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This review is taken from PN Review 115, Volume 23 Number 5, May - June 1997.

GOTHIC DUBLINER ELLEN SHANNON-MANGAN, James Clarence Mangan (Irish Academic Press) Ir £35
JACQUES CHUTO et al. (eds.), The Collected Works of James Clarence Mangan, Volumes 1 & 2: Poems 1818-1837 & Poems 1838-1844 (Irish Academic Press) Ir £40 each

In his poem 'To Ireland in the Coming Times', Yeats named him as one of the three writers to whose example he wished to emulate. The youthful James Joyce set two of his poems to music, delivered a stirring lecture on him to his fellow undergraduates and remained a lifelong admirer. He was one of the most prodigious verse translators of the nineteenth century, the author of almost a thousand poems, the contemporary of Nerval, Leopardi and Heine, but apart from a handful of anthology pieces he is largely unknown, even to students of Irish writing. He is James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), whose work is only now appearing in a full collected edition almost a century and a half after his death.

If Mangan's texts remained in a state of disarray for so long, the reasons are not far to seek in the poet's often chaotic, wretched life. He is Ireland's poète maudit. Born in Dublin's Fishamble Street, he rarely left the city and - a rumoured visit to Germany aside - never left Ireland. He became a legal scrivener in his teens and soon began to contribute to the periodicals of the day. Many of these were almanacks, specialising in mathematical conundrums, and Mangan's earliest verse abounds in rebuses, acrostics and other extravagant word-play; for a bet he once wrote an elegy overnight in each of whose twelve verses he rhymes on the name of a local butcher, Johnny Kenchinow ('Come get the black, the mourning ...


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