Papers of Daniel Corkery

Repository: UCC Library Archives Service

Identity Statement

TitlePapers of Daniel Corkery
Archive ReferenceIE UC/DC/
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1908-1971
Extent Medium23 boxes


Creator(s): Personal papers of Daniel Corkery collated by his nephew Bill Corkery.

  • Administrative History ↴

    Daniel Corkery (Ó Corcora, Domhnall) (1878–1964) was a writer, cultural philosopher, and literary critic, was born 14 February 1878 at Gardiner's Hill, Cork city, one of five children of William Corkery and Mary Corkery (née Barron). He was largely self-taught. He never married and spent his whole life in the Cork area. He was educated at the Presentation Brothers' South Monastery school and became a monitor, going on to do a year's teacher training at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, in 1906–7. He taught for some years at St Francis's national school in Cork city centre. Meanwhile under the influence of the Leader (edited by D. P. Moran), to which he was to become a regular contributor, he joined the Gaelic League, thus beginning his role of cultural nationalist. His Irish, however, was never to be proficient. The League gave him an opportunity for social and cultural activities such as choral and musical performance. He played the cello and also took night classes in painting at the Crawford School of Art. He did sketching during League outings to the Cork Gaeltacht, becoming a watercolourist of some distinction, and this pursuit engaged him till very late in life. While he developed his cultural philosophy and his enthusiasm for Irish Ireland, he also began writing short stories. In 1908 he was one of a group which established the Cork Dramatic Society (CDS). Its initial production, at the hall in An Dún, was Corkery's first play, ‘The embers’, a satire on contemporary Irish politics which was adjudged a critical success. Corkery's associates in the CDS included Con O'Leary, a UCC graduate who wrote two plays for the society and who was to become a leading Fleet Street journalist; T. C. Murray, the Macroom-born naturalist playwright; and Terence MacSwiney, who became a close friend. MacSwiney and Corkery shared a deep attachment to the west Cork Gaeltacht of Ballingeary, which Corkery first visited in 1909. In 1913 he took up a teaching job in the north-side slum school of St Patrick's in noisy and overcrowded conditions. Among pupils whose potential he encouraged were Michael O'Donovan (whose alias was to be Frank O'Connor) and Seamus Murphy, the future sculptor. The 1916 rising and subsequent developments intensified his nationalist fervour. He left St Patrick's in 1920, reputedly being refused the principalship because of his political sympathies. He spent the next ten years working in various capacities under the auspices of Cork county vocational education committee. He was a travelling teacher of art, woodwork, and Irish, did clerical work for a time, and then served as an inspector in the Irish language. Meanwhile his creative powers had found expression in various ways. Among his plays produced were ‘The labour leader’ (1919), ‘The yellow bittern’ (1920), and ‘Resurrection’ (1924). His most impressive work of short stories, The Munster Twilight, was published in 1916, but there were to be other collections – The Hounds of Banba (1920), The Stormy Hills (1929), and Earth Out of Earth (1939). His literary reputation was greatly enhanced by the publication of his first novel, The threshold of quiet, in 1917. This work of sombre realism, set in Cork city with autobiographical elements. The Hidden Ireland, a study of the Irish-language poetry of eighteenth-century Munster and of the society and culture it reflected, appeared in 1924. It was his most significant and controversial work, provoking lively debate for decades, while its title introduced a new phrase into Irish cultural discourse. Synge and Anglo-Irish literature (1931) was his last major publication. In 1931 Daniel Corkery was appointed to the professorship of English in UCC. As a professor, Corkery did not loom large as a ‘college person’, avoiding academic meetings and staying clear of college politics, though he gave some public lectures and participated in student society debates. His academic position enhanced his seminal ideological and literary influence and his central role in the national debate about history and culture. Corkery retired from UCC in 1947. The NUI honoured him with a D.Litt. degree the following year, but he declined an invitation to become a member of the Irish Academy of Letters because of its neglect of Irish-language writers. He also sat on the Arts Council in the mid 1950s. Another recognition of his national standing was his appointment to Seanad Éireann (1951–4) as one of the nominees of the Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera. However, he made no contribution whatsoever to the proceedings of the house. In his declining years he was the cultural patriarch or guru of a devoted Cork circle, whose members visited him in his seaside bungalow home in Myrtleville in south Cork. Daniel Corkery died at Passage West, Co. Cork, on 31 December 1964.
  • Archival History ↴

