होम Autobiographies: The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III

Autobiographies: The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III

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Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper, General Editors
The Poems
ed. Richard J. Finneran

The Plays
ed. David R. Clark and Rosalind E. Clark

ed. William H. O’Donnell and Douglas Archibald

Early Essays
ed. Warwick Gould and Deirdre Toomey

volume v Later Essays
ed. William H. O’Donnell
Prefaces and Introductions
ed. William H. O’Donnell


Letters to the New Island
ed. George Bornstein and Hugh Witemeyer

The Irish Dramatic Movement
ed. Mary FitzGerald


Early Articles and Reviews
ed. John P. Frayne


Later Articles and Reviews
ed. Colton Johnson


The Celtic Twilight
and The Secret Rose
ed. Warwick Gould, Michael Sidnell, and Deirdre Toomey

John Sherman and Dhoya
ed. Richard J. Finneran


A Vision (1925)
ed. Connie K. Hood and Walter Kelly Hood

A Vision (1937)
ed. Connie K. Hood and Walter Kelly Hood

1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Preface, introduction, notes and compilation copyright © 1999 by William H.
O’Donnell and Douglas N. Archibald Index copyright © 1965 by Macmillan
Publishing Company, Inc.
Index copyright renewed © 1993 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Copyright 1916, 1936 by Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc.
Copyright nenwed 1944, © 1964 by Anne Yeats
Dramatis Personae (The Death of Synge, The Bounty of Sweden and
copyright 1935 by Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc.
Copyright nenewed © 1963 by Anne Yeats
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents either
are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual events or locales
or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any
SCRIBNER and design are trademarks of Simon & Schuster ; Inc.

Designed by Jennifer Dossin

Set in Sabon
Manufactured in the United States of America
35 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.
ISBN 0-684-80728-9
ISBN 0-684-85338-8 (pbk.)
eISBN 978-1-45160321-7


Editors’ Preface
Textual Introduction
List of Abbreviations
Reveries over Childhood and Youth (w. 1914, publ. 1916)
The Trembling of the Veil. Book I. Four Years: 1887-1891 (w. 1920-21,
publ. 1921)
The Trembling of the Veil. Book II. Ireland after Parnell (w. 1920-22, publ.
The Trembling of the Veil. Book III. Hodos Chameliontos (w. 1920-22, publ.
The Trembling of the Veil. Book IV. The Tragic Generation (w. 1920-22,
publ. 1922)
The Trembling of the Veil. Book V. The Stirring of the Bones (w. 1920-22,
publ. 1922)
Dramatis Personae: 1896-1902 (w. 1934, publ. 1935)
Estrangement: Extracts From A Diary Kept In 1909 (w. 1909, publ. 1926)
The Death of Synge (w. 1909, 1911, 1914, publ. 1928)
The Bounty of Sweden (w. 1923-24, publ. 1924)
The Irish Dramatic Movement: A Lecture delivered to the Royal Academy
of Sweden (w. 1923, publ. 1924)
Emendations to the Copy-Text

End-of-Line Word-Division in the Copy-Text
Background Notes on Writers


In 1938, Mrs. Yeats told her husband, ‘ “AE was the nearest to a saint you or I
will ever meet. You are a better poet but no saint. I suppose one has to choose”’
(L 838). It is a distinction Yeats seems to have already endorsed in these lines
from ‘The Choice’, written in 1931:
The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark. (P 246)
But Yeats rarely makes simple choices, presenting us instead with a career of
vacillations, of attempts—always willful, sometimes heroic—to have it both
ways. No less than Keats, he thought that the poet leads a life of allegory and
that his works are comments on it. Before comment, and as part of the process of
perfection, comes transformation. He explained, in the ‘First Principles’ section
of his ‘Introduction’ to his works, written in 1937:
A poet writes always of his personal life, in his finest work out of its
tragedies, whatever it be, remorse, lost love, or mere loneliness; he never
speaks directly as to someone at the breakfast table, there is always a
phantasmagoria. Dante and Milton had mythologies, Shakespeare the
characters of English history, or of traditional romance; even when the
poet seems most himself, when he is Raleigh and gives potentates the lie,
or Shelley ‘a nerve o’er which do creep the else unfelt oppressions of
mankind’, or Byron when ‘the soul wears out the breast as the sword
wears out the sheath’, he is never the bundle of accident and incoherence
that sits down to breakfast; he has been re-born as an idea, something
intended, complete.(LE 204)
Autobiographies invites us to attend to that rebirth, to the process by which
accident and incoherence become complete, by which life, passing through

