LORD DUNSANY 1878-1957

Edward Plunkett, who became the eighteenth Baron Dunsany in 1899, was born in London on 24 July 1878. Educated at Eton, he entered the Coldstream Guards in 1899 and served in the Boer War before settling at Dunsany Castle in Co. Meath, which his family had occupied since 1190. The versatile peer was an accomplished cricketer, a chess champion, a big game hunter and, unlike many Anglo-lrish writers, always a devoted servant of the Crown.

In 1905 Dunsany published his first book of stories, The Gods of Pegana, quickly followed by Tlme and the Gods (1906) and The Sword of Welleran (1908). Most were fantasies, not unlike the later work of J.R.R. Tolkien, and he formed an enduring partnership with their illustrator S. H. Sime.

Through his uncle Horace Plunkett, the pioneer of cooperation, Dunsany met W.B. Yeats and wrote The Glittering Gate (1909) for the Abbey Theatre. King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior (1911) was also produced there, but relations with Yeats and Lady Gregory soon deteriorated. Dunsany felt that Lady Gregory had plagiarised Argimenes in The Deliverer staged a week earlier, and Oliver St John Gogarty reckoned that Yeats envied Dunsany's title.

In 1911 The Gods of the Mountain was staged in London, the short play, set in the East, concerns beggars who unwisely pass themselves off as gods. Dunsany's reputation was further enhanced by The Book of Wonder (1912), largely inspired by Sime drawings, and several short plays became popular, especially in America. With the outbreak of war in 1914, he became a captain in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; he was on leave in Ireland during the 1916 rising and was wounded after offering his services in Dublin.

Dunsany scored a London hit in 1921 with a full length play, If, another Eastern fantasy, then turned to novels such as The Chronicles of Rodrigues (1922) and The Blessings of Pan (1927). He eventually tackled Irish themes, notably in The Curse of the Wise Woman (1933), his most autobiographical novel, and Up in the Hills (1935). His African adventures led to the creation of the comic figure of Joseph Jorkens, who tells tall stories in the mythical Billiards Club; five Jorkens collections were published between 1931 and 1954. Dunsany died in Dublin on 25 October 1957.