[Lady] Augusta Gregory: Commentary & Quotations


Commentary

Commentary
Yeats on Lady Gregory and Coole Park
‘If you, that have grown old, were the first dead,
Neither catalpa tree nor scented lime
Should hear my living feet, nor would I tread
Where we wrought that shall break the teeth of Time.
Let new faces play what tricks they will
In the old rooms; night can outbalance day,
Our shadows rove the garden gravel still,
The living seem more shadowy than they.’
—W. B. Yeats, “The New Faces”

Sean O’Casey: O’Casey wrote to Lady Gregory in 1923: ‘All the thought in Ireland for years past has come through the Abbey. You have no idea what an education it has been to the country.’ (Q. source.)

W. B. Yeats
George Moore
James Joyce
Stanislaus Joyce
Mary Colum
Anthony Butler
Valentin Iremonger
Denis Donoghue
Richard Kain
Cairns & Richards
Joep Leerssen
Maureen Hawkins
Declan Kiberd
Douglas Sealy
Eugene O’Brien
Colm Tóibín
Lionel Pilkington
P. J. Kavanagh

W. B. Yeats (1): Yeats wrote of Lady Gregory at their first meeting as ‘a plainly dressed woman of forty-five, without obvious good looks, except the charm that comes from strength, intelligence and kindness’; according to him her motto was from Aristotle, ‘To thing like a wise man, but to express oneself like the common people.’ ( “Dramatis Personae”, Autobiographies, pp.388-91).

W. B. Yeats (2): Of his first visit to Coole Park, Yeats wrote: ‘I found at last what I had been seeking always, a life of order and labour, where all outward things were the image of an inward life.’ (Cited in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.95.) Further: ‘I had heard in Sligo cottages or from pilots at Rosses Point endless stories of apparitions, whether of the recent dead or of the people of history and legend, of that Queen Maeve whose reputed cairn stands on the mountain over the bay Then at the British Museum I read stories by Irish writers of the ’forties and ’fifties had written of such apparitions, but they enraged me more than pleased me because they turned the country visions into a joke. But when I went from cottage to cottage with Lady Gregory and watched her hand recording that great collection she has called Visions and Beliefs I escaped disfiguring humour.’ (“General Introduction for My Work” [1937], in Essays and Introductions, p.513.)

W. B. Yeats (3): ‘Like so many Irish women of the upper classes, who reacted against the licence, the religious lassitude of the immediate past, they were [393] evangelical Protestants, and set out to convert their neighbourhood. Few remember how much of this movement was a genuine enthusiasm [; …] Were I a better man and a more ignorant I had liked such a life. But that missionary would have met no sympathy at Roxborough, except, it may be, amongst those boisterous brothers or from one studious girl […] But the born student of the great literature of the world cannot proselytise, and Augusta Persse, as Lady Gregory was then named, walked and discusse[d] Shakespeare with a man but little steadier than her brothers, a scholar of Trinity, in later years a famous botanist, a friendship ended by her alarmed mother. Was it earlier or later that she established a little shop [394] upon the estate and herself sold there that she might compel the shopkeepers to bring down their exorbitant prices? Other well-born women of that time, Ruskin’s Rose amongst them, did the same […] a phrase of Aristotle’s had become her motto: “To think like a wise man, but to express oneself like the common people.”’ (Autobiographies, 1955, 393-95.)

W. B. Yeats (4): On hearing of her illness in Feb. 1909, Yeats wrote: ‘She has been to me mother, friend, sister and brother. I cannot realise the world without her - she brought to my wavering thoughts steadfast nobility. All the day the thought of losing her is like a conflagration in the rafters. Friendship is all the house I have.’ (Cited in Jeffares, A New Commentary, 1984, p.96.)

W. B. Yeats (5): Yeats gave his reaction to a rent reduction ordered by the courts in “Upon a House Shaken by the Land Agitation”, the prose-draft of the text being set out with an explanation in his diary entry for 7 August 1910, with the explanation: ‘One feels that when all must make their living they will live not for life’s sake but the work’s and all be the poorer … this house has enriched my soul out of measure because here life moves within restrain through gracious forms. Here there has been no compelled labour, no poverty thwarted impulse.’ (See A. N. Jeffares, New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, p.93.)

W. B. Yeats (6): ‘Lady Gregory was not philosophic, she seldom reflected upon her work, but one phrase she used again and again: “We do our work to restore dignity to Ireland”. She remained to the end of her life an connoisseur in nobility in living and in thought. During her last year she kept an unmoved face amid great pain. A woman like a rock, as a great painter said of her years ago at her side always Arabia Deserta and the New Testament in Gaelic; she never separated the discipline of religion from the labour of style. Her great discovery in literature was that dignity and power of the form of English used by the Irish peasants. Into the dialect, which is sometimes Gaelic in construction, Tudor in vocabulary, she translated all the great epic stories of Ireland, and when Synge and she began to use [it] for dramatic purposes, modern Irish prose took its characteristic shape. [… &c.]’ (Sect. III of ‘Modern Ireland’, address to American Audience; printed from dictation in Irish Renaissance, ed., Skelton & Clark, Dolmen Press, 1965.)

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W. B. Yeats (7): “Beautiful Lofty Things” (in New Poems), remembering her courageous response to threat of assassination: ‘I told him that nightly from six to seven I sat at this table / The blinds drawn up’; Lady Gregory recorded the incident mentioned in her Journal, 11 April 1922).

Note - In The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats (Methuen 1950, 1965 [Rev. Edn.]) T. R. Henn repeats the story: ‘There were times, even in my own boyhood, when one did sit in the evening between a lamp and the open; though Lady Gregory, in reply to threats on her life during the Civil War, replied proudly that she was to be found each evening, between six and seven, writing before an unshuttered window.’ (p.7.)

