“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, March 13, 1921, Shillingford, Berkshire, England

Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 55, is writing to his friend and fellow founder of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory, about to turn 69, back in her home in Coole Park in the west of Ireland.

Yeats wants to explain to her why he and his pregnant wife, Georgie, 29, and their two-year-old daughter Anne, have moved from the place they had rented in Oxford to this cottage in Berkshire.

Shillingford Bridge, Berkshire

Mainly, to save money. Not only is there a baby on the way [Yeats is hoping for a boy], but Willie is still sending money to New York to support his father, painter John Butler Yeats, almost 82. Thankfully, Dad is being watched over by their friend, Irish-American lawyer and art collector, John Quinn, 50. Quinn often buys some of Willie’s manuscripts, giving the money to JB to keep him going.

But Yeats and his sisters are pressuring Dad to move back home. To no avail.

The Yeatses also considered moving back to Ireland. But their tower in the west of the country, Thoor Ballylee, has been terribly flooded by the recent rains. And living there, near Galway, is too dangerous now with the Civil War raging.

So Willie and Georgie found this cottage in Shillingford, about ten miles south of Oxford, which will reduce their expenses. And it is within walking distance of the town’s Catholic Church. Of course, the Yeatses are Protestants. But the proximity makes it more convenient for their maids.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

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