phantasmagoria, becomes meaning, and experience becomes myth. It is that
great Romantic achievement: a vision of personal history as art, and
Autobiographies is the essential companion to the poems and plays. It shows
Yeats at work—summoning his people, realizing his places, making a world—
and so continues to dramatize and fulfill his belief that the act of writing entails a
complex creation of a self. He had made the point in that bold youthful quatrain
about revisions:
The friends that have it I do wrong
When ever I remake a song,
Should know what issue is at stake:
It is myself that I remake. (P 551)
Autobiographies is an allusive and illusive book. Yeats is not careful about
details, dates, and references. It is difficult to escape the impression that he is
wholly dependable about what is happening to and in his imagination, and how
exciting it is, and not fully dependable about anything else. We are convinced
that Yeats knew what he was about; like Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, he knew
that this wonderful, shrewd, intimate book would ultimately reside ‘in all the
great libraries of the world, including Alexandria’; both writers enjoyed the
sense that they were creating projects for future generations of scholars. This is
the first edition to take up that challenge by providing a full set of explanatory
notes. The 1,003 notes are marked in the text by superscript numbers; the notes
are printed on pages 419-527. Those notes selectively include particularly
interesting excerpts from earlier versions of revised passages.
Explanatory notes are not used for simple, straightforward mentions of the
name of a person, place, organization, or historical event, or of the title of a
book, play, poem, or story. Instead, those names and titles are described with
1,500 augmented entries in the index. Those augmented entries provide a
person’s name, birth and death dates, nationality, and profession; for books or
other texts, the augmented entries identify the author, genre, and date. The page
references in the index will lead the reader to any other occurrences in the text or
The eighteen notes written by Yeats are printed among the explanatory notes,
flagged with the heading ‘WBY’S NOTE’. If the note was added later or was
revised or omitted in any printing, that is mentioned. Explanatory notes to
Yeats’s notes are marked by superscript letters and are printed immediately
following his note.
In Estrangement and The Death of Synge, each of the ninety-six sections is

headed with a brief statement of its dating in the manuscript and a crossreference to the manuscript transcription in Memoirs. For abbreviations of names
and titles, see the List of Abbreviations, pages 33-36 below.
Background Notes on Writers, pages 531-539 below, provides a concise
introduction to twenty writers who were important to Yeats but who receive only
comparatively brief mention in Autobiographies.


Yeats assembled Autobiographies from a half-dozen separately published
works, so an editor’s first task is to establish the contents, sequence, and titles to
be used. Here we can turn to direct evidence from WBY, Mrs. Yeats, and
Thomas Mark (1890-1963), the Macmillan editor in London on whom WBY
relied and who worked with WBY’s books from the 1920s through the 1950s,
coming back from semi-retirement to work on Autobiographies (1955). Yeats,
Mrs. Yeats, and Thomas Mark all worked on the 1932/1936 corrected page
proofs of the Macmillan ‘Edition de Luxe’, volume VI, Autobiographies (NLI
Ms. 30,140), which is the last complete text of Autobiographies approved by the
author. Autobiographies (1955) used the same contents, sequence, and titles as
the 1932/1936 proofs, as does the present edition.
If the Macmillan Edition de Luxe had reached publication, it would have been
the obvious choice as the copy-text for this edition, since it was the latest version
approved by the author. The only portion of Autobiographies that was not in the
12 July 1932 corrected page proofs was Dramatis Personae (1936), and for that
the same set of Edition de Luxe volume VI materials (NLI Ms. 30,140) contains
corrected page proofs of Dramatis Personae (1936) that WBY did not himself
see, but which he and Mrs. Yeats authorized Thomas Mark to correct on his
The editor’s task is to bring those Edition de Luxe proofs to final publishable
form. Those proofs were first marked in 1932 and, in part, in 1936. The same set
of proofs may have been worked on again in 1939, and certainly was used in the
1950s to prepare Autobiographies (1955). The extant documentary evidence is
not sufficient to allow confident determination of which markings were made,
and by whom, in the 1950s. The Macmillan, London, office files for the 1950s
are not extant, and reportedly were destroyed. That difficulty is mitigated to a
considerable extent by the knowledge that the changes made in the 1950s were
supervised by Thomas Mark, who still had at least some access to Mrs. Yeats.
The editorial changes introduced in Autobiographies (1955) thus can be regarded
as a continuation of the correction process evident on the 1932/1936 proofs for

