Kilmolin House, Kilmalin, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Cambell's Cottage, Lackandarragh Upper, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Nancy Campbell (born May 23, 1886)'s diaries offers insights into the political development of an English-born, upper-class woman who converted to Irish nationalism.
Nancy Maude was born in England, the daughter of Colonel Aubrey Maude of the Cameronian Highlanders, whose father, Col. Sir George Maude, had been Crown equerry to Queen Victoria. A branch of the Maudes were landowners in Tipperary, although she grew prouder of her distant kinship with Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798). Her great-grandmother was Emily Mimi Ogilvie, youngest of 23 children to William Ogilvie and Emily, Duchess of Leinster, and half-sister to Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Maude visited Ireland in 1907 and 1909. As a sixteen-year-old Maude recorded conventionally unionist and royalist convictions. However, the following year her frustation at the narrowness of the privileged life she was leading had become apparent:
"How anyone can like growing up! Think of settling down and vegetating and growing older & older and be nothing interesting all the time! Do all young people think that they can never be like the rest of the world? ... It would be worse to be contented with a cabbage-like existence than to rebel against it. And yet most people are happy with it! In ten years' time we will be able to look back and see more clearly what we are fitted for. At present there seem precipices all round & one is only safe if time would for a time stand still ... We are educated, for what? Everything we do is a preparation for life. Is life the looking after a 'linen cupboard', the entertaining of a few tiresome friends? What a black gulf the future looks if taken in this light."
A year later Maude, who developed a hatred for what she viewed as the hypocrisy of upper-class Edwardian life, had determined to "be myself, something far different from other people. A nice self, but an original one." She wrote poetry, entered literary competitions, and became a devotee of George Bernard Shaw. This horrified her father, who stated that young people "should not have their convictions tampered with" and that Shaw was "a scoffer, a puller down of sacred things." This provoked a family row, prompting Maude to write that until recently:
"I have been more or less content with the political and social views with which I was brought up. This year it seems as if a thousand new impressions have been collected. I remember how ... I was encouraged to think a pro-Boer a degraded almost devilish thing. Suddenly I see him to be quite a comprehensible one. So with Nationalists, Home Rulers, Socialists. If one does not agree entirely with their propaganda at least one can applaud their ... efforts to help the world. They at least are not selfish & unfeeling."
For Maude, her tenuous Irishness offered an opportunity for reinvention. By 1908 she had become a fervent Irish nationalist, remarking that Ireland had "awakened a sleeping life", and praising dead Irish patriots, stating that Robert Emmet must have been the "luckiest man" to be martyred.
On November 20, 1909, she heard Joseph Campbell at a reading at meeting of the Sinn Fein circles in London; Campbell sought permission to marry her but was refused. Her family, who viewed her as a "self-willed, passionate, changeable, unreasonable child," strongly disapproved of marriage to an impecunious Catholic poet. They married against her family’s wishes on May 23, 1910, and became permanently estranged from them. The couple returned to Ireland in 1911 and their home, Kilmolin House near Enniskerry, became a gathering place for young poets. They eventually moved to a farm at Lackandarragh, Co. Wicklow. Raised Anglican, by 1912 Maude seems to have converted to Catholicism, although she appears to have later returned to Protestantism. The Campbells proved temperamentally unsuited, Joseph Campbell had a notably taciturn personality. The couple were separated on August 27, 1924, with suspicions of infidelity by both.
Her books include The Little People (London: Arthur T. Humphreys 1910) and Agnus Dei (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1913).
The editors of Poetry, Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson included in their 1917 selection for The New Poetry: An Anthology poems by Nancy Campbell. According to Adrienne Munich and Melissa Bradshaw, authors of Amy Lowell, American Modern, what connects these poets is their appartenance to the queer sisterhood.
In 1931 she contributed ‘Four Poems’ to the Dublin Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 2. Alfred Perceval Graves included Campbell's poem "Like One I Know" in his Book of Irish Poetry.
The Campbell family presented the papers of Joseph and Nancy Campbell to the Trinity College Library in the 1990s.
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