University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell

1911 - 1974
(bulk dates 1918 - 1954)

Manuscript Collection Number: 136
Accessioned: Purchase, 1977
Extent: 1.3 linear ft.
Content: Letters, essays, reviews (criticism), programs, speeches, notes, poems, clippings, pamphlets, tickets, painitngs, broadsides, prospectuses, and playbills
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Preliminary processing in 1979, completed 1993 by Anita A. Wellner

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Irish businessman and amateur playwright Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell was born in Tuam, County Galway in 1911.

As a young man, Irish businessman and amateur playwright Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell was noted for his political efforts on behalf of an Irish Free State while a member of the Senate in 1943-1944, 1951, and 1954. He was later recognized for his plays, which depicted Irish life and political struggles, and for his promotion of Irish commerce.

As the successful owner of the Dublin Shirt and Collar Industries, O'Donnell was a frequent and eloquent speaker on topics related to the Irish economy and the development of Irish industry. O'Donnell encouraged investments in Irish enterprises, advocated a scheme for national advertising of Irish products, and championed a Federation of Irish Industries. His speeches discussed the Irish problems of massive emigration and the neglect of industrial development, while encouraging the Irish to think nationally and to purchase Irish products.

As an amateur playwright, O'Donnell was mentored by his friend, Abbey playwright T. C. Murray. O'Donnell was most often recognized by his contemporaries as "being Ireland's most banned playwright" (The Irish Press, October 15, 1945). Both his O'Flaherty's Star (1945), and The Dawn-Mist: a play of the rebellion (1922) were banned by the British government for political reasons.

O'Donnell's first play, produced by Abbey Theatre, was The Drifters (1920). Although the critics found the two-act play unsuccessful, the Abbey later produced O'Donnell's Keeper of the Lights and Anti-Christ (1925).

In addition to plays, O'Donnell wrote articles on foreign politics for Irish and British newspapers, as well as creating poetry and short stories.

In addition to his literary, business, and political achievements, O'Donnell was recognized as one of Dublin's most successful collectors of modern paintings and as an active member of the Irish Literary Society (London) and the Dublin Rotary Club. O'Donnell also worked for years on plans for an Irish Federation of Amateur Dramatic Societies and a National Drama Festival.

Frank Hugh O'Donnell died on November 4, 1976 at his residence, Vartry Lodge,Killiney, County Dublin.


Hogan, Robert and Richard Burnham. The Art of the Amateur 1916-1920. The Modern Irish Drama V. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1984. pp. 239-241, 250-255, 278.

Note: Biographical information is also derived from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell Papers consists of 1.3 linear feet of letters and manuscripts, which span the dates 1911 to 1974 (bulking 1918-1954). Including letters, essays, poems, clippings, speeches, reviews (criticism), programs, notes, pamphlets, tickets, paintings, broadsides, prospectuses, and playbills, the papers provide an overview of the life and work of Irish businessman, politician, and playwright Frank O'Donnell.

The letters written to O'Donnell and collected in Series I. communicate O'Donnell's interests in the business world, especially in seeking foreign commerce for the Irish economy and the establishment of the Federation of Irish Industries, Inc.; his efforts to acquire performances of his plays; and his influence in Irish politics. The collection includes letters from managers of Irish theatres; Irish playwrights, artists, and literary figures; as well as businessmen and friends.

Some of the letters convey O'Donnell's interest in amateur drama leagues, such as his correspondence with J.J. Hayes, who assisted in founding The Little Theatre of Newark, (NJ) Inc. and the Drama Guild of the Oranges (NJ). Enclosed in the Hayes letters are eight programs for The Little Theatre of Newark.

In other letters, O'Donnell discusses the establishment of the Drama League of Dublin, his participation in the Dublin Rotary Club and the Irish Literary Society, his support of Catholic charities and Irish theatres, his interest in modern painters, and his overriding desire to promote the Irish national identity and economy of the Irish Free State.

Among the correspondents are noted literary figures including Austin Clarke, Denis Ireland, Edward Martyn, Sean O'Casey, Lennox Robinson, and W. B. Yeats. The nine letters from Yeats are particularly interesting, in that they demonstrate Yeats's helpful approach to the problems of the amateur playwright.

The copies of letters drafted by O'Donnell contain discussions of Irish independence and the political situation in Ireland, details of his attempts to find jobs for others, reflections on his marriage, and arrangements for speaking engagements. The drafts of two letters to Irish President de Valera reflect his concerns for the Irish State.

