Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland’s Political and Religious Controversies in the Fiction of May Laffan Hartley
In her novels and short stories, May Laffan Hartley (1849–1916) depicts the religious and political controversies of late nineteenth-century Ireland. Eire’s own Helena Kelleher Kahn reintroduces us to Laffan’s vivid, witty fiction, rich in political and social commentary. Laffan did not offer clear-cut approval to one side or the other of the social and religious divide but weighed both and often found them wanting. She adds a missing dimension to the Irish world of Wilde, Shaw, and Joyce.
A woman of the age subtly embroiders the acute challenges and divisions of middle-class Ireland. As Kahn says, “she chose to write about the alcoholic ex-student, the impecunious solicitor, the farmer or merchant turned politician, and their often resentful wives and children. On the whole her world view was pessimistic. Rural Ireland was a beautiful intellectual desert. Dublin was a place to leave, not to live in.” This account of her life and work will be of interest to students of Anglo-Irish literature and history, as well as women’s studies.
Kelleher Kahn "provides a socio-historical context for middle-class Irish life that clearly articulates the principal issues of this culturally and politically dynamic period to both novice and academic readers of Irish fiction. Extensively researched with abundant endnotes, this book should be compulsory reading for those studying the marginalized Irish women writers of the nineteenth century." ―Victorian Studies, 48.4 (2006)
"I had never heard of May Laffan Hartley. Having now read one of her novels (Hogan MP, available as a free e-book on the ELT Press website) and Helena Kelleher Kahn’s erudite study of Laffan Hartley’s works, I find I’ve been provided the “missing dimension to the Irish world of Shaw and Joyce” Kahn predicted.... I highly recommend this work to aficionados of Irish studies." ―ELT, 49.3 (2006)More info →