Margaret Wolfe Hungerford wrote under the name ‘The Duchess’, and was an Irish author of popular romantic fiction, writes Sheila O’Kelly


Whilst cycling past ‘Arlington House’ and the ‘East End Hotel’ in Portarlington, County Laois on my way to school all those years ago, little did I know they were once prominent boarding schools where boys and girls from wealthy families in Ireland were educated.

One of these privileged girls was Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. Margaret was born at Milleen House, Rosscarbery in Cork on the 27th April, 1855. She was the eldest daughter of Sarah Wolfe Hamilton and Canon Fitzjohn Stannus Hamilton. Canon Hamilton was Rector and Vicar Choral at Saint Faughnan’s Cathedral in Rosscarbery.

Margaret began writing in her early childhood years and won several prizes in school for her stories that she shared with students.

In 1872, when Margaret was seventeen years old, she married Edward Argles, a Dublin solicitor, and they had three daughters, Daisy, Reine and Elsie. Edward and Margaret were happy but the marriage was short-lived as Edward died six years later.

Margaret began writing novels to support her family. Her first novel, Phyllis, was published in 1877 and it was successful. The following year Margaret’s second and most renowned novel, Molly Bawn, was published.
The main character in the book, Eleanor Massareene, an alluring flirtatious young Irish girl, captivates the admiration of men. Eleanor provokes her lover’s (Tedcastle Luttrell) jealousy creating conflict and tension.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own