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ill-grounded in the greater, more entirely accepted cults. Shakespeare was hers and Milton, and in Dante she did authoritative work. And it is idle to wonder whether, so many of the big critical jobs being done, she had a keen eye to the market value of such unconsidered trifles as were left. The practical worth of a task would never have been an incentive; it might have been a deterrent. Like Mangan, there was that in her which bade her not to cross the street to advance her own interests; it persuaded her to what seemed even wilful adoption of the losing cause. (That she did, in many senses, harness herself to drudgery, as life drove her the more pitilessly to the wall, is the more to her lasting renown; by nature she was single in devotion to the tasks she loved and ready to forswear the body's ease.) Nor was her attachment to the imperfectly known by any means the pleasure of the chase, the exhilaration of the hunt when dates and genealogical and critical sequences had "gone away" from her hounds of scent and swiftness. It was simply true that she had an inextinguishable
love for the souls "ordained to fail." As it made no difference to her whether a lasting line of verse were hers or another's, so she had the patience of the born annalist in picking up and conserving every least coin of the realm of letters or of manly and romantic deeds.
One of the floating bits of wreckage she gave a hand to confirming in the illustrious place given him by a few discerning minds, was Mangan, the uniquely brilliant author of an authoritative version of My Dark Rosaleen, a perverse and suffering soul, prey to a blackness of mind and the Nemesis of his own wandering will. There were "two Mangans," she quotes from a previous biographer, “one well known to the Muses, the other to the police; one soared through the empyrean and sought the stars, the other lay too often in the gutters of Peter Street and Bride Street."
He was a worshipper of that which is above us, and prey to what is below, the body's slave, the poor brain's mistaken ministrant, striving alternately to fire it to
new apprehensions and drug it with a despair of its own possibilities. In this Study, James Clarence Mangan, (1897) Louise Guiney says:
“One can think of no other, in the long disastrous annals of English literature, cursed with so monotonous a misery, so much hopelessness and stagnant grief. He had no public; he was poor, infirm, homeless, loveless; travel and adventure were cut off from him, and he had no minor risks to run; the cruel necessities of labor sapped his dreams from a boy; morbid fancies mastered him as the rider masters his horse; the demon of opium, then the demon of alcohol, pulled him under, body and soul, despite a persistent and heart-breaking struggle, and he perished ignobly in his prime."
Could a combination of evils have been imagined more poignantly appealing to this young champion of shipwrecked souls? My Dark Rosaleen alone was enough to enlist her generous pen. As Mangan himself rescued it from the indifferent fame of an archaic fragment, a norm of beauty, and clothed it
with the flying draperies of a glorifying fancy, so she unfolded its history and holds it up to new appreciation in a world not given to dwell upon the historically obscure. Mangan, she tells us, “was a pattern of sweet gratitude and deference, and left his art to prosper or perish as heaven should please.” How this moved her as an appeal she understood! for she also was of those who sow their seed in the wild garden of the world's indifference and pass on, meekly unaware of any right of mankind, born to heavenly destinies, to stay and gather. He was dear to her. She treated him tenderly, yet his strange humors moved her to a smile. He was "so ludicrous and so endeared a figure that one wishes him but a thought in Fielding's brain, lovingly handled in three volumes octavo and abstracted from the hard vicissitudes of mortality.”
This Study of hers reflects, with an especial clarity, the form and color of her own critical genius. In the comparison of masterpieces and the measurement of values by accepted standards, she was at ease in a large activity.
If we would understand her method, we may look on it here. The shallow conception of the critic's task, as an expression of personal preference, was not even germane to the richness of preparation she brought to even the most inconsiderable reviewing. Here are no snap judgments, ingenuous betrayal of temperamental likings. The genesis of criticism is the tool in her hands. Lead her to the slenderest rill of poetry and, out of her witchhazel magic, she locates the spring that fed it. She bows before the few whose senses are quick at literary divination.” In this Study learning ran, not wild, but at a splendid even pace over the road of
achievement, saluting guideposts by the way. Literary resemblances, the least intentional, are rarest joys to her. She is enchanted to find some of Mangan's lighter verse rattling on like a Gilbertian libretto.
“Behold the exhumed precursor of The Mikado!”
Nothing rewards her more indubitably than the discovery of even a quasi-lineage, a shadow of likeness not to be developed into