The Irish Dramatic Movement

By Una Ellis-Fermor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
LADY GREGORY

Born to see the glory of the world in a peasant mirror."

LADY GREGORY was a woman of middle age when the Irish Dramatic Movement began. She had had wide experience of men and affairs in many countries; she was a great landowner, the widow of a distinguished Colonial Governor, occupied chiefly in nursing the property for her son, still in his minority, and in looking after the tenants of her Galway estate in the grand old feudal style. She had done a little polite writing, editing her husband's life and letters as many another lady of the late nineteenth century might have done. But her experience had, so far, largely omitted the theatre.

In four years she had begun to write plays, in a few more she was the most popular comedy writer of the movement. In 1909 conducted a skilful and successful fight against the attempts of Dublin Castle to put down the production of Blanco Posnet. In 1911 she took the company to America and conducted it triumphantly through fight after fight with the Irish-American nationalists, including its arrest and trial in Philadelphia. From then onwards she was the grand old lady of the Abbey Theatre, an old lady moreover, who could still say 'no'. In 1928 she published her last volume of plays1 and withdrew from active work in the movement she had vitalized for thirty years, a decision 'made without advice save from the almanac, and rather from pride than modesty',2 her brilliance, whether as playwright or theatrical adviser, unimpaired. In 1932 she died at Coole in Galway. Few men or women have had so rich a flowering so late in life and fewer still have kept, unsuspected by themselves or others, so fine a genius unused and yet unsoured. Truly she could have said with Hans Andersen, 'My life itself has been a wonderful fairytale.'

____________________
1
Three Last Plays ( 1928).
2
Three Last Plays, P. 271.

-136-

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The Irish Dramatic Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Preface xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Chapter I - The Origin and Significance of the Irish Dramatic Movement 1
  • Chapter 2 - The English Theatre in the Nineties 18
  • Chapter 3 - The Early History of the Movement 33
  • Chapter 4 - Ideals in the Workshop 59
  • Chapter 5 - W. B. Yeats 91
  • Chapter 6 - Martyn and Moore 117
  • Chapter 7 - Lady Gregory 136
  • Chapter 8 - John Millington Synge 163
  • Chapter 9 - Conclusion and Prospect 187
  • Appendices 208
  • Index 237
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