W. B. Yeats (8): Yeats added an additional paragraph to his Celtic Element in Literature (1897; rev. 1902): ‘I could have written this essay with much more precision and much better illustrated my meaning if I had waited until Lady Gregory had finished her book of legends, Cuchulain of Muirthemne, a book to set beside Morte d’Arthur and the Mabinogion.’ (Essays & Introductions, pp.187-88).

Cf. Yeats's review of Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1903) in which he called ‘the best book that has ever come of out Ireland’ because it ‘tells […] the chief part of Ireland’s gift to the imagination of the world.’ [See Preface to Cuchulain of Muirthemne: The History of the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster, arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory, with a Preface by W. B. Yeats [1902]; rep. [with Gods and Fighting Men] as The Complete Irish Mythology (London: The Slaney Press [Reed Consumer Books] 1995), 550pp. The review is reprinted in the Slaney 1995 edition of her Cuchulain.]

W. B. Yeats (9): Preface to Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902): ‘We Irish should keep these personages much in our hearts, for they lived in the places where we ride and go marketing, and sometimes they have met one another on the hills that cast their shadows upon our doors at evening. If we will but tell these stories to our children the Land will begin again to be a Holy Land, as it was before men gave their hearts to Greece and Rome and Judea. When I was a child I had only to climb the hill behind the house to see long, blue, ragged hills flowing along the southern horizon. What beauty was lost to me, what depth of emotion is still perhaps lacking in me, because nobody told me, not even the merchant captains who knew everything, that Cruachan of the Enchantments lay behind those long, blue, ragged hills.’ (Quoted in Lawrence Osborne, ‘Dreaming Shamrocks: The Use of Being Irish’, in The Village Voice, 3 June 2008; available online - accessed 29.03.2011.) For full text of Yeats’s introductions to Cuchulain of Muirthemne and Gods and Fighting Men, go to Ricorso Library, “Classics Irish Texts” - W. B. Yeats, [infra].)

Further: Yeats also wrote of ‘the beautiful speech [i.e., Kiltartanese] of those who think in Irish … a speech as beautiful as that of Morris, and a living speech into the bargain.’ (Preface to Cuchulain of Muirthemne, rep. in Explorations, Macmillan 1962, p.4; quoted in G. J. Watson, ed., W. B. Yeats: Short Fiction, Penguin 1995, Textual and Editorial Note, p.xiii.)

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W. B. Yeats (11): ‘In those first years of the theatre we all helped one another with plots, ideas, and dialogue, but certainly I was the most indebted as I had no mastery of speech that purported to be of real life. [The Pot of Broth] may be more Lady Gregory’s than mine.’ (Notes on A Pot of Broth’, Variorum Edn., p.254; cited in Una Kealy, ‘The Return of Radical Innocence in the Plays of W. B. Yeats’ [UUC MA 1999], p.36.)

W. B. Yeats (12): ‘A year ago I found I had written no verse for two years: I had never been so long barren; I had nothing in my head, and there used to be more than I could write. Perhaps Coole Park, where I had escaped from politics, from all that Dublin talked of, when it was shut, shut me out of my theme; or did the subconscious drama that was my imaginative life end with its owner?’ (Pref. to The King of the Great Clock Tower, Cuala Press 1934 [q.p.; quoted in T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats, London: Methuen 1965 [Rev. Edn.] , p.320.

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W. B. Yeats (13): ‘I long for quiet, long ago I used to find it at Coole. It was part of the genius of that house. Lady Gregory never rebelled like other Irish women I have known who consumed themselves and their friends; in spire of Scripture she put the new wine into old bottles.’ (Letters to Dorothy Wellesley, 1940; 1964, p.68.)

W. B. Yeats (14): Lines drafted for ‘Coole Park, 1929’, but later omitted, read: ‘She taught that straight line that sets a man / Above the crooked journey of the sun’ (Q. source.) Yeats also wrote of Lady Gregory: ‘I doubt if I could have done much with my life but for her firmness and care, and further: ‘During [the theatre’s] first years, Lady Gregory was friend and hostess, a centre of peace, an adviser, who never overestimated or underestimated trouble, but neither she nor we thought her a possible creator. And now all of a moment, as it seemed, she became the founder of modern Irish dialect literature.’ (Q. source.)

W. B. Yeats (15): Yeats wrote of Lady Gregory’s family, the Perrses of Roxborough: ‘They had all the necessities of life on the mountain or within the walls of their demesne, exporting quantities of game, ruling their tenants, as had their fathers before, with a despotic benevolence, were admired, or perhaps loved, for the Irish people, however lawless, respect a rule founded upon some visible supremacy.’ (Autobiographies, 1955, p.393.) Note that Yeats dedicated The Shadowy Waters to Lady Gregory (1900).

George Moore: Moore comments on Lady Gregory, in Hail and Farewell, to the effect that she had in her youth been a Protestant proselytiser, an assertion that led to the threat of legal action (Vale, 1947 ed., pp.122-31, 145-47 (Cited in A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats, A New Biography, 1988, p.198, and New Commentary, 1984, p.100.) Moore dismissed her on the grounds that ‘she had never been for [him] a very real person’ (Hail and Farewell, Heinemann 1947, p.123; quoted in Anne Fogarty, Introduction, Irish University Review [Lady Gregory Special Issue], Spring/Summer 2004, p.ix.) He also described her as being ‘without a mother, or father, or sisters, or brothers, sans attaché’ (Vale, New York 1920, p.184; cited in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.84.)

