In the summer of 1888…

…aspiring writer Edward Martyn, 29, that great rarity, a rich Irish Catholic landlord, has taken his annual trip to the Bayreuth festival with his cousin, also a west of Ireland landlord, novelist George Moore, 36. As usual, they have visited the great cathedrals and attended concerts of Edward’s beloved sacred music.

On the train trip there, Martyn whistled the tunes from the operas they would see at the festival, to bring Moore up to speed, and lectured him on the difference between Gothic and Norman architecture.

Now, on the way back, they are visiting Paris, where Moore had spent his early years. He introduces Martyn to his painter friend, Edgar Degas, just turned 54. Martyn is so impressed he buys his paintings, as well as some by Oscar-Claude Monet, 47.

Martyn wants to take the art back to his recently restored 15th century family castle, Tullira, near Coole Park in west Ireland. He has devoted a lot of time and a big chunk of his inheritance to refurbishing it, with gargoyles on the battlements and Edward’s monogram everywhere. His widowed mother had hoped that fixing up the castle would encourage her only son to marry; but he still sleeps in a bare bed with a thin mattress in his turret where he spends most of his time. That’ll show her.

Tullira today

Tullira today

Tullira sold at auction about a year ago, with an asking price of £5.5 million [approximately $9 million]. Check out the interiors [Trust me on this one]: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2451911/King-castle-16th-century-stately-home-sale-5-5m.html

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

 

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In March of 1890…

…in Dublin, artist, poet, and drapery store clerk George Russell, 22, is pissed off. His best friend for the past six years, poet William Butler Yeats, 24, is moving to London. Why?!

A Mystical Figure, painting by George Russell

A Mystical Figure, painting by George Russell

Since they met in art school, Yeats and Russell have bonded over their shared interests in art, poetry, spiritualism, theosophy—united against their Church of Ireland parents’ values, sitting up talking until the early hours of the morning.

Now, while George is thinking of moving into the Dublin lodge of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophist Society, Willie seems to be moving away from them, using the Ely Place residence as just a place to stay when he is visiting. ‘Yeets,’ as Russell insists on calling him, is more entranced with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Indian mystic Mohini Chatterji, 32, and the British activist on behalf of Irish independence, Maud Gonne, 23.

Well, the hell with him. George won’t even bother to say good bye to his friend; he has to get to South Great George’s Street and his £40 per year job at Pim’s. It’s a good job. It’s very routine. It gives him time to think.

AE by Orpen btr

 

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

I will be doing presentations about Yeats, his father and their Irish-American benefactor, John Quinn, this spring in Birmingham, UK. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com if you want more details.

In April of 1894…

…in London,  novelist and man about town George Moore, 42,  is off to the Avenue Theatre to catch a double bill of one-act plays by two new playwrights and fellow Irishmen, George Bernard Shaw, 37, and William Butler Yeats, 28.

He’s heard of Shaw, but Arms and the Man is the first of his plays to be staged. It was a last minute substitution by the producer, Shaw’s mistress, Florence Farr, 33.

Theatrical producer Florence Farr

Theatrical producer Florence Farr

Land of Heart’s Desire is Yeats’ first produced play also, and he has written in a dance part for Farr’s niece. In his autobiography, Moore remembers his first impression of the young Dubliner:

 Yeats provoked a violent antipathy as he strode to and forth at the back of the dress circle, a long black cloak dropping from his shoulders, a soft black sombrero on his head, a voluminous black silk tie flowing from his collar, loose black trousers dragging untidily over his long heavy feet—a man of such excessive appearance…[I mistook] him for an Irish parody of the poetry that I had seen all my life strutting its rhythmic way in the alleys of the Luxembourg Gardens, preening its rhymes by the fountains, excessive in habit and gait.

W B Yeats and his 'voluminous black tie'

W B Yeats and his ‘voluminous black tie’

 

 

 

Both plays are critical successes, but Moore sees no reason to meet his countrymen after the performance to congratulate them.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

I will be doing presentations about Yeats, his father and their Irish-American benefactor, John Quinn, this spring in Birmingham, UK. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com if you want more details.

 

In late 1894…

…in London, Lady Augusta Gregory, 42, widowed for the past two years, is moving her possessions back to the Gregory home, Coole Park in the west of Ireland, and getting rid of a lot of her late husband’s ‘rubbish.’ On the basis of his autobiography, which she edited, she has convinced a London publisher to commission her to edit his family correspondence, which she found in a box at Coole.

This is the kind of project Augusta has been looking for. During her 12-year marriage to Sir William Gregory, Member of Parliament, Governor of Ceylon, and 35 years her senior, she had travelled the world, organized a campaign to free a rebel Arab leader, had an affair with a poet, and become a mother.

St. George’s Place, Hyde Park Corner, London

St. George’s Place, Hyde Park Corner, London

In their London home at Hyde Park Corner, Lady Gregory had hosted a salon with the likes of Henry James, Alfred Lord Tennyson, James Whistler, Randolph Churchill, Sir John Millais, Aubrey Beardsley, and her fellow members of the Protestant Irish upper class, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats. Lured by the promise of fascinating conversation, moving between the drawing room, the dining room and the library, the elite of London felt comfortable gossiping about art and politics at the Gregory home.

