The Coming of Age of the Abbey

  • George W. Russell
Part of the Interviews and Recollections book series (IR)


About a quarter of a century ago Ireland began to assert and practise its right to cultural independence, making it apparent to the world that it had a distinction, a spiritual personality of its own. That personality asserted itself in many directions. It began to drink at the fountain of its own youth, the almost forgotten fountain of Gaelic culture, and at the same time to be intensely modern, to create a literature which had enough of the universal in it to win recognition from lovers of literature in Europe and America. It was our literature more than our political activities which created outside Ireland a true image of our nationality, and brought about the recognition of a spiritual entity which should have a political body to act through. No single activity of that newly kindled Irish personality did so much to attract attention to Ireland as the Abbey Theatre, whose twenty-first birthday, its coming of age, was celebrated last Sunday by a special performance.1 The swift upspringing of a dramatic literature and art in a soil that seemed sterile, has something mysterious about it. Thirty years ago there did not seem a people in Europe less visited by the creative fire. Then a girl of genius, Alice Milligan, began to have premonitions of a dramatic movement, and she wrote little plays to help the infant Gaelic League, and she went here and there, an elfish stage manager, with a bag crammed with fragments of tapestry to be used on the actors in order to create the illusion of the richly robed ancient Irish of romance.


Political Body National Theatre Irish Actor Spiritual Personality Spiritual Entity 
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  1. 1.
    See Andrew A. Malone, ‘The Coming of Age of the Irish Drama’, Dublin Review, 181 (July 1927) 101–14.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    It was first published under the title ‘Jealousy’ in 1889. In a note in 1925 Yeats said that ‘this little Indian dramatic scene was meant to be the first scene of a play about a man loved by two women, who had the one soul between them’ (A. Norman Jeffares, A Commentary on the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968) p. 6).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1988

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  • George W. Russell

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