William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) - Life (2)

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1914-39


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1914-16: visits America, January 1914; attends Chicago Poetry banquet; contacts ‘Leo Africanus’ through Mrs. Wreidt’s séances; resumes sexual affair with Olivia Shakespear, 1914 (her dg. having married Pound, 14 April 1914); travels with Gonne and Dr. Everard Feilding (President of Psychical Research Society) and with Maud Gonne, to Mirabeau, nr. Poitiers, to investigate the supposed miracle of a bleeding picture of Christ - later shown to be inauthentic by Lister Institute tests on blood exuded, May 1914; publishes Responsibilities (Cuala 1914; Macmillan 1916); introduces Georgie to Stone Cottage, she being a member of a group of Rudolph Steiner Theosophists, Summer 1914; passed the 6=5 ceremony in the Inner Order of Stella Matutina, thus advancing to the grade of Adeptus Major, 16 Oct. 1914; addresses audience on Thomas Davis, Antient Concert Rooms, 20 Nov. 1914, and received vote of thanks from Tom Kettle, seconded by Patrick Pearse; takes eccentric view at outbreak of World War I (‘England is paying the price for having despised intellect’); spends winter at Stone Cottage, 1914-15; addresses Thomas Davis Centenary audience with Pearse and Kettle, 20 Nov. 1914; composes “Ego Dominus Tuus” expounding ntithetical theory supplied by Leo Africanus (printed in Per Amica Silentia Lunae, 1918); refuses knighthood, 1915; death of Sir Hugh Lane in torpedoed Lusitania, May 1915; issues Reveries over Childhood and Youth (1915; actually 200 March 1916), the first part of his autobiographies dealing with his life up to 1886-67 and written in 1914 [Jan-25 Dec.]; excited by exposure to the Noh, effected by Pound who was acting as literary executor of Ernest Fenollosa; dictates his Noh play At the Hawk’s Well to Pound, Jan. 1916; performed in Lady Cunard’s drawing room March 1916; writes essay establishing connection between peasant beliefs and those of spiritualists such as Swedenborg and Henry More; first draft of Autobiographies, 1916-17 (rev. & publ. 1926); dining in London when news of the 1916 Easter Rising arrives, 25 April 1916; composes “Easter 1916” between May and September, while staying at Maud Gonne’s house (Les Mouettes, Normandy); printed for him by Clement Shorter in 25 copies only, 1917 - and later  in Labour Journal (London), The New Statesman, and the The Dial (NY) in the autumn of 1920 and finally in the collection of 1921; the poem disliked by Maud Gonne (‘It isn’t worthy of you & above all it isn’t worthy of the subject […] A sacrifice has never yet turned a heart to stone though it has immortalised many’); unsucessfully proposes to Gonne soon after execution of John MacBride (5 May 1916), 1 July 1916; Felkin emigrates to New Zealand; WBY advances to grade of Adeptus Exemptus, 1916;

