Discipline: Literature

Maeve Brennan

Discipline: Literature
MacDowell fellowships: 1969, 1971, 1972
Maeve Brennan (1917–1993) was an Irish short story writer and journalist. She moved to the U.S. in 1934 when her father was appointed to the Irish Legation in Washington. She was an important figure in both Irish diaspora writing and in Irish writing itself. Collections of her articles, short stories, and a novella have been published. Her parents, Robert and Úna Brennan, were Republicans and were deeply involved in the Irish political and cultural struggles of the early 20th century. They participated in the 1916 Easter Rising, but while Úna was imprisoned for a few days, Robert was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted and his continuing political activity resulted in further imprisonments in 1917 and 1920. Maeve was born while he was in prison. In Maeve’s story “The Day We Got Our Own Back” she recounts how, when she was five, her home was raided by Free State forces looking for her father, who was on the run. Maeve graduated with a degree in English from American University in 1938 and moved to New York and found work as a fashion copywriter at Harper's Bazaar in the 1940s. She also wrote a Manhattan column for the Dublin society magazine Social and Personal, and wrote several short pieces for The New Yorker magazine. In 1949, she was offered a staff job and first wrote as a social diarist in “The Talk of the Town” section under the pseudonym The Long-Winded Lady. She also contributed fiction criticism, fashion notes, and essays before The New Yorker began publishing her short stories in 1950. Although she became widely read in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, she was almost unknown in Ireland, even though Dublin was the setting of many of her short stories. A compendium of her New Yorker articles called The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from the New Yorker was published in 1969. Two collections of short stories, In and Out of Never-Never Land (1969) and Christmas Eve (1974) were also published. While the love of her life was reportedly the writer and theatre critic/director Walter Kerr, he broke off their engagement and married someone else. In 1954, Brennan married St. Clair McKelway, The New Yorker's managing editor. McKelway had a history of alcoholism, womanizing and manic depression and had already been divorced three times. Brennan and McKelway divorced after five years. Edward Albee greatly admired Brennan and compared her to Chekhov and Flaubert. One of the characters in his play Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung is called Long-Winded Lady. He dedicated the published editions of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (1968) and Box (1968) to her



Maeve Brennan worked in the Cheney studio.

Cheney Studio was given to MacDowell by Mrs. Benjamin P. Cheney and Mrs. Karl Kauffman. Like Barnard Studio, Cheney is a low, broadly massed bungalow. Sited on a steep westward slope, its porches are supported on wooden posts and fieldstone with lattices. Although it still retains its appealing character, the original design of the shingled building…

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