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Yeats’s Legacies

Warwick Gould


Warwick Gould

Note de l’auteur

Note, 5 January 2018. We deeply regret the early death on 4 January 2018 of the noted Irish Art Historian, Nicola Gordon Bowe, the leading expert on the Arts and Crafts Movement in Dublin and Edinburgh. She was celebrated for such books as Harry Clarke: the life & work (Dublin: History Press, 2012), Wilhemina Geddes: Life and Work (Dublin: Four Courts, 2015); Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass: The Works of Harry Clarke and the Artists of An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass) 1903–1963, eds. Nicola Gordon Bowe, David Caron and Michael Wynne; with an introduction and biographies by Nicola Gordon Bowe (Dublin: Irish Academic, 1988).

Texte intégral

W. B. Yeats in the fin de siècle.

W. B. Yeats in the fin de siècle.

The Elliot & Fry image, purchased from an untraced picture archive. From pencilled notes on the verso, the image was copyrighted to Elliot & Fry, and each reproduction incurred a fee of 14/– to the London Electrotype Agency. A fee of that sum had been paid for Richardson, ‘The World Writers’, perhaps a series in an untraced periodical, and the image had been filed with ‘English Portraits of Yeats’.

© Private Collection, London, all rights reserved.


  • 1 I am grateful to Dr Joe Hassett for reminding me of this Introduction to The Aspern Papers, written (...)
  • 2 See Yeats: The Family Collection, with an Introduction by Warwick Gould (London: Sotheby’s, 2017), (...)

1There were two ‘Yeats events’ of 2017. The first took place on 27th September at Sotheby’s, London, where the sale of Yeats: The Family Collection offered the relics of three generations of artistic lives, and represented the Aesthetic equivalent of an Irish country-house sale. This then was followed—a surprise to some—by the auction of a further 253 items at Fonsie Mealy’s in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, on 14 November 2017.2 These sales were a moment in the history of Yeats as defining in its way as his 150th anniversary in 2015. Involved as I was in the preparation of the first sale, I offer some thoughts arising from these events before a brief resumé of the principal essays in this volume.

2An ordinary family snapshot of Thoor Ballylee, showing the tower as viewed from the cabbage patch over the road, offers a small example of the kinds of research possibilities opened by the objects released in the Yeats Family Sales.

Plate 1. Yeats family snapshot c. 1927, of Thoor Ballylee and its cottages, taken from the ‘acre of stony ground’ or cabbage patch over the road. Image courtesy Private Collection London.

3Thoor Ballylee, a monumental sixteenth-century fortified tower-house, was finally purchased, as James Pethica details in his essay in this volume (see below, 213-68), in May 1916. It had been coveted by Yeats since the 1890s and probably since 1896, and it became a public monument from 14 February 1928, the publication day for The Tower, with Yeats’s new personal seal upon its top board. ‘Blood and the Moon’, written in August 1927 and ‘declar[ing] this tower… my symbol’ (VP 480) was then published in The Exile in the spring of 1928.

  • 3 See Plates 1 and 2. For the photograph which survives in the Sturge Moore collection at the Senate (...)
  • 4 As aptly put in a confirmatory email to me by Dr Declan Kiely, the Yeats and Sturge Moore scholar ( (...)

4Thomas Sturge Moore’s famous cover design was drawn not from the snapshot sent by Yeats which survives in the Sturge Moore collection at the Senate House Library, but from this family snapshot offered at the Sotheby’s sale as part of lot 82, a dealer’s lot with an estimate of £200–300 which fetched £550.3 Sturge Moore’s imposed view puts the arches of the bridge below of the tower and cottages, almost as if the tower and cottages had been built upon it: he ‘needed to “move” the bridge (substituting it for the garden wall) in order to have the tower reflected on the surface of the flowing river’.4 Impossible view as it is, it stamped Yeats’s symbol into the public mind and quite displaced all previous rose symbols, including those Sturge Moore’s own designs for Yeats’s books.

Plates 2–3. Plate 2 is a cropped detail of Plate 1 approximating the ‘view’ of the tower and cottages depicted in Plate 3, a detail of Thomas Sturge Moore’s top board design for The Tower (1928). Images courtesy Private Collection London.

5But back in the 1920s, Thoor Ballylee had rather quickly lost its markedly compromised charms for the Yeats family as a summer home and writing retreat, and for various practical reasons. Its abandonment had been foreseen as early as 22 December 1921:

I am in deep gloom about Ireland … I see no hope of escape from bitterness …. When men are very bitter, death & ruin draw them on as a rabit is supposed to be drawn on by the dancing of the fox …. all may be blood & misery. If that comes we may abandon Ballylee to the owls and the rats & England too (where passion will rise & I shall find myself with no answer), & live in some far land. Should England & Ireland be divided beyond all hope of remedy, what else could one do for the childrens sake, or ones own work (CL InteLex 4039).

6Oliver St. John Gogarty warned him that

  • 5 Unlike Dún Aonghasa the Bronze Age hill fort on Inishmore, Aughnanure is another sixteenth-century (...)

To stones trust not your monument
To make a living fame endure.
Who built Dun Aengus Battlement?
O’Flaherty is forgotten in Auchnanure.5

  • 6 See The Poems and Plays of Oliver St. John Gogarty, collected, ed. and intr. by A. Norman Jeffares (...)

And he who told how Troy was sacked
And what men clipt the lovely Burd,
Had seven Mayors to swear, in fact,
Their towns first heard his babbling word.6

7By 26 August 1927 Yeats had left Ballylee for the last time, before going to Algeciras in November to recover from pneumonia. A year later, the workload in the Seanad and in Dublin public life had become crushing and Yeats’s health was failing.

  • 7 Shakespeare, Sonnet 55. Michael Yeats did not have the money to restore and use it, but it was even (...)
  • 8 Yeats: The Family Collection, with an Introduction by Warwick Gould (London: Sotheby’s, 2017), 176 (...)

8Although written in 1918, ‘To be carved on a Stone at Thoor Ballylee’, was not erected as a tablet until 1948. Its ‘powerful rhyme’ looked set to outlive the monument itself as the tower, vandalised, again fell into ruin.7 Some few moveable items of furniture had found their way back to Dublin, and, by the time they appeared in Yeats: The Family Collection sale at Sotheby’s, London, on 27 September 2017, they had acquired relic status.8

  • 9 See the New York Edition of Novels and Tales (New York: Scribner, 1907–9), Vol. 7, The Altar of the (...)

9Very few ‘dear perpetual’ places can be securely endowed against time and taxes. While Henry James’s Spencer Brydon still finds ‘ineffaceable life’ when he revisits his family’s home on ‘The Jolly Corner’ in New York after thirty-three years abroad,9 it is a truism of the sale rooms that there eventually comes a time when a family outlives the Lares et Penates of its forebears. Inevitably, disencumberment ensues.

