Poet, playwright and new dad William Butler Yeats, 56, is writing to his friend in New York City, art collector John Quinn, 51. Yeats and his wife, Georgie, 28, have just returned from taking their baby son, Michael Butler, one month old, to Dublin for an operation. All went well, however, Michael might need more surgery, in London, next month.
But the Yeatses arrived home to find out that, once again, his father, painter John Butler Yeats, 82, has cancelled his booking to sail back home to his family in Ireland. This time he blamed it on some recent sickness.
W. B. Yeats by J. B. Yeats
Both Willie and Quinn have virtually ordered JB to come home. Quinn is resenting taking care of the older man, and Yeats has told his father point blank that, with his growing family, he can no longer afford to his support Dad’s American lifestyle.
Quinn has booked JB, once again, to sail in November and has put down a deposit.
Way back at the beginning of the century, when the Abbey Theatre was in its planning stages, the co-founder, poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, then 39, commissioned his friend and fellow Dubliner George Bernard Shaw, almost 10 years older than Willie, to write a play for the opening.
George Bernard Shaw by Alvin Langdon Coburn
Shaw gave the Abbey John Bull’s Other Island, a long political comedy about an Irishman and his English business partner who come to Ireland to look in to developing some land. Yeats rejected it. The official reason was that he felt they wouldn’t be able to find any actors to do the British characters justice. The real reason was that Yeats couldn’t stand Shaw’s argumentative style of playwriting.
An edited version of the play premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre that same year, 1904, and made Shaw a big hit with the Brits. Reports are that the king laughed so hard during a performance that he fell off his chair.
Royal Court Theatre, London
John Bull’s Other Island was performed at another theatre in Dublin a few years later. And in 1909, when Abbey co-founder John Millington Synge died at age 37, both Yeats and his other Abbey cofounder, Lady Augusta Gregory, then 52, asked Shaw to step into the vacancy and help guide their theatre. He declined.
Now here is Lady Gregory to guide, what is basically her Abbey, 17 years after its opening. Tomorrow night they are putting on their seventh run of Shaw’s political play.
Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Performances will be this Thursday and Saturday nights, and a Saturday matinee. In the cast is one of their new stars, Barry Fitzgerald, 33, in the role of Tim Haffigan, which he has done six times already.
Barry came to the Abbey a few years ago through his younger brother, who is both actor and stage manager for this production. Despite his breakthrough success last year in one of Lady Gregory’s own plays, Barry still works his full-time civil service job. Where he is known by his given name, William Shields. Just to be safe.
In addition to his day job, Fitzgerald is appearing tonight and Friday in a new play by Lady Gregory,Aristotle’s Bellows, and Bedmates by George Shiels, 40, his first play produced here.
Augusta feels that the theatre has reached a stable point in its history. But she is always on the lookout for new blood, both actors and playwrights.
Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, just turned 56, living in Berkshire, England, with his pregnant wife, is convinced that he has finally gotten his father to agree.
His Dad, painter John Butler “JB” Yeats, 82, has been living in New York City for 13 years. He went over on holiday and just decided to stay. Despite constant entreaties from his son and daughters.
Yeats’ friend, Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, 51, has been looking out for JB, but he’s running out of patience with the older man’s demands. And, with a baby on the way, Willie can’t afford to keep covering Dad’s expenses.
Willie has issued an ultimatum and Quinn is booking JB passage back to Ireland for this fall.
Yeats’ sister Lolly, 53, a publisher and teacher, is thrilled that Dad will be coming to live with her and her sister Lily, 54, an embroiderer, in the Dundrum suburb of south Dublin. They have painted his room and bought him a new bed and mattress.
Lily Yeats at Bedford Park by JB Yeats
Yesterday Lolly wrote to assure her father that in the intervening 13 years, his daughters have changed. They’re no longer irritable and over-tired, and they look forward to just sitting and chatting with him. Their brother, Willie, however, is wondering whether Dad will be able to stick to a curfew.
In Manhattan, JB Yeats is in no humor to go back to his family.
He has just read parts of Willie’s family memoir, “Four Years,” scheduled to appear in TheDial literary magazine. Dad has a big problem with at least one item in the text. Back when the family lived in the Bedford Park neighborhood of West London, young Willie left for two weeks to do some research in Oxford. In the memoir he describes the family as “enraged” at his absence.
Yeats’ family home in Bedford Park
Not the way Dad recalls it. He remembers the loving family being supportive of this overgrown teenager.
Yesterday he wrote to Willie,
As to Lily and Lollie, they were too busy to be ‘enraged’ about anything. Lily working all day…, and Lolly dashing about giving lectures on picture painting and earning close on 300 pounds a year…while both gave all their earnings to the house. And besides all this work, of course, they did the housekeeping and had to contrive things and see to things for their invalid mother…”
He admonishes his son for choosing a career writing plays and establishing Dublin’s Abbey Theatre with Lady Augusta Gregory, 69, and other friends. If he were a good son he would have collaborated with his artist-father, and thereby helped both their careers.
