MAUD GONNE by Margaret Ward

MAUD GONNE

A Biography

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A warmly sympathetic biography of ``Ireland's Joan of Arc'': Maud Gonne (1866-1953), the agitator and legendary beauty best known today as the muse of William Butler Yeats and mother of Nobel Peace Prize winner Sean MacBride. Of all the contradictions in Gonne's life, the biggest may have been that the woman who personified Mother Ireland in Yeats's nationalistic play Cathleen ni Houlihan was the British Protestant daughter of a Royal Army colonel. Outraged by the plight of starving Irish peasants, Gonne embarked on a lifelong crusade on behalf of the downtrodden and her adopted country's freedom. Ward (History/University of the West of England) is at her best in examining how Gonne overcame the sexism of male Irish republicans because of her wealth and charisma (in addition to being beautiful, she was a mesmerizing public speaker even as an octogenarian). Ward explains the activities that absorbed Gonne's considerable energy, including spying in Czarist Russia, lobbying for land reform, picketing royal visits to Dublin, founding the female nationalist group Inghinidhe na hEireann (Daughters of Erin), raising funds for Irish independence, participating in hunger strikes, and improving the lot of the poor and imprisoned. But the author isn't so successful in accounting for the other aspects of her heroine's public career and eccentric private life--failing to explain, for instance, why Gonne became the longtime mistress of a French right- winger. Ward also avoids criticizing Gonne's patriotically correct protests against plays by John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey, and her faith in astrology and mediums. A vivid if airbrushed narrative of a glamorous activist whose story begs for Hollywood treatment. (Sixteen pages of b&w photos- -not seen) (For more of Gonne, see The Gonne-Yeats Letters 1893- 1938, 1992, ed. by Anna MacBride White & A. Norman Jeffares.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-04-440889-7
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993




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