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James Joyce (1) - review of Lady Gregory’s Poets and Dreamers, in Daily Express, Dublin, 26 March 1903: ‘[...] Lady Gregory has truly set forth the old age of her country. In her new work she has left legends and heroic youth far behind, and has explored in a land almost fabulous in its sorrow and senility. [...] These stories appeal to some feeling which is certainly not the feeling of wonder which is the beginning of all speculation. The story-tellers are old, and their imagination is not the imagination of childhood. The story-teller preserves the strange machinery of fairyland, but his mind is feeble and sleepy. He begins one story and wanders from it into another story, and none of the stories has any satisfying imaginative wholeness, none of them like Sir John Dawe’s poem that cried tink at the close.’ [viz., Ben Jonson, Epicoene, II.ii.]’ (Critical Writings, Viking Press, 1957, p.103.)

Further: ‘In fine, her book, wherever it treats of the “folk,” sets forth in the fullness of its senility a class of mind which Mr. Yeats has set forth with such delicate scepticism in his happiest book, The Celtic Twilight.’ (p.104). ‘This book, like so many other books of our time, is in part picturesque and in part an indirect or direct utterance of the central belief of Ireland. Out of the material and spiritual battle which has gone so hardily with her Ireland has emerged with many memories of beliefs, and with one belief - a belief in the incurable ignobility of the forces which have overcome her - and Lady Gregory, whose old men seem to be almost their own judges when they tell their wandering stories, might add to the passage from Whitman which forms her dedication, Whitman’s ambiguous words for the vanquished - “Battles are lost in the spirit in which they are won.”’ (“Poets and Dreamers”, in Critical Writings, ed. Richard Ellmann & Ellsworth Mason [1959] (NY: Viking Press 1966), pp.102-05; quoted in part in Gregory Castle, Modernism and the Celtic Revival (Cambridge UP 2001), pp.183-84, citing rep. Cornell UP 1989, pp.124. Note: see Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? / I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.’ Ellmann and Mason remark that Joyce is ‘distorting’ Whitman’s meaning to say that ‘Ireland had been depressed to her conqueror’s level of ignobility.’]

James Joyce (2) - lampoon: ‘There was an old lady named Gregory, / Who cried: “Come all poets in beggary”. / But she found her imprudence, / When hundreds of students / Cried: “we’re all in that noble category” [cat-eg-ory]. (Quoted in Eugene Sheehy [memoir], in Ulick O’Connor, ed., The Joyce We Knew, Cork: Mercier Press, 1969, p.27.)

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Stanislaus Joyce [on the review James Joyce wrote of her Dreamers in 1903]: ‘Lady Gregory had little reason, it seems to me, to take offence at the review, for there is no direct criticism in it of her part in the traditional Irish droolery; on the contrary, the reviewer, as far as his literary conscience allows him, seems to be disposed to praise slight merits and even to be hampered by the wish, in spite of his principles, to shift the blame from the writer to [220] the subject […] I have never met or even seen Lady Gregory, yet in spite of what she had done for Jim, I conceived an unreasoning antipathy for her. I imagined her to have been one of those awfully clever girls who in late middle age become awfully tiresome women […] I was also secretly happy that Jim had not met Maud Gonne in Paris. I took Maud Gonne to be the youth of Lady Gregory.’ (My Brother’s Keeper, 1958, pp.221-22.)

Mary Colum: Colum wrote, ‘With all her faults and snobbery, she was a great woman, a real leader, one of those who woke up Ireland from the somnolence and lassitude it was too prone to fall into. It is very doubtful that Yeats could have produced as much work as he did without her help. It is almost certain that, but for Lady Gregory, the Irish national theatre would have remained a dream, or ended in being that failure that so many hopeful undertakings in Ireland became.’ (Life and the Dream, London: Macmillan 1947, pp 125-27; cited in Taura Napier, ‘The Mosaic “I”: Mary Colum and Modern Irish Autobiography’, in Irish University Review, 28, 1, Spring/Summer 1998, pp.53.)

Anthony Butler, ‘The Abbey Daze’, in The World of Sean O’Casey, ed. Sean McCann, London: Four Square 1966): ‘[…] we may speculate that Sir William took the hint when he found Isabella Augusta herded into his presence at regular intervals and on one occasion even anticipating his arrival at Romes. In any event he yielded like a gentleman and married her on 4 March, 1880 […].’ (p.93.)

Valentin Iremonger, reviewing Lady Gregory: A Literary Portrait, by Elizabeth Coxhead, in Catholic Herald (30 June 1961): ‘Had this remarkable Anglo-Irish lady done nothing other than befriend and encourage Yeats, her place in literary history was assured. But she was much more than the patron of a genius. / Hers was the indomitable will that made the Abbey Theatre survive its threatened extinction repeatedly up to the mid-twenties. And finding that the theatre needed plays, she sat down and wrote them. She probably would have been a writer anyhow but her part in the building of the Abbey gave her life and work purpose and direction. Many of her plays, as Miss Coxhead rightly points out, have the authentic touch of genius and it is a pity that the exigencies of the contemporary theatre and the decline of the repertory theatre militate against their more frequent performance.’ (Available online; accessed 13.07.2014.)

Denis Donoghue, Yeats [Fontanta Modern Masters] (London: Collins 1971): ‘[T]here was Lady Gregory, a commanding person, Anglo-Irish gentry but deeply devoted to ‘the people’. Yeats saw in her the possibility of gaining the best of both worlds; knowing the texture of common life without abandoning the pride of station which Lady Gregory represented. Her work in Irish folklore was crucial in this way because lore was, in Yeats’s phrase, ‘the book of the people’. The feelings and beliefs assembled in Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne, Gods and Fighting Men, and Visions an Beliefs in the West of Ireland were indisputably Irish, and they came from a source deeper than any Church: they were made by men and women who, having nothing to lose, had nothing to fear. The stories were hospitable to miracle, the occult, and magic, they seemed to promise a revelation, if only their energy could be gathered, and Yeats hoped to gather some of it in his plays of Cuchulain. […] In 1886 he appealed ‘to those young men clustered here and there throughout our land, whom the emotion of Patriotism has lifted into that world of selfless passion in which heroic deeds are possible and heroic poetry credible’. If ‘great nations blossom above’, as he wrote in a late poem, they blossom in people like Lady Gregory, not only in men of great power. Lady Gregory’s strength was her pride, nourished by contact with ancestral feeling, memories, visions, customs transmitted like songs and stories. She was also, in the moral sense, a leader.’ (p.26.)

Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972), on the Hiberno-English literary dialect introduced by Douglas Hyde: ‘Later to be named “Kiltartan”, from the locality near Coole where Lady Gregory collected folklore, the dialect became a self-conscious prose poetry in her plays and in those of Synge. George Moore, who could not abide Lady Gregory, said in Hail and Farewell, that the idiom “consisted of no more than a dozen turns of speech dropped into the pages of English so ordinary” as to “appear in any newspaper without attracting [32] attention.” It was clever and malicious, as Moore usually was. When yeats, who could not abide Moore, turned to writing his own autobiography, he claimed for the style, “Gaelic in idiom and Tudor in vocabulary”, a high place indeed.’ (p.31-32.)

David Cairns & Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland (Manchester UP 1986), pp.106-07: ‘Lady Gregory’s The Deliverer, Abbey Jan. 1911, illustrates … the dominant [Anglo-Irish literary mood of fall, betrayal and uncertain future; set in Ancient Egypt; nationalistically evokes the idea of Moses leading the chosen people … whose diction marks them as Irish [they] reject their Deliverer … closes with the actuality of his death and the possibility of his resurrection being discussed in hesitant terms.

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Joep Leerssen, ‘Táin and Táin: The Mythical Past and the Anglo-Irish’, in History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Literature, ed. Joris Duytschaever & Geert Lernout [IASIL Conference of 9 April 1986; Costerus Ser. Vol. 71] (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1988), pp.19-45; 32ff.: Leerssen offers a ‘word in vindication of Lady Gregory’ of whom ‘a patronising tone’ is often heard though her version of the Táin Bó Cuailnge was the first time that the Ulster cycle as a whole was made accessible to the broader reading public; ‘there would be little exaggeration in the contention that we owe the entire Ulster cycle - as a literary rather than philological material - to [her]’; which makes her achievement equal in importance to that of Charlotte Brooke, a hundred years previously. Furthermore we can read Cuchulain of Muirthemne side by side with its original (as edited and trans. by Cecile O’Rahilly), we cannot but be struck by the deftness, completeness, elegance and fidelity of Lady Gregory’s translation’; Leerssen is dismissive of Standish O’Grady’s version which he compares for inaccuracy with the image of the Morte D’Arthur of Malory [sic] in Tennyson’s Idylls of the Kings; cites the common view of her sexless translation as prudish, and quotes her letter to Yeats regarding the version of the original (‘do thócbáil a nmochta & a [mn]áe dó/exposing all their shame and nakedness to him’): ‘It was to shock Cuchulain’s modesty it was done, as we know by his hiding his face, & the partial undressing was enough for that. Priests might legitimately say the other called up an indecent picture.’ (Quoted in Murphy, pref. to Lady Gregory, intro. p.8-9.) [Cont.]

Joep Leerssen (‘Táin and Táin: The Mythical Past and the Anglo-Irish’, 1988) - cont.: ‘In place of Cuchulain’s grotesque warp-spasm, Lady Gregory placed a ‘hero’s halo’; remarks on her version of Ireland as the homogeneous land of the Gaels as an ideologically-propelled conception, in lieu of the country inhabited by a number of different tribes who were at war with each other attested by the Táin itself; ‘The Ulaid or men of Ulster are presented as a different nation or tribe from the fir hérend or “men of Eire” much as the Gailéoin or Leinstermen are wary strangers within the Connacht army’ (p.35.) Leerssen cites her preface, address to ‘the people of Kiltartan: ‘My Dear Friends, / When I began to gather these stories together, it is of you I was thinking, that you would like to have them and be reading them. For although you have not to go far to get stories of Finn and Goll and Oisin from any old person in the place, there is very little of the history of Cuchulain and his friends left in the memory of the people, but only that they were brave men and good fighters, and that Deirdre was beautiful.’ (Gregory, op. cit., p.5.) He also cites her assertion that she has bowdlerised - i.e., that she decided to leave out ‘a good deal I thought you would not care about for one reason or another’. To Yeats she further wrote: ‘My dedication shows clearly enough that I have done all from the peasant point of view’ (quoted Murphy, op. cit., p.9).

Maureen Hawkins, ‘Ascendancy, Nationalism, Feminist Nationalism and stagecraft in Lady Gregory’s revision of Kincora’, in Irish Writers and Politics , ed. Komesu & Sekine, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1989) [on the Anglo-Irish literary revivalists]: ‘They turned to cultural hegemony to retain their socio-political position within a changing [society] which, influenced by the tenets of Romantic nationalism, increasingly defined its identity in cultural terms. By teaching the anglicised middle-class native Catholics the language, history and culture of Ireland on which the Romantic nationalist claim to Irish nationhood rested, as well as by expressing that claim in art and politics, they not only asserted their right to inclusion within an Irish nation from which the Romantic nationalist definition excluded them on the grounds of natal language, ethnic origin, class and religion, but also asserted their right to continue to lead the nation.’ (p.94.)

Declan Kiberd, review of Lucy McDiarmid & Maureen Waters, Lady Gregory: Selected Writings (London: Penguin 1996), notes: ‘Long before post-colonial critics advanced their theories of hybridity, Gregory senses that more may be gained than lost in an act of translation; the rich Hiberno-English, spoken by people who still thought in Irish, seemed to her a language more expressive than either of the standard codes between which it arose. Her call for its validation anticipated those of black radicals in the United States for the curricular acceptance of Creole dialects. […] She overcame the constrictions of a genteel affluence in much the same way as others overcame the disadvantages of a terrible poverty.’ (TLS, 31.5.1996, p.33.)

