George Fitzmaurice

George Fitzmaurice was born in 1877 near Listowel in Co. Kerry. In 1901 he became a clerk in Dublin, in the Congested Districts Board. After returning from his war service he worked in the Land Commission, and he transferred to the Department of Agriculture in 1932. He retired in 1942, and continued to live in Dublin.

His short stories were published in the Dublin weeklies between 1900 and 1907. His play The Country Dressmaker was produced at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, in the same year as Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. It was revived in 1912, the first full-length play to be revived by the theatre, and it became the fifth most frequently performed play in the Abbey repertoire. The last of his plays to be perfumed at the Abbey was ‘Twixt the Giltinans and the Carmodys, in 1923; no more of his plays were produced there until 1969, six years after his death. He did have plays performed by the Lyric Theatre and the Peacock Theatre in 1945, 1948, and 1949.

Fitzmaurice’s contribution to the fantastic are his “folk-plays”: The Pie-Dish (performed 1908), The Magic Glasses (1913), The Dandy Dolls (1945), The Linnaun Shee (1949), and The Green Stone (published 1926)These are characterised by their North Kerry dialect, and by their fascination with the borderland between the human and the fairy. In The Magic Glasses, a “brown woman” sells Jaymony a set of nine magic glasses, which allow the owner to enter another world where he can fulfil his most secret wishes. The Linnaun Shee is a shape-shifting female, who can lure men away from their homes with her song.

He died in a Dublin rooming house in 1963, at 3 Harcourt Street. A single battered suitcase contained copies of his published plays, and MSS of some unpublished plays. There was no copy of Five Plays (1914), the only collection published in his lifetime. By his bed was the following note:

Author is prepared to sell outright all rights in 14 plays dealing intimately with life in the Irish countryside. Most have already been other printed to published. Suitable to which to build musical, television, etc. Pass to anyone interested.

He kept no diary, and few of his letters survived. He was a bachelor, and a recluse. He used to be seen drinking Guinness at Mooney’s and some other pubs. He was not seen to buy rounds (McGuinness, 15).

Arthur E. McGuinness, George Fitzmaurice (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1975). There is a more detailed discussion of the plays in Carol W. Gelderman, George Fitzmaurice (Boston: Twayne, 1979). An up-to-date brief account of his life is given by Diarmaid Ferriter in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

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