Gerald Griffin - Encyclopedia

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GERALD GRIFFIN [O'GRIOBTA, O'GREEVA] (1803-1840), Irish novelist and dramatic writer, was born at Limerick of good family, on the 12th of December 1803. His parents emigrated in 1820 to America, but he was left with an elder brother, who was a medical practitioner at Adare. As early as his eighteenth year he undertook for a short time the editorship of a newspaper in Limerick. Having written a tragedy, A guire, which was highly praised by his friends, he set out in 1823 for London with the purpose of "revolutionizing the dramatic taste of the time by writing for the stage." In spite of the recommendations of John Banim, he had a hard struggle with poverty. It was only by degrees that his literary work obtained any favour. The Noyades, an opera entirely in recitative, was produced at the English Opera House in 1826; and the success of Holland Tide Tales (1827) led to Tales of the Munster Festivals (3 vols., 1827), which were still more popular. In 1829 appeared his fine novel, The Collegians, afterwards successfully adapted for the stage by Dion Boucicault under the title of The Colleen Bawn. He followed up this success with The Invasion (1832), Tales of my Neighbourhood (1835), The Duke of Monmouth (1836), and Talis Qualis, or Tales of the Jury-room (1842). He also wrote a number of lyrics touched with his native melancholy. But he became doubtful as to the moral influence of his writings, and ultimately he came to the conclusion that his true sphere of duty was to be found within the Church. He was admitted into a society of the Christian Brothers at Dublin, in September 1838, under the name of Brother Joseph, and in the following summer he removed to Cork, where he died of typhus fever on the 12th of June 1840. Before adopting the monastic habit he burned all his manuscripts; but Gisippus, a tragedy which he had composed before he was twenty, accidentally escaped destruction, and in 1842 was put on the Drury Lane stage by Macready with great success.

The collected works of Gerald Griffin were published in 1842-1843 in eight volumes, with a Life by his brother William Griffin, M.D.; an edition of his Poetical and Dramatic Works (Dublin, 1895) by C. G. Duffy; and a selection of his lyrics, with a notice by George Sigerson, is included in the Treasury of Irish Poetry, edited by Stopford A. Brooke and T. W. Rolleston (London, 1900).

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