Lennox Robinson (1886-1958)


Life
[Esmé Stewart Lennox;] b. 4 Oct., “Westgrove”, Douglas Co. Cork, youngest of seven children of Andrew Craig Robinson, a stockbroker turned clergyman in 1892, and Emily [née Jones]; raised at a rectory in Ballymoney, nr. Ballineen, Co. Cork; dressed in black velvet and lace in childhood; ed. Bandon Grammar School by a private tutor; saw Yeats’s Cathleen Ni Houlihan at Cork Opera Hse., 1907, and became an ardent nationalist and a budding playwright; his first play, The Clancy Name, ran for 3 months in 1908; wrote Cross Roads (Abbey 1909); called foremost of the Cork realists by Yeats and appt. Abbey manager in 1910;
 
alienated Annie Horniman - the Abbey patron - by his omitting to close the Abbey during the obsequies of Edward VII; she demanded his resignation, 1910; wrote The Patriots (1912), poking fun at harmless ageing Fenians in rural Cork (where it was played at the Opera House and seen by Frank O’Connor with a shock of recognition), and considered his best early play; appt. Organising Librarian for Carnegie Trust, 1915-24, dismissed in censorship of story [see Note, infra]; resigned from Abbey after unsuccessful American tour, 1914; became a National Volunteer, 1914;
 
wrote The Whiteheaded Boy (1916), his best-known play, which enjoyed more performances in Ireland between 1916 and 1965 than any besides Synge’s Playboy; issued A Young Man from the South (1917), an autobiographical novel; issued Young Man from the South (1917) and Dark Days (1918), political sketches; wrote The Lost Leader (1918), based on the tragedy of Parnell - alias “Lucius Lenihan”; resumed Abbey managership 1919; appointed Board of Directors, 1923; discovered and encouraged Sean O’Casey; Abbey director 1923-56, doubling as director-manager;
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gave W. B. Yeats a two-volume edition of Berkeley, c.1923; dismissed from Library Board following fracas caused by appearance of his story “The Madonna of Slieve Dun”, in To-Morrow (1924, ed. Francis Stuart et al.), the story of the rape of a young girl who imagines the child she bears as a gift of the Holy Ghost, bringing peace to her village; conducted successful lecturing tours of the States; premier of The Big House (Abbey Sept. 1926 - London 1934 [as infra]), set during the War of Independence and the Civil War and concerning the Alcocks, awaiting news day of the return of their second son Ulick from the Front at Armistice and receiving news of his death instead; m. Dolly, dg. of the medium Hester Travers Smith [who was dg. of Edward Dowden, q.v.], 1931;

 
wrote Drama at Inish (1933), a play which John Twohig invites the De La Mare Rep. Company to play in his Seaview Hotel, where they performed an unconscious pastiche of Chekhovian drama which incls. caricatures of Michael Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards; written while staying at Killeadan with Dermot MacManus; afterwards produced in London and Broadway (NY) as Is Life Worth Living?; The Big House produced in London (Playhouse Th., 21 Feb. 1934); wrote Church Street (1934), incorporating techniques inspired by Pirandello; co-scripted the film version of George Birmingham’s General John Regan in 1933;
 
issued vols. of autobiography as In Three Homes (1938) [written with his brother and sister] and Curtains Up (1941), the latter of which includes an account of his hiring by Yeats; made controversial visit to China on Shaw centenary commemoration, 1956; rowed with Smyllie and succeeded as Irish Times drama critic by Seamus Kelly (“Quidnunc”); melancholic and alcoholic in later years; d. Monkstown Co. Dublin, 15 Oct. [var. 14]; buried St Patrick’s Cathedral; described by Micheál MacLiammoir as ‘long and boney as Don Quixote’; lived at 20 Longford Tce., Monkstown, c.1926; Sean O’Casey employed the occasion of his recent funeral service, under the character-name of Lionel Robartes, to point out sectarian prejudice in his play Behind the Green Curtain (1961);
 
Robinson lived for many years at Sorrento Cottage, Vico Rd., Dalkey; survived by his wife Dolly; many of his letters are held in the Gregory papers of the Berg Collection (NYPL); there is an oil portrait of Robinson by Dermod O’Brien (1918); Drama at Inish was revived as part of the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake (Ontario, Canada), 2011, with Mary Haney as Lizzie Twohig, and also at the Finborough Theatre, London (Oct. 2011; dir. Fidelis Morgan), by arrangement with the Abbey Theatre; Sean Dorman [q.v.] was a nephew. DIB DIW DIH DIL OCEL KUN FDA OCIL

