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This article is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

Francis Stuart: Private Lives Peter Hazeldine

For several months after it was first published, Memorial was empounded by Irish customs and its author denied access to copies. This was not the first time that Francis Stuart's writings had been withheld from the public. His play, Who Fears to Speak, commissioned by the Abbey Theatre, was taken off before rehearsals were complete because of its contents, and his acknowledged masterpiece, the novel Black List, Section H, was initially turned down by publishers objecting to his conduct in the war. The awakened interest in Stuart's work that has taken place in recent years is long overdue; nevertheless, the suspicion remains that his neglect has in part been self-sought, and that he has needed public confirmation of his own sense of estrangement in order to develop as an artist.

Francis Stuart was born in Australia in 1902, of Northern Irish Protestant stock, and educated in Dublin and England. At the age of eighteen he met Iseult Gonne, the adoptive daughter of the formidable Maud Gonne. Iseult was older than Stuart and more worldly-wise. Yeats had proposed to her, as he had to Maud Gonne, and Iseult had followed family tradition by turning the poet down. She had also briefly been Ezra Pound's mistress. She and Stuart eloped to England, then returned home, married and settled on a farm in County Wicklow, and bred chickens. In 1932, Stuart's first novel, Pigeon Irish, appeared to considerable popular and critical acclaim - Yeats praised it for 'its cold, exciting ...


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