To John Wilson, Esq.
Dear Sir,

It is but seldom that the few lines of a dedication can give the pleasure I now feel in availing myself of your kind permission to inscribe this volume to you. As a boy, the greatest happiness of my life was in your writings; and among all my faults and failures, I can trace not one to your influence, while, if I have ever been momentarily successful in upholding the right, and denouncing the wrong, I owe more of the spirit that suggested the effort to yourself than to any other man breathing.
With my sincerest respects, and, if I dared, I should say, with my warmest regards, I am, yours truly,

Carlsruhe, October 18th, 1845.

Another Picaresque: The O'Donoghue (1845)

His sixth major novel, The O'Donoghue: a Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago (1844-45) Charles Lever wrote at Karlsruhe, in the Grand Duchy of Baden, where he had taken up residence after quitting his editorial post at Trinity College, Dublin, and before he joined the British diplomatic corps. This would prove a modest commercial success under the imprint of his old publisher, William Curry of Dublin, issued in eleven monthly parts from January through November, 1845, the last a double number. The title suggests the influence of the first historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since (begun in 1805, but not published until 1814). The subtitle implies that the date of the action will be the Ireland of 1795, the period leading up to Rebellion of 1798, fomented by Napoleon Bonaparte in concert with the United Irishmen, a nationalist association bent on home rule, if not outright independence from Great Britain. Leaders of the organization, most notably Theobald Wolfe Tone, met with authorities in revolutionary France, seeking military assistance in overthrowing British rule in Ireland, and thereby precipitating the Rebellion of 1798, which is the antecedent event in Lever's Tom Burke of "Ours" (1843-44).

His new novel, The O'Donoghue, promised to be fully as melancholy as it, too, dealt with the antinomy of two equally impractical policies controlling his countrymen. The earlier chapters of Tom Burke had shown the disruption of Ireland after the rebellion of 1798; in The O'Donoghue he went back some five years further, to display the intrigues that led up to the French expeditions . . . . .

The machinery of the story creaks at many joints, but the book nevertheless marks a step in Lever's artistic development: the Irish landscape is more thoroughly integrated with the story, the speech of the peasant characters catches native lilt without recourse to grotesquely-spelled brogue, and . . . there is real insight in some of the characterization, notably the old O'Donoghue . . . . [Stevenson, pp. 134-135]

Despite the effectiveness and scope of Lever's descriptions of the Irish landscape, particularly Glenflesk, Phiz's illustrations tend to focus on indoor scenes and horses, and remain as caricatural as his illustrations of Dickens's Americans in his etchings for Martin Chuzzlewit (January 1843 through July 1844).

The Twenty-six Illustrations, with Chapter and Facing Page for each

Related Material


Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Lever, Charles. The O'Donoghue; A Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago. With 26 engravings by Phiz [Hablột Knight Browne]. Dublin: William Curry, Jun., 1845.

Lever, Charles. The O'Donoghue; A Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago. Illustrated by Phiz [Hablột Knight Browne]. Novels and Romances of Charles Lever. Originally published by William Curry, Jun., Dublin: 1845. In One Vol. Project Gutenberg. Last Updated: May 11, 2010.

Lever, Charles. Tom Burke of "Ours." Dublin: William Curry, Jun., 1844. Illustrated by H. K. Browne. Rpt. London: Chapman and Hall, 1865. Serialised February 1843 through September 1844 in twenty parts. 2 vols.

Stevenson, Lionel. Chapter VIII, "Heretic Among Tories, 1844-1845." Dr. Quicksilver: The Life of Charles Lever. London: Chapman and Hall, 1939. Pp. 128-145.

Sutherland, John A. "Lever, Charles." The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford U. P., 1989, rpt. 1990, 372-374.

Created 18 August 2023;

Updated 27 December 2023