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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Gerald Griffin (1803–1840)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
UNDER the words “Never Acted,” and date October 23d, 1842, the play ‘Gisippus,’ “by the late Gerald Griffin, author of ‘The Collegians,’” was announced at Drury Lane Theatre, London. Macready made money and fame out of the work, which had lain for years in his reading-desk uncared-for, while the patient poet scribbled his way along a life of little joy to an unnoted grave in the burying-ground of the voluntary poor. The drama was Griffin’s first inspiration; and though he died untimely, the drama gives him back the honor he bestowed. Chagrined and humiliated with failure to get a hearing for his play of ‘Aguire,’ and sick from hope deferred for ‘Gisippus,’ he wrote ‘The Collegians,’ so full of Irish heart and love that its stage child ‘The Colleen Bawn’ has delighted the souls of millions.  1
  Born in Limerick December 12th, 1803, Gerald Griffin, when his parents came to America to settle in northern Pennsylvania, chose to go at seventeen years of age, with only the equipment of a home education, to seek honors and fortune in the paths which led up to the printing-house. John Banim’s recent success had blazed out a new trail in the stifling, starving jungle of book-making, and the youth of Ireland was on fire to follow him. One of the sweetest memories of Griffin’s career is the delicacy and generosity of Banim’s friendship for the pale, shy, delicate boy from the distant Shannon-side, during all the awful and lonely days of his early London residence. After hovering under Banim’s wing about the green-rooms of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, until his sensitive nature could bear the torture of well-bred and ill-concealed indifference no longer, Griffin made his way to the office of one of the weekly periodicals with some sketches of Irish peasant life.  2
  The publication of these brought him to notice, but did not keep him free from days and nights of enforced fasting. It was not until 1827 that he was able to publish a book. In that year appeared ‘Holland-Tide’ and the ‘Tales of the Munster Festivals,’ both to be forever-treasured heart songs of Irishmen separated worldwide. ‘The Collegians,’ in 1828, was eagerly and unstintingly accorded the first place in the new order of literature, the sadly joyous romance of contemporary Ireland. Griffin now became well and safely established in London, easily compeer of the best writers of his race, and in all affairs but those of pecuniary fortune a favored and envied man. A nature filled with the instinct of devotion kept him safe from some of the evils which rode the shoulders of too many of his fellow-countrymen. In the midst of a scurrying and scoffing rout he kept the heart of his boyhood innocent and unsullied.  3
  Tired of the shows and shams of the world, in 1838 he asked and obtained admission into the Society of the Christian Brothers in his native city. A few days before he entered upon this resolution, he was interrupted by his brother and biographer Dr. Griffin in the act of destroying all his manuscripts. It had been his intention to make a complete renunciation by leaving nothing to the world but his published works. His brother was able to save but a few fragments from the great quantity of half-destroyed stories, poems, and plays; and these, with the earlier publications, were included in the only collected edition of his works ever made, published in New York in the decade of 1850.  4
  Two years after he had assumed the habit and duty of a religious Gerald Griffin died, after many days of patient illness, in the house of his brothers in religion at Cork, Ireland, June 12th, 1840. His family, living at Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, has given several distinguished names to the literature and politics of our country.  5
 
 
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