Other Literary Forms
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).