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1917-19: purchases Ballylee Castle, formerly part of Coole estate and now in hands of Congested Districts Board, for £35 on 17 June 1917, re-naming it ‘Thoor Ballylee’; commissions Prof. William A. Scott to undertake restoration, using concrete for the roof rather than an elaborate design [involving green slates, purchased at great expense for the purpose] drawn up by Sir Edward Lutyens; employs local builder Michael Rafferty [the Raftery named of “The Tower” - misspelt, and not the Gaelic the poet]; writes to John Quinn: ‘I am making a setting for my old age, a place to influence lawless youth, with its severity and antiquity’; joins Saville Club, London, 1917; repeatedly proposes to Iseult (‘still mentally fifteen’), who flirts with him throughout the suummer - her mother having given him permission to do so a week after her own final refusal; reads French Catholic poets with Iseult with a view to ‘civilis[ing] Irish Catholics’; arranges for passports admitting Maud and Iseult to the United Kingdom, though forbidden to travel to Ireland, and accompanies them there, Sept. 1917; offers final proposal on mailboat to England, Sept. 1917, to be finally refused a week after (at the ABC Club, London); m. Georgie Hyde-Lees at Harrow Rd. Registry Office, 20 Oct. 1917, with Ezra Pound as best man; alters Georgie’s name to George; lectures on “Ghosts and Dreams” to the London Spiritualist Alliance at the Salon of the Royal Society of British Artists three days after his wedding (23 Oct.) - describing his séances with Etta Wriedt and citing Cesare Lombroso and F. W. H. Myers; grows seriously anxious that he has ‘betrayed three people’ (letter to Lady Gregory, 29 Oct. 1917); Mrs. Yeats commences automatic [psychomantic] writing, at Ashdown Forest Hotel, late Oct. 1917 - first extant record, 5 Nov. 1917 continuing till 20 March 1920 [vide Yeats’s Vision Papers, 3,600pp., recording 450 sittings over 20 months]; the ‘spiral’ (gyre or perne) introduced by automatic handwriting, 6 Dec. 1917; WBY fails to locate the lake-isle of Innisfree on honeymoon boat-trip on Lough Gill; final visit to Coole Park, where his presence has become increasingly annoying to junior members of the family, 1917; issues Wild Swans at Coole (Cuala 1917; Macmillan 1919); writes Dreaming of the Bones (1919), set at Corcomroe, Co Galway; asks Edmund Dulac to cut medieval-looking woodcut of Giraldus, though actually a port. of WBY, Jan. 1918 (later used for A Vision); takes rooms in Oxford, 1918; receives news in letter from Lady Gregory (dated 2 Feb. 1918 - with a post-script invitation him to commemorate RG in writing) of her son Robert’s death over Italy, February 1918, and publ. an obituary in the Observer; moves to Glendalough; writes “Solomon and Sheba”, a poem on love and wisdom combined in happy marriage, Glendalough, Sept. 1918; issues Per Amica Silentia Lunae (1918), a prose work on the ‘Antithetical Self’; visits Sligo for restoration of Thoor Ballylee, staying at Ballinamantane House, nr. Gort, lent by Lady Gregory, summer-autumn, 1918; stays at Gonne’s house on St. Stephen’s Green to December 1918; continues to write prose dialogue involving Robartes and Aherne, in which the former’s wisdom supposedly gleaned from the Judwalis is explained, 1918-19; works intensely with Georgie’s automatic writing to systematise the messages of the communicators - ‘She seemed the learned man and I the child’, acc. to “The Gift of Haroun Al Rashid”) - ultimately issued in the form of A Vision (1925); issues The Only Jealousy of Emer (1918; rev. in prose as Fighting the Waves, 1929); a dg., Anne Yeats, b. 26 Feb. 1919 [var. 9 May], being named after Ann Hyde, Countess of Ossory, following suggestions that her son was trying to be reincarnated; Yeatses visit Kilkenny to find information for her biography, July 1919; contrib. “If I Were Four-and-Twenty” to Irish Statesman(23 Aug. 1919); issues publishes ‘A People’s Theatre’, an open letter to Lady Gregory, 1919; est. Dublin Drama league with James Stephens and Lennox Robinson, offering international drama (to be replaced by the Gate Theatre), 1919; leases house at 4, Broad St., Oxford, Oct. 1919, giving up rooms at Woburn Buildings after twenty years tenancy; reworks first draft of “Memoirs” for publication by T. Werner Laurie as Trembling of the Veil (1922);

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1920-24: inaugurates ‘New Method’ of psychomancy with George (‘George speaks while asleap’, YVP, iii, 9), with interlocutor Dionertes; Felkin rejects Yeats as Ruling Chief after some years of discord, 1920; tours America, Jan-May 1920-21; visits Pasedena, S. California; meets Junzo Sato in Portland, Oregon, and receives from him ‘Sato’s gift’, a 550-yr old Samurai sword, March 1920; lecture tour in America (USA), 1920; returns to Oxford on return; moves to Shillingford, Berkshire, and afterwards to Thame, Oxfordshire; frequents Manor House, Garsington, home of Philip and Lady Ottoline Morrell near Oxford; friendship of John Masefield and Robert Bridges; [William] Michael Yeats, b. 22 Aug. 1921, in Oxfordshire [m. Gráinne Ní hEigeartaigh, a harpist, with whom a son and three dgs. incl. younger Gráinne; lived at Cliff House, Coliemore Rd., Dalkey, became Senator, 1961; European MEP, 1980; d. 2007]; WBY returns to Dublin and undergoes tonsilectomy, staying with Maud Gonne in Wicklow Mountains prior to that operation which was performed by Oliver St. John Gogarty, 1920; issues Calvary (1921), based on Wilde’s The Doer of Good; issues Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), poetry collection; publishes Four Plays for Dancers (1921); issues “Four Years: 1887-1891” sim. in London Mercury and The Dial (June, July & Aug. 1921); condemns British policy in Ireland at Oxford Union, 1921, speaking of ‘the horrible things done to ordinary law-abiding people by these maddened men [i.e., the Black and Tans]’; George travels to Ireland and buys 82 Merrion Sq., 1922 (‘to Dublin what Berkeley Sq. is to London’); receives honorary degree from QUB, July 1922; death of JBY, August 1922; receives to Ard Feis of Sinn Féin and goes to Irish Race Conference in Paris; issues Seven Poems and a Fragment (1922); co-opted Senate of the Irish Free State as cultural advisor at instigation of Desmond Fitzgerald, 1922; resigns from Stella Matutina, 1922; receives hon. degree from TCD, Dec. 1922; introduced to Berkeley’s works by Capt. D. A. MacManus, winter 1922-23, and receives 2-vol. edn. of Works from Lennox Robinson soon after; contribs. “A Biographical Fragment” [being a portion of The Trembling of the Veil] to Criterion (July 1923); receives the Nobel Prize for Literature, 10 Dec. 1923 (‘How much, Smyllie, how much is it?’), and commended for ‘his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation’ [Nobel Prize Committee]; publishes Plays and Controversies (1923); issues The Cat and the Moon (1924; performed at the Abbey Theatre, 1926), the equivalent of a Japanese ‘kiogen’ farce; visits wife of Mathers, Jan. 1924; his poem “Leda and the Swan” diplomatically refused by George Russell on The Irish Statesman, and printed in The Cat and the Moon (Cuala Press, Spring 1924; ltd. edn.), and soon afterwards with other poems in Dial (NY, June 1924), next in Francis Stuart’s To-Morrow (Aug.-Sept. 1924) which he identifies with regards as a suitably ‘wild paper of the young which will make enemies everywhere and suffer suppression’ (Letter to Shakespear, 21 June 1924; Hone, pp.705-06), and finally in A Vision (London: L. Werner Laurie 1925); strenuously supports forthcoming Tailteann Games (letter to Lady Gregory, May 1924); WBY gives Irish Times interview (“Paul Claudel and Mussolini - A New School of Thought” ) forecasting ‘authoritative government’; takes long holiday in Sicily, Capri and Rome, Nov. 1924-Feb. 1925, frequently visiting the Sistine Chapel; suffers from high blood pressure, 1924;
Yeats was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in the years 1902, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1921, 1922 before winning it in 1923. (Google - online; searched 18.10.2016.)

