O'Casey's last text unsold at auction


AN autographed manuscript by Sean O'Casey describing the premature death of his son, Niall, was not sold at Sotheby's literary auction in London yesterday as it did not reach its reserve price, believed to be £20,000 sterling.

The manuscript, discovered after the Dublin playwright's death in 1964, was his last substantial piece of work and expressed his profound grief over the death. It is also the last of O'Casey's manuscripts to be offered for sale by his family and had been expected to sell for £25,000 at Sotheby's English literature and history auction.

O'Casey wrote the moving lament following Niall's premature death at the age of 21 from leukaemia. Written in the form of a journal in longhand in dark blue-ink, O'Casey started the manuscript on December 30th, 1956, the day his son died, up until March 25th, 1964, six months before his own death, when he was clinically blind.

Although O'Casey describes his daily life, the manuscript also contains a series of meditations, reflections on Niall's death and his thoughts on bereavement.

His widow, Eileen, discovered the manuscript shortly after his death and allowed the diary section to be published in 1991.

"Sometimes I would come across the notes that Sean was writing but I did not realise at the time it was a day-to-day diary. A diary of daily events but also Sean's lament for Niall. I found the complete diary after Sean's death in 1964. It was very long and very beautiful but far too poignant for me to think of publishing it then," she said.