10Yeats: The Family Collection was a sale carefully planned by the Yeats family over a long period with the auction house, the National Library and other state depositories in Ireland. In that preparation, as became publicly apparent both before and after the sale, lay in fact the culmination of nearly 80 years of extraordinary generosity by Mrs Yeats and her descendants. Jack B. and Cottie Yeats remained childless, so too did the ‘weird sisters’ of the Dun Emer and Cuala Presses Susan Mary (Lily) and Elizabeth Corbet (Lollie) Yeats. So, too, was w. b. Yeats’s daughter, Anne. The inherited, the created, the acquired—some of it with w. b. Yeats’s Nobel Prize money—all that had not already gone to archives and galleries all around the world, came to rest in Cliff House, Dalkey, the family home of Michael and Gráinne Yeats and their children.

  • 10 See the press releases from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (...)

11That family’s generosity to the State has been profound: its proud record is summarized in the series of press releases from the National Library of Ireland, not only announcing the acquisition by the Library of the Yeats-Joyce and Yeats-George Yeats correspondences, but also reviewing the history of some €8.5 million worth of gifts from the family since 1939 to that institution alone.10

12When I first visited Cliff House and Anne Yeats’s nearby house ‘Avalon’ as a postgraduate in 1970, I did not know that I sat on one of Yeats’s dining chairs, lunching en famille at ‘Yeats’s dining table’, purchased with his Nobel Prize money (Lots 102, 103, estimates and hammer prices below). Sunk into a too comfortable chair in the living room, I found my eyes continually drawn from my study of Yeats’s manuscripts and marked proofs by the paintings, drawings, even the furniture. I think particularly of the John Butler Yeats self-portrait, unfinished, relayered and encrusted with impasto over 11 years as he sought to prolong his life in New York to avoid returning to his family in Dublin (Lot 64, est. £30,000-£50,000; fetched £70,000). Or of a portrait of William Butler Yeats at 22 by his father (not in this sale) of the poet in his own poem, as his own mad ‘King Goll’, hitherto known to me only as a steel engraving in The Leisure Hour of September 1887, in which he is depicted ‘tearing the strings out [of] a harp, being insane with youth, but looking very desirable—alas no woman noticed it at the time—with dreamy eyes & a great mass of black hair. It hangs in our drawing room now a pathetic memory of a really dreadful time’: so Yeats recalled for Olivia Shakespear in 1924. ‘I write for boys & girls of twenty for I am always thinking of myself at that age’ (CL InteLex 4556). Working among Yeats’s own books at Anne Yeats’s nearby ‘Avalon’, my eyes were drawn to Yeats’s gilded Moorish (actually a Burmese chest, now in the National Gallery of Ireland) wedding-chest in which, as he had written, he had kept his ‘barbarous words’ (Myth 366; CW5 32).

13What George, Michael, Anne Yeats and Michael’s children gave to Irish state institutions over the years were objects easily identifies as research materials—books, manuscripts, letters, sketches, and paintings. What had hitherto been perhaps unforeseen is the new research interests in domestic interiors, and of the relic-making processes of writing and artistic creation. Sotheby’s exploited the potential of this in their Dublin and London displays of what was to be offered, and the web advertising for the sale as well as the catalogue captured well their co-location of objects around Yeats’desk and writing chair—desk candlesticks, letters, a large silver inkwell, the black-japanned deed box with his name upon it.

14The deed box is instructive for historians of price. On 23 July 1987, Sotheby’s sold a vast collection of such writers’ deed boxes from a. p. Watt & Co., advertising them at prices of little more than £100 each (lots 202–224 in that sale). Yeats’s was not among them, presumably having been returned to the family at some point. It turned up as lot 983 in the current sale, with an ambitious estimate of £2,000–3,000. It fetched £12,000.

15To judge only by observation of paddle numbers as announced by the auctioneer at the sale, three separate buyers divided between them a multitude of lots. The prodigious first single buyer appears to have purchased—in the case of the first two items below against a determined and well-publicized attempt by Poetry Ireland—

Plate 4. Yeats family heirlooms as clustered by Sotheby’s, London, for the frontispiece of their Yeats: The Family Collection, the catalogue accompanying the sale of that name on 27 September 2017. Image courtesy Philip Errington, and © Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London, all rights reserved.

  • Yeats’s oak writing bureau (Lot 89, estimate £20,000-£30,000, hammer price £150,000)

  • Yeats’s elm desk chair (Lot 87, est. £3,000-£5,000, hammer price £26,000)

  • John Butler Yeats, Four Sketchbooks, c. 1892–1904 (Lot 50, est. £6000-£8000, hammer price £11,000)

  • Yeats Family Scrapbook (Lot 9, est. £4,000-£6,000, hammer price £10,500)

  • Jack B. Yeats’s Palette (Lot 212, est. £200-£300, hammer price £7,500)

  • John Butler Yeats’s 1921 pencilled Self-Portrait (Lot 2, est. £3000-£5,000, hammer price £6500)

  • John Butler Yeats, Four Sketchbooks, New York, 1908–1913 (Lot 53, est. £6,000-£8,000, hammer price £6,500)

  • John Butler Yeats, watercolour 1883, ‘Three Girls Listening to Music’ (Lot 34, est. £6,000-£8,000, hammer price £6,000)

  • Eight photograph albums, assembled and captioned by Lily and Lolly Yeats, early 20th C. (Lot 139, est. £5,000-£7,000, hammer price £5,000)

  • John Butler Yeats, Sketch of Jack B. Yeats, 1899, signed by sitter and artist (Lot 173, est. £3,000-£5,000, hammer price £5,000)

  • John Butler Yeats, Pencil sketch of his wife, Mrs Susan Yeats (Lot 30, est. £2,000-£3,000, hammer price £3,800)

  • A pair of Edwardian rosewood brushes with monogram of William Butler Yeats, early 20th C. (Lot 91, est. £800-£1,200, hammer price £3,500)

  • John Butler Yeats, three sketches of Ladies (Lot 51, one possibly Lily Yeats, writing, one dated Sept 4th 1898, the others ‘Cousin? Laura Yeats’ and ‘Marian Orr March 20th 1901’ (Lot 51, est. £3,000-£5,000, hammer price £2,800)

  • John Butler Yeats, Three Sketches of Women one possibly Mary Walker, one possibly Jenny Mitchell (Lot 52 est. £3,000-£5,000, hammer price £2,800)

  • Two pairs of repoussé brass Scandinavian candlesticks, 19th C. (Lot 118, est. £1,200-£1,800, hammer price £2,200)

  • John Butler Yeats, pencilled Portrait of Elizabeth Corbet, ‘Lolly’ Yeats, signed and dated, ‘Oct. 6 1898’ (Lot 134, est. £2,000-£3,000, hammer price £2,000)