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1925-30: completed “Dove or Swan” (A Vision, 1925), Capri, Feb. 1925; speaks against the anti-Divorce Bill in the Senate, 11 June, 1925, arguing that ‘the price of you pay for an indissoluble marriage is a public opinion that will tolerate cynical an illegal relations between the sexes’; A Vision issued in private edn. (T. Werner Laurie 1925 - actually Jan. 1926; viz., 15 [var. 11] Jan. 1926; 600 copies), ded. to “Vestigia” [Moina Mathers - in recompense for portrait of her husband in “Trembling of the Veil”], with port. of WBY as Giraldus Cambrensis by Dulac; the work identified by Yeats as ‘his book of books’ in a letter to the publisher (27 July 1924), and called by Ezra Pound ‘very, very bughouse’; visits Mürren and Milan, Autumn 1925; defends O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, Feb. 1926 (‘You have disgraced yourselves again […] You have rocked the cradle of another genius’); addresses the Irish Literary Society on “The Child and the State”, 30 Nov. 1925 - incorporating thoughts on Berkeley and Burke as innovators of Irish though, and receives Irish Government subsidy; publishes The Bounty of Sweden (1925), an autobiographical writing based on Nobel acceptance speech; issues Autobiographies (1926); chairs Committee on the New Irish Coinage, 1926-28 - resulting in the adoption of animal designs of Percy Metcalfe, 1928 which would continue in use for 75 years; also concerned with Irish MS Commission, historic buildings, and the National Gallery of Ireland; presses for the return of the Hugh Lane pictures; visits St. Otteran’s School, Waterford, as School Inspector for the Irish State, producing the poem “Among School Children” in response; issues Estrangement (1926); suffers the ‘ignoble complaint’ of measles, 1926, with a small rupture from exercise afterwards; King Oedipus, based on translation by Paul Masqueray (Abbey, 6 Dec. 1926); suffers a hemorrhage of the lung, 1927; worked on Oedipus at Colonus, consulting with Lady Gregory in letters of Jan. and Feb. 1927; contribs. “The Tower” to Criterion (June 1927); issues October Blast (1928), and his great mature collection, The Tower (1928); makes ‘long, impassioned speech’ in Senate on Copyright Bill; shocked by assassination of Kevin O’Higgins, 10 July 1927; moved by death of Con Markievicz, August 1927; Oedipus at Colonus, staged at Abbey (12 Sept. 1927) [var. MS completed Oct. 1927]; suffers serious congestion of the lungs, Oct. 1927; visits Cannes to February 1928; issues The Death of Synge, and Other Passages from an Old Diary (1928); sells house on Merrion Square, 1928; makes his last speech and leaves Senate at the end of his term, and without any initiative for its renewal by the Govt. in wake of death of O’Higgins [due to deteriorating health], July 1928; spends winter in Rapello where he owns a flat at No. 12-8, via Americhe, 1928-1934; reading Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West in the mornings and writes poetry in the afternoons [see note]; travels to Algeciras for his health, staying at Hotel Reina Cristina, Nov. 1928; suffers from Maltese fever at Rapello, Dec. 1928, and remains ill for four months; experiences ‘exultant weeks’ of recovery in Spring, 1929; visits the Hermes Temple of the Stella Matutina in Bristol, 1929; stays briefly at Howth hotel, moving to a flat in 72 [var. 42] Fitzwilliam Sq., July 1929; visits Coole and stays briefly at Ballylee, the latter for the last time, Summer 1929; issues A Packet for Ezra Pound (August 1929); his Fighting the Waves (Abbey 1929) choreographed and produced as ballet by Ninette de Valois with music by George Antheil and masks by Hildo van Krop; contribs. ‘The Censorship and Thomas Aquinas’ to Irish Statesman (22 Sept. 1928, pp.47-48), and answered in the Dáil by min. of Justice James Fitzgerald-Kenney; and ‘The Irish Censorship’ to The Spectator (29 Sept. 1928); issues The Winding Stair (October 1929); stays at Portofino, April 1930; returns to Dublin, July 1930;

