Charles Stewart Parnell: Economics and Politics of a Building Trade Entrepreneur
In 2011, one hundred and twenty years after Parnell's death, Paul Bew published a biography, with a revealing single-word main title, Enigma. The notion of mystery, of paradox, is an enduring theme around Charles Stewart Parnell.
Winston Churchill called him ‘a Protestant leading Catholics; a landlord inspiring a “No Rent” campaign; a man of law and order inciting revolt’. As ‘Irish’ became synonymous with ‘Catholic’, so Parnell suffered the indignity of being labelled ‘Anglo-Irish’. It was a short step to defining him out of Ireland altogether. For some, the ultimate riddle was that this son of an American mother, English in accent and education, was not even Irish at all. ‘An Englishman of the strongest type’, was Davitt’s first impression, ‘moulded for an Irish purpose’. T.P. O'Connor believed that 'both in appearance and to a large extent in character Parnell was much more American than either English or Irish.'
How we perceive Charles Stewart Parnell is crucial to how we assess him, or, indeed, to whether we can understand him at all. Imagine, for instance, that we told one another that the Florida swamps are infested with goldfish. We should then have great difficulty in explaining how this tiny decorative member of the carp family consistently manifested itself in a form that is thirteen feet long, four-legged and aggressively carnivorous. Substitute for 'goldfish', the term 'alligator', and the problem falls into place. Charles Stewart Parnell was neither fish nor reptile. Rather, he was a building trade entrepreneur who happened also to have inherited a financially unsustainable landed estate. Once he is identified as a manufacturer and retailer of construction materials – sawn timber and stone for building – then his political trajectory makes entire sense. His primary motivation was to extend the legal rights and thereby the developmental ambitions of his customers, actual and potential – in the traditional vocabulary of Irish history, tenant right. For cultural and political reasons, this aim was closely interwoven with a demand for legislative independence – in the jargon of the eighteen-sixties, Home Rule. Parnell's family background, Parnell's personal insecurities, Parnell's English education – all these played their part in conditioning him. But his fundamental identity, the key to understanding his motivation, was the fact that he operated sawmills and developed quarries. It is of course true that he was also a landlord and a Protestant gentleman, but these aspects of his identity have functioned as a filter, one that has not only obscured his fundamental economic activity but caricatured it as eccentricity and downright folly.
Parnell's associates were well aware of his business activities, but the National cause required him to be rebranded as the champion of the people who rose above the selfishness of his own class. Frank Hugh O'Donnell claimed he was told as early as 1878 by Matt Harris, a Fenian and land agitator, that Parnell had been designated as leader of a mass movement precisely because he conformed to that image. 'We are a nation of Catholics, and we want a Protestant. It looks well. We are a nation of peasants, and we want a landlord to head us. ... Parnell is both.' It suited O'Donnell to portray Parnell as the creation of others, notably himself (and the selection of Parnell of course could not have worked unless he possessed impressive qualities of vision and leadership), but the theme was reiterated by Michael Davitt during the Split. Davitt attributed the foundation of Parnell's political dominance to his role as 'the only aristocrat' in the Land League. 'He was lauded to the skies for having "stepped down" from his "social elevation" to head a movement against his own order.' Although Davitt accepted that Parnell had indeed worked hard for the movement, he also insisted that 'it was not the man who was praised for his labour. It was the landlord, the "superior" being, the member of the "upper tier" who had espoused the cause of the people.' It was a relatively short step from this shrewd analysis to the quasi-mystical prose of Shane Leslie, who highlighted Parnell's 'feudal birth in the ranks of the landlords,' along with his Cambridge education and enthusiasm for cricket, in order to pronounce that 'Destiny chooses her tools for reasons for which Reason herself cannot always give.' Two prominent Home Rulers, Joseph Biggar and Joseph McKenna, both owned estates in County Waterford, but the first comes down to us as a Belfast pork butcher from Belfast, and the second as a Dublin banker. Charles Parnell, the Arklow quarry owner, the small-town timber merchant from Rathdrum, would have been far less useful to the Nationalist movement, and less glamorous to party memorialists, romanticists and even to academic historians.
In Ireland, images often conjure ghosts. The spectres aroused by any reference to the construction industry do not loom out of the deep past. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the country was brought to the verge of bankruptcy by a recklessly inflated property boom. Coming from a pre-1916 generation, Charles Stewart Parnell now occupies only a secondary place in the nationalist pantheon, but it may still seem shocking to dwell on the fact that he operated quarries and even talked of building a hotel (although this latter project never came about). To associate Parnell with the excesses that caused Ireland's recent crisis may seem crass, a deliberate ploy to shock, a contrived attempt to devalue and demean a historical memory. This represents neither my motive nor my intention. It made sense for Parnell to campaign for Ireland's farmers to receive compensation for the improvements they made to their holdings, for this would encourage them to purchase sawn timber for building work and paving slabs for outhouses. Given that British ministers were parsimonious in their attitude to Irish infrastructure and Westminster legislators were arthritic in processing Irish projects, concern for economic development naturally extended to demands for an Irish parliament to drive the process. Although Parnell would help place on the political agenda one of the biggest bail-outs in British and Irish history, the state-funded removal of most of the landlord class, he struggled to operate his own business ventures in the absence of capital, whether inherited or borrowed. In his own time, his sawmills and quarries were the subject of arch contempt by those more fortunately endowed with worldly goods, a superior attitude that far too many academics have imbibed and mechanically endorsed since. It would be regrettable if the essential nature of Parnell's economics and Parnell's politics were to be obscured yet again by a misplaced reluctance to recognise his commercial activities in case they might become tarnished by those of his buccaneering successors of recent times.
Parnell: The Anatomy of a Personal Study
The notion of Parnell as businessman-turned-politician is not entirely novel, for the interpretation is at least latent in the biographies and debates. However, to place centre-stage and argue that it is the key to understanding his political career will naturally raise questions about the credentials of the proposer. Accordingly, this section represents intellectual autobiography, which some may prefer to skip. As a historian, I have worked in other fields, particularly in Canadian and Commonwealth history, areas that I came to realise could only be fully understood by placing them alongside, and in the context of, Ireland's past. Hence I have been primarily a consumer of Parnell Studies, contributing myself only intermittently and from the sidelines. It was my admittedly rueful boast that I have taken longer to study Parnell's life than he needed to live it. The difference between us, of course, is that he was engaged in the process full-time and often in overdrive, while I have come to the subject at comet-like intervals, around 1969, 1991 and 2011. Reviewing that process, it is instructive to note how far successive engagements with the subject has been shaped by their scholarly contexts and the availability, or otherwise, of evidence.
I first became interested in Parnell as a graduate student at Magdalene College Cambridge in the late nineteen-sixties, particularly in relation to the centenary of the notorious fight on 1 May 1869, which led to the disciplinary action that ended his Cambridge career. At that time – it now seems impossibly distant – the major biographical source for the life of Parnell was R. Barry O'Brien's two volumes of 1898. If, as a raw young Englishman, I did not understand Parnell, I can only plead that O'Brien sometimes operated at more sophisticated levels of incomprehension. One curious but unnoticed feature of his book is that it contains no preface, almost certainly because he did not wish to draw attention to the thin gruel of his research materials. He was refused access to Parnell's personal correspondence (the fact that a Parnell archive actually existed -- apparently in the care of Henry Campbell -- is maddeningly intriguing), and it is obvious that a number of close associates, including Parnell's wife Katharine, declined to co-operate. O'Brien himself was an 'old Whig', whose hero was the English radical John Bright. Unable to enter fully into his subject's psyche, O'Brien was inclined to interpret Parnell's nationalism as a reactive phenomenon, for instance saying of his education that 'if it did not make him very Irish, it certainly made him very anti-English.' In the nineteen-sixties, F.S.L. Lyons was emerging as the modern authority on Parnell, but he too declared that 'he was a most unlikely nationalist.' For a young academic with an impish delight in twisting the forked tails of his seniors, the picture of the dons of Magdalene unwittingly subverting the Union by alienating a sensitive outsider was indeed tempting. I was able to assemble much of the available evidence for Parnell's time at Cambridge into an article, which, I hope, for all its shortcomings, remains entertaining reading in the back files of Irish Historical Studies. Perhaps there is something pernicious in its charm, for it became an example of an old dictum, history does not repeat itself but historians repeat each other. My article reflected the assumption of an intellectually underpowered Cambridge college driving a young Irishman into the resentful paths of nationalist politics. In turn, it played a small part, cited by later biographers, no doubt out of scholarly politeness, in perpetuating a negative stereotype of the young Parnell in subsequent studies. For instance, I uncovered the information – the type of unconsidered trifle that only an earnest searcher on the spot was likely to find – that Parnell had refused to subscribe to the Magdalene Boat Club, and declined to join the Union Society, Cambridge's central debating society. However, instead of considering that this evidence suggested a student on a tight budget – as is overwhelmingly clear to me now – I filtered it through the pejorative characterisations of the young Parnell, that he was a loner who was not then interested in politics. Looking back, I am also painfully aware that the deficiencies of Magdalene College lay not so much in its avuncular personnel as in its chaotic record-keeping. Its account books and registers – Dickensian and byzantine to decode even when subjected to orderly shelving – were dumped in a cellar, alarmingly close to river level, making it impossible at that time to reconstruct Parnell's undergraduate years in detail.
This shortcoming was borne in upon me when I undertook second phase of engagement with Parnell in 1991, at the time of the launching of Magdalene's Parnell Fellowship in Irish Studies. In a wholly appropriate measurement of scholarly hierarchy, I was invited to lecture as warm-up man for Professor Roy Foster. The context of Parnell discourse had now changed, although, in relation to his early life, less dramatically than might have been expected. Roy Foster's first book had uncovered and documented much of the financial insecurity of the Avondale estate, especially the problems arising from the early death of John Henry Parnell, the Irish leader's father, in 1859. Yet it was still possible to assume that there must have been enough money to send Parnell to Cambridge – after all, he was there, and apparently for four years. Similarly, F.S.L. Lyons had published his great biography, which was sympathetic, even affectionate, towards a personality in whose 'strange and fascinating world' he himself had dwelt for thirty years. Lyons was inclined to reiterate the picture of a dilettante young man who somehow drifted into politics, imposing this illusion upon the actual events. The fact that Parnell was engaged in oblique discussions with the Fenians as early as 1873 aimed at some kind of modus vivendi was not interpreted as evidence of a determination to construct a broad national coalition, but dismissed as proof that he was 'naive and inexperienced'. Similarly, the factual record, that he fought three parliamentary elections in little over a year, disappeared amidst such phrases as 'everyone's astonishment' and 'fiasco'. At some point in the late eighteen-seventies, the shy and directionless young man who is subject of the opening chapters of the Lyons biography seems to have stepped into the proverbial telephone box, whence he emerged as Super-Parnell, in a seamless transition of which the author himself does not seem to have been aware. At any rate, there was not enough in the biographical revisionism of 1991 to prompt a full confrontation with the mythology of a Parnell who, as Lyons put it, 'spent three and a half largely unproductive years at Cambridge.'
It was this assumption that collapsed on the occasion of my 1991 lecture. The Magdalene College archives had been retrieved and reorganised, and it became possible to trace Parnell through his undergraduate career. It was at that point that I discovered that Parnell had not been in Cambridge throughout the entire four years of his undergraduate career at all, but had 'kept' only five terms, plus the few inconclusive weeks that had been cut short by his rustication in May 1869. He had not returned to Magdalene for what should have been his third term, from April to June of 1866. He had vanished altogether after the summer of 1867, at one point taking his name 'off the books' (formally withdrawing), before changing his mind to reappear in the summer of 1869. This was a remarkable revelation, although it was one that I should have preferred not to encounter on the morning of a public lecture structured around the theme that Parnell had not achieved very much during his four years at Cambridge. Far from lacking direction, Parnell had actually returned to University to resume his studies. There were clues that should have been picked up. His brother John's recollection that Charles 'spent little time' in Cambridge could be set aside as an unreliable source, , but the statement by the well-informed Thomas Sherlock in 1881 that Parnell 'remained but two years at the university' ought to have rung alarm bells.
What should also have become particularly obvious was the need to look more closely at Parnell's finances. His absence from Cambridge from the summer of 1867 was clearly connected with the fact that he had become responsible for the Avondale estate when he came of age that June. The missed third term in his freshman year was also of significance, since his return to Cambridge in April 1869, for the languid pleasures of the Easter Term, only made sense as a means for ensuring that he would have 'kept' the requisite nine terms required to graduate when he took his final examinations, as he obviously planned to do, in the summer of 1870. If money was a factor in his failure to return to his studies in 1866, then financial considerations had indirectly contributed to placing him outside Cambridge railway station, where he got into a squalid fight on a May evening in 1869. My own priorities, career and intellectual, were heavily committed in other directions. I published a summary of my findings in the hope that a revised view of Parnell's academic record would enter the biographical picture. Unfortunately, I considerably over-estimated the power of the Magdalene College Magazine to penetrate wider academic discourse. Neither Robert Kee in his splendidly detailed 1993 biography, nor Paul Bew in his 2011 Enigma took account of Parnell's patchy attendance at university.
My third phase of engagement with Parnell came around 2011, when I delivered a lecture at Magdalene College Cambridge as a tribute to my mentor and friend, Ronald Hyam. Once again, both the biographical context and the available resources had changed. The revival of scholarly interest in Parnell coincided with decades of confrontation and violence in Northern Ireland. The rediscovery of Parnell had particularly explored two themes. Could his Home Rule solution have retained a self-governing and perhaps even united Ireland within a federal island group? Could the balance that he sought to achieve between constitutional methods and revolution inspire and even help steer a way out of the terrorist crisis of the Six Counties? However, by the first decade of the new century, there were hopes that Northern Ireland was moving towards a tentative equilibrium, and it became possible to look again at Parnell, the individual and the politician, to search for new emphases in his identity and motivation. Particularly influential was the work of Paul Bew, who emphasised both the complexity and the primacy of land issues in the politics of Home Rule. Indeed, Bew's work created an apparent paradox. On the one hand, he contended strongly that Parnell was essentially a conservative politician, who sought to carve out a new role for Protestants in Irish public life; on the other, he stressed the radicalism of Parnell's demands for land reform, not just for tenant right and control of rents, but for state-funded land purchase designed to remove landlords from the social fabric altogether. As will be argued later in this essay, viewing Parnell as a construction-trade entrepreneur saddled with an unprofitable inheritance of landed property helps resolve this paradox.
The argument that Parnell's political motivation sprang from tensions within Ireland downplayed earlier emphasis on his hostility to England (or, at least, set it in a more comprehensible context). Accordingly, this seemed to make the details of his education less important. Bew himself scornfully dismissed the interpretation of his career 'as the sacked Cambridge undergraduate indulging his bile against the English who have failed to treat him with due regard.' However, major changes in the funding of British and Irish higher education around the turn of the century opened an avenue of enquiry that had been for too long overlooked. To reduce their emphasis upon State funding, from 1998 British universities were required to charge tuition fees, while maintenance grants were replaced by loans. Ireland had ostensibly moved in the opposite direction. Third-level institutions were ordered to abolish fees in 1996, but the shift towards hefty registration charges succeeded in producing a situation that simultaneously deterred less prosperous students while placing colleges under severe financial pressure. It had all been so different during that golden age when Parnell loafed around the courts of Magdalene College Cambridge – or had it?
Looking back, it is curious how far classical political biography resembled traditional adventure yarns. The heroes in the stories of John Buchan and Erskine Childers never seemed to consult their bank managers before heading to the ends of the earth; even the free-lance Sherlock Holmes can apparently covered his comfortable living costs despite lengthy periods without a case. Similarly, with much political biography, it is never explained, indeed never even asked, how the subject of the study managed to fund an education, a political career or the various travels that the book may embrace. For many prominent nineteenth-century British statesmen, this approach can be defended. Politics was an elite occupation: electioneering was expensive: it was not until 1911 that members of parliament received a salary. It may therefore seem reasonable to assume that anybody who opted to take part in public life would have assured himself of his own financial security, and the biographer need not pursue the matter further. But what was true of wealthy men such as Peel or Gladstone or Joseph Chamberlain did not necessarily apply to adventurers such as Disraeli or impecunious younger sons like Lord John Russell. Books about Winston Churchill could fill a whole library, but the revelation by David Reynolds of his manoeuvres not only to make money from writing history but also ruthlessly to limit his tax bill added a refreshingly shocking new dimension. Philip Williamson produced an equally insightful re-interpretation of British prime minister Stanley Baldwin, dismissing the familiar and dismissive tag that he was a 'Worcestershire ironmaster', with its overtones of gradgrind narrowness. Rather, Baldwin was the head of one of Britain's leading steel companies, who brought major skills and experience to politics. Williamson explicitly blamed the 'biographical tradition' which, he said, was 'remarkable for its lack of serious consideration, its condescension towards non-political and non-metropolitan activities, and its perpetuation of factual errors.' In nineteenth-century Ireland, political prominence and financial insecurity often went hand-in-hand. Parnell's principal predecessors as nationalist leaders, Daniel O'Connell and Isaac Butt, both struggled with debt, and neither fought the burden very successfully. The same lights that illuminated Baldwin for Williamson ought to have flashed much earlier in relation to Parnell. One unlucky scholarly coincidence was that Lyons produced his biography at almost the same moment that Foster published his detailed study of the Parnell family inheritance. The two studies politely overlapped, but were never integrated.
The Problem of Obscurity
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Cecily Cardew is advised to omit the fall of the rupee from her study of political economy as the subject was 'somewhat too sensational'. The problem with Parnell's finances is rather that they are too obscure to be easily unravelled. Since no accounts or tax returns survive, there is very little hard evidence, and this compels extensive recourse to hypothesis, a term that often politely disguises guesswork. Where complexity can best be penetrated, it is often by a process that cuts across chronological narrative. The starting point of my own engagement with Parnell has been his time at Cambridge, but it is evident that the focus has changed. The initial priority was to examine how far his overall experience might have contributed to antipathy towards England. There followed a re-evaluation of his commitment and ability, arguing that he showed a determination to continue with his studies after establishing an ability to pass examinations that was on the plus side of modest. Finally, those missing terms directed enquiry towards the wider question of Parnell's finances. Hence that key question is addressed here once more from the starting point of Parnell's university experience.
Three points stand out. First, Cambridge was expensive. Second, Parnell's Avondale estate was financially much less secure than it might appear through the retrospective glow of Ascendancy privilege. John Howard Parnell's description of his brother's inheritance as 'the fine estate of Avondale, free and unencumbered' was patent nonsense. Writing about the young squire about to launch into a political career a decade later, Roy Foster concluded that 'Charles Parnell was not really the "well-to-do country gentleman" he appeared to be.' Even this insight may be an understatement. When the probable liabilities of the estate are estimated, it is far more likely that Avondale was operating on a very tight margin and may even have been close to bankruptcy by the time the thirteen year-old Parnell inherited it. Third, we need to take account of the consequences of the decision in 1858 by Parnell's father to purchase the Clonmore estate in nearby County Carlow as what we should now call a leveraged investment. John Henry Parnell's unexpected death in 1859 would have landed the estate in the hands of the Chancery Court anyway, simply because the principal heir was a minor. Independent judicial supervision of the teenage Parnell's business affairs might even have intruded a positive element of managerial efficiency into the stewardship of his property (although, it seems, it did not). Unfortunately, the complication of his father's Clonmore gamble triggered a court case that presumably added to the costs of running Avondale and also educating its heir. Except for an occasional formal newspaper advertisement, the proceedings of the Chancery Court were rarely reported, and its records do not survive.
These three main points may be brutally summarised: Cambridge was very expensive, Avondale may have been close to bankruptcy and the independent Chancery control over the estate almost certainly would have severely limited and tightly administered the funds available to send Charles Stewart Parnell to Cambridge. Hence, once again, it is with Cambridge that this exploration commences.
The Cost of Cambridge
Cambridge was expensive, and we cannot simply assume that Parnell took the cost in his stride. Of the four categories of undergraduates, the two privileged groups, noblemen and fellow-commoners, were charged what would now be called top-up fees, while the humble sizars were given cut-price rates. Parnell was admitted to the third and largest category, as a pensioner, a term which the Student's Guide defined as 'a person who pays (pendo) for the board and instruction he receives'. But it was easier to identify the Latin root than to estimate the annual expenditure of this most basic form of Cambridge undergraduate, since individuals varied a great deal not only in personal extravagance but in how much they invested in private tuition, a necessary but distinctly uneven aspect of studying for a degree. The one thing that was clear was that the University was not cheap. A parliamentary select committee on Oxford and Cambridge was told in 1867 that a 'poor person' at democratic St John's could get by on £80 a year. But other evidence indicated that 'a few men live for as little as £150 a year at Trinity, including tradesmen's bills and everything, but the majority spend from £150 to £300 a year.' Studying at Cambridge on a shoe-string was not a pleasant experience. The future Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, was able to get to Trinity College in 1848, although his mother was the hard-up widow of an unsuccessful Birmingham businessman. 'My father managed to get through his first year at Cambridge upon something over £90,' recalled his son A.C. Benson, who was later Master of Magdalene. 'All hospitality except of the most casual kind was of course out of the question, and my father has spoken to me feelingly of the miseries he endured through living with a circle of more or less wealthy friends.'
Magdalene did not supply information in 1867, but sixteen years earlier it had reported to an earlier official enquiry that a 'steady reading man' would incur an annual expenditure of around £100, while the average pensioner paid out £44 a term, or £132 a year. Prices had probably not altered much by the time Parnell came to Cambridge, but attitudes were changing. 'At the present time the general style of living in England is more luxurious than it has ever been,' remarked the Student's Guide, adding that young people were being reared 'in habits that would formerly have been considered self-indulgent.' It is safe to assume that, by the mid-eighteen sixties, the typical Magdalene undergraduate was shelling out his cash at close to the Trinity rates of £150 to £300 a year. Edmund Yerburgh chose Magdalene more or less at random in 1879, having ear-marked £800 for three years of study at Cambridge. Within a week of arriving, he 'discovered that the College was distinctly a fast one'. He found himself in an uncomfortable intermediate position on the class ladder. At least half the undergraduates were wealthy young men, 'some of great social position who would be unlikely to want to know me.' Many of the remainder were 'men from small Grammar Schools who were not men of my own social position.' 'I could not ... have made a more unfortunate choice of a college.'
Charles Stewart Parnell almost certainly found himself in the same ambivalent position. He came from the landed gentry, and was an Ensign in the Wicklow Militia. It would have been natural for him to make friendships among young Englishmen of similar background. Yet the Magdalene young hearties pursued a lifestyle that he could not possibly emulate. He was, for instance, an enthusiastic rider and a discerning judge of horses, yet the cost of stabling ruled out an activity popular among the gilded youth. Yerburgh recalled 'there was always a string of horses outside Magdalene', with as many as twenty being led up and down the street on hunting days. By contrast, the evidence suggests that Parnell was forced to economise. For instance, the Irish Times recorded the departure on the mail steamer from Kingstown of 'C.S. Parnell Esq.' on Monday 16 October 1865, giving us a happy glimpse of a freshman setting off for the exciting new life of Cambridge. The information from the paper's 'Fashionable Intelligence' section was almost certainly taken from a list of cabin passengers. Although Parnell's subsequent movements can be pinpointed from Magdalene records, his name does not appear again. It cost fifteen shillings to cross the Irish Sea in a cabin, but only four shillings in steerage. To make six journeys to and from Liverpool (a ten-hour voyage) in a year would save just £3, six shillings travelling steerage. Weighing comfort against economy, the decision not to take a cabin can only indicate a tight budget. In 1974, I interpreted Parnell's refusal to join the Magdalene Boat Club as a sign of a loner, and his decision not to join the Union Society as evidence that he was not interested in politics. An equally likely explanation must surely be lack of money. Both organisations charged an entrance fee of £1, and membership of £1 a term. Parnell, it should be stressed, was entirely within his rights to decline membership of the Boat Club. The Student's Guide warned against those who pressured freshmen into joining college clubs. 'There can be no reason why men should pay for other persons' amusement.' But in Magdalene, where 'every man in the college was zealous for its aquatic success', defending a tight budget did not make for popularity.
Yet, despite Parnell's obvious concern for economy, his first term at Magdalene proved to be a financial disaster. In 1874, the Student's Guide (written for students, not by them) estimated total annual costs, including travel and pocket money, might range from a low estimate of £138 to a high of £295, with an average of £202. Perhaps the Court of Chancery – or his father's executor, Robert Johnson – had worked on similar information, and allocated him a budget of £200. If so, three quarters of it disappeared in his first bill. How did this happen? The key probably lies in concerns about Parnell's mental health. 'Mrs Parnell had forewarned the tutor (Mr Mynors Bright) that her son was given to somnambulism.' Parnell's propensity to walk in his sleep caused particular concern, not least because of a suspicion of madness in the family. He had been sent to a leading London specialist 'before he went to Cambridge.' Accordingly, Magdalene allocated him ground-floor rooms. Unfortunately, these were not in the enclosed First Court, which was separated from the river Cam by a row of houses, but in the more open Pepys Building beyond, away from the supervision of the porters' lodge. It was probably for this reason that a College servant was instructed to sleep in the adjoining gyp room (kitchen) to keep an eye on the vulnerable freshman. 'On the first night of his residence, Parnell, walking round, but not in his sleep, to take stock of his new tenement, discovered the intruder and promptly expelled him.' Parnell feared that the presence of a 'minder' would make him look foolish in the eyes of fellow students. Probably, too, he was worried by the financial implications of having a College servant assigned to watch over him.
Parnell's first-term bill from Magdalene came to a massive £154. This was almost three times the amount charged to a fellow freshman, George Woodcock, a clergyman's son from Lincolnshire. Some fees were standard, while Michaelmas Term charges included some annual charges, but comparison with Woodcock's expenditure highlights the demands upon the young Parnell. Woodcock was probably allocated attic rooms, but the difference in rent was small enough – just £2 a term. The two students spent almost the same on coal for heating. Until 1923, incoming Magdalene students purchased furniture from the previous occupant of their rooms. This was arranged at an agreed valuation provided by the College, and would eventually be at least partially reimbursed. Parnell's furniture, valued at seventeen guineas (£17, seventeen shillings) was more than £10 dearer than Woodcock's.
It may be that the rooms allocated to Parnell had been vacant for some time. Immediately adjoining the south range of the Pepys Building was a jumble of necessary but unattractive buildings, including the College brewhouse and the latrines, while the nearby river Cam functioned as the town's sewer. Whatever the reason, Parnell paid over £34 to have his furniture re-upholstered, and £8, two shillings to a painter and glazier. Most students spent less than £1 on painting work, but Woodcock allocated £3, twelve shillings to redecoration, showing that Parnell was not alone in undertaking such refurbishment. Parnell also spent £9, twelve shillings and sixpence on drapery, presumably new curtains; Woodcock made do with what he had inherited. In total, it cost Parnell almost £52 to smarten up his rooms.
Relations with other students may not have helped. John Parnell recalled his brother reporting that, on one occasion, 'five students came to his bedroom for what would now be called a "rag", and after a desperate struggle he succeeded in throwing them all out.' Expenditure on painting and glazing might have been caused by the trashing of his rooms, but extensive re-upholstering of furniture sounds more like the need to spruce up a dingy apartment. Parnell himself also needed a makeover. Forty years later, his sister Anna recalled that the girls were so 'deprived' of 'the necessaries of life' in the early eighteen-sixties that Fanny tried to sell poetry to the advanced nationalist newspaper, the Irish People. Unfortunately, the Fenians were keener to publish than to pay, but Fanny's apparently innocent literary ambitions tagged the Parnells as potential subversives, leading to a police raid on their Dublin residence in December 1866. However, the key point that the family were hard up may be linked to one other item of substantial expenditure in Parnell's first term -- £17, eighteen shillings to a tailor. (To protect students against exploitation, tradesmen's accounts were routed through college tutors.) This sounds like the acquisition of a very extensive wardrobe, suggesting that the freshman from Ireland had arrived in very shabby attire. Woodcock, by comparison, managed with the outfit he brought from Lincolnshire.
The sequel to this expensive term may be simply narrated. Parnell economised fiercely during his second term, Lent 1866, and his account came in at just over £45, ten shillings and fivepence, less than a third of his Michaelmas outlay. He was unable to pay. He was given permission to be away from Magdalene between 10 and 12 March, two weeks before the end of term. No reason was given, but a two-day absence suggests a flying visit to Dublin. Perhaps he pleaded to allow him additional cash to complete his first year at Cambridge, either with the officials of the Court of Chancery – or perhaps with his guardian, Robert Johnson, with whom his mother had fallen out the previous year over the costs of her children's education (as discussed later in this essay). If so, he failed. Members of the Irish Ascendancy were of course habituated to living in debt, but banks would have been wary about extending credit to a ward of the Chancery Court. Charles Stewart Parnell did not return for his expected third term in Cambridge.
Of course, there might have been other explanations for the missing third term. However, alternative hypotheses seem unlikely. Ireland, of course, was in a disturbed condition, but the threat to the Union with Britain hardly required the active duty of a nineteen-year-old Ensign in the Wicklow Militia. In any case, militia regiments were so riddled with sedition that Dublin Castle decided not to mobilise them in 1866, for fear that they would merely be training Fenians. In 1905, Parnell's sister Emily related a sensational story that he was expelled from Cambridge at the age of nineteen for seducing a young women and driving her to a watery suicide. Parnell might well have had some dalliance with a local girl, but the tale itself has been comprehensively dismissed. Any venture into Parnell biography should keep in mind that his health was sometimes fragile, but it is surely likely that a serious illness at that time would have been mentioned by some family source. The clinching evidence comes from the Magdalene accounts. Charles Stewart Parnell continued to incur charges even when he was absent throughout April and May – he continued to pay room rent, and somebody thoughtfully went in and lit fires, using one shilling and ninepence worth of coals. But his Easter Term accounts show that he was in arrears to the amount of £45, ten shillings and fivepence – the entire unpaid bill from the Lent Term.