  • Collection of eight professional portrait photographs (Alice Boughton, 1904; ‘Vaughan’ 1890s; Elliot & Fry (?1930s); Howard; W. Bates of Chertsey etc.), of Jack B. Yeats (Lot 208, est. £1,500-£2,000, hammer price £2,000)

  • Arnold Genthe, three photographic portraits of w. b. Yeats, 1914 (Lot 108, est. £1,500-£2,000, hammer price £1,600)

  • Jack B. Yeats’s collapsible top hat (Lot 209 est. £500-£700, hammer price £1,300) (see above Plate 4)

  • Jack B. Yeats, Three Head Studies, possibly of Jenny Mitchell (Lot 40, est. £1,000-£1,500, hammer price £1,200)

  • Silver Inkwell, William Comyns & Sons, 1903, with ceramic inkpot, probably belonging formerly to Aunt Elizabeth Pollexfen (‘Lolla’. i.e., Mrs Alexander Barrington Orr) (Lot 29, est. £200-£300, hammer price £650) (see above Plate 4)

  • John Butler Yeats, Portrait drawings of Charles Fitzgerald and Fr. Kavanagh (Lot 38, est. £600-£800, hammer price £600).

16These hammer figures add up to £262,150, and while a number of these purchases were within range of the estimates, the buyer’s total investment would have been in the region of £314,580 excluding VAT if an overseas buyer. It was rumoured at the sale that the purchaser is to put them on public exhibition, but nothing has yet been confirmed. Another multiple-lot buyer appears to have purchased

  • The Yeats family dining table, mahogany and boxwood, said to have been bought with the Nobel Prize money (Lot 103, est. £1,500-£2,500, hammer price £8,000)

  • The 17th C. (heavily wormed) ‘Monk’s Chest’, said by family tradition to have been used for ‘storage’ by w. b. Yeats (Lot 88, est. £600–700, hammer price £2,600)

  • A matched set of six late George IV ash spindle back dining chairs, c. 1820, with rush seats (Lot 102, est. £800-£1,200, hammer price £3,800)

  • Four medals and one badge, including Yeats’s Goethe Plakette (Lot 99, est. £500-£700, hammer price £2,600)

  • w. b. Yeats’s card index and ring binder (Lot 92, est. £100-£150, hammer price £2,400)

  • Two Arts and Crafts desk candlesticks in the manner of Benham and Froud, London in brass and copper (Lot 95, est. £400–600, hammer price £1,800)

  • 18 reproductions and prints by Aubrey Beardsley and w. t. Horton (Lot 114, est. £400-£600, hammer price £1,000)

  • A late George IV mahogany armchair (Lot 46, est. £800-£1,200, hammer price £950)

  • A Victorian walnut and velvet aesthetic style rocking chair in the manner of Bruce James Talbert, c. 1890 (Lot 142, est. £500-£700, hammer price £500).

17The total hammer price here is £28,550. The candlesticks here listed as lot 95 had been the pair chosen by Sotheby’s to sit on Yeats’s desk for the Dublin and London exhibitions: the added mana-by-association may be gauged by the price of the next item (Lot 96, two brass desk candlesticks, also in the manner of Benham and Froud, also Aesthetic style, est. £200-£300, hammer price £480). I believe similarly enhanced prices were achieved by the display of lot 29, ‘Lolla’ Pollexfen’s inkwell (see above), also placed on w. b. Yeats’s bureau desk in these exhibitions.

18A third collector appears to have acquired

  • John Butler Yeats’s oil Portrait of Elizabeth Corbet (‘Lolly’) Yeats c. 1899 (Lot 138, est. £20,000-£30,000, hammer price £42,000)

  • Jack B. Yeats, Ireland sketchbook, 1909 (Lot 204, est. £10,000-£15,000, hammer price £8,000)

  • John Butler Yeats, Sketches of Family Life (Lot 8, est. £5,000-£7,000, hammer price £7,000)

  • Jack B. Yeats, A collection of early Sketches and Illustrations (Lot 160, est. £8,000-£12,000, hammer-price £7,000)

  • Anne Yeats, ‘Crayfish’, oil on board (Lot 213, est. £1,500-£2,500, hammer price £5,000)

  • John Butler Yeats, three sketchbooks dating from his New York period (Lot 58, est. £5,000-£7,000, hammer price £4,000)

  • Mary Cottenham Yeats, Sketchbook, including portraits of Jack B. Yeats (Lot 177, est. £2,000-£3,000, hammer price £3,200)

  • Mary Cottenham Yeats, Sketchbook of 26 designs and stencils in watercolour (Lot 179, est. £2,000-£3,000, hammer price £3,200)

  • John Butler Yeats, Two Sketches of John O’Leary (Lot 35, est. £1,500-£2,500, hammer price £1,500)

  • Collection of 6 photographic portraits of John Butler Yeats, 1860s to 1900s (Lot 54, est. £1,500-£2,000, hammer price £1,500).

19These total £82,400 in hammer prices. Between them, these three buyers paid c. £448,000 (including buyer’s commission but excluding VAT).

20An atmosphere of doubt pervaded the saleroom when lot 37, a John Butler Yeats oil ‘thought to be [of] William Morris with a pencil sketch also said’ was offered (Lot 37, est. £4,000-£6,000, hammer price £3,800), but a determined purchaser bought the companion to the oil portrait of Lolly Yeats, that of Susan Mary (‘Lily’) Yeats, 1899 (Lot 137, est. £20,000–£30,000, hammer price £50,000); while notable prices were also paid for:

  • Lot 79, est. £. 8,000-£12,000, hammer price £90,000, the Antonio Mancini pastel portrait of w. b. Yeats used as the basis for the frontispiece to Vol. V of The Collected Works in Verse and Prose (1908). The buyer, Philip Mould of Philip Mould & Co., London, told me that he thought this possibly a world record price for a modern pastel portrait.

    • 11 Stop Press 24 February 2017: Lots 73 and 64 (the large oil John Butler Yeats self-portrait) and oth (...)

    Lot 73, est. £8,000-£12,000, hammer price £24,000, a John Butler Yeats oil portrait of w. b. Yeats in a basket chair, reading in the overgrown garden at 3 Blenheim Rd., Bedford Park, London, c. 1888–1889.11

  • Lot 110, est. £2,000-£3,000, hammer price £6,200, a pencil drawing with white highlights of Iseult Gonne by Maud Gonne, c. 1910–1915.

