Augusta, Lady Gregory - Encyclopedia




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"AUGUSTA GREGORY, Lady (1852-), Irish folklorist, playwright and author, was born March 5 1852, the youngest daughter of Dudley Persse of Roxborough, co. Galway. She married in 1881 Sir William Gregory, a well-known Irish M.P. and ex-governor of Ceylon (d. 1892), whose autobiography she afterwards edited in 1894. A prolific writer upon Irish subjects, she produced many plays, essays, volumes of folklore, and popularized versions of ancient sagas and romances concerning the early Irish heroes. She always lived in close rapport with the people, and identified herself with their sufferings and aspirations, as in The Jail Gate, the Rising of the Moon, and other plays. It was she who chiefly popularized the Anglo-Irish dialect of English as spoken in the west, which had been first employed in the Love Songs of Connacht. She translated for the Abbey theatre several of MoHere's plays into this dialect under the title of The Kiltartan Moliere (1910). Hence this form of idiom has by some been christened " Kiltartanese " after the name of her district in Galway. She made Cuchulain - the greatest hero of pre-christian Ireland - known to thousands through her re-telling of the ancient tales, which she wove with great restraint and ability into a consistent whole. She did the same for Finn MacCumhail and other heroes of the old sagas. Her work as playwright, and director, in association with W. B. Yeats, of the Abbey theatre, was enormously fruitful. Over a hundred new plays had been produced there by 1921, and scores of actors had been developed and trained. This theatre was opened in 1904, and she told its story in her volume Our Irish Theatre (1913). Her only son, a distinguished airman and artist, was killed in the World War; and Sir Hugh Lane, whose life she wrote (1920), was her nephew.

Lady Gregory's chief works are: - Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) Poets and Dreamers (1903); Gods and Fighting Men (1904); A Book of Saints and Wonders (1907); Seven Short Plays (1909); The Kiltartan History Book (1909); The Kiltartan Moliere (1910); The Image (1910); Irish Folk History Plays (1912); New Comedies (1913); Our Irish Theatre (1913) , The Kiltartan Wonder Book; The Golden Apple (1916); The Kiltartan Poetry Book (1919); The Dragon (1920; Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland (1920); Hugh Lane's Life and Achievement (1921).

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