Among the manuscripts written by O'Donnell which are preserved in these papers are examples of O'Donnell's essays, short stories, poetry, addresses, and reviews. Although there are performance notes for The Dawn-Mist and Keeper of the Lights and a synopsis of a play titled Deirdre, no manuscripts of his plays are present. The essays reflect his interests in the theatre and politics and several of the manuscripts bear O'Donnell's pseudonyms, "Thomas Oriel," "Marcus Kinstone," and "Mans Cloonan."

The papers also include four manuscripts written by others, two of which are speeches on business topics. Patrick Sarsfield O'Hegarty's review of O'Donnell's play Futility and Frederick Robert Higgins's poem "Invocation" complete the series. In addition, a typescript of Constance de Markieviecz's play The Invincible Mother is enclosed in her letter to O'Donnell (F32) and Edward Martyn's autograph article, "Astraea Redux," is enclosed in one of his letters (F33).

Finally, the papers include several miscellaneous items relating to O'Donnell, including an Abbey Theatre placard for O'Donnell's play Anti-Christ, clippings about O'Donnell (especially his speeches and plays), a copy of The College Songs (1912), a passenger list for a 1923 cruise on the "President Monroe" (which lists O'Donnell), pamphlets concerning the Irish Literary Society, two unidentified watercolor paintings, a broadside titled "A Few 'Bars' on the 'Grate,'" as well as several tickets, prospectuses, and tear sheets.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in four series. Series I. "Letters to Frank Hugh O'Donnell" is arranged in alphabetical order by sender and chronologically within each folder. The final three folders of this series (F63-65) contain miscellaneous letters and are arranged in chronological order. Series II. "Manuscripts written by O'Donnell" is arranged in alphabetical order by title of the work, including one folder of poems. These poems are arranged in alphabetical order within the folder. Series III. "Manuscripts written by others" is arranged alphabetically by author of the manuscript. Series IV. "Miscellaneous material relating to O'Donnell" includes a variety of items arranged chronologically within each folder.

Series Outline


I.   Letters to Frank Hugh O'Donnell, 1911-1974                 8

II.  Manuscripts written by O'Donnell, 1920-1926               14

III. Manuscripts written by others, 1923-1944                  16

IV.  Miscellaneous material relating to O'Donnell, 1911-1945   16

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I. Letters to Frank Hugh O'Donnell, 1911-1974
               Includes some copies of letters from O'Donnell to others.  All letters are
               written to O'Donnell unless otherwise noted.

     F1   Agate, James, 1877-1947
          1925 Jan 26         ALS       2p
                    Note:  Includes an ALS (1925 Jan 28) from O'Donnell to Agate
                    and a TL (carbon) draft of this letter.

     F2   Bradley, H. Dennis, 1878-
          1924-1926           Letters   16p

     F3   Brennan, Robert, 1881-
          [1926]              TN        1p
                    Note:  Signed Robert O'Breandain and includes a letter from
          1928 Sep 26         TLS       1p

     F4   Browne, Maurice, 1881-
             To DeLeon, Jack
          1929 Feb 19         TNS       1p

             To O'Donnell, Frank J. Hugh
          1929 Feb 11         TNS       1p

     F5   Byrne, Laurence P.
          1925 Oct 2          TLS       1p
               Nov 17    TLS       1p
                    Note:  This TLS is added to a TL from the Sunday Times to Byrne.

     F6   Casson, Lewis, T.
          1925                Letters   2p
                    Note:  Includes copies of O'Donnell's two letters in reply to

     F7   Clarke, Austin, 1896-1974
          1938 Jun 20         TLS       1p
          1944 Nov 6          TLS       1p
          1945 May 20         TLS       1p
                    Note:  Includes information reagrding Lyric Theatre Company.
          [1953 Jan 11]       ALS       1p

     F8   Columbus, Father
          1925-1926           Letters   4p
                    Note:  One of the letters is addressed to a Mr. Murray.

     F9   Costello, John A.
          1949 Dec 5          TNS       1p
          1950 Nov 20         TNS       1p

     F10  Costello, Thomas B.
          1935 Sep 30         ALS       2p
                    Note:  Includes labels of the Tuam Match Factory and a bank note.
               Oct 25         ALS       3p

     F11  De Blacam, Aodh, 1891-1951
          1919 Oct 20         ALS       6p
               Oct 30         ALS       1p

     F12  De Leon, Jack
          1928 Nov 5          TLS       1p 
                    Note: Includes a copy of "Q" Theatre Gazette (April 1929) edited
                     by De Leon
     F13  Doyle, John B.
          1922 Jul 21         TLS       2p

     F14  Duffy, Bernard, 1882-
          1923-1929           Letters   15p

     F15  Fallon, Gabriel
          1973 Sep 9          ALS       1p
               Dec 18         ALS       1p

     F16  Fallon, Padraic, 1905-
          1954 Jun 9          ALS       3p
               Jun 22         ALS       3p

     F17  Gallagher, H. T.
          1941-1950           Letters   8p
                    Note:  Includes a broadside concerning the Social Credit Party.