There is further evidence of a tight budget throughout Parnell's second year at Cambridge, from October 1866 to June 1867. He managed to keep his three terms' bills to around £167. Adding in travel costs and pocket money, his overall expenditure was probably close to the average estimated by the Student's Guide, around £200. But the way his accounts were paid suggests that his finances were subject to rigid external control. In the Lent Term of 1867, his College bill amounted to £50, seventeen shillings and fourpence. The following term, Easter 1867, he was recorded as having arrears of seventeen shillings and fourpence. The inference would seem to be that some Jobsworth in the Court of Chancery had authorised a budget of £50 for the term, and £50 was all that could be paid. Parnell's Easter term bill came to £51, four shillings and sixpence. By the close of the Michaelmas Term, in December 1867, his arrears had rolled up to £52, one shilling and tenpence – seventeen shillings and fourpence more than his Easter Term bill. Once again, he had run out of money.
On the face of it, we might wonder why Parnell attempted to study at Cambridge at all, given the obvious pressure on his finances. As discussed later in this essay, in the middle of 1865, the family estate seems to have lost the rental income from Avondale House itself, a crisis that probably created a Cambridge-sized hole in the available budget. To understand how this happened, and why it mattered, we need to dig more deeply into the Avondale background.
The Avondale estate as inherited from Parnell's Father, John Henry Parnell, in 1859
Before reviewing the finances of Avondale, a note about terminology and categorisation may be useful. The established and legally correct phrase, "Avondale estate", may conjure a misleading image of a Big House, set in parkland and surrounded by the farms and cottages of tenant farmers and labourers. It might be more useful to borrow a modern and of course anachronistic phrase, and talk of the "Avondale property portfolio". The portfolio comprised a range of holdings, roughly concentrated into three clusters. The main holdings were in the valley of the Avonmore river, south and south-west of the town of Rathdrum, with two disconnected outliers, up to ten miles away, in the Wicklow hills. These clusters did not form compact blocks, but were intermingled with the properties of other landlords, which is presumably why Parnell's father rented land, to create his own workable farming venture. Although the Avondale portfolio was a relatively small one, it can be grouped into three categories, which probably apply to most Irish estates. Category A was the Big House and its demesne. Category B comprised the productive agricultural land, let to tenants. Category C was rough country, 'mountainy' land in familiar Irish parlance, which might generate some rental income from grazing. Category A land was not simply a drain on the rest of the portfolio. Arcadian prints of Irish mansions often show cows grazing in the parkland. Ireland is a country where grass grows at a terrifying rate, and it was more or less automatic that a gentleman's park was also a cattle ranch. In any case, the Big House needed a nearby Home Farm to feed its inmates. Category B land was the core of the Irish agrarian problem, since the system operated through rules that hampered development by tenants without always being noticeably profitable to owners. The poor quality land of Category C might simply be used for shooting grouse – Parnell enjoyed a rough lifestyle at his Aughavannah lodge – but was potentially important for quarrying and mining. Of course, there might be overlap between these outline categories: Wicklow's broken landscape would often place a rocky outcrop alongside a fertile tract of farmland. Parnell himself searched for mineral resources on the Avondale property, and once eased a tenant out of his holding to make way for a mining project. The key problem for Charles Stewart Parnell was that he perennially lacked the fluid capital that he needed to develop his Category C resources, largely because such wealth as he had inherited was tied up, relatively unproductively, in Category B holdings. State-funded land purchase directed at Category B holdings would not only liberate Ireland's tenants, but would provide entrepreneurs like himself with the finance to develop a modern economy. It is through this triple categorisation of the Avondale portfolio – which almost certainly applied to most Irish estates – that we can resolve the seemingly Hibernian paradox in Bew's attribution of a dual objective to Parnell's political career – the abolition of landlordism and the simultaneous restitution of the Protestant upper classes into positions of national leadership. Freed of the incubus of their increasingly toxic Category B relationships with local communities, their Category A function as large-scale farmers would enhance their influence among their neighbours. The conversion into available capital of their Category B holdings would also provide both the incentive and the cash to develop the country's Category C potential. The Avondale portfolio in the time of John Henry Parnell exemplifies some of these themes.
At first sight, when his father died in 1859, Charles Stewart Parnell had inherited an estate with a comfortable income. 'My father left Avondale to Charley and an income of £4,000 a year,' John Howard Parnell recalled in 1914. The suggestion that John Howard Parnell's memoirs were 'streaked with malice' towards his famous brother seems exaggerated, but this easy-going man could certainly be forgiven had he reflected that his own life would have been less fraught had brother Charley chosen a less prominent career. The elder brother certainly lost out in the distribution of their father's property. By the time he did inherit Avondale, on Parnell's death in 1891, the estate was heavily mortgaged: in 1900 he was obliged to sell. Perhaps unconsciously, he had a motive for exaggerating the value of his celebrated brother's inheritance, 'the fine estate of Avondale, free and unencumbered'. In fact, as will become apparent, it is John Howard Parnell's own book that reveals one substantial encumbrance upon the income of Avondale that has thus far eluded historians. Even in 'headline' terms ─ ignoring all encumbrances and deductions ─ it is unlikely that the Avondale estate was worth as much as £2,000 a year, half John Howard Parnell's unsubstantiated assertion. Even as an estimate of their father's total annual income at the time of his death in 1859, £4,000 seems inflated (unless he was including profits from commercial farming). John Henry Parnell also owned the Collure property in County Armagh and had recently purchased Clonmore in County Carlow, but the net income from both properties seems to have been very small: Collure because it was encumbered with a very large head-rent and Clonmore because it was mortgaged to what may seem reckless levels. In any case, these properties were bequeathed, not to Charles, but to his brothers, Collure to John Howard himself and Clonmore to Henry Tudor Parnell. During the early eighteen-forties, John Henry Parnell had briefly dabbled in railway projects, but neither the Great Munster and Leinster Railway nor its Kilkenny, Clonmel, and Youghal offshoot ever materialised. Hence, it is unlikely that he made much money from his directorships, and there is no indication of any other involvement in business ventures.
To estimate the value of Charles Stewart Parnell's inheritance, it is necessary to work backwards from three slightly later reports. A survey of 1869 listed 3,807 acres with a rent roll of £1,789. Two returns of Irish landowners, both submitted to parliament in 1876, give bald calculations: 4,962 acres returning £1,480 and £4,678 acres, worth £1,245. The third, and lowest, of these valuations can be explained as an attempt at a net figure. The methodology is discussed below, but it appears to indicate a gross valuation of £1,423. It will be noted that the version that attributes the smallest acreage to the Avondale portfolio also estimates the largest income. Since the 1869 rental figures do not precisely add up, an underestimate of the acreage must be suspected, perhaps on the basis of earlier problems of transcription. Taking account of some additional income, from farmland in County Kildare and some houses on St Stephen's Green in Dublin, Foster estimates that when Parnell came of age in 1867, his income would have been about £2,000 a year, enough to place Parnell comfortably in the ranks of the landlord class. However, this headline figure is almost certainly misleading. The 1869 listing was prepared in connection with a court case in which Parnell was sued for debt, and it may have been intended to maximise his assets, since he had to provide sureties for money that continued to be owed. In the version published by Kissane, three properties appear at the foot of the list, out of geographical order. They are Avondale (£260), Casino (£94, ten shillings) and Aughavannagh (£80). Avondale was the family home, and Casino an adjoining dower house. Little or any of this land would have been let to tenants. There is anecdotal evidence that Parnell allowed a tenant to run sheep rent-free on one of his upland holdings, on condition that he did not disturb the game birds. If we omit just the first two items, of theoretical rental income but on property occupied by the Parnells themselves, then the putative annual income of £1,759 is reduced to £1,435, very close to the adjusted figures of the two parliamentary returns of 1876. Interestingly, a London newspaper commented in 1879 that the idea 'that Parnell is a wealthy man ... is a mistake. His property does not bring him in more than £1,500 a year'.
However, even if we estimate that the Avondale portfolio generated an annual income of £1,500, that still represents a gross figure. Foster was unable to factor into his calculations any deductions for rates, taxes and running costs, for the very good reason that no records survive for the running of Avondale. Indeed, accounts survive for remarkably few nineteenth-century Irish estates, and historical research is not made any easier by the fact that landowners did not employ standardised methods of book-keeping. Some light can be thrown on the subject thanks to the research of W.E. Vaughan, which was published some years after Foster's work. Vaughan examined the accounts of nine landed estates in mid-Victorian Ireland to explore what proportion of income was devoured by necessary outgoings.
Several caveats are needed in any attempt to project his findings on to Avondale. The first, and most obvious, is that no two estates were alike either in resources or exploitation. Five of the estates studied by Vaughan were close to the western seaboard, from Clare through Galway to Roscommon and Donegal, areas where the quality of the land was often disappointing. Four were in Ulster, where land tenure customs were different. Furthermore, all nine estates were considerably larger than the Avondale property, which perhaps helps to explain why their records have survived. Vaughan was impressed by the small proportion of income that was devoured by administrative expenses, averaging just six percent across the nine estates. Unfortunately, it is hard to guess whether a large estate benefited from economies of scale in the collection of rents, or whether a resident landlord on a smaller property, such as Avondale, could force down costs still further by doing the work of an estate manager himself. Similarly, a large estate would have generated the cash to spend more generously on improvements, whereas a smaller property might have devoted a larger proportion of its resources to intensively targeted investment. In any case, the concept of "improvements" might stretch from a minimalist approach to maintenance through to a benevolent desire to provide better facilities.
It is possible to supplement Vaughan's findings by one snippet of information. At the height of the Land War, the Fitzwilliams opened their books to a tame journalist, sent to Ireland by The Times to demonstrate how well landlords treated their tenants. With over 90,000 acres, mainly in Wicklow, the Coollattin portfolio was much larger than the Avondale operation. Rents in 1880 totalled £49,674. Taxes, rates and tithe charges came to £6,221 (12.5 percent), and management costs amounted to £3,578. The two together, £9,799, equalled 19.7 percent of the rental income, in line with the overall estimate of a one-fifth deduction from gross to net. The Fitzwilliam estates were run along paternalist lines, and Earl Fitzwilliam himself made a point of stressing that he had withdrawn only £13,000 in 1880, 26.2 percent of the headline income. Unfortunately, the concept of management costs was not defined, so there is no way of knowing whether the 7.2 deduction would have been applicable to the far smaller Avondale portfolio, although it does approximately conform to the average calculated by Vaughan. The 12.5 percent burden of rates and taxes probably does apply to Parnell's holdings too, and this figure has been used to adjust the smaller of the two 1876 parliamentary returns. This was compiled by calling upon the clerks of Poor Law Unions to estimate net income. It is likely that they could take account only of rates and taxes, since other estate costs would have been unknown to them. Unfortunately, some Poor Law officials encountered problems even in calculating the acreage of their own Unions, so a degree of scepticism may be appropriate in weighing the results. Overall, any application of Vaughan's findings to Avondale must be regarded as indicative rather than conclusive, but they do enable us to go further than was possible for Roy Foster in estimating Parnell's net income from his estate.
Vaughan's calculations of the extent of deductions for tax, management costs and improvements, give cause for sober reflection about the financial security of Avondale. On eight of the nine estates that could be studied in detail, the deductions ranged from 20 to 29 percent of gross income, with the ninth returning a burdensome 39 percent under these three headings. If Avondale operated at the lowest level, with one fifth of its revenue disappearing in taxes, administrative costs and improvements, then the effective income from the estate itself comes down from £1,500 to something around £1,200. If we follow Foster's estimate and add £200 from the Kildare and Dublin properties ─ which assumes them to be without liabilities of tax or running costs ─ the working figure is cut to around £1,400.
Unfortunately, tax and management costs were not the only burdens on the Avondale portfolio. The 1869 estate schedule cited by Foster includes not only the annual rents due to the estate, but also a figure for quit-rents and head-rents, amounting to threepence short of £281. The largest single head-rent, of £200 a year, was on a property at Kingston, County Wicklow, just downriver from Avondale. Parnell himself spent at least £4,500 buying this out to eliminate the annual outlay in 1870. Prior to this elimination of the Kingston head-rent, the net rental return of the Avondale portfolio was reduced below £1,000 a year.
Sad to relate, that is not the end of the story of the downward readjustment of the effective valuation of the Parnell estate. Parnell's grandfather, who died in 1821, had left £10,000 to John Henry's sister Catherine. In the absence of financial records, it is impossible to be certain how this impinged upon the Avondale estate, but the overwhelming probability is that it represented a further burden on the annual income. By Parnell's generation, family mythology held that it had in fact been Catherine who inherited Avondale, but that she had generously gifted it to her brother to help him win his bride. Roy Foster has conclusively demonstrated that this was not the case. However, even though family traditions may be bogus, they often conceal some kernel of misunderstood reality. What seems to have happened is that Catherine invested her £10,000 inheritance in the Avondale estate: her Will, in 1867, describes the cash as 'lent to her brother.' John Howard Parnell described it as 'a mortgage of £10,000, which was to bring her in an income of £500 a year.' That there was a five percent mortgage seems to be confirmed by the attempt by Catherine Parnell and her husband to adopt Parnell's wayward sister Emily with a promise to 'settle by deed five hundred a year [on Emily] for life.' Foster seems to have assumed that Catherine did not receive any interest throughout her lifetime. This is implausible in itself and seems to be contradicted by one of the few scraps of the written record that has survived.
In 1835, Catherine Parnell married George Wigram, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, a Protestant sect with which the Parnells had close links. It seems that Wigram discovered that John Henry Parnell had indeed not paid his accommodating sister any interest on her loan. Although the Brethren had a reputation for unworldliness, at some unknown date Wigram not only sued his brother-in-law for £769 apparently owing from 1834-35, but also secured a penal sum in damages. As a result of that bruising episode, it is likely that John Henry Parnell met his obligations to the Wigrams thereafter. Thus the effective annual income from Avondale was reduced by a further £500. On the plus side, this does also mean that Catherine Wigram's death in 1867 ─ and the widower's peremptory demand for the repayment of the capital sum ─ did not represent so great a financial crisis for the young Parnell as it may appear from Foster's account. Handing over a capital sum of £10,000 to George Wigram simply meant transferring an existing debt and its interest payments to another lender. No doubt Parnell incurred incidental expenses in re-mortgaging, but the only real financial risk involved was the possibility that he might have to pay above the existing rate of five percent interest. Overall, one point stands out from this re-interpretation of the available shreds of evidence. Foster's estimate of Parnell's notional income of £2,000 a year has already been halved. We must now deduct from the remaining figure of under £1,000 an annual mortgage charge of £500, which we may be sure George Wigram insisted on receiving. Shortly before his death, John Henry Parnell added a fresh burden to the estate, a wedding present of £100 a year to his daughter Delia. The effective annual income of the Avondale estate at the time of John Henry Parnell's death in 1859 was thus probably less than £400, a total that begins to make paying around £200 a year to send a son to Cambridge something of a challenge. Once the estate had to bear the legal costs of wardship in Chancery, plus employ an agent (C.M. West), it was likely to slip into outright deficit.
The claim that John Henry Parnell 'lived in the extravagant fashion which was traditional in his class' is probably exaggerated. With nine surviving children and an estranged wife living in Paris, he probably faced unusually high expenditure during the last five years of his life that followed the marriage break-up. In his Will, John Henry Parnell refused to leave anything to Delia because she was 'amply provided for from other sources.' This probably meant that she was living off her bachelor brother, Charles Stewart, who lived in Paris, and in whose honour the future Irish leader had been named. Even so, with most of the children living with their mother, there must have been travel costs between France and Ireland: Emily, for instance, went to school in Paris but managed to conduct a clandestine teenage romance with a Wicklow neighbour, Arthur Dickinson. How far John Henry Parnell was paying for the maintenance of his offspring we do not know, but it is likely that by the end of the eighteen-fifties, he was losing the advantage of the economies of scale that were possible in rearing a brood of small children. Children had to educated, and that meant boarding schools for boys and governesses for girls. Increasingly, too, the estate would have to bear the costs of launching the children into the adult world. John Henry Parnell took steps to provide landed property for his three surviving sons (two others had died), but the awesome prospect of arranging marriage portions for no fewer than six daughters was looming. Indeed, the eldest, Delia, married in 1859 a few weeks before her father's death. Although she was marrying a wealthy bridegroom (and, according to her uncharitable sister Emily, had cynically accepted him precisely because he was rich), as already noted, Delia's father endowed her with £100 a year, chargeable to Avondale.
Two points need to be noted from this transaction. The first is that, by almost the last act of his life, John Henry Parnell reduced the net income of the estate from around £500 that we have seen survive the deductions of head rents, taxes, administration and the Wigram mortgage, to an amount closer to £400 ─ one tenth of John Howard's breezy estimate. But the second reflection is even more alarming. There were five more Parnell sisters behind Delia, ranging in age from eighteen down to six. If £100 a year was the going rate for a Parnell bride, then the Avondale estate faced considerable inroads in the years ahead, years which were likely to coincide with Parnell's university education. Even if John Henry Parnell had lived, he would have found the cost of putting his son Charles through Cambridge a challenge. And if £100 was the annual running cost of an adult Parnell female, married or single, then a point would be reached sometime in the decade after 1859 when Avondale might not be capable of bearing the burden at all. Even without their father's untimely death, Avondale was a far less attractive financial prospect than it might appear.
Indeed, it might be asked: how did John Henry Parnell sustain any standard of gentry lifestyle on the basis of an estate that generated so small a net return? The answer is that he derived his income not from the Avondale property portfolio but from the Avondale farming business. We know of its existence, and something of its extent, because, in an astonishingly short-sighted move, the Court of Chancery auctioned the whole enterprise, even down to wheelbarrows and fencing wire. Charles Stewart Parnell inherited the next-to-worthless property rent roll, not the flourishing agricultural enterprise. As Category A demesne land, Avondale was not just a country mansion but also a working farm. In 1859, its stock included 53 heifers and bullocks, plus a bull and 22 sheep. Ten acres of land were allocated to swedes and turnips plus an unspecified area producing oats, all probably grown as animal feed. This suggests that the farm was engaged in the commercial cattle production, supplying the butchers of Dublin with meat. In addition, there were ten dairy cows (four of them calving): the output of milk and butter probably marginally exceeded household needs, while the five acres planted with potatoes also indicate that the family should have been at least self-sufficient in basic produce. All of this went under the hammer in October 1859. Given that the railway was about to arrive, providing easier access to the Dublin market, this was a particularly unfortunate development.
Just how far John Henry Parnell detached himself from reliance upon the Avondale property portfolio can be seen from Griffith's Valuation, completed for Wicklow in 1854. First, several major holdings were not rented to tenants at all, but are recorded as being 'In Fee', farmed directly by the landowner himself. These included Ballyknockan Upper, Ballytrasna, Ballyteigue and about half the family inheritance in Kingston – all close to the Big House itself. Parnell's father was sacrificing about £400 in annual rent – as estimated from the 1869 inventory – which surely means that he was farming those lands himself much more profitably. But Griffith's Valuation reveals an even more startling story: John Henry Parnell was also renting land, and on a generous scale. From Earl Fitzwilliam, he leased almost 190 acres of land at Corballis Lower, immediately adjoining Avondale, evidently to form a solid block of farmland. Slightly further away, he occupied 31 acres belonging to a man called Alexander Carroll. He also rented seventeen acres of woodland at Rockstown Lower, east of Avondale, from a man called John Williams, although there is no contemporary report that Parnell senior operated a sawmill.
What this means, of course, is that John Henry Parnell was not simply a landowner and a gentleman. He was also an Irish tenant farmer, and on a relatively substantial scale – around 240 acres in all. As with almost all tenants, outside Ulster at least, he had no legal right to compensation for any improvements he made: for Charles Stewart Parnell, the absence of tenant right would not have been a merely abstract injustice. The land rented at Corballis Lower provided an example of the limitations of paternalism. Foster has traced the relationship through the records of the Fitzwilliam estate, which operated a limited form of tenant right, in which the landlord met half the costs of any improvements. It was estimated that John Henry Parnell had spent £600 on cottages and drainage: his executors were granted £250 in compensation. Foster notes that in 1881, at the height of the Land War, Parnell himself spoke of the Fitzwilliam estate as 'so well managed that the tenants up to the present refused to join the Land League.' But he tempered his praise with criticism of the estate's handling of improvements, claiming five percent interest was charged on any investment by the landlord – a practice that barely differed from the objectionable practice of raising the rent because the occupant had increased the value of the land. 'Who built the houses, who drained the land, who sub-soiled it, who reclaimed it, who removed the boulders?' he asked. 'The tenants did all these things'. This forcefully voiced rhetorical question takes on a new dimension of meaning if we interpret it as an expression of personal grievance: the death of Parnell's father lost the family £350 of investment in land that returned to benefit the already-wealthy Fitzwilliams. An extra £350 would certainly have eased Parnell's pressured first two years through Cambridge. There is no information about the land rented from Carroll and Williams, but it is likely that money was lost there too. When Parnell insisted, as he said at Navan in 1875, that 'the tenant has property in the land as well as the landlord,' he was making something more personal than a statement of high-minded principle.
Thus it is possible to view John Henry Parnell, not as a rentier landowner, but as a large-scale commercial agriculturalist, even reducing his rent-roll by farming some of his inheritance himself, and leasing additional property to create an integrated operation. All of this simply vanished with his death: the tenancies lapsed, and the entire farming stock, equipment and animals, was sold off. Avondale became what John Henry Parnell had so clearly intended it should not be, the utterly inadequate source of income from rent. When Parnell took over Avondale in 1867, he had to rebuild its business side from scratch. Facing law suits from Charles West, the agent during his minority, and from his aunt's widower, George Wigram, he almost certainly lacked the capital to re-stock the Home Farm. His major recorded agricultural investment, in a new cattle shed, evidently took second place to his sawmills. It was 'now nearly completed', said a report of 1888, which noted 'extensive farming and cattle producing' at Avondale. He was engaged in fattening cattle and sheep by 1890, and one experienced farmer among his associates commented that 'he had done a great deal in the stock line, but not so much in tillage'. Descriptions by visitors to Avondale do not highlight farming among his activities. His supporters did ostentatiously volunteer to plough his demesne lands during the winter of 1881-82 while he was detained in Kilmainham, but at that time part of the land was let for grazing to a local shopkeeper, a transaction that we know about only because the tenant later stage-managed a quarrel over the rent. In summary, the Avondale Home Farm probably represented the difference between financial survival, maybe even modest prosperity, and the threat of catastrophe during the lifetime of John Henry Parnell, but even that lifeline was denied his son, at least in the difficult first years after he came of age in 1867.
The Clonmore Purchase
Unfortunately, John Henry Parnell had bequeathed his family more than a simple income-and-expenditure problem. In 1858, he had purchased about 13,000 acres from his uncle, Sir Ralph Howard: the primary aim was to provide an eventual landed estate, Clonmore, for his third son, Henry Tudor Parnell. The land was located near Hacketstown, in an enclave of County Carlow surrounded by Wicklow on three sides. The price was just short of £70,000, of which J.H. Parnell could raise only £13,500 in cash. Howard extended a mortgage to cover the remainder. Although J.H. Parnell quickly disposed of part of his acquisition, possibly to reduce the mortgage, Foster estimates that he was in debt to his uncle for at least £50,000. Howard covenanted not to foreclose so long as interest on the loan was paid in twice-yearly instalments at a rate of six percent. Thus the Clonmore purchase committed the Parnell family to a huge annual outlay of £3,000 in interest payments, plus phased repayments of capital. Foster accepts an unsubstantiated estimate that the 13,000-acre estate generated an income of £2,000 a year, which would mean that the commitment swallowed most of the combined Avondale-Clonmore rent rolls ─ and was far in excess of their net returns. When Henry Parnell put it up for sale in 1874, the reported rental was variously reported at £2,917, and that was after an energetic and controversial round of rent rises the previous year. As already discussed, Vaughan's research would indicate that the effective figure should be reduced by about one quarter to allow for taxes and other costs. St John Ervine stated in 1924 that Clonmore 'brought £2,000 per annum to Henry Tudor Parnell,' information that Foster assumes was derived from John Howard Parnell's widow, and this probably reflects the real value of the estate. At best, Clonmore seems to have been yielding £2,000 a year, and costing £3,000 in mortgage interest ─ and that estimate takes no account of the instalments to repay of the capital sum. 'The rental of the purchased estate was then insufficient to pay the interest of the mortgage and other claims,' wrote an anonymous correspondent of the Irish Times in 1880 and, although 'Inquirer' was obviously no devotee of Parnell, he had apparently done his research on Clonmore.
The burdensome and even potentially bankrupting purchase of Clonmore may seem more inexplicable in the light of the recollection by Parnell's elder brother, John, that Sir Ralph Howard 'had always told my father that he intended to leave me a considerable portion of his property'. It was because he had these expectations of a generous inheritance that John was left the virtually valueless estate of Collure in County Armagh, while the family's main property, Avondale, passed to the second surviving son, Charles. Indeed, it was probably with a view to becoming heir to his childless uncle that John Parnell was given the middle name 'Howard'. So why should John Henry Parnell have committed himself to such a massive outlay to purchase property, part of which was destined to pass to his own son in a few years anyway? In fact, the information about Sir Ralph Howard's testamentary intentions begins to place the transaction in a context that makes some sense.
The Howards and the Parnells were not conventional vendors and purchasers associated only by a commercial transaction. In effect, they were one family: in 1859, the Howards undertook the thankless task of launching Parnell's sister Emily into London society from their Belgrave Square house. Sir Ralph Howard was in his late fifties and seems to have preferred living in London. It suited him to enter into an arrangement that would provide him with a secure income while freeing him from the inconveniences of managing an Irish landed estate. John Henry Parnell was in his late forties and secured legal title to a substantial property which he had the energy to develop, and which could eventually be used to set up his youngest son, Henry, as a country gentleman. Clonmore might also function as a much-needed land bank that would provide dowries for his daughters as they married. Delia's £100-a-year settlement was charged to Avondale, but J.H. Parnell's alienation of some Clonmore land in April and June 1859, which Foster assumed was intended to reduce the mortgage debt, might equally have been intended to raise cash to pay for her wedding. Eventually, so it was evidently hoped, John Howard Parnell's inheritance would wipe out the remaining capital debt on the mortgage, or at least leave it to be settled with his brother, just as John Henry Parnell himself had co-existed with his sister Catherine's claim to a share of the Avondale revenue.
The Clonmore purchase could only make sense if John Henry Parnell planned to develop its resources and thereby considerably increase its revenue. Since the Clonmore lands were only about fifteen miles from Avondale, it is likely that he planned to manage them himself and increase their value. Indeed, a correspondent of the Irish Times in 1880 claimed that he was already acting as his uncle's agent, and the purchase may simply have constituted a device to transfer legal ownership while continuing an existing management arrangement. It has been customary to dismiss John Henry Parnell as a 'quiet, conventional landowner,' but his children recalled that their father 'went in for farming on an extensive scale' and that he 'gave great employment to the people in reclaiming land at Avondale.' His choice of Robert Johnson, 'a Scotch agricultural expert, and an old friend' as joint guardian of his children when he made his Will in 1859 may indicate that he had turned to outside expertise to develop Clonmore, perhaps also through drainage schemes. The acreage of Clonmore was about three times that of Avondale, so there might well have seemed scope for increasing the returns. Lewis's Topographical Directory in 1837 had described 26,210 statute acres of the civil parish of Clonmore (about double the size of the Howard estate) as including about 2,430 acres of heath and furze, 130 of woodland, and 1,500 of bog. One fifth the remainder was arable and the rest pasture and meadow. 'There are some indications of agricultural improvement, although a considerable quantity of unprofitable land might be reclaimed and brought under tillage.' Given the intervening disaster of the Famine, that may well have still true twenty years later. John Henry Parnell's intentions must remain a matter of speculation, but one point seems certain. Just like his son in the acrid conflicts of the Split thirty years later, when Parnell's father bought Clonmore in 1858, he did not intend to die.
The death of John Henry Parnell, 1859
John Henry Parnell's sudden death in July 1859, at the age of 48, threw the project into confusion. The last month of his life was evidently stressful, and helps to explain why he made a Will, just four days before his death, which would prove to be unhelpful in steering Avondale through the next eight years. He was already in poor health, having been diagnosed with 'rheumatism of the stomach', and advised 'not to indulge in violent exercise.' Early in June, Parnell's eldest sister Delia married her American fiancé. There was probably a civil ceremony in Paris, but Delia was the eldest daughter of Parnell of Avondale, and tradition would have required her to be married from the family home. An announcement in a Dublin newspaper records that on 11 June 1859, Delia Parnell and James Thomson were married at the local parish church at Rathdrum. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing who else attended the wedding, but the event was the occasion for a family reunion. Propriety would have required the bride to be chaperoned from Paris to Ireland, which meant either a brief return to Avondale by John Henry Parnell's estranged wife, or an exhausting return trip by her sick father. All that we definitely know is that by 30 June, John Henry Parnell was in such a towering rage that he not only made (or, probably, revised) his Will, but allowed his anger to influence decisions about the future of his children.