volume VI of the Edition de Luxe. But we cannot ignore the significance of one
capricious verbal revision during the somewhat similar production of
Macmillan’s Essays and Introductions (1961), where the word ‘important’ in its
1959 page proofs was replaced by ‘famous’ to shorten a line and avoid
hyphenation (see LE xi). Thus it is not possible to state that if WBY had come
back from the grave in 1955 he would have approved all of the 1950s editorial
changes. It is clear, however, that those revisions were supervised by a very
highly qualified editor and were, in the main, made to bring the 1932/1936
Edition de Luxe volume VI proofs to a smooth, publishable form.
Autobiographies (1955) thus is the best available basis for a text of
The practical result has been that this edition uses the text of Autobiographies
(1955), with only thirteen emendations to the 156,000 words of text and three
emendations to WBY’s notes. Those sixteen changes, which are listed on page
528 below, consist of four corrections of printer’s errors, the addition of one
apostrophe, nine instances of hyphenation or word-division, and two trivial
changes of format. The copy-text’s errors of names, dates, and quotations have
been left standing, but are pointed out in the notes. Similarly, two errors by the
typist who transcribed the manuscript are mentioned in notes (5 and 7, p. 481)
but are not corrected in the text because WBY let them stand in all printings.
Instances where the copy-text uses old spelling such as ‘subtil’ (note 57, p.
475 below) for ‘subtle’ or usage such as ‘my Catholic acquaintance adapt their
ancient rules’ have been left unemended, as are wordings in which the sense is
retrievable, though perhaps with some effort, as ‘and all that he may get their
ears’ (p. 229, 1. 5-6 below) where the meaning is ‘and all [so] that he may get
their ears’. The reader is invited to be patient and recall Aubrey Beardsley’s
remark quoted by WBY: ‘Yes, yes; but beauty is so difficult’ (p. 255,1. 27
All ellipses in the text are authorial. All hyphens that occur within a line in
this edition are authorial. No hyphens at line divisions in this edition are
authorial, except for seventy-three instances in which an authorial hyphen
happens to occur ambiguously at a line division in this edition; those are
identified, for convenience, in the appended ‘End-of Line Word-Division’,
which also gives a list of the sixty-six instances of end-of-line word-division in
the copy-text that could possibly affect hyphenation.
In the headings of diary entries in Estrangement and The Death of Synge,
when the copy-text provides a heading with place and/or date, those are printed
at the left margin, set in italics in upper-and lower-case letters, and end without

The following typographical and format conventions are silently adopted in
each prose volume of The Collected Edition of W. B. Yeats:




The presentation of headings is standardized. In this volume, the main
headings are set in full capitals (capitals and small capitals for subtitles),
and include brief details of date and source (for fuller bibliographical
information, see the Textual Introduction and List of Abbreviations).
Section numbers, except in the diary entries in Estrangement and The Death
of Synge, are in roman capitals. All headings are centered and have no
concluding full point.
The opening line of each paragraph is indented, except following a
displayed heading or section break.
British single quotation mark conventions are used in the text and in
WBY’s notes.
A colon that introduces a quotation is not followed by a dash.
Except in headings, the titles of stories and poems are placed within
quotation marks; titles of books, plays, long poems, periodicals, operas,
statues, paintings, and drawings are set in italics.
Abbreviations such as ‘i.e.’ are set in roman type.
A dash—regardless of its length in the copy-text—is set as a spaced em
rule when used as punctuation. When a dash indicates an omission, as in ‘J
—’, a two-em rule is used.
Ampersands are expanded to ‘and’.
Each signature of the author is indented from the left margin, set in
upper-and lower-case letters, and ends without punctuation; when present,
the place and date are indented from the left margin, set in italics in upperand lower-case letters, and end without punctuation.

The remainder of this introduction is an account of the history of the
composition and printing of the constituent parts of Autobiographies, treated in
the order they were written, rather than by their sequence in Autobiographies.
Curtis Bradford’s early study of some of these materials remains useful (Yeats at
Work, pages 337-77), as is Conrad Balliet’s W. B. Yeats: A Census of the
Manuscripts (New York: Garland, 1990) with the supplement in Yeats: An
Annual of Critical and Textual Studies, 13 (1995), 125-200. J. Fraser Cock’s
long series of collations for the present edition has been invaluable.
The earliest writing incorporated in Autobiographies is from WBY’s journal
from 1909, plus a few passages from 1911-14, although they were written as

