J. M. Synge pp 95-105 | Cite as


  • George Moore


And it was on one of those journeys1 that he2 discovered Synge, a man of such rough and uncultivated aspect that he looked as if he had come out of Derrinrush. He was not a peasant as Yeats first supposed, but came, like all great writers, from the middle classes; his mother had a house in Kingstown which he avoided as much as possible, and it was in the Rue d’Arras [sic]that Yeats found him, dans une chambre meublée3 on the fifth floor. He was on his way back to Ireland, and might stay at Kingstown for a while, till his next quarter’s allowance came in (he had but sixty pounds a year), but as soon as he got it he would be away to the West, to the Aran Islands. Yeats gasped; and it was the romance of living half one’s life in the Latin Quarter and the other half in the Aran Islands that captured Yeats’s imagination. He must have lent a willing ear to Synge’s tale of an unpublished manuscript, a book which he had written about the Aran Islands;4 but his interest in it doubtless flagged when Synge told him it was not written in peasant speech. Synge must have answered, ‘But peasant speech in Aran is Irish.’ Yeats remembered with regret that this was so, for he would have preferred Anglo-Irish; and he listened to Synge telling him that he had some colloquial knowledge of the Irish language. He had had to pick up a little Irish; life in Aran would be impossible without Irish, and Yeats awoke from his meditation.


Immoral Country Great Writer Irish Language Native Town Irish Artist 
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  1. 5.
    John Eglinton [William Kirkpatrick Magee] (1868–1961), Irish essayist and poet. A school friend of W. B. Yeats, he appears in James Joyce’s Ulysses. His works include Two Essays on the Remnant (1896), Pebbles from a Brook (1901), Bards and Saints (1906), Anglo-Irish Essays (1917), Irish Literary Portraits (1935), A Memoir of A.E. (1937) and Confidential; or Take It or Leave It (1951).Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Dana; A Magazine of Independent Thought (Dublin), ed. by John Eglinton and Frederick Ryan. May 1904—April 1905, twelve issues in all.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Sarah Purser (1848–1943), Irish artist who founded a co-operative society of artists known as An Tur Gloine [The Tower of Glass] in 1902. The stained-glass windows in the vestibule of the old Abbey Theatre were designed by her. She was a friend of the Yeats family. See Elizabeth Coxhead, ‘Sarah Purser and the Tower of Glass’, Daughters of Erin ( London: Seeker and Warburg, 1965 ) pp. 125–66.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    Edward Martyn (1859–1923), who, by financial support and his two best plays The Heather Field (1899) and Maeve (1900), did much to set the Irish Dramatic Movement on its feet. It was in 1899 that W. B. Yeats, Edward Martyn, George Moore and Lady Gregory founded the Irish Literary Theatre in Dublin under the auspices of the National Literary Society created in 1891.Google Scholar
  5. See Sister Marie-Therese Courtney, Edward Martyn and the Irish Theatre ( New York: Vantage Press, 1956 ).Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Anne-Louise-Germaine de Staël (1766–1817), French prose-writer. The only child of the financier Necker, later to be so famous in the events leading to the French Revolution, her mother having once been the object of the historian Edward Gibbon’s love, she was given an unusually full education for girls of the day and was busy with her pen before she was twenty. Her writings include Réflexions sur le procès de la Reine (1793), Littérature et ses rapports avec les institutions sociales (1800), Delphine (1802), Corrine (1805), Considération sur la révolution française (1818) and the autobiographical Dix and d’exil (1821).Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    Jean-Baptiste Racine (1639–99), French dramatic poet who was a member of a group including La Fontaine, Boileau and Molière. His plays include Andromaque (1667), Britannicus (1669), Bérénice (1670)Bajazet (1672), Mithridate (1673)Iphigénie (1674)and Phèdre (1677). When W. B. Yeats first met Synge in Paris, Synge was planning a critical work on Racine—then and always one of his favourite writers—and had just been reading Corneille. ‘Give up Paris,’ Yeats said to Synge, ‘You will never create anything by reading Racine, and Arthur Symons will always be a better critic of French literature.’—Introduction to The Well of the Saints.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

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  • George Moore

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