A. N. Jeffares (1920-2005)

[Alexander Norman; fam. “Derry”]; b. 11 Aug., Dublin, of Wexford Anglo-Irish family with Scottish antecedents; son of automobile importer; ed. High School where he elicited “What Then?” from W. B. Yeats as a contrib. to The Erasmian; grad. TCD, and Oxford; taught Classics at TCD, 1943-44; wrote PhD on Yeats at Oriel College, Oxford, resulting in Yeats: Man and Poet (1949), with Ellmann's The Man and the Mask (1948), one of the first major studies and the more strictly biographical of the two, commencing: ‘Yeats’s greatness is secure’ and ending ‘He had made himself a great poet’; afterwards taught English at Groningen University in Holland (1946-48);
met Jeanne Calembert, of Brussels, at an inter-university debate in Glasgow, 1942 - she being former manager of a wartime munitions factory in Britain and latterly a homeopathist and much-admired for wisdom, with whom a dg., Bo, an artist [b.1949]; lecturer in Edinburgh, 1949-51; Jury Professor of English, Adelaide (Australia), 1951-56; Chair of English, Leeds, 1957-74, Chair of English; supervised Ngugi [James] Wa Thiong’o and Robert Welch as a postgraduates; significantly developed Commonwealth Studies; Stirling University, 1974-86, and Hon. Professor, 1986-2005; issued W. B. Yeats: Man and Poet (1949; rep. 1996);
with others, fnd. and first chairman of IASAIL [now IASIL], 1968; elected life-time President, 1973; issued Commentary on the Poems of W B Yeats (Poems, 1968, rev. 1984), his magnum opus; issued Commentaries on the Plays ...&c., with A. S. Knowland (1975); Anglo-Irish Literature (1982), or the many editions of seventeenth and eighteenth-century poets and dramatists - helped to reveal the full range of Irish literature in the English language; also edited texts and collections of Shakespeare, Farquhar, and R. B. Sheridan, together with two anthologies of Irish writing; poetry collections, Brought Up in Dublin (1987) and Brought Up to Leave (1987); served as chairman of the literature panel of the Scottish Arts Council;

ed., Ariel: Journal of International Literature in English (1970- ) [see infra]; ed. Review of English Literature (c.1960-67); Jeffares is a senior editor of the York Notes Series (Librarie de Liban), 1980-; on retirement estab. Academic Advisory Services, 1975; issued numerous anthologies; also edited works of Oliver St. John Gogarty; d. 1 June 2005, of emphesema, at Crail, Fife Ness, Scotland; a special memorial issue of the Yeats Annual (No. 18, 2013) was edited by Warwick Gould with a Select Checklist of his writings by Colin Smythe. OCIL

Note: Derry Jeffares’ Commentary on the Collected Poems (1968) and W. B. Yeats: A New Life (1988)
have provided much material for the Yeats pages of this website.

See Obituaries by ...
John Sutherland (Guardian) - attached.
Peter Van der Kamp - as attached.
[unsigned], The Scotsman - as attached.


