The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

IX. Anglo-Irish Literature

§ 19. McGee

Thomas D’Arcy McGee was the most considerable of The Nation poets. He visited America at the age of seventeen, and, two years later, became editor of The Boston Pilot, but, meanwhile, the echo of a brilliant speech made by him reached O’Connell across the Atlantic, and led to the offer of a post on The Freeman’s Journal, which he accepted, but, afterwards, abandoned in favour of more congenial work, under Duffy, in The Nation. There is a mystical splendour about his most remarkable poem The Celts, contributed to its pages; and his patriotic poems I left two loves on a distant strand, My Irish Wife and Home Thoughts deserve remembrance as does The Seadivided Gaels, which might serve as a pan-Celtic anthem. His career was remarkable. Concerned in the Irish rebellion of ’48, and with a price set on his head, he again found a home in the United States, started the New York Nation, and, afterwards, at Boston, The American Celt. Meanwhile, his political views underwent much modification. He passed into Canada, entered the Canadian parliament and so distinguished himself there that he became Canadian minister of agriculture. But he so completely abandoned his revolutionary, in favour of constitutional, views on the subject of Irish grievances that he incurred the bitter hostility of the Fenians, and, on denouncing their agitation, was assassinated.

Richard D’Alton Williams, author of The Munster War Song, lady Wilde (“Speranza”), who wrote remarkable rhetorical verses upon the Irish potato famine, and John Kells Ingram, author of the immortal Who fears to speak of Ninety-Eight?, who ended his life as vice-provost of Trinity college, Dublin, are other poets to be had in remembrance.

Meanwhile, Davis had died at a tragically early age, and Duffy, after carrying on The Nation till its suppression on political grounds and reviving it again, when he narrowly escaped transportation for life on a charge of treason, sought and found a new field for his indomitable energies in Australia. Here he rose to be premier of Victoria, was knighted and returned to this country to found the Irish literary societies of London and Dublin, and to edit The New Irish Library, thus taking a prominent part in what is now known as the Irish literary renascence.

Sheil possessed remarkable literary as well as oratorical gifts. He wrote half-a-dozen tragedies, two of which, The Apostate and Evadne or the Statue, were produced with marked success at Covent garden, Eliza O’Neill, Kemble and Macready being included in the cast of the first of these plays. He also wrote, for The New Monthly Magazine, Sketches of the Irish Bar, in conjunction with W. H. Curran. These became popular and were afterwards republished. John Philpot Curran, the orator, was a witty and graceful writer of verse, and his Deserter’s Meditation, and Cushla ma Chree have caught the Irish popular fancy and are still often sung and recited.