The Life and Times of Edward Martyn: An Aristocratic Bohemian

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Madeleine Humphreys

A great patron of the arts, Martyn was also a novelist, playwright, journalist and the first president of Sinn Fein.  This biography places him in the cultural renaissance that evolved throughout his life (1859-1923) in Ireland.

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ISBN:9780716529231
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The Palestrina Choir; the Irish Literary Theatre; An Tur Gloinne; the decorative art of Loughrea Cathedral; the Hardwicke Street Theatre, all have their genesis in the vision of one man – Edward Martyn.  A great patron of the arts, Martyn was also a novelist, playwright, journalist and the first president of Sinn Fein.  This biography places him in the cultural renaissance that evolved throughout his life (1859-1923) in Ireland.

Brought up in south Galway to be a conservative Catholic landlord, and educated at Oxford, Martyn lived most of his life as a bohemian.  He published a utopian novel in 1890, and wrote plays for the next thirty years.  His Heather Field opened the second night of the Irish Literary Theatre, which he founded in 1899, with W B Yeats and Augusta Gregory.  He often dreamed of a great choir for Dublin.  When he found Vincent O’Brien producing Missa Papae Marcelli in the Caremelite Church in Clarendon Street, Dublin he set about turning the dream into reality.  This was achieved by 1902.  Twelve years later he again ventured into theatre ownership.  This time it was with the radical nationalists, Thomas MacDonagh and Joseph Plunkett.  Together they founded the Irish Theatre in Hardwicke Street; the theatre that Micheal MacLiammoir regarded as the precursor of his own Dublin Gate.  Reflecting Martyn’s highly developed European sensibility, this little theatre brought many European masterpieces to Irish audiences for the first time.

Augusta Gregory said of Edward Martyn that he was, for her, the bridge between the old and the new Ireland.  This book tells his story against a backdrop of impending radical change, making it a compelling read.  Drawing on previously unpublished, and unknown, documents, memoirs, letters and journalism Madeleine Humphreys reveals both the public and the private man; the man whom Maud Gonne referred to as ‘a most peculiar kind of Irishman’.

Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Smyths and Martyns
2. Christ Versus Apollo
3. The Soul in Crisis
4. ‘Strength without hands to Smite’
5. The Best of Times
6. All Things Irish
7. A ‘Celtic’ Theatre
8. Controversies
9. A Literary Theatre
10. Political Drama
11. The Leader
12. Sacred Art and Music
13. 1904
14. King Martyn and the Martynettes
15. Melancholia
16. Hardwicke Street
17. Easter 1916
18. The Final Curtain

About the Author

Madeleine Humphreys is a freelance writer who lives in Dublin. She has a special interest in Irish cultural history and biography.

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