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James Clarence Mangan

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Irish poet, b. in Dublin, 1 May, 1803; d. there, 20 June, 1849. He was the son of James Mangan, a grocer, and of Catherine Smith. He attended a school in Saul's Court, but when still young he had to work for the support of his family. For seven years he was a scrivener's clerk and for three years earned meagre wages in an attorney's office. Mitchel accepts the story, related by Mangan himself, but which O'Donaghue is inclined to make light of, that he passed through an unhappy love affair, which infused the bitter and mocking note into his subsequent verses and even drove him to that intemperance which clouded the remainder of his days. In 1831, as a member of the Comet Club, he contributed verses to the club's journal, to which he sent his first German translations. His connection with "The Dublin University Magazine" was terminated because his habits rendered him incapable of regular application. When Charles Gavan Duffy inaugurated "The Nation", in 1842, Mangan was for a time paid a fixed salary, but, as on former occasions, these relations were broken off, though he continued to send verses to "The Nation" even after he had cast in his lot with Mitchel, who in 1848 began began to issue "The United Irishman". For these journals, as well as for "The Irish Tribune", "The Irishman", and "Duffy's Irish Catholic Magazine", Mangan wrote under various fantastic signatures.

In his clerical positions his eccentricities of manner and appearance had made him the object of persecution on the part of those employed with him, and his growing habits of intemperance gradually estranged him from human society. There are many descriptions of his personal appearance at this time, all of them dwelling on his spare figure, his tight blue cloak, his witch's hat, his inevitable umbrella. Still, there were distinguished men who recognized his ability and pitied his weaknesses, among them Anster, Petrie, Todd, O'Curry, O'Daly, and the various editors who printed his contributions. O'Donoghue thinks he has traced all of Mangan's poems and ascribes to him between 800 and 900. In these there is necessarily great inequality, but, at his best, it is difficult to gainsay Mitchel's enthusiastic estimate of him. His verses range from the passionate lament of the patriot to the whimsical satire and the apocryphal translation. He knew little or nothing of the languages from which his translations affected to be made. He was dependent for his renderings of Irish themes on the literal prose translations made by O'Curry and O'Daly.

Mangan fell an easy victim to the cholera which raged in Dublin in 1849. Before his death he was attended by the Rev. C.P. Mechan, who appreciated and loved him, and who, in 1884, edited a collection of his poems. A shabby stone marks his grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. The chief editions of his poems are Mitchel's (New York, 1859), Miss Guiney's (1897), and the centenary edition (Dublin and London, 1903).


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