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Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine

James Clarence Mangan

“For the following list of words for land, by no means exhaustive, we are indebted to the graciousness of Mr James Clarence Mangan of the Ordnance Survey office at Dublin, and to the scholarship of his associates.”
            -Star of the Sea, 76

James Clarence Mangan was born in 1803 in Dublin, Ireland, to an unsuccessful grocer. From the age of fifteen to 25, he worked as a copying clerk in the office of a scrivener. After he left this position, Mangan began writing to support himself, and was published in Dublin University Magazine and the Irish nationalist newspaper The Nation (“James Clarence Mangan”). He later transferred his writing “almost exclusively” to John Mitchel’s new paper, The United Irishman, as he “thoroughly sympathized with [Mitchel’s] revolutionary sentiments” (Webb). John Mitchel was himself a great admirer of Mangan; he once said that “I have never yet met a cultivated Irish man or woman, of genuine Irish nature, who did not prize Clarence Mangan above all the poets that their island of song ever nursed” (Webb). This nationalism can be seen quite strongly in Mangan’s original poem Irish National Hymn:

        O Ireland! Ancient Ireland!
        Ancient! yet for ever young!
        Thou our mother, home and sire-land—
        Thou at length hast found a tongue—
        Proudly thou, at length,
        Resistest in triumphant strength.
        Thy flag of freedom floats unfurled;
        And as that mighty God existeth,
        Who giveth victory when and where He listeth,
        Thou yet shalt wake and shake the nations of the world. (Mangan).

Many of Mangan’s poems were loose translations of other works, particularly works written in Irish and German; however, his translations were “often so free that Mangan is in effect using the original as a vehicle for his own emotions” (“James Clarence Mangan”). His original poetry, some of which he also claimed was translated, focused largely on Irish history and lore. Despite his success as a poet, Mangan had a difficult life; his “natural melancholy” was “aggravated by years of ill-paid drudgery and an acute disappointment in love,” and he was addicted to alcohol and opium (“James Clarence Mangan”). After he died on June 20, 1849, his funeral was attended by only two people (“James Clarence Mangan”).

O’Connor’s decision to mention Mangan specifically, rather than invent the name of a scholar, helps to root the novel in its historical background, as does the casual mention of many other historical figures from the time period. Mentioning Mangan also serves the purpose of demonstrating Dixon’s thorough research, at least for this portion of his “journalism.” After all, Mangan was a scholar of languages, in particular Irish, and for Dixon to have appealed to an expert on the topic makes Dixon’s version of events appear somewhat more credible.

Works Cited
“James Clarence Mangan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

Mangan, James Clarence. “Irish National Hymn.”  CELT: The Corpus of Electronic Texts. Cork,
Ireland: UCC. Accessed 29 February 2016.

O’Connor, Joseph. Star of the Sea. Orlando: Harcourt, 2002. Print.

Webb, Alfred. A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1878. Library
Ireland. Web. 28 February 2016.
Researcher/Writer: Audrey Gunn
Technical Designers: Lindsey Atchison and Sarah Liebig

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