Reviews of Canon Sheehan publications
"The publication of this magnificent volume has been the high point of the celebrations to mark the first centenary of its subject’s death. Patrick Augustine Sheehan was an Irish Catholic parish priest, untypical of the breed and not always very popular with his peers, who in his final years received international recognition, not least in Irish America, as an original and convincing novelist. The author of these “outlines for a literary biography” brings to life for us an intriguing world that seemed on the cusp of a new dawn only to be submerged in the horrors of the twentieth century. A stunning feature of the book is the wealth of illustrations, many of them never before accessible, displaying the cultural, social and political realities of the times."
"One very interesting aspect of this book is the manner in which the author places Canon Sheehan in the context of European Catholicism and its intellectual trends as a whole during the course of the late 19th Century, of aspects of thought varied between post-Risorgimento Italy, Republican France, and the newly created German Empire, of which largely Catholic Bavaria was a constituent, however independent minded its people were. As so many Irish Catholics live in an Anglo-American world of thought this is certainly very interesting, revealing as it does Sheenan’s standing as a major Irish and not just Catholic literary figure in the minds of many Europeans. ... Most interesting too in this context, given the great influences which aspects of Russian literature, especially the short story as created by Chekov and Gorky had on modern Irish writing, is Canon Sheehan’s interest in and admiration for Leo Count Tolstoy...this book is very much focused on Canon Sheehan as a thinker. Though the novels are discussed it is not so much for their literary qualities as for their philosophical outlook."
The Irish Catholic, 28 November 2013
The famous Canon Sheehan of Doneraile, who died 100 years ago this year, is largely forgotten today. And few people read even his novels. But hopefully...[this] fine new book on the priest will help to reawaken interest in a remarkable man, and will lead to a rediscovery of his most entertaining and still very relevant works...Through his writings Sheehan created a powerful way to display [the] great spiritual treasures [of the Catholic theologian] far beyond the borders of his parish or his country. He was immensely popular in the United States and his novels, especially My New Curate, were translated into many European languages, including German, French, Czech, Slovenian, Dutch, Hungarian and Irish. With a keen grasp of character, they are as fresh, touching and delightful today as when first written. [This book] begins with a short biography of the canon and then gives an account of the key figures who brought him to world attention. But the bulk of the book is devoted to outlining the circumstances and events which formed the background to his writings, especially his 12 novels...For those who know little about the canon, this book is a great introduction to a wonderful priest and his still very enjoyable writings.
Alive, December 2013 (no. 195)
The first thing the reader ...will notice is [the book's] visual beauty: its thrilling reproductions of paintings by Paul Henry...Aloysius Kelly...James Humbert Craig..alongside, among others, Raphael's "School of Athens" and Ciseri's "Ecco Homo" - great impassioned swathes of colour, their impenetrable mystery offest by the author's clear, unhurried prose...The work is of interest to students of Irish politics and social life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to literary critics and intellectual historians.
When Sheehan died in October 1913, W.B. Yeats had just penned in the September of that year his famous poem bemoaning the death of romantic Ireland and the loss of what the author calls "Celtic idealism", and excoriating the philistinism of the emergent Catholic middle class. How odd and ironic that many of Yeats's themes were Canon Sheehan's as well. Like Yeats, Sheehan wished that the "filthy tide" of progress ..., positivism and materialism would stop at Irish shores. Like Yeats (though more importantly like Tolstoy), Sheehan in his "middle" group of novles, idealised the peasant class, whose quasi monastic way of life he saw as a bastion against all modern ills...And, supremely, unlike Yeats, he wished to see in Ireland a republic of minds made free by the Catholic idealism adumbrated by John Henry Newman's Idea of a University as a synthesis of faith and culture, theology and science. Such, he felt, was the pre-requisite to national independence.
From the pages [of this book], Canon Sheehan emerges a fascinating and multi-faceted figure, one of Dante's "universal man"...there was nothing parochial about him: he was in many ways a prophetic figure, curiously ahead of his time. He eschewed "closed" faith communities in favour of a fearless apologetic which does not balk at entering into dialogue with an increasingly unbelieving world, sceptical and secularist. And, engagingly, although he may have had to endure a certain intellectual isolation, no fashionable angst seems to have clung to him: there is no suggestion that he died a bitter or disillusioned man.
Catholic Voice 18 May 2014