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For front-page image of To-morrow, see attached
Works
Plays [first performances]
  • The Clancy Name (1908);
  • The Cross Roads (1909);
  • Harvest (1910);
  • Patriots (1912);
  • The Whiteheaded Boy (1916);
  • The Lost Leader (1918);
  • The Round Table (1910)
  • The Dreamers (1915) [on Emmet];
  • Crabbed Youth and Age (1922);
  • The White Blackbird (1925);
  • Portrait (1925);
  • The Far-Off Hills (1925);
  • The Big House (1926; pub. 1928);
  • Ever the Twain (1929);
  • Give A Dog (1929);
  • All’s Over, Then? (1932);
  • Drama at Inish (1933);
  • Church Street (1934);
  • Killycregs at Twilight (1937);
  • Bird’s Nest (1938);
  • Forget Me Not (1941);
  • The Lucky Finger (1948);
  • The Demon Lover (1954).
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Plays (separate editions)
  • The Cross Roads: A Play in a Prologue and Two Acts [Abbey Plays Ser., Vol. 12] (Dublin: Maunsel 1909), 59pp.; [var. 1911; prologue deleted after first edn.];
  • Patriots: A Play in Three Acts (Dublin: Maunsel 1912);
  • The Dreamers: A Play in Three Acts (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1915), 68pp.;
  • The Lost Leader: A Play in Three Acts (Dublin: Kiersey 1918);
  • The Round Table (1910);
  • Drama at Inish: An Exaggeration in Three Acts (1911), and Do. [rep.] (Dublin: James Duffy & Co. 1953), 68pp.; London & USA as Is Life Worth Living? (London: Macmillan 1933).
  • The Whiteheaded Boy: A Comedy in Three Acts, with an introduction by Ernest Boyd (Dublin: Talbot Press; London & NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 1921, 1925), xxi, 169pp.; Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: Putnam, 1922, 1925), xxi, 93pp., and Do. (Dublin: Talbot Press 1941), xxi, 93pp.; also in My Best Play: an Anthology of Plays Chosen by their Own Authors (London: Faber & Faber 1934)
  • Crabbed Youth and Age: A Little Comedy (London & NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 1924), 38pp.,
  • Never the Time and Place: A Little Comedy in One Act (Belfast: Carter 1953), and Do., orig. in in Dublin Magazine 1 (May 1924), 856-67;
  • The White Blackbird: A Play in Three Acts (London: Macmillan 1925);
  • The Far-Off Hills: A Comedy In Three Acts (London: Chatto & Windus 1925);
  • A Play in Three Acts and Portrait, a Play in Two Sittings (Dublin: Talbot 1926);
  • The Big House: Four Scenes in Its Life (London: Macmillan 1928), 112pp.;
  • Give A Dog ...: a Play in Three Acts London: Macmillan 1928);
  • Ever the Twain: A Comedy in Three Acts (London: Macmillan 1930);
  • Church Street [Carter’s Irish Plays] (Belfast: H. R. Carter Publs. 1955), 47pp.

Also Forget Me Not (1941); The Lucky Finger (1948), and The Demon Lover (1954) [none listed in COPAC].

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Selected Plays (composite editions
  • Two Plays: Harvest: A Play in Three Acts, and The Clancy Name: A Tragedy in One Act (Dublin: Maunsel 1911); Plays [1st Coll. Edn.] (q. pub. 1928);
  • More Plays: All’s Over, Then?: A Play in Three Acts [and] Church Street: A Play in One Act (London: Macmillan 1935);
  • Selected Plays of Lennox Robinson, ed. & intro. by Chris Murray (Gerrards Cross/Catholic UP of America 1982) [contains “Patriots”, “The Whiteheaded Boy”, “Crabbed Youth and Age”, “The Big House”, “Drama at Inish”, and “Church Street”; also sel. checklist compiled by Frances-Jane French.] Also Seosamh Mac Grianna trans., An Pastín Fionn [Whiteheaded Boy] [q.d.].
Plays in translation
  • Die alte Dame sagt: Nein! Drei irische Dramatiker [with Sean O’Casey & Denis Johnston; Schweizer anglistische Arbeiten, Bd. 52] (Bern 1961), vi, 210pp.;
  • Gearóid Mac Spealáin [a chuir i nGaedhilg], Drámaidheacht in Inis: Dráma aidhbhéile i dtrí ghníómh (Baile Atha Cliath: Oifig an tSoláthair 1944), 88pp. [trans. of Drama at Inish, 1944]
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Fiction
  • A Young Man from the South: A Novel (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1917), 213pp., and Do. [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Parkside Press [1945]), 112pp.;
  • Dark Days: Sketches of Life in Ireland [Talbot Press Booklets] (Dublin: Talbot 1918), 30pp. [4 short articles, 1915-16];
  • Eight Short Stories (Dublin: Talbot Press [1919]), 114pp. [contains “The Return”; “The Face”; “Looking after the Girls”; “The Chalice”; “A Pair of Muddy Shoes”; “The Sponge”; “The Weir”; “Education”.]
  • Y Machgen Gwyn I [The Whiteheaded Boy]: Drama dair act [...] Cyfieithwyd gan John Edwards (Abertawe: Cymdeithas y Ddrama Gymraeg 1928), 143pp., 16o.
Prose
  • Bryan Cooper (London: Constable 1931), 187pp.[biog. of the Unionist MP for Rathmines and later Free State senator];
  • Towards an Appreciation of the Theatre (Dublin: Metropolitan Pub. Co. 1945);
  • Palette and Plough (Dublin: Brown & Nolan 1948) [biog. of Dermod O’Brien];
  • ed., The Irish Theatre: Lectures Delivered During the Abbey Festival Held in Dublin in August 1918 (London: Macmillan 1939), xiii+229pp., and Do. [facs. rep.] (NY: Haskell 1971);
  • Ireland’s Abbey Theatre: A History 1899-1951 (London: Sidgwick & Jackson 1951), and Do. [facs. rep.] (Washington: Kennikat 1968);
  • I Sometimes Think (1951);
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Autobiography
  • Curtain Up: An Autobiography (London: Michael Joseph 1941), 234pp. [with port.]
Miscellaneous
  • Ed., A Golden Treasury of Irish Verse (Macmillan 1925; new imp. 1930), 346pp. [Foreword v-vi, signed “Foxrock Easter 1924”; index of first lines, 339ff.]
  • ed., Lady Gregory’s Journals ([London: Putnam 1946]; NY: Macmillan 1947);
  • ed., with Donagh McDonagh, Oxford Book of Irish Verse (OUP 1958).
  • ed., Further Letters of J. B. Yeats [q.d.]

