Padraic Colum 1881–1972
Irish-born American dramatist, poet, novelist, essayist, biographer, children's writer, and editor.
Colum was a central figure in the Irish Literary Renaissance. He first gained recognition in 1902 as one of the founders of the Irish National Theatre, later known as the Abbey Theatre. Unlike William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory, who were also co-founders of the Abbey, Colum rejected intellectual treatment of Irish issues and believed that Ireland would be most accurately represented by the dialect and lifestyle of its peasantry. Colum and John M. Synge are regarded by many critics as the company's most important nationalistic playwrights because of their emphasis on the speech and the attitudes of the common Irishman.
Colum's first plays, Broken Soil (1903), The Land (1905), and Thomas Muskerry (1910), were among the most popular of the Abbey's early productions. However, Colum left the company because of a disagreement in policy and wrote little subsequent drama, becoming instead a poet of modest reputation. While his poetry is largely narrative and free of obscure symbolism, it is also lyrical and illustrates the musical dimension of the peasant dialect. Wild Earth, a volume published in 1907, contains many of Colum's best poems.
Colum moved with his wife to the United States in 1914, and lived there for the rest of his life. However, the themes of his work remained as devoted to the Irish people as when he lived in Ireland. Colum's first novel, Castle Conquer (1923), has a poetic quality and focuses on the rural folkways which are so prominent in his poetry. The late novel, The Flying Swans (1957), is a bildungsroman which resembles James Joyce's Stephen Hero and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Throughout his career Colum wrote many books for children; these stories and tales are rich in mythology and Irish folklore. Through these works, as well as his factual chronicles, Colum sought to expand international recognition and appreciation of Irish literature. Colum's entire oeuvre is dedicated to the importance of Irish tradition and the beauty of Ireland's speech and history.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed. [obituary]; Something about the Author, Vol. 15; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 19.)