Charlotte Brooke was born circa 1740 at Rantavan House, Mullagh. She was one of two children of Henry Brooke and Letrice Digby from a family of twenty two who survived to adulthood. She was educated at home by her father and gained a wide understanding of English, French and Italian literature. There was a noted coterie of Gaelic scholars in the Mullagh area including Feardorcha O’Farrelly and Cathaoir MaCabe and Charlotte picked up a love of the Irish language from them. She studied the Irish language, collected Irish manuscripts and recorded poems that she heard spoken. She was greatly encouraged in this by her father.
Henry staged a number of plays in Dublin where Charlotte was introduced to literary and theatrical life and where she became acquainted with Muiris O’Gormain and Charles O’Connor a friend of her fathers who helped her with her work in collecting Irish manuscripts.
Her mother’s health declined and she died at Rantavan in 1772. Charlotte became an isolated figure like the Bronte sisters and devoted herself to looking after her father and working on her manuscripts until Henry died in 1783. She had nothing published until 1786 when three of her translations of Irish poems were included in Joseph Cooper Walker’s ‘Historical memoirs of Irish bards’. Her most famous work ‘The Reliques of Irish Poetry' was published in 1789 which confirms her place in the history of Irish literature and acclaims her as a forerunner of the literary movement for the revival of Irish in the nineteenth century and the formation of the Gaelic League. This was the first time that a wide selection of Irish verse appeared in print. Charlotte’s health was never robust and her financial circumstances continually poor but in 1791 she published a book on Christian doctrine for children entitled ‘The school for Christians in dialogue for the use of children’. She died on 29 March 1793.
|Reliques of Irish Poetry