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Criticism
  • Ida G. Everson, ‘Young Lennox Robinson and the Abbey Theatre’s First American Tour 1911-12’, in Modern Drama 2 (1966), pp.74-89;
  • Ida G. Everson, ‘Lennox Robinson and Synge’s Playboy, 1911-1920: Two Decades of American Cultural Growth’, in New England Quarterly 44 (March 1971), pp.3-21;
  • Sylvia E. Bowman, Lennox Robinson (NY: Twayne 1964), 161pp., with index [remarketed 1993];
  • Michael O’Neill, Lennox Robinson (NY: Twayne 1964);
  • Kaspar Spinner, Die alte Dame Sagt Nein! Drei Irische Dramatiker, Lennox Robinson, Sean O’Casey, Denis Johnston (Bern: Franche Verlag 1961);
  • Christopher Murray, ‘Lennox Robinson: The Abbey’s Anti-Hero’, in Irish Writers and the Theatre., ed. Masaru Sekine (Colin Smythe: Gerrards Cross 1986) [q.pp.]
  • Christopher Murray, ‘Lennox Robinson, The Big House, Killycreggs in Twilight and “the Vestigia of Generations”’, in The Big House in Anglo-Irish Literature, ed. Otto Rauchbauer (Hildesheim: Olms 1992), [q.pp.]
  • Kurt Eisen, ‘Lennox Robinson’ in Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, ed. Bernice Schrank & William Demastes (CT: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.308-21.
  • Eric Weitz, ‘Barabbas at Play with The Whiteheaded Boy’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.269-79.

See also Journal of Irish Literature, ‘Lennox Robinson’: [Special Number], IX, 1 (Jan 1980).

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Bibliographical details
Rebecca Lynn Stout, “‘In Dreams Begins Responsibility’: The Role of Irish Drama and the Abbey Theatre in the Formation of Post-colonial Irish Identity” [Texas A&M University 2006), incls. as Chap. V: ‘The Post Revolution Abbey and Lennox Robinson’ [pp.162-208], with sections: ‘Robinson’s Activist Nostalgia’; ‘Robinson’s Life in the Theatre’; ‘Comedy, Nostalgia and The Whiteheaded Boy’; ‘The Falling Apart of the Old Order: The Big House’. [Available online; accessed 04.09.2011; for extract see under Synge, Commentary, infra. Bibliographical sources on Robinson as in Criticism, supra.]

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Commentary
Lady Augusta Gregory (Journal): ‘It was rumoured that the Government intended to suppress it [To-Morrow ]. He [Yeats] went to see Blythe who said Cosgrave had really thought of doing so, not because of anything said in it, but because some man ... has written saying Lennox Robinson’s idea of the foundation of Christianity in his story is probably the right one, and Cosgrave is afraid Robinson is a disciple of his and is trying to pervert the nation.’ Further: Yeats ‘refused to countenance’ the suggestion that Robinson step down; instead, a new director was appointed to “balance” him; by July [1925], a grant of 850 pounds [per annum] had been arranged’ from the government [for the Theatre]’ (Lady Gregory’s Journals, Vol. 1, p. 584; quoted in Bernard McKenna, “Yeats, “Leda,” and the Aesthetics of To-Morrow: “The Immortality of the Soul”’, in New Hibernia Review, 13, 2, Summer 2009, pp.16-35; q.p.) Note: McKenna goes on to remark: ‘However, the government’s representative was the economist George O’Brien.’

