American President Theodore Roosevelt was infatuated with mythical Irish legends including Cúchulain and Queen Maeve.
The President’s interest in Irish folklore has come to light following the sale in Dublin of American diplomatic papers.
The Irish Times reports that an archive which includes letters sent from the White House in Washington and signed by President Roosevelt has been acquired for the State.
The National Library of Ireland paid almost $3,000 for the lot at Mealy’s auction of rare books on Tuesday.
The Republican president, who served from 1901-1909, had a keen interest in Irish history and literature and was remarkably aware of developments in pre-Independence Ireland.
The papers outline how Roosevelt corresponded with TP Gill who was secretary of the Irish Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, a former MP for the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster and editor of the Dublin Daily Express.
In a letter dated 1903, sent from his New York home, Roosevelt revealed his reading list included Lady Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne and Douglas Hyde’s Literary History of Ireland.
Lady Gregory subsequently wrote to the president thanking him for reading her book and welcoming his support which raised its profile dramatically.
In his time as American president, Roosevelt also wrote a major essay titled ‘The Ancient Irish Sagas’ in which he demonstrated a detailed knowledge of the legends of Finn and the Fianna, the Dun Bull of Cooley, the Children of Lir and other mythical figures.
The essay was accompanied by striking color illustrations of Cúchulain and Queen Maeve by the renowned illustrator JC Leyendecker and was published in The Century magazine in New York in 1907. The National Library of Ireland has an original copy.
“It is much to be desired that, wherever possible, chairs of Celtic studies should be established in our leading universities,” wrote Roosevelt who had Dutch and Irish roots.
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