LaBudde | Justin McCarthy Collection

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Related Cataloged Material

- Books By / Edited By McCarthy

 

Related Collections By Topic

- Culture
- Government

Scope and Content of Collection

The Justin McCarthy Collection was part of the original private collection of Robert M. Snyder, Jr. donated to the University of Kansas City (now University of Missouri-Kansas City) in 1937. Housed in the Dr. Kenneth J. LaBudde Department of Special Collections, the collection offers valuable insight into McCarthy's publishing career with his primary publishers Chatto and Windus; however, it lacks information about his political career as a member of British Parliament. There are roughly 250 items, mostly correspondence, dating from 1877 to 1899. The majority of the letters are handwritten and written during the years 1883, 1897 and 1899. Both his creative process and his control over his publications are revealed through the correspondence. Of particular note is an exchange of correspondence with German and American publishing houses regarding translation and copyright permission. It is also possible to study McCarthy's declining health and eyesight through the degenerative handwriting in his later years and the increased reliance on his daughter, Charlotte, who wrote many of the later letters.

Biographical Sketch

Born in 1830 in Cork, Ireland, Justin McCarthy was the middle of three children of Michael Francis, Esq. and Ellen Fitzgerald-Canty. From a young age, McCarthy was interested in pursuing a career in law; however, his family did not have the money needed for him to apply to the bar. When a family friend offered a 16-year-old McCarthy a job as a reporter for the Cork Examiner, McCarthy discovered an interest in writing. He soon became an anonymous contributor to the satirical British journal The Porcupine as well as to The London Quarterly.

In 1856 he married Charlotte Allman and together they had two children, Justin Huntly and Charlotte. In 1859 McCarthy received a job as reporter for a London newspaper, The Morning Star, and in 1860 he moved his family to London. He wrote articles for The Westminster Review and eventually became editor of The Star (morning and evening editions.) During this time McCarthy published his first novel My Enemy's Daughter, which also appeared as a serial in Harper's Magazine (New York). His next novels, The Waterdale Neighbors and Con Amore, both did so well that in 1868 he resigned his position as editor of The Star to pursue his own literary career.

That same year McCarthy went to the United States to visit his brother Frank. His first visit to America lasted nearly two years in which he worked as an editor for three New York magazines: The Independent, The Tribune and The Galaxy. It was during this visit to America that McCarthy entered into a professional relationship with the publisher Harper & Brothers. For awhile McCarthy contemplated the idea of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, but as an Irish Nationalist he decided that he could better serve his Irish interests from London; and so he returned to London in 1871.

McCarthy's political and historical interests began to dominate his writings and he undertook an arrangement with a London publishing firm to write a history of Queen Victoria's reign. Because of his belief in Irish Home Rule and his affiliation with various organizations promoting such causes, the London firm dropped his contract fearing controversy. The publishing house of Chatto and Windus picked up his manuscript and published it under the title A History of Our Own Times. This marked the beginning of a long and successful relationship with publishing house founders Andrew Chatto and W.E. Windus.

Shortly after the death of his wife in 1879, McCarthy was invited to enter the House of Commons as a representative for Longford County in central Ireland. He joined Parliament as an Irish Nationalist who supported Home Rule and followed Gladstone. McCarthy led the majority faction after the Parnellite divorce case of 1890 and continued to be reelected to Parliament until his retirement before the general election of 1900.

In 1897 McCarthy was stricken with a serious illness that temporarily interrupted his parliamentary and literary career. As a result, he and his daughter retired to the small village of Westgate-on-Sea near Margate, England. It was due to this illness that McCarthy's eyesight began to diminish, and a series of operations performed at the Royal Eye Hospital of London failed to restore his vision. Despite these setbacks, McCarthy continued to publish by dictation to a secretary and occasionally through his daughter.

McCarthy continued in his retirement at Westgate-on-Sea for several more years before relocating to Kent, England, southeast of London, where he died in 1912.

 

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