John Millington Synge and the Irish Theatre

By Maurice Bourgeois | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III
SYNGE AND FRENCH "INFLUENCE": PERSONAL
CHARACTERISTICS

WHAT was Synge's relation to French literature and to Continental literature at large, it now remains to examine. The initial question is, In what manner did the French influence exercise itself on Synge?

Synge cannot well have been directly influenced by the French authors themselves -- though he may have seen some of them,1 he never knew them personally -- but only by their books, of which he read a very large number. His case is in this respect widely different from, say, that of Oscar Wilde or Mr. W. B. Yeats, and more especially of Mr. George Moore, who was the intimate friend of Verlaine, Manet and Zola, and whose mind and talent are actually steeped in French culture.2 Synge, on the

____________________
1
"He told me that once, in Paris, he had gone to hear a brilliant talker, a French poet, now dead. It was like him that he did not speak to the talker. 'We sat around on chairs and the great man talked'" ( John Masefield, Contemporary Review, art. cit.). Synge also heard Paul Fort, but did not like him.
2
In 1885 a translation of Zola's Pot-Bouille (under the title Piping Hot) had expressly avowed the direction taken by Mr. Moore's literary sympathies. Cf. his Confessions of a Young Man, Memoirs of my Dead Life, and his amusing sentence in Hail and Farewell: I. Ave ( Tauchnitz, No. 4314, p. 47): "As far back as the days when I was a Frenchman."

-50-

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