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Encyclopedia > George A. Moore
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A portrait of George Moore by Édouard Manet

George Augustus Moore (February 24, 1852 - January 21, 1933) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist and dramatist. Moore came from a Roman Catholic landed family, originally intended to be an artist, and studied art in Paris during the 1870s. Here he befriended many of the leading French artists and writers of the day.


As a writer, he was amongst the first English language authors to absorb the lessons of the French realists, being particularly influenced by the works of Émile Zola. He was also a key figure in the Celtic Revival. His short stories influenced the early writings of James Joyce. Although a number of his books remain in print, Moore's work remains somewhat outside the mainstream of both Irish and British literature; he founded no school or movement and has had few, if any followers.

Contents

Family background and early life

Moore was born in the family home, Moore Hall, by Lough Cara, County Mayo. The house had been built by his paternal great-grandfather, another George Moore, who had made his fortune as a wine merchant in Alicante. The novelist's grandfather, another George, was a friend of Maria Edgeworth and wrote An Historical Memoir of the French Revolution. His father, George Henry Moore, served as MP for Mayo. Renowned as a good landlord, George Henry fought for tenants' rights. He was one of the founders of the Catholic Defence Association and a leader of the Irish Brigade. The estate consisted of 12,371 acres (50 km²) in Mayo with a further 110 acres (0.4 km²) in County Roscommon.


As a child, Moore enjoyed the novels of Sir Walter Scott, which his mother read to him. He spent a good deal of time outdoors with his brother Maurice. He also became friendly with the young Oscar and Willie Wilde, who spent their summer holidays at nearby Moytura. Moore's formal education consisted of two years spent at St. Mary's College, Oscott, near Birmingham, between the ages of 14 and 16. He was expelled, 'for idleness and general worthlessness' (in his own words) and returned to Mayo.


London and Paris

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A drawing of George Moore in Paris by Édouard Manet

In 1868, Moore's father was elected MP for Mayo and the family moved to London the following year. Here, Moore senior tried, unsuccessfully, to have his son follow a career in the military. When his father died in 1870, Moore inherited the family estate which had a total valuation at the time of £3,596. He handed it over to Maurice to manage and moved to Paris to study art on attaining his majority in 1873. He met many of the key artists and writers of the time, including Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Daudet, Mallarmé, Turgenev and, above all, Zola, who was to prove an influential figure in Moore's subsequent development as a writer.


In 1880, Moore was forced to return to Ireland in order to raise £3,000 to pay debts incurred on the family estate. During his time back in Mayo, he gained a reputation as a fair landlord, continuing the family tradition of not evicting tenants and refusing to carry firearms when travelling round the estate.


While in Ireland, he decided to abandon art and move to London to become a professional writer. His first book, a collection of poems called The Flowers of Passion, had appeared in 1877 and a second collection, Pagan Poems, followed in 1881. These early poems reflect his interest in French symbolism and are now almost entirely neglected. He then embarked on a series of novels in the realist style. His first novel, A Modern Lover (1883), was banned in England because of its, for the times, explicit portrayal of the amorous pursuits of its hero. His next book, A Mummers Wife (1885) is widely recognised as the first major novel in the realist style in the English language. Other realist novels by Moore from this period include Esther Waters (1894), the story of an unmarried housemaid who becomes pregnant and is abandoned by her footman lover, and A Drama in Muslin (1886), a satiric story of the mariage trade in Anglo-Irish society that hints at same-sex relationships among the unmarried daughters of the gentry. Both of these books have remained almost constantly in print since their first publication. His 1887 novel A Mere Accident is an attempt to merge his symbolist and realist influences. He also published a collection of short stories: Celibates (1895).


Because of his willingness to tackle such issues as prostitution, extramarital sex and lesbianism in his fiction, Moore's novels met with some disapprobation at first. However, a public taste for realist fiction was growing, and this, combined with his success as an art critic with the books Impressions and Opinions (1891) and Modern Painting (1893), which was the first significant attempt to introduce the Impressionists to an English audience, meant that he was eventually able to live off the proceeds of his literary work.


Dublin and the Celtic Revival

In 1901, Moore returned to Ireland to live in Dublin at the suggestion of his cousion and freind, Edward Martyn. Martyn had being involved in Ireland's cultural and dramatic movements for some years, and was working with Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats to establish the Irish Literary Theatre. Moore soon became deeply involved in this project and in the broader Irish Literary Revival. He had already written a play, The Strike at Arlingford (1893), which was produced by the Independent Theatre. His satirical comedy The Bending of the Bough (1900) was staged by the Irish Literary Theatre as was Diarmuid and Grania, co-written with Yeats, in 1901.


He also published two books of prose fiction set in Ireland around this time, a second book of short stories, The Untilled Field (1903) and a novel, The Lake (1905). The stories in The Untilled Field, which deal with themes of clerical interference in the daily lives of the Irish peasantry and of emigration, were originally written to be translated into Irish to serve as models for other writers working in the language. Three of the translations were published in the New Ireland Review, but publication was then paused because of the anti-clericism evident in the stories. The entire collection was translated by Tadhg Ó Donnchadha and Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin and published in a parallel-text edition by the Gaelic League as An-tÚr-Ghort in 1902. Moore then further revised the texts for the English edition. These stories were influenced by Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches. They are generally recognised as representing the birth of the Irish short story as a literary genre and are clear forerunners of Joyce's Dubliners collection, which is concerned with similarly quotidian themes but in an urban setting.


