James Clarence Mangan image
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Born in May 1, 1803 / Died in June 20, 1849 / Ireland / English


James Clarence Mangan, born James Mangan was an Irish poet.

Literary Career

Mangan was the son of a former hedge school teacher who took over a grocery business and eventually became bankrupt.

Born in Dublin, he was educated at a Jesuit school where he learned the rudiments of Latin, Spanish, French, and Italian. He attended three different schools until the age of fifteen. Obliged to find a job in order to support his family, he became a lawyer's clerk, and was later an employee of the Ordnance Survey and an assistant in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Mangan began submitting verses to various Dublin publications, the first being published in 1818. From 1820 onwards he adopted the middle name Clarence. In 1830 he began producing translations from German, a language he had taught himself. Of interest are his translations of Goethe. From 1834 his contributions began appearing in the Dublin University Magazine. His translations from the German were generally free interpretations rather than strict transliterations. In 1840 he began producing translations from Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Irish.

Although his early poetry was often apolitical, after the Great Famine he began writing poems with a strong nationalist bent, including influential works such as My Dark Rosaleen or Róisín Dubh and A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century.

Mangan was a lonely and difficult man who suffered from mood swings, depression and irrational fears, and became a heavy drinker. His appearance was eccentric, and later in life he was often seen wearing a long cloak, green spectacles and a blond wig. In 1849, weakened by poverty, alcoholism and malnutrition, he succumbed to cholera, aged 46, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

James Joyce wrote a significant essay on Mangan, and also used his name in his works, e.g. Araby in Dubliners. The significance, it is said, lies in part in Joyce's reluctance to acknowledge influence from the Irish literary tradition: he was otherwise chary of adopting any artistic predecessors.

He was addicted to opium and alcohol and was friends with fellow Irish Nationalists, Thomas Osborne Davis and John Mitchel. Mitchel even wrote a biography after Mangan's death.

His poems were published in The Nation (Irish newspaper), a Nationalist newspaper first published in October 1842. Yeats considered Mangan one of the best Irish poets, along with Thomas Osborne Davis and Samuel Ferguson, claiming, "To the soul of Clarence Mangan was tied the burning ribbon of Genius."

His most famous poems include Dark Rosaleen, Siberia, Nameless One, A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century, The Funerals, To the Ruins of Donegal Castle, Pleasant Prospects for the Land-eaters and Woman of Three Cows. He also wrote a brief autobiography on the advice of his friend, Father C. P. Meehan, which ends cutoff mid-sentence. He must have been writing in the last months of his life since he mentions his narrative poem of the Italian Gasparo Bandollo which was published in the Dublin University Magazine in May 1849. A sensationally discovered continuation of the autobiography appeared in the Dublin journal Metre in 2001, but was later discovered to be a fake.

Among the contemporary Irish writers he has influenced are Thomas Kinsella, Michael Smith, James McCabe (author of the hoax autobiography) and David Wheatley, author of a sonnet sequence on Mangan. He is also cited by the song writer Shane MacGowan as an inspiration, both for his work and his lifestyle.

Private papers of Mangan are held in the National Library of Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy, and the archives of Trinity College, Dublin. ..