See Wikipedia: ‘As a playwright, Robinson showed himself as a nationalist with plays like Patriots (1912) and Dreamers (1915). On the other hand, he belonged to a part of Irish society which was not seen as fully Irish. This division between the ‘pure’ Catholic Irish on one side and the Anglo-Irish on the other can be seen in a play such as The Big House (1926), which depicts a burning of such a Protestant manor by Irregulars, or extreme Republicans.’ [Note that the theatrical company featured in Drama at Inish is mistakenly given as Walter de la Mere [sic] Company on the Wikipedia page on that play - online; 20.12.2011.]

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D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell (London: Denis O’Connor 1921), Chap. V: “The Wreck and Ruin of the Party”: ‘At this period the Home Rule Cause seemed to be buried in the same grave with Parnell. It may be remarked that there were countless bodies of the Irish peasantry who still believed that Parnell had not died, that the sad pageant of his funeral and burial was a prearranged show to deceive his enemies, and that the time would soon come when the mighty leader would emerge from his seclusion to captain the hosts of Irish nationality in the final battle for independence. This idea lately found expression in a powerful play by Mr Lennox Robinson, entitled The Lost Leader.’ (For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Classic > Historical”, via index or direct.]

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Denis Ireland, An Ulster Protestant looks At his World (1930) [on viewing The Big House by Lennox Robinson]: ‘[A] play which turns upon the life of a magnificently vital girl of the Protestant landed class. when the big house is burned down by republicans, the loyalist does not fly to London to play the part of the martyred emigrée, to whine in London drawing rooms about the ‘dreadful Irish’; she holds her ground and sets her heart and mind to the fuller understanding of why those things have happened, adopts as her own motto [...] “Neither to mock, not to hate, but to understand” (Spinoza). She faces the central gloomy truth of her class, the eternal justice of the fact that they have reaped the whirlwind and could reap nothing else merely because they have not sown. She will rebuilt the Big House, she declares, with her own hands if she must, and with corrugated iron if she can find nothing better - because “Ireland is not theirs more than ours”. She has a share, and a valid share, in it because she means to work for it. [...] On this magnificent note of Protestant aggression (in the true sense of the word), the play ends. It has not a half of the genius of The Cherry Orchard, nevertheless it is Ireland’s equivalent to the Russian masterpiece’[65].

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Daniel Corkery: ‘Sweet are the uses of adversity! Castle Rackrent falls from generation to generation because the family had lost their virtue, but Mr. Robinson’s Big House falls because the whole Ascendancy had lost their virtue.’ (Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature, 1931; Mercier Press Edn. 1966, p.9.)

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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): ‘Among the classics of modern Irish humor a place must be found for Lennox Robinson’s delightful comedy of maternal love and indulgence, The Whiteheaded Boy (1916). The family circle, indeed a great part of the community, finds itself inextricably involved in the destinies of the playboy who is unable to pass his medical examinations at Trinity. The play is as universally loved as its principal character, and as well adapted to the stage as its famed predecessors in the comedy of manners, the popular favorites of Goldsmith and Sheridan, who, incidentally, were Irish too.’ (p.163.)

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William York Tindall, The Joyce Country (Pennsylvania UP 1960), reports the first Bloomsday - aka J-Day - when Myles na gCopaleen [Brian Nolan] and some 20 Dubliners met at Michael Scott’s house at Sandycove to make ‘a sentimental pilgrimage’ - departing a little late, at 11.30, because of ‘Mr Scott’s hospitality’ [i.e., the architect Michael Scott at his home adjacent to the tower]. Further: ‘Meeting Lennox Robinson, out with his dog for an airing, they asked him for a loan of the dog “for a little tableau of Sandymount Strand.” / “The back of my hand to you,” or words to this effect, said Lennox Robinson. That he refused their request made no difference; for the tide was in at Sandymount, lapping the stairs from Leahy’s Terrace. [...]’. (See further under Flann O’Brien, supra.)

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Karen Fricker, review The Whiteheaded Boy (Harvey Th., Brooklyn Acad. of Music); Played by Barrabas, with Mikel Murphy, Veronica Coburn and Raymond Keane. Dir. Gerry Stembridge. The play deals with property-obsessed family thrown into disarray when the youngest son, Denis, drops out of Trinity College; reveals the author’s disdain for middle-class pretension and supplies a clear victory for of straight-forward youth over moralising elders; three chars. play up to 12 roles; actors alternate in speaking Robinson’s opinionated stage-directions. Successfully toured in Ireland, England and Wales. (NY Times, Sunday [q.date]; supplied by Christina Hunt Mahony.)