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1931-34: writes “Byzantium”; rents “South Hill” on Killiney Hill, Feb.-May 1931; rescues Cuala Press financially, May 1931; writes “Seven Sage”; awarded DLitt (Oxon), May 1931; delivers the bulk of MS material for proposed ‘Edition de Luxe’ of A Vision to Macmillans, June 1931; stays at Coole, Aug. 1931; broadcast in Belfast BBC, Sept. 1931; The Words upon the Window-Pane, his play on Jonathan Swift, is produced at the Abbey with May Craig as the clairvoyant Mrs Henderson, Nov. 1931 [var. 1930]; meets Shri Purohit Swami (b.1882) in 1931, and shares accommodation with him in Majorica, with Gwyneth Foden as a third; works with Purohit to produce an edition of Ten Principal Upanishads (1937) up to his return to India, 1936; death of Lady Gregory at Coole, 28 April 1932; lectured in Brooklyn, New York, leases Riversdale, Willbrook, nr. Rathfarnham [Dublin Mountains] Co. Dublin, May 1932; establishes the Irish Academy of Letters and Medals with AE and others, Sept. 1926 (membership limited to 25), and opposed at a rally organised by Fr. Gannon, S.J.; lectures in America Oct. 1932-Jan. 1933, giving a lecture, ‘Modern Ireland’, and [another] “The Irish Renaissance” at Bowdoin Coll., Maine, Nov. 1932; publishes Words for Music, Perhaps and Other Poems (Nov. 1932), incl. ‘Crazy Jane’; leases Riversdale, Rathfarnham, 1932; displays a growing affinity with rising European Fascism on the model of Mussolini; introduced to Gen. Eoin O’Duffy (1892-1944) by Capt. Dermot McManus [himself prob. led to Fascism by Yeats - acc. WBY], who had earlier given him Berkeley to read; thinks him a ‘plastic’ man but nevertheless associates with the Irish Fascist (‘Blue Shirts’) movement, 1933 [‘I find myself constantly urging the despotic rule of the educated classes ... our chosen colour is blue ... and their organiser tells me it was my suggestion that made them select for their flag a red St Patrick’s cross on a blue ground’ - letter to Shakespear, April 1933]; issues The Winding Stair and Other Poems (Sept. 1933), incorporating “Words for Music, Perhaps [“Crazy Jane” and “Tom” poems], with expanded notes on the collection; issues Collected Poems (Cuala Edn. 1933), with notes [rep. in 1950, with add. poems in subsequent editions]; contribs. “Three Songs to the Same Tune” [National Song for the Blueshirts - to be sung to tune of “O’Donnell Abu”], to Spectator (23 Feb. 1934); undergoes Steinach operation implanting testerone, and a vasectomy performed by Dr. Norman Haire, London, late Spring, 1934 [told Avies Platt ‘I regard it as one of the greatest events, if not the supreme event, of my life’]; experiences sense of sexual rejuvenation which he puts to the test with Ethel Mannin; suffers Pound’s outburst (‘putrid’; Dublin, ‘a reactionary hole’), 1934; writes songs for the Blue Shirts, Dec. 1934, but rewrites them in Aug. with effect that they can no longer be sung; writes “Supernatural Songs” at Rapello, June 1934; resides in Rome, Autumn 1934; The Resurrection (Abbey 1934); issues Collected Plays (1934); publishes Wheels and Butterflies (1934), with preface associating the author with younger Irish writers; The King of the Great Clock Tower (Abbey, 30 July 1934), performed in prose (later to be rewritten as verse and printed in Full Moon in March, 1935); visits Rapallo to sell flat, June 1934; lectures at Allessandra Volta Foundation in Royal Italian Academy, Rome on ‘The Dramatic Theatre’, addressing Maeterlinck, Pirandello, and Gordon Craig among others, Aug. 1934; edits The Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935 (1936) during undertakes in autumn 1934-936; excludes Wilfred Owen and other war poets who ‘plead for the suffering of their men’; Margot Collis (née Ruddock), a member of the Group Theatre, establishes contact through a proposed poet’s theatre; WBY meets her in London en route to theatrical congress in Rome and initiates friendship in the character of ‘old Pythagoras’ with the ‘Crazed Girl’, who later went mad in Barcelona and had to be rescued by the British Consul, attracting press notice to WBY’s embarrassment; friendship with the successful Irish novelist Ethel Mannin, conducting long correspondence mostly concerning politics, on which they diametrically disagree, from 1934 to his death;

