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Thursday, February 08, 2007

James Clarence Mangan

James Clarence Mangan, neglected far too long on this blog. The Clarence by way of Richard II but also Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda. ‘Haunted by an indescribable feeling of something terrible’ from boyhood on. Working as a scrivener (insert Bartleby comparison, footnote to Susan Howe here) in York Street, Dublin, he found himself down the road from the Reverend Charles Maturin, author of Melmoth the Wanderer, whom he would follow in the street at an awe-stuck distance. One peculiar strand of the fomenting antiquarianism of nineteenth-century Ireland was Charles Vallancey’s belief that the Irish were descended from the Phoenicians, ‘Prov(ing) us mere Irish to be Orientals.’ Hence perhaps Joyce’s decision to place the character of ‘Mangan’s sister’ in ‘Araby’, whose narrator embarks on a fruitless journey to the Araby bazaar in search of a love token for her. And hence perhaps, among other reasons, Mangan’s consuming interest in Arabic writing, such as these charming epigraphs:

There’s not a bower in Eden but thy sofas have a place in,
And the moon and sun dance night and morning in thy wash-hand basin.


My heart is a monk, and thy bosom his cloister:
So sleeps the bright pearl in the shell of the oyster.


And finally, ‘Double Trouble’:

I am blinded by thy hair and by my tears together;
The dark night and the rain come down on me together.

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