Born: 13 July 1834, Ballybot, Newry, County Down
Entered: 07 March 1857, Beaumont, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Final vows: 15 August 1874
Died: 12 September 1912, Ms Quinn’s Hospital, Mountjoy Square, Dublin
Part of St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street community at time of death.
by 1864 at St Beuno’s, Wales (ANG) studying Theology 2
by 1865 at Laval, France (FRA) studying Theology 3
◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
He came from a very distinguished family and was very gifted. Three sisters entered Religious life. His brother Lord Russell of Killowen, first Catholic to serve as Lord Chief Justice of England.
1860-1865 He taught at Limerick for Regency, and then went to Laval and St Beuno’s for Theology.
1866-1873 He returned to Limerick for more Regency
1873-1875 He was sent to Milltown to complete his studies.
1875 From this time he had various posts in UCD, Gardiner St, Tullabeg and the Gardiner St again, where he spent the rest of his life until he died at Ms Quinn’s Hospital in Mountjoy Square 12 September 1912.
Paraphrase excerpts from Obituary notice of Katharine Tynan :
“Father Russell’s death will have come as a great grief to a great number of people. He was a centre of mental and spiritual health for many of us, and therefore bodily health as well. He was always there, not physically present, but a confidence, a light, a certainty.
For about forty years he fulfilled something of a double Mission in the life of Dublin. He had many personal friendships and gave great care to the poor. But the area I want to focus on is his mission to the young literary people, poets especially, and his work of feeding artistic flame. He took work in the “Irish Monthly” from anyone, no matter their faith or nationality. His own work in Poetry and Prose is well known. ....... Who will be the friend (of writers and artists) now that Father Russell has gone?
He had that most cheerful and lovely personality, very winning, and we used say “robin-like” until illness robbed him of his red cheeks. ... It must be twenty five years since he said he would give up all visiting except of the poor, though he had not the resolve to see this through fully. He had warm personal friendships beyond his work with the poor. He had a whole clientele of working women, such as the two dressmakers who came to him from Limerick looking for patronage. He spoke for the poor because they were inarticulate to speak for themselves. He was a great worker in the cause of Temperance, and an abstainer himself.
(He was Editor of the Irish Monthly for over 40 years.) The “Irish Monthly” gathered gathered in the most unlikely of people. WB Yeats, Frances Wynne and many others, who were unlikely to associate with anything Catholic, did so because of him. Those who came, brought others. Lady Wilde was heard to say “The Irish Monthly had heart behind it” - Oscar Wilde wrote some his earliest poems for it.
My last interview with him in hospital was the most affecting of my life. ...... He was not so far away that he could not remember the children, each one by name. He asked me to forgive someone who had injured me. He talked of the kindness of the nurses.”
Note from John Naughton Entry :
For the last year of his life he was in failing health, and about 10 days before death he was moved to Miss Quinn’s Hospital, Mountjoy Square, where he died peacefully. Fathers Matthew Russell and Timothy O’Keeffe were with him at the time.
Note from John Bannon Entry :
On the evening of his death the Telegraphy published an article on him headed “A Famous Irish Jesuit - Chaplain in American War” : “The Community of the Jesuit Fathers in Gardiner St have lost within a comparatively short time some of their best known and most distinguished members. They had to deplore the deaths of Nicholas Walsh, John Naughton, John Hughes and Matthew Russell, four men of great eminence and distinction, each in his own sphere, who added lustre to their Order, and whose services to the Church and their country in their varied lines of apostolic activity cannot son be forgotten. And now another name as illustrious is added to the list. The Rev John Bannon....
◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
by David Murphy
Russell, Matthew (1834–1912), Jesuit priest, editor, and writer of devotional verse, was born 13 July 1834 at Ballybot, near Newry, Co. Down, second son of Arthur Russell of Newry and Killowen, Co. Down, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Matthew Mullen of Belfast and widow of Arthur Hamill of Belfast. His elder brother was Charles Russell (qv), later lord chief justice of England and Baron Russell of Killowen. Educated at St Vincent's College, Castleknock, Dublin, and Violet Hill, Matthew also studied at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, at a time when his uncle, Charles William Russell (qv), was president of the college. He entered the Society of Jesus on 7 March 1857 and was ordained priest in 1864. He taught (1864–73) at Crescent College, Limerick, and in 1873 founded a journal, Catholic Ireland (later renamed the Irish Monthly), which he edited until his death. He took his final vows on 15 August 1874.
The Irish Monthly soon established a reputation for publishing the work of young writers and contained some of the earliest writings of Oscar Wilde (qv) and Hilaire Belloc. Russell was also a tolerably accomplished poet himself and published collections of devotional verse which included Emmanuel: a book of eucharistic verses (1880), Madonna: verses on Our Lady and the saints (1880) and Erin verses, Irish and catholic (1881). These collections were very popular at the time and he built up a large following. In his capacity as editor of the Irish Monthly he also acted as a friend and confidant to many writers, and was a guiding force behind the Irish literary revival of the late nineteenth century. His correspondence collection in the Jesuit archives in Dublin reflects the influence he had on the Irish literary scene of this period and includes letters from numerous writers and political figures that he befriended and supported, such as Mary Elizabeth Blundell (qv), Aubrey de Vere (qv), Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (qv), Alfred Perceval Graves (qv), Denis Florence MacCarthy (qv), Lady Gilbert (née Rosa Mulholland) (qv), Judge John O'Hagan (qv), James Stephens (qv), T. D. Sullivan (qv), Alfred Webb (qv), and W. B. Yeats (qv). He also corresponded with Hilaire Belloc about literary and domestic matters.
In 1874 he was attached to the staff of the Catholic University in St Stephen's Green and later moved to St Francis Xavier's church, Gardiner St., where he undertook pastoral duties (1877–86). In 1886 he was appointed as spiritual father at the Jesuit-run UCD, returning to work with the Gardiner St. community in 1903. He died on 12 September 1912 and, following requiem mass at St Francis Xavier's, was buried in the Jesuit plot in Glasnevin cemetery. His substantial collection of papers in the Irish Jesuit archives also includes manuscript articles, poems, and devotional writings.
Fr Matthew Russell, SJ, files in Irish Jesuit archives, Dublin; Ir. Monthly, xl, no. 472 (Oct. 1912); WWW; Freeman's Journal, 27 Jan. 1923; Crone; Welch
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 2nd Year No 2 1927
University Hall :
On November 16th the Community at Lesson St. celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Fr T Finlay. As a scholastic, Fr Finlay helped Fr. Matt Russell to found the Irish Monthly and the Messenger. The latter periodical ceased to appear after a short time; it was to be revived later, again under Fr Finlay's inspiration.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Matthew (Matt) Russell 1857-1912
In the County Down on July 13th 1834 was born Fr Mattew Russell of that distinguished family which gave a Lord Chief Justice to England.
He entered the Society at Beaumont in 1857, and in the course of his long and fruitful life, was stationed at Limerick, University College, Tullabeg and Gardiner Street, where he ended his days.
His name will always be remembered in connection with the “Irish Monthly”, which for forty years he made the popular literary magazine of Ireland. He had a special mission to encourage young writers and poets, and named among his protegées such famous people as WB Yeats, Speranza, Katherine Tynan, Francis Wynne, Oscar Wilde. He was no mean writer himself, both in prose and poetry.
Apart from his literary activities, which of course had a strong apostolic bias, he was a great lover of the poor. His light shone in many a wretched home that alas was in darkness. He was a very zealous though unobtrusive worker in the cause of temperance.
He was a man of the most cheerful and winning personality, who formed warm friendships among a very diverse circle, high and low, rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, a talent which he used to the best of his power for the salvation of souls and the glory of God.
He died a most happy and peaceful death on September 12th 1912.
Interfuse No 40 : September 1985
Portrait from the Past
MATTHEW RUSSELL : 1834-1912
A native of County Down, Matthew Russell joined the Jesuits at Beaumont in 1857. Ordained in 1870, he worked in the Crescent (Limerick) and Tullabeg before moving to Gardiner Street where he was Editor of The Irish Monthly for close on forty years. One of Ireland's greatest writers paid him this tribute.
Father Russell's death, which took place on Thursday 13th September, 1912, will have come as a great grief to a great number of people. I have always read with a pang of the death of a great doctor, knowing how many people lean on such a one and are suddenly deprived of their prop. Well, here was one in Father Russell, who was a centre of mental and spiritual health to many of us, and, because of that, in many cases a centre of bodily health as well. He is one of those who, like the sun's warmth and light, are always there; not visibly acknowledged and felt every day - but a confidence, a warnth, a certainty. And when the light and the warmth go, there is a chill in the wind and we shiver. Alas, what a desolation his going leaves!
For something like forty years Father Russell has fulfilled a double mission in the life of the Irish capital. Let his private friendships, his work among the poor and simple, who worshipped him, be told by another. The thing with which I am immediately concerned is his mission to young literary people, poets especially, and his work of feeding the artistic flame which in Dublin which did not find much encouragement. For forty years Father Russell in the Irish Monthly has received all manner of men and women - “Jew, Turk and Atheist” - by which I mean to say, since my country-people are given to literalness, only means that he never asked if you were a Protestant or a Catholic, so long as you were a promising or progressing poet or prose-writer - especially a poet.
His own work in poetry and prose is well known. I need not dwell on it here. But, now that he has left us, I desire to pay him tribute for many a one for all he did for us, young writers, to whom in many cases a cold neglect might have meant extinction. In the social history of Dublin the salon sadly to seek.
From time to time I read an obituary notice in The Times or elsewhere of some distinguished Dubliner of cultivated tastes, who has enjoyed the friendship of famous men of other countries and has delighted to entertain the wits, the statesmen, the writers and artists of the world at some delightful house on the shores of Dublin Bay or in the lovely country about Dublin. There may even be such who have not yet qualified for a notice in the obituary column of The Times but will be so written of one of these days. Now, owing perhaps to the terrible gulf between the creeds in Ireland, these potential patrons and fosterers of literature live and die in absolute isolation fron, even in ignorance of, the young intellectual forces struggling and striving about then. Who will be the friend, now that Father Russell has gone?
To the bare claustral parlours of Upper Gardiner Street has come many a young writer, destined to be of importance in the future literary history of the counrty, and has gone away comforted and uplifted. The brother of Lord Russell of Killowen, that strong fighter for the right and hater of shams, had a very curious facial resemblance to his great brother. You would know - have known, alas! - Father Russell at any chance meeting, anywhere, as Lord Russell's brother, just as you must recognise Lord Russell's sons anywhere by their likeness to their father. But all that was searching, dominating, compelling, in the ivory-pale face of the great Judge and lawyer was in Father Russell changed to something sweet, lovely and winning. He had the nose cheerful personality, robin-like, we used to say before mortal illness had robbed his cheek of colours, but never his heart of its fount of living happiness.
It must be now some twenty-five years ago since he announced that he was goind to give up all visiting except of the poor. Perhaps he relented, perhaps he thought of us as his poor children, for he never carried out that stern resolve. His very last visit to me was on the 3rd July in this year, when he came to see us in our new Irish home and told us cheerfully that he was not coming any more. He made the journey by train from Dublin, walked to and from the station, for he would not hear of being driven, and we left him reading his Office at the station. He would not let us wait until the train came in It was a part of his tender worldliness - I use the word for want of a better - that he was always troubled about any interference with working hours or the like. Seeing him there so cheerful, so much his own dear self - although for a long time the inner light had been shining far too brightly through the frail body - we did not believe in last times, but he knew better.
