Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 56, and his family are settling in nicely to their new country home in the west of Ireland. Well, not a traditional “country home.” A Norman tower, actually. Which Yeats has renamed Thoor Ballylee.
From the top of his tower he can see the Aughty Mountains to the east and the hills of the Burren to the West.
He writes to friends,
All we can see from our windows is beautiful and quiet…Everything is so beautiful that to go elsewhere is to leave beauty behind.”
Yet, about 20 miles away in Galway City, Nora Barnacle, 38, home from Paris on a family visit, is staying in her uncle’s house with her two children, Giorgio, 16, and Lucia, 14.
Insurgents from the Irish Republican Army [IRA], fighting against the right of the newly declared Irish Free State to uphold the Anglo-Irish Treaty, burst into the house.
They demand to use the bedroom as a base to fire on their enemies out the window.
Nora is appalled. And panicked. Her partner, the father of her children, Irish novelist James Joyce, 40, had begged her to not come here. He knows there is a Civil War raging throughout the country and he fears for their safety. He has been writing her anguished letters from their home in Paris ever since she left.
I am like a man looking into a dark pool,”
Joyce writes to her.
She and the children arrived a few weeks ago, coming over via London, which Nora really enjoyed. She might try to convince Jim to move there, rather than continue to live in Paris. At least they’d be surrounded by the English language.
But right now, Nora is thinking that she needs to get herself and her kids on a train to Dublin as fast as she can.
Michael Collins, 31, recently named Chair of the Provisional Government of the pro-Treaty Irish Free State, gets out of his car at Vaughan’s Hotel in Rutland Square, followed by other members of the National Army. A group of 12 anti-government, armed IRA men rush by him and start shooting at his entourage. Collins fires at them with his revolver and disarms one of the younger men. The boy admits he didn’t realize that he had just shot at the leader of the Irish Free State. Good thing he missed.
My thanks to Rena McAllen, member of the board of directors of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, for assistance with details of Thoor Ballylee, and Neil Weatherall, author of the play, The Playboy Riots, for assistance with details of the Irish Civil War.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in 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.