Clarke, Joseph Ignatius Constantine (1846–1925), Fenian, journalist, and author, was born 31 July 1846 in Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), Co. Dublin, son of William Clarke, barrister, and Ellen Clarke (née Quinn). He received his early education at Mountrath monastery, Queen's Co. (Laois), and St Joseph's, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin. His father died when he was aged 7, and in 1858 his mother emigrated to London with her children. He attended a series of catholic schools in London (at one of which he began his lifelong friendship with James Clancy (qv)) and also received private tuition in French and Latin. He worked for a time in a printer's office before becoming a clerk at the Board of Trade (1863). His sympathy for Irish nationalism led him to join the IRB in 1865 with Clancy, and he became one of its chief organisers in London, and contributed to the Irish National Liberator, a weekly nationalist newspaper published in London. After the Clerkenwell explosion (which he claimed he did his best to prevent), his Fenian activities were discovered by the police and he narrowly escaped arrest by fleeing to Paris (February 1868). In April 1868 he sailed to New York, where he was joined by his eldest brother, Charles. Taking up journalism, he earned a precarious living by contributing to the Irish Republic, run by Michael Scanlan (qv) and occasionally to the New York Herald. He was also New York correspondent for the Boston Pilot, the paper of John Boyle O'Reilly (qv), and became a close friend of O'Reilly. In 1870 he attended a convention of the ‘senate wing’ of the Fenian Brotherhood and called for the movement to concentrate on rebuilding Fenianism in Ireland rather than mounting attacks on Canada. In 1871 he pulled off a journalistic coup by getting a long interview with John Devoy (qv) and the ‘Cuba five’ after their arrival in New York. Afterwards he was employed full-time by the Herald and assigned to cover the activities of American Fenians. He proved to be a resourceful and versatile journalist and filled almost every role on the paper, including dramatic, literary, musical, sporting, and night editor. He became managing editor of Albert Pulitzer's New York Morning Journal (1883–95), editor of the Criterion, a literary and social weekly (1898–1900), and Sunday editor of the Herald (1903–6). In 1906 he quit journalism to become publicity director of the Standard Oil Company (to 1913) with a salary of $15,000 a year.
He had long had an interest in theatre and wrote several plays, including ‘Robert Emmet’ (1888); ‘Malmorda’ (1893), a romantic tragedy in verse telling of the love of an Irish chieftain for a beautiful Norse captive; and most notably ‘Heartsease’ (1896), a collaboration with the American playwright Charles Klein. Subsequent efforts such as ‘The first violin’ (1898) and ‘The prince of India’ (1906) enjoyed some public but little critical favour. Nevertheless, his cheerful personality and eclectic enthusiasm for the arts made him a popular figure in New York literary circles. Influenced by a visit to the US (1903–4) by W. B. Yeats (qv), Clarke became president of the National Art Theatre Society, an attempt to promote the endowment of an American art theatre. He also published some poetry: ‘Sullivan, 1779’ (1912), ‘John Barry’ (1914) and his most popular work, ‘The fighting race’, which first appeared in the New York Sun on 17 March 1898 as a tribute to the Irish who died aboard the battleship Maine, and later in The fighting race and other poems (1911); better known as ‘Kelly and Burke and Shea’, it was one of Michael Collins’s (qv) favourite poems and he often recited it as his party piece. President of the New York Friendly Sons of St Patrick (1906–7) and of the American Irish Historical Society (1913–23), after the 1870s Clarke largely eschewed involvement with American Fenianism and irritated some Fenians such as Devoy by his support for the western allies during the first world war. However, he met Michael Collins in America, and continued to take a keen interest in Irish politics. Collins's death affected him deeply and moved him to write a requiem poem, published in the New York Times, 29 August 1922. After a lingering illness, he died 27 February 1925 at his home 159 West 95th Street, New York.
He married (18 June 1873) Mary Agnes Cahill in New York; they had two sons.