The flashpoint for the family row was the scandalous misbehaviour of the next sister in line, Emily, then aged eighteen. Sent to the Howards' house in London's West End to engage in the honourable pursuit of finding a suitable husband, she had disgraced herself with what even she described as 'a childish attachment' to Arthur Dickinson, son of a neighbouring Wicklow family of whom John Henry Parnell disapproved. The pair had become secretly engaged when Emily was just fifteen, but had spent little time together: she passed her teenage years with her mother in Paris, while Dickinson was serving as an Army officer in England. When Emily was sent to the Howards' London house, Arthur Dickinson was stationed at Aldershot, just thirty miles away, too close to resist the temptation for a romantic reunion. Dickinson displayed the massively bad judgement that would characterise much of his later life. First, he forced his way into the Belgrave Square house, jostling two footmen who tried to bar his way. Both Howards were promptly summoned to protect Emily's virtue and reputation, and her defiant lack of concern for the latter left them alarmed about the durability of the former. Worse was to follow. The young lovers agreed a tryst in the private gardens of the Square, which were accessible only to key-holders, one of whom was Lady Howard. She was mightily shocked to encounter the young couple kissing passionately on a bench, and was in no way mollified by Emily's explanation that she was betrothed to her companion. 'The fact of your having formed an engagement without the knowledge of your family only makes your behaviour worse,' Lady Howard insisted, in tones that must have anticipated Lady Bracknell, adding for good measure that 'being engaged is no excuse for allowing a man to kiss you.' After being on the receiving end of 'a lengthened lecture' on her behaviour, Emily managed to make matters worse by returning to the gardens to check ─ so she claimed ─ that Arthur was not locked in. (As Dickinson had talked his way into Emily's affections, he was also presumably capable of talking his way out of a London garden and, as an Army officer, it ought not to have stretched his training to climb a fence.) Lady Howard was unfortunately watching from a window, and the Howards concluded that an elopement was on the cards. Sir Ralph Howard wrote to her father refusing to accept any further responsibility for such a wild and reckless young woman, and an angry John Henry Parnell decided to take steps to deprive of Emily of her inheritance.
However, before he could get around to revising his Will, John Henry Parnell had to attend to another social obligation. He was an enthusiastic supporter of local cricket, and his immediately after his daughter's wedding, he was involved in the hosting of a major match. On 25 June, a County Wicklow eleven took on a team of officers from the 16th Regiment, which was then stationed in Ireland. On a summer Saturday, 25 June, the match was held 'at Avondale, the picturesque seat of J. Parnell, Esq.' The event must have required considerable advance organisation. 'The fine band of the regiment was in attendance,' and presumably the host erected marquees and provided refreshments to entertain the visitors and guests. The event would have been a pleasant curtain-raiser for the thirteenth birthday of his son, Charles, which fell two days later. It seems that everybody enjoyed the long day's cricket, although the outcome was unfortunately an inconclusive draw. The officers challenged to the Wicklow team to a return match in Dublin to settle the issue. It was this unexpected sequel to the Avondale match that took John Henry Parnell to Dublin, for it would have seemed churlish to decline the military hospitality at the second game, even though family recollection suggested he ought to have taken to his bed. Since there was as yet no railway between Rathdrum and the city, he seems to have decided to spend several days staying at the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen's Green. This gave him the opportunity to visit his solicitor, Alfred McDermott and explains Emily's recollection over forty years later that 'he went straight from the cricket match to his solicitor's in order to make his will'.
Unfortunately, the Will has not survived. We only know something of its tone because an extract was published in 1884 as part of an eighteen-eighties cottage industry that aimed to prove that the Parnells were a collection of oddballs. If we had the original document, we could perhaps work out from the names of witnesses to his signature whether the document was drawn up in McDermott's office or perhaps penned at Avondale under the influence of anger and a decanter of port. It is also impossible to determine whether John Henry Parnell's health was so bad that his doctors had advised him to put his affairs in order, or whether the disinheriting of his daughter was merely a tactical move which might be revised should Dickinson dump her on learning that she was not going to receive the £100-a-year income so recently allocated to her elder sister. There was certainly no doubt that Emily, 'who has grievously offended me,' was cut off without the proverbial penny.
However, of greater import for the future management of Avondale was the hostility that John Henry Parnell revealed not only towards his estranged wife, but also her American family. Presumably he concluded Emily's unfortunate entanglement reflected badly upon Delia Parnell's supervision of their offspring in Paris. 'I absolutely forbid,' he thundered, ' any interference on the part of my wife or any of her relatives with the management of my children or property.' The inclusion of a bar on any participation in family affairs by his wife's relatives was probably directed against Delia Parnell's father. Commodore Charles Stewart was an American naval hero, 'Old Ironsides,' who had distinguished himself fighting the British during the War of 1812. His marriage to Delia Tudor had broken up after eleven years, and his subsequent life-style was discreetly described as 'questionable.' (Students of the subsequent Parnell-O'Shea affair will note that this was the third generation in which personal relationships were shaped by marital break-down, a point that may explain why the Irish leader apparently regarded his own private life as unexceptional.) Although born as far back as 1778, Commodore Stewart was still active ─ he only formally retired from the United States Navy in 1862 when Lincoln promoted him to Rear Admiral ─ and, at some point in the saga, he offered a home to his daughter and the lovelorn Emily. W.M. Brady, who published the 1884 extract, noted that 'the testator ignored all second Christian names,' so that Charles Stewart Parnell was simply referred to as 'Charles'. In a legal document this seems very careless, and Brady suggested that it was a gesture by John Henry Parnell to obliterate any allusion to his wife's family.(Her maiden name was Delia Tudor Stewart.)
In the event, J.H. Parnell's death would leave the Chancery Court with no practical alternative to handing the children over to their mother's care, but its forceful provisions were sufficient to limit her control. Had she been left a free agent after 1859, Delia Parnell might well have decided to rear her children on the other side of the Atlantic. In the longer term, this might not have made much difference to the career of Charles Stewart Parnell. He would probably have wished to return to Avondale once he came of age in 1867. In the event, he did not visit the United States until 1872. Had he spent his teenage years in the USA, he might well have found the state of affairs in Ireland on his return even more frustrating, and so propelled himself earlier and more forcefully into public life. Had the family relocated to America after his father's death, it is improbable that Parnell would have gone to Cambridge, and perhaps more likely that he would have found a college whose curriculum more comfortably suited his bent towards science and engineering. Unfortunately, the problem with the counter-factual is that the alternative possibilities are infinite. The young man who joined the Wicklow militia in 1865 would have been both tempted and pressured to fight for the North in the American Civil War. It was hard to get hurt in the Wicklow militia, but very easy to get killed serving under Ulysses S. Grant. The most that can be said is that John Henry Parnell's ferocious prohibition prevented his most famous son from growing up in the care of American relatives.
The minority of Charles Stewart Parnell, 1859-1867
There could never have been any doubt that John Henry Parnell would designate his uncle Sir Ralph Howard as one of his children's guardians: it would have been unthinkable to have passed over his senior male relative. To copper-bottom the exclusion of his estranged wife, he nominated Robert Johnson, 'a Scotch agricultural expert, and an old friend of our father's.' According to family tradition, Howard refused the responsibility because he was 'annoyed' at being expected to act with the Scotsman. However, this is not to say that he reacted purely out of snobbery. Rather, in taking his uncle's role for granted, John Henry Parnell had failed to foresee one consequence of his own death. He had in effect bet the farm the previous year on the purchase of Clonmore from Howard: the transaction could only become profitable if the estate was actively managed. Remove J.H. Parnell from the scene and consign the estate to the dead hand of the Chancery Court, and all dynamism would be lost. Howard would have perceived a conflict between a guardian's duty to protect the interests of the Parnell children and his own position as the estate's largest creditor in the likely event that it would become impossible to meet the huge interest payments on the Clonmore mortgage. It was a bad sign that the Court appointed a local gentleman farmer, C.M. West, as receiver of the Avondale estate. West was himself a Parnell tenant, and it was generally thought that landlords suffered when the agent had a conflict of interests. It is also worth reiterating that West was commissioned to run a property portfolio that was already only marginally profitable. The farming business that had generated the real family income had been dismantled with John Henry Parnell's death.
The ensuing disputes over the administration of John Henry Parnell's inheritance are hard to follow, since they were not reported, either in the press or the Law Reports, and court documentation was destroyed during the Irish Civil War in 1922. It is largely thanks to the detective work of Roy Foster that even an outline of the story can be established. Much remains opaque: for instance, it is likely that the management of Avondale was separated from that of the Clonmore property, which had been bequeathed to the nine-year old Henry, and which would have been of particular concern to Howard. C.M. West's position as 'receiver over the said estate and interest of the said minor Charles Parnell' was challenged within months, but upheld by the Court of Chancery in May 1860. Foster concluded that it was probably 'an attempt by one of the contestants to gain control of the administration of the Avondale estate', and that the most likely initiator of the move was Sir Ralph Howard. By 1862, the principals were embroiled in a Chancery case, Howard vs. Zouche. Even though it does not appear that the case ever came to a full court hearing, Avondale was now in the frozen grip of a court of law, its affairs subject to the supervision of a Master in Chancery. Thus in July 1862 the Chancery machine cranked into action as Master Fitzgibbon prepared to let 'the Right of Shooting over about 4.000 Acres of Mountains and Bogs, together with the Shooting Lodge, known as Aughavannah Barracks, in the County of Wicklow, with the Furniture therein.' An estate that was already financially fragile was now bearing the additional costs of agents and lawyers.
Sometime in the winter of 1862-33, Master Fitzgibbon mapped out the future of the young Parnells, authorising their Scottish guardian, called Robert 'Johnston' in a newspaper report, to release funds for the children's education. He recommended that an annual sum of £1,700 be 'allowed for the maintenance of the six minors to their mother, with whom they resided.' Specifically, 'the three sons to whom estates had been left, should be sent to be educated, two to England, and one to St Columba College.' (Henry, the youngest, was sent to St Columba's, but John, the eldest, eventually enrolled at the College of Mines in Dublin.) Parnell's mother petitioned the Court of Chancery, arguing that 'the annual allowance should be £2,000; that it should be paid directly to her and not through Mr Johnston; and that she should be allowed the costs of attending and intervening in the proceedings'. It is hard not to sympathise with her demands. Even though, in the gendered values of the day, the three Parnell daughters would have been considered less expensive to support than the boys, £1,700 was not a large sum to meet 'the costs of the maintenance and education' of six upper-class children. Unfortunately, she lost the case. The Court reaffirmed the Fitzgibbon report, refusing even to hear her application. The episode can only have proved expensive: Mrs Parnell was represented by a Queen's Counsel, while Johnston (or Johnson) hired two senior barristers and one junior to defend his interests. Relations with the children's legal guardian must have been poor for the dispute to have reached such an angry climax. Perhaps the greatest mystery was how the Avondale estate could generate £1,700 annually at all. When Parnell came of age in 1867 and assumed control of Avondale, C.M. West sued him, in 1869 securing a judgement for £7,000. Once again, no details can be traced to explain the litigation, but it surely represented an attempt by West to recoup losses on his receivership. If so, and allowing for the accrual of some interest on the accumulated debt, it would seem that the Avondale estate had been losing £700 to £800 annually throughout the eight years that West had charge of its management. Charles Stewart Parnell would go to Cambridge on a budget determined by others, and that budget was unlikely to be lavish.
By the early eighteen-sixties, the cost of maintaining the Parnell family in a lifestyle appropriate to their social rank must have been considerable, if only because there were so many of them. (When Emily was launched into the glittering London Season, she wore her elder sister's cast-off dresses.) In addition to Charles himself, there were two other brothers to educate. As noted above, John, the elder, was studying at the School of Mining and was keen to strike out for himself, but the younger brother, Henry, was still in his mid-teens and attending St Columba's, the Dublin boarding school. John had inherited the family's Armagh estate of Collure, and Henry would take over Clonmore, the Carlow property but, as already argued, it is unlikely that either produced much of a surplus. Parnell's mother seems to have had little money of her own until her father's death in 1869 left her moderately prosperous. Her son John recalled that she was 'extremely fond of entertaining', although this need not imply that she was extravagant. Rather, it is likely that she felt a responsibility to maintain the social position of her sons in Dublin society during their temporary exile from Avondale, and to ensure that her daughters were given appropriate opportunities to be launched into a world where marriage was the most acceptable career for young ladies. Indeed, Emily claimed that it was the Court of Chancery which ordered Mrs Parnell to move from suburban Dalkey to the city centre 'so that her elder daughters might have the advantages of a Dublin season.'
A tutor was hired to teach Italian and German to the older girls, and there were governesses as well: the story that one 'took a great fancy to Charley' probably reflects an Edwardian obsession that every Parnell biography must feature a love interest. Emily remained faithful to the attractively dangerous Arthur Dickinson, and was eventually, in 1864, allowed to marry him. Dickinson's decision, soon after, to leave the Army made him an even less dependable husband and provider. He proved notably incompetent when employed as agent for John Howard Parnell's Armagh estate, and, at some point, Parnell took pity on his sister and settled upon her the £100 a year that her father had refused. In addition to this formal annuity, yet another charge upon Avondale, the Dickinsons quartered themselves in the house where Arthur's developing alcohol problem caused increasing disruption.
The next sister, Sophia, existed in a marital limbo which throws intriguing light on the anarchic nature of the Parnell ménage after John Henry's death, and tends to confirm the impression that Delia Parnell did not exercise particularly close maternal supervision over her children. The not-over-reliable Emily Dickinson related the curious story that Alfred MacDermott, the family solicitor, had not only managed to woo 'Sophy' when she was just sixteen but 'persuaded her to elope with him' to Scotland where they were secretly married. The marriage was certainly kept quiet until Sophy came of age in 1866, whereupon the couple went through a further marriage ceremony designed to make their union acceptable in Dublin society where ─ according to the venomous Emily ─ they were known as 'Beauty and the Beast'. Having the family solicitor become a member of the family was perhaps a mixed blessing. MacDermott had stepped in to take charge of the estate after John Henry Parnell's death, when he had 'found everything in a very confused state' and introduced massive retrenchment. Emily's literary vendetta towards him owed much to MacDermott's determination to block Arthur Dickinson's attempts to live off Avondale. Equally, MacDermott could be expected to ensure that his bride received an appropriate share of whatever family cash might be available (although he was well placed to know the true financial state of the Parnell inheritance). Sophy's official marriage left three sisters still at home and as Fanny, the eldest, was only sixteen, they were likely to remain as dependants for some time to come. (The incomes of the four younger girls were derived from their elder brother's already burdened Collure estate: as John Howard Parnell recalled of the early eighteen-seventies, 'I had to provide both for my sisters' annuities and the Trinity College head rent... getting nothing for myself.') Thus at the moment when Parnell prepared to commit himself to three years at Cambridge, the Avondale estate was paying an annuity to two married daughters, probably helping another and supporting a further eight members of the family in the lifestyle of gentlefolk. This did not leave much scope to pay for the expensive lifestyle of Magdalene.
However, there was one positive element in the retrenchment economics of Charles Stewart Parnell's minority years. By downsizing to a series of town houses in and around Dublin, the Parnells were not only spared the cost of maintaining the gentry lifestyle of their country mansion but their finances gained from letting Avondale itself to a tenant. In the absence of any accounts, it is impossible to know by how much the family income benefited from such arrangements. Contemporary property advertisements rarely specified the required rent and, in any case, Avondale was hardly a typical suburban villa, and it was let with sixty acres of parkland. The only direct clue comes from the 1869 survey, which estimated the rental value of Avondale at £260. All the same, we can be reasonably sure that the income from their Wicklow house covered the cost of accommodation in the city. Indeed, it is likely that there was a considerable profit from the arrangement, not least because Avondale was let to a railway contractor, Thomas Edwards, who was building a line which actually crossed the Avondale estate: railway companies were notorious as big spenders when they were driving a project forward. The family retained a nearby property, Casino, which they called a 'dower-house' and Foster describes as a 'large cottage': the younger Parnells used it extensively during 1864-65 as a holiday home. Edwards, who was a widower, welcomed the boys to their own home and permitted them to organise matches on John Henry Parnell's cricket ground.
Although Thomas Edwards took some part in local life ─ he won prizes at the Rathdrum horticultural show and one of his daughters married a Wicklow man in 1864 ─ he probably used Avondale primarily as a forward base from which to oversee construction of the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway, which reached Rathdrum in August 1861 and was opened as far as the Vale of Avoca in July 1863. With 1,400 men employed, it would have been helpful for the contractor to be based directly alongside the works. However, the rapid progress of the project meant that Wicklow would soon be left behind. Late in 1862, Edwards broke the ground for a new section of rail deep into County Wexford, and 'commenced work on the Enniscorthy end of the line', forty miles south of Avondale. Edwards was no doubt working hard, but he was not too busy to have a personal life. In June 1865 he married again. The press notice identified him as of 'Avondale, in the County of Wicklow, Esquire'. However, this was his last identification with the Parnell family mansion, for it seems that the former Miss Emily Richardson had specified a home of her own.
Within days of the Edwards nuptials, the Court of Chancery announced that Avondale, 'late in the occupation of Thomas Edwards, Esq.', was to be let by Master Fitzgibbon on 1 September 1865. The timing of the vacancy was doubly inconvenient. First, just as Parnell was getting ready to go to university, a considerable gap had suddenly opened in the income of his father's estate. In the short term at least, this was likely to place further limits on his Cambridge budget. Secondly, the attempt to find a new tenant for Avondale was complicated by the fact that Parnell himself would come of age just 22 months later. Although still legally a minor, it is likely that he was old enough to make clear that he intended to re-occupy the family residence as soon as he turned twenty-one. This explains the incoherent wording of the advertisement, offering the property 'either for 7 years, pending the minority, or for such lesser term, as may be agreed at the time of such letting.' Who would wish to take on 'the Mansion-House, Offices and Garden of Avondale', plus 'about 60 acres of Prime Land' for such a short time? The occupant had to promise 'not to break up any portion of the land', probably enough to discourage local farmers from making a bid. At the very least, any incoming tenant would be well placed to negotiate a reduced rent.
Was there such a tenant? It seems unlikely. The stalwarts who ran the household were a family – probably only a couple -- called the Gaffneys: its male members variously appear as Peter, Jack and – in the local newspaper at the time – as 'T. Gaffney', who was an assiduous gardener. He might well have been the 'Kavanagh' in John Howard Parnell's memoirs who locked young Parnell out of the garden to protect his crop against theft and vandalism. In 1864, Gaffney had won prizes at the annual show of the Rathdrum Horticultural Society on behalf of Thomas Edwards. He repeated his triumphs in August 1865, on behalf of 'Charles Parnell, Esq.' In August 1866, he 'exhibited on behalf [of] Mrs Parnell'. Apparently, the Court of Chancery does not appear to have made any subsequent attempt to let the property. Frustratingly, we do not know. Foster assumed that Edwards occupied Avondale until 1867. In August 1867, 'Livingstone Thompson' was among Protestant parishioners who requisitioned a special meeting, at which he reportedly spoke. However, there is no other evidence that Parnell's brother-in-law and sister Delia had taken up residence at Avondale, and (of course) nothing to indicate that they paid any of the bills. Probably they simply spent a few weeks at the family mansion, enjoying the Wicklow summer and checking that all was well after the departure of Edwards. The Parnell family continued to be based in Upper Temple Street: it was there that the police staged their comic-opera raid in December 1866 as they hunted for Fenian conspirators. At best, the summer before Parnell set off for Cambridge was one of uncertainty and additional expense. At worst, Avondale was left empty for almost two years while John Henry Parnell's depleted estate continued to be burdened by the renting of a house in Dublin for his widow and children. And the cost of a Cambridge education, somewhere between £150 and £300 annually at a fashionable college, was probably in the same general range as the rent Edwards had paid for Avondale. He could hardly have chosen a less convenient moment to move out.
The Avondale Inheritance, 1867
It is worth attempting to summarise the argument advanced here in relation both to the larger issue of the motivation behind Parnell's political career and the more specific question of how he financed his studies at Cambridge. Parnell's biographers have tended to avoid explicit assessments of the solvency of Avondale, but a general impression can be distilled. According to Robert Kee, in 1859 the estate 'was for the present in no financial difficulties.' Roy Foster traced legal proceedings between 1867 and 1870 which related to the winding up of the minority and the settlement of the Wigram mortgage, and had warned that Parnell was less prosperous than might appear. Even so, the Parnell of the early eighteen-seventies seemed to be turning the affairs of Avondale around, generating income through his sawmills, and with sufficient spare cash to look for investment in the United States. From this perspective, it was 'bad management and personal expenses' that allegedly accounted for the collapse that forced Parnell to put Avondale on the market in 1882-83. Even if we adopt the more charitable view that blames the expenses of a political career plus the crisis of 1878-81 in Irish agriculture, we still have a picture of a relatively prosperous estate overwhelmed by the quixotic decision of its landlord proprietor to take up the cause of the Irish peasantry.
A different picture emerges if we accept that all three Parnell estates were close to insolvency from 1859. Income from the Armagh property, Collure, was devoured by the massive head-rent payable to Trinity College: when taxes and other expenses are factored in, it was probably operating at a loss, as John Howard Parnell certainly found when he tried to run the property himself in the eighteen-seventies. Only energetic, hands-on management could have overcome the self-inflicted burden of the leveraged purchase of the Carlow estate, Clonmore, although John Henry Parnell would have it difficult to assemble enough cash to invest in improvements while funding a £50,000 mortgage. Avondale was severely hampered by Catherine Wigram's marriage portion, and the cost of raising a large family.
Consigning control of the estate to the arthritic grip of the Court of Chancery for the eight years of Parnell's minority, from 1859 to 1867, only worsened the position. As already noted, livestock and farm equipment were auctioned off as part of the winding up of John Henry Parnell's affairs, thus closing down the Home Farm and adding to the difficulties of exploiting the property after 1867. As already noted, the agent appointed by the Court of Chancery, Charles West, presumably ran the estate at a loss and, as a tenant himself, may not have over-exerted himself to uphold the proprietorial interest. A cricket match was organised to celebrate Parnell's coming-of-age in 1867: the visiting players slept on mattresses on the floors of the dower house, Casino, which was 'destitute of furniture.' When John Howard Parnell visited his brother in 1870, he found Avondale being run with just two servants, the loyal couple Peter and Mary Gaffney: Parnell was literally camping there. A journalist in 1880 described the Gaffneys as the sole 'retainers', 'an aged dame' who acted as housekeeper, 'and a man who looks after his horse, the garden, and the general affairs of the house.' Their son survived to pass on some impressively vivid parental recollections of Avondale life to Roy Foster. What is especially striking about this testimony was Mr Hugh Gaffney's insistence that the Parnells had always lived frugally, for this is an instance where the oral tradition had evidently not been overlain by the received biographical picture of a lavish lifestyle as the backdrop to Parnell's childhood. Unlike other landed families in the neighbourhood, for instance, his parents did not maintain a carriage, but were driven around in the more bucolic conveyance of a sidecar.
By the eighteen-eighties, T.P. O'Connor on visiting Avondale was struck by 'its look of neglect and decay'. The interior needed re-painting, and the rooms were 'sparely furnished with antique things', 'antique' in this case implying 'outdated' rather than 'valuable'. The journalist of 1880 made similar comments: the exterior with 'a rather barren and neglected look', a massive billiard table standing unused in the entrance hall and the main room, a parlour, that was 'neither homely nor cheerful'. It became fashionable to regard the sad state of Avondale as a casualty of Parnell's devotion to politics, implying that there had been a golden age either in his father's time or in the years after he came of age. But the journalist of 1880 unconsciously hit the nail on the head when he wrote that it seemed as if 'the covers had just been drawn off the furniture at the expiration of a Chancery suit.' Metaphorically, the covers had been drawn off the blanketing control of the Court of Chancery thirteen years earlier, and Avondale had never recovered. There had never been a golden age of prosperity, either before 1859 or after 1867. By 1879, Foster estimates that Parnell was paying £1,300 a year in mortgage interest and settlements to his two married sisters, Delia and Emily. At best, Avondale was perhaps covering its costs, provided those costs were kept to a minimum.
'Now that you have come home, you must remain here and take up your position in the county.' Lord Carysfort's friendly advice, delivered to Parnell in 1873 after his American visit, has been interpreted by biographers as implying that a place among the local elite was open to Parnell and that he was capable of occupying it: in St John Ervine's unfortunately worded statement, the county families 'were willing that this rich, if queer, young bachelor should take a wife from among them'. However, a very different picture emerges if we assume that Parnell simply could not take on the role his kinsman Carysfort so generously offered. It is noteworthy that Parnell did not marry in those years, even though family pride would have pointed to a duty to breed a male heir. There was a Miss P, 'whose father was anxious to secure Charles as a son-in-law' and, later, ' a sincere friendship' with a Miss C, which local gossip thought would end in an engagement. The opportunities were there, although the passion may have been lacking: Parnell affectionately referred to Miss P as 'Mouse' and called Miss C 'an extremely nice girl'. On a visit to Paris in the early eighteen-seventies, he did fall bruisingly in love with an American heiress, Miss Woods, and hoped to marry her. However, in the event, while Parnell may have been unconsciously re-enacting his father's dramatic pursuit of an American bride, Miss Woods decided against repeating his mother's mistake of exiling herself to a frugal life in rural Wicklow. Her reported reason for rejecting him, that 'he was only an Irish gentleman without any particular name in public', has been interpreted as one of the spurs that drove him into politics. But perhaps she also became aware that Avondale was no fairy-tale castle. The explosive condemnations of Frank Hugh O'Donnell must always be treated with due reserve, but he may have tapped a crucial vein of motivation when he identified 'discontent with his social position, his exaggerated pride in the Parnell name and the Parnell claims ... his vague sympathy with Ireland as a fellow-sufferer with the Parnells ... his wrath at the insolvency of Avondale' among the forces that drove this far-from rich young bachelor into tenant-right and Home Rule politics.
The Parnell Brothers: Alternative Strategies of Landlordism
At one level, the dynastic strategy pursued by John Henry Parnell, with the help of his childless brother-in-law, Sir Ralph Howard, was impressively successful. All three of his sons, John, Charles and Henry, came to manhood as possessors of landed property. Unfortunately, each estate was close to insolvency, and the brothers reacted to financial pressures in very different ways. At Clonmore, Henry resorted to the classic landlord strategy of attempting to raise his rents. John, despairing of his County Armagh property, became convinced that only through the 'Ulster custom' of allowing tenants to own the improvements they made to their holdings could the rural economy be made to flourish. Throughout 1873, which seems to have been the crucial year in the crystallisation of his political views, Charles Stewart Parnell hesitated between them. Since younger brother Henry disappears from the Parnell story altogether after 1873, not to reappear until 1906, and older brother John chose to depict himself as a bit-player in his celebrated brother's career, it is important to reconstruct the crossroads choice posed for the future Irish leader by his evanescent siblings.
Henry Parnell's decision to attempt to squeeze more money from his Carlow tenants perhaps represented a revival of his father's plans to develop Sir Ralph Howard's estate since, as has been argued, the purchase of Clonmore made no sense unless it could be made to generate more income. The attempt was a public relations disaster. The timing was unfortunate, for Henry Parnell came of age in 1871, just as disillusionment was spreading at the inadequacy of Gladstone's first major piece of land legislation, passed the previous year. Pro-tenant campaigners were on the look-out for melodramatic episodes to dramatise 'the failure of the Land Act to protect the Irish farmer, and the urgent necessity for further legislation in this direction.' Worse still, there were chaotic variations in tenancy arrangements across the estate, with some occupants enjoying not only low rents but lifetime leases renewable to their heirs ─ giving them legal security that was little different from outright ownership. Thus any attempt to generate increased rental income from the estate as a whole was likely to be portrayed as an attack on the weakest of the peasantry. (This, too, was spin: in fact, only 1,095 acres out of a total of well over 12,000 were held by leases 'for lives renewable for ever.')
The flashpoint was the townland of Tombeagh (often called Tombay), 'a gigantic saucer-shaped eminence,' dotted with intractable rocks and much of it 'rugged, hungry heath' that was covered with furze ('that worst omen to the farmer'). A special correspondent sent by the Freeman's Journal described 'a cold meagre soil, requiring incessant labour and outlay to keep it in anything like remunerative heart.' Predictably, it was reported to be inhabited by an unusually virtuous peasantry, living a simple lifestyle in which crime and drunkenness were unknown. 'Except in the West, there is no population more unchanged from the simplicity of former modes of life, and indeed many things here are strongly reminiscent of Galway or remote Cork.' Rents were already above Griffith's Valuation. Tombay tenants claimed they had been granted 31-year leases in 1851, but as the arrangement had been customary they could not produce any supporting documentation.
