Celtic twilight is a vague term used to describe that atmosphere, that romantic and somewhat dreamy sense and evocation of the past, which was cultivated and admired in Ireland towards the end of the 19th c. Irish writers, in what has been called the Irish literary Renaissance, wishing to dispel the influence of English literature, turned to their own heritage in search of myth and legend and the glories of a putative ‘golden age’ represented by such heroic figures as Finn MacCool. It was an attempt, partially successful, at a revival of Irish Celtic culture.
The literary movement was associated with a revival of interest in Ireland’s Gaelic heritage and the growth of Irish nationalism from the middle of the 19th century. Three influential works in this recrudescence were: James O’Grady’s History of Ireland: Heroic Period (1878); W. B. Yeats’s The Wanderings of Oisin (1889) and The Celtic Twilight (1893). Yeats, with other distinguished writers, founded the Irish Literary Society in London and the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin. In 1899 Yeats, George Moore, and Edwin Martin founded the Irish Literary Theatre; and, in 1901, the Abbey or National Theatre Society was established. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Synge supported it. As the movement gained popularity, libraries were created, books on Irish subjects published, lectures delivered and the Gaelic language revived.
Other notable writers associated with the movement were: ‘AE’ (pseudonym of George William Russell), Oliver St John Gogarty, Sean O’Casey, and James Stephens, George Sigerson. Many people ridiculed the movement and James Joyce dismissed it with a scornful phrase “cultic twalette”.