“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, early February, 1923, Savile Club, 107 Piccadilly, London

Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 57, is having dinner with his doctor—and friend—fellow writer and fellow appointed Senator in the new Irish Free State, Oliver St. John Gogarty, 44.

107 Piccadilly, London

Gogarty is re-telling the story of his recent kidnapping in Dublin by anti-government Republicans who had publicly stated they were going to be targeting Senators.

The good doctor was sitting in the bath in his Chapelizod home when the armed gunmen broke in and led him outside at gunpoint. As they forced him into a car, one pushed a revolver into his back and said,

Isn’t it a good thing to die in a flash, Senator?”

Not wanting to die in any way, Gogarty told them that he urgently needed to relieve his bowels and scampered into the woods. And then jumped into the freezing cold River Liffey and swam away.

As he crawled ashore and headed to the police barracks in the Phoenix Park, Gogarty vowed that he would donate two swans to the Liffey in gratitude.

And he vowed he would move his medical practice and his family to London.

Oliver St. John Gogarty

This month, the same rebels burned to the ground Renvyle, Gogarty’s house in Connemara in the west of Ireland. And even a patriot like Senator Horace Plunkett, 68, is not safe—his house Kilteragh, in Foxrock, County Dublin, was reduced to ruins also.

Firemen hosing what’s left of Kilteragh

Yeats has been following the turmoil back home from the comfort of his club here. The London Times’ headline a few weeks ago read,

Irish Rebel Outrages. Many Houses Burned. Kidnapped Senator.”

The anti-Treaty forces also burned Moore Hall, the family home of Yeats’ former friend, playwright and novelist George Moore, about to turn 71. They were enacting revenge on George’s brother, a former British army officer and current Free State Senator, not knowing the house belongs to George the writer, not his more political brother.

George Moore’s letter to the editor in The Morning Post

Yeats and Moore were among those who founded the Abbey Theatre at the beginning of the century. Despite the ongoing Civil War, the Abbey keeps performing in the heart of Dublin. They are staging Cathleen ni Houlihan, by Yeats and co-founder Lady Augusta Gregory, 70, featuring the new actor Barry Fitzgerald, 34, on a double bill with The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet by Yeats’ fellow Dub, George Bernard Shaw, 66.

Yeats is enjoying his new role as a Senator, representing a small independent political party, and serving on committees dealing with issues related to arts and culture. Leinster House is a short walk from the Yeats home in Merrion Square.

Leinster House

He’s given two speeches so far but feels that he can serve his country better from here in London, putting pressure on old friends like Winston Churchill, 48, former Secretary of State for the Colonies, to ease up on some of the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that was negotiated last year. Also, he finds it easier to write here.

Gogarty is urging Willie to get his family out of harm’s way in Ireland and bring them to England. The shock of the fighting in Dublin could affect his young daughter’s kidneys.

Yeats has been thinking about re-locating his wife and two children to Holyhead, Wales, where he could conveniently commute to Dublin via the ferry. His mother-in-law wants them to move closer to her in Cheshire, England.

But Yeats’ wife Georgie, 30, says no. She thinks this ridiculous war is going to be over soon. The government has already offered amnesty to those fighting, which will cool things down a bit.

Willie has just received a heartfelt letter from her, shaming him for appearing to abandon his needy country at this time. Their daughter Anne, about to turn 4, has recently recovered from scarlet fever and is doing much better now. (Yeats admits that whenever one of the kids gets sick, he moves out of the house to his Kildare Street club. To make things easier for Georgie, of course.)

Her letter convinces him. Willie responds immediately, thanking her for putting pressure on him. There will be no more talk of abandoning Ireland. He’ll come home.

Yeats family home in Merrion Square

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available at Thoor Ballylee in County Galway, and as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later this month I will be talking about the literary 1920s in Paris and New York City in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August 2, 1920, Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, Ireland

Opening night.

Sara Allgood, 40, is ready. She has played the title character in Cathleen ni Houlihan many times, but not for a few years now. The play, billed as being by the poet William Butler Yeats, 55—but everyone knows that his fellow Abbey co-founder Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, wrote most of it—has become the Abbey’s signature piece.

Sara-Allgood younger

Sara Allgood

Premiered back in 1902, before the theatre even had this building on Abbey Street, the star then was Yeats’ love, English-Irish activist Maud Gonne, now 53, and the play caused quite a stir for its nationalistic themes. Some critics said Gonne was just playing herself.

The theatre has staged Cathleen many times, including for its own opening night as the Abbey, during the Christmas holidays in 1904, when Sara played a smaller part.

The seven performances this week—including the Saturday matinee—are the first time it’s been performed at the Abbey since St. Patrick’s Day last year. On the infamous night when Lady Gregory herself stepped into the lead role when the scheduled actress was taken ill.

So no pressure there, Sara.

original abbey theatre

Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin

After this run, she jumps next week right in to the lead in the late John Millington Synge’s masterpiece, Riders to the Sea. Just three performances for that gem, about a widow who loses all her sons to the sea. For a one-act, it’s an emotional roller coaster.

Later in the month, she’s scheduled to star in some of the smaller plays the Abbey is known for. She’s looking forward to working again with one of their new stars, Barry Fitzgerald, 32, who had his breakthrough just last year in Lady Gregory’s The Dragon.

A widow herself, having lost her husband to the Spanish flu two years ago, Sara is proud that she has been able to have a career as a full-time actress for the past fifteen years.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 Kindle versions.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.

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