Sheehy-Skeffington, Francis (1878-1916) by Sigler, Amanda

Francis Sheehy-Skeffington 1878-1916 Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a feminist, pacifist, and idealist who used journalism as an outlet of political expression, was born in 1878 in Bailieboro, Ireland. Christened Francis Joseph Christopher, he was the only child of Rose and Joseph Bartholomew Skeffington. In his formative years, Francis Skeffington received his educational instruction from his father, whose views significantly influenced the young boy. His father’s teachings convinced him that (Levenson 9). Later, Skeffington attended University College, Dublin. His own philosophy having been informed partly by his father’s views, Skeffington entered University College with a well-established reputation as a nonconformist. Skeffington wore knickerbockers, did not shave, was a teetotaler and a vegetarian, advocated feminist and pacifist views, and had a habit of circulating petitions in support of his causes. As a journalist, Skeffington often infused his writings with social and political arguments. Like many other contributors to , Skeffington worked against the grain and espoused views that fell under the umbrella of a broadly defined socialism. science, education, logic, discipline, scholarly effort, and independence of thought would inevitably bring order out of chaos, civilization out of barbarism, and reason out of emotion The New Age James Joyce, with whom he attended school, considered Skeffington beside himself (Ellmann 61). Both Joyce and Skeffington directed their academic skills toward writing that reflected their nonconformist views. In an essay entitled Skeffington argued for a fully coeducational university that granted complete equality to women. Displaying similarly rebellious ideas in Joyce condemned the Irish Literary Theater for its parochialism. When , the college magazine, refused to publish both Joyce’s and Skeffington’s articles, the two students decided to publish their essays themselves. Producing their rejected articles in a pamphlet together, Skeffington and Joyce made a modest profit, but it was not enough to suggest that either of them could make a living through writing. the cleverest man at University College A Forgotten Aspect of the University Question, The Day of the Rabblement, St. Stephen’s The partnership between Skeffington and Joyce, however, did not persist in perfect harmony. Skeffington regarded Joyce’s decision to run away with Nora Barnacle as contemptuous of womanhood, and Joyce regarded Skeffington as too radical in his feminism. Joyce also mocked Skeffington’s idealism, drawing an of Skeffington in (Andrée D. Sheehy Skeffington C16). In , Stephen (Joyce’s fictional counterpart) refuses to sign a petition for universal peace circulated by MacCann, Skeffington’s fictional counterpart. Stephen tells MacCann dismissively. (Joyce 215). The fictional account mirrors the actual disagreement that occurred between the two men when Joyce decided to leave Ireland with Nora and Skeffington refused to loan him money. Joyce departed, irritated with Skeffington, but the two did reunite later on friendlier terms. unsympathetic final pen-portrait A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man A Portrait My signature is of no account, You are right to go your way. Leave me to go mine To Skeffington, Joyce’s treatment of Nora seemed unfair; Skeffington advocated women’s equality with men and had even changed his own last name in fairness to his wife, Hanna Sheehy. Accordingly, upon their marriage, he had altered his surname to Sheehy-Skeffington. Hanna became a partner in her husband’s fights for women’s rights as well as in his other endeavors. Together, they fought for women’s suffrage, peaceful resolutions to Ireland’s problems, Home Rule, and the promotion of humanitarianism. Skeffington was involved in a wide number of societies and organizations that reflected his views. He was active in the Irish Women’s Franchise League, the Socialist Party of Ireland, the Young Ireland Branch of the United Irish League, the Incorporated Society of Authors, the Proportional Representation Society, the Irish Anti-Vaccination League, and the Independent Labour Party of Ireland (Levenson 117). He also served as editor of (1905-1906), (1907), and (1913-1916). When Skeffington visited America on an anti-militarist campaign, his wife assumed the editorship of during his absence. The Nationalist The National Democrat The Irish Citizen The Irish Citizen Skeffington’s literary interests furnished him with a vehicle to promote his social and political views. He wrote fiction as well as nonfiction. Michael Davitt, a revolutionary figure who founded the Irish National Land League, had long served as Skeffington’s hero, and in 1908 Skeffington published a biography of the idealist whose life he so admired. In June of that year, ran an ad for Skeffington’s biography of Davitt, describing it as a sketch of Davitt’s life-history (134). In August, the magazine listed the biography as its and called it a that should be read by everyone fighting for Ireland (: 293-94). Skeffington also published a one-act play, whose protagonist nobly endures persecution for her feminist views. Skeffington’s novel, , published posthumously, offers a quasi-historical account of the rebellion of 1798. The New Age by a writer fully in sympathy with his ideals Book of the Week brilliant ‘primer of Davitt’ NA 3.15 The Prodigal Daughter, In Dark and Evil Days In addition to these major works, Skeffington also wrote a number of shorter pieces. He was a journalist who wrote for a variety of periodicals, including . His contributions to include (: 459), (: 200), (: 306), (: 608), (: 547), and (: 320). He also wrote a letter to the editor on (: 371). In his articles, Skeffington addresses the issues of Irish Home Rule, women’s suffrage, religion’s validity, and art as a political tool. In Skeffington condemns the Irish party for its and suggests that the Suffragette’s political activity acts as a more effective model for reforming government and furthering the cause of Home Rule. In Skeffington traces the seeming disintegration of the Sinn Fein organization to its lack of leadership. In and Skeffington encapsulates Irish politics in conversations between characters. written as a dialogue between two figures, incorporates a discussion of literature with politics. For Skeffington, politics not only involves government but also infiltrates religion, science, and art. Accordingly, Skeffington praises Ervine’s play in for its choice of subject but attacks the play for its poor style; political ideas must have appropriate form and organization in order to be effective, he contends. Skeffington carries this same theme into and By emphasizing the need for action and leadership, Skeffington hopes to revivify ( : 371). The New Age The New Age Teachers of Tactics NA 5.26 The Collapse of Sinn Fein NA 6.9 Three Unconventional Reviews NA 6.13 A Dublin Dialogue NA 7.26 Drama NA 8.23 In Defence of Belfast NA 10.14 The Irish National Convention NA 4.18 Teachers of Tactics, blindness The Collapse of Sinn Fein, Three Unconventional Reviews A Dublin Dialogue, Three Unconventional Reviews, Drama In Defence of Belfast The Irish National Convention. the Home Rule flame in an apathetic Ireland The Irish National Convention NA 4.18 Skeffington rejected Catholicism, but he did not reject faith. He believed in his convictions and died fighting for the issues he steadfastly supported. Ironically, he was killed during the Easter Week Rising of 1916 as he sought to moderate its violence and prevent looting. The captain who ordered his death did so without giving Skeffington a trial and was later ruled insane. Naturally, the death of a pacifist who was unjustly condemned to be shot aroused widespread indignation. Skeffington’s death was tragic, but it may have had just the effect he desired. Dubbed a for his nonconformist views, Skeffington would often reply, (Andrée D. Sheehy-Skeffington C16). He had planted the seeds of many. crank A crank is a small instrument that makes revolutions —Amanda Sigler Bibliography Eder, M. D. Review of by Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. : 293-94. Michael Davitt. Revolutionary, Agitator, and Labour Leader 1908-8-8 (vol. 3, no. 15) The New Age Ellmann, Richard. . New York: Oxford UP, 1982. James Joyce Feeney, William J. . Ed. Robert Hogan, et al. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979. Sheehy-Skeffington, Francis. Dictionary of Irish Literature Holt, Edgar. . New York: Coward-McCann, 1961. Protest In Arms: The Irish Troubles, 1916-1923 Joyce, James. . New York: Penguin, 1993. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Levenson, Leah. . Boston: Northeastern UP, 1983. With Wooden Sword: A Portrait of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Militant Pacifist Advertisement in : 134. Michael Davitt, Revolutionary, Agitator, and Labour Leader. 1908-6-13 (vol. 3, no. 7) The New Age Sheehy-Skeffington, Andrée D. 5 Feb. 1982: C16. The Hatter and the Crank. The Irish Times Sheehy-Skeffington, Francis. : 200. The Collapse of Sinn Fein. 1909-12-30 (vol. 6, no. 9) The New Age —. : 547. Drama. 1911-4-6 (vol. 8, no. 23) The New Age —. : 608. A Dublin Dialogue. 1910-10-27 (vol. 7, no.26) The New Age —. : 320. In Defence of Belfast. 1912-2-1 (vol. 10, no.14) The New Age —. : 371. The Irish National Convention. 1909-2-25 (vol. 4, no. 18) The New Age —. : 459. Teachers of Tactics. 1909-10-21 (vol. 5, no.26) The New Age —. : 306. Three Unconventional Reviews. 1910-1-27 (vol. 6, no.13) The New Age

Back to top

Back to Top