A Letter from Lady Gregory

Sep 20, 2010

As our staff try to recover from the Symposium and get our notes together to share with you our speakers and what they said, please enjoy the third installment of our intern series. Over the summer, the Theodore Roosevelt Center had four remote interns who worked primarily on cataloging parts of the collection. At the end of the summer, we asked them to write a blog entry about their experience.

This summer I was lucky enough to land an internship with the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in North Dakota. Having my undergrad in history and now pursuing my master’s in both history and library science, the idea of being able to catalog the papers of one of our nation’s most interesting presidents was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t let pass me by. Call me a history geek if you want, but having direct access to such an enormous piece of Roosevelt’s personal correspondence was almost like stumbling upon a celebrity’s diary and then reading it front to back to try to seize a better understanding of their struggles, triumphs, and daily happenings in life. Now of course I wasn’t just sitting in front of my computer screen with a bowl of popcorn reading Roosevelt’s personal letters and telegrams, I was adding metadata (that complies with certain standards) to the documents, helping users with navigability of the digital library that will soon house digital copies of Roosevelt’s papers.

The idea of a digital library is an incredible one. Just imagine. You’re interested in writing about Theodore Roosevelt’s first term in office for your senior thesis (or for any other reason!) and you’ve read books and journal articles regarding the matter, but you’re interested in reading primary documents like his personal correspondence during those years. Well without a digital library you would have to travel to whatever institution houses these documents. In this case, The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. With access to a digital library, however, you would have access to these documents from any computer with an internet connection! With that being said, the digital library at the Theodore Roosevelt Center has enormous amount to offer all citizens interested in not only politics and his presidency, but also America during the early 1900s and how it was still a young but powerful nation.

Lady Gregory writes to Roosevelt in 1903 to discuss Irish Literature. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts division. To see the full digital document, go here.

One of my favorite documents that I came across was a letter from Lady Gregory to Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. Lady Gregory was a well known Irish author, famous for her comedic plays and works involving Irish mythological figures. In 1907 Roosevelt himself published an article in The Century Magazine titled, “The Ancient Irish Sagas,” in which he praises Lady Gregory’s work, while more extensively lamenting America’s lack of original study and research in early Celtic literature. In her letter to Roosevelt, Gregory seems thrilled that the American president has read the tales of Cúchulainn, a popular Irish mythological hero. It’s evident after reading her letter that she has a deep love for her country and its rich folklore, and she hopes that one day Americans with Irish roots will return to Ireland if only to visit the places in which these magical stories played out.

In her autobiography, published in 1913, the revered Irish author recollects visiting Roosevelt and his family at their Oyster Bay residence during one of her trips to America. This sneak peek into Gregory’s life is interesting because it reveals that years after their initial interaction with each other, she and Roosevelt remained in contact and obviously on good terms if a personal visit to his private home followed.

In the same letter, Lady Gregory hoped Roosevelt would one day visit Ireland himself.

Cataloging this letter from Gregory to Roosevelt really caught my attention for a few reasons. One because I could really feel Gregory’s passion for Irish literature, the pride she had in her country, and the strong desire she had to catch the interest of Irish-Americans living in the United States. Probably the biggest part of this letter that caught my eye was the mention of the Irish mythological character, Cúchulainn. I remember a few years back reading Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, in which the main character recalls his father telling him the tales of Cúchulainn. Coming across this letter inspired me to do a little research on this Irish idol that I’ve been hearing so much about. Now I’ve found myself reading Lady Gregory’s own work, Cuchulain of Muirthemne!

My experience working for the Theodore Roosevelt Center was a great one and I highly encourage anyone with an interest in his presidency and life to check it out – you may be surprised at the cool things you’ll come across!

Lindsey Fresta is a recent graduate of Roger Williams University and a current student at Simmons College where she is pursuing a Masters in History and Masters in Library Information with a concentration in archival management.

Posted by Lindsey Fresta on Sep 20, 2010 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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