Thomas Moland was a leading land surveyor in Ireland during the early eighteenth century. His career included work on an official survey together with private commissions, some of which involved the mapping of landed estates. In 1730, Moland prepared ‘A Booke of Maps’ for Algernon Coote, the earl of Mountrath. Characteristic of Moland’s work, this large volume contains a range of material of local history interest, most notably a series of thumbnail images of houses and towns that provide rarely-documented architectural detail.
On 28 September in Paris, all eyes will be on the Petit Palais Musée des Beaux-Arts, as the city opens its first major exhibition on the life and works of the flamboyant Irish writer, Oscar Wilde. Manuscripts, photographs, paintings and personal effects are among almost 200 exhibits coming from public and private collections worldwide for the exhibition, which is co-curated by Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland. Included in the exhibits are three items borrowed from the Oscar Wilde collection held in Trinity College Library.
Known for his biting wit, extravagant dress and glittering conversation, Oscar Wilde is one of the best known personalities of the 19th century. His love affair with France began as a child, having learned to speak French from a native governess. He considered himself an ardent Francophile and regularly visited Paris, eventually dying there in 1900, when he was hounded out of England after his conviction for homosexuality. His tomb, in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery, is now a place of pilgrimage.
The Oscar Wilde collection was acquired by the Library of Trinity College Dublin in 2011 from Julia Rosenthal, a rare book dealer and avid collector of Wildeana, based in London. Rosenthal purchased her first autograph Wilde letter in 1976 and built her collection from there, and it has been of immense value to Wilde scholarship. Richard Ellmann, Thomas Wright, Horst Schroeder and Neil Mc Kenna all made extensive use of it for their biographical works on the author. This truly unique collection of both manuscript and print materials, contains autographed first editions; letters (a small number of which are unpublished); photographs and portraits; theatre programmes and music; and some rare items of memorabilia.
One subject of the Dublin-Paris loan is a letter from Wilde in 1891 to his son Cyril, who was aged five at the time. Writing from Paris, he remarks that he is going ‘to visit a poet, who has given me a wonderful book about a Raven’. The poet was Mallarmé and the book was a translation of Poe’s The Raven. Signed ‘your loving Papa, Oscar Wilde’, it is the only known surviving letter from Wilde to either of his children.
Another highlight of the Trinity collection, and also included in the loan, is the ‘Tite Street Sale Catalogue’ of Wilde’s books and household goods. Among the items listed for sale are inscribed editions of Wilde’s parents’ writings and the rabbit hutch and toys belonging to his two young sons, Cyril and Vyvyan. These effects were sold at the demand of Wilde’s creditors at the time of his trial in 1895, and only four copies of the auction catalogue are known to have survived.
The final item loaned to Paris is a moving letter from Wilde to his friend, the writer Eliza Stannard (who used the pseudonym John Strange Winter), written shortly after his release from Reading Gaol in May 1897. Some of Wilde’s most poignant letters were written during these few short years of exile in France, until his death in Paris in 1900. Writing from a hotel in Bernaval-sur-Mer, Normandy, Wilde remarks, ‘of course I have passed through a very terrible punishment and have suffered to the pitch of anguish and despair’ and refers to himself as ‘an unworthy son’. ‘France has been charming to me and about me during all my imprisonment’, he writes, ‘and has now – mother of all artists as she is – give me asile’.
The exhibition at the Petit Palais runs from 28 September 2016 – 18 January 2017.
Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin
Sydney Auchinleck – female despite the name – was an impressive woman from an early age. A published poet in her teens, she wanted to be an engineer but Trinity College wasn’t ready for that in the early 1900s, or indeed even by the end of the 1960s. Sydney consoled herself by becoming the first female chemistry graduate and a mechanic in her spare time. Her story is included in a memoir recently published by her family one of whom has volunteered this guest blog post.
The role of Trinity College Dublin during the Easter Rising has been well documented, and during the course of the commemorations, numerous personal experiences of this period have been brought to public attention. An eye-witness account by alumnus James Alexander Glen was presented to the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library just over 50 years after the events of 1916, and it is a record of his involvement in the protection of the College (TCD MS 4456). We know from other manuscript sources that JA Glen, the son of a farmer, was born in Newtowncunningham, County Donegal, and entered College in October 1911, aged 17 years. He received his early education at Foyle College, Derry. In 1914 he was awarded a scholarship in classics, graduating with a BA in Winter 1915 and MA in Summer 1919. He joined the TCD Officer Training Corps (OTC) in his second year as an undergraduate. He was a recipient of a silver cup, one of a number of replicas of the two original cups that were presented to the College by local business who had benefited from OTC actions during the Rebellion.
At the outbreak of trouble, a uniformed Glen and a fellow artillery officer, with whom he had enjoying an outing to the Phoenix Park, made a cautious journey to TCD after their tram was halted in O’Connell Street. They met with a group of Australian and South African soldiers en route, who subsequently volunteered to act as lookouts on a portion of the College roof. Under the direction of AA Luce and EH Alton (both OTC captains and College professors), operations began to protect the College from within the walls. The gates were closed, ammunition distributed and sentries were posted at various locations.
As events unfolded during Easter Week, Glen was ordered to follow a colonel to an attic window in one of the College buildings that overlooked Westmoreland Street and O’Connell Street. The ‘red-tabled and red-hatted senior officer’ was considering a possible plan to demolish Nelson’s Pillar, and enquired of Glen about the type of artillery that would be required for such an operation. The pillar was seen to act as a shelter for the rebels as they moved between Clery’s department store and the General Post Office. As Glen himself recognised, even with his limited knowledge of firearms, this method would not have been a success even with the most powerful of guns. While parts of central Dublin were destroyed during Easter week, the pillar remained standing until 8 March 1966 when, fifty years after the events of 1916, it was severely damaged by explosives planted by the Irish Republican Army. The remnants were later removed.
The manuscript is in very good condition, consists of five sheets written in the author’s hand, and can be consulted in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library.