Lennox Robinson Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Lennox Robinson’s nondramatic writings are of interest only because of the insights they provide into his development as a nationalist and man of the theater. Central in this regard are two volumes of autobiography, Three Homes (1938) and Curtain Up (1942), and A Young Man from the South (1917), published as a novel but little more than a fictionalized autobiography. In the last of these, Willie Powell, the hero, is a Protestant Anglo-Irishman from southwest Cork, a physically weak fellow who has become a successful dramatist (writing plays that are like Robinson’s). As a result of a confrontation between nationalists and unionists, Powell reappraises his commitment to nationalist extremism and decides to seek more reasonable outlets for his patriotism. The book is a lucid portrait of the social, intellectual, and political milieu of Ireland in the decade leading up to the Easter Rebellion, but it is not much of a novel. From the same period and of interest for similar reasons is the 1918 collection of political sketches, Dark Days. These pieces give Robinson’s reactions to Ireland’s troubles and show how his growing nationalism was tempered by doubts about the extremist methods of the Sinn Féiners. The attitudes and problems that Robinson dramatized in The Big House in 1926 emerged for the first time in such earlier nondramatic works as A Young Man from the South and Dark Days.

Achievements

Lennox Robinson’s relationship with Dublin’s Abbey Theatre spanned half a century, beginning in 1908 when his first play, The Clancy Name, was presented there. During this period, he was one of the theater’s most prolific dramatists; its manager for a time; a producer, director, and board member; and author of an officially commissioned Abbey history. The most prominent of the Irish playwrights known as the Cork Realists, Robinson helped chart the course of the theater during the period that included World War I and the height of Ireland’s political turbulence, leading the transformation of the literary theater of the Abbey’s founders into a realistic one.

In addition to his work for the Abbey, Robinson also acted in productions of the Dublin Drama League, of which he was a founder; edited collections of Irish poetry; wrote drama criticism and other articles for newspapers; and turned out a novel, two volumes of autobiography, short stories, and two biographies. A frequent judge at amateur drama festivals throughout Ireland, he also lectured in the United States, China, and on the Continent. Both at home and abroad, he was widely recognized for several decades not only as one of Ireland’s leading playwrights and theatrical figures but also as an important all-around man of letters.

Robinson’s most enduring achievement is his dramatic uvre, thirty plays written between 1908 and 1954. Among these, the conventional comedies...

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Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Dorman, Sean. Limelight over the Liffey. Fowey, Cornwall, England: Raffeen Press, 1983. These essays, first serialized under the title “My Uncle Lennox,” describe Robinson’s life and the theater in Ireland. Index.

Hogan, Robert. The Abbey: Ireland’s National Theatre, 1904-1978. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. This history of the Abbey Theatre by one of its former directors contains an account of Robinson’s two significant connections with that institution. Describes Robinson’s years as a director and examines his work as a playwright. Includes a complete listing of Abbey Theatre productions.

Hunt, Hugh. The Abbey: Ireland’s National Theatre, 1904-1978. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. This history of the Abbey Theatre by one of its former directors contains an account of Robinson’s two significant connections with that institution. Describes Robinson’s years as a director and examines his work as a playwright. Includes a complete listing of Abbey Theatre productions.

Journal of Irish Literature 9 (January, 1980). This special Lennox Robinson issue contains hitherto fugitive and unpublished materials. Perhaps the most important item is the controversial short story “The Madonna of Slieve Dun.” In addition to another short story, a full-length play entitled The Red Sock, written pseudonymously by Robinson, is published here for the first time. Also contains an article on Robinson’s relationship with William Butler Yeats.

O’Neill, Michael J. Lennox Robinson. Boston: Twayne, 1964. This study provides a thematic approach to Robinson’s wide-ranging and productive career, including his nondramatic writings. The biographical material is related to the development of the playwright’s themes and techniques. Contains a detailed chronology that functions both as a bibliography and as a calendar of productions of Robinson’s plays.