Letters from Kate

Over 600 letters belonging to the famous Limerick writer, Kate O’Brien, have been donated to University of Limerick’s Glucksman Library. The extensive collection of letters, written from across the globe from the 1920s up to the 1970s, gives a vast insight to the writer and the woman herself, whose work was banned in Ireland for a time.

Ken Bergin, head of special collections and archives at the library, said the letters, which were donated by one of the writer’s relatives, Clare Hannigan (nee O’Mara), are “a real coup” for UL and will greatly add to their existing collection on O’Brien.

After the success of her play Distinguished Villa in 1926, she was awarded both the 1931 James Tait Black Prize and the Hawthornden Prize for her debut novel Without My Cloak. O’Brien is best known for her 1934 novel The Ante-Room, her 1941 novel The Land of Spices and the 1946 novel That Lady. Her 1936 novel, Mary Lavelle, was banned in Ireland and Spain, while The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland upon publication. In addition to novels, she wrote plays, film scripts, short stories, essays, copious journalism, two biographical studies and two personal travelogues.

O’Brien’s letters touch on her personal indulgences, including her art collection, which featured at least one of Picasso’s works, her time during the Blitz in London, her difficulties in finding a good housekeeper, her attempts at gardening and her extensive travels around the world, where she locked herself away to settle down to writing.

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