  • W. B. Yeats: Man and Poet (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1949), 365pp. [Notes, p.299; Bibliography, p.339; Appendix, ‘Genealogical Tree of Revolution’, p.351; Index, p.353]; Do. [rep. with corrections] (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1962, 1966), pb.; and Do. [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1996), 338pp. [ded. ‘To the Memory of My Mother’; forewords to 1st & 2nd edns. replaced by an Introduction, [ix]-x];
  • ‘Tribute to a Dublin Poet and Writer ...’, in Envoy IV, 14 (Jan 1951), pp.23-32;
  • A Commentary on the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (London: Macmillan; Stanford: California UP 1968), xxxii, 563pp., maps; 23 cm.; Do., with A. S. Knowland (London: Macmillan [1975]), xxi, 310pp.; and Do. [enl. & rev. edn.] A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats (London: Macmillan 1984), xxxix, 543pp. [Bibl. pxii-xiv; indices from p.522];
  • The Circus Animals: Essays on W. B. Yeats (London: Macmillan 1970), x, 183pp.
  • Foreword to K. G. W. Cross & R. T. Dunlop, A Bibliography of Yeats Criticism 1887-1965 (London: Macmillan 1971), 341pp.;
  • W. B. Yeats [Profiles in Literature] (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1971), [10], 118pp.
  • ed., with A. S. Knowland, A Commentary on the Collected Plays of W. B. Yeats (London: Macmillan 1975), 313pp. [i.e., 310pp. + Appendix on Gaelic names [rep. from Commentary on … Collected Poems, a lunar chart [do.], and an index of play-titles; ded. ‘For Frank Wynne / and all our friends in Sligo’];
  • ed. Yeats, Sligo and Ireland: Essays to Mark the 21st Yeats International Summer School (Gerrard Cross: Smythe 1980), x, 267pp.;
  • ‘Teaching Anglo-Irish Literature,’ Hermathena, CXXIX (Winter 1980), [q.p.];
  • Anglo-Irish Literature [Macmillan History of Literature] (London: Macmillan 1982), 349pp., ill [16pp of pls. incl. facsims., ports.], and Do. (NY:: Schocken Books 1982), vi, 349pp. [see contents];
  • with Anthony Kamm, ed., An Irish Childhood: An Anthology (Collins 1987), 384pp. [see contents];
  • W. B. Yeats: A New Biography (London: Hutchinson 1988), ix, 374pp., ill. [ports]; Do. (London: Arena 1990), xiii, 320pp., ill. [16pp. of pls.]; and Do. [rev. edn.] (London: Continuumm 2001), xx, 326pp.
  • ‘Aspects of Swift as a Letter Writer’ in Hermethena (1992), pp.5-52;
  • ed., with Anna MacBride White, The Gonne-Yeats Letters 1893-1938: Always your Friend (London: Hutchinson 1992), xvi, 544pp., [372 letters by Maud Gonne and 30 by Yeats], and Do. [rep. edn.] (NY: Norton 1993).
  • ed., with Anna MacBride White, Maud Gonne MacBride: A Servant of the Queen: Reminiscences (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1994), xvii, 378pp., [autobiog., incl. new material and rearranges chapters in correct MS order], rep. as The Autobiography of Maud Gonne: A Servant of the Queen (Chicago UP 1995);
  • Images of Invention: Essays on Irish Writing (Gerards Cross: Colin Smythe 1995), 359pp. [22 essays];
  • ed., Irish Love Poems (Dublin: O’Brien 1997), 185pp.;
  • ed. The Secret Rose: Love Poems of W.B. Yeats (Boulder: Roberts Rinehart 1998), 120pp.;
  • Ireland’s Love Poems: Wonder and a Wild Desire (London: Kyle Cathie 2000), 240pp.;
  • ed., Poems and Plays Oliver St. John Gogarty (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 2001).


There is a “A Select Checklist of the Writings of Alexander Norman Jeffares (1920-2005)”, in Yeats Annual (2013), pp.239-62 [available online].

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Ariel: Journal of International Literature in English (1970- ): An archive of Ariel is held at Calgary University, where the journal is currenty edited. The 3rd Issue was devoted to Irish writing and included articles by Brendan Kennelly, John Kelly, Andrew Parkin, Stanley Weintraub, and Robert J. Jordan, with a poem by Kennelly, and poem-translations by Timothy Brownlow, Austin Clarke, Padraic Colum, Patrick Galvin, Robert Graves, Bryan Guinness, John Hewitt, Brendan, Kennelly, Michael Longley, Seán Lucy, Hugh Maxton, Patrick McCann, Justin McCarthy, Hugh McKinley, John Montague, Lorna Reynolds - online [accessed 21.05.2011]. There is a copy under Journals in RICORSO Authors A-Z [attached].