There can be little doubt that Tombeagh was singled out to present the attempted rent-rise in the worst possible light. Even the visiting reporter acknowledged that 'a good deal of the land hereabouts is fertile and yields large returns'. However, in allegedly desolate Tombeagh, three of the fourteen tenants agreed to the additional imposition, and Henry Parnell felt able to reject a bid of £10,000 for the townland when he sold up the following year. However, the stage was set to dramatise the confrontation between an honest peasantry and a callow young landlord. 'He came of age and assumed direct possession of the lands in 1871. ... He can scarcely be yet twenty-three years of age.' While the legal system ostensibly favoured the owner, the processes of eviction were drawn out, thereby giving the occupiers time to mobilise support. In August 1872, notice to quit was served on the Tombeagh tenants. In December, they were given the choice of surrendering their holdings or accepting an unwelcome increase in their rents. On 20 March 1873 (curiously enough the very day on which his Cambridge degree was formally conferred), Henry Parnell attempted to reclaim the eleven homesteads whose occupiers had declined to co-operate. Acting on legal advice that the landlord could only take formal possession if he crossed the threshold, they took steps to secure their homes and refuse him admittance. 'Most of them locked their doors, and fled to a neighbouring wood, where they hid until the landlord had left.' A bold minority 'remained in their cottages, but answered neither knock nor call.' Their passive resistance won them a double victory. Editorially, the Freeman's Journal made the most of the spectacle of 'the tenants, fleeing from before the face of the landlord, hiding in the furze breaks at his approach, and barring their doors against his entrance, lest, by setting foot within their poor thresholds, he should attain legal possession of the little holdings and dispossess them from the home which is to them dearer than all else in the world.' Moreover, the 'the young lord of the soil' was made to look foolish: with 'nobody at home,' there was 'no way of serving ejectments' and Henry Parnell was obliged to beat a humiliating retreat. It might have seemed that matters could hardly have become more embarrassing for him, but they did. A fortnight later, the Freeman's Journal reported, 'with the most sincere gratification', that he had backed down after a meeting with the tenants at Hacketstown and agreed to accept the existing rents. If the suspiciously lavish editorial praise ─ 'frank and generous,' 'a noble action,' 'self-abnegation' ─ was designed to provoke Henry Parnell into over-reaction, it succeeded with instant effect. He fired off a curt statement that the report was 'totally untrue.' In some cases he had accepted the old rents as an instalment, making this clear on the receipts he issued. With acid sweetness, the Freeman's Journal accepted his explanation, elaborately apologised for its inaccurate report, and unequivocally retracted its 'laudatory expressions'.
What happened next? In 1873, the Freeman's Journal was chiefly interested in dramatising the inadequacy of the 1870 Land Act, and it described the Clonmore tenants as 'helpless'. Eleven months later, when Henry Parnell's brother was contesting the County Dublin by-election, it made equal sense for the same newspaper to bury the dispute, claiming that it had been 'satisfactorily terminated'. However, since there were no subsequent reports of evictions (and they would have featured in the by-election campaign), it is likely that some compromise was reached. 'The tenantry submitted,' a critic of Parnell claimed in 1880, and the slight traceable evidence suggests that rents were raised by about five percent. Certainly, the reported Clonmore rental of £2,919 in 1874 does not seem to reflect a large increase in the return. On the other hand, there was no shortage of bidders when Henry Parnell put the estate on the market. The death of Sir Ralph Howard in August 1873 would have opened the way to sell Clonmore by releasing Henry Parnell from any moral obligation to keep it in the family. The timing of the sale, which was announced in late April and held on 22 May, was probably tactfully arranged to follow Parnell's first electoral outing in the County Dublin by-election, which terminated on 18 March.
On sale day, fifteen lots changed hands for £26,590. A further 25 lots were withdrawn, after total bids of £27,730 were rejected. Sales were adjourned on four other lots without the bids being recorded, while ten lots had already been privately sold. Since sales continued into 1876, it would seem that some of the lots withdrawn from auction were subsequently sold by negotiation. Foster calculates that Henry Tudor Parnell recouped £70,425 by selling 6,760 acres, about half the 13,226 acres initially put up for sale, in those two years. However, since even the rejected bids averaged around 22 years' purchase, the reported rental of £2,919 would point to a sale price for the whole estate of around £64,000, which would indicate that he managed to sell a larger proportion of Clonmore than Foster was able to identify: elsewhere he states that Henry retained about 300 acres of the property. Since John Henry Parnell had paid £70,000 for the estate sixteen years earlier, and had sold some of it in 1859, the Clonmore gamble had eventually yielded a small capital gain, although we have no way of knowing how the Parnell family coped with the burden in the intervening years. The anonymous critic of 1880 claimed that Clonmore 'was sold to such advantage' that there was 'sufficient money left, after the mortgage was paid, to buy a small property in the County Kilkenny.' However, Henry did not reside there ─ just as there had been no 'big house' on the Clonmore property ─ but spent his later years in London and on the continent. The youngest of the Parnell brothers had determined his attitude to Ireland's land question: hard-nosed absenteeism.
Meanwhile, in a better-known chapter of the Parnell story, elder brother John Howard Parnell was taking the opposite tack, becoming a convert to the principle of tenant right. The chronology of his memoirs, written decades later, is not straightforward, but the outline of the story of the management of his Armagh property is clear enough. Soon after coming of age in 1864, John Howard Parnell left for America where he established a fruit-growing business in Alabama. (He pioneered the export of frozen peaches to Ireland, a breakthrough that went unappreciated by Wicklow farmers.) In his absence, he appointed Arthur Dickinson as his agent for Collure, apparently to enable him to support sister Emily as his wife. When John Parnell returned to Ireland he discovered, not surprisingly, that Dickinson had allowed the rents to fall into arrears, and for the next two years, he managed the property himself. At first, so he recalled, he encountered 'little trouble' in collecting his arrears, but in due course he concluded that 'the tenants could not possibly pay in a bad time, as it was difficult enough to get in the rents in comparatively good times.' The experience converted him to the support of Isaac Butt's tenant-right campaign. There is some gap in logic here. When John Howard Parnell came forward to contest Wicklow in 1874, he naturally tackled the difficulty that he was perceived as 'really more of an Armagh man' by emphasising his experience as a Northern landlord of the Ulster Custom, by which tenants could claim the value of improvements they had made to their holdings. 'My experience of the working of the Ulster system of Land Tenure in the North convinces me that there is no other remedy for the unfortunate relations existing between landlord and tenant existing in other parts of Ireland than the legalization through the whole country of the Ulster Tenant Right,' he told the electors of Wicklow. This he defined as 'practically Fixture of Tenure,' arguing that Ireland needed 'some equivalent or extension of a custom which has so increased the prosperity of the thriving North.' The only problem with this ringing declaration was that John Parnell's later evidence recounts that the Collure tenants, presumably beneficiaries of the Custom, were not thriving at all. The Parnell challenge in the 1874 Wicklow election was not sufficiently threatening to encourage anybody to check on John Howard Parnell's claims.
John Howard Parnell gave two accounts of discussions about agrarian politics at Avondale in 1873, and it is his evidence that seems to indicate that it was the elder brother, not the future Irish leader, who first embraced the principle of tenant right. In his 1914 memoirs he recalled 'arguing with Charley as to the desirability of extending the system throughout Ireland.' More specifically, he told Parnell's biographer R. Barry O'Brien that he had urged his brother to enter politics while they were having breakfast one morning. 'Go in and help the tenants, and join the Home Rulers.' Parnell masked a cautious interest behind a theatrical concern for the freshness of his boiled egg. He declared himself to be 'in favour of the tenants and Home Rule' but he was still feeling his way in regard to Butt's developing movement. There were two obstacles, one theoretical and the other personal. Even in 1873, Parnell identified Home Rule was the dominant issue. 'The whole question is English dominion,' he told John, and he was not confident that the campaign for tenant right would see the centrality of the constitutional issue. Underlying tension in the relationship between land reform and Home Rule would recur at intervals throughout Parnell's political career. The other problem, so John Parnell reported to O'Brien, was that Parnell felt 'I do not know any of the men who are working the movement.' 'Go and see them,' John replied. In his 1898 account, John did not make it very clear why his brother was reluctant to seek out the leaders of the Home Rule League: after all, he was quick enough to contact them once the 1874 general election was called, and they were glad to welcome the inheritor of a historic name. By the time he came to pen his memoirs, the controversies of Land League days were fading into the past, and John added a revealing detail. To the suggestion that he join the Home Rulers, the Parnell of 1873 'curtly' replied: 'I could not, because I would not join that set.' His brother interpreted this to mean that Parnell's 'pride' blocked his adherence to the Home Rulers 'because they were beneath him in station.' Few biographers have bothered to incorporate the story into their narratives, for the simple reason that it just did not make sense. If there was a political objection to the social character of the Home Rule movement, it was rather that it embraced too many gentlemanly amateurs.
To understand why Parnell felt that he could not 'join that set' in 1873, we need to go back to the March day when his brother Henry attempted to assert legal possession of the homesteads in the eerily empty townland of Tombeagh. He was accompanied by a bailiff and 'by another gentleman, said to be a near relative'. There can be little doubt that this 'near relative' was the man who would six years later be the leader of a radical tenant movement that teetered on the verge of social revolution. When Parnell came forward to contest County Dublin the following year, his Conservative opponents circulated a broadsheet quoting the report, and the episode would surface again during the Split in 1890-91. Indeed, the close physical resemblance between the two brothers caused confusion, with the Freeman's Journal describing Henry Parnell as 'an extensive landlord in the County Wicklow'. This gave Parnell a loophole through which he could denounce the story as 'a very transparent electioneering trick' during the Dublin by-election. 'I was no way, directly or indirectly, connected with or mixed up in any way, with the said dispute, nor could I in any way control or influence the matter.' This was a risky strategy, but two days before the poll brazen denial probably seemed the best response. Was it true? The Freeman's Journal had been keen to portray Henry Parnell as the puppet of sinister advisors: it is probable that 'in the first instance he acted under the advice of others.' However, this was a tactical speculation designed to paint a picture of honest tenants at the mercy of a callow landlord.
Parnell's mother, always a loose cannon in the field of public relations, gave a very different account in 1881. Her son Henry, she recounted, 'showed extraordinary business capacity ... in the rearrangement of his property and its sale to his tenants.' According to Thomas Sherlock's pioneering biography, Henry Parnell 'at the very threshold of manhood, gave practical effect to the theory of peasant proprietorship by disposing of his estate to those who tilled it.' To say the least, this was an exaggeration. Just one thirty-acre lot auctioned in 1874 is recorded as being purchased by the tenant. Six lots were purchased by two bidders, while another was 'sold to Mr C.S. Parnell.' It is of course possible that some of the lots withdrawn from sale were subsequently sold to sitting tenants, but Tombeagh, the largest single item in the sale, was in the hands of the Fitzwilliams ten years later. If some Clonmore farmers acquired freehold of their land from Henry Parnell, it was as the result of a commercial transaction, not because of any idealistic ideology. On balance, it would seem that Henry Parnell charted his own course when he came of age in 1871, but this is not to say that he was necessarily at the helm. He did not graduate from Cambridge until 1873, by which time he was reading for the Bar in London, although he was never to practise as a barrister. In 1874, he was living off Park Lane in London's West End. The anonymous critic of 1880 in the Irish Times claimed that Parnell acted as his brother Henry's agent. 'He made the property pay, he raised the rental and those who would not consent to the increase were served with a notice to quit and an ejectment.' It is likely that this allegation was as great a distortion in one direction as Parnell's indignant disclaimer during the Dublin by-election had been a misrepresentation in the other: as Foster pointed out, once they had scored their passing hit, Parnell's enemies did not follow up the charge even in the superheated atmosphere of 1880. It is entirely plausible that Parnell was the messenger for the Clonmore rent demands even if he did not care for the message. After all, from early 1873, when he returned from the United States, he was permanently resident at Avondale, and Henry was not. He might not have acted formally as his brother's agent, but he was close enough to Clonmore to keep a fraternal eye on the management of the property.
To suggest that Parnell was more closely involved in his brother's attempts to maximise the income from Clonmore in 1872-73 than he cared to admit is not to accuse him of hypocrisy in his subsequent political career. He might well have felt reservations about Henry's course of action, and it would not have been difficult to conclude that the apparently small increases in rent squeezed from the peasantry merited the bad publicity and general unpleasantness of the Tombeagh confrontation. It would, however, account for Parnell's disdainful rejection of the idea of throwing in his lot with 'that set' in 1873, when the Freeman's Journal had so recently held his brother up to ridicule. Whatever the obstacle in Parnell's mind, it was removed soon enough. Within a year, he was a tenant-right candidate for parliament.
Parnell's involvement with Clonmore almost certainly explains another mystery, which is unanswered because it has never been asked. It is a well-established part of the biographical story that he wanted to stand for Wicklow at the general election of 1874, but was debarred from coming forward because he was serving as high sheriff, which inconveniently made him the returning officer for the constituency. However, he could have offered himself in the adjoining county of Carlow, where the two sitting Conservative MPs were returned unopposed. (One of them was the remarkable Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh. Born with only stumps for arms and legs, he nonetheless became a successful horseman, sailor, traveller, father and politician ─ but he was still a Conservative.) Landlord influence was strong in Carlow, and the constituency had not been contested since 1852. However, in that year, John Ball of the Irish Independent Party had taken one of the seats, despite being an outsider who had been adopted only three weeks before polling. Carlow was precisely the kind of constituency where the new secret ballot might have overturned landlord control: Kavanagh would go down to defeat in 1880 thanks to what he called 'the treachery and deceit of my own men,' tenants who promised him their support but deserted him in the secrecy of the polling booths. A Home Rule candidate was in the process of being returned without opposition for Carlow Borough, which indicates that some sort of electoral machine was available for mobilisation at the heart of the county constituency. Three days before nominations, the Freeman's Journal cheered its readers with the optimistic assurance that 'the disgrace of having this really patriotic county represented by such a pair of anti-Irish politicians may yet be averted.' Unfortunately, the reported 'negotiations ... for the bringing forward of two Home Rulers' proved fruitless. Had Parnell offered himself for Carlow, he would have faced the double handicap of being a carpet-bagger with a tenuous and vicarious foothold -- and that at one extremity of the county, but his claims upon the electors would have been at least as strong as those of John Ball in 1852, or of his own upon the voters of Meath in 1875. Of course, these are might-have-beens. The substantive point is that Henry Parnell's quarrel with his Clonmore tenants was enough to close off any chance that Parnell could have contested Carlow as a Home Ruler in 1874. In the event, his entry into politics was only slightly delayed.
While the three Parnell brothers adopted different strategies in relation to the estates they inherited, there was one common theme: at an early stage each of them abandoned any serious hope of deriving any substantial income from rents. Henry sold out and, although he used some of the proceeds to purchase a smaller estate in Kildare, his subsequent lifestyle as a gentleman with private means suggests that he had investment income from outside Ireland. John Howard Parnell had a secure alternative income from his Alabama business interests, confirmed by his return to America in 1876, and could afford to take a lofty view of agrarian issues. Parnell himself is generally portrayed as an indulgent landlord who dabbled without much effect in misplaced schemes for industrial development. When he contested the Dublin by-election, a Wicklow neighbour praised 'his acts as a landlord' and, the following year when he was elected in Meath, the parish priest of Rathdrum testified to the comfortable position of his tenants. Of course, his generous treatment of his Avondale tenants, not to mention his inability to pursue them for arrears, helped foster his political image as a 'good landlord' who had nobly sided with the people. This has tended to disguise the extent to which Parnell, like his brothers, had decided to shift his income-generating activities away from immediate exploitation of the agrarian sector of the economy.
Charles Stewart Parnell: Construction Industry Entrepreneur
More than thirty years after Foster's careful exploration of his business interests, Parnell's biographers have still not adjusted to their significance. As recently as 2004, Paul Bew could write that Parnell 'drifted into the world of patriotic politics ... partly as a consequence of lack of success in other enterprises'. If this is an allusion to the Avondale sawmills, it is at the very least unsubstantiated. Parnell was certainly enthusiastic about his sawmills, winning the admiration of his employees for working hard among them. 'The sawmill, from its foundation to the erection of the machinery', reported a journalist in 1880, '... was constructed from the plans and under the direct supervision of Mr. Parnell himself.' With what may seem misplaced pride, he claimed that he had almost lost a finger while installing the water wheel that powered the mill. He culled trees from his estates, taking care to reserve the timber rights when Avondale had to be mortgaged in 1871. Did it pay? His brother's memoirs imply that it did, even contributing the mysterious information that by 1873 he was exporting products to the United States 'in order to provide for the growing demand in America for Irish-made articles.' By 1885, Parnell had completed a second, and larger, sawmill, which employed about 25 men.
One of the peculiarities of Parnell's Avondale timber operation is that he does not seem to have advertised, unlike the rival John Edwards and Sons firm in Wicklow town. This would suggest that Parnell targeted a very local market, even though by 1891 he was supplying wooden setts to pave Dublin streets, and also railway sleepers. When John Howard Parnell took over Avondale in 1891, the foreman of the sawmill offered to walk into Rathdrum 'and try to get some orders for sawn timber.' He returned with a commission to make coffins. In reality, once we cease to see Charles Stewart Parnell as primarily a landlord and focus rather upon his entrepreneurial activities in sawmilling, his motivation makes entire sense. Tenant right was intended to encourage Irish farmers to improve their properties. These improvements included the construction of better homesteads for themselves, as well as barns, cowsheds, stables and pigsties. As a landowner, Parnell might not benefit from such economic activity, but as one of only two or three suppliers of sawn timber in County Wicklow, he had everything to gain from creating the political preconditions for a construction boom. As he argued in his first election address in 1874, tenant right would 'promote the prosperity of the whole community.' A prosperous countryside would create the rising tide needed to refloat the wreck of Avondale.
Following the substantial victory of the 1881 Land Act, Parnell branched out into quarrying. We know remarkably little about this venture, mainly because his contemporaries did not take it very seriously. The Nationalist press largely ignored its leader's entrepreneurship: the major exception was the coverage of an inspection visit to his Arklow quarries by a deputation from Dublin City Council in 1885. This group included Professor James Dewar of Cambridge University as a technical expert, and Parnell regaled him with the story of his downfall as an undergraduate. In 1888, it was reported that Parnell employed 150 men in his quarries. It was a London newspaper that reported in 1889 that the Arklow quarries were planning to diversify into the production of macadam (crushed gravel for road-making) with the intention of penetrating the British market. It was a Unionist politician who revealed in 1890, during some sparring over the utility of Home Rule, that Parnell was exporting not only to Cardiff, a cheeky riposte to the powerful Welsh quarry industry, but even as far away as Gibraltar. In the last year of his life, Parnell had constructed a tramway from his main quarry to Arklow harbour, where long-demanded improvements were finally under way. An Irish industry sending quarry products to the Rock of Gibraltar ought to have been a matter for national pride, but Standish O'Grady, admittedly no sympathetic commentator, thought Parnell 'almost cracked' in his enthusiasm for his quarries when they had a brief conversation, a few months before his death in 1891. Equally, in the brutal conflict of the Split, it suited Tim Healy to belittle Parnell's business ventures. Commenting scornfully on the fallen leader's clash with his parliamentary colleagues, Healy remarked: 'I suppose he can quarry a lot more men like us from the quarries of Avondale.'
In the absence of either published company accounts or private records, only a tentative assessment of the effectiveness of Parnell's quarrying enterprises is possible. His brother recalled that the Arklow quarry cost £10,000 to establish. Further investment, of 'several thousand pounds,' was needed for machinery to crush waste material into macadam, and John Howard Parnell estimated that £5,000 was spent 'before it began to pay'. These were sums comparable to the mortgages on Avondale that proved so burdensome. Was John right in believing that the venture eventually paid? Profit margins were undoubtedly narrow, and the whole enterprise depended upon its size, so that the difference between bonanza and disaster could turn upon a few pence in a single calculation. According to Katharine O'Shea, Parnell adopted a profit-sharing scheme that successfully increased productivity among his men. The fervent Parnellite Katharine Tynan was told that Parnell's profits on the paving setts which he was selling in Dublin and Cardiff were wiped out when his employees went on strike in 1891. It is a reflection on Victorian perceptions of gender that two of the women who were close to him should have proved better capable of appreciating the finances of his quarry business than most of his male contemporaries. The strike, which began in June 1891 and quickly became entangled in the acrid conflicts of the Split, hardly figures in Parnell biographies, although it surely merits a place among the increasing pressures that culminated in his death in October. As always, Parnell defended himself robustly, claiming that he had spent between £5,000 and £10,000 since 1884 to create employment for one hundred men and boys at Arklow. His claim that he had not made any money from the Arklow venture may well be true: large-scale investment does not always show immediate returns, but it was made at a time when he needed to persuade voters that he was politically disinterested, and strikers that he had no spare cash.
When they were mentioned at all, the Arklow quarries were associated with the production of setts for the streets of Dublin and Cardiff. Like the sawmills, the quarries may also have provided building materials: it is a matter of general observation that there was a great deal of new construction, both urban and rural, in late-nineteenth century Ireland, much of it using dressed stone that was probably machine-cut in commercial quarries. Parnell's decision to apply for a £1,200 government loan to build cottages at Avondale in 1884 was no doubt a benign initiative, but it may not have been entirely altruistic, if he was able to supply the materials himself. (Another business venture, to which Parnell briefly referred in 1891, his attempt to develop 'a peat litter industry in the county Kildare,' was also logically linked to quarrying. The absorbent qualities of peat litter made it excellent floor covering for cattle sheds and slaughterhouses, with the additional advantage that it could be recycled on to the land, but its efficient use required flagstones and not the beaten earth that would have formed the interior of most traditional farm buildings.) The Arklow quarry venture also provided Parnell with an economic and political argument for Home Rule. He congratulated the 1885 delegation from Dublin because the Corporation had stood firm in purchasing his setts despite a price-cutting manoeuvre by Welsh quarry-owners, intended to drive him out of business. It was an example of the way an Irish parliament could extend short-term protection to native industries until they found their feet. As discussed below, he brought this transaction into his confidential talks with Lord Carnarvon on Home Rule.
Parnell's quarrying enterprise represented an important development in another respect, since it took him further down the road of separating landownership from rural entrepreneurship. His first ventures, in the eighteen-seventies, were on his own land around Avondale, but even then he was renting some quarries from neighbours. In August 1882, a correspondent of the Irish Times lamented the lack of entrepreneurship and quality control in the Irish quarry industry, specifying the existence of 'a large mass of stone exactly similar to the famous Welsh slate' in the valley opposite Avondale. Parnell immediately commissioned an investigation, and three months later jubilantly reported to Katharine O'Shea that he had 'discovered several quarries on my own land, much nearer to the railway station than the one we are working on, and for which we have to pay a heavy royalty.' These quarries did not produce the quality of stone that Parnell coveted, and were probably worked only intermittently. Soon afterwards, in 1884, he became interested in a whinstone deposit at the appropriately named Big Rock near Arklow. Parnell leased the resource from its owner, Lord Carysfort, initially operating through an intermediary. Parnell told his brother that he thought Carysfort might block the deal on political grounds, although he later explained that his cloak-and-dagger approach was designed to protect himself against punitive rent demands. Carysfort, it seems, was happy to see jobs created, even though he had not thought of exploiting the resource himself.
Two points stand out about Parnell's Arklow venture. First, this was not some Third World-style political project that defied economic logic. In the years after his death, 'the famous Parnell quarries', as they were popularly known, managed to surmount periods of difficulty to survive until closure late in 1929, probably forced by worldwide recession. Second, for Parnell, Arklow finally broke the link between landownership and rural enterprise. His attempt to sell his Avondale property in 1882 was not directly linked to Arklow, since the Big Rock project only took shape two years later. However, in the aftermath of the 1881 Land Act, it made sense to liquidate the asset, insofar as the Avondale property portfolio was an asset, and at the very least pay off its encumbering mortgages, to clear the way to raise capital for the large-scale enterprise that Parnell was searching to establish. Parnell, in short, was simply following the path trodden by his brother Henry eight years earlier. He was prevented from selling by the sentimental outburst of the Parnell Tribute, which endowed him with an embarrassing but compelling cheque for £37,011. Ironically, Parnell, the champion of the tenants, became the only landlord in Ireland who could not rid himself of the incubus of a loss-making estate. In the internecine battle of the last year of his life, it suited Parnell's detractors to depict his landlord status in a much more negative light than had been the case with earlier hero-worship. This class categorisation was a simple way of attributing arrogance, suggesting sexual immorality and ─ perhaps crucially ─ a surrogate means of highlighting Parnell's Protestantism without formally descending into sectarianism. But it was his own followers who had insisted that Parnell remain a landlord. For his part, he used the Tribute money to finance his Arklow venture. Despite the encumbrance of the Avondale finances, he did not even pay off the Wigram mortgage, which constituted the largest segment of the debt. To the end, Charles Stewart Parnell was a businessman, an entrepreneur who needed a prosperous countryside of farmers with money in their pockets and incentives to improve their holdings, in an Ireland governed through a local legislature empowered to encourage native industry. Once we see Parnell in that light, the moment we strip him of the misleading mythologies of the alienated undergraduate and the quixotic landlord, his motivation ceases to be noble and mysterious, and his political career makes complete and practical sense.
The origins of Parnell's interest in politics
The conventional biographical portrait holds that Parnell knew little about politics before he stood for election in 1874, and was a political innocent when he entered parliament a year later. This consensus ought to have raised the questions – indeed, the flashing lights – that asked, first, why did somebody so devoid of political enthusiasm show such a determination to become an MP and, second, how did he become so formidably well-informed in such a short time at Westminster? Accordingly, it is necessary to re-examine what Bew has called Parnell's 'prolonged, if pleasant, adolescence', which lasted until he was 27. 'I cannot say that I was very much interested in political questions at that time,' he told the Special Commission in 1888, when asked about his attitudes prior to 1874. Yet his other answers belied this denial. He had followed the activities of the Fenians in 1865. 'I was at Cambridge then. I watched the course of that movement with some interest and attention'. He had taken 'a little part' in the 1868 general election, 'in favour of the Liberal candidate for the county of Wicklow.' In fact, no great involvement was required, for the two parties agreed to split the representation, with one Liberal and one Conservative MP. John Howard Parnell recalled that his brother's interest in public affairs predated Cambridge, and that it was through the American Civil War that he 'first took an interest in politics. ... Charley eagerly read every item of information in the newspapers'. John's reminiscences were written down decades later, but the memory of heated discussions, in which Parnell championed the North, seem vividly accurate. Also plausible is the claim that the young Parnell used to tease his radical sisters by pretending to take the Conservative side in political arguments – this, after all, was the boy whose father had wanted to become a barrister. One episode that dramatically shaped his political attitudes was the hanging of the 'Manchester martyrs', the three Fenians who paid the supreme penalty for the shooting of Sergeant Brett in 1867. Moreover, he was the great-grandson of Sir John Parnell, the incorruptible defender of the old Irish Parliament. In 1875, Parnell would claim that 'since he first could think', he had subscribed to Home Rule principles.
In addition, by the early eighteen-seventies, he had begun to perceive a strategy that might advance Ireland's cause. He had 'some knowledge, not a very deep knowledge, of Irish history,' he said in 1888, in his habitually self-deprecating manner, 'and had read about the Independent Opposition movement of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy and the late Mr Frederick Lucas in 1852, and whenever I thought about politics, I always thought that that would be an ideal movement for the benefit of Ireland.' The 'great men of '52' had been unable to lead a united party, partly through internal subversion, partly because, as Parnell put it in 1888, Irish voters were 'driven in like sheep to the polls' by their landlords. The introduction of secret voting, through the Ballot Act of 1872, encouraged him to believe that 'the political situation in Ireland was capable of very great change.' 'I have never believed in the possibility of maintaining an independent Irish party in the House of Commons for any length of time,' he told a Dublin audience in 1882, although he was confident that it could be maintained 'for such a time as will enable it to attain the great object of reform which has always possessed the hearts of the Irish people,' the restitution of legislative independence. Much of Parnell's strategy during the 1890-91 Split makes sense as a re-enactment of the events of the eighteen-fifties: John Morley's alleged suggestion, which Parnell revealed in 1890, that the Home Rulers should provide a Chief Secretary and an Irish law officer in the next Liberal government, had Sadleir and Keogh written all over it. Even before the 1872 Ballot Act, he showed interest in one parallel development, the disestablishment of the Protestant Church. In September 1869, when the Fellows of Magdalene still assumed that he would return to Cambridge after his recent rustication, Parnell put his name forward to become a delegate to one of the conferences arising out of the disestablishment process. Rathdrum's Protestants did not select the 23 year-old. He played little part in Church activities thereafter, but he was certainly aware of what was happening to the denomination in which he had been born.
Even Lyons, who consistently denigrated the young Parnell, had to accept that the Fenian campaign 'had made it difficult for him to remain entirely ignorant of the Irish situation, but it had not moved him to action.' There is enough to demonstrate that, in his early twenties, Parnell was aware of political issues around him, even if he lacked either the experience or the resources to become involved in public activities. Indeed, it is worth inverting the standard picture of an ignorant and disengaged young man, to set Parnell's later career against two episodes that it would have been hard to have ignored, the 1866-7 crisis leading to the Second Reform Act, and the 1870 Land Act.
The origins of Parnell's interest in politics: factoring in the Second Reform Act
Although nominally heading a Liberal government, Lord Palmerston had blocked demands for further parliamentary reform for several years prior to his death in October 1865 – which occurred during Parnell's first week in Cambridge. In March 1866, Palmerston's successors, Russell and Gladstone, introduced a new Reform Bill, at just the moment when Parnell, for financial reasons (as argued above) was failing to complete his first year at Cambridge. The provisions of the Bill alarmed the elitist Whig wing of the Liberal party, and in late June a minority Conservative administration was formed, holding office on sufferance from their divided opponents. Since a general election had taken place in mid-1865, just a year earlier, there was a widespread consensus that the existing House of Commons should solve the issue. This the Conservatives, led by Derby and Disraeli, achieved through an impressive series of manoeuvres between February and August 1867 – spanning the two terms in which Parnell took his second-year examinations at Cambridge. For the victors, there was the political kudos of settling an issue that had divided their opponents. But there were practical advantages for the Tories in controlling the nature of the settlement. With apparent paradox, they expanded the urban electorate into something close to manhood suffrage but, since the towns were predominantly Liberal anyway, this made little difference to the electoral balance. More important, they resisted the democratisation of the countryside, their own heartland: the extension of the vote to male farm labourers had to wait until 1884, when Parnell made sure that the provision extended to Ireland as well, massively expanding the Home Rulers' power base. In parallel legislation for the redistribution of constituencies, Disraeli ensured that few seats were added to the growing towns, while industrial communities that had inconveniently spread into the counties were transferred to urban constituencies. It was the third time in forty years that a Tory/Conservative ministry had carried a major reform. Like Wellington's concession of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and Peel's abandonment of the Corn Laws in 1846, the Derby-Disraeli espousal of parliamentary reform in 1867 had the enormous advantage of neutralising the House of Lords, whose built-in Conservative majority reluctantly swallowed unpalatable medicine from their own leaders.