    The papers were deposited after Corkery's death by his nephew Bill Corkery and niece, Maureen Corkery.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Personal papers of Daniel Corkery collated by his nephew Bill Corkery. ↴

    The collection spans those years of Corkery’s life devoted to the Arts and Literature. Nothing remains from his childhood or the era pre 1900, and very little of the material reflects his career as a teacher and an educationalist. The bulk of the collection is formed by various drafts of his books, short stories, essays, lectures and notes from his voracious reading. These notes were often jotted in a haphazard manner on anything convenient, notebooks, envelopes, letters, were all utilized.
    The collection has been divided into seven main sections, each containing material similar and nature in content. Section 1 is devoted to material relating to Corkery’s early life. Included here are records and memorabilia from his days as a founding member of the Cork Dramatic Society and The Twenty Club. Very little remains however from his early association with the Gaelic League, but an account of those years can be gleaned from the mss. of a lecture `Corcaigh le linn m’oige’ (UC/DC/20). Contained also in this section are letters from friends of the time, including one from Terence MacSwiney in Reading Gaol in which, while advising Corkery on literary matters, he disavows the use of English in his own creative writings (UC/DC/35). Included here also is the only conventional-form diary Corkery appears to have written (UC/DC/20). Spanning the years 1907-1910 it records Corkery’s struggles to come to grips with his novel The Threshold of Quiet and his views of, and thoughts upon the Cork of his day.

    Section 2 contains material from Corkery’s later career, mainly notes and letters from his tenure as Professor of English at U.C.C. (1931-1947), these include messages on the occasion of his retirement from Alfred O’Rahilly, President U.C.C. (UC/DC/58) and B.G. MacCarthy his successor as Professor (UC/DC/59). This section also contains some sparse material from An Ciorcal Staideartha, the discussion group set up in Cork in the 1940’s to promote literature and intellectual growth in the city. Corkery’s term as a Senator in Seanad Eireann (1951 to 1954) is represented merely by official notices and one plea by a constituent to assist her in claiming her late husband’s full pension rights. (UC/DC/78).

    Section 3 is concerned with Corkery’s literary output. It contains the various notes for, drafts of, and sometimes proofs, of most of his published works. Contained also in this section are contemporary reviews mostly newspaper clippings collected by Corkery, referring to each of his works. Sub-section E of this group `The Fortunes of the Irish Language’ contains letters from the Cultural Committee chaired by Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh inviting Corkery to write the work. (UC/DC/155).
    The mss. of Corkery’s play `Epilogue’ referred to by G.B. Saul was not present when the collection was being listed. A contemporary newspaper account does however give a short account of the play as well as a character list. (UC/DC/406 (9)).

    Subsection F `The Romance of Nation Building’ contains notes collected by Corkery for his never written study on nationalism. Subsection I `Newspaper Articles by Corkery’ is the most complete surviving collection of Corkery’s writings, but is not of course a definitive reference (see Bibliography). Included in sub-section K `Radio Work’ are various drafts of reviews and lectures broadcast by Corkery for Radio Eireann. Surviving here are a number of drafts of a lecture `The Book I am writing now’ discussing the ill fated Romance of Nation Building. (UC/DC/400). Subsection M deals with the manuscripts and drafts of various lectures and essays written by Corkery throughout his life.

    Section 4 then deals with Corkery’s personal studies. Here are described the commonplace notebooks he used for jotting down thoughts, observations and quotes throughout his life. Also listed here are notes and references he jotted down concerning the various topics which interested him. An avid hoarder of newspaper cuttings, this section also contains a large number of cuttings on many subjects including his own work. (III ii).

    Section 5 stands testament to Corkery’s deep love of Art. His own paintings were not transferred to U.C.C., but included here are some rough sketches (UC/DC/567a ff), and his collections of postcards and clippings of various sculptures from early Greek and Roman to modern times (subsection iv). Details of various exhibitions of his works are also preserved.