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Anglo-Irish Literature [Macmillan History of Literature] (London: Macmillan 1982), 349pp., ill [16pp of pls. incl. facsims., ports.], and Do. (NY:: Schocken Books 1982), vi, 349pp. CONTENTS: Editor's Preface; Introduction. PART 1: THE COMPLEX TRADITION. Irish and Norman Early Writings. PART 2: COLONIAL AND ASCENDANCY. The Early Eighteenth Century; The Later Eighteenth Century. PART 3: THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. From the Act of Union to the fall of Parnell 1800-91. The First Quarter; The Second Quarter; After the Famine; Ends and Beginnings. PART 4: MODERN POETRY. Twilight to Twentieth Century; William Butler Yeats; The Celtic Twilight; Douglas Hyde and AE; A New Generation; Ancient and Modern. PART 5: MODERN FICTION. From George Moore to Brian Moore; George Moore; Ireland Seen Through Different Attitudes; James Joyce; Lesser Talents; A Middle State; Irish-Centred Fiction; Idiosyncratic Innovators; Forties to Eighties. PART 6: MODERN DRAMA. Shaw to Beckett; George Bernard Shaw; The Earlier Abbey Dramatists; O'Casey and the Twenties; The Thirties Onwards; Samuel Beckett. Appendices. Select Bibliography. Chronological Table. Index.
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An Irish Childhood: An Anthology, ed., with Anthony Kamm (London: Collins 1987), 384pp. Contains passages from Boy Deeds of Cuchulain, Lady Gregory; The Childhood of Finn, S.J. O’Grady; The Escape of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, from Life of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, by Lughaidh O’Clery, trans. D Murphy; Jonathan Swift, Childhood Disappointments; George Berkeley, Memorandum; John Banim, Kilkenny College, from The Fetches; On Recollections of Childhood, Sir Richard Steele; Charles Macklin - Schooling of an Actor, from Kirkman; A Forward Miss, Laetitia Pilkington; the Mill-Race, Lawrence Sterne; Oliver Goldsmith, The schoolmaster; Mrs George Ann Bellamy, the Faithful Nurse; William Hickey, Water and Other, Sports; RBS Sheridan, Letter to his Uncle; Sir Jonah Barrington, The Great House; Mary Leadbeater, the Child-Minders; Theo. Wolfe Tone, Call of the Cockade; The Birth of the Duke of Wellington; Thomas Moore, the Minstrel Boy; Maria Edgeworth, Master Harrington’s Obsession; Adelaide O’Keeffe, the Kite; Sir Aubrey de Vere, Christmas Holidays; William Carleton, The Hedge School; Anna Maria Hall, the Spelling Lesson; Edward Walsh, The Fairy Nurse; Daniel Griffin, Playing with Fire Arms; Charles Lever at the Front; George Henry Moore, Letter to his Mother; W R Le Fanu, Practical Joke; Charles Gavan Duffy [calls Moore’s Captain Rock a ‘quasi history’], Schooling for a Patriot, from Two Hemispheres; William Allingham, Church Diversions; Cecil Frances Alexander; J B Yeats; Viscount Wolseley; Thomas Barnardo; John Howard Parnell, Lady Gregory; Frank Harris; G B Shaw; George Tyrrell; Katharine Tynan; W. B. Yeats; Martin Ross; Somerville and Ross; JM Synge; Edward Stephens; AE; Peig Sayers; Forrest Reid; Gogarty; Lord Dunsany; Sir William Orpen, Life class; James Joyce; James Stephens; Glimpses of Patrick Pearse; Eamon de Valera–boyhood of a president; C P Curran; MacLiammoir; Austin Clarke; Sean O’Casey; Liam O’Flaherty, ‘The New Suit’; Joyce Cary; Patricia Lynch; Kate O’Brien; C S Lewis; T R Henn; L A G Strong; Elizabeth Bowen; Sean O’Faolain; Michael Farrell; Frank O’Connor; Maurice O’Sullivan; Cyril Connolly; Molly Keane; C Day Lewis; Val Iremonger; Sam. Beckett; MacNeice; Patrick Kavanagh; Patrick O’Sheas Flann O’Brien; Patrick Campbell; Brigid Boland; M Jesse Hoare; Anne Gregory; Brian Boydell; E D Doyle; Fergus Allen; Derry Jeffares; Iris Kellett; J P Donleavy [Beastly Beatitudes]; Brendan Behan; Adele Crowder; Richard Murphy; Thomas Kinsella; Peter Connolly; John Montague; William Trevor; Sean Lucy; Christy Brown; Edna O’Brien; Brendan Kennelly; Liam Weldon; Seamus Heaney; Kate Cruise O’Brien; Bob Geldof; Caragh Devlin.

