REVIEW by Amanda Bell

A fascinating insight into a fascinating person


Markievicz: prison letters & rebel writings. Lindie Naughton (ed.). Merrion Press; 277pp; €19.95 pb; 23cm; 978-1-78537-161-5.

Constance Gore-Booth was born in 1868, eldest of the five children of Robert Gore-Booth and his wife Georgina. Constance was closest to her sister Eva, poet and activist, who is the main recipient of the letters in this volume, addressed largely as ‘My Dearest Old Darling’. Their brother Josslyn was the administrator of Constance’s affairs during her periods in detention, which became a source of lasting friction. The younger siblings were Mabel and Mordaunt. The family was raised at Lissadell House, outside Sligo. By the age of 30, Constance was bored by the milieu into which she had been born: ‘… the English idea of modern civilization always galled me. Endless days of exquisite food and the eternal changing of costume bored me always to tears and I prefer my own to so many people’s company’. She persuaded her family to allow her to enrol at the Slade School of Fine Art, and in 1900 moved to Paris to continue her studies at the studio of Rodolphe Julian. Painting and sketching were life-long loves and her great distractions while in prison; the prison letters are notable for the painterly engagement: ‘I wish I’d known [William] Blake. I would love to argue about light and shade with him.’

It was in Paris that Constance met fellow artist, the widowed Polish Count Casimir Markievicz, already father to a son, Stanislas. They married a year later, and their daughter Maeve (later referred to by Constance as Medhbh) was born in 1901. Medhbh was largely raised by her maternal grandmother, referred to in the letters as ‘Gaga’, and sent to boarding school in England in 1915. Settled in Dublin, Constance and Casimir were involved in theatre, and increasingly in nationalist politics. […]

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May/June2019 (issue no.385)

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