The Story of Daniel O'Connell. This book is a novel, but the characters and situations have been faithfully interpreted according to historical facts. I have chosen to present the story as a record, written by Charles Bianconi, of the life of his friend Daniel O'Connell. During the record, some of Bianconi's own, amazing, life emerges too. In fact Charles Bianconi wrote no such record, but he was a close friend of O'Connell's and the two families were to become related by marriage. It follows Daniel O'Connell from his birth and upbringing in the family of what was really a smuggler baron, his education in Ireland, in France and latterly in England and Ireland again in the law. It traces his amazing career as a barrister, describes his wonderful marriage, and analyses the gradual shift from the law to politics. As a politician he achieved greatness, leading the party which held the balance of power in England in the run-up to the Great Reform Bill of 1832 which was in no small part his work, and eventually becoming what was very, very close to the ruler of Ireland, the last, though uncrowned, King.
My object has been not simply to tell the story of arguably the greatest man in 19th century Ireland, but to paint a picture of the times in which he lived. So we see fly-boats which offered a passenger service faster than a coach, sailing packets giving way to the steam ships, coaches giving way to trains, the atmospheric railway which ran for ten years from Dun Laoghaire to Dalkey without an engine to pull it, the squalor of 19th century Dublin and the beauty of Kerry, the price of meat and the fees of a barrister, duels and gaslight, menus and the theatre. The last two centuries have seen huge changes everywhere, but in Ireland there is the added inconvenience for the writer of name changes. Dun Laoghaire was Kingstown in 1865 (and was Dunleary before 1830!). Portlaiose was Maryborough, County Offaly was King's County, and so on. O'Connell and Bianconi would drink in Bumpers, or "Post" up to Dublin, or pay in shillings and pence, ha'pennies and farthings. Apart from name changes, there are a number of instances where 19th century customs and services like drinking toasts in bumpers or travelling post may not be familiar to the reader. So, unusually for a novel, I have included notes at the end to explain some of the more arcane references.
About Brian Igoe
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Published July 19, 2012
by Brian Igoe.
Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel.