Louise Imogen Guiney (1861-1920), an American poet and essayist with ties to nineteenth-century Boston literary circles, is the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the John J. Burns Library, on display through May 29.
Devoted Catholic & Determined Writer: Louise Imogen Guiney in Boston focuses on Guiney’s relationships with Catholic religious leaders, fellow writers, and publishers in Boston. She wrote poetry (first published in John Boyle O’Reilly’s Pilot), and later, stories and biographical essays. Her choice of subjects was informed by her Catholic beliefs, admiration for Jesuits, and sojourns in Ireland and England. Guiney may have faded from the canon, yet she continues to offer a unique window into the multifaceted literary establishment of late nineteenth-century Boston, according to exhibition curator Barbara Adams Hebard, a conservator at Burns Library, who notes that Guiney is one of only two women represented in Bapst Library’s stained-glass portraits of American authors, housed at Boston College.
Guiney’s Irish-born father was an officer in the “Fighting Ninth” Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiment, an Irish heritage unit that engaged in crucial Civil War battles. Active in law, politics, and Irish and Catholic organizations, he developed influential connections that aided his widow and only daughter following his early death from war-related injuries in 1877. By then, Boston had become a major hub for education, publishing, and the arts, and Guiney benefited from her father’s network. But it was her own drive to write – first, poetry, and later, short stories and biographical essays – that earned her acclaim in literary circles. ♦