Famed Irish author Padraic Colum gave a highly anticipated lecture at D’Youville College on January 14, 1920. Florence Keady (DYC class of 1921) wrote an article on the author and his work. Published in the D’Youville Magazine, Keady wrote, “To readers in a country that can boast neither of fairies nor folk-lore, there is no need to apologize for writing about fairy tales or their makers. The present article will deal with those stories of the heroes of the dawn and the elves of twilight which one of the most distinguished of modern Irish penmen has written down for us in a prose of singular sweetness and charm.”¹
Padraic Colum (1881-1972, pronounced “Paudrig Column”) was a prolific author of poetry, novels, plays, and children’s books. Along with William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, Sean O’Casey, and George William Russell (AE), Colum was part of the Irish Literary Revival of the late 19th and early 20th century. He was a member of the Gaelic League and on the first board of the famed Abbey Theatre in Dublin where several of his plays were performed. Colum also had a lifelong friendship with James Joyce and transcribed portions of Finnegans Wake for Joyce in the early 1930s.
In 1911, he founded the literary journal, The Irish Review with Mary Gunning Maguire, David Houston, and Thomas MacDonagh. The Review published influential writers in the Revival, including Yeats. A year later, Colum married Maguire and in 1914, they traveled to the United States, and while only intending to stay a month or two, they remained in the US for 8 years. It was during this time that Colum began to write children’s books. Of this he has stated:
It was while in America, in the first year I was here, that I began to write stories for children. My beginning in this field was something of an accident. In order to keep what knowledge I had of Irish I used to translate every day some passages from that language. The only text I had at one time was a long folk-story. This I translated. Then one of the editors of the New York Tribune who had charge of a children’s page asked me if I had anything that could go on that page. I handed in my translation and it was published as a little serial. ²
Colum was awarded three retrospective Newberry Honors for The Golden Fleece (1922), The Voyagers (1926), and Big Tree of Bunlahy (1934). The D’Youville Archives holds several books by Colum, many of which are signed by the author. These are:
- A Boy in Eirinn (1916)
- The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter (1920)
- The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles (1921)
- The Children who Followed the Piper (1922)
- The Island of the Mighty (1924)
- The Peep-Show Man (1924)
- The Forge in the Forest (1925)
¹ “Padraic Column’s Fairy Books,” by Florence Keady in D’Youville Magazine, vol. IX, no. 4 (Fall, 1919), pp.189-191.
² “Padraic Colum,” from The Baldwin Project, accessed February 7, 2012. Online at http://www.mainlesson.com/displayauthor.php?author=colum.
³ “Padraic Column at D’Youville,” by Marian Reed in D’Youville Magazine, vol. X, no. 1 (Winter, 1920), pp.54-55.