TCD adds to Samuel Beckett collection with new works

Beckett scholar said his naivety helped him first get in contact with the Noble Prize winner

TCD have acquired the Samuel Beckett manuscripts and working library of renowned Beckett scholar Professor Stanley Gontarski of Florida State University and one of Beckett's closest theatrical associates. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 18:07

Trinity College Dublin has significantly added to their Samuel Beckett collection with new manuscripts and documents from a well known scholar.

Professor Stanley E Gontarski, who had first collaborated with the Noble Prize winner in 1980, officially handed over the manuscripts, years of correspondence between him and Beckett and his working library to the college today.

“It feels right. It ensures a new generation of scholars are working on Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts,” he said.

“The problem with holding things in private hands is the public don’t have access to it.”

Included in the additions to the collection are several drafts of Beckett’s work on playlet Ohio Impromptu, a copy of Three Plays (1984) revised by Beckett and proofs of Gontarski’s critical edition Endgame.

Prof Gontarski, a professor of English at Florida State University, persuaded Beckett to write the Ohio Impromptu for a performance at an academic conference in Columbus, Ohio held in honour of Beckett’s 75th birthday.

“What was I was most surprised is how unsurprised he was at the request,” he said.

Although, Prof Gontarski said in the long-term he may have had some “regrets” after his was bombarded with continuous requests for other conferences.

Prof Gontarski, who has been awarded the Fulbright Professorships twice, first made contact on “impulse” with Beckett as an undergraduate student.

“Sometimes naivety works in your favour for stumbling into things,” he said.

“Beckett was a rare breed that actually took an interest in people working with his work.”

The 71-year-old said Beckett was more than an “austere and bleak character”.

“While there was a certain amount of that he was affable, chatty and a very funny character,” he said.

“Even in working rehearsals there was always room for social interaction.”

Beckett entered TCD at 17-years old and specialised in French and Italian in 1923.

He lectured for a short time after however he decided his life to being a full-time author and spent most of his life in France.

Jane Maxwell, principal curator at Trinity library, said new research would be both inspired and supported by this new acquisition

“I believe Irish people generally take pride in Beckett’s presence in Irish Literary history,” she said.

Dr Bernard Meehan, head of research collections and keeper of manuscripts at Trinity College Library, said the new range of materials were an “exciting project”.

“This collection is a very important source for people,” he said.

The exhibition of the collection will run in the Trinity Long Hub room for the next month.