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Yeats's Mask

 | 
Margaret Mills Harper
, 
Warwick Gould

Shorter notes

‘My Dear Miss Brachvogel ...’ A Ms Version of a Yeats Quatrain

Philip R. Bishop

Texte intégral

The friends that have it I do wrong
When ever I remake a song,
Should know what issue is at stake:
It is myself that I remake. (CWVP2, epigraph)

1On 6 June, 1908 Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats boarded an ocean liner to return to Dublin without her father, John Butler Yeats. Her original plan was to tend a booth at the New York Irish Exhibition in January, but her stay was extended in the hope of convincing her father to return home with her. John Butler Yeats had enjoyed his time in New York too much and resisted returning to Dublin where old perceived failings, both financial and family, awaited him.

2Accompanying Lily Yeats on the return voyage was a slender Mosher Press book given her in safe keeping by a young, well-educated German-American woman she befriended sometime during her five month stay in the States, Clara Brachvogel. Records show that the only Brachvogels living in New York City during Lily Yeats’s stay were members of the Udo Brachvogel family, including their only surviving daughter, Clara. Udo Brachvogel (1835–1913) was the editor of the Belletristische Journal and a major figure in German-American publishing in New York, as well as an author, poet, translator, and long-time friend of Joseph Pulitzer. Lily Yeats had a long-time interest in Germany and quite possibly met Clara Brachvogel through John Quinn. In honour of his Irish guests, John Quinn hosted many social gatherings, dinners and parties for Lily Yeats and her father. She may also have met Clara Brachvogel at the Irish Exhibition.

3The 2½ page ALS by Lily Yeats, and its accompanying book bearing four lines of poetry signed and dated in William Butler Yeats’s holograph, have remained together over the past hundred plus years – more recently at Quaritch in London in the 1980s; then for three decades in a Georgetown University scholar’s collection; and presently in the Bishop Collection of the Mosher Press where this material was examined. The full text of the letter follows, with an image of its first page (Plate 9):

4GURTEEN DHAS,

5CHURCHTOWN, DUNDRUM,

6Co. DUBLIN.

7July 5th 1908

8My dear Miss Brachvogel

9I was lucky enough to get hold of my brother last week & he has written in your book, which I now return to you. He seems to bear no grudge against Mosher & just remarked that he wished honest publishers had such good taste. The little book is certainly well turned out.

10I had a pleasant journey home & found all well. I am going to send you the reproduction of a sketch my father did of me in New York, & I hope you will like it & keep it as a souvenir. I often think of that beautiful trip you took me to White Plains. It was so kind of you. – & our evening with the Amie, do tell me if you hear any news of her.

11With remembrances,

12I remain Sincerely yours

13Lily Yeats

Plate 9. First page of Lily Yeats’s letter to her American friend, Clara Brachvogel.

  • 1 The editors note that Mosher was a Welsh-born publisher (CL3 508, n. 9) – his ancestry was Scottis (...)

14A portion of the first page is quoted in the footnotes to the Collected Letters, misdated to ‘c. 30 June 1908’, the date Yeats supplied for the quatrain he inscribed in the book accompanying the letter (CL3 555, n. 2). The editors indicate that the letter accompanies ‘a copy of the 7th edition (1908)’ of The Land of Heart’s Desire,1 they mention neither its dated quatrain nor Lily Yeats’s indication that Yeats had inscribed it. No doubt the information was unavailable to them.

  • 2 Positions vary from harsh criticism of Mosher’s method of publishing (contemporaneous authors such (...)

15This letter encapsulates the ambivalence many an English, Scottish or Irish author had towards Mosher’s publications: Mosher, the ‘dishonest’ publisher, ‘the pirate’ vs. Mosher the producer of lovely books. Many thought, in effect, that while Mosher pirated their work, they desired exposure to an American audience and that Mosher’s books were so handsome that they were pleased to see their work in such a format. The arguments remain contentious to this day.2

