Bean an Phoist says: A few weeks ago, I asked NLI staff to pick things they love in our collections (maybe also about love) and to write about them for Valentine’s Day. Those who weren’t nimble enough to avoid me since then, are included here. And there will be two other posts today – Honora Faul with her love picks from our Ephemera, Music, and Prints and Drawings Collections; and Nora Thornton on a beautiful Patrick Kavanagh love letter…
I love Sean O’Casey!
by Giada Gelli, Collections Student
I am cataloguing the personal library of the great playwright Sean O’Casey, and when I found these 2 yellowed pages stuffed into a dusty volume of The Poetical Works of Robert Burns I thought I’d found an unpublished typescript. Reading it was like opening a small window onto O’Casey’s heart and soul. The text is written very personally (‘I’d liefer sit listening to the birds singing, watch flowers blooming, or hoist myself into a reverie of years that time has taken away…’), but in his personal style so attentive to everyday life (‘peeling patatoes [sic], preparing string beans, shelling peas, getting the breakfast during the holidays to give Eileen a rest…’).
At one point I had to chuckle when I read ‘I often wondered if Yeats ever speeled [sic] a spud?’. Pure brilliance. The title, O’Casey’s Codex, didn’t ring a bell, so after a bit of research and the invaluable help of a friend (thanks Shivaun!), it turned out to be in fact the draft for a published article. Originally written for the New York Herald Tribune, it was published with the title ‘Sean O’Casey, formerly of Dublin’ on 12 October 1952. (The Letters of Sean O’Casey. Volume II, David Krause, p. 903). No unpublished writing then, but the confirmation once again of the greatness of the man, the Maestro Sean O’Casey.
Bean an Phoist says: As well as being Collections Student, Giada also asked to be described as “Charming and beautiful with brains”
I love digital stuff!
by Della Murphy, Born Digital Programme Manager
This time last year we were in the grip of Election Fever, but you can still feel the fever of lurve alongside last year’s general election results with this slideshow on TheJournal.ie from Monday, 14 February 2011, all archived with tender loving care as part of our Web Archiving Programme. I would love it if you would check out our General Election 2011 Web Archive for a reminder of what was going on around Valentine’s Day 2011…
Bean an Phoist says: Shameless plugging, Della
Eating people is wrong… or is it?
by Katherine McSharry, Head of Services (and Desperately Seeking a Dragon)
I fell in love with this image, from our Prints and Drawings collection, when I first saw it (quite a number of years ago now). I have been longing for just such a dragon of my own ever since. Look at his gorgeous big pleading eyes, and his kindly demeanour.
Admittedly, he occasionally eats people – but he so clearly just wants someone to love him, and which of us doesn’t have our faults? Any sensitive dragon, GSOH, own teeth and with controllable flame, in need of a loving friend, may apply to me care of the National Library. All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Leslies in Love
by Emma Lyons, Research Student in Irish History
While working on the Leslie Papers, I came across a letter written in 1884 by Sir John (“Jack”) Leslie (2nd Bart) of Castle Leslie, County Monaghan, to his fiancée, Leonie Blanche Jerome, youngest daughter of Leonard Jerome, a Wall Street speculator and ‘patron of the turf’ in America.
From the first time he set eyes on Leonie, Jack at once intended to marry her, although his first proposal was turned down immediately. However, following a subsequent meeting in Dublin in 1883, the couple were reunited, and Leonie fell in love with the ‘handsome and aristocratic Anglo-Irishman’. Despite their strong love, neither family approved of the match. Although from a wealthy land-owning family, Jack, who studied art in Paris, did not possess any money of his own, and therefore was not deemed a suitable match for the Jeromes’ daughter. For the Leslies, the mésalliance stemmed from the fact that Leonie was an ‘unknown American’, and therefore an unacceptable wife for their son.
Their parents’ opposition did not thwart the couple’s love, however, and they were in constant contact with one another, writing at least one letter each day. As a consequence, a significant bundle of Jack and Leonie’s ‘love letters’ has survived amongst the Leslie Papers. While each one is fascinating, one letter in particular demonstrates not only the love that the couple had for one another, but also highlights the fact that in a period where many marriages were arranged for financial or social gain, a small minority of marriages truly were for love.
The letter in question, penned by Jack Leslie to his ‘sweet, sweet Leonie’, begins by reminding her of the ‘pleasure of hearing from you [Leonie]’, and notes that although ‘it is a week today since we parted … it feels to me months already’, reminding her how very ‘sweet’ it will be when they do eventually see each other again. Jack’s references to his father’s disapproval of the match tarnishes the romantic theme somewhat, although the line that ‘he thinks that in love one is blind’ somewhat softens a potentially upsetting and distressing topic for his fiancée. Moreover, he further assures Leonie that he will not give in to his father’s wishes, telling her that ‘I love you more than him, home or anything’.
In addition to including romantic phrases and thoughts, the first page of the letter includes a sketch of a sunset over a lake in Pettigo, County Donegal, which formed part of the Castle Leslie estate. To the sketch, Jack had pinned a sprig of heather and a small wing feather from a pheasant, perhaps to give the drawing a three dimensional effect, or to give Leonie something as a keepsake should she have to destroy the letter in a bid to conceal it from her family.
Jack’s letter to Leonie, in addition to providing a detailed snapshot of their relationship, is very poignant and demonstrates the challenges which faced couples who decided to contravene the social norms of the time and marry for love.
Bean an Phoist heaves a sigh for the days when people wrote love letters…