J. M. Synge, 1871-1909

J. M. Synge, 1871-1909

J. M. Synge, 1871-1909

J. M. Synge, 1871-1909

Excerpt

Not the least lamentable aspect of Synge's career of frustration, belated achievement and early death is the fact that unlike his fellow Irishmen George Moore, W. B. Yeats and James Joyce he has had to wait for nearly half a century for his biography to be written. At his death in 1909 all his papers passed into the possession of his brother Edward Synge and were not made available to anyone wishing to write about him. Maurice Bourgeois' John Millington Synge and the Irish Theatre, published in 1913, was thus written under difficulties few biographers would willingly contend with and has perforce been a unique if meager source of information.

In 1939 custodianship of Synge's papers passed to a nephew, Edward M. Stephens. Edward Stephens had grown up literally under the same roof as Synge and had been influenced by his quiet iconoclasm. He and his cousin Edward Hutchinson Synge were in college at the time of J. M. Synge's death and to them he left his estate. From 1930, Edward Stephens had been collecting material and writing his recollections of his uncle. After he acquired the vital documents he started work on a biography of Synge which occupied whatever time a busy career as barrister and civil servant allowed him.

When my wife and I met the Stephenses in Dublin in 1939, I was writing a Harvard doctoral dissertation on Synge. Edward Stephens and his brother Frank had vivid memories of their uncle and shared them with me. Edward and I discussed each other's work. I subsequently sent him copies of articles on Synge which I had written, transcripts of some of Synge's letters which had passed into American collections, and other information. He sent me copies of three articles on Synge which he had published and kept me informed about the progress of his biography.

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