Joseph Holloway

1861-1944; b. Dublin; Dublin architect and theatrical dilettante; he redesigned the Mechanics’ Hall and the adjacent Marlborough St. city morgue as the Abbey, for Annie Horniman, 1904; designed costumes for Deirdre in the first performance (Nov. 1906), deemed unsuitable by Yeats and others; at the first 50 years theatrical journals, 1895-1944 (221 MS vols.; approx. 28m. words), being part of a theatrical archive donated to the National Library and removed from his home at 21 Northumberland Rd. in half-a-dozen lorry-loads in May 1942;

his Journal contains a record of the so-called “Playboy riots” of 1907, including the judgement that the play itself was ‘very poor, dull dramatic stuff’, and an account of Easter Rising 1916 as well as a record of James Joyce’s singing at the RDS and again in the home of the Cousins in Sandymount; there is a portrait in oil by Lilian Davidson at the Abbey theatre; his diaries and book-collection (mostly theatrical) are now in National Library, Dublin; Holloway presented McLachlan’s portrait of Edward Martyn to the NGI. DIB DIW DIH DIL OCIL

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Robert Hogan and Michael J O’Neill, eds., Joseph Holloway’s Irish Theatre, 3 vols (Newark, Delaware: 1968-70); also Robert Hogan and Michael J. O’Neill, eds., Joseph Holloway’s Abbey Theatre: A Selection from his Unpublished Journal, ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP; London & Amseterdam: Feffer & Simons 1967), 296pp.; and ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’, Nat. Lib. MS 4452 (ii). See also review, Joseph Holloway, The Irish Playgoer, 19 Apr. 1900; orig. an entry in his diary, Nat. Lib. MS 1796 (ii), 674-75; Excerpts from ‘Irish Drama and Modern Dublin’, in Irish Playgoer, 12 and 19 Apr. 1900. See also Irish Book Lover, Vols. 4, 5, 6, 11.

See also ‘Queen’s Theatre Dublin, List of Plays 1898-1928’, Nat. Lib., MS 12074 [cited in Cheryl Herr, For the Land They Loved (Syracuse 1991); see also Stephen Watt, Joyce, O’Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater (1991).

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Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘[...] The fullest account remains to be published - the voluminous diary of the architect and playgoer Joseph Holloway, whose 221 manuscript ledgers provide a daily record of Dublin events from 1895-1944. Holloway, the eternal bystander, was always looking in on rehearsals, attending lectures and plays, hearing all the gossip. Whatever the occasion, he wrote it down with Boswellian detail. And few things escaped him. Unafraid of his own opinion, however commonplace it be - and usually was - he regarded dubiously the attempts of Yeats and Lady Gregory to create an art theatre. A good wholesome comedy or melodrama was his cup of tea, and his comments on the notables of the time are refreshingly downright.’(p.49.) [See longer extracts from Kain, op. cit., - as attached.]

Patrick Henchy, The National Library of Ireland, 1941-1976: A Look Back: A Paper Read to the National Library of Ireland Society [22 Oct. 1985] (NLI 1986): Henchy arranged for the removal of the gift of Joseph Holloway, architect and ‘renowned theatre first-nighter and diarist’; ‘bachelor who lived at 21 Northumberland Road and indeed there was scant room for even one person in that house, so crowded was it with his books and volumes of diaries. I still have a vivid picture of Joseph Holloway, tall, elderly, black hard hat, drooping moustache and untidy overcoat. He didn’t talk much, but this did not matter as he had said it all in his diaries.’ (p.9; incls. cartoon fig. of Holloway, p.10.)

Hugh Oram, review of Diaries of Ireland: An Anthology 1590-1987, ed. Melosina Lenox-Conyngham (Dublin: Lilliput 1998), remarks of Hollway, who is included that he ‘was a right little popinjay, who had enough money to live independently in Dublin early this century and make a career out of attending first nights … all rather pretentious and he doesn’;t realise it, but his diaries are a wonderful send-up.’ (Books Ireland, Summer 1999, p.182.)

