MANGAN, JAMES CLARENCE (1803-1849), Irish poet, was born in Dublin on May 1, 1803. His baptismal name was James, the "Clarence" being his own addition. His father, a grocer, who boasted of the terror with which he inspired his chil dren, had ruined himself by imprudent speculation and extrava gant hospitality. The burden of supporting the family fell on James, who entered a scrivener's office, at the age of fifteen, and drudged as a copying clerk for ten years. He was employed for some time in the library of Trinity college, and in 1833 he found a place in the Irish ordnance survey. He suffered a disappointment in love, and continued ill health drove him to the use of opium. He was habitually the victim of hallucinations which at times threatened his reason. For Charles Maturin, the eccentric author of Melmoth, he cherished a deep admiration, the results of which are evident in his prose stories. He belonged to the Comet Club, a group of youthful enthusiasts who carried on war in their paper, the Comet, against the levying of tithes on behalf of the Protest ant clergy. Contributions to the Dublin Penny Journal followed; and to the Dublin University Magazine he sent translations from the German poets. The mystical tendency of German poetry had a special appeal for him. He also wrote versions of old Lish poems, though his knowledge of the language, at any rate at the beginning of his career, was but slight. Some of his best-known Irish poems, however, O'Hussey's Ode to the Maguire, for in stance, follow the originals very closely. Besides these were "trans
lations" from Arabic, Turkish and Persian. How much of these languages he knew is uncertain, but he had read widely in Oriental subjects, and some of the poems are exquisite though the original authors whom he cites are frequently mythical. He took a mis chievous pleasure in mystifying his readers, and in practising extraordinary metres. For the Nation he wrote from the beginning (1842) of its career, and much of his best work appeared in it. He afterwards contributed to the United Irishman. On June 20, 2849 he died at Meath hospital, Dublin, of cholera. It is not true that starvation was the real cause, but there is no doubt that his wretched poverty made him ill able to withstand disease.
Mangan's fame was deferred by the inequality and mass of his work, much of which lay buried in inaccessible newspaper files under his many pseudonyms, "Vacuus," "Terrae Filius," "Clar ence," etc. Of his genius, morbid though it sometimes is, as in his tragic autobiographical ballad of The Nameless One, there can be no question. He expressed with rare sincerity the tragedy of Irish hopes and aspirations, and he furnished abundant proof of his versatility in his excellent nonsense verses, which are in strange contrast with the general trend of his work.
The Poems of James Clarence Mangan (1903) , and the Prose Writings (1904), were both edited by D. J. O'Donoghue, who wrote in 1897 a complete account of the Life and Writings of the poet.