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1935-37: issues A Full Moon in March (1935); pub. Dramatis Personae (Cuala Press 1935), and sim in London Mercury (Nov. & Dec. 1935, Jan. 1936); occupies 17, Lancaster Gate Tce., London (during five weeks illness from congestion of the lungs), March 1935; PEN dinner in his honour, Dublin, June 1935; attended funeral of George Russell (“AE”) in Bournemouth, July 1935; accepted a medal from city of Frankfurt, 1935, and seemingly approved the Nazis’ use of legal restrictions against Jews; Nancy Price of People’s National Theatre Co. put on The Player Queen with Margot Ruddock, in a festival of WBY’s plays, Autumn 1935; ed., Cuala Broadsides with Dorothy Wellesley (estranged wife of the future Duke of Wellington and former lesbian lover of Vita Sackville-West), and engages in sexual threesome with her and her companion Hilda Matheson, at Penns in the Rocks in 1936; travels to Majorca with Shri Purohit Swami, translating Upanishads, accompanied by Mrs. Gwyneth Foden; brief infatuation with Foden, terminating with her flight back to London when he disclosed his low opinion of her verse in public; experiences heart trouble and nephritis, 1936; experiences ‘fifteen apparitions’ - actually seven [‘the worst a coat on a coat-hanger’: “Apparitions” - and see letter to Mrs Shakspear, 11 Nov. 1933]; visited by Margot in Majorca, May; she threatens suicide and throws herself from hospital window; her husband sells the story to the papers; WBY shelters with Dorothy; returns to Dublin, June 1936; gives a broadcast, recorded on the Abbey stage, Feb. 1937; makes four broadcasts on modern poetry directed in London by George Barnes for BBC Radio, 1936-37 - being ‘In the Poet’s Pub’ (2 April 1937), ‘In the Poet’s Parlour’ (22 April 1937), ‘My Own Poetry’ (3 July 1937) and ‘My Own Poetry Again’ (29 Oct. 1937) [but see ‘Modern Poetry’ in Essays and Introductions, 1961, p.491ff.]; his play The Words Upon the Window-Pane is broadcast during Experimental Hour, BBC, National Programme (22 Nov. 1937); the poem “Roger Casement” appears in the Irish Press during Feb. 1937; writes “The Municipal Gallery Revisited” (Aug. 1937); makes his final radio broadcast, July 1937 [photo port.] and visit Dorothy at Penn in the Rocks, Sussex; returns to Rathfarnham; elected member of Athenaeum Club, 1937; banquet for WBY held in Dublin, 17 Aug. 1937 (resulting in A Speech and Two Poems, 1937); issues rev. edn. of A Vision (Macmillan, Oct. 1937; 1,500 print-run of copies); answers Pablo Neruda’s call to visit Madrid with a letter supporting the Republic against Fascism; published Essays 1931-1936 (1937); travels to Menton/Mentone, Winter 1937;

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1938: issues New Poems (1938), writes The Herne’s Egg, January 1938; to England, March 1938; his last visit to the Abbey to attend the premier of Purgatory (10 August 1938), with settings by Anne Yeats who also designed On Baile’s Strand (11 August); stays with Dorothy Wellesley, and next with Edith Shackleton Heald (b.1884), feminist [sometimes called misandrogynous] correspondent of the Daily Express, and her sister Nora at The Chantry House, the house they built at Steyning, Sussex, Spring 1938; refuses to help Ethel Mannin secure protection for Ossietski, faced with anti-semitic dangers in Europe, April 1939 (‘do not attempt to make a politician of me’); continues the affair with Edith at in small flat on Holland Park (‘those who create have to cultivate the wild beast in themselves’); refuses invitation to lecture in India; Maud Gonne visits at Riversdale; completes “Under Ben Bulben” on 4 Sept., 1938; complete “Cuchulain Comforted”, 13 Jan. 1939; issues The Death of Cuchulain (1939; produced 1949); plans On the Boiler (Cuala 1939), actually written in Monaco and Menton, Oct. 1938 and pub. posthumously (‘For the first time I am saying what I believe about Irish and European politics’); issues New Poems (1938); contribs. “I Became an Author”, his penultimate publication, to the Listener, 1938; travels for his health to Monte Carlo soon afterwards moving to Menton before settling in Hôtel Idéal-Séjour, Roquebrune, Cap Martin, Dec. 1938; shares accommodation with Edith while Georgie, Dorothy and Hilda occupied a nearby villa; falls seriously ill, Winter 1938; dictates prose draft on 7 Jan., forming basis of “Cuchulain Comforted”; issues Last Poems and Two Plays (June 1938); Autobiographies of William Butler Yeats published by Macmillan, September 1938; writes his last poem, “The Black Tower”, 21 Jan. 1939; dictates revisions to Georgie; visited at Hotel Idéal Séjour by Dorothy Wellesley, with Hilda Matheson and W. J. Turner [a music critic], 21 Jan.; visited there by Dermod and Mabel O’Brien, on 22 Jan.; begins decline, 23 Jan., weakened by cold weather and angina; Hilda and Dorothy return to find him unwell [Thurs.], WBY alters the title of his epitaph-poem from “His Convictions” to “Under Ben Bulben”; revises list of contents for last volume of poems (i.e., Collected); Edith Heald arrives from Paris, 18 [Friday]; WBY received morphia from doctor, early Saturday morning; passes into a coma and d. about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, 28 [Sat.] Jan. 1939, at Roquebrune, Cap Martin, S. France; vigiled alternately by Edith and Georgie [Mrs Yeats]; bur. S. Pancras, Roquebrune 29 [Sunday], Jan. 1939 [see funerals, infra]. NCBE DIB DIW DIL PI IF OCEL KUN ODQ FDA G20 HAM OCIL

