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Love, treason and revenge at the medieval French Court

These subjects form the plot of the novel Freida the Jongleur (London, 1857), a manuscript draft copy of which is held in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library.

Ms 10870, folio 191
TCD MS 10870, folio 191

The story takes place in France during the reign of Philippe IV le Bel (1285-1314) and of his sons Louis and Philip. Freida, a pagan jongleur (an itinerant minstrel), travels from Acre in Palestine to France. She witnesses court life and the torments of the end of a glorious era. She is confronted with love, treason, Christianity, and the quest for revenge, following the execution of her son Eldrid. I dare say that, from an historical point of view, the author took some liberty, even if the principal events are well known. Written in a romantic and sentimental style, this historical novel fits well into one trend of nineteenth-century literature.

The author of this novel was an Anglo-Irish woman named Barbara Hemphill (d. 1858). Her father, Patrick Hare, was the rector of Golden, co. Tipperary. In 1807, she married John Hemphill and had five children. One of her sons, the lawyer and politician Charles, became the first Baron Hemphill in 1906. Barbara

TCD MS 10870, folio 262(i)
TCD MS 10870, folio 262(i)

Hemphill had already been writing for quite a while when she was encouraged to publish her work by a family connection, antiquarian Thomas Crofton Croker. Her first story appeared in the Dublin University Magazine in 1838 with the title of ‘The Royal Confession, A Monastic Legend’. Then came her first novel, Lionel Deerhurst; or, Fashionable Life under the Regency (London, 1846). It was published anonymously, although the Countess of Blessington, another well-known author, was identified as the editor. Success arrived with her second novel, The Priest’s Niece; or, the heirship of Barnulph (London, 1855), which quickly went to a second edition. This success encouraged Hemphill to identify herself as the author of Freida the Jongleur (London, 1857).

TCD MS 10870, folio 477
TCD MS 10870, folio 477

The Papers of Barbara Hemphill (TCD MS 10869-72) were purchased at auction by M&ARL in 1995. In addition to the manuscript of Freida the Jongleur, the collection also contains a manuscript draft copy of The Priest’s Niece, as well as fair copies of two additional (unpublished) works: Ella of the field of Waterloo and Feud of the Ormond and Desmond. For further information, please contact M&ARL.

Léonore Pinoteau – GdeLinares
Trainee Curator & Intern
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library

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