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Lia Clarke - Who precisely was she??


Casualbets

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I'm trying to find out more about Lia Clarke, someone I hadn't heard about before today. She was born in 1889 in Drogheda - in 1901 She was in school in Waterford - I can't find her in the 1911 census. Apparently she was a playwright/author (possibly also suffragette) who married the poet Austin Clarke around 1920 - the marriage apparently lasted only ten days, but he spent a year in a mental hospital recovering from it. She later moved to Nassau Street in Dublin and wrote for the Irish Press. She may have been involved in a pro-nazi fringe group during World War 2. She died in 1943.

I'm very interested in finding out more about here, and in particular her early life and who her parents were.
 
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bored and fussy

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I'm trying to find out more about Lia Clarke, someone I hadn't heard about before today. She was born in 1889 in Drogheda - in 1901 She was in school in Waterford - I can't find her in the 1911 census. Apparently she was a playwright/author (possibly also suffragette) who married the poet Austin Clarke around 1920 - the marriage apparently lasted only ten days, but he spent a year in a mental hospital recovering from it. She later moved to Nassau Street in Dublin and wrote for the Irish Press. She may have been involved in a pro-nazi fringe group during World War 2. She died in 1943.

I'm very interested in finding out more about here, and in particular her early life and who her parents were.
You can read newspapers of the time in the national library in dublin, i am sure you will get more information there.
You can also get her birth certificate, this will give you some details, Parents etc. you can also get her marriage and death certs, it will cost less than 10 euro each. I would go down that road. Hope this is of help.
 

Casualbets

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You can read newspapers of the time in the national library in dublin, i am sure you will get more information there.
You can also get her birth certificate, this will give you some details, Parents etc. you can also get her marriage and death certs, it will cost less than 10 euro each. I would go down that road. Hope this is of help.
Hi, I used to be a regular visitor to the NLI, but unfortunately I'm confined to the house at the mo (for medical reasons, not house arrest I hasten to add). I do get birth certs for genealogical research, but I don't think they'd be much help here as she was probably illegitimate. Thank you for the advice though :)

I'm was hoping there would be someone here as much a literary nerd as a political one that might know a bit about her....
 

bored and fussy

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Hi, I used to be a regular visitor to the NLI, but unfortunately I'm confined to the house at the mo (for medical reasons, not house arrest I hasten to add). I do get birth certs for genealogical research, but I don't think they'd be much help here as she was probably illegitimate. Thank you for the advice though :)

I'm was hoping there would be someone here as much a literary nerd as a political one that might know a bit about her....
I did a little research recently I got a marriage cert, and the lady in question was illegitimate but it showed where they married and their witness's name and address. It was of help but maybe not for you. Hope you are not housbound for too long more.
 

Casualbets

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I did a little research recently I got a marriage cert, and the lady in question was illegitimate but it showed where they married and their witness's name and address. It was of help but maybe not for you. Hope you are not housbound for too long more.
Well, the problem is that illegitimate births tended not to be registered....
 

Didimus

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Cornelia Clarke appears in the 1901 census as a pupil of the Ursuline convent in Waterford.
She wrote a bit and the following is from Whytes auctioneers
"Novelist, playwright, art critic and psychic medium, Lia Clarke (1889-1943) was a woman of many parts. Born Cornelia Comyn (or Cummins) the daughter of Nicholas Comyn of Balinderry, Co. Galway, her mother’s family were Blakes from Co. Cork, from whom she inherited a private income derived from her grandfather’s business as a glass maker. She was raised in Waterford by an aunt’s family, the Jennings, but later moved to Dublin, where she became involved in literary and theosophical circles. Possibly it was her experiments in automatic writing that interested Æ, who has captured her here with an inspired yet far away expression. In 1920 she married Austin Clarke, but the marriage lasted barely a fortnight. She later settled in Nassau Street, where she wrote articles for the Irish Press. A later portrait of her, by Gaetano de Gennaro, sold through these rooms (27 May 2006, lot 135); a photograph of her appears opposite."
It also seems that Clarke's breakdown may have bee related to the death of his father.
 

Twin Towers

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If the marriage only lasted a fortnight why did she keep the name Clarke? Laterally Clarke's daughter bears more than a slight resemblance to the woman in Didimus post.
 

Didimus

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If the marriage only lasted a fortnight why did she keep the name Clarke? Laterally Clarke's daughter bears more than a slight resemblance to the woman in Didimus post.
She never remarried and as far as i know they were never divorced.
Clarke had spent some time in psychiatric care before his marriage.
 