     F18  Gould, Elizabeth Finlayson
          1925 Jul 24         ALS       3p
          1926 Aug 29         ALS       2p
               Oct 8          ALS       4p

     F19  Harris, Frank P., 1835-1931
          1923 Jan 22         ALS       2p
               Jan 28         ALS       2p

     F20  Hayes, J. J.
     -21  1922-1924           Letters   38p
                    Note:  F21 includes 8 programs for The Little Theatre of Newark,
                    Inc. (Orange, NJ), a copy of Drama Calendar (9/24/1923), and
                    material concerning The Drama Guild of the Oranges, for which
                    Hayes was the secretary.

     F22  Hayward, H. Richard
          1926 Jun 30         TLS       1p

     F23  Hennessy, Patrick
          1951 Oct 7          ALS       1p
          1954 Feb 1          ALS       1p
                    Note:  Includes exhibition catalogue of Hennessy's paintings
               Mar 1          ALS       2p

     F24  Ireland, Denis, 1894-
          1938-1974           Letters   11p

     F25  Kelly, Francis C.
          1926 May 20         TLS       1p
                    Note:  Includes two letters from O'Donnell to Kelly and to
                    Extension Magazine.

     F26  Killanin, Michael Morris, Baron, 1914-
          1949 Nov 15         ALS       2p
               Nov 29         TL(m)S    2p
                    Note:  Includes a list of equipment for the Irish Club in London.
               Dec 1          ALS       1p
          [1949 Dec 26]       ACS       1p

     F27  Krause, David, 1917-
          1963 Jul 23         TLS       1p
                    Note:  Includes two theatre programs for Sean O'Casey plays.

2    F28  MacBride, Sean
          1947-1951           Letters   6p

                    Note:  Includes an ALS and a TL from Gallagher to O'Donnell and
                    a clipping concerning MacBride (1974).

     F29  MacDermott, Norman
          1928-1953           Letters   20p
     F30  MacManus, Lily
          1925 Dec 3          ALS       1p
          1926 Dec 16         ALS       5p

     F31  Malleson, Lady Constance
          [1935 Oct 11]       TL        1p
                    Note:  Includes a TL (mimeograph) with autograph corrections to
                    the editor of the Times, concerning mental hospitals and the mental
                    clinic movement.

     F32  Markieviecz, Constance Georginia, de, 1868-1927
          1925 Jan 20         ANS       1p
                    Note:  Includes a Ts of Markieviecz's play "The Invincible

     F33  Martyn, Edward, 1859-1923
     -34  1918 Sep 14         ALS       2p
          1919 Nov 8          ACS       1p
          1921 Mar 26         ALS       1p
                    Note:  Includes an autograph article titled "Astraea Redux," signed
                    by Martyn.  Also included in this folder are an O'Donnell Ts titled
                    "Edward Martyn" (8p) and a Ts agreement between Martyn and the
                    Irish Little Theatre.  F34 includes clippings about Martyn.

     F35  Mitchell, Susan L., 1866-1926
          1920 Dec 28         ALS       2p
          1925 Dec 11         ALS       2p
                    Note:  Includes a copy of The Irish Home Journal (February 1923).

     F36  Moore, Maurice
          1935 Feb 8          ALS       2p
                    Note:  Includes Ts (mimeograph) document titled "The Irish
                    Chamber for International Trade."

     F37  Murphy, Thomas, 1935-
          1974 Dec 15         ALS       1p

     F38  Nelsey, R. C.
          1928 Feb 27         ACS       2p
               Mar 26         ALS       4p
          1929 Feb 12         ALS       4p
                    Note:  Includes a letter to Nelsey.

     F39  O'Casey, Sean, 1880-1964
          1925 Mar 26         ALS       1p
          1930 Sep 24         ALS       3p
          1953 Jan 23         TLS       1p
               Feb 14         TLS       1p
          [1954     Jun 1]         CS        1p
          1954 Dec 28    ALS       2p
          1960 May 5          ALS       2p

     F40  O'Donnell, Frank Hugh
             To Armstrong, William
          1926 Jun 16         TL        2p 

             To Bierne, Miss
          1921 Jan 26         TLS       1p
               Mar 30         ALS       3p 

             To de Valera, Eamonn, 1882-1975
          1932 Feb 22         AL        3p
          1935 Jun 11         ALS       3p
             To Shepherd, O. B.
          1932 Sep 27         ALS       2p