Early on, Lady Gregory had had her guests sign her fan, made of sandalwood and crimson satin. When that one was filled, she bought fans of ivory for them to autograph, similar to this one:

An autographed ivory fan, similar to Lady Gregory's

An autographed ivory fan, similar to Lady Gregory’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her son Robert, now 13, inherited Coole Park when William Gregory died, but Augusta has the right to live there for life. Back there, working on her book, she wants to invite other writers and artists to visit and stay during the summers.

My photo of Lady Gregory’s autograph tree, Coole Park, western Ireland

My photo of Lady Gregory’s autograph tree, Coole Park, western Ireland

 

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

One morning in 1867…

… in Dublin, lawyer John Butler Yeats, 28, graduate of Trinity Law School and father of William Butler, 2, and Lily, just a few months old, announces to his wife and son at breakfast that he has decided to chuck it all and become a painter. He moves the family to London so he can attend Heatherley School of Fine Art and hang out with the pre-Raphaelite painters at the home of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, 39.

Years later, when family friend Oscar Wilde would tell this story, listeners would ask, ‘Could he paint?’ Wilde would answer dramatically, ‘Not in the least! That was the beauty of it!’

W B Yeats by his father John Butler Yeats, 1900

W B Yeats by his father John Butler Yeats, 1900

 

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

I will be doing presentations about Yeats, his father and their Irish-American benefactor, John Quinn, this spring in Birmingham, UK. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com for more details.

On June 22, 1897…

…the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria, 78, is celebrated.

In London, before her procession through the streets begins, the monarch visits the central Telegraph Office to send a message to her subjects across her empire.

Queen Victoria Jubilee’s procession in front of Buckingham Palace

Queen Victoria Jubilee’s procession in front of Buckingham Palace

Siblings Virginia, 15, Vanessa, 18, and Thoby Stephen, 16, watch the parade from the window of the hospital where they are visiting their half-sister who is ill.

But in at least one part of the Empire, Dublin, Ireland, there are organized protests.

Poet William Butler Yeats, just turned 32, is there with his much beloved Maud Gonne, 30, political activist. She has been involved in the resistance to celebrating the ‘Famine Queen’s’—as Gonne calls her—60 years on the throne.

At the National Club in Rutland Square, Yeats has the doors locked to keep Gonne inside until she can explain to him what she is going to do. ‘How do I know until I get out?!’ Gonne asks.

The Irish La Pasionaria races out into the square and delivers a memorable speech demanding, ‘Must the graves of our dead go undecorated because Victoria has her Jubilee?’ Riots ensue.

Maud Gonne

Maud Gonne

That evening, Yeats goes to the local newspaper to tell them that he had done his best to keep her inside. He later writes that Gonne ‘was very indignant at my interference. I refused to let her leave the National Club. She showed magnificent courage thru the whole thing…She is now the idol of the mob and deserves to be’

The next day, Gonne leaves to recuperate in France; Yeats heads off to travel through the north and west of Ireland with friends.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

100 years ago this month, December 1914…

In Ireland…

…Poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 49, has started selling some of his manuscripts to his Irish-American friend, collector John Quinn, 44, and using the funds to support his dad, painter John Butler Yeats, 75, living near Quinn in Manhattan. Dad refuses to come home to Dublin.

Yeats’ ‘Hostess’ for many years, Lady Augusta Gregory, 62, back from the Abbey Theatre’s third tour of America, has rented out her stately home, Coole Park in the west of Ireland, for shooting parties.

Coole Park

Coole Park

In England…

Virginia, 32, and Leonard Woolf, 34, married two years now, are celebrating Christmas in Marlborough, near their Bloomsbury friend, writer Lytton Strachey, 34. There is a big party planned at the Lackett, the cottage Lytton is renting. He has introduced his lover and cousin, painter Duncan Grant, 29, to David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, 22. They seem to hit it off.

In France…

…British King George V, 49, has recently visited the frontline troops.

American writer Gertrude Stein, 40, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 37, have taken to walking around Paris with their friend, painter Pablo Picasso, 33. On the Boulevard Raspail one night, as Alice tells it later in her Autobiography, they see their first camouflaged cannon. Picasso stops:

“He was spell-bound…It is we that have created that, he said. And he was right, he had. From Cezanne through him they had come to that. His foresight was justified”

Big Bertha cannon, used in Paris

Big Bertha cannon, used in Pari

In America…

…The New York Stock Exchange, having closed except for bond trading when war broke out in Europe, has reopened. The Dow Jones Average drops 24%, the largest one day drop in its history.

Recently married, and recently fired from his personnel job, Harvard University alumni Robert Benchley, 25, has given the speech at the dinner following the Harvard-Yale game. His parody translation of a description of football from the Chinese earns him the reputation as ‘the greatest humourist of all time at Harvard.’