Casualbets

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Cornelia Clarke appears in the 1901 census as a pupil of the Ursuline convent in Waterford.
She wrote a bit and the following is from Whytes auctioneers
"Novelist, playwright, art critic and psychic medium, Lia Clarke (1889-1943) was a woman of many parts. Born Cornelia Comyn (or Cummins) the daughter of Nicholas Comyn of Balinderry, Co. Galway, her mother’s family were Blakes from Co. Cork, from whom she inherited a private income derived from her grandfather’s business as a glass maker. She was raised in Waterford by an aunt’s family, the Jennings, but later moved to Dublin, where she became involved in literary and theosophical circles. Possibly it was her experiments in automatic writing that interested Æ, who has captured her here with an inspired yet far away expression. In 1920 she married Austin Clarke, but the marriage lasted barely a fortnight. She later settled in Nassau Street, where she wrote articles for the Irish Press. A later portrait of her, by Gaetano de Gennaro, sold through these rooms (27 May 2006, lot 135); a photograph of her appears opposite."

That's the paragraph that has sparked my interest - I came across that yesterday when looking for something completely different on the Whyte's site. If that information is true then I'm closely related to Lia Clarke but my family have never heard of her.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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A whiff of sulphur

Lia Clarke get a walk-on part in RM Douglas: The Pro-Axis Underground in Ireland, 1939-1945, The Historical Journal (2006), 49:4: pages 1155-1183 (Cambridge). I'll have a go at locating that in the British Library later, though my instinct is to be suspicious about the word "Underground": this lot were generally open and superterranean.

The other give-away was in Casualbets' headline post:
She may have been involved in a pro-nazi fringe group during World War 2.
That puts her in the circle around Madame Maud Gonne.

Sure enough, that's where I located her in the late 1930s. On these occasions Madame Gonne is always a good place to start: the G2 Intelligence Unit opened one of its earliest files on her.

One of Madame Gonne's Hun contacts was Oscar Pfaus, who was deputed to make contact with the IRA at the time of the 1939 "declaration of war". Pfaus was officially the Hamburg chief of the Fichte Bund (in English: "The Union for World Veracity"). In the Fichte Bund's interpretation, the world's evils, including Irish partition, were the consequence of the all-embracing Jewish conspiracy. This chimed well with Madame Gonne's world-view.

Meanwhile Joe Fowler was operating a book-shop out of 34 Wellington Quay, from where, around August 1939, was published a small pamphlet by Lia Clarke. Gonne sent this to Pfaus, who had it translated into German and given wider distribution.

Clarke's pamphlet was nominally on behalf of "The Celtic Confederation of Occupational Guilds": this fictional "front" was presumably an attempt to be relevant to the still-fashionable vocationalism of Quadragesimo Anno of 1931. Clarke seems to gloze hard Nazism under the guise of Mussolini's corporatism and his improvisations upon Rerum Novarum. The particular contemporary relevance is the 1938 Manifesto della razza/"Charter of Race").

Clarke's argument is crude anti-semitism, deriving from a statement by a certain Mr Magee (who he?) that Irish culture, as popularly-conceived, was:
noting more than a pattern of Jewish and Freemason interest dressed up in green clothing.
She went on to urge support for Hitlerite Germany, not omitting the usual reference to and citation from Sir Roger Casement.

Clarke published a short anthology, Poems of Incompleteness, under the nom-de-plume of Margaret Lyster.

Possibly more later.
 
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Malcolm Redfellow

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More!

I can see why Casualbets is interested by this lady. She certainly deserves more study.

I still have not accessed that Historical Journal article. Some other reader had the file out of the British Library, and it is still somewhere in the system. Perhaps later.

A few crumbs have emerged, however.

Amy L. Friedman in The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture (1999), page 114, has this:

As a middle-class Catholic the gifted Clarke studied Gaelic and English literature at University College, Dublin. His early adulthood was tumultuous; after rapidly earning his BA and MA, a year in a mental hospital after a nervous breakdown in 1919, a 10-day unconsummated marriage in 1920, and the loss of his University College lectureship in English (due to a registry office instead of church marriage), Clarke fled to England. His exile lasted 15 years while he worked as a journalist and book reviewer, with a second, contented marriage to Nora Walker. He returned to Dublin in 1937...
That omits the curious but inspiring detail that Clarke, recently graduated with a First, was appointed to the Assistant Lecturership "vacated" by Thomas MacDonagh. Has anyone looked at Clarke's autobiographical pieces: Twice Around the Black Church (1962) and A Penny in the Clouds (1968) — neither of which I have read? Is there anything significant in the love story of Aidan and Ethna in Bright Temptation (saucy enough in 1932 to be on the list of banned books)?


Meanwhile, The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (ed Robert Welch, 1996) seems to confuse Lia Clarke with Cork-born Geraldine Cummins (1890-1969):

In 1920 Cummins married Austin Clarke, but they separated after ten unhappy days...
I'm getting some curious vibes here. I wonder if we should take some passing interest in the (ahem!) female connections of Ms Comyn/Cummins/Clarke.

