This sixteenth volume of the Coole Edition contains Lady Gregory’s first writings on Ireland. They include the two surviving versions of her unpublished first attempt at autobiography, ‘An Emigrant’s Note Book’ (1883); three short stories she wrote under the pseudonym ‘Angus Grey’ — ‘A Philanthropist’, ‘A Gentleman’ and ‘Peeler Astore’ (1890-91); and her anonymously-issued anti-Home Rule pamphlet A Phantom’s Pilgrimage, or Home Ruin (1893). Appendices contain her lyric ‘Alas, a woman may not love’ (1886) and the poems she sent to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt following his imprisonment in Galway in 1888 for participating in a banned tenant protest against evictions. Also included is the newly-rediscovered text of Sir William Gregory’s prescient 1881 pamphlet on the Land League.
James Pethica’s Introduction sets these works within their biographical, political and creative contexts, charting the imperatives and aspirations driving Lady Gregory’s first sustained efforts as a writer. This remarkable collection throws an entirely new light on the years of her marriage and early widowhood, revealing the foundational influence of Sir William Gregory on her political views and self-conception as a landowner, and detailing the course of her turn to Irish themes and to the life of the Galway world she had grown up in for subject matter. Lady Gregory’s Early Irish Writings shows her already finding core elements of her creative voice long before she met W.B. Yeats and emerged to later prominence as a folklore collector, dramatist, and cultural nationalist.
James Pethica teaches Irish Studies, Modern literature, and drama at Williams College in Massachussetts. He is preparing the authorized biography of Lady Gregory for Oxford University Press.