In New Jersey, Rev. Sylvester Beach, 62, has been the subject of gossip, even in New York publications, for having an affair with one of his parishioners. His wife Eleanor, just turned 53, preferring to live apart from her husband, tells him that she’ll take their daughters back to Europe, where they had lived before, to benefit from the travel experience. Her only regret, she writes, is that her daughter Nancy, 27, who prefers to be known as ‘Sylvia,’ will be ‘lost to this country.’

Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach

 

 

 

All are looking forward to 1915, feeling that the war will be over soon…

100 years ago today, 4 August 1914, in England…

A production of The Wrens, a one-act play by Lady Augusta Gregory, 62, is playing in London. One of her fellow Abbey Theatre founders, George Moore, also 62, is in the city, but they haven’t spoken for years.

Painter Vanessa Bell, 35, is with her art critic husband Clive, 32, and his family at Cleve House in Wiltshire. Their friend, biographer Lytton Strachey, 34, is nearby in Marlborough, working on his essay, ‘Cardinal Manning.’ With all the talk of war, he is a bit worried about his sister who is travelling in Germany.

Vanessa’s sister, Virginia, also 32, is with her husband, Leonard Woolf, 33, farther east at her Sussex country house, Asham.

In Cambridge, visiting Americans Gertrude Stein, 40, and Alice B. Toklas, 37, have just been introduced to philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, 53, and Alice has heard bells. ‘I always heard bells when I met a genius,’ said Alice later. They may not be able to go home to Paris for a while, so Alice reluctantly wires her estranged father back in San Francisco for money.

Cambridge economist John Maynard Keynes, 31, is at Westminster. Two days before, at home proofreading his book A Treatise on Probability, with his friend Bertrand Russell, 42, Maynard received a letter from a friend at the Treasury that said, ‘I wanted to pick your brains and I thought you might enjoy the process.’ He knew the discussion would be related to the beginnings of war in Europe, and so hitched a ride in the sidecar of his brother-in-law’s motorcycle to get to London over the bank holiday weekend ASAP.

Lytton Strachey, surrounded by young Bloomsberries, enjoying the early August sun

Lytton Strachey, surrounded by young Bloomsberries, enjoying the early August sun

At 11 pm, after Germany has invaded Belgium, despite the British request for assurances of Belgian neutrality, Great Britain officially declares war.

On this date 100 years ago, 15th March, 1914…

…in Ireland, Lady Augusta Gregory turns 62, the same age as I am now, until next week at least [Look more surprised…].

Her late husband, British Parliament MP Sir William Gregory, has been dead 22 years this month. She is still active in the running of her Abbey theatre, founded ten years ago with poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 48. Their plays have been produced at theatres throughout Britain and the US. The one-month-old theatre school at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, the first in the world to grant drama degrees, is presenting some of Yeats’ one-acts this year, and Augusta’s Spreading the News next year.

She has income from rental property, but that has gone down while her taxes have gone up. Augusta’s only son, Robert, 33, is married and, under the law, he, and then his son, own Coole Park, where she has lived ever since her early marriage. Although it will always be associated with Lady Gregory, and she will live there for the rest of her life, Coole Park will never legally be hers.

Augusta and I both had our life-changing experiences in our 40s:  We found our life’s work—she established a theatre; I did my Ph.D. research into her ‘such friends.’ Augusta lost an Irish husband; I found one.

So today, on her birthday, I will lift a glass to toast her—along with My Irish Husband Tony and our two cats, Willie Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory:

Tony holding William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory

Tony holding William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory

On this date 100 years ago, 2nd February, 1914…

…in England, The Egoist magazine runs the first of 25 instalments of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by Irish writer James Joyce, who turns 32 on this date. Dora Marsden, one month younger, had founded The New Freewoman suffragette magazine the year before, but American poet Ezra Pound, 28, had convinced her to change the name and start publishing modern writers like Joyce.

Pound had discovered Joyce’s work the previous year through his new best friend, poet William Butler Yeats, 48. They have been living and working in Stone Cottage in Sussex, with Pound helping Yeats because his eyesight is failing.

Joyce is working as an English teacher in Trieste, Italy, having his work rejected by publishers in Ireland and England. His partner, Nora Barnacle, 29, takes care of their son Giorgio, 9, and daughter Lucia, 7, and puts up with Joyce’s drinking and ever-wilder schemes to make money, including running the first cinema in Dublin, during his frequent trips back home.

We’ll be celebrating Jimmy Joyce’s 32nd birthday 100 years and three days late this Wednesday, 5th February, at the Birmingham Irish Heritage centre in Digbeth. Come along around 7 pm for my presentation, ‘Such Friends’: James Joyce in Dublin and Paris. [There are rumours of cake.]

But if you can’t make that, I’ll be talking about Joyce again on Monday, 24th February, at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, from 1 to 2 pm. Mention ‘Such Friends’ and they will waive the members’ fee!

Here’s a picture of the movie theatre Joyce managed in Dublin, taken many years later.

Volta cinema dublin