Parnell's strategy during the Home Rule crisis twenty years later suggests that he was in some measure hoping to re-enact the manoeuvres of the Second Reform Act. His close associate, William O'Brien, believed that he had 'a rooted conviction that, so long as the House of Lords survived, it was a Tory Government alone that could bring a Home Rule Bill to fruition.' Although it was confidentially conveyed to a Liberal cabinet, his 1884 outline scheme for a Dublin parliament contained some notably conservative devices, such as an initial provision for the nomination of 94 of the 300 members, and 'special arrangements for securing to the Protestant minority a representation proportionate to their numbers'. There was much speculation about the possibility of a future Tory-Parnellite alliance, and Parnell did instruct the Irish in Britain to vote Conservative at the 1885 election, although the gesture was largely aimed at blocking a Liberal landslide. There was scope for a tactical abandonment of Coercion by the Conservatives, and a genuine area of agreement in support of denominational education, required by the Catholic Church. Once again, in 1885, the Conservatives formed a minority government, although this time they were facing into an election rather than emerging from one.
It was in the context of these pourparlers that Parnell had a cloak-and-dagger interview with the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Carnarvon, himself a participant, although a reluctant one, in the framing of the Second Reform Act two decades earlier. Parnell's biographers have tended to gloss over the encounter, mainly stressing the bizarre circumstance that the two men met in an empty house in London's Mayfair. But Carnarvon wrote a memorandum of their discussion immediately afterwards – characteristically, Parnell did not put pen to paper – and its contents are not only intriguing in themselves, but are best read in the light of the events of 1866-7. Having expected a frigid confrontation, Carnarvon was surprised to find Parnell 'singularly moderate', and anxious to find 'common ground' on all disputed points. He accepted Carnarvon's insistence that any solution should be reached within a fundamental acceptance of Union between the two countries, 'adding some words of his own as to his desire that a better Government of Ireland should provoke the loyalty of the people.' He was 'willing, if necessary, to take all power away from the Irish Legislative Body on the Land Question, leaving it to be settled by Parliament in the first instance.' (This, of course, made sense if the aim was to establish a State-funded peasant proprietary, which only the Imperial [United Kingdom] Treasury could finance.) Although Carnarvon believed that he had broached the question of minority representation, Parnell had already demonstrated in his 1884 memorandum that he favoured the principle. Indeed, he was prepared to permit a one-third minority to block 'unjust or rash legislation'. (Since Nationalist Ireland comprised at least three-quarters of the island, this was in reality a safe concession.) Parnell 'entirely' accepted Carnarvon's view that 'that in any changes of a constitutional nature, there should be a gradual growth and power of development, so as to accustom the people to the exercise of duties and powers.' For a politician who insisted that no man could set bounds to the march of a nation, it really did not matter where the process began. If the Conservatives could deliver an embryo legislature – most important of all, by getting it through the House of Lords – then large sacrifices of initial autonomy could be tolerated. (Parnell later repented of his flexibility, urging the rejection of similar terms from Gladstone in 1890.)
Interestingly, Parnell, who was not normally loquacious, talked about two aspects of the Irish situation that touched closely upon his own affairs. 'He spoke at some length as to tenants and landlords, in a reasonable and fair way', mentioning that 'the landlord [presumably here meaning 'the typical landlord'] had great difficulties from the smallness of his property, his mortgages, etc.' Indeed, his one specific request was that the government should press forward with its current Land Purchase Bill, even making the Commons sit on a Saturday to debate the necessary stages. He also spoke, 'with considerable earnestness', of 'his desire to improve the industrial resources of Ireland.' To achieve this, he insisted that some measure of protection must be accorded to Irish producers, but he seems to have implied that this might be achieved, not by tariffs, but by bounties and subsidies, illustrating his point by allusion to personal circumstances. 'He told me some circumstances relative to a concession which the Dublin corporation had given him, and which enabled him to undersell the Welsh Quarries – a curious episode in a curious conversation.' Carnarvon assumed that he was entering tentative negotiations with the uncrowned king of Ireland. But he was also talking to the inheritor of a moribund property portfolio who had turned entrepreneur to survive.
This essay does not provide the space to review the huge political conflicts of 1885-6 in any detail, but it can highlight the extent to which Parnell hoped to replicate the drama of 1866-7, through which it has always been tacitly assumed he lived entirely unawares. But it does seem permissible to argue that basing an assessment of his strategy throughout the first Home Rule crisis on an attempted replication of the Second Reform Act upheavals helps indicate the depth of his failure. Parnell probably did not swing the entire Irish vote behind the British Conservative party at the 1885 election; he certainly did not place them anywhere near the numbers that would have made a Tory-Irish coalition attractive or even feasible. Worse still, their leader, Lord Salisbury, had not read the script. Despite giving signals that he might facilitate some form of devolution, probably to provincial councils, he refused to emulate Wellington in backing down in the face of a united Nationalist Ireland. Having been an internal party critic in 1867, he was not prepared to emulate Disraeli's ducking and weaving mitigation of inevitability. Most of all, he had no intention of becoming another Peel, carrying a noble reform at the cost of splitting his own party. Parnell's strategy of playing off two roughly balanced British political parties was thwarted by a structural upheaval that created a blocking Unionist alliance. The departure of the aristocratic Whigs from the ranks of Liberalism came as no surprise, but the defection of the Chamberlainite Radicals meant that the House of Commons was as effectively closed to Home Rule as the House of Lords would prove itself to be in 1893. The infusion of a radical thread into Unionism was one factor that did, in the longer term, bring about land purchase legislation, but even here progress was slow during Parnell's remaining lifetime. In terms of 1886, Parnell's defeat was total, and he knew it. 'I have gone the whole round of English parties during the last few months, he told Andrew Kettle, 'and I have failed all along the line'. The result was a collapse in both his confidence and his health, causing the curious effacement of his leadership throughout 1887, when he lost the initiative to party colleagues over the Plan of Campaign. At Galway in 1886, he had claimed to hold 'a parliament for Ireland in the hollow of my hand.' Within a year, he was a helpless onlooker, ineffectually disapproving of a reckless renewal of agrarian conflict. 'Sixteen years ago I conceived the idea of an Irish parliamentary party independent of all English parties,' he bombastically informed the people of Ireland in November 1890. But the seismic shift had left the Home Rulers with little option but to tie themselves to Gladstone and his reduced-in-size Liberal party. The overt challenge to Parnell's leadership which emerged from the O'Shea divorce case may indeed have been merely delayed by the imbroglio of the Pigott forgeries: he could not be abandoned in the face of English calumny, and he could not be ousted in the immediate glow of vindication. Nonetheless, the bitter truth was that 1852 and 1867 had simply not added to make 1886.
The origins of Parnell's interest in politics: the 1870 Land Act
The other political initiative that Parnell must surely have watched with interest was the Land Act of 1870. It is certainly established that he had an informed sympathy for the tenants by 1873, and his early political manifestoes and speeches show him a critic of the shortcomings of the 1870 Act, 'miserably inadequate', as he called it at Navan in 1875. We have a glimpse of Parnell taking an interest in Church issues in 1869. Although the legal business of his estate was handled by his brother-in-law, Alfred MacDermott, it beggars belief that he was not aware of the provisions of legislation that affected him as a landlord: even if had not studied the actual text, Isaac Butt had produced a handy user's guide that went through several editions.
The key issue here is: at what point did Parnell become convinced that government-funded land purchase was the solution to the country's agrarian discontents? While the 1870 Act was primarily intended to regulate relations between landlords and tenants, it did include – at the well-publicised insistence of the English radical John Bright – provision for land purchase. Gladstone's commitment to fiscal probity ensured that the terms offered were in fact less generous than those already incorporated into the measure for disestablishment. Sales were of course entirely voluntary. Tenants could apply to the Board of Works for a loan covering two-thirds of the purchase price, repayable at five percent interest over 35 years. One might imagine the young inheritor of the Avondale portfolio taking an interest in that. However, the terms were not attractive, as the Freeman's Journal pointed out in 1872 when it examined why 'the most popular portion of the Land Act' had resulted in the sale of just 3,721 acres across the whole of Ireland. An Irish farmer who had succeeded in saving one third of the price of the land he occupied was unlikely to have thirty five active years ahead of him: 'no tenant who purchases under the Act can reasonably be expected to live to be the fee-simple owner of his farm.' Worse still, since the repayments effectively replaced rent (and accordingly did little to reduce overall outgoings), the Act merely conferred a contingent title until the whole debt was extinguished. Everything was lost if a purchaser defaulted on his payments, or even died intestate. There were other hurdles to face too, such as the cost of establishing title.
Since by 1873 Parnell felt strongly about tenant right issues, it is likely that he was aware of the 'Bright clauses', as the land purchase provisions of the 1870 Act were known. In March 1878, he raised the parallel question of the purchase of Church of Ireland lands under the disestablishment legislation in the House of Commons, only to be told that 'in the present condition of Public Business' it was impossible to find time to debate the matter – an example of one of the practical arguments of Home Rulers in favour of devolution. Parnell introduced a private member's bill to tackle technical problems, which was blocked by the government, giving him the opportunity to demand -- with brazen irony -- that something should be done to curb parliamentary obstruction. But he does not seem to have publicly mentioned the issue of land purchase in relation to the Bright clauses of the 1870 Land Act until his speech at Ballinasloe on 3 November 1878, stating – almost in passing towards the end of a lengthy oration – that he favoured reform which would make Irish tenants 'possessors of their own farms'.
A parliamentary committee had reported on the land purchase provisions of the 1870 Act five months earlier. Although its recommendations for reform were small, Parnell referred in positive terms to the work of the committee, and its endorsement of the idea of eighty percent State loans to tenants seeking to buy their holdings may have encouraged him to see the establishment of peasant proprietary as a feasible aim. Moreover, it was no accident that Ballinasloe should have been the place where the idea first made its way into his pronouncements. One of the witnesses who gave evidence to the parliamentary committee was Matthew Harris, secretary of the Ballinasloe Tenants' Defence Association, and the driving force behind it. Harris predictably called for procedural simplification of the Bright clauses, but he also insisted that 'a large portion' of Connacht farmers would buy their land if the State advanced three-quarters or four-fifths of the purchase price. Harris was led through his evidence by John Philip Nolan, MP for County Galway, indicating that the Home Rulers were looking with interest at a wider scheme of peasant ownership.
Matthew Harris breezily assured the committee that 'the State could not lose at all by the transaction'. The problem was not the threat of failure but, to any economy-minded British statesman, the likelihood of success. If uncountable numbers of Irish tenants were prepared to borrow eighty-percent mortgages from the State, a huge amount of capital would be required. 'I do not apprehend any danger at all of the Government not being able to recover their money,' Harris optimistically observed. But would any British government commit such sums? In the eighteen-seventies, this measure of generosity still seemed unlikely. Edmund Dwyer Gray, proprietor of the Freeman's Journal, ribbed County Dublin tenant activist Andrew Kettle for his visionary schemes. 'Here is Kettle ... talking about millions of money as if it they were the most ordinary things on earth. He wants England to give us only 200 millions to buy out the landlords.'
One other possible linkage needs to be examined in relation to the Ballinasloe meeting. A week earlier, John Devoy had offered Parnell the support of an undefined but certainly influential group of American Irish associated with Clan-na-Gael. They called for a vigorous land agitation 'on the basis of a peasant proprietary, while accepting concessions tending to the abolition of arbitrary eviction.' Was Parnell giving a signal that he was listening? The problem here is one of chronology. Devoy's cablegram was sent on 25 October, but initially addressed to Charles Kickham, leader of the Fenians in Ireland, who almost certainly did not pass it on to Parnell because he disapproved of all forms of parliamentary action. Devoy gave the outlines of the 'new departure' to a New York newspaper two days later, but there is no indication that Parnell knew anything about the initiative when he joined Harris on the platform in remote County Galway on 3 November. On the other hand, his discussions with Fenians earlier that year, and resolutions carried at a Clan-na-Gael meeting in New York in September, would have made him aware of the direction of their thinking. As Bew points out, 'Parnell was almost alone in his views.' No doubt he was sending messages to Devoy, but his analysis is also compatible with a detailed reading of the potential of the 1870 Land Act by a young and virtually insolvent landlord.
At Tralee, a few days after Ballinasloe, Parnell was more forthcoming: 'if, after a time, we find that by extending the principles of the Bright clauses, we can enable the tenants on properties which come for sale in the Landed Estates Court to purchase their holdings in that court, we shall then be preparing the way perhaps for a radical reformation of the land system, and for the establishment of what I believe [to be] the true system of land tenure – the proprietorship of the soil by the people who cultivate it' – sentiments that were loudly cheered. However, 'until that time comes, if it ever does come, and there is no reason why we should not all work for it', the priority must be amendment of the Land Act to strengthen the position of the tenant. At Cavan, in April 1879, 'he looked forward to the times, sooner or later, whereby purchasing the interests of the landlords it might be possible for every tenant to be the owner of the farm which he at present occupies', although he warned that 'this was a matter which might not come perhaps for many years, but still things were marching very fast in that direction.' 'If such an arrangement could be made, without injuring the landlord,' he said at Westport in June 1879, '... it would be for the benefit and prosperity of the country.' Following the 1881 Land Act, he told William O'Brien that Gladstone's legislation would not resolve the grievances of the tenants, but its restrictions on rent 'will bankrupt one-third of the landlords ... and it will make the rest only too happy to be purchased out as an escape from the lawyers. It does not abolish Landlordism, but it will make Landlordism intolerable for the landlords.'
While Parnell's speeches demonstrate the emergence of land purchase as a defined objective, it is less simple to determine precisely when he became aware of the issue, and interested in its potential. At Drogheda in 1884, he engaged in some tweaking of the historical record, implying that the 'desire to acquire landed property ... was the very basis and foundation of the National Land League'. Citing a speech he had made in New York, as evidence that this was 'the position which I took up in 1879,' he repeated that 'you must either pay for the land or fight for it. ... Constitutional agitation and organisation can do a great deal to whittle down the price that the landlord asks for his land, but it must be paid for unless you adopt the other alternative which I say nothing about.' But this declaration formed part of a response to Michael Davitt's divisive campaign for land nationalisation: Davitt had to be stripped of his status as the guru of the Land League, and this required the down-playing of the 1879-82 campaign's emphasis on rent reduction and security of tenure. Parnell himself occasionally referred to precedents from Prussia, France, Belgium, allusions which his biographers have not pursued. It seems doubtful that these parallels really inspired him to integrate land purchase into his over political strategy, the more so as they appear to have rested upon misunderstanding. In his 1866 anti-emigration tract, subtitled A Plea for the Celtic Race, Isaac Butt had called the 1807-11 Stein-Hardenberg reforms in Prussia 'a daring revolution in the laws of landed property [which] elevated the feudal serf to the condition of peasant proprietor.' But such appeals confused the abolition of feudalism with the elimination of landlords. It is more likely that Parnell's interest in land purchase should be traced back to the Bright clauses of 1870. Just when he became aware of them, and grasped their potential, remains uncertain. All that can be said is that the property owner who had resolved, by 1873, to enter politics and fight for the Irish tenant, had probably been aware of the provisions of the Land Act of 1870 from the time of its implementation.
Parnell's first visit to the United States
One other experience surely contributed to the formation of Parnell's political ideas, his first visit to the United States. Here it is necessary to amend the standard accounts of his life story. The sole source for Parnell's first transatlantic journey is his brother John, who devoted almost forty pages to the episode, including much detail that recalled undoubtedly real events. Unfortunately – and, in fairness, he was writing four decades later – John Howard Parnell got the dates wrong. The existence of an element that became essential to the Parnell drama, a love interest, seems to have robbed biographers of any willingness to interrogate the evidence that they so gratefully embraced. On visits to his uncle, Charles Stewart, in Paris, Parnell met a young American woman, who comes down to us only as 'Miss Woods'. 'She was fair-haired, extremely beautiful and vivacious, and Charley fell a complete slave to her.' She was also 'heiress to a large fortune', but Parnell was soon far too deeply in love for the cynical calculation that she might offer a better bet to the restoration of the Avondale fortune than his sawmill. His courtship apparently resulted in an unofficial engagement, although the relationship was more ardent on his side than on hers, and not at all enthusiastically embraced by her parents. In the October after they met, the Woods family travelled on to Rome. After a brief return trip to Avondale, Parnell followed her to the Eternal City, but took refuge in Ireland when Rome fell into the grip of an epidemic. After a winter in County Wicklow, Parnell was reunited with Miss Woods in Paris, and all seemed on track for marriage. It is at this point that John Howard Parnell supplies just one of the two dates in his narrative: that in 'the spring of 1871, he returned to Avondale, owing to his presence being required at the sawmills.' There he spruced up the battered mansion 'for the reception of his expected bride', only to receive news that the Woods family were returning to America, and the engagement was apparently off. He was too late to intercept his reluctant fiancée in France, but – after discussion of investment opportunities with his uncle – he crossed the Atlantic in pursuit.
There are several points to note about this account. One is that Parnell's emotional involvement with Miss Woods sounds in some sense like a re-enactment of his father's wooing of his American mother, a relationship that had broken down in his childhood. Biographers rightly stress that her decision to reject him (and, it would seem, to flee back across the ocean) poked at a deep personal scar. It is also of interest, although the subject has not been discussed, that Parnell should allegedly have visited Rome – and Rome in the time of the ultramontane Pius IX, and of the First Vatican Council, which broke up in October 1870. It would be an insensitive tourist who would travel so far and not set foot inside St Peter's. The Protestant in Parnell and, some would claim, the philistine, might well have been unmoved by the basilica, but as an engineer, he would surely have been impressed by its structure. During his political career, Parnell occasionally had awkward discussions about religion with his Catholic colleagues, generally seeking to avoid causing any offence by expressions of admiration for the spiritual richness of their faith. It seems odd that none of them recalled him talking of a visit to the city that loomed so large in the nineteenth-century Irish imagination.
However, the central, if unnoticed, issue is one of timing. By placing Parnell's departure for America sometime around the spring of 1871, his brother John situated Parnell's Parisian romance in 1870-1. It does not require much historical general knowledge to note that this was also the time of the Franco-Prussian War, which began on 19 July 1870. On 2 September, the French Emperor surrendered to the invaders after the rout of his army at Sedan. The declaration of a republic in Paris two days later might well have been enough to encourage the Woods family to decamp for Rome, but they could hardly have left in October, since the city was besieged from 19 September 1870. Nor, when Paris fell to the Prussians on 28 January 1871, were the city's problems over. From two months from 18 March, the French capital was controlled by the Commune, a revolutionary regime. The Commune was overrun by regular French troops in a week of bloody fighting in May, during which the revolutionaries had executed the Archbishop of Paris. It does not seem likely that Parnell was in the midst of this, searching for the love of his life, and calmly discussing investment opportunities in his uncle's apartment on the Champs Élysées.
The answer to the conundrum is that John Henry Parnell made a mistake, although his disconnected memories of incidents during his brother's American visit were no doubt accurate: Parnell seems to have spent much of his time in the Southern States, including a period staying with John on his Alabama plantation. Thomas Sherlock, whose 1881 biography drew on information from Parnell's mother, stated that he 'travelled in the United States during the years 1872 and 1873.' His evidence, from much closer to the time, is confirmed by a shipping note in the New York Times of 1 May 1872, which reported the arrival of 'C.S. Parnell' on the Scotia from Liverpool.
Of course, it might be argued that it hardly mattered precisely when the pre-political Parnell visited the United States, but in reality the amendment to his movements is of considerable importance. 1872 was an election year. Although it was a low-key presidential contest – Ulysses S. Grant was easily re-elected against the weak challenge of Horace Greeley – there was also the usual election-year raft of Senate, Congressional and State elections. Of course, if we insist on filtering the campaigns through the rigid filter of an innocently apolitical Parnell, we might portray him as examining peach plantations, railway bridges and coal mines oblivious of the excitement around him. But we surely have enough counter-evidence of a Parnell who did indeed take an interest in public events. In any case, it is difficult to be in the USA during an election year and not notice what was going on. The campaigns effectively began, with the nominating conventions, almost immediately after his arrival in May. As a Reconstruction election, 1872 was in some sense a continuation of the Civil War, a contest in which the teenage Parnell had taken a warm interest. Parnell's movements during his first transatlantic tour are not easy to establish, but in Alabama the Parnell brothers called upon James A. Powell, the 'Duke of Birmingham', and it hardly made sense to cultivate his acquaintance without understanding something of his political importance. Parnell may also have had opportunities to study at first-hand the discipline and importance of the Irish vote in the cities (although his brother's account seems to imply that they may not have returned to the North until close to their departure time, early in 1873 and hence after election day, November 5.) It should not be forgotten that he made two further visits to the United States within the next eight years, both specifically aimed at harnessing American Irish support. Locating Parnell in the United States during an election year also adds an important dimension to his later emphasis on the introduction of secret voting as key to his motivation. 'The passing of the Ballot Act in 1872 was the first public event which more intimately directed my attention to politics.' The legislation had been introduced at Westminster before he left for America, and was passed – amid much controversy – during his absence. The Ballot Act, he recalled in 1888, seemed to make possible the creation of an Irish party resolved to force attention to the country's grievances, 'because for the first time it enabled Irish electors to vote free from the coercion of their landlords.' His evidence to the Special Commission makes him sound like a detached observer spotting a theoretical opening in the political game. In fact, he was across the Atlantic, learning at first hand how secret voting could operate. Far from being an untutored neophyte, he returned to Ireland – and determined to enter politics – as one of the few people who understood the potential of the new system.
John Howard Parnell's recollection that his brother was discussing the possibility of entering politics in 1873 needs to be treated with caution, given the unreliability of his dates. However, even Lyons, although wedded to the charming myth that Parnell entered politics on a whim, accepted that he was considering the option in 1873, and even engaged in outline tactical discussions with a Fenian representative. Perhaps the key evidence is that of Sherlock, writing within a decade, who said that Parnell 'consulted with his uncle, Charles Stewart' on the possibility of a career in politics. This suggests that Stewart was the source of his election funds. Uncle Charles died soon after, and a legacy may also have enabled Parnell to meet campaign costs.
Parnell's entry into politics, 1874-5
The process by which Parnell entered politics in 1874 has been dominated by narrative of two experiences that have been relentlessly recounted to make him appear naive and immature. First, there was his attempt to contest County Wicklow at the 1874 general election, an enterprise that allegedly came out of the blue and undoubtedly turned to embarrassment because Parnell happened to be the returning officer, and so was ineligible to stand. The other was his failure as a speaker at a mass meeting in Dublin's Rotunda two months later. Both episodes did indeed take place, and in much the terms they have been so deliciously related, but they are biographically unhelpful. First, their prominence in the Parnell story makes it all the harder to account for his determined and rapid political impact. Second, they obscure the key explanatory thread, that Parnell went into politics primarily as an advocate and spokesman for Ireland's tenants.
The Wicklow election, 1874
Parnell's attempt to contest County Wicklow at the 1874 election has been consistently depicted as the capricious whim of a 'bored and restless' young man. Yet again, there has been a relentless omission by biographers of any interrogation of the context of one of Parnell's key moves. The parliament elected in 1868 was moving towards the close of its maximum seven-year term. At a conference in Dublin from 18 to 21 November 1873, Isaac Butt had reconstructed his Home Rule movement, styled by one supporter 'a private association of gentlemen', into an intended popular movement, the Home Rule League, designed to fight an election. Within two months, it was called upon to enter a contest for which it was not ready. The motives of the prime minister, Gladstone, in calling a sudden election in January 1874 have been much discussed, and lie outside this study. Suffice to say that it was utterly unexpected. 'The political world was stunned.' 'The news of the dissolution of Parliament has taken the country by surprise,' commented Henry W. Fitzwilliam, Wicklow's outgoing Liberal MP. Butt issued a ringing appeal to his supporters: 'the work of years is compressed for you into the next two weeks.' The problem was that nobody had any clear idea of the precise identity of those supporters. Charles Stewart Parnell was by no means the only interested observer who had to make rapid decisions about his course of action.
The inconvenient fact that Parnell, as High Sheriff, was the one voter in County Wicklow who could not seek to become its MP, has been portrayed as comically embarrassing. R. Barry O'Brien, writing in 1898, almost certainly on the basis of contemporary recollections, stated that Parnell pointed out in a late-night conversation with newspaper proprietor Edmund Dwyer Gray that he was High Sheriff, 'but then I can be relieved from the office by the Lord Lieutenant.' Gray naturally urged him to visit the Viceregal Lodge the following morning. Lyons subtly shifted the narrative, claiming that it was Gray who 'pointed out that as Parnell was High Sheriff of his county he would have to ask the Lord-Lieutenant to release him from this post.' By such emendations to the record has Parnell been made to look gauche and unprepared. In the event, Parnell's removal of office was not so straightforward as he had hoped, and the brothers agreed to run John Howard Parnell in his place. 'We would have returned him for our own county (riding the first horse)', Thomas Murray assured the voters of County Dublin soon after, 'but his having accepted the office of High Sheriff rendered him ineligible.' A year earlier, Murray, from Cooladangan, near Arklow, was one of the founders of Wicklow's Tenants' Defence Association. He praised Parnell's 'generous dealings with his tenantry' and hailed him as 'the finest fellow that breathes'.
The predictable chaos engendered by Gladstone's sudden dissolution added to the complications of launching a Parnell candidacy. William R. O'Byrne, of Cabinteely House, County Dublin, was early in the field with a manifesto announcing impeccable views on Home Rule, tenant right and denominational education. The Freeman's Journal called him 'a Catholic gentleman of property and station': he owned extensive property in Wicklow, and had come of age at about the same time as Parnell himself. The complication was that at least two other Home Rule candidates seemed to be on offer: David Mahony of Grangecon was briefly in the field, while Charles P. Archer, a prominent figure in the tenants' movement, was reportedly endorsed by a nomination meeting in Wicklow town, only to be (allegedly) shoved aside by the Parnells immediately afterwards. The device of running John Howard Parnell, home from Alabama, in his brother's stead created a couple of promotional opportunities. As an Armagh landowner, John could wax enthusiastic about the Ulster Custom of tenant right. His time in America, where secular education was the norm, had also convinced him (so he claimed) that 'the attempt to deprive the youth of this country of spiritual instruction must be put down'. But there was no getting around the problem that John was virtually 'a stranger ... as he had been so long resident in America', raising the practical issue of how he could represent Wicklow should he return to his peach plantation in Alabama. After the election, he attacked the 'perfect system of the Tory faction, and the untruthful representations of its agents ... which deterred many of the electors from giving me their second vote'. If true, the Conservatives did at least pay him the compliment of treating his candidacy seriously. Disgruntled Liberals, whose candidate, Fitzwilliam, ran third, pinned the blame for their defeat firmly on the door of Avondale, arguing that '"John Howard" and "Charles Stewart" may be called convertible terms'.
Being returning officer gave Parnell one opportunity, of which he took advantage. The counting of the votes began at midday on a Monday, but the result was not declared until eight o'clock the following evening, an unimpressive speed for a constituency with just 3,500 registered electors. Individual ballots might be secret, but much might be learned from the overall voting patterns. O'Byrne, the respectable Home Ruler, headed the poll with 1,511 votes. Squeezing into the second elected spot was the Conservative, W.W. Fitzwilliam Dick, with 1,166 votes, just edging out the Liberal, W.W. Fitzwilliam, who polled 927. John Parnell came last, on 553. The most notable feature of the polling was the efficient organisation of the Conservatives: 713 of their supporters were 'plumpers', giving their vote to Dick alone, and not devaluing their support by exercising their right to choose a second candidate. Since the Home Rulers were at that time widely regarded as renegade Liberals, the Fitzwilliam camp complained that their natural constituency had been split by a couple of reckless adventurers.
The County Dublin by-election, 1874
A standard account of Parnell's March 1874 by-election campaign in County Dublin appears in the biographies, made all the more realistic by vivid anecdotes, most notably the tale of the candidate's failure as a speaker at a packed public meeting in the Rotunda. The detail was cleverly manipulated by R. Barry O'Brien, and has been unquestioningly recycled by his successors, to omit a key fact: Charles Stewart Parnell was primarily the nominee of the County Dublin tenants' movement, endorsed by the Home Rule League with minimal enthusiasm. Unless we have Parnell accurately classified at the outset of his political career, we can hardly expect to assess how his turbulent trajectory evolved in the years that followed.
In March 1874, while the recriminations of the Wicklow election were still reverberating, a fresh opportunity opened for Parnell to enter politics. Two Conservative MPs had been returned for County Dublin, and one of them, Colonel Thomas Taylor (who had sat for the county since 1841), was promoted to the incoming cabinet of Benjamin Disraeli as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Under the constitutional rules of the day, newly appointed ministers had to return to their constituencies and ask if they were still acceptable representatives. Often, they were unopposed and, as the Conservative candidates had faced no opponent a month earlier, Parnell's intervention aroused some resentment in the Taylor camp. For the Home Rulers, however, the by-election had an alternative symbolism, sharpened by their failure to contest the seat at the general election: if they could not even run a candidate in the metropolitan county, what claim could they make to speak for the people of Ireland in demanding their own parliament? Tenant right campaigners disliked Taylor, who was related to an unpopular landlord, the Marquess of Headfort. For Parnell himself, wedded to the principles of independent opposition, the by-election perhaps recalled the opposition to John Sadleir and William Keogh, leading figures in the Independent Irish Party, who had pledged themselves to independent opposition back in 1852, before immediately accepting government jobs: Keogh won his ministerial by-election, but Sadleir was defeated at Carlow town. 'Will you kindly support me at the approaching election for the County?,' he wrote to the Earl of Howth, until recently a Liberal MP. 'I think there is an important principle at stake.' As Lyons roguishly commented, Parnell, a famously economical letter-writer, did not elaborate on the nature of this important principle, but his commitment to independent opposition suggests that he believed it was inappropriate for any Irish constituency to endorse a Westminster placeman.