21Overall, exceptional prices for a number of compelling paintings such as these helped to compensate for those highest-estimated lots in the sale which ultimately failed to find buyers. Not only were a number of Jack B. Yeats pieces unsold, but the painting which, in many ways had been judged the star item of the sale, a late explosive oil entitled ‘The Runaway Horse’ (Lot 181, est. £150,000–250,000) was unsold at a bid of just £95,000, whereas ‘The Sunset belongs to You’ (lot 205, est. £100,000–£150,000) went for a hammer price of £170,000. The highest estimate of the entire sale was for lot 86 (£250,000-£350,000), 133 autograph letters from w. b. Yeats to Olivia Shakespear, with 37 letters from Shakespear to Yeats, and two letters to her forwarded on to Yeats. That the whole of this correspondence is available in the InteLex online edition and the Shakespear side was edited by John Harwood for Yeats Annual No. 6 may account for the lack of interest from research libraries, and the lot was bought in at £200,000.

22Yeats: The Family Sale had been estimated as likely to total c. £2 million, a figure pretty much reached despite the fact that only 87% of lots were sold.

23It will be seen that relics of what Seamus Heaney called ‘the place of writing’ bringing writing agency to life were appropriately valued. Yeats’s card index file box, used in the preparation of A Vision, Jack B. Yeats’s palette, and his pencil box, with designs on five surfaces (Lot 166, £3,000-£5,000) went at the high end of the estimate, at £4,800. (By contrast, Lily Yeats’s charming little walnut and maple Davenport (Lot 141, est. £500-£700) was knocked down for only £600.)

24Now that the materiality of writing and even of drawing is vanishing, museums of writing seek to preserve not merely Sumerian tablets, ancient manuscripts, and calligraphic tools, but also typewriters and word processors. The objects in this sale preserve something not always found in such museums: particularity of ownership, the perpetually vital ingredient of human agency. A known and valued creator, we say, lived, and worked using or surrounded by these objects. This mana has market value, and is not always effaced when transferred as ‘relic value’ into new ownership. All those years ago in a house full of teenage children I had found myself continually distracted by objects of recognizable associations: now it seems as if once a connexion is recognized between the here and now and the past lives and works of artists and poet, nearly every object becomes charged with potential significance. w. b. Yeats’s two monogrammed brushes (listed above) bring to mind the words ‘Always particular about my clothes’ in a passage of memorably reflective self-criticism in his Pages from a Diary Written in Nineteen Hundred and Thirty (Ex 308).

Plate 5. Antonio Mancini’s 1908 pastel portrait of w. b. Yeats used as the basis for the frontispiece to Vol. V of The Collected Works in Verse and Prose (1908). Image courtesy Philip Errington, and Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London.

Plate 6. John Butler Yeats oil portrait of w. b. Yeats in a basket chair, reading in the overgrown garden at 3 Blenheim Rd., Bedford Park, London, c. 1888–1889. Image courtesy Philip Errington, and Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London.

25The mystique of memorabilia, however, transcends an editors’occupational hazard, Total Awareness Syndrome. Unlike most family clearance sales, this one released to the market items each seemingly stamped with an aura of unshakeable associations, the bases of new collections or treasured additions to existing collections, public and private. Viewed in such a light, it somehow seems logical that even Conan Doyle’s undershirts, d. h. Lawrence’s beaded moccasins and Evelyn Waugh’s ash-trays did not elude the Texas archives formed by Harry Huntt Ransom as what he called his ‘counter-frontier’ for what he saw as a frontier society. Some of the heroic sums paid, e.g., for Yeats’s bureau and desk chair, bring to mind the sums paid for Ian Fleming’s typewriter (£56,250 ($90,309) at Christie’s, London, on 5 May 1995); or the prominence given to Conan Doyle’s writing chair in the reading room at the Ransom Center and the same library’s former recreated writers’rooms, now dismantled but available on line. The American Writers Museum, Chicago is based on the Dublin Writers Museum, which holds a wide exhibit of pens, papers, typewriters, and pipes—but Samuel Beckett’s telephone, Austin Clarke’s desk and Handel’s chair are also held in the Dublin museum.

26Perhaps the scruffiest item in the sale—ignored by scholarship, seemingly just negligible clutter—is a sketchbook at first thought at Sotheby’s (and no doubt previously) to have been discarded by John Butler Yeats (Lot 70, est. £6,000-£8,000, hammer price £28,000), but in fact first belonging to w. b. Yeats. It best reveals the agency of family dynamics, tensions, and competing ambitions. John Butler Yeats moved his family to‘W B Yeats— | 10 Ashfield Terrace | Rathmines’ from a cottage in Howth because of dire penury early in 1884. A sketchbook which includes on an early page the pencilled ‘W B Yeats— | 10 Ashfield Terrace | Rathmines’ in Yeats’s early hand dates the sketchbook, and it was used from at least May of that year, when w. b. Yeats enrolled as an art student in the Metropolitan School of Art in Kildare Street. The pencilled academic studies it contains show how little aptitude he had had for following his father as an artist. However, within the sketchbook, Yeats turns to writing. A page of confused pencilled drafts hitherto unrecorded and untranscribed but evidently from Act II Scene 3 of The Island of Statues suddenly emerges into a new, relatively clear inked transcription

Plates 7–8. Two images of pages from Yeats’s ‘10 Ashfield Terrace’ sketchbook, lot 70 in the Sotheby’s sale. Image courtesy Philip Errington, and Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London.

27This whole drafting may be compared with Act II: 3 lines 216–26 of The Island f Statues published as

Ah, woe is me! I go from sun and shade,
And the joy of the streams where long-limbed herons wade;
And never any more the wide-eyed bands
Of the pie‘d panther-kittens from my hands
Shall feed. I shall not in the evenings hear
Again the woodland laughter, and the clear
Wild cries, grown sweet with lulls and lingerings long.
I fade, and shall not see the mornings wake,
A-fluttering the painted populace of lake
And sedgy stream, and in each babbling brake
And hollow lulling the young winds with song. (VP 674–75, ll. 216–26)

28On the page facing Plate 7 is a draft of another poem which stumbles towards what I offer in fair copy form beneath it:

Truth is bold. but falsehood fears
Question of the lie of years
But when time her fickle pages
Has been turning endless ages
Then some Pilgrim when he searches
For the sight of fallen churches
Slowly rising to depart
He shall mutter to his heart
He shall see the [? heron] pass
over ruins green with grass
And shall mutter to his heart
Slo sadly slowly rising to depart
He shall mutter [?passing] by
‘Fair the ruin of a lie’

29The book title jotted down beneath this draft is but one jotting of Yeats’s actual or potential reading at the time, including short titles of new books in 1884 Yeats’s awareness of the following titles

  • h. j. Browne [i.e., Hugh Junor Browne], The Higher Branch of Science: or, Materialism refuted by Facts (Melbourne: w. h. Terry, 84 Russel St., 1884).