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Brendan Glacken, ‘Irish Feathers Fly Abroad’, in The Irish Times (19 Dec 1996), defends A. N. Jeffares against Rüdiger Imhof’s hostile and facetious review of Images of Invention: Essays on Irish Writing , in “Book of the Day” [column; prev. Tuesday]: ‘So far we have Professor Jeffares convicted for attempting to increase his fame, and his publisher (Colin Smythe) found guilty of trying to make money. Damnable crimes in today’s genteel book business. / Mr Imhof also takes issue with Professor Jeffares over the “Irishness” of some inclusions in the book. The claim to Irishness of George Farquhar and Oliver Goldsmith, says Imhof, “puts one in mind of the duke of Wellington’s sagacious saying that being born in a stable does not make one a horse.” / I have never thought that observation particularly sagacious. Accurate it may be, but (the fact remains that) most creatures born in stables are likely to be horses. The Duke is a rare exception. / Mr Imhof seems to have a problem with Irish writers who emigrate and fail to return. Certainly, if to do so means losing one’s Irishness, the Irish literary pantheon is greatly reduced. (Joyce drops out for starters, and presumably becomes French/Italian/ Swiss).’

W. J. McCormack, ‘A. N. Jeffares: Distinguished Yeats scholar and a pioneer in post-war English Studies’, in Independent [UK] (4 June, 2005): ‘[...] Jeffares’s School of English had always been positivistic in its general outlook, tending to ignore (sometimes to deplore) the new interest in theory evident in neighbour departments such as Art History and Sociology. The strength of his approach lay in a close attention to textual nuance allied to a keen sense of the biographical and historical significance of Yeats’s words. Some other readers were inclined to reach different conclusions, most notably Conor Cruise O’Brien (Jeffares’s near-contemporary in Trinity College Dublin) who, in the centenary-year of Yeats’s birth, laid charges of political authoritarianism, amounting to a Fascist predilection, at the poet’s door. O’Brien’s essay, which offended many, was published in a collection, In Excited Reverie (1965), co-edited by Jeffares and published by Macmillan.’ (For full text, see infra.)

Hugh Kenner, ‘Whose Yeats is it Anyway?’, in New York Times (27 May 1990), “Arts” [sect.] - a review of Collected Works of WBY, Vol. 1, 6, Vol. 7, and sundry other works, concludes that Yeats's Poems, edited and introduced by A. Norman Jeffares, with an Appendix by Warwick Gould, is the handiwork of ‘[a]n old-fashioned editor who prints what he happens to like, he has fussed into printed status what we surely don't need: yet one more version, a seventh.’, and speaks of ‘Mr. Jeffares's eclecticism follows nothing coherent.’