    Section 6 is devoted to those letters Corkery received and which were preserved after his death. They have been subdivided into those of a business nature: A) Letters from Publishers; B) Tax Authorities; C) House Sale; Congratulatory letters received on the occasion of his eightieth birthday are listed in subsection D, while E contains diverse personal letters received over the years from friends and acquaintances. Several are from people introducing themselves to Corkery as admirers of his work including UC/DC/742 from Frank Caulfield-James, whose father acted as tutor to the children of the King of Siam after the departure of the celebrated Anna.

    Sub-section F then is devoted to the correspondence between Daniel Corkery and his friend, the prominent Gaelic Leaguer, Tomas Ó Muircheartaigh. These letters are probably the core of the Corkery collection. Spanning almost 30 years the two men discussed what lay closest to their hearts; the Gaelic League and the struggle for an ongoing Irish literary tradition. Cut off somewhat in Cork from the cut and thrust of the movement in Dublin, Corkery was kept well informed by Ó Muircheartaigh about the numerous friends in the Gaelic League and gave him the benefit of his opinions on matters literary and otherwise. The letters contain both a fascinating insight into the internal wranglings of the Gaelic League during the period in question, and a revealing glimpse of the hopes, fears and despairs of two of the last `Irish Irelanders’. Often lenient in print Corkery could be cutting in private authors who failed to follows his dictums and those whose commitment to the Gaelic tradition was any less than his. This bitter element in Corkery, more evident as he aged is mirrored by Ó Muircheartaigh and several of their contemporaries. The correspondence was carried out entirely through Irish but for reasons of homogenity and clarity the archival description was based on English translations of the letters. These translations were made by Finnoula Nic Suibhne M.A; Donal MacSuibhne B.A., H.Dip.Ed., and Michael and Mairead O Lionaird. For administrative reasons these letters are listed separately, and can be viewed on request to the Archivist.

    The final section – 7 – contains memorabilia and photographs. These include photographs of Gaelic League members from the 1920’s upwards on various excursions to West Cork and Kerry as well as a number of portraits of Corkery and various family members. Included also are a hauntingly stark set of shots, most likely taken by Tomas Ó Muircheartaigh (UC/DC/P32). Several memorial cards are included in the memorabilia section as well as the results of an eye test .

    Because of his well-documented association with Frank O’Connor and Sean O Faolain, it is presumed researchers interested in these two men would look to the Corkery papers for information. The celebrated rift between Corkery and his erstwhile protégés is apparent in this collection from the paucity of references to them. Mention of O Faolain crops up rarely. Once in a letter from Corkery’s old friend Con O’Leary (UC/DC/51) who when speaking of Liam O Flaherty remarks disparagingly `It’s obvious he wasn’t political as a boy, as like O’Faolain’s pictures of old-time politics it is very inaccurate’. His name crops up again in a letter from M.J. MacManus, editor of The Irish Press who urges Corkery to take up the attack on O’Faolain where he has laid off (UC/DC/775). An offer Corkery seems to let pass.
    References to O’Connor are even scarcer. The only link survives as a sheet of poems by John Lone of Carrigaline, Co. Cork named by Sean Hendrick in M. Sheehy ed. Michael/Frank Gill and MacMillan 1969 p.11 as having been given to O’Connor when he was 16 or 17. Some newspaper clippings referring to O’Faolain and O’Connor survive but there are no direct references by Corkery to either man.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    When they arrived at U.C.C. the Corkery papers were in a highly disorganised state and were subsequently boxed by the library staff. The original order having been lost, an artificial order (except in the case of the letters) was imposed by the archivist.


    I The Cork Dramatic Society
    i Records of the C.D.S. (1908 – 1909)
    ii Contemporary Newspaper Clippings (1908 – 1912)
    iii Letter from R M Cooney (1913)
    iv Corkery’s Recollections
    v Memorabelia

    II The Twenty Club
    i Lecture by Corkery (1917)
    ii Corkery’s Recollections

    III The Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge)
    i Lecture by Corkery delivered to the South Parish Branch (1918)
    ii Administrative Letters (1950)
    iii Summer Schools (1923 – 1950)
    iv Newspaper Clippings (1902)

    IV Michael W. Good
    i Letters to Corkery (1911 – 1913)

