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Introduction

© Warwick Gould, CC BY 4.0 http://dx.doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0081.01

This Yeats Annual collects for the first time all of lectures given under the aegis of the University College Cork/ESB International Annual W. B. Yeats Lecture Series. These lectures were delivered between 2003 and 2008. Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh (UCC) hosted the series in its Boole Library with funding from the Electricity Supply Board International. UCC is now known as a constituent university of the National University of Ireland system.

The key figure in realizing this endowment was the UCC alumnus, Eamonn Cantwell, who took his degree in 1960 in Electrical Engineering, and joined the ESB, and developed the overseas consultancy business, ESB International. Inspired by the late Gus Martin of University College Dublin and a regular attender at the Yeats International Summer School, Eamonn Cantwell became a fastidious international collector of Yeats first editions. On his retirement from ESB International in 1997 he undertook the MPhil in Anglo-Irish Literature. He was awarded a Doctorate of the University of Dublin for his thesis on Yeats’s reception in Ireland—‘“To Write for My Own Race”: The Irish Response to Yeats in his Lifetime’, completed in 2003 after working with Professor Terence Brown of Trinity College, Dublin.

The same year, Eamonn Cantwell’s magnificent collection of books by Yeats was given to UCC. A Catalogue, W. B. Yeats: A Collector’s Gift was compiled for the inaugural exhibition (24 June-30 July 2003) by Olivia Fitzpatrick and Carol Quinn, with help from Julia Walton and Michael Holland. ‘The Cantwell Collection’ compiled for this volume by Crónán Ó Doibhlin, provides in essence an update (and occasional correction) of ‘A Collector’s Gift’, augmented both in terms of bibliographical description and in terms of items bought by the Librarians since 2003.

This volume takes great pride in offering the first publication of Professor John Kelly’s ‘Eliot and Yeats’ which, delivered on 30 April 2008 as ‘A “Mutual Illumination”? W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot’ was the sixth and final UCC W. B. Yeats Lecture. It will subsequently be issued in pamphlet form to conclude the Boole library’s now much sought-after series. Illustrations used in the lectures were delivered by PowerPoint or handout. As many of these as possible have been collected in this volume.

Readers familiar with the traditional format of Yeats Annual will observe that the section formerly devoted to Shorter Notes now includes what we have termed ‘Research Updates’. The reasons are to be found in the content of that which is on offer and which recognizes that since the great period of editorial scholarship on Yeats began in the early 1970s, much more has been rediscovered than has been incorporated into the standard editions, especially the earlier volumes in the Collected Works Series with their highly restricted parameters of annotation. It has been possible, therefore, for John Kelly to recover some of Yeats’s ghost-writing for Sarah Allgood omitted from the Collected Works, and for Warwick Gould, Geert Lernout and Günther Schmigalle to begin to repair some inadequacies in the annotation of The Poems and Autobiographies. Deirdre Toomey collects and edits some new letters not recovered before the publication of the second volume of The Collected Letters (1997).

Colin Smythe, Yeats’s bibliographer, has this year added to his occasional series of focused studies of particular examples of Yeats’s publications, addressing a new phase in his descriptive bibliography. Census-taking of surviving copies of Yeats’s rarest books allows us to map more closely the history of Yeats’s dealings with his publishers, agents, patrons and that inner circle of admirers of his work who were happy to bankroll his publications and to regard that duty as a privileged path to collecting early, rare, or embellished states of his books. It also allows us to trace the histories of their price and value and to think about what it is that creates such value, be it the esteem placed on an author’s first published ‘book’, the desires of ‘completist’ collectors, the intrinsic literary value of a text, its embellishment as a book, or its history of ownership and thus its accrued associations.

This time, Smythe tackles Mosada (1886) which, though the first of Yeats’s separate publications, is not the rarest either in terms of the original numbers printed nor in terms of its survival. Nevertheless, it is a book which, published at 1/- in 1886, commanded in 2016 at the London Olympia Book Fair the seemingly plausible price of £98,000 for a copy held in the same family for 100 years.

This volume also records the deaths of the Yeats scholars, Katharine Worth (1922–2015) of the University of London, Daniel Albright (1945–2015) of Harvard, Phillip L. Marcus (1941–2015) of the Florida International University and Yves Bonnefoy (1923–2016) the French poet, critic, and essayist, David Bradshaw (1955–2016) Worcester College, Oxford, and Jon Stallworthy (1935–2014) of Wolfson College, Oxford. In this volume, we publish obituaries of Katharine Worth (an indefatigable colleague, first in English and then founding the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway College, University of London) and Jon Stallworthy (whom I first met as a student in early 1970 when he was working at the old Ely House office of Oxford University Press in Dover St., in London’s West End).

