J. M Synge was born in 1871 into a strictly Protestant upper-middle-class Irish family. He spent his short life in a variety of situations; with his widowed evangelical mother, in rented rooms in Paris, in a primitive cottage on the island of Aran and in a nursing home where he died from Hodgkins' Disease in 1907 at the age of 37. At the beginning of the century Ireland was in an unsettled state as the Home Rule movement became increasingly active. At the same time in Europe a cultural revolution was unfolding with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann and Max Weber publishing their seminal works. McCormack's biography places Synge in the context of this vibrant era and illuminates his contribution to the spirit of the age. Although many of his personal papers have been destroyed, ten volumes of diaries still exist, as well as much of his mother's correspondence to the family and an unpublished biography of Synge by his nephew. McCormack draws on this material to produce an authoritative and extremely lively account of this great man's life and works which explodes many of the conventional assumptions about turn-of-the-century Ireland, about Irish Protestantism and about Synge's beliefs and nature.