Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    George William Russell Autograph Letter Signed with Pseudonym "AE". Four pages, 8" x 10.25", Dublin; June 15, 1916. A letter written to his friend and patron, John Quinn, in which Russell details the plight of James Connolly's widow and asks him to advise her if possible. He also speaks of the troubles in Ireland relating to the issue of Home Rule.

    James Connolly was an Irish socialist leader who formed both the Irish Socialist Republican Party and the Irish Citizen Army (ICA). In 1916, he became one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, in which a large group of Irish republicans seized Dublin in an attempt to establish Irish independence from the United Kingdom. Dublin was held for six days before the U.K. regained control, making it one of the largest Irish uprisings since the 17th century. Following the insurrection, Connolly was arrested and executed by firing squad on May 12, 1916. Russell met and befriended Connolly sometime after Dublin's 1913 Lockout, and although as a pacifist, he did not condone Connolly's involvement in the Easter Rising violence, he felt keenly for the sufferings of Connolly's wife and children. He wrote to John Quinn, a New York attorney, in an attempt to gain assistance for the family. He writes in part:

    "James Connolly one of the leaders in the insurrection who was shot leaves a widow and five girls. He was a remarkable man with a literary gift who wrote Irish Labour in History and another labour work in which he accepted a good deal of the cooperative policy. I knew him and was interested in his labour and cooperative ideas and personally I deeply regret he did not stick to them and that he went into politics. However he did, he was I understand the most active organiser [sic] in the rising and he suffered for his share in it. Before he was shot he asked his wife to consult me about his copyrights and what she might get out of them. She was penniless and I felt her condition was pitiable. Her husband advised her to go to the states as I think he realized that it would be impossible for her girls to get work which would keep them alive in Ireland. One of her girls when in America earned about 30 shillings a week but was asked 2 shillings, 6 pence as a beginner when she came to Ireland again. This means starvation. Mrs. Connolly believes her two eldest girls could get work in U.S.A. if she got there. Some of us who felt sorry for this poor woman who is a quiet housewife have raised enough money to pay her passage money to New York and to give her about £25 or £30 on landing which is required by the immigration there I understand when an immigrant family of this size enters. There was much difficulty in getting a permit. Finally Sir John Maxwell who is military dictator at present, said a permit to leave Ireland would be granted if he had any reasonable assurance Mrs. Connolly would not be exploited by the Clan Na gael in U.S.A. She does not want to enter into politics, is a quiet woman only desiring to make a home for herself and her girls. ...[Sir Horace Plunkett] asked me to write to you and he would be glad if on the event of Mrs. Connolly telling either of you that she was being pressed to play a spectacular part by the extreme Irish section you would if you were able to advise her how to get out of her trouble. I don't think she could make a figure anyhow as she is simply a nice quiet little woman much wounded by the death of her husband. I think, understanding very little or nothing about the rising, a household woman, thinking only of her children. Her husband did not want her to let her children become politically minded and told her not to allow her one son to learn how to shoot even a rabbit.

    ...Ireland is in a dreadful state of uncertainty nobody knows what is going to happen. I doubt the settlement proposed by Lloyd George satisfying anybody. Why in the name of God when the government is out to settle the Home Rule question they don't settle it I don't know. No person will accept ten shillings in payment of a debt of fifteen shillings and be content when he knows the debtor has the other five in his pocket. I believe the government could easily arrange with Ulster if it were in earnest. The only settlement of the Irish question is either complete union or colonial self government for the whole island. The first has been a failure after 116 years and now they are muddling over the second...Anyhow I only wrote this to say if Mrs. Connolly should consult you would you give her what good advice you can. It is probably she may not require any advice and that the extremists will leave her alone as she could never make orations and does not want to....I am going to forget everything for three weeks in a wood in Clare & paint all the time. Painting is prohibited on the coast. I'll work at the new Cork which is coming on. The other work The National Being is with the printers, though I despair of its doing any good with Ireland in its present state."

    George William Russell (1867-1935) was a celebrated Irish poet, writer, and painter. As a pacifist, he did not become involved in the extremists of the Irish rebellions during the early 1900s, but he did identify as an Irish nationalist and wrote numerous essays about various Irish political opinions as well as poems, which praised the sacrifices of rebellion leaders. He rubbed elbows with the likes of James Joyce and William Butler Yeats, and he sought to help young writers such as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. Accompanying the letter is a Typescript of Russell's Letter as well as a first draft of a Memoriam Poem Dedicated to A.E, written by a "J.R.G."

    Condition: Letter is lightly toned with mail folds; the folds have created some weaknesses and there are some separations on the right side. There is a strip of tape on the first page, which has become detached in places. Small amount of soiling at the upper left corner. Signature is very bold.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 351

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold on Oct 25, 2018 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 36 days left to consign to the 2021 July 18 Guitars and Musical Instruments Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.
    Howard Ballou,
    Brandon, MS
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search