Synge and MacKenna

  • E. R. Dodds


With Synge and with Lynches the newcomer 1 established a fast friendship. Lynch and MacKenna were men of oddly similar stamp: each was a journalist with the interests and the gifts of a scholar and the temperament of a mediaeval knight errant; Lynch was presently to fight for the freedom of the Boers, as MacKenna for the freedom of the Greeks; they were to die within a few days of each other, both of them voluntary exiles from the country they loved best, and neither was to leave on the world a mark proportionate to his ability. Synge and MacKenna on the other hand made, in appearance, a strange pair, the one shy, silent and morose, the other a born talker; but they had in common an ironic humour, a passionate interest in the problem of style, and an unresting curiosity about the secrets of religious experience. Of their alliance Lynch wrote many years later, ‘The man who knew Synge best was Stephen MacKenna, and Synge’s first book bears evident marks of MacKenna’s influence, or, as I should say perhaps, MacKenna’s active help. Stephen MacKenna had himself pushed modesty and diffidence to a higher extreme than Synge, and we have but the scattered fragments of one capable of achieving enduring fame. Little of his imagination and delicate spirit remains except the recollection in a few minds of conversation, the richest, the most charming, at times the most wonderful, I have ever heard.’ 2


Religious Experience Irish Theatre Evident Mark Royal Irish Academy Passionate Interest 
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  1. 2.
    Arthur Lynch, ‘Synge’, The Irish Statesman (Dublin) xi, no. 7 (20 Oct 1928) 131.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Stephen MacKenna, ‘Synge’, The Irish Statesman (Dublin) xi, no. 9 (3 Nov 1928) 169–70.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See references to Michel Elmassian in Maurice Bourgeois, John Millington Synge and the Irish Theatre (London: Constable, 1913) pp. 16, 42.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

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  • E. R. Dodds

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