From My Hands to Yours: Uncovering the Tynan – Wyndham Connection

Dedicated to Dr. G. Krishnamurti

When I first bought this book listed below, I informed the dealer, John Hart Rare Books of Salthouse, Great Britain, that I was 95% sure it was inscribed to George Wyndham, Britain’s Chief Secretary to Ireland:

Tynan, Katherine [Hinkson]. A Little Book for John O’Mahony’s Friends (Portland, ME: Thomas Bird Mosher, 1909. First American edition. Original green semi-stiff wrappers, printed glassine dust-wrapper, slip-case. 12mo. pp. x. 56. Bishop 208; Colbeck p. 886. Presentation copy: “Mr. Wyndham from his friend the writer Oct. 1912.” First published in England by James Guthrie at the Pear Tree Press in 1906, the book is a memoir of John O. Mahony and includes a number of poems by Tynan. Dust-wrapper slightly creased, other-wise a fine copy.

Of course, Tynan was Irish so there was a possible connection with Wyndham who served in Ireland. I conjectured that perhaps they were on a friendly basis on account of Wyndham’s close association with Hillarie Belloc. Tynan had met Madame Belloc and Hilaire. It was a guess. The timing worked out because the book was inscribed October 1912, eight months before George Wyndham died. Furthermore, Wyndham was a lover of literature–especially the literature of the period’s Irish “Renaissance” of which Tynan was an exponent–and wrote poetry in exchanges with Hilaire Belloc and others. And to address the recipient as “Mr. Wyndham from his friend the writer Oct. 1912” seemed to me to preserve both their friendly relationship and the fact that Wyndham was a dignitary. These possible scenarios made sense to me, and only needed to be confirmed through Tynan’s memoirs or by checking out one of the biographies on her which is what I figured I’d have to do. Of course I might have been way off base, in which case I’d still have a nice inscribed Mosher book from the author’s hands. But before getting into the background of the inscription itself, here’s rundown of the three principal players: the author, the publisher and his connection to her, and the recipient.

The book’s author, Katharine Tynan (1861-1931), was an Irish religious poet, popular novelist, and part of the Irish “Renaissance” movement or the “Celtic Revival” of which Thomas Bird Mosher himself was quite fond. Mosher first published her briefly in an article on Lionel Johnson’s poems which appeared in the March 1904 issue of The Bibelot. Then selections from her work appeared in Mosher’s anthologies: A Little Garland of Celtic Verse (1905) and A Little Garland of Christmas Verse (1905). More was to come.

The June and September 1907 issues of The Bibelot were devoted to her small works “…for John O’Mahoney’s Friends” and “…for Mary Gill’s Friends” respectively (later in 1911 Mosher even had a few copies of the Mary Gill work in The Bibelot specially bound for himself and Katharine Tynan for which she thanked him “for the beautiful little special copy of Mary Gill” embellished with one of C. R. Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft devices of a “pink” flower). In the same year he published a full book by Tynan called A Little Book of XXIV Carols (1907). Two years after “John O’Mahoney’s Friends” appearance in The Bibelot it then took on full book form in Mosher’s Lyric Garland Series as A Little Book for John O’Mahoney’s Friends (1909) in the Little Masterpieces Series on which he said “we take the unasked liberty of reprinting.” The last appearances of any of Tynan’s writings appeared in the June 1910 issue of The Bibelot (“The Dearest of All”) and in another one of Mosher’s celebrated anthologies, the Amphora (1912). That same year Tynan also introduced Mosher to her friend, Lucy Blanche Masterman, whose book Lyrical Poems (1912) he published using her pseudonym, Lucy Lyttelton. After that no more of Tynan’s work appeared except from re-issuances of the same previously published works with the exception of the 1914 expanded version of A Little Garland of Christmas Verse in which Mosher added her poem “An Old Song Re-Sung”.

The supposed recipient of the inscribed copy of A Little Book for John O’Mahomey’s Friends was–at least I hoped–George Wyndham. Wyndham (b. 29 August 1863, London; d. 8 June 1913, Paris) was a veteran of the Coldstream Guards, a British Conservative politician, Member of Parliament and Chief Secretary for Ireland. As Chief Secretary he was responsible for the Irish Land Purchase Act of 1903, also known as the Wyndham Land Purchase, which alleviated problems surrounding Irish farm ownership between landlords and peasants. As a man of letters, he was critic for the National Observer (under W. E. Henley) and the New Review, and was also the editor of Shakespeare’s Poems (1898), of Ronsard, and of North’s Plutarch.

