James McCarroll (1814–1892) was a talented Irish poet, journalist, humorist, musician, and arts critic who left his mark on nineteenth-century Canada by seemingly engaging with anything topical in every medium. Often writing anonymously or under pseudonyms, McCarroll's best-known nom de plume was "Terry Finnegan," who wrote weekly comic letters to his "cousin" Thomas D'Arcy McGee, offering advice on political and social matters. Yet, since his death, McCarroll's contributions to early Canadian writing and culture have largely been forgotten. Making a case for the recuperation of Canada's lost Irish voice, Delicious Mirth seeks to gather and contextualize the extant fragments of this outspoken and flamboyant entertainer and commentator. Adept in the rich excesses of the Paddy brogue, McCarroll spoke for his beloved but broken country and sought to bring the Irish legacy of expansive prose and lyric poetry to Canada. Following the fluctuations of his personal hope, ambition, and talent through the years, Michael Peterman maps McCarroll's responses to the main events of the late nineteenth century such as Irish emigration, the settlement and growth of Upper Canada, the extension of the railway network, little magazine culture, reform politics and responsible government, the spiritualist movement, nascent Canadian theatre, classical and Celtic folk music, the US Civil War, Confederation, and most notably the Fenian movement, in which he became involved. His travels took him to many places, in particular Peterborough, Cobourg, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Buffalo, and New York City. Revealing a man of immense creative energy and cultural significance who has been lost to Canadian literary historians for over a hundred years, Delicious Mirth shows that McCarroll's life and works are outstanding achievements and deserve fresh attention today.
Michael A. Peterman is professor emeritus in the Department of English at Trent University.
"Delicious Mirth conveys a great deal of engaging and interesting detail about mid-nineteenth-century Upper Canada culture. It contributes significantly to our understanding of the role played by the Irish in Canada's early life, uncovering McCarroll's relations with such major figures as Thomas D'Arcy McGee and John A. Macdonald, as well as with a plethora of singers and writers and public figures." Gerald Lynch, University of Ottawa
"More than the chronological thread of a life, Delicious Mirth is a portrait of a man's creativity as it was conditioned by circumstances. We see McCarroll's personal hope, ambition, and talent shaped by the larger social patterns of the century, and so we see them afresh, too, through his perspective." Eli MacLaren, McGill University