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Posthumous: memorial services held in Dublin (St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 7 Feb.) and London (16 March, St. Martin’s in the Fields, organised by John Masefield); W. H. Auden issued a dialogue, ‘The Public Versus the Late Mr. William Butler Yeats’, in Partisan Review (6, 3, Spring 1939, p.47); a commemorative issue of The Arrow appeared in 1940, as did an issue of The Bell with several evaluative essays; obituary issue of London Mercury (March 1939), incl. first printing of “Four Recent Poems”;T. S. Eliot came to Dublin to give first Yeats Lecture at the Abbey for the IAL, 1940; The Southern Review issued a “Yeats Special Issue” in Winter 1942; the Collected Poems (1950) was issued by Mrs. Yeats with the assistance of Thomas Marks of Macmillan; Mrs. Yeats - who lived at 46 Palmerstown Rd., Dublin from the death of WBY to her own in 1968 - bestowed a large number of WBY’s manuscript plays on the NLI in Autumn, 1957; their son Michael was married to Gráinne O’Hegarty (dg. of P. S. O’Hegarty) in May 1949; a centenary ceremony was held in Sligo, and addressed by Frank O’Connor, 1965; the house in which Yeats was born was properly identified by Sybil Le Brocquy in the Centenary Year of 1965 [see under Le Brocquy, q.v.]; a ‘tribute in bronze’ by Henry Moore was dedicated as the Yeats Memorial in Stephen’s Green, 26th Oct. 1967, being unveiled by Jack Lynch (FF TD; Taoiseach); a bust by Arthur Power was installed at Sandymount Green on a plain granite plinth [1969]; responsibility for the biography authorised by Mrs. Yeats passed from Denis Donoghue to F. S. L. Lyons, and, at his early death, to Roy Foster (Hertford College, Oxford), being issued in two volumes as The Apprentice Mage (Vol. I, 1997) and The Arch-Poet (Vol 2, 2003); an authoritative life of Mrs. Yeats was issued by Ann Saddlemyer (Oxford 2005); the entire personal library of WBY, amounting to 2,500 books, was donated to the National Library of Ireland by his son Michael (d.2007), to be housed in a separate “Yeats Room” in the former Kildare St. Club Rare Books & Manuscripts extension; other papers earlier donated by Anne Yeats (d.2001; unmarried); his papers at the NLI occupy 38 yards of shelving; a digitally-enhanced exhibition on W. B. Yeats was opened at the NLI in 2006, and later toured to New York before becoming permanent at the NLI.

An exhibition of family letters and memorabilia including drawings, embroidery by the children of John B. Yeats, early love letters of WBY and his correspondence with Olivia Shakespear was put on display at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin on 14-16 Sept., and at Sotheby’s in London from 22 -26 Sept., prior to sale by auction on 27 Sept. 2017. The collection comes from the home of Michael Yeats (d.2007) which became available following the death of his wife the musician Gráinne Ní Eigeartaigh.

Funerals: bur. at Roquebrune, Cap Martin, S. France in accordance with his wishes [‘If I die, bury me up there[,] and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo’ - letter to Mrs. Yeats]; bur. at Roquebrune, 30 Jan. 1939, in bitter cold, before the arrival of Michael, accompanied by Lennox Robinson, but with Dermod O’Brien in attendance (‘suspicion of a smile as if he had just had some humorous thought’)- having travelling from Monte Carlo at Mrs Yeats’s call and bringing with him the Anglican chaplain Canon Tupper-Carey to read the rites; Mrs. Yeats purchases a ten-year concession on a grave from the undertakers [pompes funèbres], Maison Roblot [of Menton?], in company with O’Brien; also two dgs. of the anti-Parnellite J. F. X. O’Brien; a marble marker with inscription (‘W. B. Yeats, 1865-1939’) placed by the undertakers on the grave in Roquebrune, 11 Feb.; WBY’s grave visited by Edith Heald in June 1947, only to find the remains removed to an ossuary - prob. after five years in spite of the contract with Mrs Yeats; a plaque with unicorn and str designed by Edmund Dulac for the ossuary - and agreement reached with the local authorities by him to keep the facts of WBY’s dispersal a secret from Mrs Yeats; WBY’s bones assembled from ossuary by French officials, March 1948, and placed in new coffin with old plaque affixed; coffin leaves Roquebrune to Villefranche and boarded on the corvette Macha, 6th Sept., arriving at Galway, 17th Sept. 1948; funeral attended by Maud Gonne, Edith Heald (with Hannah Gluckstein) - though keeping apart from the family; also Frank O’Connor (oration), Sean MacBride, Louis MacNeice and a large crowd incl. Siobhán MacKenna - who was histrionic.

