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John and Michael Banim were two of the early pioneers of Anglish Irish literature. Both brothers were born in the closing years of the 18th century in Kilkenny as sons of a small farmer and shopkeeper. From their modest origins as lower-middle class Irish Catholics the Banim brothers were to achieve fame in the course of the 19th century as Ireland's first truly national novelists who sought in their historical fiction to emulate the fiction of Sir Walter Scott. They lived through a century when Ireland, recovering from the trauma of rebellion, was to be further destabilized by famine and agrarian conflict. Both brothers were witnesses to the rise of a new Irish nation which developed in the wake of Daniel O'Connell's campaigns for Catholic emancipation and repeal of the Union. Their darkly imaginitive folk novels reflect the complex and dynmaic tragedy of these times and in their own lives both brothers seem to have enacted the painful narratives of their native land. This book looks at the symbiotic relationship between the life and work of these two men and the world of pre-famine Regency Ireland and Britain into which they were born. It presents the reader and critic with a literary biography that challenges some of the assumptions of modern historical and cultural revisionists and contributes to a more informed and realistic view of the Irish past.
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