16Those arguments aside, this is a pre-publication manuscript of ‘The friends who have it I do wrong…’. Yeats’s straightforward distinction between Mosher and ‘honest publishers’ indicates his usual reserve on the matter, while his remark about Mosher’s taste is also very much in line with his views elsewhere. Lily Yeats’s observation that ‘the little book is certainly well turned out’ is informed by her experience at the Dun Emer Press. Three manuscript versions of the Yeats quatrain are known, two of which pre-date its printing and one which may be a ‘fair copy’. All three are compared with the published version as it first appeared (CWVP2). These are displayed below in order of appearance for easy comparison (italics used to demonstrate holograph vs. printed form):

17Sotheby’s Sale
Catalogue The friends that have it I do wrong
Because I still remake my song
Know not the issue that’s at stake:
It is myself that I remake.
July 21, 1907

  • 3 This manuscript quatrain appears on the front pastedown of Yeats’s The Land of Heart’s Desire, sev (...)

18Bishop Collection3
Mosher Press The friends, who have it I do wrong
when ever I re make a song,
should know what issue is at stake:
It is myself that I re-make.
W B Yeats. June 30, 1908

19Printed version
(CWII & VP 778) The friends that have it I do wrong
When ever I remake a song,
Should know what issue is at stake:
It is myself that I remake.
[September 1908]

20Garvan Collection
Yale University The friends that have it I do wrong
When ever I remake a song
Should know what issue is at stake;
It is myself that I remake.
W B Yeats

Plate 10. Photostat copy by Colin Smythe of inscribed front free endpaper of Lady Gregory’s lost bookplate copy of Yeats’s Poems, 1899–1905. Private collection, London.

Plate 11. W. B. Yeat’s poem inscribed in the Mosher Press edition of The Land of Heart’s Desire (Mosher Press, 1908).

Plate 12. Yeats’s inscription in The King’s Threshold – A Play in Verse (New York: Printed for Private Circulation [ John Quinn], 1904. Courtesy Yeats Estate and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

  • 4 The Sotheby’s transcription had been republished in David Holdeman’s edition of W. B. Yeats, ‘In t (...)

21The first of these was accurately transcribed into the Catalogue of Valuable Autograph Letters, Literary Manuscripts and Historical Documents (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., July 23–24, 1979), 250 (Lot 351, purchased by Quaritch). The quatrain was written in a copy of Yeats’s Poems, 1899–1905 (Wade 64) inscribed ‘to Lady Gregory | from her friend | the writer. Oct. | 15 1906.’ The quatrain was added later below the 1906 inscription on the front free endpaper. Lady Gregory’s bookplate is glued to the front fixed endpaper. Below the quatrain, Yeats has added the date ‘July 21. 1907’. No photograph is present of this item in the catalogue, and the present whereabouts of the volume is untraced.4 However, before consigning this volume for sale in 1979, Dr Colin Smythe, Yeats’s bibliographer, took the precaution of making a photostat of the page. That photostat, albeit in faded condition, has recently turned up in a private collection in London, and Plate 10 is taken from it.

22As noted by Kelly and Schuchard, ‘William Butler Yeats never altered his habit of revision, a practice which has sometimes caused irritation to his readers and, frequently, anguish to his editors. He defended his conduct in a short poem of this time, which he published’ in CW2 (CL4 774, n. 8). The 21 July 1907, inscription is the earliest known MS appearance of this poem, and was written fourteen months before its first publication, and it is likely that its composition was in some way as yet unexplained connected with Yeats’s work on the whole Collected Works in Verse and Prose project. Most notable is the different wording in the second line ‘Because I still remake my song’ which later becomes the more open-ended ‘When ever I remake a song’, and the wording ‘Know not the issue that’s at stake:’ of the third line which by September 1908 was changed to ‘Should know what issue is at stake:’.

23Just three months prior to the printed version, the 30 June 1908 MS version was written on the front pastedown of the Mosher book (Plate 11), an apt comment perhaps on the ongoing revision of that play which had first appeared in 1894. After Lily Yeats returned home, her brother was in London until 17 June and afterwards went on to Paris until at least the 22nd. On his return to Dublin he corrected proofs for CW2. He inscribed Miss Brachvogel’s book on 30 June. In this MS the most notable differences are the first line’s ‘The friends, who have it I do wrong’ which was later altered for publication by taking out the punctuation and changing the relative pronoun who to the demonstrative pronoun that, so that the line would read ‘The friends that have it I do wrong’.

  • 5 Manuscript quatrain in W. B. Yeats, The King’s Threshold – A Play in Verse (New York: Printed for (...)