Frank O’Connor at the grave of WBY in 1948

‘Two centuries after this if our civilisation endures, there will be people speaking here, and other people will be listening to them, when you and I are in our graves.
I hope that what they praise Yeats for, will not be the things that we praise him for.
Because that will simply mean that our generation has left its task uncompleted.
I hope the tradition we establish here today may be the beginning of a new and different Ireland.
That we in coming days; may be the INDOMITABLE IRISHRY

 Supplied by Declan Foley in connection with WBY 150 - a semi-centenary collection of critical essays.

Sequel to the burial ..

Visiting the grave of Yeats with her lover Hannah Gluckstein (pseud. “Gluck”) in June 1947, Edith Heald learns from the curé that the concession had expired after 5 years and that WBY’s remains had been placed in a fosse commune on reassignment of the grave; contacts Edmund Dulac, who decides not notify Mrs. Yeats of the events but designed a plaque for fixing to the common ossuary showing a unicorn rising to the stars; Dulac later admits what he knew to Mrs Yeats in 1948 when the matter was raised by the Sligo Corporation in Jan. 1948; in Dublin, she indicated her desire to reinter WBY in Drumcliff, in accordance with his wishes - the matter having been raised by the Sligo Corporation in Jan. 1948; Mrs Yeats sought clarification from the French Govt., and the question of WBY’s become a matter of official concern; the bones were then sought among the others in the communal ossuary where remains from the fosse [or ditch] were routinely cleared [i.e., in 1941 and 1946]; a demande d’exhumation is signed at Roquebrune, 12 March 1948, on headed Maison Roblot paper; a large skull like the poet’s sought among the bone, with others of like proportion - incl. an ‘iron corset’ or truss worn by him - but also known to have been worn by Alfred Hollis, the occupant of a neighbouring grave buried shortly after Yeats; the supposed ‘remains’ then placed in a new coffin with the plate of the old one affixed; remains of WBY removed from France on board the Irish corvette Macha and reinterred at Drumcliff, Sept. 1948, in a grave prepared with a headstone and with an epitaph engraved on unadorned stone (‘Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman, pass by!’) - as stipulated in “Under Ben Bulben”; the funeral service was conducted by James Wilson, rector of Drumcliffe and bishop of Elphin [&c.] - though privately doubtful of Yeats’s claim to Christian burial; Frank O’Connor was invited to make funeral oration, but veto’d by Jack Yeats, who disliked his politics; doubts began to be cast on whether the remains were authentically Yeats’s. ...

—‘I must be buried in Italy, because in Dublin there would be a procession, with Lennox Robinson as chief mourner’ (to Mrs Yeats, passed on to Richard Ellmann).
—‘I write my poems for the Irish people but I am damned if I will have them at my funeral. A Dublin funeral is something between a public demonstration & a private picnic.’
—‘If I die, bury me up there[,] and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.’

All quoted in Ann Saddlemyer, Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats (Oxford UP 2002), pp.566-57. [Note: the front phrase, ‘If I die, bury me up there’, given in the third quotation above, is not quoted by Saddlemyer but supplied in R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. 2: “The Arch-Poet” (Oxford UP 2003), p.651, citing letter of 6 March 1939 at TCD.] Both Saddlemyer and Foster concur in quoting George’s remark to McGreevy to the effect that ‘he didn’t want the sort of funeral AE had.’

See Fred Johnston “Irishman’s Diary”, The Irish Times (21 May 2005): ‘[...] A plaque on a wall of the public ossuary, a unicorn-and-star emblem, a few words, designed (but not sculpted) by the artist Edmund Dulac, a friend of the poet for a quarter of a century; Dulac and Edith Heald, another friend of Yeats, had applied officially at Roquebrune-Cap Martin to have the plaque installed “contre le mur limitant l’ossuaire souterrain du côte est, à la mémoire du poète Butler William Yeats (sic), décédé a Roquebrune-Cap-Martin ...”’ (Available online; posted on Facebook by Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons, 19.07.2015.)

Foster writes: ‘The likelihood is that George correctly took a ten-year concession, but that the church authorities had mistakenly situated the grave in the part of the cemetery owned by the municipality rather than by private families, where leases usually ran out after five years. [...]’ (R. F. Foster, op. cit., 2003, p.656.)

