…in London, Lady Augusta Gregory, 42, widowed for the past two years, is moving her possessions back to the Gregory home, Coole Park in the west of Ireland, and getting rid of a lot of her late husband’s ‘rubbish.’ On the basis of his autobiography, which she edited, she has convinced a London publisher to commission her to edit his family correspondence, which she found in a box at Coole.
This is the kind of project Augusta has been looking for. During her 12-year marriage to Sir William Gregory, Member of Parliament, Governor of Ceylon, and 35 years her senior, she had travelled the world, organized a campaign to free a rebel Arab leader, had an affair with a poet, and become a mother.
In their London home at Hyde Park Corner, Lady Gregory had hosted a salon with the likes of Henry James, Alfred Lord Tennyson, James Whistler, Randolph Churchill, Sir John Millais, Aubrey Beardsley, and her fellow members of the Protestant Irish upper class, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats. Lured by the promise of fascinating conversation, moving between the drawing room, the dining room and the library, the elite of London felt comfortable gossiping about art and politics at the Gregory home.
Early on, Lady Gregory had had her guests sign her fan, made of sandalwood and crimson satin. When that one was filled, she bought fans of ivory for them to autograph, similar to this one:
Her son Robert, now 13, inherited Coole Park when William Gregory died, but Augusta has the right to live there for life. Back there, working on her book, she wants to invite other writers and artists to visit and stay during the summers.
This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.