Of his work among the poor, the poor will not speak, because they are inarticulate. I only know that his light shone in many a wretched home, in many a slum, that else was in darkness. He was a very zealous though unobtrusive worker in the cause of Temperance, and was a total abstainer himself till illness came upon him and he was under obedience and compulsion, I don’t think his experiences went very far even then in the matter of stimulants. I remember when he lunched with us a few years ago that he tasted a glass of white wine - just tasted it - with a child-like wonder as to how it might taste.
He had warm personal friendships beyond those ministrations to the poor. He had a whole clientele of working women - in the larger sense of the phrase - whose interests he pushed as far as right be without being troublesome to his other friends. There was a firm of fashionable dressmakers whose component parts were two young girls who came to him one day from Limerick, with not very much equipment beyond an eye for colours and forms, a magnificent audacity in cutting-out. We used to call them “Father Russell's dressmakers” in those early days; and very soon they were quite independent of the patronage he sought for them. I recall in his letters: “If you should be thinking of getting a new hat, there is a friend of mine, Miss So-and-so, of Dublin; Madam So-and-So, in Sloane Street, who might please you perhaps”. Or “If anyone you know is ill, my friend, Miss So-and-So, has just set up a private nursing home near Cavendish Square”. I think, perhaps, he was interested especially in working women; even apart from literary workers.
Of course the Irish Monthly gathered in the most unlikely people because of Father Russell, I brought there myself, at various times, W B Yeats, Frances Wynne, and others who were little likely to come into association with anything Catholic, least of all a Catholic priest and a Jesuit. Those who came brought others, therefore you might find the sons and daughters of Evangelical households, the daughters of a Protestant bishop, young men from Trinity College, Agnostics of all manner of shades of agnosticism, waiting for Father Russell in one of those bare parlours in Upper Gardiner Street, furnished only with a table, a couple of chairs, a crucifix and some religious pictures on the walls. How far this aspect of Father Russell's work went towards affecting the opinions of non-Catholics in Ireland about Catholies and the Catholic Church it is impossible to say of my own personal knowledge I can vouch that the disapproval of Evangelical friends and relatives in the beginning of those friendships with a “Romish priest” were changed to warm approval.
I remember Lady Wilde saying to me long ago that the Irish Monthly had heart behind it. Speranza said a good many unconsidered things in those days, but for once she was right. There was heart behind it and in it, and the heart was one of the most loving and blessing hearts that ever beat. Perhaps the Irish Monthly for which Oscar Wilde wrote his earliest poems, “have had a share in bringing back at last to the old Mother Church, whose arms are wide enough for all saints and sinners”, Speranza's brilliant and unhappy son to rest and comfort at last.
About a fortnight ago I saw Father Russell for the last time in the Nursing Home where he died. It was the most affecting interview of my life. He was plainly dying - the trailing clouds of glory folding about him - but his loving heart cane striving and struggling back to us from the distance to which he had already wandered. He had always thought of the human aspect of things. We used to smile at the quaint, worldly wisdom which prompted his counsels of economy, of prudence, of not offending people, of not running counter to public opinion. He was not so far away that he could not remember the children, each one by name, He spoke of them with the tenderest pity, as of a saint looking back from the heights to those who have yet to endure the world and save their souls. He asked me to forgive someone who had injured ne, and vexed his last days - a harder thing to forgive. He talked of the kindness of the nurses. It was a swan-song of thanksgiving to a whole world which had been good to him, whereas it was he who had been good to the whole world. He blessed us with more than an earthly father's impassioned tenderness. ... And now - one turns to the pages of St. Augustine, who wrote when his mother died: . “And then, nevertheless, I remembered what Thy handmaid was used to be; her walk with Thee, how holy and good it was, and with us so gentle and long-suffering. And that it was all gone away from me now. And I wept over her and for her, over myself and for myself. And I let go my tears, which I had kept in before, making a bed of them, as it were, for my heart, and I rested upon them. Because these were for Thine ears only, and not for any man”.