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Stuart, Francis, (1902-2000.) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Stuart, Francis, (1902-2000.)

Historical Note:

Henry Francis Stuart was born in Townsville, Australia on April 29, 1902 of Irish Protestant parents, Elizabeth and Henry Irwin Stuart, from County Antrim, Ulster.  Shortly thereafter, his father died and mother and son returned to Ireland.  Stuart attended day school in Dublin, and later boarding school in England, including years at Rugby.  At seventeen, Stuart wanted to be a poet, which led him to seek out Dublin writers of the time, including George Russell.  At one salon, he met Iseult Gonne, the daughter of leading actress and figure in the Irish Nationalist movement, Maud Gonne MacBride, and Lucien Millevoye, a French deputy.  After converting to Catholicism, Stuart and Iseult married.  Their meeting and courtship are described in the manuscript of Black List, Section H (Box 1, folder 2) in greater detail.

After the death of their infant daughter, Delores, Stuart and Iseult toured the continent in an effort to take their minds off the tragedy.  When they returned to Ireland, the Civil War was beginning.  Iseult's mother had turned her house into a hospital and both Iseult and Stuart were pressed into service.  Stuart also smuggled arms for the Republican Army and was arrested by government troops.  He remained in jail until November of 1923.  While in prison, Stuart's reading of Dostoevsky and his acquaintance with Jim Phelan (or Sean Lane, as he is called in Black List), contributed to Stuart's later articulated theory that an artist can develop best when either ignored or despised by society, on which thesis many of his later actions were based.

Soon after release from prison, Stuart published his first book of poetry.  This small book of poems garnered acclaim from William Butler Yeats, and from Poetry magazine in Chicago (which published some of his poems) and won an award under the name of H. Stuart (See Harriet Monroe's letter - Box 1, folder 20).

In 1924, Stuart and his wife rented a cottage in Glencree, County Wicklow where in 1926 their son, Ian, was born.  In 1930, they purchased a larger house at Glendalough called Laragh Castle, in County Wicklow, where Stuart established a modest poultry farm.  The next year, his daughter, Katherine, was born, and his first novel, Women and God, was published.  During the next eight years, Stuart lived at Laragh with some extended stays abroad, principally in London and Paris.  He wrote about ten books during this period.  In April of 1939, Stuart went alone on a lecture and readings circuit in Germany at various universities and was offered a job as lecturer in modern English and Irish literature at Berlin University, which he accepted.  He returned home in July of 1939 for a summer vacation, and in spite of the outbreak of war, in January of 1940, managed to return to Germany to his post, again leaving his wife and children in Ireland.

Later, Stuart fell in love with one of his former students at the university, Madeleine Gertrude Meissner, whom he tried to get out of Germany at the end of the war.  Being of Polish-German origin, she would not have been safe in a Berlin overrun by Russian troops, and Stuart wished to take her back to Ireland with him.  In the fall of 1945, Stuart tried in vain to find a means to get them both to Ireland, including writing to Iseult for help.  Letters from his wife to Stuart during this period are of special interest (Box 1, folder 23).

Unable to get himself and Miss Meissner to Ireland, Stuart returned to Lake Constance where Miss Meissner was staying. A few days later, both were arrested and held without charges until the following spring.  Later that year, they were released.  Stuart and Meissner spent the next three years in Frieburg, Germany, where he wrote Redemption and Pillar of a Cloud.

In 1949, Stuart moved to Paris for two years, where he published The Flowering Cross, and two earlier books were translated into French.  Stuart moved to London in 1951 with Miss Meissner.  In 1954, following Iseult's death, Stuart married Meissner, and in 1958, the Stuarts relocated in County Meath in Ireland.

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