstone 1875-1898 (Oxford, 1995)
John Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone (3 vols, London, 1903)
particularly interesting because of Morley’s own political career and for his portrait of Parnell.
Alan O’Day, The English Face of Irish Nationalism: Parnellite Involvement in British Politics, 1880-1886 (Dublin, 1977)
Paul Leahy & Paul Nolan, Kilmainham Gaol Document Pack: Parnell (Dublin, 1994)
Kissane, Noel, Parnell: A Documentary History (Dublin, 1991)
- two useful collections of Parnell related documents.