Douglas Sealy, review of James Pethica, ed., Lady Gregory’s Diaries, in The Irish Times (15 July 1996), Weekend, p.10: quotes Lady Gregory: ‘I should be content to have Jack Yeats and Douglas Hyde here for six months of the year, but a few weeks of their wives makes me hide in the woods! I have felt the same with AE and his wife …’ - and infers that she displayed a recurrent pattern of antipathy to women. also quotes her account of a trip with AE and Yeats: ‘I took the two poets across the lake to the cromlech & there they sat until they saw a purple clad Druid appear’ (which she did not). Lady Gregory described George Moore as looking like a ‘boiled ghost’.

Eugene O’Brien, The Question of Irish Identity in the Writings of W. B. Yeats (Lampeter: Mellen Press 1998), on Lady Gregory’s translations as received by Yeats: ‘These translations transformed the centralities of Irish-Ireland by reinserting them into a new language, the language of the other, and this process of translation would radically alter the selfhood of Irishness that was contained in these texts.’ (p.124.) ‘The existence of these translations pointed towards a form of cultural Irishness in which all Irish people could participate.’ (p.127; the foregoing quoted in J. L. Pickering, UG Essay, UU 2004.)

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Colm Tóibín, Lady Gregory’s Toothbrush (Lilliput Press 2002), speaking of the threatened confiscation of tenants’s cattle: ‘the cattle raid of Coole did not take place […] The cold, ruthless tone in her letters to Yeats and Robert [Gregory] about the tenants was not because she was a landlord’s daughter who could not shake of this tone. She held Coole for Robert. It was his heritage and his inheritance. No matter how she changed in other areas, she remained steadfast in this. It was her duty and she believed in doing her duty more than anything. She merely invented other duties, and when these seemed to conflict with her primary duty, her tone grew steely.’ (p.52.)

Further: ‘Her dream of Ireland began in stories and books and plays, but it ended in politics. She managed to inhabit two ideologies - that of landlord and that of nationalist - at the same time; so, too, de Valera manages his policies on partition and the Irish language and self-sufficiency with a masterly ambiguity.’ (p.120.) Note: Robert Greacen remarks and quotes: ‘she could reveal her upper-class snobbery by dismissing opponents and speaking of “the old battle between those who use a toothbrush and those who don’t.”’ (Review of Judith Hill, Lady Gregory, in Books Ireland, Dec. 2005, p.289.)

Lionel Pilkington, ‘The Beginnings of the Irish National Theatre Project’ (2000): ‘[…] the Irish Literary Theatre functioned as a means by which the social and political leadership role of a section of the southern Irish landlord class could find expression as champions of modernization rather than stand out as colonial anachronisms and remain vulnerable to the now much expanded, increasingly confident, and predominantly Roman Catholic, Irish electorate. In these respects, therefore, the national theatre project should be seen not exclusively as a nationalist one: a conciliatory or assimilative cultural project designed to affirm a leadership role for a minority elite in Irish society and culture at a time when the political and economic supports for this role were fast disappearing.’ (In Eamonn Jordan, ed., Theatre Stuff, Dublin: Carysfort Press 2000, p.31; quoted in Una Kealy, “George Fitzmaurice”, PhD Diss., UU 2005.)

P. J. Kavanagh, ‘O all the Instruments Agree’, review of R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: The Apprentice Mage, 1997 [Times Literary Supplement, q.d.], quotes a niece of Aubrey De Vere: ‘She was the most complicated person I can think of […] Loving - cold. Womanly - cold. Patriotic - cold. Very calculating, dutiful, courageous, purposeful and all built upon a bedrock of humour and love of fun with a vein of simple coarseness of thought and simple inherited Protestantism.’

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Quotations
Quotations

A lonely fight: ‘My desire is a desire that is as long as a year, but it is love given to an echo, the spending of grief on a wave, a lonely fight with a shadow… that is what my love and my desire have been to me’ (Ailell in Gods and Fighting Men - the Story of the Tuatha de Dannan and of the Fianna (1904; quoted in Patrick Lonergan, ‘In Praise of Lady Gregory’, The Irish Times [Favourites series] (6 March 2016 - online; accessed 06.06.2019.)

Texts & Translations
Ideals in Ireland (1901)
Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902)
Poets and Dreamers (1903)
Gods and Fighting Men (1904)
The Spreading of the News (1904)
Our Irish Theatre (1913)
Remarks & Observations
The Arabi affair
Poetry versus prose
Common wisdom
Profit in marriage
Absolute power …
Helping hand …

from Gods and Fighting Men (1904)*

The Fight with the Firbolgs Lugh of the Long Hand
Fate of the Children of Lir Oisin & St Patrick
Notes - 1. Apology [… &c.]  
*held in Ricorso Library - “Irish Literary Classics”, infra.

from Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902)

The Death of Ferdiad  

Abbey audiences
‘Often near midnight after the theatre had closed I have gone round the newspaper offices, asking as a favour that notices might be put in, for we could pay but for few advertisements, and it was not always thought worth while to send a critic to our plays. Often I have gone round by the stage door when the curtain was up, and come round into the auditorium by the front hall, hoping that in the darkness I might pass for a new arrival and so encourage the few scattered people in the stalls.’ (Q. source; quoted in Frank O’Connor, ‘The Future of Irish Literature’, in Horizon, Jan. 1942; rep. in David Pierce, ed., Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader, Cork UP 2000, pp.500.)
 