It seemed appropriate, however, to add a personal word here about Daniel Albright, David Bradshaw, Phillip Marcus and Yves Bonnefoy. Yeats remained a pivotal point for the massively curious and restless Albright from his early The Myth against Myth: A Study of Yeats’s Imagination in Old Age (Oxford, 1972). He had contributed, at Ron Schuchard’s request, ‘The Fool by the Pool’ for Yeats Annual No. 7: Essays in Memory of Richard Ellmann and later published his much-admired edition of Yeats’s The Poems (J. M. Dent, 1990 and later), by far the best annotated American edition of Yeats’s poetry, amid a huge range of studies of lyric poetry and music.1

Professor David Bradshaw (d. 13 September 2016) taught at Queen Mary College, University of London before taking the Hawthorden Fellowship at Worcester College, Oxford, where he subsequently also got his Chair. A scholar of Woolf, Huxley, and Evelyn Waugh, and the co-editor (with Rachel Potter) of and major contributor to Prudes on the Prowl: Fiction and Obscenity in England, 1850 to the Present Day (Oxford, 2013) he will best be known to readers of this journal as the author of two extended, uncompromising essays. ‘The Eugenics Movement and the Emergence of On the Boiler in Yeats and Women: YA9 (1992, 189–215) foredoomed by the depth of its scholarship—Bradshaw even joined the then Eugenics Society2 to deepen that understanding and access the references to Yeats in its papers—what it certainly pre-dated, unsatisfactory (because anachronistic) writing on Eugenics and the writers of the period. His more recent piece, ‘Oxford Poets: Yeats, T. S. Eliot and William Force Stead’ brought all his scholarship to bear on Oxford poets known to Yeats. In this endeavour he used his own College archives; Stead, the priest who baptized T. S. Eliot, having been Chaplain of Worcester until his own conversion to Roman Catholicism (Yeats’s Mask: YA19, 2013, 77–102). I had known him from his London days, but came to know him best when his cancer was already far-developed. He was unflinchingly brave, and, towards the end, ‘absolute for death’.

I first met Phillip Marcus in the mid-1970s when we were co-editing with Michael Sidnell the first edition of The Secret Rose, Stories by W. B. Yeats: A Variorum Edition (Ithaca, 1981). He and his family came to Oxford and swapped houses, cars, school places and rooms with Stephen Gill, the Wordsworth scholar at Lincoln College, who took his family to Ithaca while working on the Cornell Wordsworth. It was a time when Cornell University Press was also mounting the Cornell Yeats Manuscripts Series (of which Marcus was co-general editor, and of which he edited the inaugural volume, The Death of Cuchulain (Ithaca, 1982). As a student I had read his brilliant early and pioneering study Yeats and the Beginning of the Irish Renaissance (Ithaca, 1970), and I saw much more of him in Ithaca in the autumn of 1988, when we worked on the 1992 Variorum edition of The Secret Rose. He met me at the little airfield waving a copy of the first edition of that book, just in case I did not recognize him after his hair transplant. Jacques Derrida was lecturing on ‘The Politics of Friendship’ in that department as Cornell’s ‘Professor at Large’, and the politics of hair may have been an issue. The politics of Theory were also at the time pretty vivid in the department, for on several of its doors, including Marcus’s, were displayed signs reading ‘Just say “No” to Theory’. To retreat to Marcus’s own house, amid his splendid Yeats library, to ‘swim’ around his living-room under his fibre-glass facsimiles of his big-game fishing catches strikingly displayed with his pre-Raphaelite pictures (including one masterpiece by Arthur Hughes) was to deal at once with a wonderfully easy and flexible collaborator and a very private man, intensely difficult to know, one later to seem far more at ease with himself after he moved to a new life at Florida International University.

Yves Bonnefoy (1923–2016) translated Leopardi, Donne, Keats, Yeats and Shakespeare into French, and was the first poet since Paul Valéry to be elected to the Collège de France, where he held the Chaire d’études comparées de la fonction poétique. I recall with some trepidation asking him, after Kathleen Raine had enthusiastically endorsed the idea, to offer a translation of an extended lyric to YA6. After an extended silence, a reply came with a typescript translation of the grand poème ‘Mille neuf cent dix-neuf’. Later he rang and asked me what I thought of it. I thought there was a slight problem with one line and after we had discussed it for a while he was inclined to agree, but concluded that he had better leave it as it stood, for he could for the moment not recompose it. His ‘poetic project’ was, as John Naughton has written, ‘profoundly spiritual’, he sought to ‘almost identify, poetry and hope’ and he ‘never ceased insisting that happiness and fulfilment were not to be sought in some other world, but rather in the here and now of our earthly condition and in the simple realities that all people share’.3

Colin McDowell contributes an extensive and learned review essay on the new edition of A Vision (1937), while among the book reviews, Jad Adams looks at the late Winifred Dawson’s new biography of Amy Audrey Locke (1881–1916), platonically beloved by Yeats’s friend W. T. Horton, and thus celebrated by Yeats in ‘All Soul’s Night’ as Horton’s ‘slight companionable ghost | Wild with divinity’ (VP 471–72).

Dawson’s book is a creditable sample of a new trend towards necessary (and necessitous) self-publishing of books otherwise unpublishable in a noisy marketplace. In anticipation or celebration of Yeats’s sesquicentenary within Ireland’s decade of centenaries, there has been an upsurge in self- and crowd-funded publication of fiction about him, and some few titles are listed in the ‘Publications Received’ list at the end of this volume.

