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James Henry Cousins

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(July 22, 1873 – February 20, 1956) was an Irish writer, playwright, actor, critic, editor, teacher and poet. He used several pseudonyms including Mac Oisin and the Hindu name Jayaram.

He was born at 18, Kevor Street in Belfast, Ireland, the descendant of Huguenot refugees. He was largely self-educated at night schools and after working some time as a clerk became private secretary and speechwriter to Sir Daniel Dixon, 1st Baronet, the Lord Mayor of Belfast. In 1897 he moved to Dublin where he became part of a literary circle which included William Butler Yeats, George William Russell and James Joyce. He is believed to have served as a model for the Little Chandler character in Joyce's short story collection Dubliners. Cousins was significantly influenced by Russell's ability to reconcile mysticism with a pragmatic approach to social reforms and by the teachings of Madame Blavatsky. He had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and acted as reporter in several experiments carried out by William Fletcher Barrett, Professor of physics at Dublin University and one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research.

Cousins produced several books of poetry whilst in Ireland and as well as acting in the first production of Cathleen Ni Houlihan (under the stage name of H. Sproule) with the famous Irish revolutionary and beauty Maud Gonne in the title role, his plays were produced in the first years of the Twentieth century in the Abbey Theatre, the most famous being “the Racing Lug”. However after a dispute with W.B.Yeats, who objected to 'too much Cousins' the Irish National Theatre movement split with two-thirds of the actors and writers siding with Cousins against Yeats. He also wrote widely on the subject of Theosophy and in 1915 Cousins travelled to India with the voyage fees paid for by Annie Besant the President of the Theosophical Society. He spent most of the rest of his life in the sub-continent, apart from a year as Professor of English Literature at Keio University in Tokyo and another lecturing in New York. Towards the end of his life he converted to Hinduism. At the core of Cousins's engagement with Indian culture was a firm belief in the "shared sensibilities between Celtic and Oriental peoples". In India he became friendly with many key Indian personalities including poet Rabindranath Tagore, Indian classical dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale, painter Abdur Rahman Chughtai and Mahatma Gandhi. He wrote a joint autobiography with his wife Margaret Elizabeth Cousins (formerly Gretta Gillespie), a suffragette and one of the co-founders of the Irish Women's Franchise League and All India Women's Conference (AIWC).

In his The Future Poetry Sri Aurobindo has acclaimed Cousins' New Ways in English Literature as "literary criticism which is of the first order, at once discerning and suggestive, criticism which forces us both to see and think." He has also acknowledged that he learnt to intuit deeper being alerted by Cousins' criticisms of his poems. The Mother first met James Cousins in Japan. Later, in 1920, Cousins came to Pondicherry to meet the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. The appreciation is palpable in the following citations:

«It will be more fruitful to take the main substance of the matter for which the body of Mr.Cousins’ criticism gives a good material. Taking the impression it creates for a starting-point and the trend of English poetry for our main text, but casting our view farther back into the past, we may try to sound what the future has to give us through the medium of the poetic mind and its power for creation and interpretation. The issues of recent activity are still doubtful and it would be rash to make any confident prediction; but there is one possibility which this book strongly suggests and which it is at least interesting and may be fruitful to search and consider. That possibility is the discovery of a closer approximation to what we might call the mantra in poetry that rhythmic speech which, as the Veda puts it, rises at once from the heart of the seer and from the distant home of the Truth, — the discovery of the word, the divine movement, the form of thought proper to the reality which, as Mr. Cousins excellently says, “lies in the apprehension of a something stable behind the instability of word and deed, something that is reflection of the fundamental passion of humanity for something beyond itself, something that is a dim foreshadowing of the divine urge which is prompting all creation to unfold itself and to rise out of its limitations towards its Godlike possibilities.” Poetry in the past has done that in moments of supreme elevation; in the future there seems to be some chance of its making it a more conscious aim and steadfast endeavour.» [from The Future Poetry by Sri Aurobindo]

 

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Bibliography

In English

Cousins, James Henry

In English

Etain the beloved and other poems

•   Dublin: Maunsel ans Co., 1912.- 96 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

Straight and crooked

•   London: Grant Richards LTD, [without date].- 64 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

Surya-gita (sun songs) together with second editions of «The garland of life» and «Moulted feathers»

•   Madras: Ganesh and Co., 1922.- 152 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

The awakening, and other sonnets

•   Dublin: Mountsel and Co.- 13 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

The Bell-Branch

•   Dublin: Mountsel and Co.- 1908.- 47 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

The play of Brahma: an essay on the drama in national revival

•   Bangalore: The Amateur Dramatic Assotiation, 1921.- 69 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

The Quest

•   Dublin: Maunsel and Co.; London: 26, Ludgate Hill, 1906.- 56 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

The Voice of One: poems, sonnets

•   London: Paternoster Square, 1900.- 79 p.

Cousins, James Henry

In English

War: a theosophical view

•   London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1914.- 30 p.

Cousins, James Henry; Margaret Cousins

In English

We Two Together: An autobiography

•   Madras: Ganesh and Co, 1950.- 784 p. [Available on-lain only pages 349-395.]

Cousins, James Henry

In English

Work And Worship: Essays on Culture and Creative Art

•   Madras: Ganesh and Co., 1922.- 159 p.

Chatterjee D.K.

about person

Cousins and Aurobindo, a study in literary influence

•   // Journal of south asian literature, V24, N1, 1989. P.114-123

In Russian