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Boston College collection of Sean O'Casey

 Collection
Collection MS-1986-037: Boston College collection of Sean O'Casey

Dates

  • 1930-1969, undated
  • Majority of material found within 1954 - 1956

Scope and Contents

This collection documents Irish playwright Sean O'Casey's business, personal, and political activities through his correspondence. The collection also contains letters from his wife, Eileen, and son, Breon, to friends and business acquaintances regarding O'Casey. Notable correspondents include Don Burke, a journalist from Life magazine who befriended O'Casey and advised him on matters concerning television adaptations of his plays; Sheila Greene, an Irish politician; Marvin Magalaner, an English professor; and John O'Shaughnessy, who directed a Broadway production of O'Casey’s Bedtime Story.

Also included is a flyer for the 1930 film adaptation of O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Creator

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

Sean O'Casey was born John Casey on March 30, 1880 in Dublin, Ireland, to Michael and Susan (Archer) Casey, a lower-middle class Protestant family. His father died in 1886. As a child, O'Casey suffered from trachoma, which affected his sight and made it difficult for him to succeed scholastically. He worked periodically throughout his adolescence as a stock boy, a van driver, and railway laborer. During this time, he became interested in Irish working class culture, as well as socialism and labor causes. In 1906 he joined the Gaelic League and began learning the Irish language. He changed his name to Sean O'Cathasaigh and began writing, primarily poetry. A few years later he joined the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and its offshoot, the Irish Citizen Army. He took part in the Dublin lock-out strike in 1913; however, he resigned from these organizations in 1914 and criticized their roles in the Easter Rising of 1916.

O'Casey began writing plays around 1916. His first play to be performed was The Shadow of a Gunman, produced in 1923 by the Abbey Theatre. By this time he had assumed the final iteration of his name, Sean O'Casey. He found continued success (and controversy) with subsequent plays, Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars. In 1926, he met Eileen Carey, an actress who was performing in the West End production of The Plough and the Stars, and they married on September 23, 1927. Together they had three children, Breon, Niall, and Shivaun.

Due to an increasingly strained relationship with the Abbey Theatre, which refused to produce his play The Silver Tassie, O'Casey and his new family moved permanently to England in 1929. He continued to write, and during this time produced plays, including Within the Gates (1934), The Star Turns Red (1940), and Purple Dust (1943). He also gained a following across the Atlantic when Lillian Gish starred in a production of Within the Gates in New York City.

Towards the end of his life O'Casey contended with increasing blindness. His son, Niall, died from leukemia in 1956. O'Casey died of a heart attack on September 18, 1964, at the age of 84.

Sources:

Cave, Richard Allen. "O'Casey, Sean (1880-1964), playwright and writer." In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (2004), accessed November 3, 2016, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35283.

Donoghue, Dennis. "The advantage he lacked was poverty." In The New York Times Book Review, July 3, 1988, http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/03/books/the-advantage-he-lacked-was-poverty.html

Moran, James. "Sean O'Casey." In Oxford Bibliographies in British and Irish Literature, accessed November 3, 2016, http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com.proxy.bc.edu/view/document/obo-9780199846719/obo-9780199846719-0101.xml

Extent

0.25 Linear Feet (1 container )

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

This collection documents Irish playwright Sean O'Casey's business, personal, and political activities through his correspondence. The collection also contains letters from his wife, Eileen, and son, Breon, to friends and business acquaintances regarding O'Casey. In addition, one flyer for the 1930 film adaptation of O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is included.

Arrangement

Chronological.

Provenance

The bulk of this collection was received prior to 1986. Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Subsequent accessions consisted of purchases from Maury A. Bromsen (1990), Stuart Lutz Historic Documents (2001), George Robert Minkoff, Inc. (2004), and a gift from Kathleen Flynn (2009).

Related Materials

Robert G. Lowery papers and collection of Sean O'Casey, MS.1996.025, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title
Boston College Collection of Sean O'Casey
Subtitle
1930-1969, undated (bulk 1954-1956)
Status
Completed
Author
Annalisa Moretti
Date
February 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

Contact:
John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States
617-552-4861
617-552-2465 (Fax)