    V Tomás MacCurtain

    i Lectures and essays by Corkery (1934 – 1958) VI Terence MacSwiney
    i Letter from Terence MacSwiney to Daniel Corkery (1916) ii Articles and Lectures by Corkery (1920 – 1947) iii Mairin Chevasses Biography (1953 – 1955)
    iv Responses to inquiries re 1916 in Cork (1952)
    v Obituary (1923)
    vi MacSwiney’s Poems and Plays
    vii Letter from Annie MacSwiney [Áine Nic Suibhne] (1948)

    VII Con O’Leary
    i Letters to Corkery (1946)
    ii Short Story by Con O’Leary

    I Corkery’s Diary (1907 – 1910)

    I Lecture and Administrative Notes (1932 – 1946)

    II Retirement and Succession
    i Letter from Alfred O’Rahilly (1947)
    ii Letter from Brigid McCartaigh [B.G. MacCarthy] (1947)

    III Correspondence
    i Stockley Family(1947-1948)
    ii From Louis Renouf [Professor of Zoology UCC)] (1947) iii Superannuation Dispute in UCC (1949)
    iv Seamus Murphy’s bust of Professor W.P.F. Stockley
    v Cork University Press (1951)
    vi Governing Body Elections (1961)

    i Lectures by Corkery (1947)
    ii Prospectus (1949)
    iii Letter from Diarmuid Ó hÉalaighthe (1955)

    i Official notices (1951)
    ii Letters of Congratulation (1951)
    iii Constituency Work (1951)
    iv Memorabilia (1951-1964)


    I The Threshold of Quiet
    i Drafts [1910 – 1916]
    ii Contemporary Reviews (1917 – 1918)

    I A Munster Twilight
    i Drafts
    ii Notes by Corkery
    iii Contemporary Reviews (1916 – 1917)

    II The Hounds of Banba
    i Drafts
    ii Contemporary Reviews

    III The Stormy Hills
    i Drafts (1925 – 1929)
    ii Contemporary Reviews

    IV Magazine Published (1916 – 1936)
    V Unpublished Short Stories (1921)

    I The Hidden Ireland
    i Corkery’s Notes
    ii Drafts
    iii Letter from Osborn Bergin (1924)
    iv Contemporary Reviews (1925)

    II Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature
    i MA Thesis
    ii Drafts of book (1929 – 1930)
    iii Contemporary Reviews
    iv Sketch of Synge by J B Yeats
    a) Letter from Elizabeth C Yeats 1931
    b) Letters relating to the sale of the Yeat’s sketch (1957 – 1958)

    i Letters from the Cultural Committee (1949 – 1954)
    ii Research Notes [1949]
    iii Drafts and Proofs 1954
    iv Contemporary Reviews 1955

    i Notes [1941]

    G. PLAYS
    I Woman of Three Cows
    i Drafts

    II The Onus of Ownership
    i Drafts (pre 1913)
    ii Contemporary Reviews (1919)

    III King and Hermit
    i Drafts
    ii Contemporary Reviews (1920)

    IV Yellow Bittern
    i Contemporary Reviews (1919 – 1958)

    V The Labour Leader
    i Drafts
    ii Contemporary Reviews (1919)

    VI Clan Falvey
    i Production by the Abbey (1939)
    ii Contemporary Reviews

    VII Israels Incense (Fonham the Sculptor)
    i Drafts (1935 – 1938)
    ii Critique
    iii The Gate Theatre (1939)
    iv The Abbey Production (1939)
    v Contemporary Reviews

    VIII An Doras Dúnta (An Maith a D’Imigh)
    i Drafts (1946 – 1953)
    ii Abbey Theatre
    iii Department of Education
    iv Contemporary Reviews

    IX The Ploughing of the Leaca
    i Production by St Aiden Players (1929)

    I I Bhreasail
    II Unpublished
    III Contemporary Reviews

    I Undated
    II Dated

    I What’s this about the Gaelic League
    i Printed Copy (1942)
    ii Contemporary reviews (1942)
    II The Philosophy of the Gaelic League (1943)

    I Reviews (1935 – 1946)
    II Lectures (1946)
    III Letter from Francis MacManus (1948)