And by the way, Dad isn’t coming back.
The W. B. Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project, a community-led arts/education charity, is working to install a major contemporary sculpture, the first ever honouring Yeats in Britain, at the former Yeats family home. Find out more here.
This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh. This fall, at the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University, I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London before the Great War.
About 100 Irish Republican Army [IRA] Volunteers who have been milling around outside the Custom House, on the Liffey in Dublin City Centre, rush the building and herd the staff into the main hall. A truck loaded with supplies pulls up, and members of the IRA Dublin Brigade scatter oil and cotton all over the building and set it on fire.
The Custom House on fire
Within about ten minutes, British police arrive in three trucks and exchange fire with the IRA Volunteers inside the building. After about a half hour, the IRA’s ammunition runs out. The rebels are shot by the British as they run away.
Staff inside who have been held hostage by the Volunteers walk out of the building, hands raised, waving white handkerchiefs.
Seven civilians are killed and 11 wounded. 100 people are arrested, mostly IRA members.
The Fire Brigade arrives late because they have been held at their station by other IRA bands. Local government records from throughout the country, dating back to 1600, had been transferred to the Custom House for safekeeping. They are all destroyed.
Tonight, the building, one of the most beautiful in Ireland, called by the IRA the “seat of an alien tyranny,” is still burning.
Six miles south, in the Dublin suburb of Dundrum, Lolly Yeats, 53, co-owner of Cuala Press with her brother, poet William Butler Yeats, 55, is disgusted by this War of Independence raging all around.
Just yesterday she had written to her father in New York City about the horrible IRA ambush ten days ago outside of Galway, of British officers and their friends, which left three dead. The only survivor is Margaret Gregory, 37, widowed daughter-in-law of Lady Augusta Gregory, 69, co-founder with Willie of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre.
Margaret and her British friends were leaving a tennis party when the IRA jumped out and began shooting at their car. Lolly can’t understand why on earth Margaret had been keeping company with British military officers?! Might as well wear a target on her back.
Re-enactment of the Ballyturn ambush
Lady Gregory was in England at the time of the ambush, but returned to the west of Ireland as soon as she heard. When the police questioned Margaret about the identity of the attackers, Augusta had cautioned them that Margaret doesn’t recognize any of the local country folk.
Lolly has heard about the IRA’s burning of the Custom House today. What a waste. The IRA calls it a victory but what about the loss of all those killed and arrested?!
She wrote to her father that what upsets her most is her women neighbors having their houses raided by the British, searching for their sons who have supposedly joined the IRA.
And the damned military curfew that the Brits have imposed has totally ended any social life. No more evenings in the theatre.
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.
Irish poet, playwright and Abbey Theatre co-founder William Butler Yeats, 55, is hoping that this production will bring in additional audience members who are moved by stories of the heroes of the ongoing Irish rebellion against British rule.
The Revolutionist is the most overtly political play that Yeats and his co-founder and theatre director, Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, have put on at the Abbey. Its author, former Lord Mayor of Cork, the late Terence MacSwiney, is considered a martyr for Ireland since his death last October, after 74 days of hunger strike in the British Brixton Prison.
The Cork Dramatic Society with founder Terence MacSwiney, front row center
Yeats is sure that his countrymen will recognize MacSwiney in the character of the play’s hero.
The Abbey premiered The Revolutionist just two days ago, and today is the first Saturday matinee. It’s been a success and is repeating next weekend.
One of the actors, Barry Fitzgerald, 32, has been a big hit at the Abbey the past few years, while continuing to work full-time as a Dublin civil servant.
Yeats thinks that the play is pretty light on plot and structure, but is very poetic. He is thinking of repeating The Revolutionist in the fall, following it up with a new version of his own The King’s Threshold, which deals with a hunger strike.
Across the River Liffey, in St. Stephen’s Green, revolutionary Maud Gonne, 54, Yeats’ former lover, is writing to their mutual New York friend, attorney and supporter of the arts John Quinn, 50:
My dear Friend
…Here we are having a very strenuous and trying time, but the heroism and courage of everyone makes one proud of being Irish. The English may batter us to pieces but they will never succeed in breaking our spirit…Iseult (Mrs. Stuart) [Gonne’s daughter, 26]…is staying with me. Her baby will be born next month. Luckily her nerves are pretty good, for Dublin is a terrible place just now. Hardly a night passes that one is not woke up by the sound of firing. Often there are people killed, but often it is only the crown forces firing to keep up their courage. One night last week there was such a terrible fusillade just outside our house, that we all got up thinking something terrible was happening. That morning, when curfew regulations permitted us to go out, we only found the bodies of a cat and dog riddled with bullets.”