After the Rising
‘It is terrible to think of the executions and killings that are sure to come [...] yet it must be so [...] we had been at the mercy of a rabble for a long time, both here and in Dublin, with no apparent policy’. (Letter to W. B. Yeats, 1916; quoted in Diarmiad Ferriter, writing on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey, in The Irish Times (27 Dec. 2014.)

“Donal Og”  

It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday
and myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother has said to me not to be talking with you
                                                           today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west
                                                             from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sunfrom me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

—Chosen by Carol Rumens as “Poem of the Week” in The Guardian (9 April 2014) - online.

Ideals in Ireland (1901) - Introduction: ‘My object in collecting them is to show to those who look beyond politics and horse, in what direction though is moving in Ireland.’ (rep. in Mark Storey, ed., Poetry and Ireland since 1800: A Source Book, 1988, p.138.)

Ideals in Ireland (1901): ‘Men lived in a world where anything might flow and change, and become any other thing; and among great gods whose passions were in the flaming sunset, and in the thunder and the thunder- shower, had not our thoughts of weight and measure.They worshipped nature and the abundance of nature, and had always, as it seems, for a supreme ritual that tumultuous dance among the hills or in the depths of the wood, where unearthly ecstasy fell upon the dancers. ’ (Q.p.; quoted in Lawrence Osborne, ‘Dreaming Shamrocks: The Use of Being Irish’, in The Village Voice, 3 June 2008; available online - accessed 29.03.2011.)

Aristos and the demos: [L. G. believed that] ‘an aristocracy of lordly and chivalrous heroes is bound in time to create a great democracy by the reflection of their character in the mass’. (‘Nationalism and Imperialism’, in Ideals in Ireland, ed. Gregory, 1901, p.16; quoted in Emma Carroll, UUC MA Diss., p.2.)

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Cuchulain of Muirthemne: The History of the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster, arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory, with a Preface by W. B. Yeats [1902]; rep. [with Gods and Fighting Men ] as The Complete Irish Mythology (London: The Slaney Press [Reed Consumer Books] 1995), Notes: ‘I am not enough of a scholar to read the old manuscripts from which these stories are taken, but the Irish text of the greater number has been printed either in Irische Texte, or the Revue Celtique, or by [Eugene] O’Curry, in Atlantis and elsewhere, and I have worked from this text, with the help of the translations given. In some cases, as in the greater part of “The War for the Bull of Cuailgne”, the Irish text has not yet been printed, and I have had to work by comparing and piecing together various translations. / I have had to put a connecting sentence of my own here and there, and I have condensed many passages, and I have sometimes tried to give the meaning of a formula that has lost its old meaning. Thus I have exchanged for the grotesque accounts of Cuchulain’s distortion - which no doubt merely meant that in time of great strain or danger he had more than human strength - the more simple formula that his appearance changed to the appearance of a god. In the same way, I have left out Levarcham’s distortion, which was the recognized way of saying she was a swift messenger. / As to the date of the stories, I cannot do better than quote from Mr Alfred Nutt’s “Cuchulain, the Irish Achilles” [… &c.]’ (p.544.)

Further: Following a pronouncing guide to names, ends with acknowledgements: ‘We must be grateful to all these scholars, workers, or compilers, those who have passed away, and those who are living. And I am personally grateful to my friend Douglas Hyde for patient answering of many questions; and to my friend and critic, W. B. Yeats, for his kindness and severity.’ (p.550.) [For Yeats’s Preface containing remarks on Lady Gregory’s method and achievement, see attached.)

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Death of Ferdiad:

They were using the edge of their swords through that time; and it was then Ferdiad found a time when Cuchulain was off his guard, and he gave him a stroke of the sword, and hid it in his body, and the ford was reddened with Cuchulain's blood, and Ferdiad kept on [239] making great strokes at him. And Cuchulain could not bear with this, and he called to Laeg for the Gae Bulg, and it was sent down the stream to him, and he caught it with his foot. And when Ferdiad heard the name of the Gae Bulg, he made a stroke of his shield down to protect his body. But Cuchulain made a straight cast of the spear, the Gae Bulg, off the middle of his hand, over the rim of the shield, and it passed through his armour and went out through his body, so that its sharp end could be seen. Ferdiad gave a stroke of his shield up to protect the upper part of his body, though it was ÷the relief after danger,” as the saying is. “That is enough,” said Ferdiad; “I die by that. And I may say, indeed, you have left me sick after you, and it was not right that I should fall by your hand. O Hound of the beautiful feats, it was not right, you to kill me; the fault of my death is yours, it is on you my blood is. A foolish man does not escape when he goes into the gap of danger; my grief! I am going away, my end is come. My ribs will not hold my heart, my heart is all turned to blood. I have not done well in the battle; you have killed me, Cuchulain.” Cuchulain ran towards him after that, and put his two arms about him, and lifted hirr across the ford northwards, so that his body should be by the ford on the north, and not on the west of the ford with the men of Ireland. (1905 Edn; pp.239-40; available at Internet Archive - online; accessed 07.09.2019.)

[ A downloadable full-text version of Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) is available here in a MS Word - as attached. ]

Poets and Dreamers (Dublin & NY 1903) - “Workhouse Dreams”: ‘I think it has always been to such poor people, with little of wealth or comfort to keep their thoughts bound to things about them, that dreams and visions have been given. It is from a deep narrow well that the stars can be seen at noonday; it was one left on a bare rocky island who saw the pearl gates and the golden streets that led to the Tree of Life.’ (Also in Poets and Dreamers, rep. edn., with foreword by T. R. Henn; Coole Edn., Vol. 11, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1974, 287pp.)

