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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Jane Barlow (1857–1917)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
JANE BARLOW was the daughter of J. W. Barlow, vice-provost of Trinity College, Dublin, from which in the days of her literary fame she received the honorary degree of D.Litt. She was born at Clontarf, County Dublin, on October 17th, 1860, and spent most of her life in the seclusion of a cottage at Raheny in the same neighborhood. Although her family had been in Ireland for generations, she came of English stock, and the knowledge and skill she displayed in depicting Irish peasant life were hers not through Celtic blood and affinities, but by a sympathetic genius and inspiration.  1
  The publication of her writings in book form was preceded by the appearance of some poems and stories in the magazines, the Dublin University Review of 1885 containing ‘Walled Out; or, Eschatology in a Bog.’ ‘Irish Idyls’ (1892), and ‘Bogland Studies’ (of the same year), show the same pitiful, somber pictures of Irish peasant life about the sodden-roofed mud hut and “pitaties” boiling, which only a genial, impulsive, generous, light-hearted, half-Greek and half-philosophic people could make endurable to the reader or attractive to the writer. The innate sweetness of the Irish character, which the author brings out with fine touches, makes it worth portrayal. “It is safe to say,” writes a critic, “that the philanthropist or the political student interested in the eternal Irish problem will learn more from Miss Barlow’s twin volumes than from a dozen Royal Commissions and a hundred Blue Books.” Her sympathy constantly crops out, as, for instance, in the mirthful tale of ‘Jerry Dunne’s Basket,’ where—
          “Andy Joyce had an ill-advised predilection for seeing things which he called ‘dacint and proper’ about him, and he built some highly superior sheds on the lawn, to the bettering, no doubt, of his cattle’s condition. The abrupt raising of his rent by fifty per cent. was a broad hint which most men would have taken; and it did keep Andy ruefully quiet for a season or two. Then, however, having again saved up a trifle, he could not resist the temptation to drain the swampy corner of the farthest river-field, which was as kind a bit of land as you could wish, only for the water lying on it, and in which he afterward raised himself a remarkably fine crop of white oats. The sight of them ‘done his heart good,’ he said, exultantly, nothing recking that it was the last touch of farmer’s pride he would ever feel. Yet on the next quarter-day the Joyces received notice to quit, and their landlord determined to keep the vacated holding in his own hands; those new sheds were just the thing for his young stock. Andy, in fact, had done his best to improve himself off the face of the earth.”
  2
  The long story which Miss Barlow has published, ‘Kerrigan’s Quality’ (1894), is told with her distinguishing charm, but the book has not the close-knit force of the ‘Idyls.’ Miss Barlow herself prefers the ‘Bogland Studies,’ because, she says, they are “a sort of poetry.” “I had set my heart too long upon being a poet ever to give up the idea quite contentedly; ‘the old hope is hardest to be lost.’ A real poet I can never be, as I have, I fear, nothing of the lyrical faculty; and a poet without that is worse than a bird without wings, so, like Mrs. Browning’s Nazianzen, I am doomed to look ‘at the lyre hung out of reach.’”  3
  Besides the three books named above, Miss Barlow has published ‘The Battle of the Frogs and Mice in English’ (1894) and about a score of volumes of long and short stories, including a second series of ‘Irish Idyls’ (1895). In the last-mentioned we again have the sorrows and joys of the small hamlet in the west of Ireland, where “the broad level spreads away and away to the horizon before and behind and on either side of you, very sombre-hued, yet less black-a-vised than more frequent bergs,” where in the distance the mountains “loom up on its borders much less substantial, apparently, in fabric than so many spirals of blue turf smoke,” and where the curlew’s cry “can set a whole landscape to melancholy in one chromatic phrase.”  4
  Miss Barlow’s death occurred on April 19th, 1917.  5
 
 
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