Teresa Deevy (1894-1963)


Life
[fam. ‘Tessa’; occas. err. Deevey]; b. 19 Jan., Co. WaterfordWaterford; youngest of 13 children of a successful draper at Kilkenny, himself the son of farmers and a nationalist, moving later to Waterford, and living at first at 3 Eldon Tce., 1876, and later at Passage Rd. (d. 1897); who died when she was three; her mother was a Feehan, one uncle being Lord Mayor and the other a Land League priest; ed. Ursuline Convent School and effected by religious training; contrib. ‘Should Women have Equal Social and Political Rights?’ to school journal;
 
suffered from Mènier’s disease from late teens, leading to total deafness before she left college; matriculated and entered UCD, 1913, Arts and teacher training; transferred to UCC and completed Arts there; lived in Waterloo Rd., Dublin, with her sister Nell (d.1954); wrote Abbey play Reapers (30 March 1930; dir Lennox Robinson), with national theme, eliciting effusive thanks from A. J. Leventhal; other Abbey plays incl. Temporal Powers (1932), praised highly in letter from Frank O’Connor; The King of Spain’s Daughter (29 April 1935), successfully revived in the 1970s;
 
Katie Roche (Abbey, 16 March 1936) a proto-modernist Irish play about a women shaped by men whose real self fails to cohere under social pressure of father, her would-be boy-friend and an architect who wants her as a wife; published in Famous Plays for 1935-36 (1936) and toured in the US, 1937; followed by Light Falling (25 Oct. 1936); The Wild Goose (9 Nov. 1936), centred on Martin Shea and set in the aftermath of the battle of the Boyne; spoke out against the Censorship Board and particularly the case of Eric Cross’s Tailor and Anstey; Wife to James Whelan rejected by Ernest Blythe at the Abbey, and also by the Gate, 1937;
 
her play Holiday House, dealing with the role of women in Ireland, accepted by Abbey for production, but inexplicably shelved; wrote exclusively thereafter for radio after 1936, producing Going Beyond Alma’s Glory, and Within A Marble City; her plays The King of Spain’s Daughter and The Enthusiast produced by Denis Johnston on BBC NI (1938); elected Irish Academy of Letters, 1954; Katie Roche revived by Joe Dowling at the Abbey in 1975, and again by Judy Friel with Derbhle Crotty in the title-role, 1994; her plays Wife to James Whelan and Temporal Powers were produced by Mint Theatre in NY in 1010 and 2011, in cooperation with Chris Morash (NUI); her scripts in the Deevy Archive of NUI Maynooth also to appear from Mint. NCBE DIB DIW DIL OCIL

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Works
Plays, Three Plays (London: Macmillan 1939) [contains Katie Roche, Wild Goose, and King of Spain’s Daughter]; King of Spain’s Daughter and Other One Act Plays by Teresa Deevy (Dublin: New Frontiers Press 1947) [contains King of Spain’s Daughter; In search of Valour (otherwise A Disciple); and Strange Birth; 20 works in all].

Collected Plays, Eibhear Walshe, ed., Selected plays of Irish playwright Teresa Deevy, 1894-1963 [Studies in Irish Literature, Vol. 10] (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press 2003), xii, 252pp. [Contents: Ineffable longings; The King of Spain's Daughter; Katie Roche; The Wild Goose; Supreme Dominion (a radio play); bibl. refs. p.xi-xii.]

See also ‘The Enthusiast’, One Act Play Magazine, 1 (1938); ‘Going Beyond Alma’s Glory’, in Irish Writing, 17 (December 1951), pp.21-32.

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Criticism
  • Robert Hogan, After the Irish Renaissance (Minneapolis UP 1967);
  • J. D. Riley, ‘On Teresa Deevy’s Plays’, in Irish Writing, 32 (Autumn 1955) [q.p.];
  • (May 1995);
  • Sean Dunne, ed., ‘Teresa Deevy Special Number’, in Journal of Irish Literature, XIV, 2 (May 1985);
  • Eibhear Walshe, ‘Lost Dominions: European Catholicism and Irish Nationalism in the Plays of Teresa Deevy’, in Irish University Review, 25, 1 (Spring-Summer 1995), pp.133-42;
  • Eileen Kearney, ‘Teresa Deevy ’ inIrish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, ed. Bernice Schrank & William Demastes (CT: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.80-92;
  • Eileen Kearney, ‘Teresa Deevy ’ in Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, ed. Bernice Schrank & William Demastes (CT: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.80-92;
  • Cathy Leenan, ‘Ireland’s “Exiled” Women Playwrights: Teresa Deevy and Marina Carr’, in The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-century Irish Drama, ed. Shaun Richards (Cambridge UP 2003) [Chap. 11].
  • Cathy Leeney, ‘Teresa Deevy: Exile and Silence’, in Irish Women Playwrights - 1900-1939 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 2010), pp.161-90;
  • Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin, ‘“The seeds beneath the snow”: Resignation and Resistance in Teresa Deevy’s Wife to James Whelan’, in Irish Women Writers: New Critical Perspectives, ed. Elke d’Hoker, et al. ([Intern.] Peter Lang 2011), q.pp.
  • Fintan O’Toole, ‘Teresa Who? How Dev’s Ireland wrote Deevy out of the Abbey" [column], in The Irish Times (9 Mach 2013), Weekend, p.8.