journal entries and were not selected and adapted for publication until nearly two
decades later in Estrangement (1926) and The Death of Synge (1928).
The beginning of Autobiographies comes, as might be expected, with
Reveries over Childhood and Youth, written as Memory Harbour and published
in 1916. In a letter to his sister Lily Yeats, 28 July (1914), WBY explained, ‘have
all but finished the first draft of a book called Memory Harbour after a picture of
Jack’s’—a small watercolor painted in 1900 by their younger brother, Jack
Yeats, who presented it to WBY after it had been exhibited in Dublin in 1900
and London in 1901; for a description see page 72 and note 109, p. 427. The
letter continues, ‘It is about my life up to twenty & most of it is about Sligo…. It
is not autobiography in the ordinary sense, but reveries about the past’
(transcription John Kelly). The book was listed by the Cuala Press as Memory
Harbour: A Revery on my Childhood and Youth, but by February 1915 its title
had changed because, as a Cuala Press advertisement in that month explained,
the ‘title has been used before, so Mr. Yeats has altered the title to “Reveries
over Childhood and Youth” ’ (laid in A Broadside). For the title change and
Filson Young’s Memory Harbour (London: Grant Richards, 1909), see Warwick
Gould, ‘Titles of Yeats’s Autobiographies’, Yeats Annual, 11 (1995), 205-18. A
complete manuscript titled ‘Biography’ and dated ‘Xmas 1914’ is at Colby
College, Waterville, Maine; it has some typescript inserts and some manuscript
inserts dictated to Ezra Pound at Stone Cottage (NLI Ms. 30,868). Three other
typescripts (one ribbon copy and two carbons), each with light corrections are
extant (HRC Texas, University of Tulsa, and Houghton Library, Harvard). The
proposed title ‘Memory Harbour’ is not used in the manuscript or in the
corrected complete typescript, which is titled with a singular form, A Reverie
over Childhood and Youth, from which Reveries Cuala 1916 was set. The
singular title is printed on the first page of the Cuala Press book (Wade no. 111).
But by the time the compositor had reached the colophon, the title had shifted to
the plural form used on the front cover, title page, and colophon. That plural title,
Reveries over Childhood and Youth, has continued in all subsequent printings.
The Cuala Press book was finished October 1915 and published 20 March 1916,
with a portfolio of illustrations featuring a color plate of Memory Harbour. The
Macmillan, London, edition followed in October 1916, with Jack Yeats’s
painting as a color frontispiece (Wade no. 113 and New York, no. 112).
In late 1915, WBY told his father, ‘am going on with the book’, picking up
the narrative in 1887, where Reveries had left off. But, he added, ‘the rest shall
be for my eye alone’ (L 603). Bradford, who in 1954-55 studied the manuscript
of 168, incompletely paginated, loose-leaf sheets, now in the Burns Library,
Boston College, has convincingly dated its composition as 1915-16. The

manuscript is titled ‘Autobiography’, but is now better known by the description
that WBY wrote in March 1921 on its envelope: ‘Private. A first rough draft of
Memoirs made in 1916-17 and containing much that is not for publication now,
if ever. Memoirs down to 1896 or thereabouts.’ A smooth transcription by Denis
Donoghue was published, with useful notes, as Memoirs in 1972; that edition
also gives the full text of the journal from which WBY selected the excerpts he
published in 1926 as Estrangement and in 1928 as The Death of Synge. The
‘First Draft’ manuscript is a franker and more personal treatment of parts of The
Trembling of the Veil, written 1920-22 and a portion of Dramatis Personae,
written much later, in 1934. Bradford in 1954-55 tried to sort the loose sheets by
their four slightly different types of paper and concluded that WBY probably
first wrote an account of his relations with Maud Gonne, whom he had met 30
January 1889, and then added the other, interspersed parts. The ‘First Draft’
resembles Reveries in being a loosely unified, chronological narrative that offers
little commentary on the actions.
We cannot know WBY’s motivation for writing the ‘First Draft’, but he was
only willing to invest enough effort to produce an unpolished text. He then set it
aside for four years until, on 26 November (1920) he wrote to Lady Gregory,
‘have begun again work on my “Memoirs” for publication in I hope “The Dial”.
I shall do now 1887 to [say] 1897. It will be a study of my own generation more
or less & I will stop before I get to “The Theatre” ’ (Berg NYPL). In 1920, the
American critical and literary journal The Dial, recently relocated from Chicago
to New York, had set a bold new course to publish the highest quality work of
both established and new writers and artists. In March 1920, its new editor began
paying Ezra Pound $750 a year to find suitable works as their European agent;
see Nicholas Joost, Scofield Thayer and The Dial: An Illustrated History
(Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964), page
166. The next month, WBY’s first contribution was published in the Dial,
followed by eleven poems in November 1920. The first version of ‘Four Years,
1887-1891’, Book I of The Trembling of the Veil, exists in two successive
complete manuscripts and associated stray pages (NLI Ms. 30,471, 30,472,
30,536), as well as the corrected typescripts for the London Mercury (Bodleian
Library, Oxford, Ms. Don.C.187, fols. 42-114) and for the Dial (partial,
Bienecke Library, Yale, Za Dial). It was published in three installments in the
June, July, and August issues of the London Mercury and simultaneously in the
Dial. Bradford (Yeats at Work, pages 350-56) suggests that when WBY wrote
‘Four Years, 1887-1891’, he began by reviewing the ‘First Draft’, but that except
for one section on Maud Gonne, which he later deleted in the second manuscript
of ‘Four Years, 1887-1891’, did not work directly from the ‘First Draft’ and that

