'Significant collection' of Kate O'Brien's letters purchased by UL

Cache of 500 letters discovered among NUIG academic's papers

Collection of Kate O'Brien's letters purchased by University of Limerick

Librarian Pattie Punch with Ken Bergin, examining the collection

THE University of Limerick has announced the purchase of a batch of a ‘significant collection’ of letters written by famous author Kate O’Brien.

The collection of 500 letters written by the Limerick author were discovered in the papers of Dr Lorna Reynolds (1911-2003) who was Professor Emeritus of Modern English at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

UL said it purchased the collection of Dr Reynold’s papers at a public auction on International Women’s Day.

The Limerick writer was in correspondence with Dr Reynolds from 1940 to 1969, with the largest portion of the letters written between 1946 and 1950.

Dr Reynolds wrote a biography of the author, best known for work The Ante-Room, in 1987 and the archive also contains some of her notes and papers related to this work.

Ken Bergin, Head of Special Collections, UL Glucksman Library, said O’Brien was “an important Irish and international writer and the Glucksman Library is proud to host significant collections of her work.

“It was essential for University of Limerick to acquire the papers of Dr Lorna Reynolds with their invaluable archive of personal letters from Kate O’Brien in order to secure their availability in an Irish research institution,” he explained.

“There was a strong possibility that the collection would leave the country had it not been for the intervention of UL. This is a very significant addition to UL’s major literary archive.”

The discovery of the letters from O’Brien adds greatly to the significant archives of her life and work held at the UL Library. This represents the largest collection of personal correspondence from this iconic Irish writer.

Lifelong friends, the letters reflect the literary, cultural and academic world of post-war Ireland. Interestingly, the archive also contains Dr Reynold’s own letters to Kate O’Brien, written from 1946 to 1949. At some stage, Dr Reynold's letters must have been returned to her.

Dr Reynold’s papers also contain more than 100 letters from Darina di Silone née Laracy.

UL said the papers would require conservation and that it may be some time before the collection can be made available to researchers.