EDWARD MARTYN was born on this date. (d: 1923); Martyn was the first president of Sinn Fein, the Irish republican movement’s political party, serving from 1904 to 1908. He was homosexual and the son of a wealthy Catholic family from Tillyra Castle in County Galway.
A pillar of the Celtic Renaissance, in 1899 Martyn co-founded, with the poet W.B. Yeats, what became Ireland’s famous national theater, the Abbey. the Irish Literary Theatre (1899), which was part of the nationalist revival of interest in Ireland’s Gaelic literary history. He was the first President of Sinn Féin, which he co-founded with Arthur Griffith. He was a cousin and friend to George Moore, though their relationship was often antagonistic.
Violently opposed to British rule in Ireland, he was the center of a court case in 1905 as the result of an off-the-cuff remark in which he stated that “All Irishmen who join the English army ought to be flogged”. He died in 1923, unmarried, and after donating his body to science, was buried at his own request in a pauper’s grave. He was related to the Hungarian artist and sculptor, Ferenc Martyn (1899-1986).
Martyn was outed by his friend George Moore (1852-1933), a prolific novelist, critic, and polemicist, in his three-volume masterpiece “Hail and Farewell” (published between 1911 and 1914).
Moore, who was attracted to the handsome young Yeats, later fell in love with the celebrated French painter Edouard Manet, who painted three portraits of him. Moore was influenced by the homosexual Oxford critic Walter Pater, and Moore’s 1879 work, Flowers of Passion, already contained references to Lesbianism. Moore’s 1887 novel, A Mere Accident, also has a homosexual theme and its central character is again based on Martyn.