  • a. p. Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism (London: Trübner, 1884)

  • a. p. Sinnett, The Occult World (London: Trübner, 1882)

  • p. g. Tait and B[alfour] Stewart, The Unseen Universe or, Physical Speculations on a Future State (London, Cambridge: Macmillan, 1875)

Plate 9. Image of page facing Plate 7 in Yeats’s ‘10 Ashfield Terrace’ sketchbook, lot 70 in the Sotheby’s sale. Image courtesy Philip Errington, and Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London.

Plate 10. Image of page from Yeats’s ‘10 Ashfield Terrace’ sketchbook, lot 70 in the Sotheby’s sale. Image courtesy Philip Errington, and Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London.

30Yeats’s bibliographical knowledge in relation to the first of these as found on Plate 9 is expansive (the volume’s title-page offering only ‘h. j. b.’), as if he had noted the details at a punctilious lecture: indeed, the first three titles above are perhaps noted at some meeting of the Dublin Hermetic Society. There also seem to be lecture notes from some talk on ‘Pankelticism’ on another page, the theme of which is that the ‘Keltic legend goes everywhere’, from ‘Ossian downwards’ | ‘Geothe and Napoleon’ | Byron [illeg., one word] | Tenysons Religion | Swinburne | Vagner’ etc.

31Elsewhere, there are scattered ‘to do’ shopping and address lists, while a further fragment of verse

And Helen’s eyes beneath their moveless lids
The bold firm glance of godhead in their gaze

  • 12 It would appear that no passages from the sketchbook are represented in The Early Poetry, Vol. 1 Mo (...)

32suggests that this divinity was potent for Yeats five years before Maud Gonne came along to incarnate it for him.12

Plate 11. Image of fragment of verse in Yeats’s ‘10 Ashfield Terrace’ sketchbook, lot 70 in the Sotheby’s sale. Image courtesy Philip Errington, and Sotheby’s, New Bond St., London.

33That this sketch-book disappeared from the record is simply explained: it was taken over by his paper-hungry father for sketches of his own and remained in family hands as an object seemingly of little significance even for John Butler Yeats in whose collection of sketch-books it was found. It is hoped to provide a detailed study of this document, which was bought by a private collector, in a future Yeats Annual.

34w. b. Yeats was endlessly on the move, and lived at some thirty domestic addresses in his lifetime. Many of his longest-held domestic interiors leave few traces in the poems. At least one of the Dante engravings (Lot 116, est. £7,000-£10,000, hammer price £12,000) acquired from the Linnell Brothers when Yeats was working on his co-edition of The Works of William Blake, or, a little later, when writing his three essays on ‘Blake’s Illustrations to Dante’for The Savoy in 1896 can be seen on the walls of his shabby rooms at 18 Woburn Buildings. He was photographed in front of it for The Tatler’s series of ‘Writers in Their Rooms’ (29 June 1904), along with his Dante death mask, his shrine, his cane chair, his shabby rug and his books (see frontispiece, YA5)—none of these items is in the sale). There are, however, in this sale earlier records of w. b. Yeats seated at a desk, writing (e.g., the photos and studies by John Butler Yeats in lots 68–69), but The Tatler’s image was the first public record of Yeats in domestic surroundings he had arranged to suit himself. 18 Woburn Buildings leaves few traces in his poems beyond the ghostly ‘Presences’ of women on the stairs. 4 Broad Street Oxford, brought to life in the memoirs of numerous undergraduates who visited the Yeats menage, leaves only ‘two long glasses brimmed with muscatel’ to attract ghosts to their ‘wine-breath’ in ‘All Soul’s Night’. Yeats was at Coole nearly every summer from 1896-the mid-1920s, and, while all his lines about the seven woods, the lake, the swans are well known, it seems in other media he left only two pastels, one of the lake reproduced in The Green Sheaf, and the one in this sale, the rather poor image of the frontage of the house (Lot 76, est. £7,000-£10,000, hammer price £35,000). Coole had been so filled with paintings and bric-a-brac that the novelist George Moore had said ‘Balzac would have given twenty pages to the stairs’, as Yeats recalled in Dramatis Personae, but these interiors inspire few lines of poems beyond

Beloved books that famous hands have bound,
Old marble heads, old pictures everywhere;
Great rooms where travelled men and children found
Content or joy (VP 491)

35As well as one pastel by WBY of the library at Coole (lot 85, est. £8,000-£12,000, hammer price £40,000; both pastels went to the same buyer).

36Yeats’s poem-making from home-making largely anticipates the not yet inhabited Thoor Ballylee in Co. Galway, not purchased until July 1917 and later declared as ‘my symbol’ and ‘decked and altered … for a girl’s love’(VP 423). But the tower was inhabited in Yeats’s mind and poems from ‘Ego Dominus Tuus’ (December 1915) onwards, as a result of an ambition unfulfilled since 1899, and no doubt reinforced by what George apparently confided to her cousin Grace Spurway in or after mid-November 1915, their secret engagement (BG 80). ‘Now that we are almost settled in our house’ Yeats writes, in ‘In Memory of Major Robert Gregory’ (1918). By ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ (1922–1923) Yeats zooms in from ‘My House’ to ‘My Table’, with Sato’s Sword, the focus ultimately closing on

A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone,
A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth,
A candle and written page. (VP 419)

37Yeats wrote by candle-light. ‘Benighted travellers | From markets and from fairs | Ha[d] seen his midnight candle glimmering’ (VP 419–20). The great spiral twist altar candlesticks visible by the fireside in photographs of the sitting room in the tower (Lot 83, est. £800-£1,200) were sold for £3,500): it is understood that these were purchased by benefactors who wish to restore them to the tower. Even from 1932 in Riversdale, the Yeatses’last house at Rathfarnham

Midnight, an old house
Where nothing stirs but a mouse (VP 575).

38there was no electricity. There, as he wrote at the end of his life, ‘Picture and book remain’. ‘Daybreak and a candle-end’ marks a refrain on a lifetime’s writing. In such domestic contexts, the Yeats family collection of candlesticks itself begins to glimmer.

