Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Maccarthy, Denis Florence

MACCARTHY, DENIS FLORENCE (1817–1882), poet, a descendant of the Irish sept of Maccauras, was born in Dublin on 26 May 1817. His parents were Roman catholics. He was educated at Dublin and at Maynooth, and though destined first for the church and then for the bar, his studies were mostly literary. At school has showed that interest in Spanish which later in life be turned to good account. His first verses—'My Wishes'—were published in the 'Dublin Satirist' in 1831, and for the next two years be contributed to that paper both prose and verse. Like so many of his young contemporaries, MacCarthy espoused the repeal movement, and in 1843, within twelve months after the founding of the paper, he began to contribute to the 'Nation' a series of political verse, over the signature of 'Desmond.' He also joined in the work of the Irish political associations, but his political interests were always subordinate to his literary tastes. On the rally of the Young Ireland party in 1845, he threw all his energies into supporting the 'Nation.' He was one of the petitioners in favour of the Provincial Colleges bill, which was opposed by O'Connell; but in the following year (1846), on the final disruption of the peal Association, he remained with the O'Connell party. His name is sixtieth on the original list of members of the '82 Club formed in 1844 by the wealthier nationalist Si and he was on the council of the confederation (1847), though he rarely attended its meetings. Most of his original work was contributed to the periodical literature of his time, and some of his poems and all his humorous prose papers have yet to be collected. His better known contributions are signed 'Desmond,' 'Vig,' 'Trifolium,' 'Antonio,' ' S.E.Y.,' or appear over his initials. After editing the 'Poets and Dramatists of Ireland,' and the 'Book of Irish Ballads' (1846), with introductory essays on the history and religion of the Irish, and on ballad poetry, the first volume of his own verses, ' Ballads, Poems, and Lyrics,' appeared in 1850; and in 1857, ' The Bell-founder,' and 'Under-glimpses,' were published. Two odes by him have been published: 'An Ode on the Death of the Earl of Belfast' (1856), and 'The Centenary of Moore,' printed privately in London with a Latin translation by the Rev. M. J. Blacker (1880).

Meanwhile a passage Shelley's Essays had directed his attention to Calderon, the Spanish dramatist, and he determined to translate Calderon's works. His aim was lo reproduce in English as faithfully as the language permitted, not only the ideas but the metrical and other peculiarities of the original. Both Ticknor (Spanish Literature, ii. 412) and Longfellow have commented on his success. These translations appeared as follows: 'Justina,' a play, 1848, upon the title-page of which J. H. only appears: 'Dramas.' 1853; 'Love, the Greatest Enchantment,' 1861; 'Mysteries of Corpus Christi,' 1867; 'The Two Lovers of Heaven,' 1870; 'The Wonder-working Magician,' &c, 1873.

In 1853 he was appointed to lecture on literature at the Catholic University, Dublin, but after delivering three discourses he resigned. Owing to ill-health in his family he had to leave Ireland in 1864, and after travelling on the continent settled in London. In 1871 he was granted a pension from the civil list. 'Shelley's Early Life,' dealing principally with the poet's visit to Dublin, and raising the question as to whether he had published the Royal Academy of Spain for his labours in Spanish literature. He spent the last few months of his life in Ireland, and died at Blackrock, near Dublin, on 7 April 1882.

He had nine children, six of whom predeceased him. His son, John, published a collection of his poems in 1884, but some of his best work has been omitted from it. His daughter, Mary Stanislaus, now a nun, has published some poetry.

[Freeman's Journal. 10 April 1882; Nation. 15 April 1882; Athenæum, 15 April 1893; Bend's Cabinet of Irish Literature, iv. 154; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, p. 140: Dublin Review, April 1883; Catholic World, Angust 1882; Introduction to Poems, edited by his son, 1884; Duffy's Young Ireland, and Four Years of Irish History; Cusack's Life of the Liberator; History of Proceedings of the '82 Club; Wills' Irish Nation; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. R. M.