Lennox Robinson | English | SIU

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Lennox Robinson

Lennox Robinson Collection

The Lennox Robinson Collection contains several correspondence series, forty play manuscripts which often feature multiple drafts, thirty-three short stories, and much of Robinson's non-fiction writing, as well as his scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and playbills. Nearly every aspect of this collection reflects Robinson's involvement with Irish theatre. Correspondents include William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, George Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O'Casey, Gerard Fay, Sean O'Faolain, Nora Robinson, Oliver St. John Gogarty, and James Stephens. The letters date, in general, from 1909 to 1954 but also include several postcards sent to Robinson's wife Dolly after his death.

Among the manuscripts are drafts of Robinson's early plays, including Harvest, as well as the more well-known plays such as The Clancy Name, White-Headed Boy, The Big House, and The Lost Leader. The play manuscripts are in various stages of drafting. Consequently, they provide insight into Robinson's composing process from the earliest, roughest sketches through to the final polished products. He appeared to be continually revising even as he directed the plays on stage.

The non-fiction writings consist of forty-three of Robinson's "At the Play" columns as well as several of his essays on Irish topics. Drafts of his partially autobiographical novel The Boy from Ballineed are also in the holdings. In addition, this series contains eleven of the "I Sometimes Think" manuscripts as well as over twenty other essays written primarily about Irish artists. These non-fiction manuscripts reveal Robinson's opinions about theatre and the interplay between director, writer, and actor/actress. A series of lecture notes, in various stages of completion, shows how Robinson approached historically the subject of the Irish theatre.

Finally, three scrapbooks of press cuttings, play programs, and posters from the years of Robinson's activity with the Abbey Theatre complete the collection.

W.B. Yeats Correspondence in the Lennox Robinson Collection

This series contains ninety-seven letters from William Butler Yeats to Lennox Robinson, covering the years 1913-1935. The letters are arranged chronologically where dating is possible and grouped into folders by place of origin. Two folders contain letters which could not be dated and six letters to people other than Robinson.

The overwhelming majority of the letters in the series are concerned with Abbey Theatre business, especially discussions of plays being considered for production by the Abbey while Yeats was serving on the Theatre Board of Directors. This discussion often includes whether the plays were accepted or rejected (or simply recommended) by Yeats and Lady Gregory. Yeats offers a good deal of constructive criticism of many plays he has read, often suggesting revisions of scenes and acts. In some cases, these suggested revisions are extensive and specific, with the acceptance of the play depending on whether or not the revisions are made. These kinds of letters correspond to Lennox Robinson's time as manager/producer of the Abbey and give readers a sense of the importance of Yeats's role in shaping productions at the theater, even from afar.

Although Yeats sometimes mentions what he is working on (his memoirs, poetry, lectures, etc.), and includes copies of corrections to "Hour Glass" and a manuscript of "Crazy Jane and the King" (both are housed in the Yeats Manuscript series), there is relatively little personal or literary material about Yeats in this series. There are some gaps in Yeats's correspondence to Robinson, most notably during Robinson's first years as manager of the Abbey Theatre (1909-1913), and the last few years of Yeats's life (1935-1939). Also, there are almost no letters from the period 1923-1926.

A number of the letters are significant for the comments Yeats makes on the effects of the violence of the Irish civil war and struggle for power on the future of the Abbey. Brief discussions of theories of drama in general and opportunities for Irish dramatists after the war appear in several letters. For example, after suggesting some changes to one of Sean O'Casey's plays in a letter of 14 Aug. [1922?], Yeats says, "If we let O'Casey fall back into his mechanical propaganda we may ruin him." Of the letters to people other than Robinson, the most significant one is to Prof. Edward Dowden (19 May [1895]), which discusses Yeats's attempt to visit Oscar Wilde in prison.

Additional Holdings -- Lennox Robinson

Additional material relating to Lennox Robinson is comprised of correspondence and manuscripts concerning the theatre and Ireland. The correspondence, which took place over the years 1920-1950 from Robinson to Gabriel Fallon, an Irish actor, discusses various theater matters including the history of the Dublin Drama League with a partial list of plays performed.

In correspondence with T. C. Murray, Robinson praises Murray's plays and discusses the presentation of Autumn Fire at the Abbey. Various letters about business matters pertaining to the production of plays at the Abbey also include a 1930 letter to George Bernard Shaw requesting permission to produce The Apple Cart. The reply by Shaw on the same page tells Robinson that it is inappropriate to do the play at this time because of a previous agreement with Barry Jackson.

A 167-page notebook in Robinson's hand concerns the 1798 uprising in Ireland, including a description of the leaders, particularly Robert Emmet, and their 1802-03 trial in Dublin.

Another file contains the carbon of a typed seven-page manuscript with Robinson's corrections of a short story entitled "The Girls." Also in the files are twelve pieces of miscellaneous material relating to Robinson's stay as visiting professor at Bowling Green University, Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1947, including a copy of a 1948 letter from Robinson to Frederick G. Walsh, and an invitation to and an announcement of his play The Lucky Finger, starring Sara Allgood.