Sister Caroline and Brother James

August 9, 2011 · 5 comments

in Collections,Manuscripts

by Maria O’Shea, Manuscripts Student

We have a number of letters here at the National Library written by the nationalist sympathiser Caroline Margaret Douglas, Marchioness of Queensberry, including ten letters, c. 1900-1901, many, if not most of which were sent to James Connolly as editor of The Workers’ Republic.

The three greatest men ever produced in Ireland were, and are forever - Allen Larkin & O'Brien...

The three greatest men ever produced in Ireland were, and are forever - Allen Larkin & O'Brien...

Caroline Douglas née Clayton (1821-1904) was the wife of Archibald Douglas, 7th Marquess of Queensberry. She actively supported Irish nationalism, writing several pamphlets on Ireland, including Let there be Light (1897) and regularly making donations, including financing the education of James Larkin’s children and sending a £100 cheque for the dependents of the Manchester Martyrs (William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien). She subscribed to the Irish Socialist Republican Party’s literature and was said to have corresponded with James Connolly (Dictionary of Irish Biography, Vol. 3, D-F, p. 419, C.U.P., 2009), as these letters show.

I send you Enclosed my Brother with the full understanding that yr work is not in union with any who break the laws of our Father and God.

I send you Enclosed my Brother with the full understanding that yr work is not in union with any who break the laws of our Father and God.

Religious themes dominate these letters, as does the question of Irish politics. In one letter to Connolly she writes that although she agrees with much of his Erin’s Hope: the End and the Means (1897), she does not agree with anyone who ‘does not begin by building all their works [upon] … our one Father’. She goes on to call the Manchester Martyrs ‘the greatest men ever produced in Ireland … because they eternally point to the One sole life giving and saving Power’. However, she disagrees with violence and makes the proviso that she sends her letters (and presumably her contributions) on the ‘understanding that she is against the taking of life to gain any thing on earth. It is all murder’. In another letter written in 1901 she writes that it is ‘useless to wish to try to free Ireland in her present state… So far as I see, when She is prepared, her sons will walk into Ireland by their tens of thousands without striking a blow’. She also writes that the ‘murdered Boers are paving the way of the fall of the British Nation’.

I have nothing to do with Anarchy or disorder of any kind. If I have mistaken your views, please do not mention my name...

I have nothing to do with Anarchy or disorder of any kind. If I have mistaken your views, please do not mention my name...

Some of her letters mention sending cheques although in one letter from October 1901 she writes that she is worried about a cheque she has sent as it was said that ‘you are “anarchists” in your writing … I have nothing to do with anarchy or disorder of any kind’.

She consistently calls whomever she is writing to her ‘brother’ and asks him when addressing her letter not to put her title of Queensberry and instead signs her name, as she does in most of these letters, as Sister Caroline.

These letters are part of the William O’Brien papers and can be found at MS 13,950 and on microfilm Pos 6994.

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Felix Larkin August 11, 2011 at 6:51 am

Very interesting piece. Was Caroline the mother of Lord Alfred Douglas and wife of the Marquess of Queensberry who was Oscar Wilde’s nemesis?

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Bean an Phoist August 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Felix, apologies for slow reply! Still unravelling all of the Alfred Douglases… but apparently Caroline was grandmother of Oscar Wilde’s nemesis.

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Bean an Phoist August 15, 2011 at 9:48 am

Right, Felix, colour me mortified! Error in earlier reply, sorry…

Caroline was the mother of John 9th Marquess who was Wilde’s nemesis, and grandmother of Alfred Douglas who was John’s son and Oscar Wilde’s lover.

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Felicity Hayes-McCoy August 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm

This is fascinating. Loved reading it. Many thanks.

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Bean an Phoist August 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Great to hear! And you’re very welcome…

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