Barry O'Brien, himself active in the Home Rule League, recalled a delighted Isaac Butt reporting 'a splendid recruit', with a historic name. Yet it was clear that the Council of the Home Ruler League knew little about their acquisition. 'Will he go straight?' one member asked. 'I would trust any of the Parnells,' replied the veteran Nationalist, John Martin, whose seat in Meath Parnell was to inherit a year later. Nor does it seem that they were very impressed when they interviewed the 'young neophyte'. Charles Stewart Parnell was adopted as the Home Rule candidate because he was already in the field. He was not, as Barry O'Brien sought to depict Parnell in the early years of his career, a Home Ruler who drifted into agrarian agitation. He was a tenant right politician who happened to agree with the main points of the Home Rule platform. The Dublin by-election was the start of a process of infiltration, which culminated within five years in the sweeping aside of the Buttite movement.
Formed early in 1873, the County Dublin Tenants' Defence Association had been a pace-setter, calling upon other counties to organise, and convening a national conference as early as April of that year, at which forty delegates representing eighteen farming organisations from fourteen counties (including Wicklow) took part. One of its most active figures, Andrew Kettle would become a trusted ally of Parnell. (Parnell, whose sense of humour has never been fully appreciated, once solemnly assured Kettle that if he took a leading part in the Land League, his name would become a household word.) Kettle wrote his reminiscences shortly before his death in 1916 and, like John Howard Parnell, he telescoped some events in his memory, for instance confusing the 1874 general election, in which there was a walkover in County Dublin, with the contested by-election that followed. Nonetheless, his account is persuasive. Kettle and his associates particularly disliked Taylor, and wished 'to give the electors an opportunity of testing the Ballot Act' and cause him inconvenience. Yet they recognised that, given the very short time allocated for the by-election campaign, their only chance of mobilising the people was to enlist the co-operation of the Catholic clergy. They formed a deputation to Paul Cullen, Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, who offered them a deal. If they could find a candidate who met their standards on land reform and Home Rule, and his own on denominational education, he would arrange for their campaign meetings to take place in the chapelyards the following Sunday. The discussion took place on a Monday; Cullen gave them until Thursday to find their man. 'Getting a suitable candidate at three days' notice presented a difficulty, and very little money was available for election expenses.' Somebody had the 'happy thought' of offering the role to 'young Parnell', and a deputation was sent to Avondale to offer him the candidacy. On 7 March, the Dublin Tenants' Defence Association formally adopted Parnell, and promptly issued its own election address. 'A good Tenant-right Candidate has at length offered himself for the service of the Electors of County Dublin. He is a gentleman that comes of a grand old historic family, and is a good Landlord himself.' When nomination papers were formally handed at Kilmainham Court House on 14 March, the signatories for Parnell were headed by Kettle and Charles Reilly of the Tenants' Defence League.
Parnell's own election address, issued from Avondale on 7 March, began with two nods to what we would now call his stakeholders. He promised that he would 'by all means seek the restoration to Ireland of our Domestic Parliament', and pledged himself to 'the Principles of the Irish Home Rule League, of which I am a member' – not mentioning that he had only just joined. He pledged himself to 'act independently alike of all English parties.' Then followed a strong endorsement of denominational education, aimed of course at reassuring Cullen. His wish-list was rounded off with a demand for 'a complete and unconditional Amnesty' to the remaining Fenian prisoners, and a statement of his 'indignation' at the grievances of Irish civil servants, an early example of a bid for special-interest support. But there was not much doubt that Parnell was primarily campaigning as a tenant right candidate. Briefly addressing the Defence Association, he promised that, if he became MP for County Dublin, 'he would use whatever influence the position gave him to advance the cause of the tenant farmers.'
Parnell traded on his patriotic ancestry. 'If I appear before you as an untried man, my name and family are not unknown in the history of Irish politics.' From Rathdrum, Father Richard Galvin circulated his endorsement among the Dublin priests. Parnell was 'a young man of great promise, great shrewdness, and sound judgement.' His father had been 'a humane, considerate, good landlord. All his tenants here are comfortable and independent, with good long leases.' Some might be suspicious of the morals of this handsome young squire, but Fr Galvin insisted that there was never 'the slightest taint of impropriety alleged against any member of this family or household' – a useful moral testimony, since the failure of Parnell's parents' marriage would have been known on many gossip circuits. 'You may absolutely rely on his honour and integrity,' Fr Galvin said of the candidate himself, before signing off with an oddly possessive flourish. 'Such is the decided conviction of his parish priest, who ought to know him well.' Parnell was in the process of being turned into an honorary Catholic. It is unlikely that any cleric would have described himself in similar terms as a neighbour of, say, Sir Edward Carson.
The fact that the biggest meeting in the campaign was held at the Rotunda, in the city centre, and Parnell's own bid for urban middle-class support in the form of the disgruntled civil servants, has given the by-election the flavour of a contest in outer suburban Dublin. But Parnell and his tenant supporters concentrated their campaign in rural north County Dublin, with meetings at Swords, Lusk, Balbriggan and Baldoyle. Taylor contemptuously identified his chief opponents as 'members of a club carrying on its operations principally in the northern portion of the county, called the Tenant Farmers' Club.' Parnell did speak at Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) and, apparently more effectively, at Rathmines, where he was cheered when he said that he advocated Home Rule 'because he believed that until they were permitted to make their own laws, theirs would never be a prosperous nation.' But the candidate did not appear at meetings in his support in Fairview (for the northside communities of Drumcondra, Clontarf and Coolock), Loughlinstown, Cabinteely, Garristown, Blackrock or even Dalkey, where he had briefly lived as a teenager. An open-air gathering at Terenure was told that Parnell was 'canvassing the county': he did in fact appear just as his disappointed supporters were leaving, but evidently decided the audience was not big enough to bother with, and drove away.
Poor time-keeping contributed to Parnell's most famous disaster during the campaign. Hundreds of Dubliners turned out for a mid-afternoon meeting at the Rotunda on 9 March, to endorse the tenants' nominee as the Home Rule candidate. The meeting began without him, and an array of platform speakers filled in time, no doubt accompanied by the wondering hope that the young unknown would indeed show up. A.M. Sullivan was waxing eloquent about the patriotic tradition of Avondale, when 'a tall, slender young man' entered the packed room, and 'looking neither to the right nor the left, began quietly making his way through the crowd towards the platform.' Mistaking a late arrival for a staged entry, the audience erupted into cheers, almost certainly adding to the pressures upon Parnell. When his time came to speak, the candidate managed to utter a few disconnected sentences, 'and in a voice that faltered with excess of feeling.' Curiously, biographers seem to have passed over John Howard Parnell's explanation of the disaster. His brother had written out a speech, and spent 'a whole sleepless night' attempting to memorise it: he was tired and stressed. There was no denying that the Rotunda meeting was a catastrophic failure. It is also likely that if Parnell's future had been in the hands of the Home Rule League, his progress would have halted at that point. 'We had a frightful duffer as a candidate,' one of them commented soon afterwards.
Parnell's poor campaign was all the more regrettable as Taylor ought to have been a joy to run against. He had a bluff Tory way of cutting through the complexity of any unpalatable point of view: tenant right was simply 'confiscation', Home Rule 'nothing short of separation'. If 'some weak Government' conceded a devolved parliament on College Green, 'they would not even then be satisfied; for, judging from the results of former concessions, it would appear that the more they got the more they would ask'. Indeed, after three decades in parliament, he seemed to regard the Irish people as answerable to him, not the other way around. 'If they behaved themselves ... it was quite on the cards that a member of the Royal Family would come and reside in Ireland for a time, or as its governor.' This fell somewhat short of a comprehensive programme for tackling the country's problems. As one of Parnell's backers put it, Taylor was 'more like the representative of an English constituency than of the metropolitan county of Ireland.' Taylor treated his opponent with contempt, telling one meeting 'that he had been at school at Eton with his father', and that if John Henry Parnell had lived, his son would not have been allowed to stand again against him. But only once, and close to polling day, did the Tories manage to lay a glove on their challenger, circulating the story that 'sought to connect me with some difference between Mr Henry Parnell and his tenants.' Taking a risk, Parnell flatly denied that he had any part in the Tombeagh dispute, or could have prevented it in any way. Speaking at Swords, he 'publicly declared that there was not a shadow of foundation that had been circulated'. For good measure, he turned the attack back on Taylor's cousins, the Headforts of Meath, asking 'if there was once a village called Bective, which exists no longer.' (Bective House, near Kells, was the principal residence of the Marquis of Headfort.) It was jibe that can only have made him friends in Royal Meath.
Defeat loomed so obviously that Parnell ungraciously did not trouble to remain at the election count, which saw him defeated by 2,183 votes to 1,235. The Freeman's Journal said it would be 'worse than puerile to attempt to disguise the real character of the result.' The Irish Times charitably remarked that the Home Rulers 'could scarcely have found a more eligible candidate than Mr Parnell', but concluded that neither the ballot nor his bid for civil service votes seemed to have affected the outcome. Both papers tacitly regarded Home Rule as a new manifestation of the Liberal party, and Parnell had only just exceeded the Liberal vote of 1868. But this general verdict of failure may have missed what Parnell was trying to achieve. His campaign focused on north County Dublin, an enclave that did not contain enough voters to neutralise the Conservative strength in the urban fringe – but an area that was characteristic of much of rural Ireland. A correspondent from Balbriggan reported that 'the Ballot Act worked favourably for Mr Parnell, inasmuch as several voters exercised their franchise who might, but for the secrecy of the ballot, have been unwilling to come to the poll.' In one division, with 270 voters, 220 had turned out by five o'clock, and it was estimated that only sixty had voted for Taylor, the reporter hastily adding 'assuming that each man who made his mark in favour of one candidate or the other did so in accordance with his known principles.' County Dublin may have been a forlorn hope, but it was also a dry run, testing the operation of the ballot and persuading suspicious voters that their anonymity was indeed protected. The fact that local operations were masterminded by one of the Home Rule party's few skilled electioneers, Philip Callan from nearby Dundalk (with whom Parnell would later quarrel venomously), also indicates the priority given to the campaign on the ground.
Two footnotes to the County Dublin election underline Parnell's position as a representative of the tenant farmers. The first relates to cost. In an unsubstantiated footnote, R. Barry O'Brien stated that Parnell spent £2,000 on the contest. Kettle gave the figure as 'over £2,000', although whether this represented confirmation or repetition cannot be known. This remarkable outlay has attracted little scholarly attention. The reported figure is open to possible scepticism. At the Fairview meeting, in Dublin's northern suburbs, Maurice Butterly, speaking for the Tenants' Defence Association, said its members 'were prepared to return Mr Parnell as their representative without a shilling of expense'. A.M. Sullivan, from the Home Rule League, agreed: 'by having volunteers in each district to support Mr Parnell's candidature they were not to look to the saving of expense so much as to the principle of setting an example to the rest of Ireland and the world by proving that the people of Ireland, having at heart the cause of Home Rule, would return their own representative without any cost to him.' It may well be that Sullivan's sentiment was as impractical as it was undoubtedly wordy. What seems more certain is O'Brien's other claim that Parnell returned to the Home Rule League an election budget of £300 that they had granted him. Early in April, the County Dublin Tenants' Defence Association recorded receipt of a letter from their candidate 'conveying his thanks for their strenuous efforts' on his behalf. If Parnell did spend anything like the amount reported by O'Brien and Kettle, it is most likely that it came, as Sherlock seems to have hinted, from uncle Charles Stewart in Paris.
The second footnote links the County Dublin campaign to Parnell's selection – and election – in Meath the next year. He had no connection with the county, neither by ancestry nor by property nor any form of economic activity. There had been some initial support for Charles Gavan Duffy, who had just returned after two decades of exile in Australia. There is a certain irony in the fact that Parnell, who professed to admire the men of 1852, should have swept aside one of their few survivors, a politician who, moreover, had held office as premier of the self-governing colony of Victoria and who might therefore be regarded as an authority on the working of a devolved parliament. The main problem with Duffy was that he declined to bind himself to the caucus control, such as it was, of the Home Rule party. However, the clinching element in Parnell's selection was the vocal support for him among the people of Navan, where the by-election nomination meeting was held, a groundswell that deterred any rival proposals. This support for Parnell may become more intelligible once we appreciate that his power base in County Dublin was the northern coastal strip, from Swords to Balbriggan – which immediately adjoins the eastern part of Meath. Parnell himself acknowledged that he had not visited the northern fringe of the county during the by-election campaign, taking care to deliver a report to a mass rally at the village of Nobber six months after his election. His Dublin supporters may well have persuaded their neighbours to back him. Parnell's allusion to the Headforts and their treatment of the inhabitants of Bective probably also stood him in good stead, as well as indicating that he was aware of Meath issues before the possibility of becoming its MP ever arose. While Parnell had the support of the Home Rule League when he went to Meath, the accepted account of his entry into politics in 1874-5 requires re-balancing. Charles Stewart Parnell campaigned primarily as a tenant right advocate, who happened to be emotionally and practically persuaded of the need for Home Rule. A brief survey of his political attitudes during his early years in parliament will round off the picture. It will also show how his party's two main aims, the agrarian and the constitutional, subtly evolved, until they became difficult to combine as a practicable package.
Home Rule and Tenant Right: integrating an entrepreneurial programme
To argue that Parnell entered politics primarily as a tenant right advocate is not to suggest or imply that he did not care about Home Rule: 'they had a right to manage their own affairs in a native parliament,' he told the League in January 1875. As a Parnell of Avondale, he had the idea of an Irish parliament 'fixed in his heart ... since first he could think', as he put it at Navan in April 1875. Even at the outset of his parliamentary career, there were hints that he might go beyond the narrow paths of constitutionalism. 'He did not care when or how it was to be, but he was convinced that whether by peaceful solution, by the pressure of circumstances, or by other methods which he was not there to enlarge upon, the day would come when the Irish people would be self-governing, self-reliant, and self-respecting.' Members of the Home Rule League applauded those sentiments in December 1875, perhaps not realising the breadth of the methods that Parnell declined to discuss. There was no doubt a tactical element in his call, a month later, for the unity of the Irish MPs at Westminster, and unity of the Irish people behind them which 'he felt certain' would achieve their aims 'in one way or other'. He told the Liverpool Irish in November 1876 that 'there was no reason why Ireland under Home Rule would not be Ireland a nation in every sense and for every purpose that it was right she should be a nation.' But his refusal to 'degrade our country into the position of a province' sat uneasily with other statements. 'They in Ireland could not go by themselves,' he told a Dublin Home Rule meeting in January 1875. 'They had not developed their resources, and they must cast in their lot with England'. But, even then, Parnell's sentiments could be double-sided. In his maiden speech, he assured the House of Commons that the concession of tenant right would mean that 'Ireland, instead of being a source of weakness to England, would be a source of strength to England.' More broadly, he promised that Ireland would 'defend England when her hour of trial came; and he trusted the day might come when England might see that her strength lay in a truly independent, a truly free, and a truly self-supporting Irish nation.' Yet later that year, he would adopt a more threatening tone, warning England not 'to go to war with any foreign nation' without first resolving Ireland's grievances.
These might be styled Parnell's macro-pronouncements on Home Rule, inspirational sentiments that ultimately derived from the Volunteer banners of 1782 hanging in the entrance hall at Avondale. In reality, not even the most starry-eyed Nationalist nostalgia could seriously insist on dragging the old Irish parliament back to life from its eighteenth-century timewarp. A workable House of Lords on College Green was probably no longer feasible, and unlikely to have been desirable. A House of Commons elected from vanished boroughs in the Wexford sand dunes at Bannow and Clonmines would have been a farce. 'They had heard much of the constitution of 1782,' Parnell told his Meath constituents in October 1875. 'Well, there were some very good points in that constitution, but there were some very bad ones too.' The obvious defect was it excluded Catholics from membership. Equally bad, in Parnell's eyes, was the fact that the executive was controlled from London, 'appointed by the English government for English purposes, to carry out the policy of England.' Home Rule might start from the basis of 1782, but would have to be amended and improved upon where the original model was defective. There were occasional micro-pronouncements suggesting that, as he took his first steps in public life, Parnell would have been prepared to accept something much less. Care is needed in interpreting his earliest comments, since Parnell was a halting speaker who may not necessarily have expressed himself accurately. But a sentence that he reportedly uttered at Kingstown during the by-election campaign – the day after his failure at the Rotunda – remains intriguing. 'He believed that when they got Home Rule – and he was certain that they would get some part of it before long – they should have their manufacturers encouraged; they should have their gentry living at home and spending their money amongst them, and coming forward on the public platform to represent the liberties of the country.' If we cut through the Arcadian vision of Grattan's Ireland resuscitated, the key words are worth italicising: he was certain that they would get some part of it before long. This is a very long way from the scornfully defiant Parnell of the 1885 general election: 'It is not now a question of self-government for Ireland; it is only a question of how much of the self-government they will be able to cheat us out of.' Actual experience of the House of Commons demonstrated to him that it was 'an antiquated institution which can only perform a portion of its functions' thanks to the connivance of those who overlooked its imperfections and, so he implied in a controversy with Butt, did not care that its inefficiency caused 'much wrong and hardship to my country'. Addressing the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain in 1877, he hinted at a project for devolution all-round, something that would improve the quality of government for England and Scotland too. 'They wanted to break up the legislative functions of the present House of Commons and to redistribute them among small legislative assemblies responsible to the people who elected them.' Did this point to provincial councils, or to elected authorities at county level? The details remained veiled, but the implication could only be that something short of a full Irish parliament would have been acceptable during those first years in politics.
In fact, his motivation could be identified with some confidence. If Parnell the hereditary patriot was inspired by memories of College Green and resentment against 'English dominion', Parnell the practical entrepreneur was a good deal more exercised by the sandbar blocking Arklow harbour. The natural outlet for the trade of much of south-eastern County Wicklow – the heartland of Parnell's entrepreneurial activities – the harbour had been a problem for years. By December 1874, it was 'nearly silted up, and ... virtually useless.' The government refused to invest the £12,000 necessary for remedial work, while (not surprisingly) the harbour tolls were insufficient to meet the interest and capital repayment costs of a loan from public funds. Calling the loss of local industry consequent upon the harbour's closure 'a disgrace to any government or civilized community,' the Irish Times appealed to local 'landed gentry and merchants' to contribute to the cost of keeping the port open.
This prompted an informative letter from Avondale. The Irish Board of Works, Parnell explained, could only lend the money 'upon adequate security, which cannot, I believe, be obtained without the intervention of a short Act of Parliament.' The Earl of Carysfort, a prominent local landowner, was ready to join with the merchants and shipowners of Arklow to provide the necessary guarantees, 'but the expenses and difficulty of carrying a bill through Parliament upon the smallest matter connected with the industrial interests of this country are so formidable as to be beyond the means of any private body such as that interested in the town of Arklow.' Cleverly, Parnell did not press home the latent message that Arklow's plight was an argument for Home Rule, closing rather with the hope that the British government would take 'the necessary steps ... to save Arklow from despair.'
Parnell's clever tone of restrained understatement touched an editorial nerve. Although a Conservative newspaper, the Irish Times was initially sympathetic to the Home Rulers, regarding them as a gentlemanly group of mild devolutionists who were no threat to the Union. 'We heartily thank Mr Charles Stuart Parnell, of Avondale, for .. his useful communication,' it remarked, mis-spelling Parnell's middle name in what must surely have been a unique statement of appreciation. Its leading article complained of the waste of public money on non-Irish projects, excoriated the injustice that would only advance money to projects that did not need it, and finally took up the point of the expense of such local legislation. 'The Bill could be considered much cheaper and better before the Privy Council in Dublin Castle: but London lawyers and English members know Arklow so much better than the residents in the place can possibly know it, that the former, at least, must be paid in proportion to their superior knowledge.' The fishermen of Arklow believed they had a case for government funding. 'But fishermen are not statesmen, although some were apostles.' Substitute Parnell's Kingstown formula, 'some part' of Home Rule, for the newspaper's allusion to the Privy Council in Dublin Castle, and it becomes possible to see how expectations of some form of devolution could be raised, with broad potential support. The episode also underlines how Parnell's interests as a local entrepreneur inclined him to favour almost any kind of streamlining in the political decision-making process. Arklow would continue to feature in his business and political interests, especially after the development of his Big Rock quarry from 1884. As he was never a Wicklow MP, he found only one opportunity to speak about it in parliament, criticising remedial works in 1885. In that occasion, he did admit that '[i]t was very doubtful whether a more difficult place to build a harbour than Arklow could have been found on any of the coasts of the Three Kingdoms.' In the last year of his life, a remedial scheme was approved, with Parnell offering to contribute £2,000-worth of stonework. He also constructed a narrow-gauge tramway from his quarries to the waterfront, which cost him £1,250. He hoped that Arklow would become a leading fishing port, 'one of those model towns which go so much in these days to make up the strength and greatness of a nation.' Home Rule might eventually require the reconstruction of the British constitution but, in its practical manifestation, it arose originally out of the need to dredge Arklow harbour.
At Tralee in November 1878, Parnell insisted that there was 'no antagonism' between Home Rule and tenant right. Even so, as Bew points out, it was not entirely clear that the two strategies would necessarily prove to be mutually reinforcing. In 1878, for a small-town timber merchant, the dual strategy still made integrated sense: give tenants security on their farms, and they would spend money on improvements; devolve decision-making on Irish issues to some kind of Irish forum, and shakers and movers like himself could advance local interests. The problem would be that the two major aims of the Nationalist movement, the agrarian and the constitutional, tended to diverge in the years ahead. Partly, this was the result of success: substantial victory over tenant issues by 1882-3 opened the way to the more basic question of land-ownership, while a disciplined party speaking for three-quarters of Ireland would naturally broaden its political demands.
The 'New Departure' was a landmark in the process, even if it may not have been a direct cause. Devoy and his Clan-na-Gael associates not only sought 'a peasant proprietary', they also demanded the replacement of 'Federal' schemes (which presumably included local-level devolution) by 'a general declaration in favour of self-government.' After meeting Parnell in March 1879, Devoy and John O'Leary concluded that he was not sure what form of legislative independence he favoured, a point that Parnell made explicit himself in a speech at Belfast that October. Devoy later claimed that they agreed that 'the demand for self-government should not for the present be publicly defined, but that nothing short of a National Parliament with power over all vital national interests and an Executive responsible to it should be accepted.' Thus, when Chamberlain seemed likely to launch a scheme for a 'central board' in 1885, Parnell labelled it an inadequate and unacceptable substitute for Home Rule. 'The claim for restitution of parliament would remain.'
Parnell's party solved the problem of its undefined ambitions by saying as little as possible about the nature of Home Rule until the issue re-emerged, thanks to what Bew called 'a subtle shift' in political debate between 1883 and 1885. The Buttite ritual of annual House of Commons motions asking for an enquiry into the issue – and their equally traditional slaughter in the division lobbies – was discontinued after 1878. Parliamentary debate might have generated valuable publicity for the Home Rule cause, but the difficulty of defining that cause made silence a more prudent policy. Whenever Parnell had to deal with the issue, he used Grattan's Parliament as a holding position, presumably secure in the knowledge that nobody expected that election writs would ever be sent down to the sandhills of Wexford. 'We cannot under the British constitution ask for more than the restitution of Grattan's Parliament,' he assured the people of Cork in 1885, ignoring the point that the limitations of the British constitution had not bothered him in the past. Parnell's get-out from his criticism of the 1782 constitution a decade earlier was his discovery that it had contained a self-correcting mechanism 'which would have enabled it to remedy all its own defects'. Since nobody else has ever noticed this safety valve, it is impossible to say whether his counter-factual optimism would have been justified. Parnell's 1884 memorandum, 'A Proposed Constitution for Ireland', not only bore no resemblance to Grattan's Parliament, but contained one truly breathtaking sentence. 'The representation of Ireland in the Imperial parliament might be retained or might be given up.' Foster is commendably restrained when he terms the persistent vagueness over this issue 'odd'.
Whatever the reasons for the evolution of the trajectory of Nationalist demands, Parnell's party may have boxed themselves into a corner by insisting on an Irish 'parliament' without defining what they meant. As a short-term tactic aimed at forcing English parties to increase their offers, it was attractive. The deeper problem was its incompatibility with the emerging parallel demand for State-funded land purchase, which realistically could only be funded by the Imperial [i.e. British] Treasury. Frank Hugh O'Donnell was notoriously uncharitable about Parnell, his abilities, his motives and his tactics, but his comment on Nationalist strategy from 1881 bears quotation. 'The jumble of ideas was amazing. England was to be forced to abolish landlordism, and landlordism was to be abolished in order to abolish England.' Westminster was a 'worthless' institution, 'and it was expected, at the same time, to pass the new and perfect Land Laws which were to make Ireland happy for evermore!' It seemed that the only way to resolve the potential conflict between an Irish parliament and United Kingdom-funded land purchase was to wrap them in a single package and take both hurdles at once. This Gladstone attempted to do in 1886, offering a well-funded but not necessarily generous Land Purchase Bill (transfer of ownership was not compulsory) alongside his Home Rule Bill. Both failed. Parnell was ready to make extensive concessions, but, during the four years that followed, he found that junior partnership in an alliance with the Liberals meant nothing but concessions. In the explosion of anger in his manifesto of 1890, he revealed that Gladstone intended to reduce Irish representation at Westminster, 'in order to conciliate English public opinion', from 103 MPs to 32, that the Grand Old Man refused to allow an Irish parliament to deal with land issues, and that, while he would reintroduce his abandoned Land Purchase Bill of 1886, he 'would not undertake to put any pressure on his own side or insist upon their adopting his views'. In short, Gladstone's terms were 'that the Irish Legislature was not to be given the power of solving the agrarian difficulty, and that the Imperial Parliament would not.' Gladstone was to dispute many of Parnell's claims, but the key point was that Parnell himself had no convincing answer to the challenge he identified. 'I want a Parliament that we shall be able to keep and to work for our country,' he told Barry O'Brien in 1891, 'and if we do not get it next year or next I can wait for half a dozen years; but it must be a real Parliament when it comes.' There is something to be said for Conor Cruise O'Brien's verdict that Parnell 'finished as the servant, instead of the master, of his own legend.' Parnell had once mocked Gladstone's threats as 'the whistle of a schoolboy on his way through a churchyard at night to keep up his courage.' His defiant stance of 1891 has something of the same quality. 'I am a young man, and I can afford to wait,' he told O'Brien. He died a few months later.
Charles Stewart Parnell: a summary
All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.' It is tempting to elaborate on Enoch Powell's dictum, by noting that Parnell's career was cut off both in midstream and in failure, through an intersection of public and private crises. But the point can be taken too far, as in Thornley's bleak assertion that 'every Irish leader failed, Parnell perhaps most totally.' Perhaps the most basic requirement for comprehending Parnell's career is to study his life in the direction that he led it, forwards, from start to finish. Far too many biographers have implicitly begun with the tragic giant of 1891, and engaged in perfunctory backward searches for supporting shreds of evidence from his early life. The academics have scarcely disguised their haste to get him into parliament; the popular writers have been equally enthusiastic to pitch him into bed with Mrs O'Shea. The core, forward-projected picture is really simple enough. Parnell inherited a portfolio of landed property that was next to valueless in itself, its viability further undermined by the circumstances of his father's early death. He launched out to become a construction industry entrepreneur, entering politics partly no doubt out of family tradition, but primarily to fight for Irish tenants – his customers – to obtain security and tenure on their holdings, and cash in their pockets from restrictions upon the rent they paid. Far from failing 'most totally', he mobilised an agrarian coalition that gained most of those objectives within seven years of entering the House of Commons. It was the evolution of his basic original political aims – from land tenure reforms to peasant proprietary, from efficiency-based devolution to a symbolic national parliament – that introduced elements of internal conflict into his programme. This was further complicated by the failure of what we might hypothetically term his Second Reform Act strategy, when the tectonic plates of the British party system moved in 1886 to seal off any possibility of competitive bargaining. (Even if the Liberals had won a majority in the expected election of 1892, as was widely assumed would happen at the time of the Split, they would still have faced the obstacle of the House of Lords, as the fate of the 1893 Home Rule Bill indicated.)
