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Rossa's Recollections, 1838 to 1898 Childhood, Boyhood, Manhood. Customs, habits and manners of the Irish people
Mariner's Harbor, N.Y.: O'Donovan Rossa. Very Good. 1898. First Edition; First Printing. Hardcover. Autograph; 402 pages; Publisher's blue cloth, spine lettered in gilt. This is a particularly fine and interesting presentation copy, boldly signed and inscribed by the author - one of the most active (and extreme) of the Irish revolutionaries of the nineteenth century. The long, full title of this book of memoirs does a fair job of stating the outlines of the author's extraordinary course of life. "Rossa's recollections, 1838 to 1898. Childhood, boyhood, manhood. Customs, habits and manners of the Irish people. Erinach and Sassenach-Catholic and Protestant-Englishman and Irishman-English religion-Irish plunder. Social life and prison life. The Fenian movement. Travels in Ireland, England, Scotland and America." Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa (1831– 1915), was an Irish Fenian leader and prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. As a young shopkeeper in Skibbereen, the southernmost town in Ireland, O'Donovan Rossa founded the 'Phoenix National and Literary Society,' the aim of which was "the liberation of Ireland by force of arms." Rossa's Phoenix Society later merged with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), founded two years later in Dublin. He was arrested and jailed at the end of 1858 for over six months. Charges against Rossa escalated by 1865 to "High Treason" and he was convicted and sentenced to penal servitude for life due to his previous convictions. He served his time in Pentonville, Portland and Chatham prisons in England. While a guest of the English state, he won a by-election to Parliament for the seat from Tipperary constituency, but the election was set aside as Rossa was a convicted felon. He made a deal to participate in the Fenian Amnesty of 1870 by promising not to return to Ireland; the instrument of his exile became famous. He and four other Irish rebels boarded the S. S. Cuba for the voyage to America. The five men [John Devoy, Charles Underwood O'Connell, Harry Mulleda, John McClure and O'Donovan Rossa] were famously dubbed "The Cuba Five." Rossa established a base in New York City and quickly joined Clan na Gael and the Fenian Brotherhood. If anything, his revolutionary activities accelerated, as Rossa organised the first-ever bombings by Irish republicans of English cities in what was called the "dynamite campaign". The campaign lasted through the 1880s and made him infamous, to say the least, in Britain. The British government repeatedly demanded his extradition, but their efforts were denied. In 1885, Rossa was shot outside his office near Broadway by an Englishwoman, Yseult Dudley, but his wounds were not life-threatening. There were charges and counter-charges about whether or not she was working on behalf of the English government. What is beyond dispute is that Yseult Dudley, like many others, was incensed at Rossa's tactics and his vigorous and succesful organised fund raising (the so-called "Skirmishing Fund") - intended to support the arming of those who would fight the British. This self-published volume of memoirs was neither published nor distributed through normal book-publishing circles, but most likely carried around by the author on his travels and lectures on behalf of his cause. By the end of the nineteenth century, O'Donovan Rossa had moved his base of operations to Staten Island, which explains why this now-scarce book was issued from Mariner's Harbor, and old neighborhood on the north shore of the island. The boldly written inscription, entirely in Rossa's neat handwriting, nearly fills the front free endpaper and offers a tantalizing link between Rossa's specific Irish roots and his later life in America. In full, it reads: "Presentation Copy / To / Mr. Patrick Murray / of Skibbereen, Ireland / and Boston, America / In remembrance / of his kindness to / the author / O'Donovan Rossa / New York / 1898." There is reference in Rossa's text to a Patrick Murray, the husband of the author's one remaining living aunt, Bridget (at the time Rossa made his first return trip to Ireland, a couple of years before this book was published). We cannot determine whether there is a link or a relation between this Patrick Murray and the recipient of this warmly-inscribed copy, but it certainly is worthy of further investigation. It is beyond dispute, though, that Skibbereen, the small town in County Cork where O'Donovan Rossa started his revolutionary career with his 'Phoenix National and Literary Society' was especially hard hit by the potato famine [some 8,000-10,000 Famine victims are buried in the Famine Burial Pits of Abbeystrewery Cemetery]. So Skibbereen contributed a disproportunate contingent of Irish immigrants to America in the last half of the nineteenth century. Rossa made at least two trips back to Ireland late in his life, despite the terms of his participation in the Fenian Amnesty of 1870, but the most famous of his returns to Ireland was his last, when his body was brought back for burial in 1915. His funeral oration, by Pádraig Pearse is one of the most famous speeches in modern Irish history. It ended with these ringing lines: "They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace." (It was almost certainly a direct result of this that, when Pearse and his brothers and 14 others who declared the Easter 1916 uprising were shot by the British ten days after Easter Monday, their bodies were consigned to a quick-lime pit, rather than sent back to become potentially the sources of another rousing spectacle to match O'Donovan Rossa's funeral). Rossa is unforgotten and unforgettable in Skibbereen, where there is a park named for him, as well as the local Gaelic Association football club. The extraordinary full-page inscription makes this copy of "Rossa's Recollections" very special, indeed. A nicely preserved copy tight and clean in the original binding. There is just modest wear and rubbing at the spine ends, tips of the corners and bottom edges of the boards, a small spot at the bottom of the rear cover, and faint marks to the front cover. There are no marks, apart from the inscription. ; Signed by Author; Experience the pleasure of reading and appreciating this actual printed item. It has its own physical history that imbues it with a character lacking in ephemeral electronic renderings. .
      [Bookseller: Antiquarian Book Shop]
Last Found On: 2017-07-18           Check availability:      Biblio    

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