This is the first full-length study of the life and work of novelist Gerald O’Donovan (1871–1942), a Catholic priest and social and cultural activist who, having abandoned the priesthood, became a writer and publisher. As a priest in Loughrea, Co. Galway, he was a very public figure in Irish life in several different areas. He was friendly with W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and George Moore and actively promoted the ‘Celtic Revival’. He was also a friend of Douglas Hyde and Sir Horace Plunkett and, for a number of years, he was a national figure in their respective organizations, the Gaelic League and the Co-operative Movement. After his marriage to Beryl Verschoyle, he moved to England and subsequently published six novels, the best-known and most controversial of which was Father Ralph (1913), a portrait of the artist as a priest. He also spent time working in the British Department of Propaganda under Lord Northcliffe, where H.G. Wells was one of his colleagues. This biography of an important and strangely neglected figure allows us new insights into a whole range of interesting cultural moments in twentieth-century Irish life, including the beginnings of literary modernism, the flourishing of the Irish literary revival and the emergence of a dissident strand within the Catholic clergy. Based on a rich and previously untapped array of archival material in Ireland, Britain and the US, the book provides both a much-needed reassessment of O'Donovan's work and also a history of Irish writing during those early decades of the twentieth century that saw the development of a new and powerful national literature.
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