             To The Evening Herald
          [1926 Mar 9]        ALS       2p
             To Unidentified
          1926 Mar 9          ALS       2p
          [n.d.]              AL        1p

             To Walsh
          1941 Feb 17         TL        5p

     F41  O'Donnell, Frank Hugh
             To O'Donnell, Maureen (Mrs. Frank J. Hugh)
          1935 Aug 5-16       Letters   21p

     F42  O'Donnell, Mrs. (mother of Frank J. Hugh)
          [n.d.]              ALS       4p

     F43  O'Donnell, Peadar
          1917 Oct 24         ANS       1p
                    Note:  Editor of The Bell.

     F44  O'Faolain, Sean, 1900-
          1943 Mar 3          TLS       1p
                Apr 21        TL        1p 

     F45  O'Hegarty, Patrick Sarsfield, 1879-1955
          1922-1929           Letters   12p
                    Note:  Includes an ALS from O'Donnell to O'Hegarty and one page
                    of proof signed by O'Hegarty.

     F46  O'Lochlainn, Colm
          1945 Jul 23         TNS       1p

     F47  O'Neil, Peggy
          1925-1927           Letters   9p
                    Note:  One letter is addressed to Mr. Pinker.

     F48  Pim, Herbert Moore, 1883-
          1918 Feb 22         ALS       2p

     F49  James B. Pinker & Sons
          1925-1926           Letters   34p
                    Note:  Includes two O'Donnell letters to Eric S. Pinker and a copy
                    of a letter from Agatha Bullitt Grabisch to Pinker.

3    F50  Robinson, Lennox, 1886-1958
          1943 Feb 25         TLS       1p
               Apr 20         TLS       1p
          [1949] Nov 11       ANS       1p
                    Note:  Includes a receipt for O'Donnell.

     F51  Robinson, Percy
          1928-1930           Letters   8p

     F52  Sinclair, Arthur
          1917 Apr 16         ALS       1p
          1919 Jun 16         ACS       1p

     F53  Skeffington, Hanna Sheehy
          1919-1944           Letters   14p

     F54  Taft, William H., III., 1915-
          1953 Jun 26         TLS       2p

     F55  Tuohy, Patrick
          1926 Sep 22         ALS       1p 
          [n.d.]              ALS       1p 
     F56  Ustinov, Peter
          1953 Jul 16         ALS       1p

     F57  Wallworth, H. M.
          1919 Sep 23         ALS       2p
          1925 Nov 25         ALS       2p

     F58  Waters, B. Berthon
          1945 Jul 31         ALS       1p
                    Note:  Includes two copies of the newspaper  Irish People (Nos. 1
                    & 53), which have been removed to the oversize section.          1948 Jun 1          ALS       1p
               Jun 16         ALS       3p

     F59  Wheatley, John, 1869-1930
          1924 Mar 6          TLS       1p

     F60  Winslow, Herbert Hall
          1925-1926           Letters   7p
                    Note:  Includes a newspaper clipping concerning Winslow's film
                    about Ireland titled Land of Her Fathers.

     F61  Yeats, Georgie, d. 1968
          [1923] Aug 14       ALS       3p
          1957 Oct 10         ALS       1p

          Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939
          1918 Oct 31         ALS       1p
                    Note:  Letter was dictated.
          [1919]    Mar 7     ANS       1p
          [1919]    Apr 25    ALS       2p
          [1919]    Aug 28    ALS       2p
          [1919]    Sep 19    ALS       2p
                    Note:  Envelope bears autograph note by Yeats.
          1919 Sep 19         Telegram  1p
                    Note:  Autograph copy of a telegram from Yeats.
          [1921]              TLS       1p
          1921 Mar 24         LS        1p 
                    Note:  Dictated letter, signed by Yeats.
          [1922]    Nov 16    ALS       3p

     F62  Young, Elizabeth
          [n.d.]              ALS       4p
          [n.d.]              ALS       4p

          Miscellaneous Letters, 1918-1954
     F63  1918-1925
     F64  1925-1954
     F65  [n.d.]

4         Series II.  Manuscripts written by O'Donnell, 1920-1926

     F66  "Afterthoughts," [n.d.]
          Typescript essay, which bears autograph corrections and is signed by O'Donnell as
          "Marcus Kinstone."  Page one is torn and part of the text is missing, 2p.

     F67  "The American Japanese Question," [n.d.]
          Autograph essay, signed "by Hugh Francis," 5p.

     F68  "The Dawn-Mist and Keeper of the Lights [Notes]," 1920 Oct 30
          Autograph performance notes for The Dawn-Mist and Keeper of the Lights, which
          is signed by O'Donnell, 1p.