Further: ‘The Jeffares text, alas, is not sophisticated. His textual notes are sparse. Here is one instance: the late poem called '”Politics.” While Yeats lived, two versions got printed, and shortly after his death there were four more; there were minute differences among the six. Need I argue that amid 60-odd words from a major poet, minutiae matter? Of interest are a Thomas Mann epigraph (”In our time the destiny of man presents its meanings in political terms” - should that be “meanings” or “meaning”?); the poem's fourth line (should it end with “?” or “,”?); its eighth line (should one insert or omit “both” before “read and thought”?); and the very last punctuation mark (choose “.” or “!”). / Mr. Finneran's answers are: meanings, comma, insert, period. Mr. Jeffares's are: meanings, question mark, delete, period. Two differences out of four. Mr. Finneran has elected to follow what appeared in the January 1939 London Mercury and in the proofs for Last Poems and Two Plays, which is, in his judgment, “the last text corrected by Yeats.” That's straightforward; decide when Yeats had the last say, then let him have it.” Note: Kenner notes the competition between Finneran and Gould arising from their respective editorships of Yeats annuals. [Available online; accessed 11.06.2013.]

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For Jeffares’s remarks on Wandering of Oisin, see under St. Patrick [infra].

  Words spill from nowhere,
sort themselves onto the page,
make belief in poetic rage —
furor poeticus — seem fair
enough. Inner forces trigger it
into action, make it grow
into shapes imposed by lines,
rhymes, rhythms and designs,
all that the words can show
of emotion put into shorthand,
cloudy thoughts that are lit,
by shafting rays illuminated,
or like patterns on the strand
left by receding waves, foam
Lying lightly, like these words
that shape themselves and flow
across the paper and then slow
as they reach a full stop.
—Derry Jeffares, in Ariel: A review of International English, 11, 1 (jan. 1980), p.80.


The Realist Novel: 1900-1945’, in Augustine Martin, ed., The Genius of Irish Prose (Mercier 1985), 42-52; rep. as ‘The Realist Novel in Ireland: 1900-1945’, in Images of Invention (Colin Smythe 1996), 314-322pp.; Jeffares first adverts to Frank O’Connor’s memoir of the first time he saw Lennox Robinson’s play Patriots at the Cork Opera House and realised with a shock of recognition that the Ireland he knew could be put on the stage (p.314); ‘the way the state came into being was, however, not convincingly treated at first. Writers were too close to it. Eimar O’Duffy In The Wasted Island of 1919 was over-ambitious in his picture, and, as in Gerald O’Donovan’s Conquest of 1920, there is too much debating. Darrell Figgis in The House of Success (1922) was perhaps too satirical, while Liam O’Flaherty’s Insurrection of 1950 is too fragmentary, and succombs too much to over-melodramatic handingly to be fully realistic. Iris Murdoch has recently tried her hand at it in The Red and the Green in 1965 but this centres too much on the characters involved. Michael Farrell’s Thy Tears May [sic] Cease (1963), however, is a deeply personal and moving blend of realism and romance which probably captures the essence of the period better than any other novel.’ (p.319.)

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Maud Gonne is cited as having told A. N. Jeffares that her leaving the IRB was due to the attempted assassination of Frank Hugh O’Donnell (see Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.106.)

Jeffares v. Ellmann: Derry Jeffares’s life of Yeats, being published in 1949, was second in the field to Richard Ellmann’s study (Yeats: The Man and the Mask, 1948). According to T. R. Henn, writing in 1950, however, ‘Dr. Norman Jeffares’ W. B. Yeats: Man and Poet is the most fully documented study that has yet been made, and contains much source-material not available elsewhere. Together with Hone’s Life it seems likely to become a standard work’, while Ellmann’s Yeats ‘is also based on the examination of much unpublished material, and approaches the problem of the “divided consciousness” in the poetry through Yeats’s relationship to his father.’ (Henn, The Lonely Tower, [1950] Methuen 1965, [Intro. to First Edn.], p. xv.) Thanks are also made to Jeffares’ for help with ‘published and unpublished material, and for his advice’ (idem.).

Conleth Ellis, review of Brought Up in Dublin (1987): ‘lacks cogency, lacks urgency … considerable skill and dexterity [...] doggedly determined to conceal the heart of the matter’; ‘His best poems are not the autobiographical sub-Betjeman ones which dominate the collection but those which take some famous Irish personages of the past as their subject matter.’ (Books Ireland, May 1987, p.100.)

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