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Timothy O'Keeffe correspondence

Collection MS-2003-007: Timothy O'Keeffe correspondence


  • Creation: 1949-1971, undated

Scope and Contents

The Timothy O'Keeffe correspondence documents the Irish authors he worked with from 1958 to 1971. It contains letters to and from O'Keeffe, as well as news clippings and a few manuscripts that were sent as enclosures.

The correspondence primarily documents the professional relationships that O'Keeffe, as an editor, had with J.P. Donleavy, Michael Farrell, Sean O'Casey, James Plunkett, and Francis Stuart. The letters reveal O'Keeffe's editorial style and the relationships he built with the authors with whom he worked. The most voluminous correspondence is with: J.P. Donleavy, discussing the Italian publication of Donleavy's The Ginger Man; James Plunkett, discussing some of O'Keeffe's current projects and the lives of mutual friends; and Francis Stuart, detailing the difficult publication and editing process for the manuscript that was to become Stuart's Black List, Section H.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

Timothy O'Keeffe was born on September 27, 1926, in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. After studying at Oxford and serving in the National Service, O'Keeffe began his publishing career at Hutchinson, Ltd. in the 1950s, just as Hutchinson was pursuing the publication of Irish writers like Brendan Behan and Eamon de Valera. In 1959, O'Keeffe left Hutchinson to become chief editor at MacGibbon and Kee.

It was as editor at MacGibbon and Kee that O'Keeffe made one of his most substantial contributions to Irish literature, namely bringing back into print Flann O'Brien's At-Swim-Two-Birds. The book's relaunch and O'Keeffe's professional encouragement helped O'Brien to write The Hard Life and The Dalkey Archive and led to the publication of The Best of Myles, a translation of An Béal Bocht (The Poor Mouth), and The Third Policeman, the manuscript of which O'Keeffe discovered among O'Brien's papers after the author's death.

O'Keeffe is also credited with transforming Patrick Kavanaugh into a powerful literary figure. O'Keeffe's publishing activity involved work with Irish writers such as Maurice Leitch, John Montague, Francis Stuart, J. P. Donleavy, Michael Farrell, James Plunkett, and Francis Ledwidge, although O'Keeffe's work was not confined to Irish writers and fiction.

In 1971, O'Keeffe formed the publishing firm of Martin, Brian and O'Keeffe after a highly publicized falling out with the new owners of MacGibbon and Kee. O'Keeffe's resistance to the trend in conglomerate publishing and the demand that editors produce twelve best-sellers a year lead to O'Keeffe's termination at MacGibbon and Kee. Despite difficult economic times and changing publishing regulations, O'Keeffe, along with partners Martin Green and Brian Rooney, began their small publishing house, but it was O'Keeffe who continued publishing after economic pressures forced Green and Rooney to leave the company. Martin, Brian and O'Keeffe published Patrick Kavanaugh's The Green Fool and Francis Stuart's Black List, Section H, among other titles. O'Keeffe continued to run the publishing firm out of his London home until his death on January 11, 1994.


Edwards, Owen Dudley. "Timothy O'Keeffe: Publisher." The Scotsman. Jan. 25, 1994.

Green, Martin. "Obituary: Timothy O'Keeffe." The Independent. Jan. 22, 1994: 15.

Myers, Kevin. "An Irishman's Diary." The Irish Times. Feb. 1, 1994: 13.

"Timothy O'Keeffe." The Times. Jan. 20, 1994.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 container )

Language of Materials



The collection contains correspondence between Irish editor Timothy O'Keeffe and seven Irish authors: Brendan Behan, J.P. Donleavey, Michael Farrell, Austin Clarke, Sean O'Casey, James Plunkett and Francis Stuart. Most of the letters discuss the work of the individual writers. The collection also includes short manuscripts by Behan, Farrell and Plunkett.


Arranged alphabetically by recipient


Purchase from Bertram Rota, Ltd. (1984).

Related Materials

Timothy O'Keeffe papers, McFarlin Library Department of Special Collections, University of Tulsa.


Timothy O'Keeffe Correspondence
1949-1971, undated
Katie McCormick, 2003; updated by Miriam Bourke
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States