Collection SC063 - Denis Johnston collection

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Denis Johnston collection

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  • 1926 - 1992 (Creation)
    Johnston, Denis, 1901-1984

Physical description area

Physical description

12 cm of textual records

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Denis Johnston was an Irish playwright and writer. He was born in Dublin and educated at Dublin, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Harvard Law School, receiving an M.A. and LL.M. from Cambridge in 1926. He became interested in playwriting while he was at Harvard. Upon his return to Dublin, he wrote "Shadowdance" (later called "The Old Lady Says No!") in 1926. After practising law, both in Ireland and England, he joined the Dublin Gate Theatre and became its Director from 1931-1936. Next, he worked in various capacities for the BBC. After moving to America, he became head of the Department of Theatre at Smith College, Massachusetts in 1961 and subsequently held many academic posts in the United States until 1973. He authored numerous plays including "The Old Lady Says 'No'", "The Moon in the Yellow River", "The Golden Cuckoo", and "The Scythe and the Sunset". His autobiography, "Nine Rivers from Jordan", was published in 1953. This formed the basis for his later work "The Brazen Horn". He died in Dublin.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The collection consists of Johnston's second typescript draft (as finally rejected) of "Shadowdance", later called "The Old Lady Says No!", with holograph corrections by W.B. Yeats and others. Also included are photocopies of several early drafts of this play, including the aforementioned. In addition, there is the author's proof copy, with corrections, of "The Brazen Horn, Lenaea 5" (1968) [probably for 2nd ed. 1969, amended to Lenaea 6]. The fonds also consists of correspondence from Denis and Betty Johnston to Bill and Mary Harbold from 1973-1982; a signed photograph of Johnston; photocopies of book reviews and book chapters re Johnston; a copy of Nine Rivers from Jordan with final corrections; and a copy of the libretto of Nine Rivers from Jordan.

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General note

Authors, Irish--20th century--Manuscripts; Dramatists, Irish--20th century--Correspondence; Dramatists, Irish--Manuscripts; English drama--Irish authors; Irish drama; Irish literature; Johnston, Denis, 1901-1984. Brazen horn; Johnston, Denis, 1901-1984. Nine rivers from Jordan; Johnston, Denis, 1901-1984. Old lady says no!; Johnston, Denis, 1901-1984--Correspondence

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Revised by JF, June 25, 2013.

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