George Moore Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The Moores of Moore Hall were a prominent Catholic family in the west of Ireland. Their home, a large, gray, stone mansion presiding over 12,500 acres, was built in 1795 by George Moore, the novelist’s great-grandfather. The founder of Moore Hall was a businessman. His eldest son, Peter, was certified insane for most of his life; the second son, John, was martyred in the 1798 rebellion (see Thomas Flanagan’s novel The Year of the French, 1979); the youngest son, George, the novelist’s grandfather, was a scholarly historian. George inherited the estate and through marriage established an intimate connection with the Brownes of Westport. His eldest son was George Henry Moore (1810-1870), a keeper of excellent racing stables and member of Parliament for the nationalist cause. In 1851, he married Mary Blake (1829-1895), daughter of a neighboring landlord.

George Augustus Moore, the eldest of G. H. Moore’s five children, was born at Moore Hall on February 24, 1852. He was a robust but rather backward child: a late talker, then an endearing but poor pupil under a succession of governesses. Beginning in 1861, he attended Oscott College, Birmingham, a famous preparatory school designed as the Catholic complement of Eton or Harrow. He remained at Oscott until 1868, when his learning disabilities finally convinced the headmaster that further attempts at instruction would be futile.

After leaving Oscott, Moore lived with his parents in London while Parliament was in session. His time was divided between military tutors and amusements, including betting shops, music halls, and painting studios. When his father died suddenly in 1870, the quest for an army commission was dropped, and soon Moore was devoting most of his energy to the study of painting.

From 1873 until 1879, he lived mostly in Paris, first as a student painter at the École des Beaux Arts and Académie Julian. Before setting aside his brushes in 1875, he had received instruction from James Whistler, John Millais, Alexandre Cabanel, and several less famous painters in France and England. Education did not make a painter of him, but it did help make him a sensitive art critic later in life. His first steps in literature during the later 1870’s were likewise tentative. He was enraptured with French Romantic drama and Parnassian poetry. By the time the income from his property suddenly failed and he was forced to leave France, he had published two volumes of exotic juvenile verse and a large Romantic drama that was intended for but declined by Henry Irving.

Moore’s literary career properly began in London in 1881. He was then settled in inexpensive rooms near the Strand and determined to make a living by his pen. While developing the plan of a naturalistic novel, he contributed paragraphs and reviews to the weekly press. Among his friends he numbered several poets and critics of the...

(The entire section is 1187 words.)


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

ph_0111201581-Moore.jpg George Moore Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Author Profile

Upon the death of his father in 1870, Moore inherited substantial estates in Ireland and a sizable annual income that permitted him to pursue his artistic interests. When he was twenty- one years old he went to Paris to study painting, but soon turned to literature, writing novels strongly influenced by the naturalism of Émile Zola. His first, A Modern Lover (1883), which dealt with contemporary bohemian society, embroiled him in a censorship controversy. The powerful commercial libraries removed it from circulation as being immoral after “two ladies living in the country” objected to a scene in which a girl poses nude for an artist painting Venus. Most novels of the time were published in expensive three-volume editions that readers preferred to rent rather than to buy. Book publishers were reluctant to issue books that libraries might not purchase in multiple copies, so the censorship powers of these commercial libraries were considerable. Moore’s protest against the banning of his novel set off a newspaper debate over the power of the libraries to decide what the British public could read.

When the libraries refused to carry Moore’s next novel, A Mummer’s Wife (1885), he published it in an inexpensive edition. The opportunity to buy a one-volume edition of a book censored by the libraries at one-fifth the cost of most novels proved attractive to many readers. The renewed controversy gave Moore the reputation of being an innovative, iconoclastic author. Moore collected his attacks on the circulating libraries in Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals (1885), but failed to impress his enemies. Even Esther Waters (1894), which many critics hailed as Moore’s best novel, was banned by the libraries, once again setting off a newspaper controversy over censorship that aided sales of his book to the public.

Moore’s books also faced censorship in the United States. D. Appleton & Company issued several of his novels, but would only publish Memoirs of My Dead Life (1907) if he would permit cutting some passages. Moore agreed, providing that the company would print as a foreword his powerful attack on censorship that rejected puritanical morality and condemned all attempts to control other people’s minds. In 1919 Moore shifted to the firm of Boni and Liveright when his previous publisher, Brentano’s, refused to issue A Story Teller’s Holiday without cuts. An...

(The entire section is 1017 words.)