On Irishness

“I am only too pleased that the Dublin Drama League want to do The Emperor Jones. I wish I could get to Dublin to see your production. Perhaps I can. I will certainly try to. It is about time, I think, for although I am all Irish on both sides of my family, I have never been nearer to Ireland than the harbor of Queenstown—when I used to be a sailor on the transatlantic liners.”
     —Letter to Mrs. William Butler Yeats (1/6/1927)

“As for the [British] newspapers, most of their critics were frankly outraged [over British production of The Great God Brown]. That a bleedin’ Yank should presume to think was bad enough, but that he should have the shocking bad taste to expect an audience of English gentlemen to think with him—an act of God that hasn’t happened in the English theatre since the Restoration!—was an atrocity only to be compared to the rape—or whatever it was—of Edith Cavell by the late Huns…I go into this so lengthily because it amused me more than a little—especially the strange forms Mr. Ervine’s [the playwright above, also a critic] self-disappointment takes. I am Irish enough at heart to love to see the English make damn fools of themselves, I guess. Ervine is an Orangeman [an Irish Protestant]. That makes it even more toothsome!”
     —Letter to O’Neill’s dentist and friend J.O. Lief (8/7/1927)

“When I say I’m happy now, it is deeply true. My only unhappiness is what I expressed in my last letter—a bitter feeling of sadness when I think over all our years together and what the passage of time has done to us. At such moments I feel life-disgusted and hopeless. It gives me the intolerable feeling that it is perhaps not in the nature of living life itself that fine beautiful things may exist for any great length of time, that human beings are fated to destroy just that in each other which constitutes their mutual happiness. Fits of cosmic Irish melancholia, I guess!”
     —Letter to his second wife Agnes Boulton requesting a divorce (12/26?/27)

“I’m becoming quite a fan for the Basque country and its people and am getting more and more to think that it’s here I may be destined to round out my days. I already have a deep feeling of home about it, even if my knowledge of French, let alone Basque!, is worse than elementary, although I can read it a bit. But they say the Basques come from the same stock as the original Black Irish to which I obviously belong, so maybe that’s it.”
     —Letter to Theresa Helburn (7/13/1928)