Of course, I wanted to confirm or revise my conjectures about Tynan’s recipient. I began to dig a bit, and where before I said I was 95% sure, well now I’m 100% positive it was George Wyndham. In Katharine Tynan’s The Middle Years (London: Constable, 1916) Chapter XVII is entitled “Mr. George Wyndham” (pp. 222-238). This proved to be a gold mine explaining her relationship to him and even the inscription’s form of address in the above copy of A Little Book for John O’Mahony’s Friends. On the first two pages she writes:

Some time in November, 1900 I find the entry in my diary, “Letter, Mr. Wyndham”; and a day later, “Wrote to Mr. Wyndham”; and again, “Letter, Mr. Wyndham.” These bare entries have relation to one of the most golden happenings of my life. I had come into personal touch with the one who to me stood for so much romance: who was half Lord Edward [Fitzgerald] and half his gracious, charming self to me then and to the end. And these were not his first letters by any manner of means…

… What is it in the case of certain men which makes their plain “Mr.” prouder than any title? It is so especially with statesmen–Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Canning, Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Balfour. For these to be anything else than “Mr.” is inconceivable. It is a case of “King I could not be: prince I would not be. I am De Rohan.”

So mysteriously one always thinks of Mr. Wyndham. [on to p. 223] The simple title of the commoner, shared with the whole world of men, assumes its own pride, and its own beauty in his case. The sounding titles could give him nothing.

He was out of his due time and place in nineteenth and twentieth-century England. He belonged to a more romantic age. The spacious days would not have misbecome his charming personality, his gifts of imagination and poetry, his courtesy, his graciousness, his spirit and gaiety, his beautiful presence.

Happily the above explained the inscription’s opening form of addressing Wyndhan as “Mr. Wyndham.” Already strongly intimated from the opening of her first paragraph where she recalls this relationship as “one of the most golden happenings of my life,” Tynan reveals an almost magical friendship which was sadly never completed through even a brief personal meeting.

Katharine Tynan recounts how she had at one time “emptied myself of all the hero-worship I had to give” (p. 226) but continues on to say that after a hiatus of seven years, “I sent a volume of verse I had published in 1898 to Mr. Wyndham” simply because she was “attracted by the things I had heard of Mr. Wyndham, who seemed to me Lord Edward come to life again.” Thus began a long exchange of rather touching correspondences “before finis was reached in 1913″ and further punctuated by Tynan inscribing many of her books to “Mr. Wyndham.” That these two souls were affixed to one another is quite plainly observed, and Tynan called herself “a True Blue Wyndham Person” (227), even dedicating her Collected Poems and Innocencies to him. She continued “sending him my books now and again… reminding Mr. Wyndham of my existence” (230) and their friendship through letters deepened to the point of sharing details on the trials and travails of life. When discussing the deaths of their fathers, Tynam mentions Mr. Wyndham’s speaking “of his love for his father in words which are too sacred to reprint” (231) and mentions that in “those [letters] which followed I seem to see a greater warmth, a more intimate kindness, as though the shadow of the end was coming and he must touch with his friends while he might” (232). Wyndham reciprocated saying “I can only thank you with all my heart for the unseen but nearly felt friendship which you have given me” (232).

Mrs. Katharine Tynan Hinkson and Mr. George Wyndham never met, even though they once worked under the same roof at the National Observer early in their careers and they both highly revered their same hero  editor, W. E. Henley. She did ask Wyndham to visit on his way though Dublin in the autumn of 1912 but he never did, pleading the fast pace of a “Flying Dutchman.” Correspondingly, he asked if she would visit him to “look at pictures that would interest you, and at the downs…” and further reciprocated by asking her and her husband to attend the wedding of his son, Percy, on 17 April 1913, “but unfortunately we did not go, and I shall always regret it” (233/234). Less than two months later George Wyndham would be dead.

Prior to the wedding of Percy Wyndham, Tynan sent the son a wedding gift of one of AE’s (George Russell) paintings. Percy greatly appreciated its “Spirit of Ireland” which he felt it richly conveyed. Following the death of his father, Tynan also sent Percy poems and a letter which greatly touched him. On Christmas Day of 1913 he wrote that his father “often spoke of you to me and I loved your friendship…” adding that he wanted to send Tynan a special book of her choosing from his father’s library because “I know what a dear and uncommon friend you were to him, and I have long wanted to do this”(235). Before another Christmas would pass, Tynan received word that Percy was killed on 14 September 1914 while leading his platoon against the Germans. So ended Tynan’s last important link to Mr. George Wyndham. In 1916 she dedicated her book of Lord Edward: A Study in Romance (London: John Murray):


So this little inscribed book of Tynan’s A Little Book for John O’Mahony’s Friends, itself a tribute to her beloved Irish brother-in-law, has become through this unraveling of a tale much more than just another inscribed Mosher book. It was part of that chain of books sent by their author to her very dear friend. It was a book lovingly held by that same Mr. George Wyndham who likewise occupied her thoughts, and precipitated  her writing to “Mr. Wyndham from his friend the writer  Oct. 1912” perhaps just to “remind [him] of my existence” and which passed on to his son under whose stewardship the chain was finally broken. Now one can see why the book is to be valued. It stands as a testament of that “uncommon friendship” shared between these two who so dearly loved Ireland and who reveled in their mutual correspondence. The little volume now resides in its own place of honor in the Mosher collection here at the Bishopric.

Philip R. Bishop
5 August 2004

This essay is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer, president of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the March 2005 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.