Ernest Rhys

Life
1859-1946; abandoned engineering in 1886 to write; met Yeats at house of William Morris; man. director of Walter Scott (publishers); visited Bedford Park and expressed delight at first Irish family of his acquaintance; commissioned Yeats's Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) and Stories from Carleton (1899); founder and member of Poets of the Cheshire Cheese early in 1891, with Yeats, Rolleston, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, and others; m. Grace Little; issued Welsh Ballads and Other Poems (1898); edited The Golden Treasury of Longer Poems (1921 & Edns.) and numerous literary works incl. poems of Mallory, Campion, Dekker, Vaughan, Pope, Byron, Herrick and Burns; ed. Modern English Essays, 4 vols. (1922).

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Works
Welsh ballads and Other Poems (London: D. Nutt 1898) x, 177 pp. [20cm]

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Commentary
W. B. Yeats
, review of Welsh Ballads, The Bookman (April 1898): ‘... the magical beryls in which we see life, not as it is, but as the heroic part of us, the part which desires always dreams of emotions greater than any in the world, and loves beauty and does not hate sorrow, hopes in secret that it may become. [...] Because a great portion of the legends of Europe, and almost all of the legends associated with the scenery of these islands, are Celtic, this movement has given the Celtic countries a sudden importance, and awakened some of them to a sudden activity.’ (Cited in John Frayne, ed., Uncollected Prose, Vol. 1, 1970, Pref., p.71; printed in Vol. 2.)

W. B. Yeats wrote to Katharine Tynan, ‘I have met some literary people over here with the usual number of bon mots and absence of convictions that characterise their tribe. One however has no bon mots and several convictions - a Welsh man Ernest Rhys editor of the “Camelot Series” (John Kelly, ed., Letters, ed., vol. 1, 1986, p.15).

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Quotations
Everyman Remembers (1931): ‘The first three members were T. W. Rolleston, W. B. Yeats and myself. Each of us asked other Rhymers to come to the club suppers, and we soon reached the allotted number of ten. Our custom was to sup downstairs in the old coffee-house boxes, something like high double-seated pews with a table between. After supper, at which we drank old ale and other time-honoured liquors, we adjourned to a smoking-room at the top of the house, which we came to look upon as our sanctum. There long clays or churchwarden pipes were smoked, and the Rhymers were expected to bring rhymes from their pockets, to be read aloud and left to the tender mercies of the club for criticism’ (p.105; quoted in Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1988, p.103.)

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References
Arthur Quiller Couch, ed., Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918 (new ed. 1929), Ernest Rhys, 1874 [err.]

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Harlow: Longmans 1988); remarks that Rhys produced some Fiona Macleod-type fantasies such as The Fiddler of Carne (1896), using an 18th cent. vagrant musician to tell a fable of art; also The Whistlng Maid (1900), a Welsh romance. BL 2.

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Notes
W. B. Yeats: A. N. Jeffares cites Yeats’s note in Wind Among the Reeds: ‘Professor Rhys, who considers the bristleless bar a symbol of darkness and cold, rather than of winter and cold, thinks it was without bristles because the darkness is shorn away by the sun. It may have had different meanings ...’; and note that the corresponding note in Collected Works (1906) ‘If one reads Professor Rhys’s Celtic Heathendom by the light of Professor Frazer’s Golden Bough ...

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