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Bernard McKenna, ‘Yeats, “Leda,” and the Aesthetics of To-Morrow: “The Immortality of the Soul”’, in New Hibernia Review, 13, 2, Samhradh/Summer 2009: [Terence] Brown argues [in Life of Yeats, Blackwell 1999] that “The content of the pages first rejected by the printer [of To-Morrow] is unknown, but they probably did not contain “The Madonna of Slieve Dun”. [Brown, Life, p. 269.] However, Robert Hogan observes that the “story, written in 1911, had been published earlier in an American magazine, but the Talbot Press had refused to print it in Robinson’s 1920 collection, Eight Short Stories. Once again the Dublin printers refused to print the story,” [Hogan, ‘Two Stories’, in The Journal of Irish Literature, January, 1980] - which suggests that Yeats did in fact see proofs of Robinson’s story when he made the offer to include “Leda” in To-Morrow. Moreover, in an unpublished letter to Ezra Pound dated 26 July 1924, Yeats makes it clear that Robinson’s story was part of the proof sheets rejected by the printer, noting that “The printer wrote across the proof ‘No mention of B.V. permitted.’” As Robinson’s story is the only mention of the Blessed Virgin Mary in To-Morrow, it is clear that Yeats had access to Robinson’s story.’ [The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats [OUP q.p.; Intelex Electronic Edition 2002; Accession No. 4600.]’ (McKenna, op. cit., n.13; p.18.) [See extracts from “The Madonna of Slieve Dun” under Quotations, infra, and fuller remarks by McKenna, attached.]

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Quotations
A Golden Treasury of Irish Verse (1925, 1930), Foreword: ‘An anthology of poems is the only kind of book for which no apology need ever be offered. I have collected here what seem to be some of our most beautiful Irish poems, I have chosen many poems which were originally written in Gaelic and which have been translated by poets into beautiful English, and unlike many other Irish anthologies, I have included no poem merely because its patriotic sentiments have made it popular./ The book is not arranged chronologically; such an arrangement is of small interest in an Irish anthology where so little of value was written in English before the nineteenth century, nor is it arranged in clearly defined sections of subjects. It follows instead a progression which is, perhaps, clear only to the compiler, but which the hopes means that wherever the book is opened some [v] connection of thought or mood will be found to link poem to succeeding poem.’ [vi] Adds thanks to ‘AE’ [George Russell] and W. B. Yeats, as well as J. J. O’Neill (UCD Lib.) and Geoffrey Phibbs; nevertheless begins with ‘An Apology to the Harp’ by William D’Arcy McGee [‘Harp of the land I love! forgive this hand/That reverently lifts thee from the dust,/And scans they strings with filial awe and love,/lest by neglect the chords of song should rust’] and proceeds to ‘The Fair Hills of Eireann’ in Ferguson’s translation. [2]

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The Lost Leader (1918) [quoted in Cairns & Richards, Writing Ireland, 1988], ‘[...] the voice of Lucius, who may be Parnell awakening from the sleep of intellectual and emotional exile, is raised in condemnation of unheroic qualities in contemporary Ireland, ‘no nation can live by bread alone, that a nation must be noble and beautiful before it can be free - spiritually’, whereas the contemporary Home Rule struggle has become ‘merely the exchange of government by English shop-keepers for government by Irish gombeen-men’ (1918, pp.96-9). QRY, G. Bartram, Whiteheaded Boy.

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Ireland’s Abbey Theatre (1951): ‘We young men, a generation after Years, later than Katherine Tynan, later than Seamus O’Sullivan, didn’t see her [Ireland] as a queen, didn’t see her all fair in purlple and gold, we loved her as truly as Yeats and Dorothy Shorter and the rest - maybe we loved her more deeply, but just because we loved her so deeply her faults were clear to us. Perhaps we realists saw her faults too clearly, perhaps we saw her too often as a grasping, middle-aged hag. She was avaricious, she was mean, for family pride she would coerce a son into the Church against his will, she would commit arson, she would lie, she would cheat, she would murder and yet we would write all our terrible words about her out of our love.’ (Ireland’s Abbey Theatre, 1951; Kennikat Rep. Edn. 1968, p.84; cited in Neil Campbell, undergrad. diss., UUC 2000, p.224-25.) Further, ’Here in Ireland we are isolated, cut off from the thought of the world, except the English world, and from England we get little in drama except fourth-rate. I ask you, for the young writers’ sake, to open up the door and let us out of our prison. Seeing foreign plays will not divorce our minds from Ireland … but being brought into touch with other minds who have different values of life, suddenly we shall discover the rich material that lies to our hand in Ireland.’ (Quoted in Hugh Hunt, The Abbey: Ireland’s National Theatre 1904-1978, 1979, p.115; quoted in Neil Campbell, op. cit., 2000, p.19.)

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Back to the Provinces’, in The Irish Statesman, 2 Feb. 1924): ‘Everyday a novel is dying in provincial Ireland for need of someone to write it, and it will take the genius of an Eoin MacNeill some centuries hence to recapture, with infinite research, the social life of our generation [...]. Back to the provinces, must be our cry, back to the ocuntry town, to the small shop, the big licensed grocery business, the country doctor, the country priest, the schoolmaster.’ (Quoted in Desmond Fitzgibbon, ‘“Delfas, Dorbqk, Nublid, Dalway”: The Irish City after Joyce’, Critical Ireland: New Essays in Literature and Culture, Aaron Kelly & Alan Gillis (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001), 221pp.

