Autograph Letter Signed discussing two of his plays, with illustration, on printed address stationery, Devon, Nov. 22, 1960. Unpublished in the "Letters of Sean O'Casey."
by O'CASEY, SEAN
O'Casey refers to two of his little known plays, actors, the Abbey Theater and Lady Gregory. He writes to Lewis Funke, Esq. (1912-1992), drama editor, "The New York Times." O'Casey makes it clear at the outset and end of the letter that he is ill by drawing a sketch of himself lying on his back under a blanket, his feet sticking out, a pointed object hanging over his mouth. He writes under the self-portrait sketch, "And so to bed again," a fitting reference to the Diary of Samuel Pepys.The letter reads: "Dear Lewis, Writing this from the De Profundis of a bed - a damned "Communistic" virus infiltrated into me body politick, and laid me low. 'Cooing of Doves' - at the time of its rejection, I told Gabriel Fallon, then a friend of mine and an Abbey [Abbey Theater] actor at the time, now a Director of the Abbey; and Barry Fitzgerald, another friend then & who is so still. Lady Gregory alone of the others remembered, and, when I went to Coole Park, she mentioned how happily the "Cooing of Doves" became welded into the heart of another play. It went in with but a few minor changes , but what puzzled me was why "Kathleen Listens In" [a lost early play of O'Casey] was preferred to it in the first instance; for then puzzlement was the one way of solving it, for I know very little then about Theater or anything else. I'm glad Phyllis was there to hear what I said about her. Next time she's with you, give her a kiss form me - a real affectionate one. My love to Mrs. Funke....as ever Sean....". Lewis Bernard Funke was a freelance writer, born in the Bronx in 1912. He worked for "The New York Times" as a sports writer from 1928-1944 when he became drama editor and assistant drama critic. He continued to work for The Times until 1973 as Drama critic and editor. The next seven years were spent as visiting professor School Theater, Florida State University, Tallahassee. During this same period and further to 1986, he was a public relations consultant for the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Center. Sean O'Casey and Lewis Funke had a correspondence that lasted at least from 1955 through 1961.Sean O'Casey's first plays were performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin where he was born. In about 1926, due to his "penchant for argument," he was cast out of the Abbey and cast himself out of Ireland. In 1923 he submitted a play, "Cooing of Doves," to the Abbey and William Butler Yeats rejected it. It was later incorporated into "The Plough and The Stars," but it was never performed as a one-act play and was lost for 80 years, not coming to light again until 2005.Another one of O'Casey's lost plays was a one-act play entitled "Kathleen Listens In." Robert Caswell, a student at Trinity College, Dublin, found the lost manuscript in 1958. A letter from Robert H. Hethmon, assistant professor at University of Wisconsin, dated December 22, 1960, mentions the publication of "Kathleen Listens In" in "The Tulane Drama Review." Documentation in O'Casey's Papers at the National Library of Ireland notes that sometime in the second half of 1960, O'Casey met with Gabriel Fallon, the actor who proposed a book of O'Casey's early works, a book to be edited by Robert Hogan. It was published, in 1962, as "Feathers From the Green Crow: Sean O'Casey 1905-1925." The note in the Papers also comments on "Kathleen Listens In" as being "held by Fallon."The Abbey Theatre in Dublin was co-founded by the Irish dramatist, Lady Augusta Gregory and William Butler Yeats. Lady Gregory was a Director of the Abbey Theatre. She lived in Coole Park, County Galway where she entertained the likes of Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. Gabriel Fallon was an actor and friend of O'Casey's, even in 1960 based on evidence in The Papers. He also reviewed plays for the Evening Press in Dublin at this time. Barry Fitzgerald, born Will Shields, was also an actor. He, and his brother, Arthur Shields, were in the 1937 John Ford film of O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars."O'Casey ends the letter on a personal note, referring to Funke's daughter, Phyllis, who, at the time of this letter was probably in high school as in 1964 she was enrolled at Columbia University, and also referring to Funke's wife.
(Inventory #: 4356)
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