May Laffan

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Lady Mary Hartley
Born3 May 1849
Dublin, Ireland
Died23 June 1916[1]
Dublin, Ireland
Pen nameMary Laffan, May Laffan
Genreslum fiction

May Hartley (née Laffan) (3 May 1849 – 23 June 1916) was an Irish realist writer who wrote about Dublin society in the nineteenth century and was considered a pioneer of “slum fiction” in an Irish setting.[2]


Born on 3 May 1849 to Michael Laffan and Ellen Saran Fitzgibbon in Dublin, Hartley was educated in the Dominican Convent of Sion Hill and Alexandra College. She had an older brother, William, two younger brothers, Michael and James, as well as two younger sisters, Ellen Sarah and Catherine. After school Hartley worked with Fr. Meehan as a social worker in the Liberties. She also began writing with articles such as 'Convent Boarding Schools for Young Ladies' submitted to Fraser's Magazine (June 1874).[2][3][4][5]

She began writing novels but her early work was poorly received and she had a breakdown. However she continued to write and publish novels. She was also active in the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.[2]

In 1882 she married Walter Noel Hartley who was a chemistry professor at King’s College, London and Fellow of the Royal Society.[6] During her marriage she was no longer writing very much. Her issues with mental health continued and in 1910 Hartley was admitted to Bloomfield Hospital. Her husband was knighted in 1911 and died suddenly in 1913.[2] They had one son, Walter John Hartley.[7] Born 25 April 1889, he was killed in Gallipoli, a Captain in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, 16 August 1915.[8] Lady Mary Hartley died in hospital in 1916.[3][5]


  • Hogan, M.P. (London: Macmillan 1876)
  • The Hon. Miss Ferrard (1877; 2nd edn. London: Macmillan 1881)
  • The Game Hen Flitters, Tatters, and the Counsellor: Three Waifs from the Dublin Streets (1879; 2nd edn. London: Simpkin & Marshall 1883)
  • A Singer's Story (1885)
  • Ismay's Children (1887)
  • Christy Carew (1880; London: Macmillan 1882)

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Death Certificate" (PDF). Https:. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Mrs May Hartley (1849-1916)". Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Angela Bourke (2002), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, NYU Press, pp. 974–, ISBN 978-0-8147-9907-9
  4. ^ Ciaran O'Neill (12 June 2014). Catholics of Consequence: Transnational Education, Social Mobility, and the Irish Catholic Elite 1850-1900. OUP Oxford. pp. 162–. ISBN 978-0-19-101746-9.
  5. ^ a b John Sutherland (13 October 2014). The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. Taylor & Francis. pp. 348–. ISBN 978-1-317-86332-8.
  6. ^ "Former Fellows Of The Royal Society Of Edinburgh. 1783-2002" (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. p. 423. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  7. ^ "National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911". Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  8. ^ "Military will for WJ Hartley" (PDF). Retrieved October 22, 2016.