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Lavin, Mary, (1912-1996.) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Lavin, Mary, (1912-1996.)


Historical Note:

Mary Lavin, author of exquisitely told short stories, was born in East Walpole, Massachusetts on June 11, 1912.  When she was ten, her parents moved to Ireland.  An only child, she felt a fierce childish resentment for what had always been home - New England.  She began to love Ireland at age fourteen when the family moved to Bective House in County Meath where she spent many hours roaming the long dark passageways and lonely rooms reading Russian novels, acquiring a sensitivity that was never to leave her.

She was educated at Loreto Convent, Stephen's Green, Dublin, and the National University of Ireland at Dublin, where her M.A. thesis on Jane Austen won her first class honors.  Though beginning a study of Virginia Woolf for her Ph.D., and attracted to the scene of literary activity, she never considered becoming a writer herself.  As she related, "I still conserved a curious naivete - that literature was written by the dead.  But one day someone spoke casually of having taken tea with Virginia Woolf.  I was strangely struck by this information and all during the day from time to time I found myself wondering what Virginia Woolf was doing.  It must have been when I realized that she might be at her desk writing that my mind finally made the connection between work and the hand that wrote it.  I turned over the typescript of my thesis, which I was correcting at the time and wrote my first short story on it."  Her first story, "Miss Holland" was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

In September 1942 she married William Walsh, a lawyer, who later entered politics.  They had three children.  Following her husband's premature death, Ms. Lavin devoted her energies to running the farm, rearing her children, and like Jane Austen, continuing her writing on the kitchen table in the evening.  Her stories have been published in the

Atlantic Monthly,

Harper's Bazaar,

The New Yorker,

and other fine magazines, as well as in collected volumes.  She is also the author of two novels:

The House in Clew Street

and

Mary O'Grady

Commended for her strength as a woman and as a writer of succinct stories, Ms. Lavin continued to write in Ireland.  "In my life," she related, "writing never came first; now however, that my other tasks are nearly done I find my work is gaining in importance for me every day.  This is perhaps because of the diminishing ratio between the stories left to write and the time left to write them."






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