Walter Starkie

An odyssey

Jacqueline Hurtley

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-363-3
October 2013. 368pp; ills.

‘What is most valuable about Jacqueline Hurtley’s meticulously research biography, Walter Starkey: An Odyssey, is the rich social and cultural portrait of a class in transition … This is a work of meticulous, wide-ranging, multi-lingual scholarship … [This book] is an exemplary piece of scholarship, for its minutely detailed research and for the eminently skillful way it situates the life within the many contexts of that life’s trajectory’, Peter Kuch, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies (2016).

‘The life of Walter Starkie (1894–1976) provides plenty of material for an interesting and significant biography … this biography is certainly a worthwhile read for those interested in the history of Hispanism, relations between Britain and Spain in the 1940s and 1950s, and in the intricacies and ambivalences of certain Irish identities after the colonial centre could no longer hold’, Julia Biggane, Bulletin of Spanish Studies (2016).

‘The present work by Jacqueline Hurtley of the University of Barcelona epitomises all that such an academic biography should be. This is a work of meticulous scholarship and profound research … This is a resounding biography of one of Ireland’s most notable men … It will appeal as much to the general reader looking for what “celebrity” meant before the media defined it, as to the musically-minded, as much to the historian of early twentieth-century Ireland, as to those probing the psyche of a sincere pacifist … Professor Hurtley has produced a profound and profoundly disturbing book on many levels, and there is wealth enough here for several biographies. This will be an absorbing treat for the general reader and is, not least for its magnificent bibliography, a must-have work for the serious researcher’, Susana Bayó Belenguer, The BritishSpanish Society magazine (Summer 2014).

‘For more than two decades, Jacqueline Hurtley has followed in the footsteps of that academic wanderer/recorder, Walter Starkie, meticulously plotting his passage through fascist Italy, Hungary, Roumania, Germany, Abyssinia and Portugal, then Franco’s Spain and beyond western Europe to the west coast of America. But Starkie was far more than a performer and raconteur of Gypsy lore. As we learn from this closely documented life, he played many roles (some real, some invented) in which, half conservative, half vagabond, he was an observer as much as an eager committed participant. Trinity College professor, British Council representative in Spain, director of the Abbey Theatre, broadcaster and author of many books, Starkie has long deserved the telling of his own story; Hurtley has provided it with enthusiasm and thoroughness, never forgetting the historical and political contexts through which the self-proclaimed “Raggle-Taggle Gypsy” travelled.’ Ann Saddlemyer, Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto, author of works on Lady Gregory, J.M. Synge and most recently Becoming George: the Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats and W B Yeats and George Yeats – the Letters.

'Walter Starkie ... [has] finally been given ... due recognition in [this excellent biography]. Starkie was something of a wandering minstrel, a gypsy scholar ... [taking] on many guises in his travel books ... Don Gypsy was published a month before Franco's uprising and the text seems, on occasion, to be anticipating it ... Starkie was first cultural representative in Madrid of the British Council (1940-1954), an institution that contributed to keeping the Franco regime out of belligerent involvement in the Second World War on Hitler's side. ... Starkie's eccentric public persona also put him in a good position to be of use to the British secret service', William Chislett, El País (September 2013).

‘Starkie’s life provides a fascinating subject for biography … Jacqueline Hurtley, in this well-researched book, offers an assessment of this most contradictory of men .. This is a thoroughly-researched work which reconstructs the extraordinary reactions of a talented Irishman to some of the grimmer moments in recent European history', Conor Morrissey, Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 2014).

‘Starkie (1895–1976) is one of those forgotten people who deserve to be more widely acknowledged … This biography places his life in the context of the changing decades from late Victorian Ireland to the de Valera era. It also takes in Starkie’s experiences in partitioned Hungary, greater Romania, Fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain', Books Ireland (December 2013).

‘This is a thoroughly researched book … is Starkie worth reviving? It has to be a qualified yes … Starkie was more than an entertainer but born a couple of decades later he would have made an ideal chat-show host. He has a place in the tradition of plausible Irishmen, from Sheridan and Tom Moore to Terry Wogan, who in one way or another sang – or fiddled – for their supper', Rory Brennan, Books Ireland (March/April 2014).

‘A sledge-hammer of a volume on WS that takes us from his family before he was even conceived, to his wife’s death shortly after his in 1976. It gives every impression of being comprehensive from the seventeen page index, to the many pictures – some moving, some strange, some hilarious, to the vast bibliography and associated notes … I doubt very much that anyone will come anywhere close to writing something this good on Starkie', Beachcomber book blog (February 2014).

‘An excellent tribute to this unknown, multi-faced and “much mythologized subject” … this biography provides the reader with a many-sided perception of the multifaceted Irish scholar; thus, Walter Starkie: an odyssey is strongly recommendable for those interested in first-rate account of the Hispanist’s epic voyage’, Verónica Membrive, Estudios Irlandeses: Journal of Irish Studies (2014).