Byrne, Julia Clara (DNB01)

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BYRNE, JULIA CLARA (1819–1894), author, born in 1819, was the second daughter and fourth child of Hans Busk (1772–1862) [q. v.] Educated by her father she became a good classical scholar and learned to speak French perfectly.

On 28 April 1842 Julia Busk married William Pitt Byrne, the proprietor of the ‘Morning Post,’ who died on 8 April 1861. There were issue of the marriage one son and one daughter.

She began at an early age to contribute to periodicals. Her first book — all her works were published anonymously — ‘A Glance behind the Grilles of the Religious Houses in France,’ appeared in 1855, and discussed the working of the Roman catholic church as compared with that of the protestant. Mrs. Byrne, coming under the influence of Cardinal Manning, became a convert to the Roman catholic church. Both at home and abroad Mrs. Byrne saw or met many persons of note, and her books deal largely with her social experiences. Some of her books, like ‘Flemish Interiors,’ 1856, and ‘Gossip of the Century,’ 1892, are anecdotal, light, and amusing, while others deal with serious social questions. ‘Undercurrents Overlooked,’ published in two volumes in 1860, called attention to the abuses of the workhouses, and its revelations, due to first-hand experience on the part of the author, created a profound impression, and helped to bring about many much-needed reforms. ‘Gheel, the City of the Simple,’ 1869, deals with the Belgian mode of treating the insane, and ‘The Beggynhof, or City of the Single,’ 1869, with a French method of providing for the unmarried.

Mrs. Byrne died at her residence, 16 Montagu Street, Portman Square, London, on 29 March 1894. She was a woman of versatile talents; she knew dead and modern languages, illustrated many of her books with her own hand, understood music, and was a good talker and correspondent.

Other works are: 1. ‘Realities of Paris Life,’ 1859. 2. ‘Red, White, and Blue: Sketches of Military Life,’ 1862, 3 vols. 3. ‘Cosas de España, illustrative of Spain and the Spaniards as they are,’ 1866, 2 vols. 4. ‘Pictures of Hungarian Life’ (illustrated by the author), 1869. 5. ‘Feudal Castles of France’ (illustrated from the author's sketches), 1869. 6. ‘Curiosities of the Search Room: a Collection of Serious and Whimsical Wills,’ 1880. 7. ‘De Omnibus Rebus: an Old Man's Discursive Ramblings on the Road of Everyday Life,’ 1888. A third and fourth volume of ‘Gossip of the Century’ was edited by her sister, Miss Rachel Harriette Busk, in 1898, with the alternative title ‘Social Hours with Celebrities.’

[Athenæum, 7 April 1894; Burke's Landed Gentry, i. 242–3; Allibone's Dict. Suppl. i. 269.]

E. L.