    L. CONTEMPORARY REVIEWS (1916 – 1957)


    I Irish Language (1929 – 1945)
    II Irish Literature (1919 – 1942)
    III Anglo Irish Literature (1926)
    IV Poetry (1927 – 1953)
    V General Literature (1940)
    VI Irish Nationalism (1932 – 1946)
    VII Theatre (1919)
    VIII Art (1930’s)
    IX Miscellaneous Lectures and Essays (1935)

    I Commonplace Notebooks (1921 – 1950)
    II Notes and References
    i Irish History (1945)
    ii Irish Poetry
    iii Irish Cultural Revival
    iv Anglo-Irish Literature (1928 – 1932)
    v Nationalism (1922 – 2954)
    vi German Language (1924)
    vii French Literature
    viii Music (1904)
    ix General Studies

    III Newspaper Clippings
    i Scrapbooks (1913 – 1951)
    ii Clippings referring to Corkery (1913 – 1958)
    iii Clippings referring to Irish Literature and Language (1902 – 1958)
    iv Nationalism (1903 1959)
    v Gaelic League (1906 – 1955)
    vi Communism (1943 – 1944)
    vii Literary Reviews (1927 – 1958)
    viii Catholic Church (1967)
    ix General Interest (1919 – 1952)

    I Sketches

    II Notes (1911)

    III Exhibitions
    (1) Oireachtas Art Exhibitions (1948 – 1950)
    i Circulars and subscription forms (1948 – 1958)
    ii 1954 Oireachtas
    iii 1955 Oireachtas
    iv 1956 Oireachtas
    v 1958 Oireachtas
    (2) Victor Waddington Galleries
    i Catalogues (1954 – 1955)
    ii Reviews (1954)
    iii Letter from Victor Waddington (1955)
    (3) Munster Fine Art Society (1958)

    IV Sculpture Anthology
    V Postcard Reproductions

    VI Architecture and Design

    VII Miscellaneous (1955 – 1956)

    I Talbot Press / Educational Company
    i Letters to and from Corkery (1916 – 1963)
    ii Royalty Statements (1917 – 1938)
    II Elkin Mathews
    i Letter from Elkin Mathews (1921)
    ii Royalty Statements (1922 – 1926)

    III BW Huebusch
    i Letters from BW Huebusch (1921 – 1922)
    ii Royalty Statements (1922 – 1924)
    iii Publicity Material (1922)

    IV Jonathan Cape
    i Letters from Jonathan Cape (1929 – 1958)

    V Gill & Co
    i Letters from M H Gill (1956)
    ii Royalty Statements (1930 – 1946)

    VI Devin Adair
    i Letters from Devin Garrity (1949 – 1957)
    ii Letters from Elizabeth Rivers (1949 – 1950)
    iii Royalty Statements (1950 – 1957)

    VII Vivian Mercier
    i Letters from Vivian Mercier (1949 – 1952)

    VIII Mercier Press
    i Letters from Captain J M Feehan (1956)

    IX Various Publishers (1922 – 1955)


    C. HOUSE SALE (1948)

    I Letters and Telegrams

    II Newspaper Clippings (1958)



    I Memorial Cards (1927 – 1944)

    II Literary Memorabilia (1920 – 1931)

    III Insurance Payments (1937 – 1944)

    IV Eye Test (1950)

    V Souvenirs (1938)
    VI Postcards and Views
    VII Miscellaneous (1950)

    I Corkery Family
    i Mrs Mary Corkery (neé Barron)
    ii Kitty (Family Servant)
    iii Mary Corkery and Daniel Corkery
    iv Daniel Corkery
    v Gaelic League
    vi U.C.C.
    vii Unidentified portraits
    vi Album
    vii Miscellaneous
    viii Glass Plate Negative

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Available by appointment with the Archives Service to holders of UCC Readers tickets.
Conditions Governing ReproductionBy application to the archivist.
Creation Dates1908-1971
Extent Medium23 boxes
Material Language ScriptEnglish/Irish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Publication NoteMaume, Patrick, "Life that is exile" : Daniel Corkery (1878-1964) and the search for Irish Ireland

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteCarol Quinn
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions34001