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The Madonna of Slieve Dun”, in To-Morrow (1924, ed. Francis Stuart et al.): ‘She stepped out on to the road just in front of a tramp. [...] He bade her good-night and took her by the arm. She struggled to free herself, but he held her tightly, and then she saw his face close to hers and felt his thick lips on her mouth and smelt the heavy smell of porter. She felt herself being dragged into the field again. Then she fainted. [...] She felt very happy, she felt as if something most wonderful and tremendous had happened.’ (p. 7).

The Madonna of Slieve Dun” (1924): “The Blessed child was to come again, not to Judea this time, but to Liscree, and she, Mary Creedon, about to be married to Joe Brady - was the chosen of God. She was not frightened, she was not excited, she was only very calm and very happy.” (q.d.; quoted in Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, “Swans on the Cesspool: Leda and Rape”, in W. B. Yeats: Critical Assessments, Vol. IV, ed. David Pierce (East Sussex: Helm Information 2000), p.563.

[ All the foregoing quoted in Bernard McKenna, “Yeats, “Leda,” and the Aesthetics of To-Morrow: “The Immortality of the Soul”’, in New Hibernia Review, 13, 2, Samhradh/Summer 2009, p.27. See also McKenna’s comments, supra. ]

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists a novel, A Young Man from the South (Maunsel 1917), and short stories, Dark Days (Talbot 1918). Young Man is the story of Willie Powell, of Protestant and Unionist family, who is converted to nationalism at the Abbey Theatre’s Kathleen ni Houlihan [sic]; contains ‘almost’ portraits of personages of 1916. Dark Days leans towards ‘complete Irish nationalism’. Bio-notes, b. Douglas, Co. Cork; Mgr. Abbey Theatre 1910-1914; resides Cahirmoyle, Co. Limerick [cf. Cahirmoyle House, under Dermod O’Brien, q.v.].

Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), lists autobiogs., In Three Homes (1938) and Curtain Up (1941); also anthologies, A Little Anthology of Modern Irish Verse (1929) and Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1958).

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects The Whiteheaded Boy [645-54], and notes at 563-64, 712, 717. And NOTE bibl. L. Robinson, ed. The Irish Theatre, Lectures Delivered During the Abbey Festival Held in Dublin in August 1918 (Macmillan 1939; rep. NY: Haskell 1971) [see Vol. 2, under Shiels]. Vol. 3 selects Drama at Inish [181-91; founded the Drama League in 1919, [ed., Terence Brown], 171; early dramatic attempts marked off by Ibsenite intensity of moral feeling ... found his metier in such well-made comedies [summary of Drama ensues], 173-74, 175; [Ernie O’Malley shelters with McGreevy and Robinson, in On Another Man’s Wound, 1936], 444; [in Vive Moi!, 480]; [?561, 566, 568, 572, 578, 580]; Lennox Robinson’s description of the Abbey playwrights’ reconciliation of ‘poetry of speech’ with ‘humdrum fact’ [ed. Declan Kiberd], 1312; Works, 232 [as supra].

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D. E. S. Maxwell, Modern Irish Drama (Cambridge UP 1984) lists Two Plays: The Clancy Name [and] Harvest (Maunsel 1911); The Lost Leader (Eigas Press, Dublin 1918); The Whiteheaded Boy (London 1921); Ever the Twain (London 1930); Drama at Inish (London 1933); Church Street (London 1935); also Ireland’s Abbey Theatre, A History 1899-1951 (London 1951); Curtain Up (London 1942). Studies: Michael O’Neill, Lennox Robinson (NY: Twayne 1964). Maxwell remarks: ‘Church Street makes more than superficial decoration of its modernist conjuring with the stage illusion [...] In 1916 The Whitheaded Boy had indicated the direction he could pursue with more modest but more certain expectation, placed between comedy and farce, character and caricature.’ (p.75.)

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Kevin Rockett, et al., eds., Cinema & Ireland (1988), Robinson, Lennox, 45, 57, 98 [formed Dublin Theatre and Television Prod. with Dalton, Blythe, and Louis Elliman, their only joint project being an adapt. of George Shiels 1925 play Professor Tim at £30,000]; 57 [co-scripted adapt. of Birmingham’s General John Regan (Henry Edwards 1933).

Helena Sheehan, Irish Television Drama, A Society and Its Stories (RTE 1987), lists RTÉ films of Church Street, dir. Shelah Richards (1965) [91]; The Far Off Hills, dir. Richards (1966) [91], and The Whiteheaded Boy, dir Jim Fitzgerald (1965) [91, 108].

