Friday, August 7, 2015

Dunsany Praised

So, the query regarding Hemingway and Dunsany, it occurred to me that the extent to which American writers admired the Irish lord's work deserved being highlighted in a post of its own rather than just the comments on a post devoted to a different topic.  Accordingly, here's a paragraph from my dissertation* that summarizes the tremendous splash Dunsany had over here during his brief vogue just after the War.

*BEYOND THE FIELDS WE KNOW: THE SHORT STORIES OF LORD DUNSANY, Chapter Two: THE BOOKS OF WONDER, section (ix) Lionization, pages 123-124:

"It is hard now to convey just how popular Dunsany was in the decade centering around 1919-1920. Mencken considered it a coup to get his stories for THE SMART SET and to be the one to introduce him to the American public. New York theaters fought over the right to put on his newest play. Film studios in Germany, England, and America tried to negotiate contracts to make movies out of his plays or to have him write scripts for them. F. Scott Fitzgerald includes a scene in his first novel where his young hero goes through a 'Dunsany period' at college (immediately after his PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY stage), when he and a friend take turns reading Dunsany's poetry back and forth to each other.  Ernest Hemingway took his tales along with him on a camping trip and read them aloud to his friends at night around the campfire; in typical laconic fashion, Hemingway contributes the briefest evaluation of Dunsany on records ("He's great").  James Thurber starred in a college production of A NIGHT AT AN INN which was apparently a great success. When J. B. Pond lured Dunsany over on a lecture tour from October 1919 through January 1920 he was feted and lionized, ranked with top authors of the day like Spanish novelist Blasco Ibanez (THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE) and recent Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck (THE BLUE BIRD). Between engagements he spent his time socializing with the Maeterlincks and ex-President Roosevelt's family, and meeting Kahlil Gibran (THE PROPHET), Mencken, and, as he casually remarks on one occasion, "all the poets in America." Everywhere he was deluged by reporters, who wanted his opinions on every topic imaginable. His lectures were packed; they were so successful that Pond made plans for him to tour the West as well as the East. At a lecture in Boston he so impressed one writer in the audience, H. P. Lovecraft, that Lovecraft devoted the next seven years to writing imitation Dunsany. On all sides Dunsany was treated as one of the greatest living writers, by public and intelligentsia alike.
   On the one hand he reveled in it, and on the other it made him uneasy . . . "

--and this does not include things like Joyce's interest in Dunsany's play A NIGHT AT AN INN, nor Yeats' role in launching Dunsany's career as a playwright (Yeats also edited the first anthology of Dunsany's work).

--JDR, 1990.

1 comment:

Magister said...

I'd love to see that dissertation published.