There is, then, nothing enigmatic about Parnell's political motivation. To understand him, we simply need to remove one label, landlord, and replace it with another, timber merchant and quarry owner. But there remains a huge and fascinating mystery around Charles Stewart Parnell, his personality and his determination. Typhoid brought him close to death as a small boy, and he also endured scarlet fever in his teens. Why did somebody whose physical health was so precarious force himself into the combative field of politics? Parnell was seriously ill in 1880 and again in 1887, and his own valetudinarian precautions against germs indicate that he knew he was vulnerable. If his physical health was a barrier to political activity, then surely his mental balance, especially as perceived in the alarmed assessments of his own family, constituted an even louder warning against involvement in the denigration and confrontation of public life? The break-up of his parents' marriage undoubtedly left him with an emotional scar. His much-derided superstitions, although probably exaggerated, speak of a person who was to some extent arrested in a fractured childhood. His relationship with Katharine O'Shea remains one of history's great tragic romances. Personal relationships rarely lend themselves to precise logical analysis, but it does seem reasonable to note that she gave him, not merely sex and children, but also a substitute mother figure. It is also appropriate to point out, however much we might wish to cheer them on, that their affair was likely to become public, and bound to be a political disaster when it did. In his personal life, as in much of his political career, Parnell seems almost deliberately to have courted danger. It is well attested that his famous taciturn impassivity masked massive internalised tensions, which explain his failure at the Rotunda meeting in 1874. Sometimes, the anger found physical expression, probably in the fight at Cambridge that ended his student career, and certainly in the attack on the United Ireland offices in 1890. At other times, his inner conflicts exploded into harsh words, as at Wexford in 1882 and in his notorious manifesto of 1890 to the Irish people, whose tone and content shocked even his closest associates. And what are we to make of Parnell's astonishing bad taste during the Kilkenny by-election, when he hailed a passing funeral as his opponent's coffin? Parnell's personality will continue to fascinate. But about his political motivation, there is no enigma at all. Charles Stewart Parnell was a building trade entrepreneur who entered politics to work towards an Ireland in which his customers would live in security and prosperity, under an efficient and responsive system of national government.
Unless otherwise noted, websites were consulted in October and November 2016.
 Paul Bew, Enigma: A New Life of Charles Stewart Parnell (Dublin, 2011).
 Churchill's declamatory and catchpenny essay is in his Great Contemporaries (first published 1937, London, 1943 ed.), 268.
 Even F.S.L. Lyons slipped into the usage, although more for the family and county milieu in which Parnell was reared than for the man himself. F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell (London, 1978 ed.), 17, 25. Robert Kee also placed him in a Wicklow 'Anglo-Irish' context. Robert Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism (London, 1993), 13.
 M. Davitt, The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland (London, 1904), 110-11.
 T.P. O'Connor, Memoirs of an Old Parliamentarian (2 vols, London, 1929), i, 97.
 Parnell himself was not averse to renaming opponents in order to deny them entitlement to consideration. Ulster opponents of Home Rule, he insisted in 1885, were 'more correctly' called 'the English party in Ireland'. Paul Bew, C.S. Parnell (Dublin, 1980), 139.
 F.H. O'Donnell, A History of the Irish Parliamentary Party (2 vols, London, 1910), i, 256
 Frank Callanan, T.M. Healy (Cork, 1996), 324. Conor Cruise O'Brien argued that Parnell's superior social standing 'placed him above the resentments which men feel at the advancement of their own equals.' Given the jealousies among Parnell's followers, this seems a shrewd point. C.C. O'Brien, Parnell and His Party (Oxford, 1957), 6.
 S. Leslie, Studies in Sublime Failure (London, 1932), 61.
 'A Parnell Centenary', Magdalene College Magazine and Record, xiv, 1969.
 R. Barry O'Brien, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell 1846-1891 (2 vols, London, 1898).
 The London Letter of the Freeman's Journal reported as 'an open secret' that O'Brien had applied 'for access to the documents of the deceased leader and that he met with an unqualified refusal.' Parnell's secretary, Henry Campbell, had kept 'all the letters he received during his public life', along with copies of most of those he had written. After Parnell's death, 'several large boxes' of correspondence had been removed to a Brighton bank. Freeman's Journal, 11 November 1898. The Manchester Courier had run a similar story in 1891, Westmeath Examiner, 31 October 1891.
 R.B. O'Brien admitted in 1900 'that I was generally regarded as an old Whig.' R.B. O'Brien, The Life of Lord Russell of Killowen (London, 1901), 368.
 O'Brien, Life of Parnell, i, 41.
 F.S.L. Lyons, Parnell (Irish History series, no. 3, Dundalk, 1963), 3.
 Ged Martin, 'Parnell at Cambridge: the Education of an Irish Nationalist', Irish Historical Studies, xix (1974), 79-88. The Master of Magdalene at the time, Walter Hamilton, was a former public school headmaster who (as so often with conservative personalities) actually steered Magdalene in positive academic directions. Among graduate students, there was some amusement that Parnell had been rusticated in 1869 after getting into a fight with a man called Hamilton.
 Roy Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family (Hassocks, Sussex, 1979).
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 10.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 43, 47, 49.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 32
 By Dr C.S. Knighton.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memoir (New York, 1914), 52
 T. Sherlock, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell (Boston, 1881), 72.
 Ged Martin, 'Parnell and Magdalene: Some New Evidence', Magdalene College Magazine, xxxvi (1992).
 Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 37-44; Bew, Enigma, 10-11. Bew's 'Parnell, Charles Stewart,' New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, does note the need to take account of Parnell's periods of absence from Cambridge. Frank Callanan, 'Parnell, Charles Stewart' in Dictionary of Irish Biography places Parnell at Cambridge for 3 and a half years. My 1992 article, 'Parnell at Magdalene: Some New Evidence', is included in the 'Some Published Work' section of this website: http://www.gedmartin.net/published-work-mainmenu-11/265-charles-stewart-parnell-at-cambridge-new-evidence-1992
 Paul Bew drew an explicit parallel between Parnell and John Hume. Bew, Enigma, 1.
 Bew, C.S. Parnell, 11. The phrase 'sacked undergraduate' was used by F.H. O'Donnell.
 D. Reynolds, In Command of History ... (London, 2005).
 P. Williamson, Stanley Baldwin ... (Cambridge, 1999), 88.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 21n.
 Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest was first staged in 1895.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memoir (New York, 1914), 286. It has been suggested that John Howard Parnell resented the fact that Avondale was inherited by his younger brother, and that his Memoir is 'streaked with malice'. J. McC. Coté, Fanny and Anna Parnell ... (Basingstoke, 1991), 47-8. That may be so, but it likely that the book was compiled from a disconnected series of short reminiscences, at least one of which had been written as early as 1905. Editorial linkages may be suspected in places. This statement obviously clashes with the one quoted by Foster in the next reference.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family, 130. Foster was quoting a description of Parnell in the early 1870s by his brother, John Howard Parnell.
 Student's Guide (1874 ed.), 73n.
 Parliamentary Papers, 1867, xiii, Questions 571, 1628.
 A.C. Benson, The Life of Edward White Benson Sometime Archbishop of Canterbury (London, 1901 ed.), 29.
 Parliamentary Papers, 1852-53, xliv, 412.
 Student's Guide (1874 ed.), 71.
 E.R. Yerburgh, 'Reminscences', Magdalene College Magazine, xlv, 2001, 81-9. In England and Wales in 1867, 42,000 skilled workers, men at the top of the labour hierarchy, earned 35 shillings a week. Assuming (and it is a large assumption) that they were able to work year-round, their annual income would be around £90, ten pounds more than the rock-bottom expenditure of the most frugal Johnian. Most middle-class salary-earners were assessed for income tax under 'Schedule E'. In 1871, 17,500 people in Great Britain and 1,000 in Ireland declared incomes of over £200, and just over half of these, on each side of the Irish Sea, were earning less than £300. Of course, there was a great deal of landed and mercantile wealth not covered by these figures but, even so, it is obvious that only a tiny percentage of the British and Irish population of thirty million people in the mid-eighteen sixties had any chance of studying at Cambridge, and it is not surprising that the less favoured colleges asked few questions ─ and certainly imposed no entrance tests ─ upon potentially solvent undergraduates. G. Best, Mid-Victorian Britain 1851-1875 (Frogmore, Herts, 1973 ed.), 115, 103. Then as now, Britain had a byzantine tax structure and Schedule E figures must be regarded as indicative only, since other forms of salary were assessed under Schedule D. The 35-shilling-a-week aristocrats included watchmakers, jewellers, instrument makers and railway engine drivers. Sixty years after Parnell's time, when Fellows of St John's put together funding to enable an engine-driver's son to study at the college, one of them remarked that he might save money if he travelled to Cambridge in loco parentis. T.E.B. Howarth, Cambridge Between Two Wars (London, 1978), 66.
 The Irish gentry were also represented in the College: http://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/233-magdalene-college-cambridge-in-mid-victorian-times.
 Yerburgh, 'Reminscences', 88.
 Irish Times, 17 October 1865.
 Irish Times, 20 May 1865. A return ticket, at 22 shillings and sixpence, was better value, but valid for only one month.
 Ged Martin, 'Parnell at Cambridge'.
 In 1882, Parnell praised the debates of the Cambridge and Oxford Union Societies on 'all the foremost political questions of the day' as 'most creditable to the rising youth of England'. As so often with Parnell's statements, the context and audience need to be noted. He was replying to a protest from students at Queen's College Cork that they were banned from political activity. Freeman's Journal, 18 December 1882.
 Student's Guide (1874 ed.), 87-8; Magdalene College Archives, G.1.7, G.1.12 (Boat Club).
 Quoted, Ged Martin, 'Parnell at Cambridge', 76.
 Student's Guide, 91.
 O'Brien, Life, i, 40-41, quoting Wilfrid Gill.
 H.T. Parnell to Editor of the Irish Times, 1 March 1906, Irish Times, 5 March 1906. The specialist was Dr Forbes Winslow (a descendant of the leader of the Pilgrim Fathers), whose views on sleepwalking were given in his book, On Obscure Diseases of the Brain, and Disorders of the Mind (Philadelphia, 1860), 145. Shortly before Parnell went to Cambridge, there had been sleepwalking tragedies in London and Cork. The Times, 19 August 1864, 16 May 1865; Irish Times, 1 May 1865. For Parnell's night terrors, Katharine O'Shea, Charles Stewart Parnell: His Life and Loves (2 vols, London, 1914), ii, 46.
 It was a 'set' of two rooms (sitting room and bedroom) on the ground floor of the Pepys Building, looking out on the courtyard. The description is oddly like the accommodation he was allocated in Kilmainham in 1882. Since the 1960s, Parnell's set has formed part of the undergraduate library. Magdalene is currently (2016) planning a modern library building. The houses to the south of the College were demolished to create River Court in 1873.
 R. B O'Brien, Life, i, 41, quoting Wilfrid Gill, Tutor of Magdalene, who supplied O'Brien with outline information about Parnell's College career. Unfortunately, Gill had come to Magdalene in 1872, and did not know about the break in the Irish leader's Cambridge studies.
 Magdalene College Archives, B/153. The bill was for £154, 12 shillings.
 Traditionally, colleges had brewed their own beer, and in days before filtered water supplies, fermentation at least ensured that liquids had undergone some form of purification. The product seems to have been a low-alcohol beer which, according to a nostalgic account, was drunk not only with lunch but even with breakfast (although tea was the standard breakfast beverage). 'I never saw a man one penny the worse for the pure and wholesome College beer,' remarked S.S. Sproston, who overlapped with Parnell at Magdalene. Beer sold at the buttery was known as 'College'. Magdalene College Magazine, 1910, p. 105. This cluster of domestic buildings had taken shape early in the history of the institution: the brewhouse had been built in 1629. The south range of the Pepys Building had been squeezed into the available space, and the mathematician in Parnell probably noticed that as a result his sitting room was not perfectly rectangular. In 1913, a water-closet reserved for Fellows immediately adjoined Parnell's former rooms. For the state of the river Cam: http://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/233-magdalene-college-cambridge-in-mid-victorian-times.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 53.
 Access to the bedroom in Parnell's set was through tall double doors, glazed from top to bottom. These are preserved in the undergraduate library, but it is impossible to date them by appearance.
 Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 31-5 is the best account. The police raid was on December 6, 1866. Parnell was taking his 'Little-Go' (preliminary examination), and did not receive his 'exeat' (permission to leave College) until 19 December. (Magdalene College Archives, B/239.) A scorching complaint, in his mother's name, followed immediately.
 Magdalene College Archives, B/153. Parnell's second-term bill was £49, 10 shillings and fivepence. 33 of the 51 students in residence spent more than Parnell that term, and some of the others were probably living in lodgings, where some of their costs did not pass through College accounts.
 Irish Times, 16 March, 17 April 1866.
 Ged Martin, 'Parnell at Cambridge', 76-8. E.M. Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake ... (Dublin, 1905) prompted one reviewer to comment: 'She might have styled it with not less accuracy, "A Patriot's Sister's Mistake".' Irish Times, 4 December 1905. Emily's decision to call Parnell's supposed victim 'Daisy' was probably a recollection of the arrest by the proctors (Cambridge University's police force) of 17 year-old Daisy Hopkins, an alleged prostitute, which caused a national outcry and led to the curtailment of the University's powers over the local population. The episode happened late in 1891, when the Parnell family would have been exceptionally sensitive to outbreaks of English public morality. D.A. Winstanley, Later Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1947), 114-43.
 Magdalene College Archives, B/153.
 When Parnell did finally return to Cambridge in April 1869, Magdalene made him a small grant from the College's Pepysian Benefaction, the product of royalties on the first published edition of the famous Diary. This seems to have functioned as a student hardship fund.
 Maps in Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, ii, and N. Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History (National Library of Ireland, 1991), 10.
 The analysis might extend to a Category D, urban property, which was becoming increasingly important as Dublin and Belfast in particular spawned suburban growth. Parnell derived a small but useful income from houses on St Stephen's Green.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 162.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memoir, 303.
 J. McL. Coté, Fanny and Anna Parnell: Ireland's Patriot Sisters (Basingstoke, 1991), 47-48.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 298-99; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 286.
 As discussed below, John Howard Parnell apparently believed that the Clonmore property yielded £2,000 a year in rent. It may be that he added this to the gross income of Avondale, also probably around £2,000, overlooking the complication that Clonmore was destined for their younger brother Henry.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 52. The Kilkenny, Clonmel, and Youghal Railway was launched as an offshoot of the Great Munster and Leinster Railway, which appointed J.H. Parnell as one of its nominees to the board. The Times, 8, 15 October 1845. In 1887, Parnell talked of building a railway to connect Wicklow to the Kilkenny coalfield. J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 284.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 113, 130, 360; Kissane, Parnell, 10. I have rounded down some figures, since (e.g.) 10 shilling and 11 pence hardly makes much difference on £1,789.
 British Parliamentary Papers, 1876, 412, 47; C.1492, 101.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 113, 130, 360. Calculations regarding Avondale are often puzzling. Foster generally is the source for its tangled financial and not always easily traceable affairs, but some modifications to his conclusions are offered here. His calculation of the rent roll is based on a deed from 1869. As the estate was under the control of the Court of Chancery during Parnell's minority, 1859-67, and the subject of legal proceedings thereafter, any sale of land in the preceding ten years would have been recorded. The Kildare property is another mystery. Neither Griffith's Valuation nor the 1876 parliamentary returns of Irish landowners show the Parnells holding any land in the county.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 157.
 Nation, 8 November 1879, quoting London Echo, a publication I have not traced. At about the same time, a less sympathetic journalist wrote that Parnell's property was 'heavily incumbered', adding that this accounted for 'his lofty disregard of the rights of property: having none left of his own worth mentioning, he can regard the obliteration of those who have with entire equanimity.' The writer was Richard Pigott, soon to become infamous for forgery. Personal Recollections of an Irish National Journalist (1882, facsimile ed. Cork 1979), 430.
 W.E. Vaughan, Landlord and Tenant in Mid-Victorian Ireland (Oxford, 1994), 103-37, 277-78.
 Vaughan, Landlord and Tenant in Mid-Victorian Ireland, 109-10.
 Finlay Dun, Landlords and Tenants in Ireland (London, 1881), esp. 30-42.
 British Parliamentary Papers, 1876, C.1492, iii-vii.
 One of Vaughan's findings will no doubt surprise: for a quarter of a century after the Famine, tenants mostly paid their rents, in full and on time. From a sample of twelve estates, Vaughan estimates something close to a 99 percent success rate in collecting rents throughout the period, although there were periods, such as the early eighteen-sixties, when arrears temporarily rose as high as ten percent. Thus there seems no need to downgrade the estimated £1,500 annual income for Avondale on the basis of unpaid rents, at least not in the immediate years before John Henry Parnell's death in 1859. This was in sharp contrast with the situation after 1879, when Parnell's tenants first found themselves unable to pay, and then seem to have exploited his goodwill and political prominence by simply not bothering: cases were cited of men who were five and even seven years in arrears. But was this picture exaggerated? Parnell applied to the Land Commission for compensation under the Arrears Act of 1882. 7 holdings were in arrears for around 2 years, owing £406. He received £197, a loss of £209. British Parliamentary Papers, 1884 (C.4059). Vaughan, Landlord and Tenant in Mid-Victorian Ireland, p 114-15; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 167; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 287-88.
 Calculated from Vaughan, Landlord and Tenant in Mid-Victorian Ireland, 277-78.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 113; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 287. John Howard Parnell certainly knew about head rents: the income from the property that he inherited from their father, Collure in County Armagh, barely covered the head rent payable to the ground landlords, Trinity College Dublin. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 50-51, 96-99. In addition, annuities in favour of the four youngest Parnell daughters were chargeable against Collure, which surely left the property insolvent by the time the girls had all come of age between 1866 and 1874. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 130.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 34, 129.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 303; Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 37-38. Catherine's gesture to her brother was generous but she seems to have obtained a good return. A similar arrangement on the Gosford estate made in 1832 yielded four percent. Vaughan, Landlord and Tenant in Mid-Victorian Ireland, 132.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 130, 364. John Henry Parnell was touring North America and planning to get married in 1834-35.
 St. John Ervine, Parnell (Harmondsworth, 1944 ed.), 39; cf. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 318.
 J.H. Parnell's Will was probably destroyed in the Irish Civil War. It was summarised in Notes & Queries, 6th series, 9, 2 February 1884, 98. See also Robert Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism (London, 1993), 22.
 Coté, Fanny and Anna Parnell, 37 states that Parnell was named after his uncle and not directly after his grandfather, the American naval hero, as is usually stated.
 'My father took me to Paris,' Emily wrote of her schooling. Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 11.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell,130; Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 45-46.
 David Cannadine cites a similar case, a Carlow landowner called Captain Newton. The gross annual income of his estate was £1,668, but the outgoings were £1,374, of which £800 went in interest payments. His rents were reduced by one third under the 1881 Land Act. The economics of Avondale would have been similar, and Parnell put the estate up for sale in 1882-83. David Cannadine, The Rise and Fall of the British Aristocracy (London, 1990), 127.
 Sheep are illustrated in a print of Avondale in R.M. McWade, The Life and Public Services of ... Parnell (Philadelphia, 1891), 47.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 313-14. Further auctions followed in 1860 and 1863, selling (inter alia) J.H. Parnell's port and whiskey, a cricket tent and family furniture.
 The terms 'Upper' and 'Lower' in Irish place and street names were conventionally placed at the end of a phrase. Dublin's emergence as an international financial centre has more or less ended this practice: thus, Leeson Street Upper is now Upper Leeson Street, presumably to avoid puzzling overseas investors. In some lists of townland names, an unnecessary comma is now inserted, e.g. Corballis, Lower.
 Griffith's Valuation is easily searched via www.askaboutireland.ie. J.H. Parnell also rented two small pieces of land, each around one acre in size, from George Mahon and from the Earl of Meath. These probably gave access to other holdings. In 1871, the population of the 363-acre Corballis Lower was just 23, living in 8 houses. It seems likely that this was predominantly grazing land. British Parliamentary Papers, 1872, C.662, 1102. Foster reports the Corballis Lower holding as 123 acres, which suggests that J.H. Parnell relinquished some of the land between 1854 and 1859. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 47.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 39, 49-50, 349; Roy Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch (London, 1995 ed.), 50; Hansard, 16 June 1881, 711-12, consulted as http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1881/jun/16/ordinary-conditions-of-tenancies#S3V0262P0_18810616_HOC_253. Charles P. Archer, a Wicklow land activist, also wrote favourably of the Fitzwilliams' de facto tenant right policy. Irish Times, 20 May 1878.
 Drogheda Argus, 17 April 1875, quoted Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 16.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 152; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 279.
 Kerry Sentinel, 6 October 1888.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 152: A. Kettle, The Material for Victory (Dublin, 1958), 26. Parnell may have attempted to replicate his father's grazing holdings. In January 1875, he told a land conference in Dublin that he was a tenant farmer himself. Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 97.
 For the dispute with Thomas Kennedy, a Rathdrum shopkeeper, Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 178-19. For the Illustrated London News picture of volunteers ploughing at Avondale (7 January 1882), see Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 53. In 1883, 280 ploughs were assembled on a 'large stubble field' at Avondale and 20 acres at Garrymore: Irish Times, 19 January 1883. I am indebted to the advice of John M. Barry, Gurtacrue, Midleton, County Cork on the likely operation of the Avondale farm.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, p 51-3, 102-3. John Henry Parnell's disposal of just under 900 acres on perpetual leases early in 1859 may also have been intended to cover the costs of his daughter Delia's wedding.
 Irish Times, 23 May 1874. This was cited as 'net' income, which may mean net of head-rents.
 St. John Ervine, Parnell (1924, Harmondsworth ed., 1944), 49; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 102-3.
 Irish Times, 26 October 1880 and cf. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 174.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 114.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 11-30. Emily recalled her London Season as having followed Delia's marriage in June 1859, but she was obviously staying with the Howards before then. Unfortunately, her presentation at Court cannot be traced through The Times.
 Sir Ralph Howard, who died in 1873, later added a codicil to his Will halving his bequest to John Howard Parnell, possibly because of the disputes over the management of his nephew's estate. This probably explains why Henry Tudor Parnell sold off so much of Clonmore between 1874 and 1876. J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 115.
 Irish Times, 26 October 1880.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 21; Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 5; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 9 and cf. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 39.
 In a Chancery case relating to the estate in 1863, he is named as 'Robert Johnston'. Johnston is a more distinctively Scots surname, and there was an Edinburgh lawyer of that name at the time, but there is no indication that he would have known John Henry Parnell. Irish Times, 2 February 1863.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 39-40. Rents were increased on some Cork estates from the mid-1850s. J.S. Donnelly, jr, The Land and People of Nineteenth-Century Cork: The Rural Economy and the Land Question (London, 1975), 193-95.
 'His death came as a thunderbolt to us all, as he was always regarded as the healthiest of the family.' The rest of the Parnells were in Paris at the time, 'Charley being the only member of the family to see him laid to rest.' J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 39. The horror of this bereavement remained with Parnell, who hated funerals.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 38-39. There is no way of knowing whether this meant that he suffered from ulcers (likely enough given the stresses of his private life) or had contracted cancer, an affliction that doctors found difficult to recognise and often preferred not to confront. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 40 is probably incorrect to interpret the illness as 'a rheumatic fever'. (Rheumatic fever was entered as a contributory cause on C.S. Parnell's death certificate in 1891, but this may have been a strategy by his doctors to cover all options.)
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 66.
 Nation, 25 June 1859. Emily did not mention attending Delia's wedding in her memoirs. Thomson was usually known by his middle name, Livingston.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 9-10, 26-31.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 30-31. The cricket matches were reported in Irish Times, 29 June, 8 July 1859. The date of the return match is not clear.
 Extracts from J.H. Parnell's Will were published by W.M. Brady, 'The Parnell Pedigree,' Notes & Queries, 6th series, 9, 2 February 1884, 98. See also Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 19, 22.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 56-57; Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 37. Emily discreetly stated that her grandmother had left Stewart 'for domestic reasons.' Ibid.,10.
 Notes & Queries, 6th series, 9, 98
 The date is discussed below.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, p 39-40. The Will described Johnson as a 'dear friend'.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 81, 129, 173-76. Donnelly, The Land and People of Cork, 154. Gerald Fitzgibbon, the Master in Chancery who supervised Avondale explained: 'An officer of the Court, called a Receiver, is appointed over each [estate], whose duty it is to collect the rents, and attend to the management of the property, subject to the control of the Court, as an agent does to the estate of his principal [i.e. landlord].' But in 1868, Fitzgibbon was responsible for 452 estates, in every county of Ireland, with 18,287 tenants paying £330,809 in rent. Gerald Fitzgibbon, Ireland in 1868: The Battlefield of English Party Strife (London, 1868), 124. As will be seen, West subsequently sued Parnell to recover alleged losses on the running of Avondale.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 84.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 84-5, 354. John Howard Parnell called Charlotte Zouche 'a devoted relative who had been acting as housekeeper' and who was presumably a beneficiary of his father's Will, although she remained listed in the case until it was settled in 1867. She died in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), County Dublin in November 1863. Any relationship to the Parnell family has not been identified. Her inclusion as the principal defender of Howard's petition raises the possibility of a collusive action intended to modify the terms of the Will in some form, but this seems unlikely. Essentially, Howard vs Zouche pitted Sir Ralph Howard, as 'Administrator of the Late John Henry Parnell, deceased' against his widow Delia and Robert Johnson, guardians of the children. The reference to the case quoted by Foster is in error in implying that Howard acted on behalf of the 'Parnell minors'. J. H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 40; Irish Times, 6 February 1864, 2 July 1862. In 1863, a Royal Commission recommended extensive changes in the Irish Court of Chancery. As one witness put it, 'the Irish system works very badly' in relation to 'administering the property of minors', since 'a petition being required at every step, and where the object is the most trifling, involving an enormous expense in the management of minors' property, as well as very gross abuse.' British Parliamentary Papers, 1863, 3238 (Royal Commission into Superior Courts...), evidence of Henry J. Leslie, 8 Upper Pembroke Street, Dublin, 176. Legislation was passed in 1867 (the year that Avondale emerged from Chancery). Edward Sullivan, MP for Mallow, said: 'The existing practice of the Court of Chancery in Ireland was most cumbrous, and demanded instant remedy. The formalities that had to be gone through were very numerous and perplexing, and cost a great deal of time and money to litigants. Sullivan alleged that bills introduced in 1864, 1865 and 1866 had been blocked mainly through the opposition of James Whiteside, MP for Dublin University and a brilliant lawyer. (In fairness, it should be pointed out that Whiteside argued that the proposed reforms would make Chancery even more expensive.) Hansard, 14 March 1867, 1858-60, consulted as: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1867/mar/14/bill-47-second-reading#S3V0185P0_18670314_HOC_89. It is probably pointlessly speculative to wonder whether an Irish legislature would have proved more efficient, not least because there was no serious pressure for devolution at that time. However, it may be noted (1) that Westminster did not allocate the time that might have resolved the matter earlier and (2) that the impasse coincided with the years, from 18 to 21, when Parnell may be assumed to have become aware of public and personal issues. How far Chancery procedures impeded the general administration of his estate remains unknown. But the litigation from 1860, over Johnson's guardianship, and in 1863, over the financing of the young Parnells' education, can only have been expensive, irrespective of the fee structure of the Court. See R.B. McDowell, The Irish Administration 1801-1914 (Dublin, 1964), 131.
 Irish Times, 2 July 1862. According to J.H. Parnell (Charles Stewart Parnell, 40-1), it was the Court of Chancery that selected the house at Dalkey, where the family lived from 1860 to 1862.
 Irish Times, 2 February 1863.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 129. Half the debt remained unpaid in 1883, taking the form of yet another mortgage.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 18-19.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 45, 58-9; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 97. Henry Parnell was attending St Columba's College in Rathfarnham by the summer term of 1865, and won prizes for classics, mathematics and drawing. St Columba's offered a £40 annual scholarship to the sons of clergy, which suggests the likely cost of attending. Irish Times, 11 June 1866, 18, 25 February 1865. Two of Parnell's sisters were reported among the guests at the prize-giving ceremony, but not Parnell himself.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 84-88.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 61.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 35-6.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 45, 50. The alleged predator was Italian, but there was also a German governess, Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 34.
 The year of the marriage has to be inferred from Emily's unreliable memoirs. Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 40-41 and cf. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 95. The wedding has not been traced in the Irish Times.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 59, 112; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 95-97, 130. Emily recalled that her brother Charles 'made a liberal marriage settlement on his estate in lieu of the loss I had sustained by having been omitted from my father's will.' Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 45. But Parnell, a minor, could not have arranged this in 1864. Later, c. 1874, Parnell offered Dickinson money to leave his wife and live abroad. Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 90.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 35.
 The story sounds almost too fantastic to be credited, but for the fact that Burke's Peerage cites a date of 13 September 1862 for their marriage. Since MacDermott had allegedly first targeted Emily, she concluded that the family solicitor had fallen passionately in love with the Avondale acres and was not unduly fussy which of the Parnell girls would provide him with a ticket to the estate. This may have done MacDermott an injustice, since he was uniquely placed to appreciate the problems of the inheritance. If MacDermott had indeed married a teenage ward of court in Scotland, he would have faced considerable professional sanctions. Perhaps the runaway marriage was a genuine love match, and the allusion to Scotland possibly points to an appeal to their guardian, the shadowy Scotsman, Robert Johnson. Foster points out that MacDermott remained the solicitor to the Avondale estate, and was acting for John Howard Parnell as late as 1899. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 100-1, 216; Irish Times, 23 May 1866, and cf. 6 September 1899. Sophia died in 1877. Wider family loyalty was strong enough for one of her children, Tudor MacDermott, to horsewhip Tim Healy as a punishment for calling Parnell's widow, the former Katharine O'Shea, a prostitute. At his death in 1899, MacDermott was called 'a gentleman of the highest character, most sympathetic, public-spirited, and kindly, and of sound principles and broad judgment.' This sounds more than a token tribute, and some would feel was borne out by his 1888 letter to the Irish Times ('A Plea for Poor Puss') denouncing his neighbours in Dublin's fashionable Fitzwilliam Square for closing up their houses in the summer months and leaving their cats to starve. Irish Times, 5 September 1899; 15 June 1888.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 40.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 130; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 113.
