O’KELLY, P. The Aonian Kaleidoscope; or, A Collection of Original Poems. By P. O’Kelly, Esq. Author of Killarney, Giant’s Causeway & Cork:
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THE MARQUESS OF SLIGO’S COPY
“WHILST THE MAYONIANS STRUGGLE FOR MY PRAISE”
Printed for the Author, 1824. Octavo. pp. , 110. Errata at foot of p.110. Modern half calf on original marbled boards, title in gilt direct on spine. Original red morocco label in gilt on upper cover with the legend ‘Marquess of Sligo.’ Some mild foxing. A very good copy. Extremely rare.
COPAC locates 4 copies only.
Patrick O’Kelly (1746?-c.1835) poet, was born in Loughrea, County Galway, probably in 1746, though one of his own poems gives his birth year as 1754. Famed for his eccentricity, he fancied himself a bard in the old Gaelic tradition and travelled around the great houses, lampooning and (more often) praising the men of his day. He was noted in his lifetime for poems such as ‘Killarney’ (1791) and the satire, ‘Doneraile Litany’, (1808). He was familiar with the upper echelons of literary society, becoming acquainted with Sir Walter Scott in 1821, and George IV in Dublin in 1821. This is one of a number of volumes of poetry published by Patrick O’Kelly, ‘the Bard O’Kelly’. He gained famed with his first volume of poetry, ‘Killarney’ (1791), and was admired by George IV - not much of a judge of poetry, one assumes - and also apparently by Walter Scott, who may have being more interested in him as a specimen of the Plebeian Irish Bard. O’Kelly travelled the length and breadth of Ireland selling his books, but this would seem to be the only one not to have being published in Dublin. The title poem, the first in this volume celebrates the King’s arrival in Ireland in August 1821, an event comparable in Ireland to his memorable visit to Edinburgh the following year; it was apparently on this occasion that O’Kelly met the King himself, an honour of which he boasts in his preface “when even Majesty deigned to shed a ray of lustre upon my efforts ... Yet not alone to Royalty am I indebted, whilst some of the first Names in the Land grace my List.” Much of the rest of the poetry is similarly personal: ‘The Hurling Match’ dedicated to Lord Viscount Dillon; ‘A New Year’s Gift’ to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Clanricarde; ‘Epithalamium’ to John Blakeney of Abert, County Galway; ‘The Eidouranium’ addressed to a Lady in Loughrea who loved Dancing; ‘The Request’ to the Rev. Mr. Arthur Herbert of Ballinamona near Mallow; ‘The Deodand’ to Daniel O’Connell; ‘Multum in Parvo’ on the much-lamented death of Mrs Shannon of Limerick; ‘The Entreaty’ to Justin M’Carty, Esq. Carrignavar, County Cork; ‘Elegy’ on the death of Charles O’Conor, Esq. of Ballinagar; ‘The Palinode’ most humbly dedicated to Lady Doneraile.
The first two decades of the nineteenth century saw O’Kelly at his most productive and popular: he published poems on the ‘Giant’s Causeway’ and ‘Killarney’ (1808), the ‘Eudoxologist’ (1812), and the present work ‘Aonian kaleidoscope’ (1824). These were printed at his own cost but the list of subscribers to this volume is impressive, including Daniel O’Connell, the O’Conor Don, and Sir Robert Peel. He addressed a number of eulogies to O’Connell in thumping and pedestrian verse. The subscriber of whom he was most proud was the prince of Wales, who ordered fifty copies of his 1812 volume. When the prince later visited Ireland as George IV (August 1821), O’Kelly forced his way into the viceroy’s residence at Phoenix Park to present him with the fifty copies. The king received him graciously and observed that, like Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, he was lame. This encouraged O’Kelly to deliver an impromptu verse, ‘Three poets for three sister kingdoms born/ One for the rose, another for the thorn/ One for the shamrock which will ne’er decay/ While rose and thorn must yearly fade away’, to the king’s great amusement. O’Kelly’s most well known poem, the ‘Doneraile Litany’ written in 1808, was also his best, though it had not much competition. It is a string of curses on the people and town of Doneraile, where he was robbed of his watch. On Lady Doneraile’s replacing his property, he wrote ‘The palinode’, revoking all former curses. When Sir Walter Scott visited Limerick in 1825 he was hailed in complimentary verses by O’Kelly, described as ‘a scarecrow figure’ (Lockhart, 562). This is almost the last reference to O’Kelly. He published a final volume, Hippocrene, in 1831 but by then his list of subscribers had grown very thin. According to the Warder he died in Limerick on 25 April 1837 aged 91.
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