Winifred M. Letts (1882-1972)

Criticism

Life
b. Co. Wexford; ed. St. Anne’s Abbots, Bromley, and Alexandra College, Dublin; her parents lived in Blackrock; she became a masseuse by profession; m. W. H. F. Verschoyle, and lived in Faversham, Kent; issued poems as Songs from Leinster (1913), composed in Hiberno-English; later issued Hallowe’en and Poems of the War (1916), and More Songs of Leinster (1926); a new edition as Songs from Leinster (Dundalgan Press 1947) incls. both the earlier work and additions made in 6 reprints up to 1928 with poems reflecting World War I in the second collection; some of her poems were set to music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford;
 
she wrote some one-act plays plays for the Abbey incl. Christina’s Son (1915), The Eyes of the Blind (Abbey 1907), in which a murderer gives himself up to a blind man who purports to know about his covert crime; also The Challenge (1909), concerning a duel between two elderly men over an insult; Hamilton and Jones (Gate Th. 1941) was a her only 3-act play; issued Knockmaroon (1933), a work of reminiscence, and wrote numerous children’s stories and saints’ lives [hagiography]; her poem “For Sixpence” expresses delight at early Abbey productions. DIW DIL IF/2 IBL ATT OCIL

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Works
Poetry
  • Songs of Leinster (London: J. Murray 1913); Do. [another edn.] (Smith, Elder & co., 1913), and Do. [later edns.] (1916, 5th rep. 1923; 6th rep. 1938), and Do., [another edn. incorporating other collections] (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press 1947);
  • Hallow-e’en and Poems of the War (London: Smith, Elder 1916) [var. John Murray];
  • The Spires of Oxford and Other Poems (NY: E. P. Dutton 1917);
  • More Songs of Leinster (London: John Murray), viii, 81pp., 8°; Do. [another edn. (NY: E. P. Dutton 1926).
See also ...
Charles Villiers Stanford, A sheaf of songs from Leinster, words by W. M. Letts; music by Charles V. Stanford (London: Stainer & Bell 1914), 27pp. score, 31cm. [contains “Grandeur”; “Thief of the World”; “A Soft Day”; “Little Peter Morrissey”; “The Bold Unbiddable Child”; “Irish Skies” [Opus 140]; and do., in Songs of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, ed. Geoffrey Bush (London; Stainer & Bell 1986), 230pp. [facs.; 33cm.]
Fiction
  • The Story-Spinner (London: T. C. & E. C. Jack 1907);
  • Waste Castle (London & Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack 1907), and Do. [other edns.] (London: T. Nelson & Sons [1916; 1918; 1920]);
  • Bridget of All Work (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1909);
  • Diana Dethroned (London:/NY: John Lane 1909);
  • The Quest of The Blue Rose ([Oxford:] Henry Frowde; London: Hodder & Stoughton [1909] 1910), 352pp., col. ills. [by James Durden], 8°, and Do. [rep. edn.] (Oxford: OUP; Humphrey Milford 1926), 352pp., 1 lf. of pls. [col. front. signed J. Durden], 19cm. [author & title gilt on spine; endpapers ill. by Lilian A. Govey]
  • The Rough Way (London: Wells Gardner & Co. [1912]), 342pp.;
  • Naughty Sophia (London: Grant Richards 1912), 247, ill. [100 ills. by Ruby Lind]; and Do. [2nd edn.] (London: The Richards Press 1949), 247pp. [ills. listed pp.9-10; new pref. dated 1949; case binding blue cloth; upper cover has gilt vignette of girl running];
  • The Mighty Army: Lives of the Saints (NY: FA Stokes/London: Wells Gardner & Co. 1912);
  • Christina’s Son (London: Wells Gardner & Co. 1916);
  • Corporal’s Corner (London: Wells Gardner & Co. 1919);
  • What Happened Then? (London: Wells Gardner & Co. [1921]);
  • St Patrick the Travelling Man (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson Ltd. 1932), 127pp., ill. [3 pls. front., maps; incls. ‘A Note on the Lives of St. Patrick’: p. 126-[128];
  • Pomona and Co. (London: T. Nelson & Sons [1934]), xvii, 301pp., 8°;
  • Pomona’s Island (London: T. Nelson & Sons [1935]), ix, 214pp., ill. [4 lvs. of pls. by Hilda Figorski];
  • The Gentle Mountain (Dublin: Talbot Press [1938]), and Do. [another edn.] (London: RTS [1939]).
Autobiography
  • Knockmaroon (London: John Murray 1933);
Miscellaneous
  • ‘The Company of Saints and Angels’ [story], in Irish Review, 1 (Jan. 1912), pp.537-44;
  • ‘The Challenge’, , in Irish Review, 2 (April 1912) [adapted from her play];
  • ‘The Man Who Burnt His Crucifix’, in Irish Review, 4 (May 1914), pp.143-67 [rep. in Knockmaroon]

Some of her songs were set to music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford incl. “The Monkey’s Carol” [‘Kind Christian souls who pass me by’] (1921) and A Fire of Turf: poetry by W. M. Letts: A Fire of Turf, Opus 139/1; The Chapel on the Hill, Opus 139/2; Cowslip Time, Opus 139/3; Scared, Opus 139/4; Blackberry time, Opus 139/5; The fair, Opus 139/6; The west wind, Opus 139/7.

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Criticism
See John Wilson Foster, Irish Novels 1890-1940: New Bearings in Culture and Fiction (Oxford: OUP 2008.

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists author as Winifrid [sic], grand dg. Alexander Ferrier, Knockmaroon Park, Co. Dublin; lists The Mighty Arm (NY: FA Stokes 1912), stories from lives of the saints, incl. Columba [Colum Cille], and cites Diana Dethroned; Christina’s Son; The Rough Way. IF2 adds Knockmaroon (London: Murray 1933), xiv, 274pp.; Pomona’s Island (London: Nelson 1935) [children’s story]; The Gentle Mountain (Dublin: Talbot 1939), 141pp., ill. Kathleen Verschoyle [Belfast family on holiday at Ben Gullion, the fairy-haunted mountain]. See also Irish Book Lover 3, 4, 8. Also Sophia, St. Patrick, &c.

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Anthologies: A. A. Kelly, Pillars of the House, An Anthology of Verse by Irish Women 1690 to the Present (Dublin: Wolfhound 1988); Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1994).

Belfast Central Public Library holds More Songs From Leinster; St. Patrick the Travelling Man; Songs from Leinster (1913, 1923, 1947).

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