24The third and last known MS version of the quatrain is found as a bifolium tipped into a copy of The King’s Threshold.5 The most interesting element of this MS is that under Yeats’s signature there appear five astrological signs which read as ‘Moon trine Jupiter opposite Mars’ (see Plate 12). Would this allow us to approximate a date as to when the quatrain was written? Selecting the most likely outside dates given the quatrain’s printing in 1908 (roughly 1907–11), Warwick Gould submitted this astrological combination to Mr. Roger Nyle Parisious, who has kindly supplied us with the three astrological occurrences within those limits: 19 April 1908, 1–2 January 1909, or 25 June 1910. The degree of ‘fit’, based upon the time separation between events within the astrological configuration, is best summed up in the following chart:

THREE MOST LIKELY DATE ASSIGNMENTS

25Mr. Parisious assigned the strongest weight, to the 25 June 1910 date since the ‘Moon trines Jupiter’ occurred only 2 hrs and 45 minutes after ‘Moon opposing Mars’. The distance in time between the two occurrences is, at least in part, the reason for the assignment of ‘best fit’ for W. B. Yeat’s astrological configuration (Moon trine Jupiter opposite Mars). The second best fit of 19 April 1908 has a separation of 7 hrs. and 33 min., between the ‘Moon trine Jupiter’ and ‘Moon opposes Mars’ events. The last occurrence has a difference of around 19 hours between ‘Moon trines Jupiter’ and ‘Moon opposes Mars’, with the added proviso that ‘Mars & Jupiter’ were 10 degrees apart in this occurrence which further weakens the argument for 1–2 January 1909.

  • 6 The author wishes to acknowledge his appreciation to the following individuals for their suggestio (...)

26The 25 June 1910 date finds some support in a copy of Poems: Second Series, published in March 1910 and inscribed to Olivia Shakespear that year with a similar string of astrological signs added (YA9 301, n. 28, 307). The Garvan quatrain differs from the published version by one simple omission of a terminal comma to the second line, and so it is not unreasonable to assign to it ‘fair copy’ status. As such it would be of lesser interest than the two manuscripts of the yet unpublished poem.6

Editors’ Note

  • 7 See Gould, esp. 63–67. Richard Le Gallienne liked the look of ‘Mosher’s pretty piracies’, but pref (...)

27The survival of Miss Brachvogel’s inscribed and signed copy of The Land of Heart’s Desire with the letter echoing W. B. Yeats’s view of Mosher brings into focus the tension between Yeats’;s admiration for the book beautiful and his objective professional opposition to the then current American copyright law. While on the general international issues of copyright law, curious readers will be left in no doubt of Yeats’s later views by his Senate speeches of 24 February, 11 March and 4 May 1927 on Copyright Law (SS 132–51), the consistency of his and his sisters’ opposition to American attitudes to piracy at the turn of the century (and a tension between theirs views and those of George Russell7) may be gauged from evidence found on John Quinn’s set of the Cuala proofs of Twenty-One Poems written by Lionel Johnson: Selected by William Butler Yeats (1904). The proofs had been finished by 27 October, 1904 (a day on which Yeats and Quinn had breakfasted together in Dublin). Yeats and his sisters Lolly and Lily each added a comment to a set of the proofs, which found its way into Quinn’s collection. Lily Yeats’s comment is ‘Not to be pirated | Oct 27th. 1904 Lily Yeats’ (see overleaf, Plate 13). Thomas Mosher waited until 1908 to pirate the book in 950 copies on Van Gelder paper, and of course further editions followed from his publishing house. Some idea of the widening range of American pirate editions of The Land of Heart’s Desire (beyond those of from Mosher) can be gained from the succeeding article by Colin Smythe.

Plate 13. Top page of John Quinn’s set of the Cuala proofs of Twenty-One Poems written by Lionel Johnson: Selected by William Butler Yeats (1904), inscribed by Yeats and his two sisters. Lily Yeats’s comment is ‘Not to be pirated | Oct 27th. 1904.’ Courtesy and © Private Collector, all rights reserved.

