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An Aristocratic Lady's Steel Backbone to Forge a Freer Culture
on May 18, 2015
Reading James Joyce, I've needed more background. This lively biography of a woman with morphing identity held my attention for a close reading in one gulp. A woman who dined with kings and emperors; whose income came from Irish tenants under pressure from eviction; a former Protestant proselytizer, she may have provided indispensable support of the creative and intellectual efforts which forged an Irish national culture.
Toibin's history of Lady Gregory's and Yeats' relationship is a focal point. As benefactor, she bankrolled him. She let him take credit for her writing. They prevailed together in defending their theater productions against censorship.
The dilemmas we perceive may not have weighed as greatly on her. Toibin concludes: “But her eye remained on her goal: to establish Ireland's ancient past as part of its present culture and to produce contemporary Irish masterpieces in an Irish theatre. She put all her steely energy into this and she succeeded, turning a blind eye to the parts of her own heritage that did not suit her purpose. She lived in two worlds: one of them became the Irish Free State and she was proud of that. The other one disappeared.”
This is the first nonfiction book I've read about Ireland. I do not find it requires any previous familiarity with the subject. I found the google and wikipedia functions in the ebook sufficient annotation. The two Yeats poems written about Lady Gregory and Coole were available in free ebook.