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James Stephens Biography

(1882–1950), Sinn Fein, Insurrections, Collected Poems, The Charwoman's Daughter, The Crock of Gold

Irish poetand story-writer, born in Dublin. He came from a poor family and began writing while working as a clerk in a solicitor's office. The poems and articles he contributed in Sinn Fein brought him to the notice of George Russell (‘AE’) with whose encouragement Stephens published Insurrections (1909), one of several volumes of poems culminating in Collected Poems (1926; revised 1954). His first novel, The Charwoman's Daughter (1912), was a portrait in miniature of Dublin seen through the day-dreams of Mary Makebelieve, which reflected the poverty that Stephens had experienced in his formative years. Much of his less whimsical works have been overshadowed by his major novel, The Crock of Gold (1912), a fantasy combining Irish legend and folklore with parable and parody; it centres on two philosophers, their wives and two children, who live in a pine wood and encounter leprechauns, the god Pan, policemen, and others, in their search for happiness. Other novels include The Demi-Gods (1914) and Deirdre (1923). The Insurrection in Dublin (1916) manifests his fervent support for Irish independence. With his mastery of Irish literature and mythology Stephens did much to encourage a revival of interest in the Gaelic language; his many volumes of short stories include Irish Fairy Tales (1920; illustrated by Arthur Rackham). In later years, Stephens became a widely known broadcaster. A biography by A. Martin appeared in 1977.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Souvenirs to St Joan of the Stockyards (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe)