Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

ph_0111207663-Gregory.jpg Lady Augusta Gregory Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Lady Augusta Gregory would have been a significant figure in Irish literature even if she had never written any plays. Her earliest writing centered largely on the life and correspondence of her deceased husband, Sir William Gregory. In 1894, two years after his death, she completed the editing of An Autobiography of Sir William Gregory, and in 1898 she published Mr. Gregory’s Letter Box.

Lady Gregory also did a number of translations, most notably of Molière’s plays. Her plays were published in various collections throughout her lifetime and were collected in 1970 in The Collected Plays of Lady Gregory. A selection of nine plays can be found in Selected Plays, edited by Elizabeth Coxhead.

Lady Gregory’s most valuable work for literature and Irish culture, however, was the gathering and publishing of the myths and legends of Ireland, a love for which began early in her life and lasted until the end. Traveling from village to village and cottage to cottage (including trips to the Aran Islands at the same time as John Millington Synge), she devoted herself to the recording of an oral tradition that she felt was central to the future as well as to the past of Ireland. The first of these numerous collections appeared as Cuchulain of Muirthemne in 1902, and the last, as Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland in 1920.

Lady Gregory also wrote for and about the Irish Renaissance itself, particularly about the dramatic revival. In 1901, she edited a book of essays, Ideals in Ireland, that called for a renewal of Irish culture and criticized English domination. Her account of the rise of Irish drama and the struggles at the Abbey Theatre is given in Our Irish Theatre (1913).

Lady Gregory’s other nondramatic writings grow largely out of her personal life. In 1921, she published Hugh Lane’s Life and Achievement, a memorial to her beloved nephew who died with the sinking of the Lusitania, and in 1926 A Case for the Return of Hugh Lane’s Pictures to Dublin, part of a futile battle to get his French Impressionist collection returned from England. Others oversaw the publication of some of her private thoughts and reminiscences in Coole (1931) and Lady Gregory’s Journals, 1916-1930 (1946).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The achievement of Lady Augusta Gregory is not to be found in awards and prizes given to her, but in the gift of her life, possessions, and talents to the literary and cultural awakening of modern Ireland. She would be a significant figure for any one of her contributions, but the sum of them makes her central to one of the most important movements in modern literature.

Lady Gregory’s initial contribution to what has been called the Irish Literary Renaissance (or Irish Literary Revival) was the early collecting of the myths and folktales of the Irish people. In so doing, she was participating in the discovery of the richness of so-called primitive cultures that was only beginning at the end of the nineteenth century to engage the interest of the earliest anthropologists and ethnologists. These efforts not only served an important historical function but also became a part of both her own plays and the poetry and plays of William Butler Yeats , and contributed significantly to the Irish people’s rediscovery of and pride in their own past.

Lady Gregory’s plays, while not greatly influential on other playwrights, were important in their contribution to what has come to be called the Irish dramatic movement (especially in its primary expression, the Abbey Theatre) and as works of art in their own right. They broke new ground, for example, in the mixing of the fabulous with the realistic and in the transformation of peasant speech into...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Adams, Hazard. Lady Gregory. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1973. A brief, incisive introduction to the complete range of Lady Gregory’s writings. The study opens with a biographical summary, following which the author examines, in turn, Lady Gregory’s retelling of the ancient Irish sagas, her plays, and her folklore writings. Includes a chronology and a brief bibliography.

Coxhead, Elizabeth. Lady Gregory: A Literary Portrait. London: Martin Secker and Warburg, 1966. A revised and enlarged edition of a 1962 work that uses a biographical approach to concentrate on Lady Gregory’s writings. Lady Gregory’s collaboration with other leading writers of the Irish Literary Revival, such as William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, and Douglas Hyde, are examined. The study also contains a checklist of Lady Gregory’s writings.

Gregory, Lady Augusta. Lady Gregory: Interviews and Recollections. Edited by E. H. Mikhail. London: Macmillan, 1977. A selection of excerpts from memoirs, newspapers, and other contemporary sources that provide a composite portrait of Lady Gregory’s public life.

Kohfeldt, Mary Lou. Lady Gregory: The Woman Behind the Irish Renaissance. New York: Atheneum, 1985. A narrative biography that provides information about Lady Gregory’s early personal life as well as a...

(The entire section is 430 words.)