- posted from desk 2087, British Library, Euston Road.
 
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Malcolm Redfellow

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Hold on!

This gets more intriguing by the revelation.

I've just turned up an art book, The Book of St Ultan, published 1920 for charity:

It came to my attention because of a search on "Margaret Lyster", which we are assured by the experts is the pen-name of our Lia Clarke. I had already hit upon Foreign Flowers by "Margaret Lyster" in The English Review for November 1917, immediately preceding a piece by Granville Barker (whom every Higher and A-level English student may recall with a shiver). Good company already.

In The Book of St Ultan we find "Margaret Lyster" contributing a poem (page 31), Autumn Leaves. I was going to dismiss the five quatrains as not really worth the effort. I re-read it, made the link to the non-marriage of Lia and Austen Clarke, and thought again:

... My love wanders down
Red leaves at his feet.

Yellow leaves straying
Soft through the wind—
Has he left sorrow
Softly behind?

Strange-coloured leaves
Hurriedly move
And my love wanders down
With his fair new love.
What also intrigues is the list of other contributors, including Nancy and Joseph Campbell, Willy MacBride, Geraldine Plunkett, Jack Yeats, Paul Henry, Cecil Salkeld ... and an end-piece, A Decoration by Maud Gonne. The whole contents-list reads like the 90 Stephen's Green literary coterie around (later Senator) Alice Stopford Green.

Lia Clarke is elusive; but she has some very, very interesting connections.

In passing, and to answer Casualbets' original point, we need to get some insight into Austen Clarke's failed divorce action (1926).
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Aaaargh!

First thoughts are sometimes best thoughts. I instantly discounted them. I should have known better.

Here, from the Dictionary of National Biography (by Mary Shine Thompson, her only contribution to the entire oeuvre):

In autumn 1917 Clarke was appointed assistant lecturer in the department of English at University College, Dublin. As civil unrest intensified, his mental health deteriorated and in March 1919 his mother committed him to St Patrick's Hospital, where he was confined for over a year with severe depression and physical breakdown. Before his hospitalization he had met Cornelia Alice Mary Cummins (1889–1943), daughter of Edward Cummins, a bank manager from Drogheda, co. Louth, and his wife, formerly Winifred Blake. A well-educated older woman with a small private income who had lived abroad, Cummins established a career as a journalist who also published short stories and poor-quality verse under the pseudonym Margaret Lyster. She was considered eccentric, even mad; violently antisemitic, she harboured strong Nazi sympathies in later life. She and Clarke married secretly in a register office in Dublin on 31 December 1920, but the union was probably unconsummated and lasted less than a fortnight. About 1928 Clarke instigated unsuccessful divorce proceedings.
My apologies for not getting that sooner. I had assumed that Clarke would not qualify for the DNB (being Irish), forgetting that estimable tome has a loose and imperialistic notion of nationality, which is just about defensible for those born pre-1921.

So much for the "Comyn" connection, peddled by Whyte's the auctioneers, on which I expended an hour or so.

By the way, the other portrait (dated 1940) mentioned by Whyte's is also accessible on line.

Are we getting any closer to Casualbets' original request?
 
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Casualbets

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Malcolm, that is absolutely fascinating stuff :

I've done a quick bit of research and neither Edward nor Winifred Cummins appear in either the 1901 or 1911 census in Louth. I've checked all Edward Cummins (39 in 1901 and 47 in 1911) and none of them appear to hold occupations related to banking. Of course he could have died by then. I also checked all Cummins in Louth and Meath and nothing can be found there either.

Searchs on Ancestry.com and genesreunited.com didn't yield anything.

However - on www.jbhallfreeservers.com (an excellent site for Louth geneaology) - under the index to gravestone inscriptions, a Winifred Cummins (alias Blake) is buried in Cord Cemetery in Drogheda. However there is no mention of Edward Cummins (either in Cord or any other graveyard) - it's possible of course he's buried in a graveyard that hasn't been transcribed, but usually a husband and wife would be buried in the same grave.

Also notice how the blurb on Whytes says : "PROVENANCE - sitters family by descent". Surely then whytes got their information from Cornelia's family - why would Nicholas Comyn be cited as her father if it was in fact Edward Cummins?
 