39At the heart of Yeats: The Family Collection were numerous of Jack B. Yeats’s paintings, drawings, cartoons, and sketches which reinforce his brother’s view that Jack’s ‘memory seems as accurate as the sight of the eye’. In his boyhood in Sligo, Jack had ‘spent his free hours going here and there with crowds of little boys, sons of pilots and sailors, as their well-liked leader, arranging donkey races or driving donkeys tandem… he had begun to amuse everybody with his drawings; and in half the pictures he paints to-day I recognize faces that I have met at Rosses or the Sligo quays’ said w. b. Yeats (Au 68; CW3 83). Jack B. Yeats’s early scribbling diaries (1887–1889, lot 161, est. £8,000-£12,000, hammer price £11,000; lot 162, same est., hammer price £14,000), his designs for A Broadsheet (lots 182–83, est. £800-£1,200, price £1,300; est. £1,000–1,500, hammer price £4,200) and Broadsides (e.g., lot 189, est. £15,000–20,000, hammer price £21,000), and numerous pen and ink drawings and sketches for Cuala Press prints—all mainly sold well. His personal obsessions were strongly in evidence, with pirate themes dominating even the designs with which he decorated his pencil box (lot 162, prices above), as well as the storage chest in which he kept his collection of model ships (lot 167, est. £7,000-£9,000, hammer price £12,000). This boyish obsession was shared with John Masefield, whose model ship, named George and Willy (lot 121, est. £700-£900, hammer price £1,100) was also in the sale. Perhaps with Masefield’s ship in mind, Yeats, when he collected The Cat and the Moon, the play dedicated to Masefield ‘who made me a ship’, into Wheels and Butterflies (1934) added as a tailpiece, seemingly to the whole book:

  • 13 w. b. Yeats, Wheels and Butterflies (London: Macmillan, 1934), 133 (dedication), [157] tailpiece.

The bravest from the gods but ask:
A house, a sword, a ship, a mask.

  • 14 See Warwick Gould, ‘Singular Pluralities: Titles of Yeats’s Autobiographies’, YA11 205–18.

40The sale might well have taken its title from one of Jack B. Yeats’s best-loved early paintings of Rosses Point Co. Sligo, ‘Memory Harbour’, so powerful is the sense of crowded family activity running through all these works and well beyond the works of the principal creators. That title was borrowed by the journalist Filson Young for a book of essays in 1909, an appropriation which irked w. b. Yeats and not merely because he was thereby effectively dissuaded from using it as the title of what became Reveries over Childhood and Youth.14 A reproduction of ‘Memory Harbour’ stands as its frontispiece. In the distant background is the shipping channel marker, the ‘Metal Man’ who turns up not only in Lily Yeats’s bookplate but also as the matrix of her desk seal stamp (lot 143, est. £3,000–5,000, surprisingly bought in at £2,800).

41This sale, then, seemed a last chance. Or so I thought when I wrote the introduction to the sale. But as dealers will tell you, there is always more, and so the Fonsie Mealy sale of 14 November 2017, including 253 lots billed as ‘The Final Chapter of The Yeats Family Collection’ (​catalogues/​14112017/​) is unlikely to be so. The Irish sale acknowledges the assistance of the Dublin dealer, Cian O’hHigeartaigh, a relation of the Yeats Family, in identifying and cataloguing the Paintings, Watercolours, Albums, Artefacts etc. included in this sale’. Reviewing the catalogue, one can see that the heavier items of furniture were omitted from the London sale, as swell as many lots of seemingly lesser value. And yet, it is also apparent that Sotheby’s missed a great number of items which perhaps emerged after Sotheby’s had made their selection. Happily, one can report that the following items were secured by the National Library of Ireland.

  • Lot 593, John Butler Yeats sketch of Frank Fay commissioned by Annie Horniman (est. €400-€600, hammer price €1,500, total €1,830).

  • Lot 602, John Butler Yeats watercolour of the waterwheel and mill houses at Ballisodare (est. €400-€600, hammer price €1,000, total €1,220).

  • Lot 630, another w. b. Yeats sketchbook (est. €3,000-€5,000, hammer price €17,000, total €20,740).

42This item had been bruited by Fonsie Mealy as ‘A Major Discovery’, and the catalogue offers six thumb-prints which suggest its close likeness to lot 70 in the London sale, although, at 50 pages, its seems either a larger or more complete sketchbook. Fonsie Mealy offers thumb-nails of a couple of pages of verse and drawings from which I offer the following necessarily tentative transcriptions:

The Field Mouse—
The field mouse running yonder has reared up
No pyramid of laws customs or of laws
To break her heat heart
No. she is angry sometimes and she loves
The history
The shadow of the wheat sheaves, that is all
The history of her life

43This mouse is perhaps a harbinger of that ‘running by me in the grass of ‘To the Rose upon the Rood of Time’ or of those avoiding the reaping-hook in the ‘last ridge of barley’ in ‘[I walked among the Seven Woods of Coole]’, the proem to The Shadowy Waters (VP 101, 218). But it seems as though this is one of the fragmentary ‘aphorisms’ inscribed on the facing page. Again, I decipher from one of the thumb-nails

—When thy heart wishesevil
It is a foolis useless slavery to not to do right
for riteousness and rong are housed alone
among the wishes—

—And do you prey to him
Who crushed a
that he might scrawl upon the front
of time
An Epigram—

  • 15 It would appear that none of these lines has been included in The Early Poetry, Vol. II ‘The Wander (...)

44Together, these lines might indicate a start being made on the project first externalised in the Dublin University Review (January, February 1886) as ‘In a Drawing Room’ and ‘Life’, before being extended under the title ‘Quatrains and Aphorisms’ in The Wanderings of Oisin and thereafter suppressed (VP 734–35). If so, lot 630 might be a later sketchbook than the one sold as lot 70 in Sotheby’s sale.15

45Another item recovered at last in the Fonsie Mealy auction is the original John Butler Yeats drawing of his son which was used as frontispiece to his first book, Mosada (also 1886). Sold as lot 631 (est. €4,000-€6,000) its hammer price was €21,000 (Maggs Bros., London). A fine photograph of Maud Gonne as a young woman wearing a Tara brooch (lot 638, est. €300-€500, fetched €1,300 (Maggs Bros.), while lot 642, the Yeats family tarot cards (the Pamela Colman Smith set) est. €450-€650, brought a hammer price €4,800. A fine drawing of Pamela Colman Smith by John Butler Yeats (lot 643, est. €400-€600 brought down the hammer at ten times that upper estimate at €6,000).

46The respective buyers of the Lolla Yeats inkwell (Sotheby’s lot 29, hammer price £650; see above Plate 4) and that claimed by Fonsie Mealy to be ‘w. b. Yeats’s’ Edwardian silver desk inkwell (lot 633, est. €600-€800, hammer price €2,900) can now fight it out as which of the ‘many wonderful compositions flowed’ (Fonsie Mealy’s catalogue) from their respective purchasers. Yeats’s leather briefcase, later used by his son with an ‘M.’ added to its initialling) inspired the cataloguers to wonder ‘who can say what poems and papers it once carried’ (lot 634, est. €600-€800, hammer price €3,400). Yeats’s pince-nez (est. €500-€600 fetched €10,000, a figure which contrasts with the mere £6,000 paid at an English provincial auction last autumn for another Nobel Literature Laureate’s glasses, Winston Churchill’s. To see the world as painters with visual defects saw it can be revealing—is the same true not for writers? The Ashmolean Museum holds two pairs of glasses which belonged to j. m. w. Turner, and a third is in the hands of the dealer, Philip Mould, while William Blake’s spectacles are held in Cambridge at the Fitzwilliam, while those of Sir Joshua Reynolds are also important for ophthalmic historians.16 While it is perhaps more obvious that for a painter facing old age ‘the Eye altering alters all’, Yeats’s pince-nez are not just a property in his best-known self-icons. He too suffered from serious optical problems, including keratoconus, or conical cornea, and ‘my eyes are bad’ is a constant complaint in his letters. There is a study to be done of the texts he had read to him, by Lady Gregory, Ezra Pound, and others.

