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WILDE, Oscar. Editor. The Woman’s World. November 1887 – October 1889. [Volumes I & II]. Profusely illustrated. [WITH CONTRIBUTIONS BY MRS. OSCAR WILDE & LADY WILDE]
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London: Cassell & Company, 1888/1889. Quarto. pp. (1) iv, 572 (2) viii, 664. Modern maroon and blue buckram, title in gilt on upper cover and spine. From the library of Amy Dawes with her decorative bookplate on front pastedowns.
Wilde was appointed editor of “The Lady’s World” in June 1887. Quickly renamed “The Woman’s World”, Wilde contributed 13 articles in his 2 years as editor, all titled “Literary and other Notes,” in the first volume. In the second they are titled: A Fascinating Book; A Note on Some Modern Poets; Some Literary Notes [includes a review of W.B. Yeats’s Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry]: “They have made their work literature rather than science, and told us of the Irish peasantry rather than of the primitive history of mankind, or whatever else the folklorists are on the gad after. To be considered scientists, they should have tabulated all their tales in forms like grocers’ bills item the fairy king, item the fairy queen. Instead of this, they have caught the very voice of the people, the very pulse of life, each giving what was most noticed in his day. Croker and Lover, full of the ideas of the harum-scarum Irish gentility, saw everything humorised. The impulse of the Irish literature of their time came from a class that did not - mainly for political reasons - take the populace seriously, and imagined the country as a humorist’s Arcadia; of its passion, its gloom, its tragedy, they knew nothing. What they did was not wholly false; they merely magnified an irresponsible type, found oftenest among boatmen, carmen, and gentlemen’s servants, into the type of a whole nation, and created the stage-Irishman. The writings of ‘Forty-eight and the Famine combined, burst their bubble. Their work had the dash as well as the shallowness of an ascendent and idle class; and, in Croker, is touched everywhere with beauty, a gentle Arcadian beauty. Carleton, a peasant born, has in many of his stories, more especially in his ghost stories, a much more serious way with him, for all his humour. Kennedy, an old bookseller in Dublin, who seems to have had something of genuine belief in the fairies, comes next in time. He has far less literary faculty, but is wonderfully accurate, giving often the very words in which the stories were told. But the best book since Croker is Lady Wilde’s ‘Ancient Legends.’ The humour has all given way to pathos and tenderness. We have here the innermost heart of the Celt in the moments he has grown to love through years of persecution, when, cushioning himself about with dreams, and hearing fairy songs in the twilight, he ponders on the soul and on the dead. Here is the Celt, only it is the Celt dreaming.”
Into a volume of very moderate dimensions, and of extremely moderate price, Mr. Yeats has collected together the most characteristic of our Irish folk-lore stories, grouping them together according to subject. First come the “Trooping Fairies.” The peasants say that these are fallen angels who were not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost; but the Irish antiquarians see in them the gods of Pagan Ireland, who, when no longer worshipped or fed with offerings, dwindled away in the popular imagination, and are now only a few spans in height. Their chief occupations are feasting, fighting, making love, and playing the most beautiful music. They have only one industrious person among them, the Leprachaun (the Little Shoemaker). It is his duty to repair their shoes when they wear them out with dancing. Mr. Yeats tells us that near the village of Ballisodare is an old woman who lived among them for seven years. When she came home she had no toes; she had danced them all off. On May Eve, every seventh year, they fight for the harvest, for the best ears of grain belong to them. An old man in- formed Mr. Yeats that he saw them fight once, and that they tore the thatch off a house. Had any one else been near they would merely have seen a great wind whirling everything into the air as it passed. When the wind drives the leaves and straws before it, that is the fairies, and the peasants take off their hats and say, “God bless them.” When they are gay, they sing. Many of the most beautiful tunes of Ireland are only their music caught up by eavesdroppers. No prudent peasant would hum “The Pretty Girl Milking the Cow” near a fairy rath, for they are jealous, and do not like to hear their songs on clumsy mortal life. Blake once saw a fairy’s funeral. But this, as Mr. Yeats points out, must have been an English fairy, for the Irish fairies never die; they are immortal.
Then come the “Solitary Fairies;” amongst them we find the little Leprachaun mentioned above. He has grown very rich, as he possesses all the treasure-crocks buried in war-time. In the early part of this century, according to Croker, they used to show in Tipperary a little shoe forgotten by the fairy shoemaker. Then there are two rather disreputable little fairies-the Cluricaun, who gets intoxicated in gentlemen’s cellars; and “The Red Man,” who plays unkind practical jokes. The Fear- Gorta (Man of Hunger) is an emaciated phantom who goes through the land in time of famine, begging an alms, and bringing good luck to the giver. The Water- Sheerie is own brother to the English Jack o’ Lantern”.
With a feast of interesting articles: Children’s Dress in this Century. By Mrs. Oscar Wilde; Dublin Alexandra College. By Lady Ferguson; Dublin Castle. By Miss Rosa Mulholland; Historic Women. By Lady Wilde; Irish Industries, Some - The Poplin Weavers of Dublin. By Miss C. O’Conor-Eccles - The Knitters of the Rosses. By Miss Dorothea Roberts; Lace-making in Ireland. By Miss H.E. Keane; Old-Fashioned Irish Town (Youghal). By Miss F.W. Currey; Irish Industrial Art. By Mrs. Jeune; Irish Peasant Tales. By Lady Wilde; Muffs. By Mrs. Oscar Wilde;
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