Moore was one of the great Irish satirists
There is no doubt that Ireland has produced some fascinating
individualists and writers of varied convictions. Francis
Frankfort Moore (1855-1931), who hailed from Limerick town,
has been all but forgotten, so I thought, until I noticed
last autumn that an American publisher had issued a new
paperback of one of his novels - Phyllis of Philistria (1895).
I had stumbled on FF Moore years ago by two paths - firstly,
Professor ATQ Stewart (in his The Narrow Ground: Aspects
of Ulster (1609-1969, 1977) had quoted Moore at length and
the other path was from the fact that Moore was the brother-in-law
of Bram Stoker, the fame author of Dracula.
Moore published over 80 novels, plus various factual books,
of which his political memoir The truth about Ulster (Evelyn
Nash, 1914) is best known. He also wrote several plays ranging
from scenes of Goldsmiths life to one on Nell Gwynn
and including a four act verse play entitled The Mayflower
(1892). He was prolific in anyones estimation.
Moore was the son of a successful Limerick jeweller. His
parents were Prebyterians and he was sent to be educated
at Belfast Academical Institute where he showed an early
aptitude for poetry, publishing a volume of verse in 1872
and receiving an encouraging letter from the American poet
Longfellow. He published his first novel sojourners Together
in 1875 and the year after joined the Belfast Newsletter
as a journalist.
He remained on the staff of the Belfast Newsletter until
1892 becoming assistant editor before he moved to London,
although he continued to have a close connection with the
newspaper writing a column In Belfast By the Sea (1923-24).
He broke with his parents religion and became an Anglican
(Church of Ireland) but was a committed Unionist. It
is better to be separated from the rest of Ireland than
from Great Britain, he wrote.
He met Alice Grace Balcombe, one of the six daughters of
Colonel James Balcombe of Clontarf, near Dublin. Florence,
the fourth daughter, had married Bram Stoker of Clontarf,
whose best-known novel was to be Dracula (1897). Florence
had actually rejected Oscar Wildes offer of marriage
in favour of Bram.
Alice Grace was the youngest of the Balcombe children. The
eldest daughter, Philippa had married Dr. J Freeman Knott
of Dublin and their daughter was to be Dr Eleanor Knott,
the leading authority of Middle and Early Modern Irish.
By the 1890s, when he married Alice, Moore had been producing
at least one book a year as well as his journalism, reporting
on the Berlin Congress of 1878, which ended the Russian
- Turkish War and gave the administration of Cyprus to Britain.
He then went to South Africa in 1879 to report on the Zulu
His early novels were adventures and he won much acclaim
for his stories of the sea of the type Jack London was later
to make into literary classics. He was represented by the
AP Watt literary agents, founded by Alexander Watt in 1875
and reputed to be the worlds first literary agency.
In spite of his own Unionist views, Moore was no religious
bigot and could deal, in his novels, with sensitive
themes. In the Ulsterman (Hutchinson, 1914) he has
the son of a bigoted mill-owner marrying a Catholic girl
and The Lady of the Reef (Hutchinson, 1915) he has an English
artist living in Paris, inheriting some property in Co Down
and going to claim his inheritance but finding himself bewildered
by the sectarianism there.
Nor was he worried about writing historical novels with
Irish themes such as Castle Omeragh (Constable, 1903) set
in the west of Ireland during Cromwells ravages and
its sequel Captain Latymer (Cassell, 1908) in which his
hero is transported to Barbados by Cromwells administration
and escapes with the daughter of Hugh ONeill, the
nephew of Owen Roe.
His major success came with the Jessamy Bride (Hutchinson,
1897) published the same year as his brother-in-laws
now famous Dracula. The Jessamy Bride is recorded as the
years bestseller, and is a novel about Oliver Goldsmiths
By this time Moore and his wife had settled in London and
were regular audience members at the Lyceum Theatre where
Bram was manager.
Moores wife was to die in 1901 and he remarried to
Dorothea Hatton and moved to Lewes, Sussex, where he died
Several of Moores plays were published, like Nell
Gwyn, oliver Goldsmith, Discover, The Queens Room
and The Mayflower. His plays were staged at The Gaiety,
Dublin and The Royal in Limerick as well as in London. He
is mentioned briefly in Peter Kavanaghs book The Irish
But, after his death, Moores fiction seems to have
been mostly forgotten. Perhaps not so curious is the fact
it is his views on Unionism that have now been resurrected
after Professor Stewart quoted him in The Narrow Ground.
Patricia Craig used quotations in her The Rattle of the
North (1992) and Jonathan Baron followed suit in A History
of Ulster (1992) while Patrick Maume wrote on Ulster men
of Letters: The Unionism of Frank Frankfort Moore, Shaun
Bullock and St John Irvine (Unionism in Modern Ireland,
Richard English and Graham Walker, 1996).
One thing that commentators seems to forget is that Moore
was a great satirist and though he disliked what he saw
as Home Rulers and believed in Unionism he was
no religious bigot. While he anticipated Partition he was
very uncomfortable with the Unionism that arose after 1922.
He began to advocate a new Unionisn based on economic modernisation
and full civil liberties for everyone. But history had passed
him by. His satires of Home Rule such as Diary of an Irish
Cabinet Minister (1893), The Viceroy of Muldoon and the
Rise and Fall of Larry OLannigan JP (1893) are in
the gentle mould of Somerville and Ross rather than the
turbulent bigotry of Carson and Craig.
One may dislike Moores politics but he was a major
Irish writer of his day. It is a pity that the 1985 edition
of the Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers consigned
his birthplace to Belfast rather than Limerick and allowed
him an entry of only three lines. It is also sad that, if
people do know of Moore these days, he is remembered only
for his Unionism rather than for his fiction.
Courtesy of the Irish Post