47Writers’and artists’ mana when thus redistributed is, I think, to be distinguished from the aura of merely celebrity possessions (e.g., Paul Newman’s Rolex watch, sold a couple of weeks before the Fonsie Mealy sale, fetched $ 17.8m.), but it is not an argument I’d care to have to make. ‘What is aught, but as ‘tis valued?’ remarks Shakespeare’s Troilus.


  • 17 Henry James’s preface to The Aspern Papers. See above n.XXX [1].

48I delight in a palpable imaginable visitable past—in the nearer distances and the clearer mysteries, the marks and signs of a world we may reach over to as by making a long arm we grasp an object at the other end of our own table. The table is the one, the common expanse, and where we lean, so stretching, we find it firm and continuous. That, to my imagination, is the past fragrant of all, or of almost all, the poetry of the thing outlived and lost and gone, and yet in which the precious element of closeness, telling so of connexions but tasting so of differences, remains appreciable. With more moves back the element of the appreciable shrinks—just as the charm of looking over a garden-wall into another garden breaks down when successions of walls appear. … The one partition makes the place we have wondered about other, both richly and recognizably so. … We are divided of course between liking to feel the past strange and liking to feel it familiar; the difficulty is, for intensity, to catch it at the moment when the scales of the balance hang with the right evenness.17

49Extravagance of price represents a huge investment of the emotion of ‘relic value’ in objects from that ‘visitable past’ no longer held by descendants themselves. Relic value might not always be transferable. Sales of effects from writers and artists can be considerably more chaotic than these two proved to be—one thinks, of course, of the Oscar Wilde bankruptcy sale of 24 April 1895, where, among trophies dispersed and lost sight of was lot 125, ‘An old oil painting of Will Hewes, framed’ which was in fact the ‘Portrait of Mr w. h.’ in the style of Clouet by Charles Ricketts, done to Wilde’s commission and intended to illustrate an edition of the story which never appeared. Although a subsequent thumbnail sketch of the portrait, also by Ricketts, survives in the William Andrews Clark library, the portrait itself, purchased by one Edwin Parsons, who later disposed of it, had disappeared by 1914.

50Even as one wonders if the heaped-up possessions of forebears do not weigh the more oppressively on successive generations of a distinguished creative family, one can be assured that, when dispersed, their mana is at least temporarily enhanced by the price paid, which is not always the case when they remain co-located in a writer’s residence turned into a museum. Such places seem to me sometimes slightly spectral, haunted by the very absence they try to preserve. Artists and writers routinely trade in their own mana when they sell their manuscripts and preliminary sketches, as every male member of the Yeats family did in their lifetimes to collectors and patrons such as John Quinn. ‘MAKE PROVISION FOR YOUR OLD AGE!!!’, urges the caption of a self-portrait drawing Jack B. Yeats sent in a letter to Lady Gregory,

  • 18 Undated, but quoted in Figgis Rare Books Bulletin 71, item 416, from which this drawing is reproduc (...)


51Buyers would do well to record the provenance of their trophies from Yeats: The Family Collection.

Plate 12. (as a tailpiece) Jack B. Yeats’s drawing ‘make provision for your old age!!!!’ from an undated letter to Lady Gregory as illustrated for lot 416, Figgis Rare Books catalogue, c. 1982–1996 (Private Collection, London). Image courtesy Mr. Neville Figgis, House of Figgis Rare Books, Letterfrack, Co. Galway.


52This volume acquired its theme—and so its title—almost by serendipity. I had been hoping that essays might address the ‘vain battles’ in Yeats’s lifetime (a volume I still envisage) but as the essays came in and I read them, the title Yeats’s Legacies framed itself. These two great sales and the legacy of the Yeats family’s 80-year tradition of generosity to Ireland’s great cultural institutions provide the kaleidoscope through which the advanced research essays find their theme in this volume. Hannah Sullivan’s brilliant history of Yeats’s verse craft challenges Poundian definitions of Modernism; Denis Donoghue offers unique family memories of 1916 whilst tracing the political significance of the Easter Rising; Anita Feldman addresses Yeats’s responses to the Rising’s appropriation of his symbols and myths, the daring artistry of his ritual drama developed from the Noh, his poetry of personal utterance, and his vision of art as a body reborn rather than a treasure preserved amid the testing of the illusions that hold civilizations together in ensuing wars. Warwick Gould looks at Yeats as founding Senator in the new Free State, and his valiant struggle against the literary Censorship law of 1929 (with its present-day legacy of Irish anti-Blasphemy law still presenting a Constitutional challenge). Yeats’s enduring resistance to the reactionary censorship which became inevitable in the free state, offer an object lesson to all who seek to keep their heads when manufactured outrage multiplies into moral panic in outrageous times. The essay is followed by reprinted interviews Yeats gave to the international press as the Irish Censorship Bill became inevitable in 1928. The effects of that Act are internationally not without significance today, when Irish Law retains unrepealed, and arguably unconstitutional anti-blasphemy provisions, even today.

53Drawing on Gregory Estate documents, James Pethica looks at the evictions which preceded Yeats’s purchase of Thoor Ballylee in Galway, Lauren Arrington looks back at Yeats, Ezra Pound, and the ghosts of The Winding Stair (1929) in Rapallo. Having co-edited both versions of A Vision, Catherine Paul offers some profound reflections on ‘Yeats and Belief’. Grevel Lindop provides a pioneering view of Yeats’s impact on English mystical verse, and on Charles Williams who, while at Oxford University Press, helped publish the Oxford Book of Modern Verse. Stanley van der Ziel looks at the presence of Shakespeare in Yeats’s Purgatory. William H. O’Donnell examines the vexed textual legacy of his late work, On the Boiler. If 1916–1929 provides the focus for several of the essays in this volume; so, too do the years of A Vision (1937), Purgatory and On the Boiler.

