John Banim (April 3, 1798 – August 30, 1842), Irish novelist, sometimes called the "Scott of Ireland," was born in Kilkenny. In his thirteenth year he entered Kilkenny College and devoted himself specially to drawing and miniature painting. He pursued his artistic education for two years in the schools of the Royal Dublin Society, and afterwards taught drawing in Kilkenny, where he fell in love with one of his pupils. His affection was returned, but the parents of the young lady interfered and removed her from Kilkenny. She pined away and died in two months. Her death made a deep impression on Banim, whose health suffered severely and permanently.
In 1820 he went to Dublin and settled finally to the work of literature. He published a poem, The Celt's Paradise, and his Damon and Pythias was performed at Covent Garden in 1821. During a short visit to Kilkenny he married, and in 1822 planned in conjunction with his elder brother, Michael (1796–1874), a series of tales illustrative of Irish life, which should be for Ireland what the Waverley Novels were for Scotland; and the influence of his model is distinctly traceable in his writings. He then set out for London, and supported himself by writing for magazines and for the stage, a volume of miscellaneous essays was published anonymously in 1824, called Revelations of the Dead Alive. In April 1825 appeared the first series of Tales of the O'Hara Family, which achieved immediate and decided success. One of the most powerful of them, Crohoore of the Bill Hook, was by Michael Banim.
In 1826, a second series was published, containing the Irish novel, The Nowlans. John's health had given way, and the next effort of the "O'Hara family" was almost entirely the production of his brother Michael. The Croppy, a Tale of 1798 (1828) is hardly equal to the earlier tales, though it contains some wonderfully vigorous passages. The Mayor of Windgap, The Ghost Hunter (by Michael Banim), The Denounced (1830) and The Smuggler (1831) followed in quick succession, and were received with considerable favour. Most of these deal with the darker and more painful phases of life, but the feeling shown in his last, Father Connell, is brighter and tenderer. John Banim, meanwhile, had suffered from illness and consequent poverty. In 1829, he went to France, and while he was abroad a movement to relieve his wants was set on foot by the English press, headed by John Sterling in The Times. A sufficient sum was obtained to remove him from any danger of actual want.
Another notable work written by Banim is The Boyne Water, a story of Protestant - Catholic relations during the Williamite War.
He returned to Ireland in 1835, and settled in Windgap Cottage, a short distance from Kilkenny; and there, a complete invalid, he passed the remainder of his life, dying on 13 August 1842. His strength lies in the delineation of the characters of the Irish lower classes, and the impulses, often misguided and criminal, by which they are influenced, and in this he showed remarkable power.
Michael Banim had acquired a considerable fortune which he lost in 1840 through the bankruptcy of a firm with which he had business relations. After this disaster he wrote Father Connell (1842), Clough Fionn (1852), The Town of the Cascades (1862). Michael Banim died at Booterstown.
An assessment in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1911) reads:
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