he was not rewriting the corresponding parts of the ‘First Draft’: ‘The order of
incidents is entirely different, much new material has been added, and there are
few verbal echoes of the earlier work’ (page 351). ‘Four Years, 1887-1891’,
though less personally revealing, is considerably expanded in its treatment and,
importantly, its ambitions now are less concerned with chronological narration
than with commentary, analysis, and judgment. The Trembling of the Veil
highlights recurring motifs such as his opposition to the dominance of science
and realistic art. He is impelled to analyze and categorize persons and events in
terms of his recently developed ‘system’ and its associated doctrines such as
‘Unity of Being’ and ‘Unity of Culture’; see note 126, page 456.
WBY wrote to Lady Gregory on 10 June (1921) to tell her of an offer of £500
from T. Werner Laurie to publish a subscription edition of a volume of memoirs,
of which ‘Four Years 1887-1891’ would constitute the opening one-third. WBY
mentioned that he was receiving praise from readers of the magazine
installments, and he reaffirmed that he planned to continue the memoirs ‘down
to the start of the theatre probably’ (L 670). The terms of the contract for The
Trembling of the Veil 1922 called for payment of £250 on delivery of the
manuscript by June 1922, publication of the thousand copies within six months,
and an exclusion of other editions for three years (L 669-70). And, in fact, WBY
submitted the manuscript at the end of May 1922 (L 685), the book was
published in October 1922 (Wade no. 133), and the Macmillan Autobiographies
(Wade no. 151) was published more than four years later, on 5 November 1926.
In a letter to George Russell (AE), 1 July (1921), WBY described ‘Four
Years, 1887-1891’ as a 20,000-word section ‘of what will be a 60,000 word
book’; he added that he doubted if he ‘would have faced the whole book with a
good heart, but for starting with the lesser task’ (L 670). WBY was sensitive to
the difficulty of writing frankly about living persons, but he also believed that
‘the life of a man of genius because of his greater sincerity is often an
experiment that needs analysis and record. At least my generation so valued
personality that it thought so’, as he explained in the preface, dated May 1922, to
The Trembling of the Veil (page 111 below). In that letter, WBY promised to
show Russell the as yet unwritten description of him and the mystics around him
at the Ely Place house in Dublin (pages 194-202 below, in ‘Ireland after
Parnell’), and WBY assured him that he would ‘publish nothing that you dislike’
(L 670). On the other hand, the preface to The Trembling of the Veil ends: ‘I have
said all the good and all the evil: I have kept nothing back necessary to
understanding’ (page 111 below; WBY added the last three words when he read
the page proofs). Similarly, a year after the letter to Russell, WBY gently
prevaricated when he was worried that his friend Olivia Shakespear might be