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Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland [1904] in The Complete Irish Mythology (London: The Slaney Press [Reed Consumer Books] 1995): “Notes”, I: The Apology: ‘The Irish text of a great number of the stories in this book has been published, and from this text I have worked, making my own translations as far as my scholarship goes, and when it fails, taking the meaning given by better scholars. In some cases the Irish text has not been printed, and I have had to work my comparing and piecing together various translations. I have had to put a connecting sentence of my own here and there, and I have fused different versions together, and condensed many passages, and I have left out many, using the choice that is a perpetual refusing, in trying to get some clear outline of the doings of the heroes. / I have found it more natural to tell the stories in the manner of the thatched houses, where I have heard so many legends of Finn and his friends, and Oisin and Patrick, and the Ever-Living Ones, and the Country of the Young, rather than in the manner of the slated houses, where I have not heard them.’ [Goes on to speak of Prof. Robert Atkinson (TCD) who famously condemned ancient Irish literature as
Cont. (Gods and Fighting Men, Slaney Edn. 1995) - cont.: ‘I believe that those who have once learned to care for the story of Cuchulain of Muirthemne, and of Finn and Lugh and Etain, and to recognise the enduring belief in an invisible world and an immortal life behind the visible and the mortal, will not be content with my redaction, but will go, first to the fuller versions of the best scholars, and then to the manuscripts themselves. I believe the forty students of old Irish lately called together by Professor Kuno Meyer will not rest satisfied until they have explored the scores and scores of uncatalogued and untranslated manuscripts in Trinity College Library, and that the enthusiasm which the Gaelic League has given birth to will lead to much fine scholarship. / A day or two ago I had a letter from one of the best Greek scholars and translators in England, who says of my “Cuchulain”: “It opened up a great world of beautiful legend which, though accounting myself as an Irishman, I had never known at all. I am sending out copies to Irish friends in Australia who, I am sure, will receive the same sort of impression, almost an impression of pride in the beauty of the Irish mind, as I received myself.” And President Roosevelt wrote to me a little time ago that after he had read Cuchulain of Muirthemne, he had sent for all the other translations from the Irish he could get, to take on his journey to the Western States. / I give these appreciative words not, I think, from vanity, for they are not for me but for my material, to show the effect our old literature has on those who come fresh to it, and that they do not complain of its “want of imagination” [in Atkinson’s phrase]. I am, of course, very proud and glad in having had the opportunity of helping to make it known, and the task has been pleasant, although toilsome. just now, indeed, on the 6th October, I am tired enough, and I think with sympathy of the old Highland piper, who complained that he was “withered with yelping the seven Fenian battalions.” (Slaney Edn., pp.309-10.)

[Trans.]: ‘let Daire himself come along with him, and I will give him the equal of his own lands on the smooth plain of Ai, and a chariot that is worth three times seven serving-maids, and my own close friendship along with that […]’ -

—quoted in Michael Sundermeier, in which it is directly compared to the version by Thomas Kinsella [‘ if Dáire himself comes with the bull I’ll give him a portion of the fine Plain of Ai equal to his own lands, and a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, and my own friendly thighs on top of that’], with the further quotation from a letter to W. B. Yeats, quoted in the Gerrards Cross Edition of Gods and Heroes (ed. Murphy), her Introduction: ‘I say in my dedication “I have left out many things that for one reason or other you would not like.” I think that is sufficient explanation - & I give the source of every story, & I doubt that anyone who takes the trouble of looking, will regret any of my slight Bowdlerizing, … Do be calm.’ (Murphy [Introduction], op. cit., p.9.)

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The Spreading of the News (1904): ‘Character comes in, and why it is so I cannot explain, but as soon as one creates a character, he begins to put out little feet of his own and take his own way / The idea of this play first came to me a tragedy. I kept seeing as in a picture people sitting by the roadside, and a girl passing to the market, her head hanging, the heads of others turned towards her, because of some sudden story that had arisen out of a chance words, and had snatched away her good name. / But comedy not tragedy was wanted at our theatre to put beside the high poetic work … and I let laughter have its way with the little play. I was delayed in beginning it for a while, because I could only think of Bartley Fallon as dull-witted or silly or ignorant, and the handcuffs seemed too harsh a punishment. But one day by the sea at Duras a melancholy man who was telling me about the crosses he had gone through at home same - “But I’m thinking if I went to America, it’s long ago today I’d be dead. And it’s a great expense for a poor man to be buried in America.” Bartley was born again at the moment, and, far from harshness, I felt I was providing him with a happy old age in giving him the lasting glory of that great and crowning misfortune.’ (Preface to Seven Short Plays.) Note her account of same in letter to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: ‘[T]he audience laugh so much at Spreading of the News that they lost about half the dialogue. I mustn’t be so amusing again!’; and cf Blunt’s comments on Lady Gregory in The Land War in Ireland (1912): ‘[she] has surrounded herself with people of her class from Ireland, so that there is no longer room for me in her house.’, above, under under Blunt, Rx.].

