Introduction to “The Man in the Cloak” of Mangan

In the hidden corpus of fictional prose that Clarence Mangan’s pen produced, The Man in the Cloak : A Very German Story survives as a Gothic tale composed in what he called “the style Germanesque” (a term surely belying the subtitle itself for a lesser mark on the nebulous scale with Germanis Germanior and Germanissimus).

Here was our author’s lingua stuck firmly in bucca. Reclaiming Maturin’s Melmoth mantle from the mordant travesty which Balzac made of it in French, Mangan by an act of literary subversion drenched the diabolical fabric of both in a bath of sparkling holy water, provenance indeterminable. In characteristically conjured guise, and hemming up his dénouement by means of some metafictive addenda attached as editorial notes, he undersigned with a punning clue to the whole : “B.A.M.” In the slang of his time, a bam was a hoax (cf. Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, Cap. IX, “It’s all a bam, ma’am— all a bamboozle and a bite, that affair of his illness” ; and see the synonymising subjunctive, in the post immediately preceding, of Mangan’s own poem “Pathetic Hypothetics” : “Were Hope all my eye . . . Were Love all a hoax . . . Were Music a bam”).

Then did Clarence Mangan, a Roman Catholic in qualified sympathy with the largely Catholic Nationalist movement, submit his piece to the staunchly Protestant pro-Union editors of The Dublin University Magazine. They accepted it for publication in November of 1838 [1]. This they likely approved through missing the sly transfigurative intent of the “Gothic Trojan horse” (in the phrase of the scholar Richard Haslam [2]), for they placed Mangan’s fashionably mysterious sketch next to an essay, from another pen, entitled “Romanism— Her Apologists and Advocates”: it was a baldly partisan review in which the magazine’s resident Anglican apologist denounced the rival creed’s “superstitions and intolerance” with elaborate insinuations of forgery, fraud and bribery. Striving to expose the purported deception in a noted Catholic historian’s published work, the essayist wrote : “he relates it with so little emphasis of tone, and assigns it its place in so judicious an obscurity, that in the cloud of testimonies, it often passes undetected”. The magazine proceeded to offer Mangan’s tale of a heavy cloak, a long pipe and a devil’s pact ; and the odd juxtaposition of the well-cloaked, hard-smoked sketch with the religious polemic must have held particular ironies in those pages.

To his personal collection of noms de plume, the poet would add and take for his own the soubriquet “The Man in the Cloak”. ~Q~

[1] The Dublin University Magazine, November, 1838 (Vol. XII, No. LXXI) –

[2] “‘Broad Farce and Thrilling Tragedy’ : Mangan’s Fiction and Irish Gothic” by Richard Haslam 






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