Biography of James Stephens
James Stephens was an Irish novelist and poet.
James Stephens produced many retellings of Irish myths and fairy tales. His retellings are marked by a rare combination of humor and lyricism (Deirdre, and Irish Fairy Tales are often especially praise). He also wrote several original novels (Crock of Gold, Etched in Moonlight, Demi-Gods) based loosely on Irish fairy tales. "Crock of Gold," in particular, achieved enduring popularity and was reprinted frequently throughout the author's lifetime.
Stephens began his career as a poet with the tutelage of "Æ" (George William Russell). His first book of poems, "Insurrections," was published during 1909. His last book, "Kings and the Moon" (1938), was also a volume of verse.
During the 1930s, Stephens had some acquaintance with James Joyce, who found that they shared a birth year (and, Joyce mistakenly believed, a birthday). Joyce, who was concerned with his ability to finish what later became Finnegans Wake, proposed that Stephens assist him, with the authorship credited to JJ & S (James Joyce & Stephens, also a pun for the popular Irish whiskey made by John Jameson & Sons). The plan, however, was never implemented, as Joyce was able to complete the work on his own.
During the last decade of his life, Stephens found a new audience through a series of broadcasts on the BBC.
Timeline of Stephens's Life
1880 (9 February). Possible date of birth of James Stephens in Dublin.
1882 (2 February). Date of birth used by Stephens.
1886-96 Attended Meath Protestant Industrial School for Boys.
1896 Employed as a clerk by a Dublin solicitor, Mr Wallace.
1901 Part of a gymnastic team which won the Irish Shield. Employed by Reddington & Sainsbury, solicitors.
1906 Employed as a clerk-typist in the office of T. T.Mecredy & Son, solicitors.
1907 Began regular contributions to Sinn Féin. Birth of stepdaughter, Iris, on 14 June; soon thereafter announced that he had a wife, "Cynthia" (Millicent Josephine Gardiner Kavanagh, 22 May 1882-18 December 1960). Discovered by George W. Russell (Æ).
1909 Insurrections. Acted in the Theatre of Ireland's two productions of Seumas O'Kelly's The Shuiler's Child. Birth of son, James Naoise, on 26 October.
1910 Acted in the Theatre of Ireland production of Gerald h Macnamara's The SPurious Sovereign. He was associated with David Houston, Thomas MacDonagh, and Padraic Colum in founding and editing the Irish Review (published March 1911-November 1914).
1911 Acted in Pádraic Ó Conaire's Bairbre Ruadh. The Marriage of Julia Elizabeth produced by the Theatre of Ireland.
1912 The Charwoman's Daughter, The Hill of Vision, Crock of Gold.
1912 Poems In the Poppy Field, In the Cool of the Evening, The Lonely God all from The Hill of Vision are included by Edward Marsh in his collection Georgian Poetry.
1913 Here Are Ladies, Five New Poems. Received a commission from The Nation (London) to write a series of short stories. Moved to Paris. Another production of The Marriage of Julia Elizabeth at the Hardwicke Street Theatre. Crock of Gold awarded the Polignac Prize.
1914 The Demi-Gods.
1915 Songs from the Clay, The Adventures of Seumas Beg/The Rocky Road to Dublin. Elected Unestablished Registrar of the National Gallery of Ireland.
1915 Poems The Rivals, The Goatpaths, The Snare, In Woods and Meadows, Deirdre all from Songs from the Clay are included by Edward Marsh in his collection Georgian Poetry.
1916 Green Branches, The Insurrection in Dublin.
1917 Poems The Fifteen Acres, Check, Westland Row, The Turn of the Road, A Visit from Abroad all from The Adventures of Seumas Beg are included by Edward Marsh in his collection Georgian Poetry.
