Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881) is today best known for his poem The Music Makers, which was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar in 1912, long after the poet’s premature death. Little known today, O’Shaughnessy was, in his time, lauded as a new voice in a era when the publication of a volume of poetry was a major event.
Sadly, O’Shaughnessy’s flame shone all too briefly. His critically acclaimed Epic of Women (1870) was not, as he hoped, the start of a glittering career but in fact its zenith and his subsequent work was published almost unnoticed.
His life was beset by minor tragedy, compounded by his desperation to escape his humdrum existence working in the British Museum. A doomed relationship with a married woman, Helen Snee, ended somewhat bizarrely in her trial and subsequent imprisonment. Their correspondence, reproduced in this book, is a fascinating insight into the mindset of the poet and his muse.
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