Esmé Stuart Lennox Robinson was born on October 4, 1886, in Douglas, southeast of Cork, to Andrew Craig and Emily Jones Robinson, Anglo-Irish Protestants. He was the youngest of seven children. His father, who had been a stockbroker, was ordained a minister of the Church of Ireland in 1892 at the age of fifty and given a parish in Kinsale, County Cork, where the family lived until he was transferred in 1900 to Ballymoney in West Cork. In the same year, young Robinson, who had been tutored at home, began attending Bandon Grammar School for Protestants, but this formal education ended in a year because of his ill health, and his father again became his tutor. Robinson long after wrote of how, during this period, he devoted himself “to music, to rough shooting, and fishing, to reading, to a little boyish writing.” He recalled, too, how he and a cousin started Contributions, a monthly magazine that ran for three years: “At first many relatives and friends contributed; later they fell away, and my cousin and I had to write it all ourselves under a bewildering variety of noms-de-plume.” During this period in his late teens, Robinson also became friendly with a Catholic family connected to the nationalist Daniel O’Connell and began to stray from his family’s unionist sentiments.
The landmark event in Robinson’s progress toward identification with the cause of Irish nationalism and the theater as vocation occurred in August, 1907, when he saw a performance at the Cork Opera House of Yeats’s Cathleen ni Houlihan (pr., pb. 1902) and The Hour Glass (pr. 1903) and Lady Gregory’s The Jackdaw (pr. 1907) and The Rising of the Moon (pb. 1904). He wrote years later: “Certain natural emotions and stirrings . . . were crystallized for ever by Cathleen ni Houlihan. . . . Those two hours in the pit of the Opera House in Cork made me an Irish dramatist.”
The first product of his new vocation was The Clancy Name, a one-act play based on...
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