Notes

1 The editors note that Mosher was a Welsh-born publisher (CL3 508, n. 9) – his ancestry was Scottish – and he was born in Biddeford, Maine. The revised edition first appeared in Mosher’s serial publication, The Bibelot, IX, n. 6, in June 1903, with Mosher’s proud encomium, ‘It is, therefore, with especial delight that with Mr Yeats’ permission, we reprint The Land of Heart’s Desire, written ten years back, but now given according to his latest revision’ (181). It is far from clear, however, that Yeats’s permission extended beyond this printing to what ensued, as 32 copies of this Bibelot version on Japan vellum, for presentation, appeared in July 1903 (Wade 12), followed by the first trade edition of October 1903 in the Lyric Garland Series (Wade 13), and the bound volume of The Bibelot later in the year. Mosher issued twelve editions in the Lyric Garland Series (later followed by a thirteenth published in 1925 by Mosher’s assistant, Flora Lamb, who continued the work of the business after Mosher’s death in 1923). There is also another edition published in Mosher’s Miscellaneous Series in 1909, thereby bringing the count to fifteen editions plus The Bibelot for June 1903, bringing the total count to sixteen printings all together. At the end of a tour in the US, Yeats wrote to George P. Brett of Macmillan & Co., Ltd. to boast of his speaking engagements ‘at over sixty-four colleges and literary societies in America’ (Quinn estimated Yeats spoke before 25,000–30,000 people during this time), citing the Mosher editions of The Land of Heart’s Desire as yet another barometer of his need for a regular trade publisher in the States: ‘I only learned yesterday that Mosher’s second edition of my little play, “The Land of Heart’s Desire”, each edition being 950 copies, has become exhausted, and that this has been done within the last few months. I believe that ultimately I shall have a considerable market in this country…’ (CL3 555).

2 Positions vary from harsh criticism of Mosher’s method of publishing (contemporaneous authors such as Andrew Lang, Lionel Johnson, et.al., particularly through The Critic in 1896, but also elsewhere) to positions bordering on the benign and even supportive (British publisher, Grant Richards; literary critic Clement Shorter; and American apologists of more recent times). Warwick Gould has termed Mosher ‘a scoundrel’ (YA15 382) and has determined that Mosher’s ‘piracy’ of The Land of Heart’s Desire unduly influenced the subsequent reception of Yeats in the States because Macmillan (an honest trade publisher) despised Mosher’s ways and felt it necessary to impose quite extraordinary contracts on this author thereby severely limiting Yeats’s options in seeking a collected edition of his works under one publisher (‘Yeats in the States: Piracy, Copyright and the Shaping of the Canon’ in Publishing History 51, 61–82; hereafter ‘Gould’). Perhaps Andrew Lang most succinctly summed up Mosher’s opportunistic ‘piracy’ campaign under what was the Copyright Law of 1891 (the Chase-Breckinridge-Adams-Simonds-Platt Copyright Act) when he tersely inscribed a copy of Mosher’s 1903 second edition of his Helen of Troy: ‘This piracy is perfectly legal – in America. A Lang’ (Bishop Collection, Mosher Press). Indeed, Mosher was an opportunist who aggressively exploited his publishing rights under what can only be described as a bad law, and anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of British and Irish grievances against Mosher would do well to consult Professor Gould’s article.
Direct evidence of Yeats’s formal or informal terms with Mosher – if indeed there were any – has never been uncovered. Mosher’s business letters which are now at Harvard University’s Houghton Library have only one much later 1912 letter from Yeats to Mosher [bMS Am 1096–1635]. Mosher’s 1903 catalogue further indicates this reprint was done ‘with Mr. Yeats’s consent’ (see Philip R. Bishop, Thomas Bird Mosher: Pirate Prince of Publishers [New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press; London: The British Library, 1998] 185, entry 186). George Russell was the intermediary who coaxed Yeats to let Mosher print the revised edition of The Land of Heart’s Desire, see Gould, 65–66.

