Figgis, Darrell (1882-1925) by Sullivan, Robert

Darrell Figgis 1882-1925 Darrel Figgis’s life consists of the stuff of which fictions and films are made. He was born the same year and not far from his more famous countryman, James Joyce. His childhood was spent in India and after a stint as a tea-merchant in London, G.K. Chesterton (who wrote a preface to his first book of verse) secured a position for Figgis at the publisher Dent where he eventually became an editor. Around the same time that he was contributing to , Figgis published his first novel (1911) and two volumes of poetry, (1909) and (1911). These were reviewed in the pages of . (See, for example, for a review of and see for a review of by J.C. Squire.) This appeared in Squire’s column alongside a review of Pound’s . It was during this time that Figgis ran a series in entitled examining the work of such writers as Robert Bridges, W.H. Davies, W.B.Yeats, and others. In 1913, Figgis moved back to Ireland, settling Synge-like on Achill Island, and began writing novels which, in part, depict the restorative power of nature. These appeared under the pseudonym A play, was produced by the Abbey Theatre in 1913. He published several critical works as well: these include (1911), (1916), and shortly before his death, (1925). The New Age Broken Arcs, A Vision of Life The Crucibles of Time The New Age 10.03 Broken Arcs, 10.08 Crucibles Recent Verse Canzoni The New Age Some Living Poets, Michael Ireland. Queen Tara Shakespeare AE: A Study of a Man and a Nation The Paintings of William Blake The above-mentioned titles do not account for one half of Figgis’s textual output. He published over twenty books between 1909 and the year of his death in 1925, and he left behind the manuscript for , published in 1927. Such industry is all the more remarkable given Figgis’s political commitments (he was secretary of Sinn Fein and imprisoned twice in 1917 and 1919) and the tragic circumstances of his life. He was a member of the committee which drafted the Irish Constitution, but his greatest claim to fame is no doubt his participation in the so-called episode (at least half the cargo was unloaded at Howth, north of Dublin) in August 1914. This event has a significant place in Republican folklore to this day. After a meeting in London, Figgis, Erskine Childers, and Roger Casement organized the purchase of 1,500 Mauser rifles and ammunition for the Irish Volunteers from a company in Hamburg. These were eventually transported to Ireland on two yachts, Childers’ boat Asgard being the first to arrive at Howth. Among the Volunteers who helped move the rifles on land was one Thomas McDonagh, soon to be in Yeats’ poetic commemoration of the Easter Rising some few years later. Recollections of the Irish War Kilcoole Gun-Running changed utterly Despite these earlier Republican credentials, when Figgis ran as an Independent for a Dublin seat in the elections of 1922 he and his wife were attacked by Republican gunmen who broke into their Dublin flat and, after roughing-up both husband and wife, cut off half of Figgis’s This seems like a strange thing to do, but according to some accounts Figgis was not popular in some quarters. It was thought that he was too vain, not to say arrogant and From such farce, tragedy ensued. According to some commentators, the traumatic aftermath of this event may have led his wife Millie to take her own life a year or so later. Shortly thereafter, Rita North, the woman who Figgis had taken up with, died after an unsuccessful abortion. Figgis took his own life in 1925. neat auburn beard. stories were told about his Christlike beard. —Robert Sullivan Source Gonzalez, Alexander G. Ed. . Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997. Modern Irish Writers: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

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