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Our Irish Theatre (1913): ‘A few days after that I was back in Coole, and Mr. Yeats came over from Mr. Martyn’s home, Tillyra, and we wrote a formal letter to send out. We neither of us write a very clear hand, but a friend had must given me a Remington typewriter and I was learning to use it, and I wrote out the letter with its help. That typewriter has done a great deal of work since that [19] day, making it easy for the printers to read my plays and translations, and Mr. Yeats’s plays and essays, and soemtimes his poems. I have used it also for many, many hundreds of letters that have had to be written about theatre business in each of these last fifteen years,. It has gone with me very often up and down to Dublin and back again, and it went with me even to American last year that I might write my letters home [… &c.]’; ‘Our statement - it seems now a little pompous - began: // “We propose to have performed in Dublin in the spring of every year certain Celtic and Irisfh plays, which whatever be their degree of excellence will be written with a high ambition, and so to build up a Celtic [all/and] Irish school of dramatic literature. We hope to find in Ireland an uncorrupted and imaginative audience trained to listen by its passion for oratory, and believe that our desire to bring upon the stage the deeper thoughts and emotions of Ireland will ensure for us a tolerant welcome, and that freedom to experiment which is not found in theatres of England, and without which no new movement in art or literature can succeed. We will show that Ireland is not the home of buffoonery and of easy sentiment, as it has been represented, but the home of an ancient idealism. We are confident of the support of all Irish people, who are weary of misrepresentation, in carrying out a work that is outside all the political questions that divide us.” / I think the word “Celtic” was put in for the sake of Fiona MacLeod whose plays however we never acted, though we used to amuse ourselves by thinking of rhe call for “author” that might follow one, and the possible appearance of William Sharp in place of the beautiful woman he had given her out to be, for even then we had little doubt they were one and the same person.’ (Our Irish Theatre [1913]: A Chapter of Autobiography by Lady Gregory, foreword by Roger McHugh, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1972, p.20; further under Douglas Hyde.) [Manifesto also quoted in Hugh Kenner, A Colder Eye, 1983, p.47.]

Further (Our Irish Theatre): ‘Mr Edward Martyn came to see me, bring with him Mr Yeats whom I did not know very well, though I cared for his work very much and had already, through his directions, been gathering folklore. Mr Martyn had written two plays […]. I said it was a pity we had no Irish theatre where such plays could be given. Mrs Yeats said it had always been a dream of his, but he had of late thought it an impossible one for it could not pay its way at first and there was no money to be found for such a thing in Ireland. We went on talking about it […] before the end of the afternoon we had made our plan. We said we would collect money, or rather ask to have a certain sum of money guaranteed. We would then take a Dublin theatre and give a performance of Mr Martyn’s The Heather Field and one of Mr Yeats’s own plays The Countess Cathleeen.’ (Our Irish Theatre, 1913, p.213).

Cf. W. B. Yeats: ‘On the sea coast at Duras, a few miles from Coole, an old French Count, Florimon de Basterot, lived for certain months in every year. Lady Gregory and I talked over my project of an Irish Theatre looking out upon the lawn of his house … she promised to collect or give the money necessary. That was her first great service to Irish intellectual movement.’ (Autobiographies, 1955, p.174).

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The Arabi affair: ‘That was the end of my essay in politics, for though Ireland is always with me, and I first feared and then became reconciled to, and now hope to see an even greater independence than, Home Rule, my saying has been long, “I am fighting for it, but preparing for it.” And that has been my purpose in my work for establishing a national Theatre, and for the revival of the language, and in making better known the heroic tales of Ireland. For whatever political indignation or energy was born with me may have run its course in that Egyptian year and worn itself out; or it may be that I saw too mudh of the inside, the tangled webs of diplomacy, the driving forces behind politicians.’ (Seventy Years 1852-1922, ed. Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross 1974, p.54; cited in Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995pp.86-87.)

Poetry v. prose: ‘I feel verse is more than any prose can be, the apex of the flame, the point of the diamond’; what we wanted was to create for Ireland a theatre with a base of realism, with an apex of beauty.’ (Cited in Ann Saddlemeyer, In Defence of Lady Gregory, 1966, p. 12.)

Common wisdom: ‘To think like a wise man, but express oneself like the common people’ (attributed to Lady Gregory by Yeats in his Introduction to Fighting the Waves; rep. in Explorations, London & NY: Macmillan 1962, p.371).

Profit in marriage: ‘If I had not married I should not have learned the quick enrichment of sentences that one gets in conversation; had I not been widowed I should not have found the detachment of mind, the leisure for observation necessary to give insight into character, to express and interpret it. Loneliness made me rich - “full”, as Bacon says.’ (Quoted in biographical notice on Lady Gregory, in Cóilín D. Owens & Joan N. Radner, Irish Drama 1900-1980 (Washington: Cath. UP. 1990), pp.123-13.

Absolute power: On the signing of the limited liability contract of the Abbey Theatre Company in Sept. 1905, Lady Gregory noted that the effect was to disenfranchise the actors and hence to confer ‘absolute power’ on the directors, Yeats, Lady Gregory and Synge. (Gregory to Quinn, I Nov. 1905 [NY Public Library]; cited in James Pethica, ‘“A Young Man’s Ghost”: Lady Gregory and J. M. Synge’, in Irish University Review, 34, 1, Spring/Summer 2004), p.13.)

Helping hand (1): ‘I was going to Galway, and at the Gort station I met two cloak and shawled countrywomen […] who were obliged to go and some law official in Galway because of some money left them a kinsman in Australia. They had never been in a train or to place farther than a few miles from their own village, and they astray and terrified “like blind beasts in a bog” they said, and [I] took care of them through the day.’ (Selected Plays, p.358.)

Helping hand (2): ‘I wonder if Joyce has written to you? Poor boy, I am afraid he will knock his ribs against the earth, but he has grit and will succeed in the end. You should write and ask him to breakfast with you on the morning he arrives, if you can get up early enough, and feed him and take care of him and give him dinner at Victoria before he goes, and help him on his way. I am writing to various people who kight possibly get him tuitions, and to Synge who could at least tell him of cheap lodgings.’ (Quoted in Elizabeth Coxhead, Lady Gregory, London: Secker & Warburg 1966,p.124.)

From the Plays:

The Rising of the Moon - the Sargeant: ‘Well, we have to do our duty in the force. Haven’t we the whole country depending on us to keep law and order? It’s those that are down would be up and those that are up would be[Pg 79] down, if it wasnῒt for us. Well, hurry on, you have plenty of other places to placard yet, and come back here then to me. You can take the lantern. Don’t be too long now. It’s very lonesome here with nothing but the moon.’ (Available at English Literature.net - online; acccessed 24.10.2020.)

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