upset by his portrayal of her cousin Lionel Johnson in ‘Ireland after Parnell’
(pages 184-86 below), in the current issue of the London Mercury (June 1922,
144-46). He sought to excuse himself by mentioning that the magazine ‘had had
to shorten everything, to leave out everything mystical or startling to their
readers for they only have space for 16,000 words of the 30,000 I sent them, so
do not judge the memoirs as a whole till you get the book. It needs the wild
mystical part to lift it out of gossip, and that mystical part will not be as clear as
it should be for lack of diagrams and the like. Lady Gregory is in great
enthusiasm over the book and it has already brought in much money’ (L 685). In
fact, there had been no cuts in the section on Lionel Johnson, though what WBY
told her about the magazine abridgment was accurate.
WBY worked steadily on the next three parts of The Trembling of the Veil:
‘Ireland after Parnell’, ‘Hodos Chameliontos’, and ‘The Tragic Generation’. He
finished a description of Lionel Johnson (page 184), midway through ‘Ireland
after Parnell’, on 1 August 1921 (L 671). A month earlier, in a letter to George
Russell, WBY had announced the tentative title for the volume: ‘I may call the
book The Trembling of the Veil (Mallarmé said “The whole age is full of the
trembling of the veil of the temple”) but some better may occur.’ That 1 July
1921 letter to Russell continued with a description of his current plans: ‘You
may perhaps have seen what the London Mercury has published [of ‘Four Years,
1887-1891’]. I shall insert [a] fresh chapter in that and lead up to the later part
and my object will be to suggest, indirectly, things descriptive of characters and
events in the main, and only here and there to directly state certain simple
philosophical ideas about Ireland, and about human nature in general’ (L 671). In
the 1 August 1921 letter to Olivia Shakespear, WBY said more about his labors
on ‘Ireland after Parnell’ and the benefits to be gained:
I am mired in my propaganda in Ireland 1891-2-3-4, the years just before you
and I met, and it is difficult as so much that is essential has to be left out. I am
characterizing Hyde, AE [George Russell], O’Grady, Lionel [Johnson]; and
characterizing, without naming, my especial enemies, the Tower and wolf-dog,
harp and shamrock, verdigrisgreen sectaries who wrecked my movement for the
time. Then I shall take up London again, Wilde’s collapse, Savoy etc, and pray
that some imp of abundance brings all without strain up to the needed 60,000
words (20,000 have appeared in the London Mercury—though part a little cut
down and despoiled of my best Blavatsky tale). I find this memoir writing makes
me feel clean, as if I had bathed and put on clean linen. It rids me of something
and I shall return to poetry with a renewed simplicity. Have you been reading me
in the Mercury? I am afraid Ezra [Pound] will not forgive me for publishing
there: he had recommended the English Review but I have just as fierce a quarrel

with that periodical as he has with the Mercury, so what could I do? (L 672)
His deleted ‘best Blavatsky tale’ might simply be her jibe at her vegetarian
disciples, ‘My children, have you had any vegetarian babies?’, which WBY
himself had omitted from the second holograph manuscript of ‘Four Years,
1887-1891’ (Bradford, Yeats at Work, page 355). In December 1921, the Cuala
Press republished the magazine version as Four Years (Wade no. 131), with two
extended additions (page 146, line 30-page 147, line 13 and page 156, line 1page 157, line 2, below), and occasional local revisions. When WBY sent a copy
to Olivia Shakespear, 22 December 1921, he commented that this was the first
third of ‘the complete memoirs. As they go on they will grow less personal, or at
least less adequate as personal representation, for the most vehement part of
youth must be left out, the only part that one well remembers and lives over
again in memory when one is in old age, the paramount part. I think this will
give all the more sense of inadequateness from the fact that I study every man I
meet at some moment of crisis—I alone have no crisis’ (L 675).
Curtis Bradford gives a detailed reconstruction of the composition of the
remaining sections of The Trembling of the Veil: ‘Ireland after Parnell’ (titled
‘Ireland after the Fall of Parnell’ only in Trembling 1922), ‘Hodos Chameliontos’
(titled ‘Hodos Camelionis’ only in Trembling 1922), ‘The Tragic Generation,’
and ‘The Stirring of the Bones.’
As WBY mentioned to Olivia Shakespear in the letter quoted above, the
periodical publication of these new materials as ‘More Memories’ in the London
Mercury (May-August 1922) and the Dial in New York (May-October 1922) was
an excerpt. It was complete for ‘Ireland after Parnell’ through what is now
section XI, and was heavily cut from the middle of section XII on through
‘Hodos Chameliontos’ and ‘The Tragic Generation,’ ending with what is now its
section X. In the periodical version, the section numbering is consecutive and no
titles are used except ‘More Memories’.
In the last week of May 1922, WBY finished and sent to the publisher, T.
Werner Laurie, The Trembling of the Veil, which he described in a letter to John
Quinn, to whom the volume is dedicated, as ‘my book of memoirs’; WBY
expected to receive the proofs by July 1922 (L 682). After the publication of
Trembling 1922 (Wade no. 133) in October 1922, WBY published additional
materials for ‘The Stirring of the Bones’, section VI, on ‘The Vision of the
Archer’, in the Criterion (London) and the Dial (New York) in July 1923.
Bradford (page 372) has pointed out two likely errors by the typist who
transcribed WBY’s manuscript of ‘The Stirring of the Bones’; for the manuscript
readings, which were never restored, see notes 5 and 7, page 481 below.
At the end of 1923, when WBY was awarded the Nobel Prize, he delivered a