54In our Research Updates, John Kelly recovers a startling autobiographical short story by Maud Gonne, which provides a useful background to the divided views of two readers of Adrian Frazier’s recent The Adulterous Muse Maud Gonne, Lucien Millevoye and w. b. Yeats. Warwick Gould considers the challenge which Yeats’s intentionalism posed for the editors of his Collected Edition of the Works, in the 1980s and after, when post-structuralist editorial theory became fashionable. Nine works of current biographical, textual and literary scholarship are reviewed, Maud Gonne is the focus of debate for two reviewers, as Eva Gore-Booth, Constance and Casimir Markievicz, Kipling, David Jones, t. s. Eliot and his presence on the radio. In the ‘Publications Received’ we also list the texts of Yeats’s poems which Douglas Saum of Reno, Nevada has set to music, recorded and published in CD format over a twenty-two year project.

55We mark the death on 18 April 2017, of Aleck Crichton, grandson of Andrew Jameson, head of John Jameson & Son, Irish whiskey distillers of Smithfield, Dublin. The family farm is in Sligo, and he always thought of himself as a Sligo man. After Cambridge and wartime service with the Irish Guards at the Normandy landings and after (for which he was appointed Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur), he served in the family firm and as European director of Irish Distillers, founded the Irish Mountaineering Club Crichton went on to become European Director of Irish Distillers after Ireland joined the European Community (as it then was).

  • 19 CL InteLex, 5068, to Lady Gregory, 18 January 1928.

56His parents, Dr Brian Crichton and the former Violet Jameson had entertained Yeats to tea in Fitzwilliam Square, and had played with the Yeats children, and Crichton had played with Yeats’s children. It was Dr Crichton who had sent Michael Yeats to see a London specialist who confirmed the tubercular gland which consigned Michael Yeats to a school in Switzerland about the time Yeats and George Yeats went to Cannes in January 1928.19 After his retirement to Sligo as ‘the last of the Dublin merchant princes’ he took a close interest in the Yeats Society of Sligo (becoming its president) and was a familiar figure at the Summer School lectures, always seeking ideas for the consolidation of this Sligo institution. His obituary from which much of the above was drawn, was published in The Times on 9 May 2017 (54), on what would have been his 99th birthday.

57The 2018 Yeats International Summer School, the 59th to be held in Sligo, will be held between 19–27 July 2018. It is directed by Professor Matthew Campbell and Dr Lauren Arrington, and it has for a theme ‘The Greening of Yeats’. For bookings and programme information, see​.

London, December 2017


1 I am grateful to Dr Joe Hassett for reminding me of this Introduction to The Aspern Papers, written by Henry James’s for the New York Edition of Novels and Tales (New York: Scribner, 1907–1909), 12, x. See also

2 See Yeats: The Family Collection, with an Introduction by Warwick Gould (London: Sotheby’s, 2017), The Chatsworth Fine Art Sale: Including the Final Chapter of the Yeats Family Collection (Castlecomer, co. Killkenny: Fonsie Mealy, 2017).

3 See Plates 1 and 2. For the photograph which survives in the Sturge Moore collection at the Senate House Library, see YA17 Plate 7 (facing 255).

4 As aptly put in a confirmatory email to me by Dr Declan Kiely, the Yeats and Sturge Moore scholar (6 January 2018).

5 Unlike Dún Aonghasa the Bronze Age hill fort on Inishmore, Aughnanure is another sixteenth-century tower house, in Oughterard, Co. Galway built by the O’Flaherty’s, and one of more than 200 such tower-houses in the county, constructed mainly by Gaelic and Anglo-Norman land-owning families. It thus offers a direct comparison with the Norman De Burca family’s Ballylee.

6 See The Poems and Plays of Oliver St. John Gogarty, collected, ed. and intr. by A. Norman Jeffares (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 2001), 49.

7 Shakespeare, Sonnet 55. Michael Yeats did not have the money to restore and use it, but it was eventually restored and reopened in the 1960s, inspired by the enthusiasm of the Kiltartan Society and Mrs Mary Hanley. It was badly damaged again by floods, restored again, and re-opened in 2015. It is now administered by the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society.

8 Yeats: The Family Collection, with an Introduction by Warwick Gould (London: Sotheby’s, 2017), 176 pp.

9 See the New York Edition of Novels and Tales (New York: Scribner, 1907–9), Vol. 7, The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle, The Birthplace, and Other Tales, 447.

10 See the press releases from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on 16 February 2017 (‘Letters between WB Yeats and James Joyce feature in new acquisition by the National Library—Minister Humphreys’, available at and ‘National Library announces major acquisitions of remarkable Yeats treasures’ (available at which details the pre-sale purchase of over 500 letters between w. b. Yeats and his wife, George Yeats. These press releases did much to dampen, though they could not entirely forestall, various expressions of begrudgery in the Irish media by those not privy to pre-sale negotiations (notably in the The Irish Times, 27 September 2017, 9). For further information, contact Sebastian Enke (to whom I am grateful) at DHR Communications, Dublin,, Tel: 01–4200580 / 087–3239496 / 087–2309835.

11 Stop Press 24 February 2017: Lots 73 and 64 (the large oil John Butler Yeats self-portrait) and other portraits of the Yeats family are now on long-term loan to the Model arts centre in Sligo, from an anonymous buyer who has also donated the nine Jack B. Yeats model ships and their decorated box (lots 167–168) as an outright gift. See

12 It would appear that no passages from the sketchbook are represented in The Early Poetry, Vol. 1 Mosada and The Island of Statues: Manuscript Materials by w. b. Yeats, ed. by George Bornstein (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1987).

13 w. b. Yeats, Wheels and Butterflies (London: Macmillan, 1934), 133 (dedication), [157] tailpiece.

14 See Warwick Gould, ‘Singular Pluralities: Titles of Yeats’s Autobiographies’, YA11 205–18.

15 It would appear that none of these lines has been included in The Early Poetry, Vol. II ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ and Other Early Poems to 1895 Manuscript Materials by w. b. Yeats, ed. by George Bornstein (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994).

16 See e.g.,

17 Henry James’s preface to The Aspern Papers. See above n.XXX [1].

18 Undated, but quoted in Figgis Rare Books Bulletin 71, item 416, from which this drawing is reproduced in Plate 12. Mr Figgis, who kindly gave his permission for it thus to be reproduced, kindly tells me that these letters, having been bought by him at the great Christie’s Lady Gregory sale of 1979, then went to Mr Aidan Heavey, but this one is not in the Heavey Collection, Westmeath Co. Library, Athlone, and its whereabouts is unknown.

19 CL InteLex, 5068, to Lady Gregory, 18 January 1928.


Emeritus Professor of English Literature in the University of London, and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of English Studies (in the School of Advanced Study), of which he was Founder-Director 1999–2013. He is co-author of Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1988, rev. 2001), and co-editor of The Secret Rose, Stories by w. b. Yeats: A Variorum Edition (1981, rev. 1992), The Collected Letters of w. b. Yeats, Volume II, 1896–1900 (1997), and Mythologies (2005). He has edited Yeats Annual for thirty years.


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