“The Censor in Each of Us” Posted by Colm Tóibín



This piece is drawn from the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, given by Colm Tóibín, on May 5th, as part of the PEN World Voices Festival.

It began, as many things do, with a dream. In the summer of 1901, while staying at Coole Park, the house that had belonged to Lady Gregory’s husband and now belonged to her son, the Irish poet W. B. Yeats had a dream that was “almost as distinct as a vision, of a cottage where there was well-being and firelight and talk of a marriage, and into the midst of that cottage there came an old woman in a long cloak” who was “Ireland herself,” personified as Cathleen ni Houlihan, “for whom so many songs have been sung, and about whom so many stories have been told and for whose sake so many have gone to their death.”