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Catalogues
Belfast Public Library
Bryan Cooper (1931); Church Street (1955); Crabbed Youth and Aged (1924); Curtain Up (1942); Dark Days (1918); Drama at Inish (1953); The Dreamers (1915); Eight Short Stories (n.d.); Ever the Twain (1930); The Far-off Hills (1930, 1931); Four Plays, The White Blackbird, Portrait, Give a Dog, The Big House (n.d. [1928]); Is Life Worth Living (1933); Killygreggs in Twilight, and other plays (1939); Little Anthology of Modern Irish Verse (1928); The Lost Leader (1954); More Plays (1935); Never the Time and Place, and Crabbed Youth and Age (1953); Palette and Plough (1948); Plays (1928); The Whiteheaded Boy (1925); also ed., Golden Treasury of Irish Verse [London: Macmillan 1925]; ed., Ireland’s Abbey Theatre (1951); Towards an Appreciation of the Theatre (1945); Irish Theatre (1939); also Three Homes, Lennox Robinson, Tom Robinson, and Nora Dorman (1938).

Hyland Catalogue No. 219 (1995) lists The Whiteheaded Boy: Play in Three Acts (n.d.) [cover design by Harry Clarke]; The Far-Off Hills: Comedy in Three Acts (1st edn. 1931); Pictures in a Theatre: A Conversation Piece (1st edn. 1947). Also, Hyland Catl. No. 224 lists Plays [1st Coll. edn.] (1928), port.

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Notes
Wonderful debacle: A ‘wonderful debacle’ occurred when Lennox Robinson’s Roly Poly (adapted from de Maupassant’s “Boule de Suif”) was staged. In setting it in evacuated France, Robinson attracted the objections of the German embassy on the grounds that no Nazi officer would behave in the way portrayed. the Irish, British, and French governments all objected for separate reasons, and the first night was cancelled; on the second Robinson appeared to say that he had bought the house for the night for £50, rendering the performance a private one. (See Christopher Casson, reviewing The Boys, A Double Biography of Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards, by Christopher Fitzsimon (Gill & Macmillan 1994), in Books Ireland (April April 1994, pp.79f).

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Carnegie Libraries dismissed Lennox Robinson over the publication of his story ‘The Madonna of Slieve Dun’, in which a girl is raped by a tramp, and professes to be the mother of the new Christ, having heard the tramp say ‘Jesus Christ!’ during intercourse. The story appeared in in Francis Stuart’s periodical To-Morrow (1924). Robinson later recorded that he found ‘the whole thing inexpressibly painful. It alienated many of my Catholic friend and with some the breach will never be healed.’ (See Elborn, Francis Stuart, 1990, pp.66-69.)

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Faut pas?: Robinson’s failure to close the Abbey in mourning for the King through lack of savoir faire rather than strongly nationalist feeling, and attempts to dispel the resulting misunderstandings, are recounted in A. N. Jeffares, W B Yeats: A New Biography (1988), p.180.

W. B. Yeats: Yeats names Robinson in A Vision (1926; rev. edn. 1937), writing: ‘[W]hen the proof sheets came I felt myself relieved from my promise not to read philosophy and began with Berkeley because a young revolutionary soldier who was living a very dangerous life said, “All the philosophy a man needs is in Berkeley”, and Lennox Robinson, hearing me quote that sentence, bought me an old copy of Berkeley’s works upon the quays. Then I took from my wife a list of what she had read [... &c.].’ (A Vision, 1937; 1978, p.19.)

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George Yeats: Ann Saddelmyer writes in Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats (OUP 2002): ‘When Dolly and Lennox finally married in 1931, Tom [MacGreevy] would become lonelier still. Once again he felt betrayed, and for some years his relationship with George also cooled. Apart from flying visits, it would not be until MacGreevy returned to Ireland in 1941 that they would pick up their old ties in the same close way he and Hester [Travers Smith, mother of Dolly] seemed to have been the only people who did not realise that marriage between Tinche and Dolche was inevitable. But Hester at least recognised that Tom’s feelings for Dolly were not sexual; she suspected the same of Lennox and became even more “gloomy and difficult”. (var letters of 1931 from Hester Travers Smith to MacGreevy, and Robinson to MacGreevy, held at TCD; Saddlemyer, op. cit., p.376 - and see 373ff.)

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Drama at Inish was revived simultaneously as part of the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (2011), with Mary Haney as Lizzie Twohig; also at the Finborough Theatre, London (Oct. 2011), dir. by Fidelis Morgan), by arrangement with the Abbey Theatre [see notice, online].

Shaw Festival Notice of Drama at Inish (Ontario, October 2011)

Drama at Inish is a gentle, affectionate satire of Irish provincial people and the troupes of performers that toured through Great Britain during the 1920s. Most of the play’s characters live or work at a hotel in the quiet seaside town of Inish, where proprietor John Twohig has engaged the De La Mare Repertory Company to perform for the summer season in the hotel’s playhouse. The placid John (Ric Reid, in the nicest turn we’d seen from him in a while) and his wife Annie (Donna Belleville) run the hotel with the help of John’s spinster sister Lizzie (Mary Haney), a maid, and a boots.

