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Padraic Colum Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 9 Jul 2014

Biographical History

Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was an Irish poet, novelist, playwright, author and collector of folklore.

Born in County Longford in Ireland, Colum was the oldest of eight children. He began to write in his early twenties, quickly establishing a reputation in Irish literary circles. In 1912 he married Mary Gunning Maguire (1884-1957), a fellow student at University College Dublin. Mary, raised by her grandmother Catherine Gunning and educated at St. Louis' Convent in Monaghan, was a noted author and critic in her own right. The couple was friends with many notable figures in Irish national and cultural circles, including poet W. B. Yeats, folkorist Lady Gregory, novelist James Joyce, and political activist Patrick Pearse, who with his brother Willie was executed for his leading role in the 1916 Easter Rising. Prior to her marriage Mary taught at Patrick Pearse's St. Ita's School.

Beginning in 1914 Padraic and Mary spent a great deal of time in the United States, particularly in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and in New York City, where both taught at Columbia University. Mary herself was also an author and critic (see for example "Declaration of Independence: Mary Colum as Autobiographer" by Sandy Sternlicht, in The Courier, Volume XXXII, 1997). Padraic became a U.S. citizen in 1945. Mary died in 1957. Mary's nephew Emmet Greene, son of her sister Bridget, was for many years a close friend of the couple; he eventually took over management of Padraic's schedule and finances, particularly after Padraic suffered a stroke in his late eighties, and served as executor of Padraic's literary estate until his own death in 1983.

Colum's wide-ranging literary output included poems and poem cycles ( The Poet's Circuits), plays ( Thomas Muskerry), song lyrics ("She Moved Through the Fair"), essays, novels ( The Flying Swans), biographies ( Our Friend James Joyce, written with his wife Mary), children's stories and much more.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Padraic Colum Papers consists of material relating directly to Padraic and his wife Mary, writings, and material relating to Padraic Colum's estate after his death in 1972.

Padraic and Mary Colum material consists of correspondence, financial and legal material, and memorabilia. Most of the correspondence is incoming, and encompasses friends, family, and literary colleagues. Family includes Susie Colum Ruth, Padraic's sister; Bridget Greene, Mary's sister (known to her family and friends as Bid, Bidelia, and Delia), including letters to her from their father Charles Maguire; Emmet Greene, Bridget's son and Mary's nephew; and assorted members of the Colum, Maguire, Greene and Gunning families. Notable literary correspondents include editor Louise Seaman Bechtel and authors William Rose Benet, Cyril Clemens, Archibald Macleish and Thornton Wilder. Important political figures include French peace activist Maria Jolas, outspoken anti-Nazi Hubertus Prinz zu Löwenstein, and Irish nationalist Patrick Pearse. The James Joyce folders include a letter from C. G. Jung to Joyce, in which Jung comments on Joyce's Ulysses. Filed under Mary Colum's name are letters to her alone from Van Wyck Brooks, W. Somerset Maugham, and Maxwell Perkins among others; there are also a few fragments of her writings. A small amount of legal and financial material includes taxes, leases, passports and citizenship documents, and a copy of Padraic's will. Memorabilia includes both personal items, such as photographs and address books, as well as items related to Irish history, such as a black ribbon commemorating Irish Parliamentary Party founder Charles Stewart Parnell and a memorial card for Michael O'Callaghan, first Republican mayor of Limerick.

Writings consists primarily of items by Padraic, although there are a small number of items by others. Included here are articles, book reviews, essays, lyrics, novels and stories, plays, poetry, and assorted other pieces.

The bulk of the Padraic Colum Estate material is correspondence between Emmet Greene, Colum's literary executor, and authors or publishers wishing permission to reprint or rebroadcast items of Colum's work. In some cases, such as Macmillan who was one of Colum's primary publishers, files may include contracts and royalty statements. There is also some correspondence related to Padraic's funeral and burial. Financial material includes photocopies of bank statements and lists of bank accounts and a few compiled royalty lists. Legal material contains correspondenec with attorneys on various topics; the Cahill, Stone and Driscoll folder includes a personal letter from Gerald Cahill to Emmet and clippings about Cahill's conviction for embezzlement.

Arrangement of the Collection

Writings is subdivided by type (e.g., articles, book reviews); within each type, items are filed alphabetically by title. Within the other two series, material is filed alphabetically by correspondent or topic.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Several published examples of Colum's work have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these items.

Subject Headings


Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941.
Belitt, Ben, 1911-2003.
Brooks, Van Wyck, 1886-1963.
Clemens, Cyril, 1902-1999.
Colum, Mary.
Colum, Padraic, 1881-1972.
Delamain, Jacques.
Denson, Alan.
Deutsch, Babette, 1895-1982.
Hillyer, Robert, 1895-1961.
Jolas, M.
Joyce, James, 1882-1941.
Jung, C. G. (Carl Gustav), 1875-1961.
Kennelly, Brendan.
Löwenstein, Hubertus, Prinz zu, 1906-1984.
MacDowell, Marian, 1857-1956.
Maritain, Raïssa.
Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965.
McAleer, Edward C.
Nicholl, Louise Townsend.
Oshima, Shotaro, 1899-
Pearse, Padraic, 1879-1916.
Pearse, William, 1881-1916.
Perkins, Maxwell E. (Maxwell Evarts), 1884-1947.
Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963.
Raja Rao.
Robinson, Lennox, 1886-1958.
Russell, George William, 1867-1935.
Saul, George Brandon, 1901-1986.
Toksvig, Signe, 1891-1983.
Trilling, Lionel, 1905-1975.
Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987.
Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975.
Wolfe, Thomas, 1900-1938.
Yeats, Jack B. (Jack Butler), 1871-1957.

Corporate Bodies

Dolmen Press.
Lantern Theatre.
Macmillan & Co.
McGraw-Hill Book Company.


Authors, Irish -- 20th century.
Children's literature, Irish.
Folklore -- Ireland.
Irish literature -- 20th century.
Poets, Irish.


Ireland -- History.
Ireland -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Bank statements.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts (document genre)
Manuscripts for publication.
Memorial cards.
Negatives (photographs)
Research notes.
Royalty statements.
Slides (photographs)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Padraic Colum Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Eric Sherman, 2014.

Table of Contents

Padraic and Mary Colum


Padraic Colum Estate