There seems little point in getting too heavy-handed with the trend, except to say that it exists in a realm of fancy permissible only through willed ignorance of the world of past facts, as found in archives, and re-established through biographical scholarship and critical thinking, a world foisted on the unsuspecting now that W. B. Yeats has emerged from copyright and self-publishing has unleashed authors from the usual gatekeepers. These self-published books have sought to cash in on ‘Yeats 150’.

One of these, Secret Rose (‘© 2015 Orna Ross, & 1897 WB [sic] Yeats’), was sent to us for notice. It was printed by Clays plc, St Ives in 2015, and published by Font Publications, London, marking a sad decline in book-making since Richard Clay & Sons printed Yeats’s 1897 book, if it possible to judge by the proof copy sent out to Yeats Annual. The first volume of Ross’s ‘biographical’ novel about Yeats and Maud Gonne, Her Secret Rose, narrated by one Rosie Cross, is ostensibly a 352 pages curtain-raiser to ‘pave the way, John The Baptist-like’, for her idiosyncratic presentation of The Secret Rose (1897) including The Tables of the Law. The Adoration of the Magi (1897), but omitting ‘The Rose of Shadow’ and ‘The Binding of the Hair’. The Yeats texts make up an odd 180 pages assemblage which ignores Yeats’s changing intentions for that book as recorded in the scholarly texts from the variorum edition, the various volumes of Yeats’s Collected Letters, and the 2005 Mythologies (for which I register my shared responsibilities) in favour of textual unreliability.

Just one sample will suffice: in the 1897 text of ‘Rosa Alchemica’, Eros is a ‘faint solitary figure with a veiled face’ (p. 258, 1897 ed.) while Ross’s text offers ‘a faint solitary figure with a Rosa veiled face’ (p. 522). Her Secret Rose forewarns us that it is the first volume of a trilogy, Between The Words, about ‘the relationship between WB Yeats and the Gonnes, mother and daughter, Maud and Iseult… bringing WB and Maud Gonne face-to-face with the terrible beauty they’ve created’ (p. 353), showing rather rakingly how Yeats’s own language can be rattled in readers’ faces as the loose change of clichéd ‘biographese’.

The cover design, too, has been simply appropriated from Althea Gyles’s original cover design for the 1897 edition.4 Photoshopped so as to eliminate W. B. Yeats’s name from its integral place at the foot of the design, and with its integrated title, The Secret Rose, simply changed in the design to Secret Rose, Gyles’s work is then ‘bloated’ for a book way beyond Bullen’s, using a cloth very different in hue and finish from either Yeats’s ribbed or smooth cloth versions, and much more open-pored in texture, and so already holding the gold very poorly. Yeats’s and Gyles’s proportions are simply distorted, and Ross’s title and Yeats’s are imposed on the lower board, depressing Gyles’s lower board design from more or less its centralized position.

How one longs for a faithful facsimile edition of this, and of others of Gyles’s books for Yeats. Secret Rose is a ‘sick rose’, its ‘invisible worm’ seemingly a parasitic envy of Yeats. The preface insists that ‘WB [sic] Yeats was an Indie Author’ (as Ross terms herself), an absurd claim given the facts of Yeats’s writing life and of the lives of his texts, as found in the long histories of his dealings with numerous publishers. The very thought of what is, in essence, a retro-hijack had given Ross, she tells us, ‘a real frisson (p. xi). ‘My book and Yeats’s book together, between two covers. The audacity! But hey, it’s 2015’.

On the very brightest side of the sesquicentenary celebrations, however, are the new programmes about Yeats to have come from RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio broadcaster, and other media. One of the best is ‘Yeats and the Beastly Coinage’, directed by Laura McNicholas and Ann Marie Hourihane (who also did the writing and some of the voice-overs) for 925 Productions (email: 925productions@gmail.com).

1 See Annie E. Schugart, ‘Albright Remembered as Whimsical English and Music Teacher’, Harvard Crimson, 10 January 2015, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/1/10/daniel-albright-obituary

2 Founded in 1907 as the Eugenics Education Society, with the aim of promoting the research and understanding of eugenics, the Eugenics Society from 1926 published The Eugenics Review (1909–68). It tactfully changed its name to the Galton Institute in 1989, and it is a learned society which aims ‘to promote the public understanding of human heredity and to facilitate informed debate about the ethical issues raised by advances in reproductive technology’. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galton_Institute.

3 ‘Yves Bonnefoy: French poet, critic and essayist who believed in the sacred nature of the here and now’, The Guardian, 3 August 2016, 13.

4 The interpretation of the symbolism of the cover, and of its sources, is over-egged and under-researched. Gyles was emphatically not a member of the Golden Dawn: Contrast VSR 272–77 especially 273 n. 3, with the account offered to the Bookseller, 20 August, 2015 at http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/orna-ross-digital-secrets-two-roses-309722.