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John Mitchel

 186, rue de Rivoli
John Mitchel (Camnish, Co. Derry 1815 – Newry, Co. Down, 1875) had three separate, prolonged stays in Paris. The first was from August 1859 to February 1860 when he believed he could exploit a diplomatic breach between Britain and France on behalf of the Irish nationalist cause. He initially stayed at a small hotel on the Faubourg Saint Honoré (8
th arrondissement), but became lonely and depressed despite occasional visits to that old linchpin of the Irish nationalist community, Miles Byrne. He then moved into the (in)famous pension Bonnery at 24, rue Lacépède (5th arrondissement, building no longer exists), described by Mitchel as “one of the vilest streets in Paris”.

Grave plot of the Soeurs du Sacré Coeur in Montparnasse, the order to which Henrietta Mitchel belonged
Mitchel left for Washington in February 1860, but in September he was back again in French capital, hoping to work as a correspondent for Irish and American newspapers. He rented an apartment for his family in the rue de l’Est (street no long exists, subsumed into Boulevard Saint Michel, 5th arrondissement) overlooking the Luxembourg gardens until May 1861, then took a cottage at rue Saint Nicolas in Choisy-le-Roi. He was living here when a young John Devoy tried to look him up. Not knowing that Choisy-le-Roi was a suburb outside Paris, Devoy writes that "I wore out the gutta-percha soles of my shoes walking from one part of Paris to the other, and found five rues St. Nicolas, one of them ending at the Place de la Bastille."  Mitchel went back to America in September 1862 to be with his two sons fighting for the Confederacy (a third son also moved back to America to join the Confederacy). But his daughter Henrietta stayed behind in Paris, having converted to Catholicism and become a nun. But she died at the age of just 21 in 1863, shortly after the departure of the rest of her family. Depending on the sources one finds, she was buried either in Montparnasse cemetery (15
th arrondissement) or at a convent outside Paris.

Mitchel came back to Paris without the remnants of his family in November 1865 to look after "the safe transmission of (Fenian) funds to Ireland”, for which he was to be paid a handsome salary of $2,500 per annum. He lodged first in rue Richer (9th arrondissement), then with other members of the Irish community at his old quarters in rue Lacépède. Lonely, suffering from asthma, disillusioned by his failure to obtain any real French support for the Irish cause and on bad terms with James Stephens, who he accused of squandering Fenian money, Mitchel soon resigned from his position as financial agent for the New York Fenians.

 Galignani's bookshop, rue de Rivoli
Mitchel, who Stephens judged "a disgruntled egoist and a man of the past", does indeed appear to have been a cantankerous individual. After leaving his financial agent position, Mitchel supported himself as a freelance journalist, living for a short while at 186, rue de Rivoli (1
st arrondissement). Ironically (or not) this was later to become the head office of the most notorious collaborationist newspaper during the Second World War, Je Suis Partout. Like many of his fellow exiles, Mitchel spent much time in the reading rooms fo Galignani’s Messenger at 224, rue de Rivoli, just a few steps from his lodgings. But Mitchel quickly moved back to the pension Bonnery in the rue Lacépède, complaining about sewerage problems in rue de Rivoli. “I was poisoned—in the most literal sense poisoned—by foul air," he wrote.

In his dispatches to New York, Mitchel inveighed with much bitterness against the administration of the Second Empire. “I was discontented in Ireland,” he wrote. “I saw much to displease me in the U.S., and I suppose, if I were here long enough, I would get myself into hot water, too, and be shown to the frontier, if not to Cayenne.” Mitchel left Paris for the third and last time in October 1866, handing over responsibility for Paris dispatches for the New York Daily News to John Augustus O’Shea.

Select Bibliography
John Mitchel Letters of John Mitchel, 1848-1869
John Mitchel, ed. Thomas G. Connors

Ireland, France and Prussia: A Selection from the Speeches and Writings of John Mitchel (1918)
John Mitchel, ed. J. de L. Smyth

John Mitchel (2008)
James Quinn

 “John Mitchel’s Daughter”, The Irish Monthly vol. 14, no. 153, March 1886