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Ref No IE TCD MSS 4328-4428
Title Papers of John Millington Synge
Creation Dates 1882-1939
Level Of Description Collection
Author Synge, J. M.(John Millington),1871-1909.
Admin Biographical History John Millington Synge, playwright, poet, prose writer and collector of folklore, was born on 16 April 1871 in Rathfarnham, County Dublin. He was the fourth son of Protestant middle-class parents. He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1888, and studied Irish and Hebrew there. He was also a keen music student and attended the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Around the time of his graduation from Trinity in 1892 he abandoned his religious faith; this coincided with an interest in Darwin and his theories.
He spent much of the following few years travelling in Europe (France, Germany and Italy) as well as in Ireland (he especially enjoyed walking in the hills of Wicklow). During this time he studied language and literature, and produced some literary works. He also developed an interest in all things Irish, including the language, literature and archaeology. He met William Butler Yeats in Paris in 1896, and with Yeats, Lady Gregory and others he helped to establish the Irish National Theatre Society (later the Abbey Theatre). Around this time he made the acquaintance of Maud Gonne and Stephen McKenna, the latter who was to remain his close friend.
Synge's first visit to the Aran Islands took place in 1898, and he spent the following five summers there, collecting stories and folklore and perfecting his Irish, while continuing to live in Paris for most of the rest of the year. During this period he wrote his first play When the Moon has Set. He also produced a book called The Aran Islands in 1900, based upon his experiences there. In 1902 he wrote the first versions of three of his 6 plays: Riders to the Sea, In the Shadow of the Glen, and The Tinker's Wedding. He paid his first visit to Kerry in September 1903. This provided inspiration for some of his later works, including The Playboy of the Western World, which he began writing in the Autumn of 1904.
Some of his plays elicited strong responses from his critics for his portrayal of the Irish, but none was as controversial as the Playboy, which caused riots when it was first performed in the Abbey Theatre in 1907.
In 1905 he had met and fell in love with the Abbey actress Molly Allgood, and in 1907 they became engaged. Two years later, on 24 March 1909, he succumbed to the cancer from which he had been suffering since 1897. He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.
Scope And Content The papers contain many drafts of Synge's works - including plays, articles, novels and poetry - both in manuscript and typescript form, as well as proofs and printed versions (TCD MSS 4328-4354, 4356-4366). They also contain correspondence, including letters from W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Stephen McKenna, from publishers, from people connected with the Abbey, as well as Aran islanders (TCD MSS 4424-4426). Other documents include those relating to theatre business, including press reviews of Abbey plays (TCD MS 4355). A large portion of the collection consists of notebooks (TCD MSS 4369-4412) and diaries (TCD MSS 4413-23). The former contain notes on bird-watching and nature, academic studies and lecture notes (both TCD and Paris), poems and poetry, music, literature and art, foreign language exercises, philosophic reflections, and a visit to the Aran Islands in October 1901. There are also drafts of plays, recordings of stories and notes on the Congested Districts, on which he wrote reports. The diaries begin around 1892 and contain entries regarding his time as a student in TCD, walks and rides in Wicklow, visits to various European cities and the Aran Islands and other subjects. Synge's photographs include portraits of himself, scenes from Paris, the Aran Islands, and Wicklow (TCD MS 4367). Other papers include a collection of newspaper cuttings, periodicals, books and other printed material (TCD MSS 4427-4428), and miscellaneous documents including philosophical, arithmetical and literary notes and miscellaneous printed items (TCD MS 4368).
Document T.C.D.MSS4424-26JMSyngeCorrespondence.pdf
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Related Material Further letters & papers of JM Synge - Trinity College Library: TCD MS 10577
Correspondence & literary papers of JM Synge - Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas: MSS 1988
Letters to WG Fay & Max Meyerfeld - National Library of Ireland: MSS 13617, 778
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