A letter to the newspaper ...

On 6th October 1988, Michael and Anne Yeats wrote to The Irish Times following ‘the publication last week in England of a book that refers to the grave of W. B. Yeats in Drumcliffe Cemetery’ and affirming that ‘the suggestion that our father was buried in a paupers’ [sic] grave in Roquebrune is of course totally untrue’. They go on to explain that their mother had purchased a ten-year plot and that shsure in accordance with lae was ‘the last person who would make a mistake on a matter of such crucial importance’ - it being her intention to rebury Yeats in Drumcliffe [sic].

 ‘It appears that at some stage the body was moved - on learning which she got in touch with the French government and was kept informed by them of the events at Roquebrune. [...]  In preparation for the ultimate transer to Ireland, the remains were exhumed in March 1948, and placed in a Chapel of Rest. Careful measurements were made of the remains (Yeats had a particularly massive bone structure), and the task of certification was made easier by the fact that, due to a long-term hernia problem, our father wore a truss.’

 They then attest that the exhumation was conducted according to French law in the presence of the Mayor of Roquebrune and other officials in order ‘to ensure that the indentity [sic] of the remains should be established beyond all possibility of error.’ They conclude with regrets that it should be necessary to issue a statement about ‘delicate matters that should normally be private family affairs’ and hopes that it will not be necessary to ‘contribute further to this discussion’ - with the assurance that ‘there is, indeed, nothing to discuss since we are satisifed beyond doubt that our father’s body is indeed buried in Drumcliffe Cemetery.’

[End; signed Michael Yeats / Anne Yeats - Dalkey, Co. Dublin.]

Rep. in The Irish Times (18 July 2015); but see the remainder of the report: [...] ‘Bernard Cailloux, the French diplomat who was sent to Roquebrune to locate Yeats’s missing remains early in 1948, nine years after the poet’s death, reported that it was “impossible to return the full and authentic remains of Mr Yeats’ and proposed asking Dr Rebouillat, the local sworn pathologist, “to reconstitute a skeleton presenting all the characteristics of the deceased”. [...; &c.]’ The article further cites Michael Yeats as saying that his father wore a ‘leather truss’ - unlike the ‘steel truss’ worn by his neighbour Hollis, whose family long claimed that it was their relative not WBY who is buried in Drumcliffe. The reconstitution of WBY’s remains from a ‘mell-pell’ of other bones - in Cailloux’s phrase - was tacitly condoned by the Yeats family and the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seán MacBride (son of Maud Gonne). [Available online; accessed 19.07.2015.]

Conclusions ...?
Roy Foster writes of Yeats’s disinterment in 1948 that the ten-year concession was not honoured, ‘as happened to the adjacent grave, where an Englishman called Alfred Hollis had been buried a few days after WBY, also with a ten-year “concession”’, and that ‘it proved necessary in March 1948 for [656] French officials to identify the remains, which was done to the satisfaction of both local authorities and representatives from Paris .. great care was taken to preserve discretion, rumours of confusion had reached the newspaper ...’. (W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. 2: “The Arch-Poet” Oxford UP 2003, pp.656-67.)
 
Irish Times, Editorial (23 July 2015):

‘A young man, wandering about the slopes of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea, or gazing across the silver waters of Lough Gill from Dooney Rock to Hazelwood, started to sing in accents that fell with a wild beauty … In the natural grandeur of Sligo the new poet found an inspiration that lit up his verse with a burning flame’.

That summary of the seminal and decisive influence of the Sligo landscape on the poetry of W. B. Yeats appeared in this newspaper on the occasion of the poet’s seventieth birthday. It is worth bearing in mind those words in coming to terms with the revelations in French diplomatic correspondence that seem to confirm that the bones sent back to Ireland in 1948 were not the poet’s.

Does it really matter whether any remnant of the mortal remains of Yeats lies in Drumcliffe churchyard? There may or may not be some trace of Yeats’s remains in the Sligo soil but what does matter is the intimate association between the poet, his work and the iconic landscape “under bare Ben Bulben’s head” that was his spiritual home and his arcadia. The spirit of place evoked in the poetry is enough to continue to validate it as a destination of literary pilgrimage. His own words, chosen by the poet as his epitaph and cut into the Drumcliffe headstone, carry enough significance to mark the graveyard as hallowed Yeatsian ground, a site of memorial that invokes the spirit of the poet.

The real disgrace of this affair is the failure of local French authorities at the time to recognise his eminence and treat him as an “honoured guest” in the cemetery in Roquebrune where Yeats died in 1939. Recalling his childhood in the Autobiographies Yeats wrote “I would remember Sligo with tears, and when I began to write, it was there I hoped to find my audience”. Sligo was always in the poet’s “deep heart’s core”, his spirit can never be taken from the place of his first reveries.

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