3 This manuscript quatrain appears on the front pastedown of Yeats’s The Land of Heart’s Desire, seventh edition (Portland, ME: Thomas B. Mosher, [ January] 1908). It is accompanied by a 2 ½ page letter from William Butler Yeats’s sister, Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats, here printed with kind permission of Linda Shaughnessy of A. P. Watt Ltd., London. The letter and the Mosher book containing the quatrain was previously in the possession of the Wordsworth scholar, Dr. Paul Betz, and were both displayed in an exhibition at Georgetown University in 2004. For the attending exhibition catalogue, see Paul F. Betz, Professor and Collector: A Selection of Books, Manuscripts, Pictures and Objects (Washington, D.C.: Special Collections Division of the Joseph Mark Lauinger Library, Georgetown University, 2004), 25, entry 61 quotes the quatrain and several lines from Lily Yeats’s letter. In addition, the pencil notation “Quaritch ‘86’” appears on the last free endpaper indicating it passed though the firm of Bernard Quaritch Ltd. of London. In the Bishop Collection of the Mosher Press, and accessed and with Mr. Bishop’s kind permission.

4 The Sotheby’s transcription had been republished in David Holdeman’s edition of W. B. Yeats, ‘In the Seven Woods’ and ‘The Green Helmet and other Poems’, Manuscript Materials (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002), xxx, 254–55.

5 Manuscript quatrain in W. B. Yeats, The King’s Threshold – A Play in Verse (New York: Printed for Private Circulation [John Quinn], 1904). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Ip Y34 904kb. Transcribed and printed with kind permission of Linda Shaughnessy of A. P. Watt Ltd., London.

6 The author wishes to acknowledge his appreciation to the following individuals for their suggestions and/or assistance in various ways: Robert J. Barry, Jr. (C.A. Stonehill Books, New Haven, CT); Dr. Paul F. Betz (Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.); Professor Matthew M. DeForrest (Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC); Terry G. Halladay (William Reese Company, New Haven, CT); Dr. Declan D. Kiely (Taylor curator, Literary and Historical Manuscripts, The Morgan Library & Museum, NY); Dr. Maureen E. Mulvihill (scholar & writer, Princeton Research Forum, Princeton, NJ); Patrick A. Murphy (editor, Lionville, PA); Roger Nyle Parisious (Shakespeare, art and occult scholar; for many years Archivist to Anne Yeats; and last General Secretary of the original Theosophical Society of Ireland, Meyersdale, PA); Professor James L. Pethica (Williams College, Williamstown, MA); Adrienne L. Sharpe (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT); Clare McVikar Ward (genealogical researcher, Shrewsbury, NJ); and, of course, to Linda Shaughnessy (A. P. Watt Ltd., London) for permission to publish the Yeats family MSS displayed in this article. I am grateful to Professor Warwick Gould for his collaboration in researching critical elements of this article, particularly the two other manuscript versions of Yeats’s quatrain, for his work in the private collections and in assisting to unlock the astrological symbols of the Yale copy.

7 See Gould, esp. 63–67. Richard Le Gallienne liked the look of ‘Mosher’s pretty piracies’, but preferred to bring them back as a present for his wife rather than to post them from the USA in December,1900, ‘they would probably never reach you, being confiscated in the post’. The letter is quoted in Richard Whittington-Egan and Geoffrey Smerdon, The Quest of the Golden Boy: The Life and Letters of Richard Le Gallienne (London: The Unicorn Press, 1960), 380.

Table des illustrations

Légende Plate 9. First page of Lily Yeats’s letter to her American friend, Clara Brachvogel.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 11k
Légende Plate 10. Photostat copy by Colin Smythe of inscribed front free endpaper of Lady Gregory’s lost bookplate copy of Yeats’s Poems, 1899–1905. Private collection, London.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 10k
Légende Plate 11. W. B. Yeat’s poem inscribed in the Mosher Press edition of The Land of Heart’s Desire (Mosher Press, 1908).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,2k
Légende Plate 12. Yeats’s inscription in The King’s Threshold – A Play in Verse (New York: Printed for Private Circulation [ John Quinn], 1904. Courtesy Yeats Estate and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 7,8k
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-5.jpg
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Légende Plate 13. Top page of John Quinn’s set of the Cuala proofs of Twenty-One Poems written by Lionel Johnson: Selected by William Butler Yeats (1904), inscribed by Yeats and his two sisters. Lily Yeats’s comment is ‘Not to be pirated | Oct 27th. 1904.’ Courtesy and © Private Collector, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Légende Plate 14a.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-7.jpg
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Légende Plate 14b
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-8.jpg
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Légende Plate 14c.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1436/img-9.jpg
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