Cheryl Herr, For The Land They Loved (Syracuse UP 1991), p.4, refers to ’the historic Abbey Theatre (designed by Joseph Holloway)’. Further, ‘Addressing the Irish Literary Theatre 26 March 1900 Holloway, ever the champion of the Queen’s Royal Theatre (commonly abbr. as the Queen’s) professed to give a “Pittite’s” perspective on modern drama that countered the censures of his more educated contemporaries: “literature must take a back seat to the dramatic effectiveness of the work performed’; ‘The non-playgoing high-and-mighty literary critics ... pretend to know all about what state work ought to be, and despise all real playgoers like myself, for not agreeing with their estimate”’ [22-23]. Quotes his remarks on J. H. Whitbread’s management at the Queen’s Royal Th., in 1899: ‘Now a playgoer is sure to see an exciting well-staged drama, or an Irish play in progress if he drops into the theatre any evening casual like’ (Nat. Lib. MS 14.995: 2); see also his remarks on Whitbread’s Wolfe Tone [as infra].

Kevin Kiely, ‘Signifying Something’, review of Robert Welch, The Abbey Theatre 1899-1999: Form and Pressure, in Books Ireland (March 2000), pp.62-63: ‘Throughout Welch’s book there is much reference to the theatre aficionado Joseph Holloway, whose voluminous diaries of 221 volumes chart events at the Abbey from the early days until after the Second World War, 1895-1944.’ (p.62)

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Dissenting youths: According to Holloway The protesters against Yeats’s Countess Cathleen (8 May 1899) were ‘an organised claque of about twenty brainless, beardless, idiotic-youths [who] did all they knew [how] to interfere with the progress of the play by their meaningless automatic hissing and senseless comments, and only succeeded in showing what poor things mortals can become when the seat of reason is knocked awry by animus, spite and bigotry. [...] But their poor spite was completely frustrated by enthusiastic applause which drowned their empty-headed expression of dissent.’ (Journal, quoted in Peter Costello, James Joyce: The Years of Growth, Kyle Cathie 1992, p.161.)

Childish: ‘It is a pity to see the childish efforts of the Gaelic three Directors of the Abbey [Blythe, Ó Faracháin and Hayes] to graft on the Gaelic theatre to the far-fame Abbey, and to behave like children in interfering with the regular work of the theatre by encroaching on their rehearsals and interfering in may ways with the Abbey Player’s progress. They have also been calling the theatre by a Gaelic name on the cover of the programme and printing Gaelic poems in the ordinary Abbey Programmes. All three Directors have the Gaelic bee in their bonnets and behave like children in foisting Gaelic plays on the Gaels who have no love for sitting out Gaelic plays. I hope that the season’s failure to create an audience for such plays may put a little sense into the heads of the Directors.’ (Joseph Holloway’s Irish Theatre, Vol. 3, p.89; cited in Robert Welch, The Abbey Theatre, 1899-1999: Form and Pressure, OUP 1999, p.145.)

Edward Martyn, when asked for funds in 1901: ‘Henceforth I will pay for nobody’s plays but my own’. Also Anne Horniman, writing to Yeats: ’every bitter thing I have said about Ireland has been put into my mind by my experiences among your people.’ (Holloway’s Journal.)

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James Joyce: Holloway’s account of a conversation with Joyce in Sept. 1909 when the latter was sporting a copy of his review of Shaw’s Blanco Posnet in the Piccolo della Sera; some talk of staying in Dublin at added expense to follow up on publication of a collection of short stories (Dubliners). O’Donoghue is cited as the bearer of the news that Joyce is in town. (See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.299 ftn.)

Onlie begetter: According to Stephen Brown, Holloway ‘is solely [responsible for] the entire section [of Guide to Books on Ireland] on Irish plays together with the bibliog. of the Theatre in Ireland ... in the Drama section ...(Brown, Guide, Preface). The list was copied extensively by Peter Kavanagh, in his The Irish Theatre (1946). He also edited Irish Play-goer.

At the Playboy: Joseph Holloway, D. J. O’Donoghue, and W. J. Lawrence, ‘all huddled at the back of the auditorium on Tuesday night and concurred in hating it’ (Edward Stephens & David Greene, J. M. Synge, p.245; see under Synge.)

Anthony Cronin, No Laughing Matter (1989), cites Holloway’s account of Patrick Kavanagh’s reaction to Faustus Kelly by Brian O’Nolan [as Myles na Gopaleen], p.147.

Breton Boy?: Holloway presented a drawing by Charles Lamb of a young fisherman with Galway hookers [boats] in the background to the Hugh Lane Gallery Collection (Municipal Gallery, Parnell Sq., Dublin) which seems to be a study for what was up until now known as “The Breton Fisher Boy”. (Post from David Britton at 20th Century Irish Art on Facebook, 06.02.2023.) Britton notes: ‘he drawing is signed, inscribed “Connemara Man”, and dated 1922 which predates Lamb’s stay in Brittany (1926/7) by four years. ’

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