lecture titled ‘The Irish Dramatic Movement’, to the Royal Swedish Academy in
Stockholm on 13 December 1923. The Nobel committee publishes laureates’
lectures, and WBY, who claims to have spoken extemporaneously—although
more probably from lecture notes as was often his practice—wrote out a version
from memory after he returned to Dublin. That was published in 1924 in Les
Prix Nobel en 1923 (Wade no. 316), with four notes, and was also issued
separately the same year, as Les Prix Nobel en 1923: The Irish Dramatic
Movement (Wade no. 144). The lecture was reprinted, with two additional notes,
the last of which is dated 15 June 1924, in the Cuala Press volume The Bounty of
Sweden: A Meditation, and a Lecture (Wade no. 146) in July 1925. The lecture
has been included in all subsequent editions of Autobiographies that contain The
Bounty of Sweden, except the Macmillan, New York, volume The Autobiography
of William Butler Yeats, published 30 August 1938 (Wade no. 198) and its reissue in 1953 (Wade no. 211G).
The main part of The Bounty of Sweden is what the book’s title calls a
‘meditation’. When WBY was writing it during January 1924, he described it as
‘a sort of “bread and butter letter” to Sweden’, and he explicitly made it ‘at last a
part of my autobiography’ (L 701, 703). It is titled ‘Stockholm: A Meditation’ in
the manuscript and revised typescript (NLI Ms. 30,288), which otherwise
correspond closely to the Cuala printing, The Bounty of Sweden, which has a
preface dated 15 June 1924 but was not published until July 1925. In the interim,
it was published in the London Mercury and the Dial (New York) in September
1924. The Cuala edition incorporated some local revisions to the periodical text.
The three-year exclusive period for The Trembling of the Veil would expire
October 1925, and prior to that the preparations began for the Macmillan
Autobiographies (Wade no. 151), which would collect Reveries over Childhood
and Youth and The Trembling of the Veil. On 29 April 1925, Macmillan, London,
wrote to WBY’s agent, A. P. Watt, asking about a possible sixth volume in their
collected edition that had begun in November 1922 with Later Poems (Wade no.
134/135) and Plays in Prose and Verse (Wade no. 136/137), followed by Plays
and Controversies (Wade no. 139/140) in November 1923, Essays (Wade no.
141/142) in May 1924, and Early Poems and Stories (Wade no. 147/148) in
September 1925. The letter asks, ‘Will you kindly let me know whether this
volume is likely to mature, or whether Mr. Yeats has given up the idea of writing
it? We should very much like to publish it as the sixth volume and include it in
the series’ (BL Add. Ms. 55618, fol. 211).
Macmillan received WBY’s revised copy on 8 February 1926 (BL Add. Ms.
55631, fol. 148) and, after some delays from a general strike, sent him revised
proofs in September 1926 (BL Add. Ms. 55641, fol. 309). When WBY returned

the proofs on 30 September 1926, he suggested a revision to the title by inserting
‘Autobiographies:’ before the proof’s title Reveries over Childhood and Youth.
The Trembling of the Veil, arguing persuasively, ‘I think that it is a mistake to
give the book no title except that of the two volumes contained in it, especially
as you will have to call it for short by the name of the first which happens to be
the least successful. I have therefore called the book “Autobiographies” and put
the names of the two volumes as subtitle.’ (BL Add. Ms. 55003, fol. 93).
Autobiographies was published 5 November 1926 in London; the New York
edition (Wade no. 152) was published 25 January 1927 in a limited edition,
followed two weeks later by the regular edition. Autobiographies incorporated
the July 1923 addition of ‘The Vision of the Archer’ (pages 279-82 below), as
well as three footnotes and a large number of local revisions throughout the
book. Notable among those is a very slightly more dignified portrayal of
MacGregor Mathers, who had died in 1918 and whose widow had objected to
the 1922 version (see WBY’s note 117, pages 453-55 below). After the mention
of Mathers’s drinking, WBY now added: ‘It was in some measure a Scottish
pose and whether he carried it into later life like his Jacobite opinions I do not
know’ (page 257 below). He replaced, with the text that now begins at page 258,
line 5, a paragraph that had mentioned Mathers’s skill at chess, his melancholia,
and his insanity:
War was to bring, or be brought by, anarchy, but that would be a passing
stage, he declared, for his dreams were all Napoleonic. He certainly foresaw
some great role that he could play, had made himself an acknowledged master of
the war-game, and for a time taught it to French officers for his living. He was to
die of melancholia, and was perhaps already mad at certain moments or upon
certain topics, though he did not make upon me that impression in those early
days, being generous, gay, and affable. (Trembling 1922, page 212)
The next step in the textual history of Autobiographies comes in 1932, as the
projected volume VI of the never-published Macmillan ‘Edition de Luxe’. In the
interim, the Cuala Press had published three volumes that were to become part of
Autobiographies: The Bounty of Sweden in 1925 and two adaptations of early
diaries, Estrangement in 1926 and The Death of Synge in 1928, already
discussed above. WBY had sent copy to Macmillan before mid-September 1931
and Macmillan had at one time planned to publish the seven-volume Edition de
Luxe in spring 1932. Autobiographies, as volume VI of the Edition de Luxe,
advanced to page proofs, date-stamped 12 July 1932 (NLI Ms. 30,140), that
were set from Autobiographies 1926 and those three Cuala Press volumes.
Macmillan sent WBY on 23 August 1932 ‘the complete proofs of Volume VI
“Autobiographies”, together with the copy from which it is set up, including the

