Today the Irish (and Irish at heart) around the world will be celebrating the Emerald Isle’s patron saint and culture. That makes March 17th the perfect day to remember controversial Irish novelist, Sydney Owenson (1783?-1859), and her popular novel ‘The Wild Irish Girl’ (1806).
Mortimer, the son of an English Lord, who is banished to Ireland, narrates the story and on the wild west coast of Connacht, he meets the spirited Glorvina, an Irish princess. From Glorvina, Mortimer learns about the language, legend and romantic landscape of a country he once scorned.
In this passage, Mortimer is captivated by Glorvina as she plays the harp:
“Wrapt in her charming avocation, she seemed borne away by
the magic of her own numbers, and thus inspired and inspiring as she appeared,faithful, as the picture was interesting, I took her likeness. Conceive for a moment a form full of character, and full of grace, bending of an instrument singularly picturesque a profusion of auburn hair fastened up to the top of the finest head I ever beheld”
The publication of ‘The Wild Irish Girl’ turned the passionately nationalist Sydney Owenson into a social celebrity and she regularly appeared in public dressed as Glorvina, even carrying a harp with her. Other works by Owenson include ‘Florence McCarthy: An Irish Tale‘, also held in the Chawton House Library Collection, and part of our Chawton House Library Series of Reprints, published by Pickering and Chatto and edited by Jenny McAuley.
Let us know which Irish literature you will be celebrating
this St Patrick’s Day by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.
If you would like to come and read our 1806 first edition of ‘The Wild Irish Girl’, make an appointment with our Librarian, Dr Darren Bevin, by emailing him on Darren.Bevin@chawtonhouselibrary.org.