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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
John (1798–1842) and Michael (1796–1874) Banim
Critical and Biographical Introduction
OF the writers who have won esteem by telling the pathetic stories of their country’s people, the names of John and Michael Banim are ranked among the Irish Gael not lower than that of Sir Walter Scott among the British Gael. The works of the Banim brothers continued the same sad and fascinating story of the “mere Irish” which Maria Edgeworth and Lady Morgan had laid to the hearts of English readers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century days. The Banim family was one of those which belonged to the class of “middlemen,” people so designated in Ireland who were neither rich nor poor, but in the fortunate mean. The family home was in the historic town of Kilkenny, famous alike for its fighting confederation and its fighting cats. Here Michael was born August 5th, 1796, and John April 3d, 1798. Michael lived to a green old age, and survived his younger brother John twenty-eight years, less seventeen days; he died at Booterstown, August 30th, 1874.  1
  The first stories of this brotherly collaboration in letters appeared in 1825 without mark of authorship, as recitals contributed for instruction and amusement about the hearth-stone of an Irish household, called ‘The O’Hara Family.’ The minor chords of the soft music of the Gaelic English as it fell from the tongues of Irish lads and lasses, whether in note of sorrow or of sport, had already begun to touch with winsome tenderness the stolid Saxon hearts, when that idyl of their country’s penal days, ‘The Bit o’ Writin’,’ was sent out from the O’Hara fireside. The almost instantaneous success and popularity of their first stories speedily broke down the anonymity of the Banims, and publishers became eager and gain-giving. About two dozen stories were published before the death of John, in 1842. The best-known of them, in addition to the one already mentioned, are ‘The Boyne Water,’ ‘The Croppy,’ and ‘Father Connell.’  2
  The fact that during the long survival of Michael no more of the Banim stories appeared, is sometimes called in as evidence that the latter had little to do with the writing of the series. Michael and John, it was well known, had worked lovingly together, and Michael claimed a part in thirteen of the tales, without excluding his brother from joint authorship. Exactly what each wrote of the joint productions has never been known. A single dramatic work of the Banim brothers has attained to a position in the standard drama, the play of ‘Damon and Pythias,’ a free adaptation from an Italian original, written by John Banim at the instance of Richard Lalor Shiel. The songs are also attributed to John. It is but just to say that the great emigration to the United States which absorbed the Irish during the ’40’s and ’50’s depreciated the sale of such works as those of the Banims to the lowest point, and Michael had good reason, aside from the loss of his brother’s aid, to lay down his pen. The audience of the Irish story-teller had gone away across the great western sea. There was nothing to do but sit by the lonesome hearth and await one’s own to-morrow for the voyage of the greater sea.  3

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