1918-24 Appointed Registrar of the National Gallery of Ireland
1919 Married "Cynthia" (then a widow) in London on 14 May.
1920 Irish Fairy Tales. The Wooing of Julia Elizabeth (identical to The Marriage of Julia Elizabeth) produced at the Abbey Theatre by the Dublin Drama League. One of a series of operations for gastric ulcers.
1922 Arthur Griffith: journalist and Statesman.
1924 Little Things, In the Land of Youth. Deirdre presented the medal for fiction at the Aonach Tailteann festival. Resigned from the National Gallery.
1925 A Poetry Recital, Danny Murphy, Christmas in Freelands. On lecture tour in America. Returned to London; soon thereafter settled in the Kingsbury suburb of London. To America for another lecture tour.
1926 Collected Poems.
1927 Friendship with James Joyce commenced. Joyce suggested that Stephens complete Finnegans Wake if Joyce was unable to do so; this proposal made more formally during 1929.
1928 Etched in Moonlight, On Prose and Verse. First BBC broadcast. Lecturer at the Third International Book Fair in Florence.
1929 Julia Elizabeth: A Comedy, in one act, The Optimist, The Outcast. In Romania; met Queen Marie. Visit to America; stay with W. T. H. Howe.
1930 Theme and Variations. Visit to America; stay with Howe.
1931 How St. Patrick Saves the Irish, Stars Do Not Make a Noise,Strict Joy. Visit to America; stay with Howe.
1932 Visit to America; stay with Howe. A founder member of the Irish Academy of Letters.
1933-35 Yearly lecture tours to America; visits with Howe.
1937 Began regular series of BBC broadcasts. Accidental death of his son, James Naoise, on 24 December.
1938 Kings and the Moon.
1940 Moved to Woodside Chapel in Gloucestershire.
1942 Awarded British Civil List Pension.
1945 Returned to London.
1947 Awarded honorary D. Litt. degree from Dublin University (Trinity College).
1950 Final BBC broadcast. Death at Eversleigh on 26 December.
James Stephens's Works:
Crock of Gold
Etched in Moonlight
Irish Fairy Tales
Kings and the Moon (1938)
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James Stephens Poems
In The Poppy Field
Mad Patsy said, he said to me, That every morning he could see An angel walking on the sky; Across the sunny skies of morn
The night was creeping on the ground; She crept and did not make a sound Until she reached the tree, and then She covered it, and sole again
My enemy came nigh, And I Stared fiercely in his face. My lips went writhing back in a grimace,
I hear a sudden cry of pain! There is a rabbit in a snare: Now I hear the cry again, But I cannot tell from where.
The Ancient Elf
I am the maker, The builder, the breaker, The eagle-winged helper, The speedy forsaker!
I Heard A Bird At Dawn
I heard a bird at dawn Singing sweetly on a tree, That the dew was on the lawn, And the wind was on the lea;
The Spring In Ireland: 1916
I Do not forget my charge I beg of you ; That of what flow'rs you find of fairest hue
The Lonely God
So Eden was deserted, and at eve Into the quiet place God came to grieve. His face was sad, His hands hung slackly down Along his robe; too sorrowful to frown
In The Cool Of The Evening
I thought I heard Him calling. Did you hear A sound, a little sound? My curious ear Is dinned with flying noises, and the tree Goes -- whisper, whisper, whisper silently
In the scented bud of the morning—O, When the windy grass went rippling far, I saw my dear one walking slow, In the field where the daisies are.
The wind stood up and gave a shout. He whistled on his fingers and Kicked the withered leaves about And thumped the branches with his hand
The Goat Paths
The crooked paths go every way Upon the hill - they wind about Through the heather in and out Of the quiet sunniness.
Come with me, under my coat, And we will drink our fill Of the milk of the white goat, Or wine, if it be thy will;
The Glass Of Beer
The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer: May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.
The Ancient Elf
I am the maker,
The builder, the breaker,
The eagle-winged helper,
The speedy forsaker!
The lance and the lyre,
The water, the fire,
The tooth of oppression,
The lip of desire!