Maude Gonne


**I found this paper on the net and would credit it by name, but there is none. References are at the end.

Maud Gonne - Irish patriot, actress, and feminist
Ireland’s Joan of Arc
Born: Aldershot, England on Dec. 20, 1865
Died: Clonskeagh, Dublin on April 27, 1953
Wrote an autobiography: A Servant of the Queen

From the moment he met her, WB Yeats' life was profoundly affected by her famed beauty and unanswered devotion to Irish nationalism. Born during an age when women were expected to be nothing more than handsome window-dressing for their husbands, when women were expected to leave the rough and tumble world of politics to men, Maud Gonne rose above that prejudice to leave her mark on Ireland’s history.

Maude Gonne’s father was a wealthy British army colonel of Irish descent and her mother was English. Her mother died in 1871 and Maud was educated in France by a governess before moving to Dublin in 1882, when her father was posted there. Maud's father died in 1886 leaving her financially independent. Moving back to France for health reasons after a tubercular hemorrhage, Gonne met and fell in love with French journalist Lucien Millevoye, editor of "La Patrie." The pair agreed to work for both Irish and French nationalist causes. She had 2 children with him before their affair ended 2 years later. He suggested that even though she was English she would become Ireland’s Joan of Arc.

Maud had been introduced to Feminism by John O'Leary, a Fenian and veteran of the 1848 Young Irelander uprising. Irish politician Tim Harrington of the National League recognized that this beautiful, intelligent young woman could be an asset to the nationalist movement. He sent her to Donegal, where mass evictions were taking place. Gonne was successful in organizing the locals in protest against these actions. The fact that she soon had to leave for France to avoid arrest is probably a good measure her success there.

In 1889, John O'Leary would introduce Maud to a man whose infatuation with her would last most of his life: poet William Butler Yeats. Yeats would propose to Gonne in 1891, and be refused; largely through Maud's influence, Yeats would become involved with Irish nationalism, later joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In a quotation to which many a man through history might nod in agreement, Yeats would later refer to his meeting with Gonne, saying, "all the trouble of my life began" then.

With W. B. Yeats, she founded an Association Irlandaise in Paris, but rejected his marriage proposals. She was his unrequited love for all of his life and he proposed to her 3 times. Each time she turned him down by saying, “No Willie the world would not thank me for marrying you”. While he was in love with Maude Gonne he shared her Nationalistic aims and she exerted a strong influence on his early poetry. She joined the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood, and attracted police attention in Ireland by her protests against eviction and against celebration of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.

In 1900, she founded the Daughters of Ireland, a women's republican movement, and opposed Boer War recruitment. In 1902, she played Yeats' Cathleen ni Houlihan, symbolizing Ireland's struggle when she shed the appearance of an old crone to become 'a young girl with the walk of a queen'. In 1903, she married in Paris to Major John MacBride, who had formed an Irish brigade to fight on the Boers' side; their marriage failed, and he returned to Ireland, where he was executed after the 1916 rising. She spent most of her time in France. Returning to Dublin, she was jailed by the British for her part in the anti-conscription movement in 1918 and spent 6 months in Holloway prison in London. She organized relief during the War of Independence, and assisted republican prisoners and their dependants during the Civil War. Imprisoned in 1923, she was released after going on hunger strike. In 1938, she published an account of her early life, A Servant of the Queen. From 1922, she lived at Roebuck House, Clonskeagh, Dublin, where she died on April 27, 1953.

Maud and Major John MacBride’s marriage was a short and unhappy one but the son they produced may have soothed any regrets Gonne had about it. As a young man, Seán fought on the Republican side in the Civil War and later carried on his mother's crusade for the fair treatment of political prisoners, not just in Ireland, but all over the world. Seán was one of the founders of Amnesty International. In 1974, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Maude Gonne and WB Yeats:

Although Yeats mentions Maud Gonne by name only once in his poetry, her presence dominates much of his verse. Yeats continuously brought her into his poetry as his central symbol of beauty, whether he called her Helen, Leda, Pallas Athene, the Countless Cathleen, rose, phoenix, or any other named or nameless image of beauty. And Yeats wrote plays as well as poems with Maud Gonne in mind.

In the poem “Adam’s Curse” the “you” of the poem is Maud Gonne, while the “beautiful mild women” is her sister Kathleen. The poem is addressed to Maud Gonne and the subject and style are simple, clear, personal, and unadorned. There are 2 subjects of the poem; the first is the curse of the work (the work of writing poetry, the work in being beautiful, and the work of love). The second is the intensely personal revelation of Yeats grief at pursing this woman who welcomed him as a friend but rejected him as a lover.


http://www.thewildgeese.com/pages/gonne.html http://www.irelandseye.com/aarticles/history/people/whoswho/m_gonne.shtm http://www.ulst.ac.uk/thisisland/modules/poetry/bio.html Conner, Lester I., A Yeats Dictionary. Syracuse University Press. Syracuse, NY. 1998. Gonne MacBride, Maud, A Servant of the Queen. The Boydell Press. Woodbridge, Suffolk. 1983. White, A. and Jeffares, A.N. The Gonne-Yeats Letters 1893-1938. Hutchinson. 1992.


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