Lady Gregory: Our Irish Theatre

Pdf Lady Gregory, Augusta. Our Irish Theatre: A Chapter of Autobiogrphy. New York & London, The Kinckerbocker Press, 1913
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Isabella Augusta Persse was born on March 15 1852, near Gort, County Galway. In 1881 she married Sir William Gregory of Coole Park (an estate near Gort), who was a member of Parliament, a former governor of Ceylon and a friend of the English novelist Anthony Trollope. Their only son, the artist Robert Gregory, was shot down over Italy in World War 1; he was memorialized in several poems by William Butler Yeats ("An Irish Airman Foresees His Death," among others).

Sir William died in 1892 and Lady Gregory started to gather legends and history of the west of Ireland, translating them into the dialect from the Kiltartan region of Galway. This dialect was Anglo-Irish and one of the first to be adopted by the poets and playwrights of the land.

In 1896 she met W.B. Yeats, who she would provide with financial support, a summer home and needed translations. In 1904 they would found the Abbey Theatre together. Yeats wrote, "Lady Gregory helped me ... in every play of mine where there is dialect, and sometimes where there is not."

Lady Gregory wrote over forty plays, the most popular and successful of which were comedies. The Rising of the Moon (1907) and The Workhouse Ward (1908) were constant favorites in the Abbey repertoire. Her Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) became the major source of information concerning the heroes of the Red Branch line of Ulster kings, used by Yeats and others in their poetry and plays. Her longer history plays, Colman and Guaire (1901) and Grania (1911) have been less successful.

Her unceasing efforts on behalf of Irish theatre earned her the moniker the “godmother of the Abbey Theatre," and George Bernard Shaw referred to her as its "charwoman." Gregory died on May 22 1932, aged eighty.  

Our Irish Theatre (1913) is a basic source of information on the Irish literary renaissance and a history of the national theatre from one of the nation's cultural champions.

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