This thesis explores the ways in which Lady Jane Wilde, writing under the pen name of Speranza, established ethos among a poor, uneducated, Catholic populace from whom she was socially and religiously disconnected. Additionally, it raises questions as to Lady Wilde's exclusion from the roster of Irish literary voices who are commonly associated with the Irish Literary Revival, inasmuch as Lady Wilde played a critical, inceptive role in that movement. Lady Jane Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde, was an ardent nationalist who lived in Victorian Ireland. She contributed thirty-nine poems and several essays to the Nation newspaper—a nationalist publication—under the nom de plume of Speranza, which is Italian for "hope." However, her audience consisted largely of the Irish peasantry, who were for the most part poor, uneducated, and Catholic. The peasantry had little tolerance generally for members of the Protestant ascendancy who had held them in subjugation under the Penal Laws for so long. Lady Wilde, however, was wealthy, educated, and Protestant. Nevertheless, she claimed that she represented the "voice" of the Irish people. This thesis explores the notion that Lady Wilde gained popularity and trustworthiness among Irish commoners by fashioning herself after the Celtic Sovereignty goddesses in her dress, her motto and pen name, and her poetry. Also, by connecting herself with Irish folklore, Lady Wilde played an unsung role in the development of the Irish Literary Revival—a late nineteenth and early twentieth century movement that sought cultural sovereignty for Ireland in the face of English political rule. Despite her central role in the nationalist movement and her inceptive place in the Irish Literary Revival, though, Lady Wilde has been largely excluded from twentieth century historical texts and anthologies. Possible reasons for this exclusion are raised in this thesis, as well as a call for current and future critics to restore Lady Wilde to her rightful place as an important voice in Irish national and literary history. The first appendix of this thesis include selections from among Lady Wilde's poetry as they first appeared in the Nation newspaper and were later published in a compilation titled Poems, by Speranza. The second appendix contains the full text of a discourse analysis conducted on Lady Wilde's poetry in an effort to further strengthen the argument that she mimicked the role of the Celtic Sovereignty in her poetry.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Lady Jane Wilde, Speranza, Celtic Mythology, Irish Mythology, Sovereignty, Victorian Women, Victorian Poetry, Irish Victorian Literature