See also Irish University Review [Special Jubilee Issue,] ‘Teresa Deevy and Irish Women Playwrights’, [q. ed.]; Robert Welch, The Abbey Theatre, 1899-1999: Form and Pressure (OUP 1999), pp.124-27; [?]Scott, et al., Ireland in Proximity: History, Gender, Space (London: Routledge 1999).]

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Commentary
Mary Rose Callaghan, ‘Teresa Deevey’, in Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (1979), remarks that Temple Lane [pseud. of Mary Isabel Leslie] summarised her typical heroine as embodying a conflict between aspiration and fulfilment, dream and mundane reality [no ref.]; A Disciple (1931) introduced the first of her typical heroines, Ellie Irwin, a servant-girl who wishes that life were like the production of Coriolanus, and wants a man like him ‘who done things proper’; induced by her fantasies to love a Mr Glitterton, the divorced big house squire; in the end she is trapped with the local bandit Jack the Scalp in a house, and offers herself to him, but he refuses for the sake of his soul; as he runs from her to the police she hopes they get him, and says, ‘Them were best that were born long ago. Wirra - why weren’t I born in a brave time’; Temporal Powers shared Abbey prize with Paul Vincent Carroll’s Things that Are Caesar’s; main protagonist poverty-stricken peasants, Min and Michael Doherty, who come by stolen money, their downfall being Michael’s use of it [he is tried for theft and Min explicitly disputes the social doctrine that ‘poverty is a blessing in disguise’]; The King of Spain’s Daughter (1935). ded. ‘To An April Day’ when she saw the wedding that inspired it, concerns Annie Kinsella, flighty girl, who sees a local wedding and resolves to treasure her independence though her father threatens to send her to a factory; marries Jim Harris, who has save 2s a week for 4 years to marry her; convinced by his romantic dedication, and also by the hint of a ‘wild man’ in him that would fight out of jealousy for her; Katie Roche, her most popular play, published in Famous Plays [1935-36] [concerns Katie who is married to unglamorous older man who has chosen her for her ‘heart and her mind’, which she views unenthusiastically (‘a queer way to love - taking a body to pieces’); hangs on for ‘something great’; she flirts with younger men; exhausted, he disappears to Dublin on business; she finds she is illegitimate dg. of Big House; Reuben, wandering mystic and her father in disguise, realises that her wild temperament needs strong man; talks to Stanislaus, who brings her to Dublin; she discovers glamour in facing future bravely; dedicated to Mother ‘As We Planned’ (1935); The Wild Goose (1936), set in 17th century, in which Martin Shea vacillates between army, church, and marriage; Frank O’Connor, in Backward Glance, cites WB Yeats as complaining about her charming plays and her refusal to let them be rewritten; Wife to James Whelan rejected by Abbey [1937], and first performed in 1956; Light Falling (Exper. Th. [Peacock]; a late stage work on Luke Wadding, Supreme Dominion [n.d.]; Deevy lived many years in Waterloo Road flat, Dublin, with her sister Nell, who died in 1954; she was very religious; among those who visited her were David Marcus; made journeys to Belfast, though deaf, to supervises radio production of her plays such as Going Beyond Alma’s Glory; wrote children’s story Lisheen with Patricia Lynch and Helen Staunton. DIL adds notes on Strange Birth, one act set in guest house, in which Sara Meade, servant of about 30,, links the characters and remains constantly cheerful; at first refuses to marry postman but, realises what she is missing by not loving anyone, accepts; going Beyond &c., in which two middle-aged people retrieve lost past, Martin Spillane and Mona Pewitt, his wife, unusually for this writer, a couple for whom romance has failed. Light Falling in the Abbey [sic] followed 190 years without a stage play.

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Robert Welch, The Abbey Theatre, 1899-1999: Form and Pressure (OUP 1999), pp.124-27: ‘Teresa Deevy is the only serious woman dramatist of the Abbey, apart from Lady Gregory, until comparatively recent times. There are many and complex reasons for this vacuum that have to do with the nature of Irish society from the Land War to the 1960s and 1970s and the atitudes to women that the Catholic church and the Irish state both reflected and fostered. But this is not the context to ruminate on such matters: it is more apprpriate, here, to recognise Teresa Deevy’s special achievements in the 1930s.’ (p.124.)

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References
D. E. S. Maxwell (Modern Irish Drama, 1984) lists under Teresa Deevy (?-1963), Three Plays, Katie Roche, The King of Spain’s Daughter, The Wild Goose (Lon. 1939).

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