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Irish Literary Society Collection: Home

Library of the London Irish Literary Society Society.

About the Collection

The collection comprises c.300 items and is particularly strong in Irish Studies, Music, Literature and history.

There are a number of items with direct Cork connections such as a hand-inscribed copy of Irish minstrels and musicians by Capt. Francis O'Neill (1848-1936). The library also contains a pristine, signed presentation copy of A Queen of Men by William O'Brien. 

There are three books which derive from the library of Lady 'Speranza Wilde, Oscar Wilde's mother. They are:

In addition, other important association copies include volumes which belonged to:

  • Eleanor Hull, the journalist and scholar of Old Irish
  • Stephen Gwynn
  • Alfred Graves, writer and father of Rupert Graves
  • Sophie Bryant, educator, feminist and writer.

The collection prefix before the call number is: ILS.


In February 2008 the Executive Committee of the Irish Literary Society decided to donate its extant collection to the University. UCC Library acknowledges the role of Prof. Emeritus Padraig O Riain in securing the collection for UCC.

Biographical History

The Irish Literary Society was established in London in 1892. Among its founders were WB Yeats, Douglas Hyde. TW Rolleston, Francis Fahy and other leaders of the Irish Literary Revival. The object of the Society was to promote the appreciation of Irish literature and culture and to provide a forum for intellectual and social activities in connection with these interests. The Irish Literary Society Library was built from the end of the 19th century and through the beginning of the 20th century.

Among its founders were leaders of the Irish Literary Revival: WB Yeats, Douglas Hyde, Maud Gonne and Standish James O'Grady. Other eminent members included Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Lord Northcliffe. The inaugral meeting was held in the Caledonian Hotel in London on 12th May 1892. The new Society attracted members of different political and religious opinions, although open discussion of these subjects were forbidden in the rules. 

The Society held Gaelic classes even before the Gaelic League was formed in 1893 and helped to bring into being the Irish Texts Society in 1898 and the Irish Folk Song Society in 1904. It sponsored the Petrie Collection of Irish Music and the twelve-volume Irish library of history and literature published between 1893-1904. It brought Irish actors to London in 1903 & 1904, to present plays by Yeats, Synge and others.

Collection Highlights

Endpapers to 'Irish Minstrels and Musicians'

The library rules of the Irish Literary Society Collection are pasted to the endpapers and on the right is an inscription from Francis O'Neill to Alfred Perceval Graves, the Anglo-Irish poet, folklorist and a key member of the Irish Folk Song Society. The inscription reads "To the distinguished Alfred Perceval Graves as a slight tribute from the author. Capt. Francis O'Neill, Chicago, U.S.A., Nov. 19, 1913" and "purchased by the I.L.S., June 1915."

O'Neill, Francis. Irish Minstrels and Musicians: With Numerous Dissertations on Related Subjects. Chicago: The Regan Printing House, 1913.  

Catalogue of Music: Rhoda Cogill

Rhoda Coghill (1903-2000) was an Irish composer and pianist. In 1923 she composed her best-known work Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking based on a text by Walt Whitman. Coghill played double bass in the Dublin Philharmonic Society and Radio Éireann orchestras.[ Frm 1939-1969 she was the accompanist of Radio Éireann. Coghill stopped composing in the 1940s; instead writing and translating poetry

An Gúm. Catalogue of Music. Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig an tSoláthair, [19--]. 

A Queen of Men

O'Brien began the novel in 1891 when in jail in Galway and completed it in 1898. A Queen of Men is about the 16th century leader of the O Maille dynasty in west Connaught, Grace O'Malley. However it is not historically factual and then contemporary matters inflect the fictional account:  the distinction between women's ability to hold property in their own right under Gaelic law and English common law doctrine is emphasised by O’Brien in relation to the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1893. 

William O'Brien has signed the end leaves of this the second edition.

O'Brien, William. A Queen of Men. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1898. 

The Poem-book of the Gael: Title Page

The Poem-book of the Gael has an excerpt from a decorated manuscript. The title page is also illustrated in black and white. Similar black and white Gaelic designs are throughout the text. 

Hull, Eleanor, ed and selected. The Poem-book of the Gael: Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose and Verse. London: Chatto & Windus, 1912, 1913. 

Caulfield: Council Book of Youghal

Municipal Seal of Youghal from the sixteenth century. The matrix is now lost.

Caulfield, Richard. The Council Book of the Corporation of Youghal, from 1610 to 1659, from 1666 to 1687 and from 1690 to 1800. Guildford (Surrey): J. Billing and Sons, 1878.