Hanna Sheehy Skeffington review

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2018), Letters, Volume 26

Sir,—I appreciate History Ireland’s accolade in choosing the collected writings of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington as the ‘Big Book’ review for January/February 2018 (HI 26.1). I was very glad to see that the reviewer, Patrick Maume, begins by describing this as a ‘valuable book … a picture of an activist in her own words’. But to say that ‘the standard of presentation falls far below what the material deserves’ is a seriously ungenerous and inaccurate criticism of the beautiful production of UCD Press, who are exemplary as publishers in terms of their production values. Maume criticises the shortage of explanatory notes—despite the book containing a chronology of her life, an introduction to each chapter and some explanatory notes to each chapter. These are obviously not detailed enough for him, but this is a book of collected writings, not a biography. In the course of a decade’s accumulation and transcription of writings into a book of some 463 pages, some inaccuracies, always regrettable, occur. Mea culpa for the typo that caused ‘balm’ to be written as ‘blame in Gilead’. I fail to understand Maume’s point relating to the article from the Irish World on 3 May 1924 (p. 206). He states categorically, ‘Clearly what Sheehy Skeffington originally wrote was . . .’. However, the full article is printed exactly as it was published. Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was an extraordinarily cultured and well-read woman, as Patrick Maume recognises. Nevertheless, she too occasionally had typos or mis-remembered events. Thus, with regard to Lord Edward Fitzgerald (p. 3), ‘he’ is the pronoun used in the typed memoirs. Yes, it makes more sense to have ‘she’ but ‘he’ is what was written in the manuscript. I do not believe as editor I should have changed what was written.—Yours etc.,

Queen’s University, Belfast


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