Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kavanagh, Julia

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KAVANAGH, JULIA (1824–1877), novelist and biographer, was only child of Morgan Peter Kavanagh (d. 1874). The father was the author of ‘The Wanderings of Lucan and Dinah,’ a poetical romance in ten cantos, 1824; of ‘The Reign of Lockrin,’ a poem in Spenserian stanza, 1838; of ‘The Discovery of the Science of Languages,’ 1844, a ridiculous work on philology, which was translated into French the same year, and was developed in ‘Myths traced to their Primary Source through Language,’ 1856, and in ‘Origin of Language and Myths,’ 1871. On the title-page of one of his publications, ‘The Hobbies,’ a worthless novel (cf. Athenæum, 1857, p. 909), Kavanagh associated his daughter's name with his own, but she denied any concern in the work in a painful controversy with the publisher (cf. ib. pp. 761, 792, 822, 854).

Julia Kavanagh was born at Thurles in 1824, and in childhood accompanied her parents to London, and afterwards to Paris, where they eventually settled. In that city she gained a minute insight into French life. Returning to London in 1844 she adopted literature as a profession. Much of her time was devoted to the care of her mother, who was aged and infirm. The last years of her life she spent at Nice, where she died suddenly on 28 Oct. 1877. Her portrait by Chanet is in the National Gallery of Ireland, to which it was presented by her mother in 1884.

Miss Kavanagh began by writing tales and essays for periodicals, and published in 1847 her first book, a tale for children, entitled ‘The Three Paths,’ to which, in 1848, succeeded the well-known story of ‘Madeleine,’ founded on the life of a peasant girl of Auvergne. ‘Woman in France during the Eighteenth Century,’ containing cleverly executed pictures of contemporary female celebrities of France, appeared in 2 vols. London, 1850, 8vo; ‘Nathalie: a Tale,’ in 3 vols., the same year; followed by ‘Women of Christianity exemplary for acts of Piety and Charity,’ London, 1852, 8vo; and ‘Daisy Burns,’ a domestic novel, 3 vols. London, 1853, 8vo, which was translated into French by Madame H. Loreau, under the title of ‘Tuteur et Pupille,’ Paris, 1860.

Among her other publications were: 1. ‘Grace Lee,’ a tale, 3 vols. 1855. 2. ‘Rachel Gray, a Tale founded on Fact,’ 1856. 3. ‘A Summer and Winter in the Two Sicilies,’ 2 vols. 1858. 4. ‘Adèle,’ 3 vols. 1858. 5. ‘Seven Years, and other Tales,’ 3 vols. 1860. 6. ‘Beatrice,’ a novel, 1862. 7. ‘French Women of Letters: Biographical Sketches,’ 2 vols. London, 1862, 8vo. 8. ‘English Women of Letters: Biographical Sketches,’ 1862. 9. ‘Queen Mab,’ a novel, 3 vols. 1863. 10. ‘Sybil's Second Love,’ a novel, 3 vols. 1867. 11. ‘Dora,’ a novel, 3 vols. 1868. 12. ‘Silvia,’ 3 vols. 1870. 13. ‘Bessie,’ 3 vols. 1872. 14. ‘John Dorrien,’ 3 vols. 1875. 15. ‘Pearl Fountain, and other Fairy Tales,’ 1876, in conjunction with Bridget Kavanagh. 16. ‘Two Lilies,’ a novel, 3 vols. 1877. 17. ‘Clement's Love,’ a short tale in the ‘Argosy,’ December 1877. 18. ‘Forget-me-nots,’ a collection of tales, with preface by Charles W. Wood, 3 vols. London, 1878, 8vo. Many of her novels passed through more than one edition, and were reprinted in America. All are remarkable for graceful style and poetic feeling.

[Academy, 10 Nov. 1877, p. 449; Ann. Reg. vol. cxix. pt. ii. p. 163; Athenæum, 17 Nov. 1877, p. 630; Preface to Forget-me-nots; Irish Monthly Mag. vi. 96; Men of the Time, 1875; Times, 19 Nov. 1877, p. 6.]

T. C.