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About the Author: Donn Byrne

Irish novelist Donn Byrne was born Brian Oswald Patrick Donn-Byrne in New York on 20 November 1889. His Irish parents were on a business trip at the time, so soon after he returned with them to Ireland. He grew up being equally fluent in Irish and English, growing up in an area were Gaelic was still spoken.

He turns up as a singing, fair-haired boy in the annals of Bulmer Hobson's Irish volunteer movement: in 1906, when he was 14, he went to a meeting with Hobson and Robert Lynd of the London Daily News. Lynd wrote of that meeting, mentioning the singing of a little fair haired boy—that is, Donn Byrne. It was through Hobson that Byrne acquired his taste for Irish history and nationalism. In 1907 he went to the University of Dublin to study Romance languages. While at the school he published in The National Student, the student magazine. After graduation he continued his studies in Europe, hoping to join the British Foreign Office. It is related that he "turned down his PhD" when he learned that he would have to wear evening clothes to his early morning examinations, which he apparently felt that no true Irish gentleman would ever do.

Giving up the Service, he returned to New York in 1911, where he began working first for the Catholic Encyclopedia, the New Standard Dictionary, and then the Century Dictionary. In February 1912 his poem "The Piper" appeared in Harper's magazine. His first short story, "Battle," sold soon after to Smart Set magazine for $50.00, appearing in the February 1914 issue. He sold more stories to various magazines. Some of these were anthologized in his first book, Stories Without Women, 1915. then began working on his first novel, The Stranger's Banquet (1919). He was a prolific novelist and short-story writer from this point on; the novel Field of Honor was published posthumously in 1929. His poems were collected into an anthology and published as Poems (1934).

Despite both his wife's success as a playwright, and his own increasing popularity as an author, the family's financial straits forced them to sell up their house in Riverside, Connecticut, and return to Ireland. Eventually the family bought Coolmain Castle near Bandon in County Cork. He lived here until his death in a car accident due to defective steering in June 1928. He is buried in Rathclarin churchyard, near Coolmain Castle. His headstone reads, in Irish and English: "I am in my sleeping and don't waken me."


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ISBN10: 144740436X | ISBN13: 9781447404361

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