Casualbets

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This is what R M Douglas says about her in "The Pro-Axis Underground in Ireland"

It is likely that the individual responsible for bringing the Celtic Confederation of Occupational
Guilds (CCOG) to the Germans’ attention was Lia Clarke, Dublin representative of the Graf Reischach
Dienst news agency, who filed stories on the group’s meetings for her employers. Mrs Clarke was also
the moving spirit behind the ‘ Irish Ireland Research Society’, which she directed under the pseudonym
of ‘A. J. Browne’. Report by Chief Supt. P. Carroll to Col. Liam Archer, ‘ Anti-Jewish propaganda,
etc., in Dublin’, 25 May 1939, DDMA G2/X/0040.
And Dermot Keogh in "Jews in Twentieth Century Ireland"

"...Gardai made enquiries and concluded that the Irish Ireland Research Society did not exist. Their investigations revealed that this "society never existed in fact but efforts to organise it by Mrs Clarke... and that she sent out the circulars in the fictitious name of A.J.Browne'. The circulars had been stencilled at Mrs Clarke's address by herself and two employees of the Irish Press. They had printed over two hundred and sent about eighty by post to people in the city and county. The Gardai also understood that a sum of money 'source unknown and amount not ascertained' had been placed at Mrs Clarke's disposal for anti-semitic activities. While Gardai did not speculate on the source, it is probable that it came from propagandists within either the German or the Italian legation. Mrs Clarke had attempted to interest the IRA in an anti-semitic campaign but to no avail."
The circulars were reported on in the Irish Times apparently...
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Deeper and deeper

For the first time in a long while I think I'm out of my depth ...

The Comyn connection does not work. The Comyns of Ballinderry are/were a sufficiently elevated family to qualify for ThePeerage.com. I've looked in vain for a Cornelia, or near equivalent. The Nicholas Comyn died in 1843. The next generation or two does not show a "Nicholas" or a Cornelia.

The next option is to go for the Blake connection. Do we have any knowledge of a Cork glass-maker of that name? Or of "Winifred Blake", the named mother (whose burial you have found)? Our subject obviously has some small private money, just enough to pass as a "distressed" gentle-woman in bourgeois and intellectual Dublin.

Then there's the pseudonym: "Margaret Lyster". My experience is that such aliases (and I'm using one myself here) have a personal significance. All the links I've hit so far take me to lowland Scotland or America. I keep coming back to that detail about Ms Cummings/Comyn/Lyster having been "abroad" for some time before she emerges in Dublin, around 1917 (earlier sightings definitely welcome). What is pretty obvious (too obvious for any of us to have commented so far) is that the Clarke marriage (in a registry office) was across the Great Denominational Divide.

I'm told there is a letter from Yeats (I think dated at the end of December 1925) to Thomas MacGreevy, recommending Lia Clarke/"Margaret Lyster". Another line of investigation I cannot cope with this weekend. The nearest I've got to that, so far, is a letter from Georgie Yeats to MacGreevy (15 March 1926) noting WBY's disappointment that Wales had beaten Ireland and denied them the Triple Crown. Now, that is something beyond normal belief (but I'll blog it all the same). You'd better take note of the text of that letter:
I'd been very ****-a-hoop on Saturday night that Ireland hadnt won the triple crown (football - in case you dont know the allusion - Ireland has won against England, Scotland, but they "couldn't beat little old Wales" - and W. was surprisingly annoyed about it... when I arrived on Saturday night from Gort he said.. before anything else "Well I suppose you know that Wales beat Ireland and so we haven't got the triple crown" ) Anyhow he was most abusive and as he was beeing really very cross and unpleasant coming home from the Abbey and going on like a thorough paced Irish-anti-Englishman and Mrs Lia (or is it Leah?) Clarke just in front, and she'll probably write and tell you all about it...
Yeats and our gal? Together at last?
 
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Casualbets

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The Comyn connection does not work. The Comyns of Ballinderry are/were a sufficiently elevated family to qualify for ThePeerage.com. I've looked in vain for a Cornelia, or near equivalent. The Nicholas Comyn died in 1843. The next generation or two does not show a "Nicholas" or a Cornelia.

No the relevant Nicholas Comyn is Nicholas O'Connell Comyn (1869-1945), grandson of the Nicholas you mentioned. That would make him 20 when Cornelia was born. She wouldn't be listed in the peerage as it seems to have been a very closely-guarded secret.

(Assuming Cornelia is the daughter of Nicholas)

Another interesting fact is that Cornelia attended the Ursuline Convent in Waterford - her half-sisters attended the same school many years later. Nicholas was in South Africa at the time, first fighting in the Boer War and then as a member of the Transvaal Mounted Police - he returned to Ireland in 1909 when the Boers came to power.
 
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Casualbets

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The next option is to go for the Blake connection. Do we have any knowledge of a Cork glass-maker of that name? Or of "Winifred Blake", the named mother (whose burial you have found)? Our subject obviously has some small private money, just enough to pass as a "distressed" gentle-woman in bourgeois and intellectual Dublin.
I've tried in vain to find the Blakes mentioned I have to say.
 

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