There was an Ancient House by Benedict Kiely

Published by Methuen and Co Ltd London 1955, and Wolfhound Press Dublin 1997



Benedict Kiely was born near Dromore Co Tyrone in 1919, and became one of Ireland’s best known novelists and broadcasters. He entered the novitiate of St Mary’s at Emo Court in 1937, but in April 1938 moved to a Dublin hospital having contracted tuberculosis. He devoted his convalescence to reading and study but subsequently decided to leave the Jesuits.

Originally banned for being an “indecent and obscene” novel, There was an Ancient House is the story of thirty novices in a religious order and their attempts to conform to the rule of the order. It is based on the experiences of Benedict Kiely at Emo Court and is an “examination of the disturbing or profound psychic realities that lie beneath an apparently untroubled veneer ... (that is) determined to preserve propriety at all costs”. (Andrew Haggard, Modern Irish Writers, a Bio-Critical Sourcebook)