But things change in Inish when the actor Hector de la Mare (Thom Marriott) and his wife Constance Constantia (Corrine Koslo) arrive at the hotel for their summer run. Their playbill will be different from the low-comedy variety shows and circuses that usually come to Inish; Hector’s traveling troupe plays “serious” theater. As Hector explains (self-importantly) to another guest:

I now confine myself entirely — with the co-operation of Miss Constantia — to psychological and introspective drama. The great plays of Russia, an Ibsen or two, a Strindberg — I think very little of the French.

To everyone’s surprise, the people of Inish flock to the playhouse night after night. In short order, they begin to identify all too closely with the heroes and heroines of A Doll’s House and Uncle Vanya and to imagine that they too are caught in the same sorts of tragedies as the heroes and heroines of Ibsen’s and Chekhov’s plays. Lizzie, for example, convinces herself that her life is blighted because a neighbor, Peter Hurley (Peter Krantz, as a delightfully hapless local politician), toyed with her affections by “skylarkin’” with her when they were both young. John Twohig’s son Eddie (Craig Pike), like a Chekhov character, comes to doubt that life is worth living after he fails, for the dozenth time, to persuade Christine Lambert (Julia Course) to marry him.

We have enjoyed Mary Haney so much in so many roles at the Shaw that it would be hard to say that the endearing Lizzie Twohig is the one we liked best, but every scene she plays in this play is a treasure. And Thom Marriott and Corrine Koslo, as the well-traveled, impossibly vain, and ever-theatrical leading man and lady, are inexpressibly funny. Hector and Constance live so much in the emotionally overcharged world of their plays that they never really leave it anymore; it’s no wonder that they pull the people of Inish from the real world into theirs.

As traveling actors, Hector and his company follow squarely in the tradition of the Crummleses, the 1830s repertory company affectionately portrayed by Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby. They also reminded us a little of the traveling variety show performers who play so prominently in J. B. Priestley’s novel The Good Companions, which we read just last year. Hector and Constance are even closer relatives, dramatically speaking, of George and Lily Pepper, the vaudeville pair immortalized by Noël Coward in his wonderful one-act play Red Peppers, which we saw at the Shaw Festival in 2009.

We don’t read the newspaper reviews of Shaw Festival shows very faithfully, although they’re easy to find on the internet, but at least one review we saw suggested patronizingly that Drama at Inish is not a very substantial play and doubted whether it was worth reviving. Of course, the very premise of Drama at Inish is to poke gentle fun at plays that professional critics do consider substantial! The themes of Drama at Inish may not be as profound as those in, say, Waiting for Godot or The Glass Menagerie, but its portrayals of human nature, with all the foolishness and vanity and self-absorption to which we are prone, are as true as true can be. That’s an accomplishment, and it’s good enough for us. Along with the wife of our bosom, we would have liked to have seen it again.

Until the Shaw’s 2011 playbill was announced, we were unfamiliar with the Irish playwright Lennox Robinson, who was a contemporary and colleague of the Irish playwrights Lady Gregory, J. M. Synge, and W. B. Yeats. We were grateful that director Jackie Maxwell did not insist that her actors use authentic, heavy Irish accents, which we would have had trouble understanding, and we hope for more Irish plays at the Shaw Festival. In the meantime, we were amused to see that one of the plays mocked by Drama at Inish, Ibsen’s masterpiece Hedda Gabler, will be on the playbill at the Shaw in 2012.

Nothing could make the case for a repertory acting company better than the trio Drama at Inish, Bernard Shaw’s Candida (which we appreciated at the Shaw Festival earlier this year), and the Shaw’s 2011 one-hour lunchtime play, The President, an inordinately clever play [...]

—See “Emsworth: A Critical Eye on the Arts from Rochester”, online; accessed 20.12.2011.

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Dublin Drama League was established by Robinson with W. B. Yeats’s approval but not Lady Gregory’s (see The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. Seamus Deane, Derry: Field Day 1991, Vol. 3, p.171).

James Joyce: Joyce held a copy of Patriots (Dublin Maunsel 1912) in his Trieste Library (see Richard Ellmann, The Consciousness of James Joyce, London: Faber & Faber, p.125 [Appendix]).

Portraits: Portrait of Lennox Robinson by Dermod O’Brien, oil 1918, showing Robinson reading and smoking (see Anne Crookshank, ed., Irish Portraits Exhibition, Ulster Museum 1965 and Brian de Breffny, Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia (London: Thames & Hudson 1983)p.204; NGI); also portrait (1943) by James Sleator RHA in the Abbey Theatre; another in Crawford Gallery, Cork, by Margaret Clarke; and a portrait by Estelle Solomons in North Dining Hall, TCD.

Sorrento Cottage, Robinson’s home,was the subject of refusal of planning permission by Bord Pleanála in 2001, when the house was occupied by David Evans (‘The Edge’) of U2.

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