PEN was founded by novelist Catherine Amy Dawson Scott who envisaged a dinner club where well-known writers could meet socially. The first dinner was held at the prestigious Café Royal in London in October 1921 with 41 writers in attendance, including Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy and D.H. Lawrence.
Galsworthy became PEN’s first president and persuaded a reluctant George Bernard Shaw to join. Shaw complained about the irritation of the guinea-a-year fee and told Galsworthy to take twenty guineas and make him a life member.
Lady Augusta Gregory, the dramatist, folklorist and translator, set up the first branch of Irish PEN. However Irish writers of the time proved solitary and wary of discussing their work and it wasn’t until 1934, under the auspices of Lord Longford, Sean O’Faolain and Bulmer Hobson that it began to thrive. Learn more here about Irish PEN and the PEN Charter.
Today Irish PEN provides a monthly meeting point for writers of all levels of experience and genres and works with International PEN on areas of international concern to writers. We meet at the United Arts Club in Fitzwiliam Street, Dublin 2.
The Irish PEN Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the most prestigious given to a writer in Ireland. Read more about the Award here.
Irish PEN currently has no state support or funding and is run by a voluntary committee. Membership fees are vital to our survival so please contact us to become a member!