Syracuse University Libraries Has Acquired the Estate Archive of Irish Writer Padraic Colum

Syracuse, NY—The Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries has acquired the estate archive of Irish writer Padraic Colum.

Born in County Longford in 1881, Colum attended University College Dublin. In Dublin, he joined the Irish Republican Army, gaelicized his name, and began writing poetry and plays. His award-winning one act play The Saxon Shillin’ attracted the attention of William Butler Yeats, who invited him to join the newly established Abbey Theater. By 1905, Colum had become a central figure in the burgeoning Irish Literary Renaissance―a movement that included Lady Gregory, Æ, and James Joyce. In 1911, he married Mary Gunnind Maguire (“Molly”). The Colums moved to the United States in 1912. There, Padraic shifted his attention from Ireland’s turbulent present to its mythical past. Children’s books, such as The King of Ireland’s Son (1916), earned him critical acclaim and financial security. Later, the Colums renewed their friendship with Joyce, having known him from his formative Dublin years through his later Paris exile period, and co-wrote with Molly Our Friend James Joyce (1958). In the sixties, following the death of his beloved Molly, Colum returned to drama, penning a series of “Noh” (a form of Japanese musical drama) that sought to connect Ireland’s past and present. He died in 1972 in Enfield, Connecticut.

This significant Colum archive, donated by Eric D. Sherman ’91, includes manuscript notebooks, typescripts, and correspondence, including letters from Jack Yeats, W. Somerset Maugham, Van Wyck Brooks, Edmund Wilson, Thornton Wilder, and others. The book collection includes not only books by the Colums, but also from friends and scholars, inscribed to the Colums. Sherman (‘91) says the collection represents “an important opportunity for students and scholars to have access to one of the three major American holdings of these two literary figures who played unique roles throughout the 20th century evolution of Ireland’s culture and history.”

Syracuse University Press, a unit of Syracuse University Libraries, publishes a respected series in Irish Studies, which includes the Selected Short Stories of Padraic Colum (1985), the Selected Plays of Padraic Colum (1986), and the Selected Poems of Padraic Colum (1989), all edited by English Professor Emeritus Sanford Sternlicht. Asked to comment on the acquisition of the Colum archive, Sternlicht said, “As a Colum scholar, I am delighted that Syracuse University Libraries have obtained the Colum archive. I eagerly await the opportunity to investigate it and perhaps continue to write about this great Irish literary figure.”

The Berg Collection at New York Public Library’s and the State University of New York at Binghamton also hold significant collections relating to Padraic Colum. Syracuse University’s Padraic Colum archive will be open to researchers after it has been processed by staff in the Special Collections Research Center. For more information, please contact Senior Director of Special Collections Sean M Quimby at smquimby@syr.edu

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