The Irish Dramatic Movement

By Una Ellis-Fermor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT1

'We went on giving what we thought good until it became popular.' LADY GREGORY.

'Literature must take the responsibility of its power and keep all its freedom.' W. B. YEATS.

THE HISTORY of the Irish Dramatic Movement is well known and it has been well told by the original leaders and founders. Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats both wrote accounts of various parts of it and George Moore contributed surprisingly full description of certain episodes, though his impression of events does not necessarily tally with theirs. Yet a brief account of the main course must be given again here, if only to show the nature of the conflict stirred up by it and the small, half-casual, half-heroic beginnings it had.

W. B. Yeats founded the Irish Literary Society in London in 18912 and the National Literary Society in Dublin in 1892. This was followed in 1893 by the Gaelic League (founded by Dr. Hyde and other Gaelic scholars) and in January 1899 by the Irish Literary Theatre. In the interval between 1892 and 1899 Yeats had discussed with many people the possibilities of finding a small theatre in London or Dublin, with Florence Farr, with George Moore, with Edward Martyn and, finally and fruitfully, with that fine, practical genius, Augusta, Lady Gregory3 Things seemed to grow possible as we talked,'

____________________
1
This is an account of those episodes and aspects of the movement which appear most significant to an English onlooker. For an account which describes fully the relations of the movement to Irish history and culture, the reader is again referred to Mr. A. E. Malone's The Irish Drama, especially the first five chapters.
2
W. B. Yeats gave a clear account of this part of the movement in Dramatis Personae (13-18Cuala ed.) and the relations of the three groups in the early nineties were summarized by Lady Gregory in Our Irish Theatre (76).
3
O.I.T.6-7.

-33-

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