Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Lord Dunsany was born Edward John Morton Drax Plunkett, becoming eighteenth baron Dunsany on the death of his father in 1899. He spent his early boyhood at Dunstall Priory in Kent, but in later years his principal residence was Dunsany Castle in Meath, Ireland. The influence of the Irish side of his heritage was muted greatly by political connections to England, his grandfather being seated in the House of Lords and his father and two uncles holding seats in the House of Commons. Dunsany himself stood as Conservative candidate for the Commons but lost in a local election.

Educated in England at Eton, Cambridge, and Sandhurst Military Academy, Dunsany accepted his role in the conventional upper-class life and adopted most of the attitudes and habits current among his peers. While writing was important to him, he gave every evidence of pursuing his literary career in a gentlemanly fashion, claiming that it engaged no more than 3 percent of his time.

In the spirit of the country gentleman, Dunsany led an active life as a sportsman, enjoying fishing, horseback riding, cricket, and hunting. He was a crack shot and became pistol-shooting champion of Ireland. A yearning for adventure led him to more serious pursuits in the military, and he first saw action at age twenty in the Coldstream Guards, fighting for the British in the Boer War. While in South Africa, he met Rudyard Kipling, a man similar in temperament and outlook, who was to remain his friend for life. Like Kipling, Dunsany was preoccupied with the conflict between the instinctive, primitive nature of human beings and the rational, respectable façade of civilization.

After leaving the army and experiencing the disappointments of political life, Dunsany married Lady Beatrice Villiers, the daughter of the earl and countess of Jersey, in 1904. Two years later, the Dunsanys’ only child, Randall, was born. During this period, Dunsany wrote three volumes of stories, beginning with The Gods of Pegna (1905). In these early tales, Dunsany set the tone for much of his later writing, evoking magical worlds of his own creation with great originality and humor. The language in which they are presented is poetic and biblical. They stress the beauty of the land, the power of fate, and the impotence of human intellect.

Dunsany’s first play, commissioned by Yeats, was received with some acclaim by Abbey Theatre audiences, but when his...

(The entire section is 996 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Although he was born in England, Lord Dunsany (Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett) was an Irish author, having been born into an Irish family with historic roots and an ancestral castle, the author’s home, in County Meath, Ireland. Lord Dunsany was the eighteenth Baron Dunsany; Sir Horace Plunkett, the Irish agricultural reformer and politician, was his uncle. It is often noted in biographical accounts of Dunsany that he claimed to have spent only three percent of his life engaged in writing; the rest of the time he was involved in such aristocratic pursuits as warfare, hunting, and playing cricket. He received his education at Cheam, Eton, and Sandhurst, and he was with the Coldstream Guards in the Boer War, with the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers in World War I, and with the Home Guard as a volunteer in World War II. In his literary life, he was acquainted with Lady Augusta Gregory, William Butler Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, and H. G. Wells, and he did two speaking tours of the United States. Lord Dunsany died in 1957.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207186-Dunsany.jpg Lord Dunsany Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Although Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Lord Dunsany (duhn-SAY-nee), considered himself primarily a poet, he is best known as one of the foremost writers of fantasy—whether in the form of short stories, novels, or plays—in the twentieth century. He was certainly one of the most prolific practitioners of the genre. Even though he was born in London, his family seat had always been Dunsany Castle, in County Meath, Ireland. Educated at Eton College and Sandhurst Military Academy, Dunsany served with the Coldstream Guards during the Boer War, as a captain with the Fifth Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during World War I, and as a volunteer in World War II. He succeeded as eighteenth Baron Dunsany in 1899. Despite more than fifty published works, Dunsany claimed to have spent little time at his writing, devoting his life to hunting and to chess (he was once the Irish chess champion). He and his wife had one son and spent most of their time at their home in Kent.{$S[A]Plunkett, Edward John Moreton Drax;Dunsany, Lord}

Dunsany was active in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, where he associated with William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, and Lady Augusta Gregory. His first play, The Glittering Gate, was written at Yeats’s instigation. Dunsany’s popularity as a dramatist reached its height in 1916, when five of his plays were performed simultaneously on Broadway.

The majority of Dunsany’s writings are classified as fantasy, although he dabbled in mystery and science fiction as well. Influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien and James Branch Cabell, Dunsany’s early stories depend on elaborate...

(The entire section is 663 words.)