In 1903, Moore declared himself to be a Protestant in a letter to the Irish Times newspaper. While living in Dublin, he also published another book on art, Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906). Moore remained in Dublin until 1911. He published an entertaining, gossipy, three-volume memoir of his time there under the collective title Hail and Farewell (1914). Moore himself said of these memoirs: ?One half of Dublin is afraid it will be in the book, and the other is afraid that it won?t?.


Later life and work

Moore returned to London, where, with the exception of frequent trips to France, he was to spend the rest of his life. In 1913, he travelled to Jerusalem to research background for his novel The Brook Kerith (1916). This book, based on the supposition that a non-divine Christ did not die on the cross but was nursed back to health and eventually travelled to India to learn wisdom, saw Moore once again embroiled in controversy. Other books from this period include a further collection of short-stories called A Storyteller's Holiday (1918), a collection of essays called Conversations in Ebury Street (1924) and a play, The Making of an Immortal (1927). He also spent considerable time revising and preparing his earlier writings for a uniform edition.


Moore Hall was burnt down by anti-treaty forces in the Irish Civil War in 1923, partly because Maurice Moore was active on the pro-treaty side. Moore eventually received compensation of £7,000 from the government of the Irish Free State. By this time George and Maurice had become estranged, mainly because of the unflattering portrait of the latter in Hail and Farewell and because of Maurice's active support of the Roman Catholic Church, frequently from estate funds. Moore later sold a large part of the estate to the Irish Land Commission for £25,000.


He was friendly with many members of the expatriate artistic communities of London and Paris and conducted a long-lasting affair with Lady Maud Cunard. It is now believed that he was the natural father of her daughter, the well-known publisher and art patron, Nancy Cunard. Gertrude Stein mentions Moore in her The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), describing him as 'a very prosperous Mellon's Food baby'.


Moore's last novel, Aphroditis in Aulis, was published in 1930. He contracted uraemia and died at his home at Ebury Street in the London district of Pimlico. When he died, he left a fortune of £80,000, none of which was left to his brother. He was cremated in London and an urn containing his ashes was interred on Castle Island in Lough Cara in view of the ruins of Moore Hall. The grounds of the hall are now a Coillte-managed forest park. As of 2004, a plan for the restoration of the house is being considered by the Irish government.


Works

Poetry

  • Flowers of Passion (1878)
  • Pagan Poems (1881)

Plays

  • Worldliness (1874)
  • Martin Luther (1879)
  • The Strike at Arlingford (1893)
  • The Bending of the Bough
  • The Apostle (1911)
  • Esther Waters, play (1913)
  • Elizabeth Cooper: A Comedy in Three Acts (1913)
  • The Coming of Gabrielle: A Comedy (1920)
  • The Making of an Immortal, A Play in One Act (1927)
  • Diarmuid and Grania (written with W. B. Yeats; produced 1901, published 1951).

Short fiction

  • Celibates (1895)
  • An tÚr Ghort (1902)
  • The Untilled Field (1903)
  • A Story-Teller?s Holiday (1918)

Novels

  • A Modern Lover (1883),
  • A Mummer?s Wife (1885)
  • A Drama in Muslin (1887)
  • Confessions of a Young Man (1888)
  • A Mere Accident (1887)
  • Mike Fletcher (1889)
  • Vain Fortune (1891)
  • Esther Waters (1894)
  • Evelyn Innes (1898)
  • Sister Teresa (1901)
  • The Lake (1905)
  • Muslin (1915)
  • The Brook Kerith (1916)
  • Lewis Seymour and Some Women (1917)
  • Fragments from Héloïse and Abélard (1921)
  • The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloe (1924)
  • Ulick and Soracha (1926)
  • Aphroditis in Aulis (1930)

Critical writings

  • Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals (1885)
  • Parnell and His Island (1887)
  • Impressions and Opinions (1891)
  • Modern Painting (1893)
  • Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906)
  • Memoirs of My Dead Life (1906)
  • Avowals (1919),
  • Conversations in Ebury Street

Memoirs

  • Confessions of a Young Man (1888)
  • Hail and Farewell, 3 vols. comprising Ave, Salve, and Vale [1st edn. 1911-1914]
    • Ave (1911)
    • Salve (1912),
    • Vale (1914)
  • Hail and Farewell [Ave, Salve, and Vale; complete in 2 vols.] (1925)
  • A Communication to My Friends (1933)

Correspondence

  • Letters from George Moore to Eduard Dujardin 1886-1922 (1929)
  • Letters of George Moore to John Eglinton (1942)
  • George Moore: Letters to Lady Cunard 1895-1933 (1957)
  • George Moore in Transition: Letters to T. Fisher Unwin and Lena Milman 1894-1910 (1968)
  • George Moore on Parnassus: Letters 1900-1933 (1988)

Online books

  • Free eBooks by George A. Moore (http://www.gutenberg.org/author/George_Moore) on Project Gutenberg

References

Print

  • Hone, Joseph. The Life of George Moore. (Victor Gollancz, 1936)
  • Igoe, Vivien. A Literary Guide to Dublin. (Methuen, 1994) ISBN 0-4136912-0-9

Online

  • George Moore at the Princess Grace Irish Library (http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/m/Moore,George/life.htm)

 
 

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