Best known as a playwright, J M Synge also wrote insightful essays about the the people and landscape of Ireland. These were first collected book form in 1910. This edition adds an introduction and photographs exploring Ireland's changes since Synge's time.
John Millington Synge (1871-1909) is best remembered as a dramatist: one of the great leaders of the Irish theatre, and creator of several of the best plays in the English lanauage. Less well known, especially outside Ireland, is Synge the astute and passionate observer of Irish country life and the author of this sensitive prose work In Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara.
This book is a collection of Synge's writings on the people of the Irish countriside, the way they lived and talked and how they looked at life. His concern was not with the landed gentry from which he descended, but for the ordinary twamps, tinkers, fisherman and farmers who lived close to the land, with little of the encumbrances and trappings of modern civilization. Synge more than any other observer of his time entered the consciousness of the Irish country people. As Daniel Corkery wrote: "we cannot read these papers without learning that he knew the necessity of drenching himself with all the influences of the place -- the folklore, the weather, the home life, life on the sea, in the fields, the nights, the winds, the stars -- all these influences which have been time out of mind working their will on the consciousness of the people."
To the anthropologist, folklorist, historian and interested observer this book is a valuable document of the lifewarys and conditions of Kerry, Connemara, Mayo and Wicklow at the turn of the century. To those interested in Synge the dramatist, this book contains the raw material – the fragments of folklore, patterns of speech, sayings and proverbs – that provided the plots and characters for several of his plays.
The work in introduced by anthropologist George Gmelch who has conducted research in many of the places Synge wrote about and who discusses Synge as an observer and collector of Irish folklore, and by Professor Ann Saddlemyer, author of several works on Synge and editor of Synge's letters and plays.
The book contains a unique photographic record of the places Synge described, which are also some of the most beautiful areas of Ireland. It documents visually and with extensive captions and notes some of the changes which have occurred in the seventy years since the book was first published.