 At some point, Emily became 'engaged to Mr Catterson Smith, the celebrated artist' but Parnell discouraged the marriage as her fiancé had not established himself in his profession. This was probably Stephen Catterson Smith the younger, born the same year as Fanny, 1849. Fanny was an art student in Paris in 1868 and Parnell's mother moved back there at about the same time. It is possible that Delia and Fanny were the models for Catterson Smith's 1869 painting, 'Fashionable Ladies on the Promenade'. J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 46; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 101; http://www.artnet.com/Artists/LotDetailPage.aspx?lot_id=9EFF84F01C7AD0DC, consulted 21 July 2009.
 Irish Times, 10 August 1865.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 10. The Parnells owned all 145 acres of the townland of Avondale; Edwards apparently rented 60 acres, but the house must have been disproportionately valuable.
 In 1862, a prospective tenant seeking 'a small and neat cottage at Dalkey ... must stand in its own grounds', specified 'rent not to exceed £80 a year'. The Parnells had been succeeded at Khyber Pass House in Dalkey in June 1861 by a judge, so it may be assumed that their rent was considerably higher. They then moved to Kingstown where another accommodation seeker in 1865 sought a 6-bedroomed house, 'rent not to exceed £100 per annum.' A recently renovated house in Dublin's Temple Street, 'well suited for a professional gentleman', was available to let in 1866 for £65 a year 'exclusive of taxes', and 'two excellent houses' were on offer in Upper Mount Street at £60 and £65. Further away from Dublin, rents seem to have dropped steeply. A house at Shankill, near Bray, providing 'accommodation for a large family, with garden' plus five acres, could be had for £70 a year in 1866. 'A House and 16 acres, County Kildare; £80 a year' was available in 1865. It is likely that Avondale, a large house with 60 acres, commanded a larger rent. It seems fair to guess that the Parnells were probably paying out around £100 a year for house rental, and receiving at least that amount, and possibly double, for Avondale. Irish Times, 26 August 1862, 26 June 1861, 10 January 1865, 29 May, 21 April 1866, 2 August 1865.
 As described below, Casino had been stripped of furniture, which probably explains why Parnell's mother did not accompany them.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 44-5; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 81, 114. Both Charles and John Parnell played for an Avondale team there in 1862, shortly before Parnell's 16th birthday. Irish Times, 10 June 1862.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 111; Irish Times, 21 August 1861, 15 January, 20 July 1863.
 Irish Times, 25 June 1865. The identifying description appears to confirm that it was Edwards himself and not a son of the same name who married.
 Irish Times, 10, 18 August 1865. Master Fitzgibbon had made the order on 24 June. Because Parnell's birthday fell in late June, anyone renting Avondale from September 1865 to June 1867 would effectively have the benefit of only on summer season.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 33, and see 60, 278 for other references to the Gaffneys; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, esp. 318-19.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 111.
 Wicklow News-Letter, 12 August, 19 August 1865, 11 August 1866.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 111.
 Wicklow News-Letter, 19 August, 2 September 1865.
 Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 33-5.
 Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 23.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 127-30, 192-96.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 40. For the inventory of the auction, held in October 1859, Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 313-14.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 130.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 66. The furniture from Casino had been sold at auctions in 1860 and 1863. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 314-15.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 59-60; Nation, 4 December 1880.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 318-19. This memory is not entirely borne out by the inventory of the 1859 auction, which included a 'travelling-chariot' and a 'phaeton', both probably small vehicles which could be driven by a member of the family. The 'covered car' and 'outside jaunting car' may be the vehicles recalled in the Gaffney tradition.
 T.P. O'Connor, Memoirs of an Old Parliamentarian, i, 99; T. P. O'Connor, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memory (London, 1891), 19.
 Nation, 4 December 1880.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 191.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 117.
 St. John Ervine, Parnell, 56. See also F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 40; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 89, 110.
 Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, 71-7, J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 73-8.
 F. Hugh O'Donnell, A History of the Irish Parliamentary Party (2 vols, London, 1910), i, 255.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873.
 Irish Times, 21 March 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873.
 Irish Times, 23 May 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873. Henry Parnell's Cambridge BA was conferred in March 1873, but not as part of a general graduation ceremony. This seems to contradict his brother's recollection that 'he was too nervous to pass his examination for a degree,' but may indicate that some health problem had required special consideration. The Times, 21 March 1873; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 11.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873.
 Freeman's Journal, 28, 29 April 1873.
 Freeman's Journal, 29 April 1873, 17 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 26 October 1880.
 William Mitchell, who may have been the leader of the resistance, was reported in 1873 to hold 84 acres, Griffith's Valuation: £48; current rent: £54-4s; rent demanded: £73-4s. Ten years later, Mitchell secured a rent reduction from the Land Commission. He was then holding 105 acres; Griffith's Valuation: £47; rent £59-7s-6d, reduced to £52. A marginal note recorded: '1874: £56-18-0.' Mitchell's 1874 rent was almost exactly five percent higher than in 1873. Another tenant, John Goss, was paying 9 percent more on a holding with the same Poor Law Valuation when he appealed to the Commission in 1889, consistent with a 5 percent increase in 1874 and a subsequent rent-rise by the Fitzwilliams, who succeeded Henry Parnell as landlord of Tombeagh. Mitchell's rent was cut to £52, Goss went down to £18: these figures do not suggest that Tombeagh tenants were rack-rented. Some muddle may have arisen in the Freeman's Journal report from the deciphering of hand-written notes: the nearby town of Kiltegan, for instance, appears as 'Kiltyan'. In 1873, Henry Parnell was reported to be demanding an increase in rent to £410 from the eleven tenants (collectively occupying about half the townland) who were in dispute. But the net rental from Tombeagh was £472, which suggests a substantial head-rent. Ireland's pyramidal system of land-holding creates problems for historians as it undoubtedly did for landlords. British Parliamentary Papers, 1884, C.3906, Irish Land Commission, 108-9; C.5877, 26-7. Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873, 20 April 1874.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 103.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 223.
 Irish Times, 26 October 1880. For the Kilkenny property, Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 103.
 Henry Tudor Parnell's 'striking resemblance' to his famous brother probably explains John Dillon's belief that he saw the dead leader's ghost in a street in Munich. T.P. O'Connor believed that he suffered from persecution mania, likely enough in a nervous man who was the lookalike of a controversial politician. Frank O'Connor, Leinster, Munster and Connaught (London, n.d.), 71-2, confirmed by F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 603. The story was found in Dillon's diary after his death, and O'Connor apparently had it from James Dillon. T.P. O'Connor, Memoirs of an Old Parliamentarian, ii, 328. Henry Parnell's life is summarised in Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 222-4.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 137, 147. But a report in Nation, 21 August 1875, seems to imply that J.H. Parnell's first consignment of frozen peaches from Alabama reached Ireland the following year. The peaches 'retained their softness' after being thawed for 2 days, 'and preserved their flavour perfectly.'
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 112-13.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 123, 134.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 131; O'Brien, Life i, 56-7.
 F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 43.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873. Henry made a rare public appearance in Ireland to attend Parnell's funeral in 1891, where it was noted that 'he bore a striking resemblance to his brother.' K. Tynan, Twenty-Five Years: Reminiscences (London, 1913), 349.
 F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 37. The episode does not seem to have been used against the other brother, John, when he contested Wicklow at the 1874 general election.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 April 1873, 17 March 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, 28 April 1873.
 Sherlock, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, 180.
 Freeman's Journal, 23 May 1874; British Parliamentary Papers, 1884, C.3906, Irish Land Commission, 108-9; C.5877, 26-27.
 The sole recorded tenant to buy his farm at the 1874 auction paid £125 for land rented at £5-11-7d, i.e. 22.4 years' purchase, about the going rate for the whole estate. Freeman's Journal, 23 May 1874.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 103.
 Irish Times, 26 October 1880.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 174.
 J.H. Whyte, The Independent Irish Party 1850-9 (Oxford, 1958), 52.
 S. L. Steele, The Right Honourable Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh: A Biography (London, 1891), 202-3.
 Freeman's Journal, 31 January 1874.
 It is intriguing to note that John Parnell recalled his brother canvassing Wicklow voters at Hacketstown, on the Carlow side of the county boundary. Hacketstown had a fair on the first Thursday in February; polling in Wicklow was on February 12. J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 136; S. Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London, 1837), http://www.libraryireland.com/topog/h.php.
 Freeman's Journal, 13 March 1874; Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 166.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 166-84.
 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 'Parnell, Charles Stewart'.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 279.
 Cork Examiner, 20 November 1880, quoting a London newspaper, the Standard.
 Nation, 4 December 1880.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 153-4. Accounts of Avondale life often refer to wood fires. An over-imaginative journalist who visited Avondale in 1890 located the sawmills by walking 'through the park, which is full of great trees; there are evergreen oaks of huge girth, whose branches would shelter a small army'. Nation, 25 October 1890. Evidently, Avondale had not run out of trees.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 61-2, 113.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 153-5; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 279.
 Wicklow News-Letter, 1 August, 12 September 1874. The Edwards sawmills were steam-powered, and the company also sold imported English bar iron and Welsh slates. It is not clear whether they continued to advertise, so perhaps the expenditure was not worthwhile.
 Dundalk Democrat, 10 January 1891.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 256-7.
 Parnell's friend Captain Bookey also operated a sawmill. Bookey was drowned in 1876, and it has not been established whether his enterprise continued. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 113.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 316. The sawmills were very much driven by Parnell's own energy. A visitor in 1911 found only a handful of men working, one of whom commented that 'things were different here when Master Charles was alive.' Irish Independent, 27 September 1911.
 Although brief, Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 179-82 is the best account of Parnell's quarrying enterprise.
 Nation, 29 August 1885.
 Kerry Sentinel, 6 October 1888.
 Nation, 12 January 1889, quoting Pall Mall Gazette; Irish Times, 18 January 1890, speech by T.W. Russell.
 Dundalk Democrat, 10 January 1891.
 Standish O'Grady, The Story of Ireland (London, 1894), 203-4.
 Callanan, T.M. Healy, 328. The Nation also sneered at Parnell's quarries, 10 January 1891.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 283-4, 287.
 Katharine O'Shea, Charles Stewart Parnell: His Life and Loves (2 vols, London, 1914), ii, 55.
 Katharine Tynan, Twenty-Five Years: Reminiscences (London, 1913), 319-20.
 There is an oblique allusion in Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy, 605. For the strike, Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 179-82. It is an intriguing coincidence that the leader was called Larkin. If, as some suspected, Parnell's enemies had some hand in stirring up discontent, they may have been responding to a speech he made in Belfast in May 1891 in praise of industrial harmony. Paul Bew, C.S. Parnell (Dublin, 1980), 127.
 Frank Callanan, The Parnell Split 1890-91 (Cork, 1992), 300-1, 307. Parnell was also playing up a contrast with his tormenter, Tim Healy, who was a director of a linoleum works in Scotland. Parnell claimed Healy had invested £16,000; an 1888 estimate was £2,000. Callanan, T.M. Healy, 103.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 152.
 Parnell mentioned the Kildare investment in a letter to a lawyer dated 24 June 1891, Nation, 6 July 1891.
 Nation, 29 August 1885.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 147, 297-8; Irish Times, 3 August 1882; Katharine O'Shea, Charles Stewart Parnell: His Life and Loves, ii, 53-4.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 155-59; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 282-3; Nation, 4 July 1891. Something of a benign legend grew up around the deal between the two men, Irish Times, 13 March 1909.
Something should also be said of Parnell's mining ventures, although these were obviously not connected to his support for tenant right. His explorations have been either ignored or derided: as so often, the best condensed account is by Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 159-65. Contemporaries believed that the district around Rathdrum 'abounds in minerals generally': when the railway was extended south of the town in 1863, a journalist noted from the train that the sides of the Avonmore valley were 'torn and disfigured by the work of miners'. (Irish Times, 21 August 1861; 20 July 1863). An official return in 1873 reported seven companies at work in the county, principally around Avoca and Woodenbridge. (British Parliamentary Papers, 1874, C.1056, 51). It is easy to imagine how historians would have scoffed had Parnell not attempted to exploit local resources: here was a politician who orated about Ireland's undeveloped riches, but who never lifted a finger to search the mineral-rich landscape under his own feet! Official returns also indicate that exploration for minerals represented a minor activity for Parnell, in line with his emphasis on economic activities more directly linked to tenant customers. His Avondale mine was described as 'exploration' in 1873, and even this enterprise was 'discontinued' four years later. (British Parliamentary Papers, 1874, C.1056, 51; 1875, C.1216, 56; 1876, C.1499, 56; 1877, C.1734, 26). As it was pumped by the nearby waterwheel that powered the sawmill, this venture probably cost very little. Parnell claimed to have tapped into a lode of lead in 1880, but this seems to have been one of many disappointments. Similarly, in 1891 he confessed he had abandoned the search for gold in Wicklow. Indeed, despite his assiduous assaying of samples, he was unable to produce enough gold for his wife's wedding ring. (Cork Examiner, 20 November 1880; Callanan, The Parnell Split, 300; K. O'Shea [Parnell], Charles Stewart Parnell ... ( 2 vols, London, 1914), i, 184). Parnell was employing 6 – 8 men at his Avondale mine in 1883-87. (British Parliamentary Papers, 1884, C.4056, 136; 1886, C.4771, 130; 1887, C.5132, 144). He then stepped up his activities, no doubt thanks to the cash injection of the Parnell Tribute, initially concentrating on clearing rubble from old mine shafts in the Wicklow Hills. In one of these, miners' tools were found abandoned thirty feet down: Parnell concluded, either whimsically or as a joke, that the boring had been hastily abandoned during some raid by the mountain clans, the O'Tooles and the O'Byrnes. Clearing the shafts helped him trace a vein of iron ore, and in January 1891 he was planning to ship two cargoes to Whitehaven, the port serving the Cumberland iron-mining district, to be smelted. A journalist who accompanied him for a day on the hills found him well informed and enthusiastic. The possibility that Parnell was on the verge of success adds another dimension to the tragedy of his death. It is to be regretted that this aspect of his business activities has been filtered through the contempt of Standish O'Grady who, on the basis of a ten-minute conversation, dismissed Parnell's enthusiasms as 'half diverting, half pathetic'. Dundalk Democrat, 10 January 1891; O'Grady, Story of Ireland, 203-4.
 Irish Independent, 12 January 1909 ('famous' quotation); Irish Times, 25 February 1895, 30 October 1897, 7 July 1916, 2 December 1929. Large-scale lay-offs in 1905 cost the locality £140 a week in lost wages, and in 1929 it was stated that the 'Parnell Quarries ... at one time gave employment to between 400 and 500 men', Irish Times, 25 January 1905, 2 December 1929. For a visit of Archbishop Walsh in 1897 (he was 'agreeably surprised' by the operation), the operation was tactfully renamed 'the Rock Quarries,' Irish Times, 13 August 1897. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 158-9 seems negative about the enterprise after 1891.
 Not much is known about Parnell's attempt to sell his property, probably because the project never came to advertisement or auction. Nation, 10 December 1882, implied that the whole estate, estimated at 5,000 acres, was to be sold. It seems difficult to believe that Parnell intended to sell Avondale itself: the house had sentimental value, the sawmills were his major source of income, and the park supplied his timber. Nation, 16 December 1882.
 F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 244-46. Lyons took an oddly aloof attitude to the sum collected, which he called 'nearly £40,000'. It was probably no coincidence that the first call for a Tribute came from the Avoca (County Wicklow) branch of the Irish National League: Parnell was an indulgent landlord and his tenants had no wish to see him replaced.
 The point is effectively argued by Callanan, T.M. Healy, 323.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 287.
 Bew, Enigma, 13.
 There are various editions of the Minutes of Evidence of the 1888 Special Commission. The key extracts are helpfully reproduced in Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 24.
 Parnell was not listed among those present at the formal return in the Wicklow Court House, but as he was not then a prominent resident, this may not be conclusive. Wicklow News-Letter, 28 November 1868.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 55. Muddled memory can be seen in the story that the Parnells gave hospitality to a young Southerner called Harry King, marooned in Europe by the Civil War, who had 'met Charley at Cambridge'. The chronology does not work, and King has not been identified as a Cambridge student.
 Sherlock, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, 66.
 Bew, Enigma, 11.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 16.
 Special Commission evidence, e.g. Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 24.
 Parnell's phrase at Navan in 1875: Freeman's Journal, 16 October 1875.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 24. J.H. Whyte, The Independent Irish Party 1850-9 (Oxford, 1958) is the chief source for the movement of 1852. In a later summary, Whyte highlighted another difference between the 1850s and 1870s, the replacement of patronage appointments in the civil service by competitive examination. Irish MPs ceased to be besieged with requests to arrange government jobs, creating a context in which MPs could resist the pressure to seek favours. Whyte, The Tenant League and Irish Politics in the eighteen-fifties (Irish History Series, Dundalk, 1972), 23-4. In 1965, Michael Hurst argued [a] that historians had based their assessment of the impact of the ballot in Ireland largely upon Parnell's 1888 claim and [b] that emphasising its importance ignored the string of Nationalist successes in by-elections before the introduction of secret voting, notably in Tipperary in 1869 and Kerry in 1872. Hurst further argued that the ballot had relatively little effect on the 1874 general election (nor, we might add, on Parnell's performance in the County Dublin by-election that year). Hurst's argument remains persuasive, but two reservations may be offered. First, it conflates expectation with outcome: on the basis of his American tour, Parnell may well have entertained higher hopes for the ballot than would be immediately realised. Second, in the three constituencies that he would have known best, there was good reason to hope that secret voting would shake up local elites. 5 of the 6 MPs sitting for the counties of Carlow, Dublin and Wicklow were Conservatives. In Wicklow, W.W.F. Dick had not faced opposition since 1857; Carlow electoral politics had been moribund since John Ball's invasion in 1852. M. Hurst, 'Ireland the Ballot Act of 1872', Historical Journal, viii (1965), 326-52.
 Freeman's Journal, 17 August 1882.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, ii, 263-4.
 Irish Times, 28 September 1869.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 198, notes that he was a synodsman for Rathdrum in a diocesan conference in 1879. Key word searches in the Irish Times do not suggest that he took any part in Church of Ireland activities, and disestablishment can hardly be argued as his model for local self-government. In the House of Commons on 4 March 1879 he cited the fact that 'I, a Protestant, a member of the late Disestablished Church, a member of the Synod, represent the Catholics of Meath' as evidence that Irish people were not 'ignorant and bigoted'. Hansard, 4 March 1879, 207, consulted as: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1879/mar/04/resolutions#S3V0244P0_18790304_HOC_52.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 43.
 Other contemporary events might be nominated as having a potential impact on Parnell. Roy Foster accepts the possibility that Parnell would have taken an interest in the work of Lord Monck, also a Wicklow Liberal, as governor-general of Canada, presiding over Confederation in 1867, which created a new Dominion parliament, complete with a House of Commons. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 59.
 There is, of course, a massive scholarly literature on 1866-7: F.B. Smith, The Making of the Second Reform Bill (Melbourne, 1966) remains the key account. M. Cowling, Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution ... (Cambridge, 1967) stresses the 'high politics' manoeuvring.
 W. O'Brien, The Parnell of Real Life (London, 1926), 96.
 K. O'Shea [Parnell], Charles Stewart Parnell, ii, 18-20. For all their professed devotion to inherited institutions, the Conservatives in 1867 had experimented with a system by which some cities were given 3 MPs, but electors only 2 votes. This was intended to protect minorities.
 A.B. Cooke and J. Vincent, The Governing Passion .... (Brighton, 1974) demonstrates how politicians kept their options open.
 In an interesting selection of terminology, he dismissed the detail of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill as 'poetry', concentrating rather on the fact that it provided 'no end of material for concessions, if we are to gain the big things.' O'Brien, Parnell of Real Life, 110.
 A. Hardinge, The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnavon ... (Oxford, 1925), iii, 178-81.
 D. Steele, Lord Salisbury ... (London, 1999), 183-201.
 Kettle, Material for Victory, 70-1. 'I knew the danger of getting mixed up with English statesmen,' he told Barry O'Brien in 1891. 'They only make you give way, and I gave way a great deal too much.' R.B. O'Brien, Life, ii, 332-3.
 L.M. Geary, The Plan of Campaign 1886-1891 (Cork, 1986) shows how little Parnell was involved.
 O'Brien, Life, ii, 265.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 16.
 E.D. Steele, Irish Land and British Politics... (Cambridge, 1974), 87-92, 280-1, 312.
 Freeman's Journal, 15 April 1872.
 Hansard, 14 March 1878, 1298, consulted as: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1878/mar/14/the-irish-church-act-legislation-question#S3V0238P0_18780314_HOC_36.
 Hansard, 11 April 1878, 1103-4, consulted as: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1878/apr/11/questions-resolution#S3V0239P0_18780411_HOC_60.
 Dundalk Democrat, 9 November 1878.
 British Parliamentary Papers, 1878, 249, Select Committee on the Workings of the Irish Land Act, 1870.
 British Parliamentary Papers, 1878, 249, Select Committee on the Workings of the Irish Land Act, 1870, 312-16.
 Kettle, Material for Victory, 36.
 O'Brien, Life, i, 158-68; Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 80-1.
 Bew, Enigma, 49.
 Kerry Sentinel, 19 November 1878, also quoted Bew, Enigma, 47.
 Quoted, L. Kennedy, 'The economic thought...' in D.G. Boyce and A. Day, eds, Parnell In Perspective (London, 1991), 174.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 27.
 O'Brien, The Parnell of Real Life, 16.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, ii, 35-6.
 L. Marley, Michael Davitt: Freelance Radical and Frondeur (Dublin, 2010 ed.), 74.
 Isaac Butt, Land Tenure in Ireland: A Plea for the Celtic Race (3rd ed., Dublin, 1866), 91, consulted as:
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=BHsZAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en_GB&pg=GBS.PR1. In 1886, the Prussian government began a programme of buying out landlords in east Prussia. However, this was aimed not at social engineering but at the settlement of German-speaking farmers in Polish areas. It was not a precedent that would appeal to any Irish nationalist and, in any case, it commenced after land purchase had been placed on the Irish / British political agenda.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 74-111.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 74-7.
 The conqueror of Paris, Marshal MacMahon, had inherited an estate in County Waterford, which he sold in 1865 to Parnell's ally Sir Joseph McKenna. MacMahon became President of the Third Republic in 1873.
 For J.H. Parnell in Alabama, see http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3706.
 Sherlock, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, 66.
 New York Times, 1 May 1872. As so often, Parnell cut things fine. On 20 April 1872, he was a steward at the Wicklow steeplechases. The Scotia called at Queenstown on April 21st, intending to sail at 2.30 p.m. that day. Irish Times, 22 April; Cork Examiner, 20 April 1872. A recent study by Bernadette Whelan also locates the visit in 1872-3: B. Whelan, 'The Transatlantic World of Charles Stewart Parnell,' Journal of Transatlantic Studies, xiv (2016).I have not had been able to consult J.D. Fair and C.C. Humphrey, 'The Alabama Dimension to the Political Thought of Charles Stewart Parnell, Alabama Review, lii (1999). J.H. Parnell's statement that the brothers left New York on 1 January 1872 aboard the City of Antwerp cannot be simply transferred forward twelve months. Both the Inman Line flagships, City of Antwerp and City of Brussels, were on the east side of the Atlantic at the time. New York Times, 3, 14, 30 December 1872. The New York Times, 8 January 1872, had reported J.H. Parnell as a passenger on the City of Brussels, leaving for Liverpool, on 7 January 1872, and it is possible that he confused the two voyages.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 90-1.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 24 (misprint corrected).
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 24.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 131-2.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 48.
 Sherlock, The Life of ... Parnell, 67.
 See, generally, M.V. Hazell, 'The Young Charles Stewart Parnell, 1874-1876', Eire-Ireland, viii (1973).
 Bew, Enigma, 13, and see Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 43, where his announcement came 'to everyone's astonishment' in his family.
 D. Thornley, Isaac Butt and Home Rule (London, 1964), 162-75. Parnell's non-participation is confirmed by the list of ticket-holders published in Proceedings of the Home Rule Conference... *** (Dublin, 1874), xii.
 R. Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic Minister ... (London, 1999), 134-7.
 Freeman's Journal, 31 January 1874.
 Thornley, Isaac Butt and Home Rule, 176-7.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, i, 70-1; Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 43.
 Freeman's Journal, 13 March 1874; Irish Times, 3, 10 February 1873. Fr Galvin, parish priest of Rathdrum, was also a member of the Association.
 Freeman's Journal, 3, 7 February 1874; Wicklow News-Letter, 8 June 1867.
 Mahony quickly withdrew: Freeman's Journal, 4 February 1875. He offered himself for Wicklow in 1880, reminding voters that he had served as High Sheriff in 1869, and had convened a tenants' meeting in support of what became the 1870 Land Act. Irish Times, 29 March 1880.
 This was alleged by D.J. Henry, a supporter of Liberal candidate H.W. Fitzwilliam, who was defeated. Henry's account is not charitable towards the Parnells. Irish Times, 13 March 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, 6 February 1874. Unfortunately, there is a gap in the files of the excellent Wicklow News-Letter for this period.
 Irish Times, 13 March 1874.
 John Howard Parnell had argued against standing, pleading that he was 'somewhat prejudiced in public opinion' because of his American farming activities. J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 123.
 Irish Times, 16 February 1874.
 Irish Times, 13 March 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, 10 February 1874.
 Irish Times, 13 March 1874.
 The classic account is R. Barry O'Brien, Life, i, 72-5.
 Irish Times, 12 March 1874, 'There is no likelihood of Colonel Taylor being beaten. On the contrary, the opposition has increased his friends.'
 Parnell to Lord Howth, 14 March 1874, facsimile in Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 14.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 45-6.
 He had attended the founding conference of the League, Irish Times, 19 November 1873.
 R. B. O'Brien, Life, i, 73.
 Freeman's Journal, 14, 21 March 1873; Nation, 19 April 1873.
 Kettle, Material for Victory, 22, and see Foster's comment on the need to analyse 'off-beat humour', Paddy and Mr Punch, 47.
 Kettle, Material for Victory, 17-18.
 Irish Times, 9 March; Freeman's Journal, 11 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 16 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 9 March 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, 11 March 1874. Perhaps there is nothing startling about the theory that Parnell was primarily a tenant right candidate. As far back as 1954, L.J.McCaffrey's study of the 1874 general election demonstrated that the Home Rulers were overshadowed by tenant right campaigners in many parts of Ireland. McCaffrey, 'Home Rule and the General Election of 1874 in Ireland', Irish Historical Studies, ix (1954), 190-212.
 Fr Galvin's letter was published 5 years later: Nation, 23 August 1879.
 Irish Times, 13 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 12, 17 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 13, 15, 16, 17 March 1874.
 Sherlock, Life of Charles S. Parnell, 69-74.
 J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, 138.
 T.P. O'Connor, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memory, 37.
 Freeman's Journal, 12, 13 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 17, 18 March 1874.
 Freeman's Journal, Irish Times, 20 March 1874.
 Irish Times, 19 March 1874.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, i, 75; Kettle, Material for Victory, 18.
 Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 136.
 Irish Times, 13 March 1874.
 The money would have been welcome. The Home Rule League's bank balance was less than £60 in April 1874. Cork Examiner, 8 April 1874.
 Irish Times, 3 April 1874.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, i, 77-9.
 Bew, Enigma, 27.
 Nation, 23 October 1875.
 Irish Times, 23 January 1875.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 16. Shortly before his death, at the age of 15, his elder brother Hayes was said to have written a 'History of Ireland as she is to be', containing 'laws of his own framing for her free government.' Sherlock, Life of Charles S. Parnell, 173.
 Nation, 4 December 1875.
 Nation, 22 January 1876.
 Nation, 25 November 1876.
 Irish Times, 23 January 1875.
 Hansard, 26 April 1875, 1644-5, consulted as: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1875/apr/26/peace-preservation-ireland-bill-bill-77#S3V0223P0_18750426_HOC_33.
 Nation, 4 December 1875.
 Nation, 23 October 1875.
 Freeman's Journal, 12 March 1874.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, ii, 97-8.
 R.B. O'Brien, Life, i, 119-20.
 Kissane, Parnell: A Documentary History, 21.
 Cf. Wicklow News-Letter 20 July 1867, 1 May 1869.
 Irish Times, 14 December 1874.
 Irish Times, 16 December 1874. It is a commentary on Parnell's always-tortuous handwriting that 'Arklow' was at one point read as 'Athlone'.
 M. O'Brien, The Irish Times: A History (Dublin, 2008), 23-5.
 Irish Times, 16 December 1874. While the Irish Privy Council did operate an ad hoc committee system, its suggested use to vet legislation (let alone supersede the functions of Westminster) would have represented a considerable elaboration of function. McDowell, The Irish Administration, 106.
 Hansard, 20 July 1885, 1255, consulted as: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1885/jul/20/class-i-public-works-and-buildings#S3V0299P0_18850720_HOC_214.
 Dundalk Democrat, 10 January 1891.
 Callanan, The Parnell Split, 299.
 Kerry Sentinel, 19 November 1878; Bew, Enigma, 43-5.
 O'Brien, Life, i, 168.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 82; Bew, Enigma, 58.
 Bew, Enigma, 48.
 Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, 270.
 Bew, Enigma, 112.
 Bew, Enigma, 118.
 K. O'Shea [Parnell], Charles Stewart Parnell, ii. 20.
 Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 45.
 O'Donnell, A History of the Irish Parliamentary Party, i, 438.
 Bew, Enigma, 129-35.
 O'Brien, Life, ii, 259-60.
 O'Brien, Life, ii, 337.
 C.C. O'Brien, Parnell and His Party, 351.
 O'Brien, Life, i, 310.
 E. Powell, Joseph Chamberlain (London, 1977), 151.
 Thornley, Isaac Butt, 9.