     F69  "Deirdre," [n.d.]
          Autograph synopsis of a play, 1p.  Removed to oversize section.

     F70  "The Drama & Ourselves: a Natural Repertory Movement," 1926 Apr 9
          Autograph address, which bears revisions, 10p.

     F71  "The Draper's Assistant," [n.d.]
          Autograph short story, which bears revisions and is signed by O'Donnell as
          "Thomas Oriel," 3p.

     F72  "God Save the Press," [n.d.]
          Autograph "idea for an opera," 2p.

     F73  "High Heels," [n.d.]
          Two typescript copies of the same essay, with the autograph note of page 3: "If
          not suitable please return to Frank Hugh O'Donnell, 5 Castle Market Dublin."
          Bears the typescript signature, "Mans Cloonan," 6p.

     F74  "If Winter Comes...?" [n.d.]
          Typescript review of actor Owen Nares performance in "If Winter Comes," 3p.

     F75  "John McCormick - An Appreciation," 1924 Aug 10
          Autograph essay with revisions, 7p.

     F76  Poems, 1922-1925
          "The Doughboy's Lament" and "An Ulster Dame's Reply,"  [n.d.], Ts (carbon),
          both on same page, 1p.
          "Eve," 1922 Sep 7, Autograph, initialed by O'Donnell, 1p.
          "The owld blackthorn," [n.d.], Typescript with autograph revisions and signed, 2p.
          "Retrospect," [n.d.], Autograph, 1p.
          "To the Memory of the Countess Markieviecz," [n.d.], Autograph and signed, 2p.
          "The White Commander," 1925 Nov 26, Autograph, initialed by O'Donnell, 2p.

     F77  "Romance and Homespuns, Headwaggers and Pessimists," [n.d.]
          Autograph essay, which bears revisions and a note requesting return of the
          manuscript to O'Donnell and is signed "Marcus Kinstone," 4p.

     F78  "To the Americans," 1923 Jul 27
          Autograph essay, signed, 3p.

     F79  "A Wizard in Petticoats," [n.d.]
          Typescript short story, bearing a few autograph corrections, a note to return to
          O'Donnell, and the typescript signature "Hugh Francis," 3p.

     F80  Untitled essays, 1921 Dec 5 and [n.d.]
          Includes a typescript essay concerning "the art of being miserable" (2p) and an
          autograph essay concerning Irish President de Valera (4p, incomplete).

          Series III.  Manuscripts written by others, 1923-1944

     F81  Cooke, Richard N., 1934 Mar 21
          Typescript (carbon) address titled "The New Despotism," 19p.   Includes a
          program for the conference at which the address was presented.
     F82  Higgins, Frederick Robert, [n.d.]
          Typescript poem bearing the autograph title "Invocation," and inscribed "to F.J.H.
          O'Donnell," 1p.

     F83  O'Hegarty, Patrick Sarsfield, 1923 Apr 17
          Autograph review of O'Donnell's play Futility, 2p.

     F84  Rush, Kevin, 1944 Mar 24
          Typescript (carbon) address titled "If Capitalism Is Dead - What Follows?"  The
          address bears autograph notes in the margins, 10p.

          Series IV.  Miscellaneous material relating to O'Donnell, 1911-1945

     F85  Abbey Theatre placard for O'Donnell's play Anti-Christ, 1925 Mar 17

     F86  Irish Literary Society, London, [1911]
          Two pamphlets published by the society which detail the society's general rules
          and lists the current members (including O'Donnell).

     F87  Clippings about O'Donnell and his plays or speeches, 1925-1945
          Includes preservation photocopies.  One clipping removed to oversize section.

     F88  United States Lines, "President Monroe" passenger list, 1923 Sep 19
          Lists O'Donnell as a passenger.

     F89  The College Songs, 1912
          A copy of V. O'Brien's The College Songs (Dublin: John F. Fowler, 1912). 
          Includes autograph notes by O'Donnell and a sketch of a building.

     F90  Broadsides, booklets, tickets, prospectuses, and tear sheets, 1928-1932
          Includes a broadside titled "A Few 'Bars' on the 'Grate';" tear sheets from The
          Economy of Human Life and Black Mask; copy of Maurice Level's story "The
          Confession;" a copy of Andrew Soutar's booklet, "There's a Story in You: Writing
          as a Profession;" tickets for a lecture and a play, and prospectuses for Transition
          1932, Charles Duff's Mind Products Limited, and Solon Barber's Cross-Country.

     F91  Two watercolor paintings by unidentified person, [n.d.]

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