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Lady Gregory.

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Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory.


Born Isabella Augusta Persse, at Roxborough House eight miles from Coole in County Galway, the house which was burned during the Irish Civil War, 1921 stood in a 6,000 acre estate. She was the youngest daughter of Dudley and Frances Presse, she was educated at home, her future life was influenced by her nanny Mary Sheridan, a Catholic who introduced her to the history and legends of the local area and also to the Irish language. Roxborough House unlike other great houses of the time did not have a library and her mother because of her adherence to a strict evangelical Protestant, doctrine forbade her to read novels until she was 18

On 4 March 1880 at the age of 28 she married Sir William Henry Gregory, a widower 35 years her senior. He had returned home to Coole house after serving as Governor of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Sir William Gregory was a well educated man, his home Coole Park had a well stocked library which the new Lady Gregory put to good use. He also had a house in London in which the couple spent a considerable time, entertaining on a weekly basis many leading literary and artistic figures of the time including Robert Browning, Lord Tennyson, John Everett Millais and Henry James.

The couple had one son Robert Gregory born on 20th May 1881, Robert was tragically killed while serving as a pilot during threw First World war, this event inspired W B Yeates to write the poems "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" and "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory"

After the death of Lord Gregory in 1882 Lady Gregory threw herself wholeheartedly into the study of Irish literature and folklore, she taught herself Irish by visiting local people and talking to them, while doing this she collected stories and traditions. She wrote poems, short stories and about 40 plays. It was in no small way thanks to her that Dublin's Abbey theater was formed. Her journals written between 1916-30 were published in 1946.

She was a generous woman possessed of great energy and talent, she died in 1932 and is buried in the new cemetery in Galway.

The house at Coole Park was demolished in 1941, the grounds are open to the public. She is remembered in James Joyce's limerick below, it would appear that Joyce was a frequent recipient of Lady Gregory's patronage.

There was a kind lady called Gregory,
Said 'Come to me poets in beggary'
But found her imprudence
When thousands of students
Cried 'All we are in that category'.

Read an account of Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory on Wikipedia here

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