Gonne also asks Quinn if he can find an agent for her, as she would like to have her political articles printed in American publications. She needs the money.
Lolly Yeats, 52, owner and business manager of Cuala Press, run out of her home in Dundrum, was intrigued by some things she observed on a recent visit to the Oxford home of her brother, Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 55, his wife, Georgie, 29, and their daughter, one-year-old Anne.
Lolly Yeats by her father, John Butler Yeats
She knows Willie is proud of his English home, so she didn’t say anything. But all of their plates are a dark color, with no pattern. And, odder still, because the couple doesn’t own or like silverplate, their cutlery is made out of horn?!
Lolly had written to her father, painter John Butler Yeats, 81, living in New York City, asking if he ever had to drink soup from a flat spoon?! Or use a fork with only a couple of prongs to eat a piece of meat?!
However, she did appreciate her sister-in-law’s attempts to brighten up their place with brightly colored cushions, and the nice touch of putting both note cards and stamps in each guest’s room.
The Yeatses seem to be doing well, having just returned from a successful lecture tour of the States last year. But Lolly feels that the check she will be sending Willie for his royalties from his Cuala Press publications—which should be almost £500—will be greatly appreciated.
In the Yeatses home in Oxford, Georgie is looking forward to their upcoming trip around the south of England, including revisiting Stone Cottage in Sussex where they spent their honeymoon almost four years ago. But recently she has been feeling sick in the mornings, and thinks she had better tell Willie that she might be pregnant again. She knows he has been hoping for a boy.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, soon to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view for free on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.
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. Early this year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 55, is recovering from a hemorrhage in the consulting rooms of his long-time friend, Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty, 42, who has just removed his tonsils.
No. 15 Ely Place
Yeats and his wife, Georgie, 28, have been living in Oxford, England, since returning from his long American lecture tour. When Willie’s tonsils first flared up, he had tried to go to London to see a specialist. But he got lost.
After Georgie checked with her star charts, they decided the wasted trip to London was a bad omen. So they both came over here to Dublin to have Gogarty take care of him.
Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty by William Orpen
All that Yeats remembers at this point is Gogarty putting him under with ether, yapping away about literature. And when he awoke, bleeding, the good doctor took up his monologue exactly where he had broken off.
By this point, lying in recovery, Yeats is feeling that his own end might be near, and starts to compose his dying speech. He is also thinking of tweaking his bedclothes to give the nurses a thrill.
“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 email@example.com.
My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theater and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.
This fall I am talking about writers’ salons in Paris and New York after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh.
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. In 2021 I will be talking about Perkins in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Playwright and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, is determined that the extensive art collection owned by her nephew, the late Sir Hugh Lane, only 39 when he went down on the RMS Lusitania, will go to the city of Dublin.
Sir Hugh Lane
To show his anger at the Dublin City Corporation for making it so difficult for him to create a gallery to hold his collection, Lane had withdrawn his offer and changed his will to bequeath the art to the National Gallery in London.
However, just before he boarded the Lusitania in New York City, back in May of 1915, he had a change of heart and wrote out a codicil to the will, giving the paintings to Dublin. He carefully initialled each page, but neglected to have the document witnessed.
And so the battle wages on between Dublin and London. With Augusta in the middle.
She has enlisted the support of her fellow founder of the Abbey, poet and playwright W B Yeats, 55. A few years ago, Willie had written a poem, “To a Shade,” chastising the Dublin newspaper owner who was leading the assault against this generous gift from a generous man:
“And insult heaped upon him for his pains,
And for his open-handedness, disgrace;
Your enemy, an old foul mouth, had set
The pack upon him.”
The critics point out that living conditions in Dublin tenements are appalling; why should money be spent for rich men’s art?
In the poem Yeats counters by pointing out that art in a public gallery will give the Irish
Sweeter emotion, working in their veins.”
But by now, even Yeats is ready to give up the fight.
This summer, staying in Lane’s London flat in Cheyne Walk, she is corresponding with anyone who can possibly help. In June alone she has written to Irish painters and sculptors who would want to have their work included in a Dublin gallery alongside the major French Impressionists Lane specialized in.
100 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea
Lady Gregory has even written to blatant unionists like Sir Edward Henry Carson, 66, head of the Irish Unionist Party, hoping he could serve as a go-between. She has heard back from museum curators, aristocrats, trustees of the London National Gallery, and even the recent UK Chief Minister for Ireland Ian MacPherson, 40.
Having just two years ago lost her only son, Robert, 36, when he was shot down by friendly fire in Italy, Augusta is not ready to give up on the last wishes of her favorite nephew.
Not yet. Not ever.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view for free on the website of the PICT Classical Theatre.
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.
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.
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’sThe 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 email@example.com.
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.