Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/O'Shea, John Augustus
O'SHEA, JOHN AUGUSTUS (1839–1905), Irish journalist, born on 24 June 1839 at Nenagh, co. Tipperary, was son of John O'Shea, a well-known journalist in the south of Ireland, who was long connected with the 'Clonmel (afterwards Nenagh) Guardian,' and published a volume of poems entitled 'Nenagh Minstrelsy' (Nenagh, 1838). After receiving his elementary education in his native town, O'Shea was sent on 31 Oct. 1856 to the Catholic University then recently established in Dublin under the direction of John Henry (afterwards cardinal) Newman. In his 'Roundabout Recollections' O'Shea has given an account of his residence at the university, with sketches of its rector, professors, and fellow students. In 1859 O'Shea migrated to London, and sought work as a journalist. His love of adventure led him to become a special correspondent. In 1860 he represented an American journal at the siege of Ancona, defended by the papal troops, and he described part of the Austro-Prussian war. Settling in Paris, he acted for some time as a correspondent of the 'Irishman' newspaper, then conducted by Richard Pigott [q. v.]. For this paper, and for the 'Shamrock,' a small magazine owned by the same proprietor, O'Shea wrote many of his best stories and sketches, especially the 'Memoirs of a White Cravat' (1868). His usual signature was 'The Irish Bohemian.' In 1869 he joined the staff of the London 'Standard,' and for many years was one of its most active special correspondents. In his 'Iron-Bound City' (1886), perhaps the best of his books, he gives a graphic account of his adventures during the Franco-German war. He was in Paris through the siege. His subsequent services to the 'Standard' included reports of the Carlist war, of the coronation of the king of Norway, and of the famine in Bengal. Many of his articles were republished in independent books. He left the 'Standard' after twenty-five years association. Henceforth he wrote occasional articles in various English and Irish papers, including the 'Freeman's Journal' and 'Evening Telegraph' of Dublin. He was long a regular member of the staff of the 'Universe,' an Irish catholic paper published in London. Keenly interested in his native country he was a prominent member of Irish literary societies and a frequent lecturer. An attack of paralysis disabled him in his last years, and a fund was raised by the Irish Literary Society of London to relieve his wants. He died at his home in Jeffreys Road, Clapham, on 13 March 1905, and was buried in St. Mary's cemetery, Kensal Green. He was twice married, his second wife and a daughter surviving him.
O'Shea's admirable sense of style, his dash and wit, distinguish his writing and suggest a touch of Lever's spirit. He was a witty conversationalist and raconteur and an admirable public speaker. His chief publications are: 1. 'Leaves from the Life of a Special Correspondent,' 2 vols. 1885. 2. 'An Iron-Bound City, or Five Months of Peril and Privation,' 2 vols. 1886. 3. 'Romantic Spain: a Record of Personal Experience,' 2 vols. 1887. 4, 'Military Mosaics : a Set of Tales,' 1888. 5. 'Mated from the Morgue: a Tale of the Second Empire,' 1889. 6. 'Brave Men in Action' (in collaboration with S. J. McKenna), 1890; new edit. 1899. 7. 'Roundabout Recollections,' 2 vols. 1892.
[Men and Women of the Time, 1899; Freeman's Journal, and The Times, 14 March 1905; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Reg. of Catholic University, Dublin; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland; works mentioned in text; personal knowledge.]