Cuala Press volumes of the two Diaries and “The Bounty of Sweden” ‘ (BL Add.
Ms. 55371, fol. 569). WBY and, presumably, Mrs. Yeats read the proofs, but the
Edition de Luxe then languished for a few years, victim of the economic and
literary postponements that would eventually end it.
The last section of Autobiographies to be written was Dramatis Personae,
first titled Lady Gregory, as WBY told Olivia Shakespear, 27 February (1934):
I have come out of my reveries to write to you. I do nothing all day long but
think of the drama I am building up in my Lady Gregory. I have drawn [Edward]
Martyn and his house, Lady Gregory and hers, have brought George Moore upon
the scene, finished a long analysis of him, which pictures for the first time this
preposterous person. These first chapters are sensations and exciting and will
bring George [Mrs. Yeats] much household money when she sends them out to
English and American magazines. I am just beginning on Woburn Buildings,
building up the scene there—alas the most significant image of those years
[WBY’s love affair with Olivia Shakespear] must be left out. This first part will
probably be made up of extracts from letters to Lady Gregory and my comments.
My first fifty pages—probably to be published before the rest—will bring me to
about 1900. It is curious how one’s life falls into definite sections—in 1897 a
new scene was set, new actors appeared. (L 820)
Much of Dramatis Personae is a weaving together of his correspondence with
Lady Gregory; the description of WBY’s rooms at 18 Woburn Buildings comes
in section IX. Whatever the plan was for early publication of an excerpt, it did
not happen. The Cuala Press Dramatis Personae was set from an extensively
revised typescript (NLI Ms. 30,601) that Bradford suggests (page 373) was
dictated from a manuscript in the Houghton Library, Harvard. The Cuala Press
volume was finished in the second week of October 1935 (an earlier proof of its
colophon had read ‘the last week of September 1935’ NLI Ms. 30,029); it was
published 9 December 1935 (Wade no. 183).
Even before the Cuala Press volume was officially published, WBY proposed
a new volume to Harold Macmillan, London, who replied 14 October 1935, ‘I
am delighted to hear that you have some new autobiographical papers for us, and
I shall look forward with great interest to seeing the MS’ (BL Add. Ms. 55772,
fol. 323-33). Periodical publication came first in the London Mercury
(November and December 1935); American periodical publication was in the
New Republic (26 February, 11 and 25 March, and 8 and 22 April 1936). WBY
instructed Macmillan to use the Cuala text rather than that of the London
Mercury because, as he explained, in a letter that his agent quoted to Macmillan:
‘The London Mercury is incorrect; they were sent final proofs to print from but
partially used instead a typed copy which was originally sent them by you and

on which Mr. Yeats worked on after you had received it. Not only is the London
Mercury incorrect but for some reason or other they made “cuts” ’ (BL Add. Ms.
54902, fol. 225).
The Macmillan page proofs of Dramatis Personae, date-stamped 4 February
1936, served a dual function. They were prepared both for the separate Dramatis
Personae, which includes Estrangement, The Death of Synge, and The Bounty of
Sweden, without the Cuala Press preface or notes, and for an up-dated volume in
the Edition de Luxe. The portion of the Dramatis Personae proofs that contains
Estrangement, The Death of Synge, and The Bounty of Sweden is descended
from the Edition de Luxe 12 July 1932 proofs and incorporates the corrections of
compositor’s errors that are marked in those earlier proofs. WBY had sailed for
Majorca at the end of November 1935, while Mrs. Yeats remained in Dublin. In
late January 1936, WBY suffered a dangerous collapse from heart and kidney
illnesses. At the doctor’s urgent summons, Mrs. Yeats flew to Majorca on 2
February 1936 and cabled Watt: ‘Tell Macmillan impossible Yeats correct proofs
Stop Ask Mr. Marks [sic] pass them for press Yeats.’ Macmillan replied to Watt,
12 February 1936: ‘Mr. Mark will read “Dramatis Personae” for press, as
requested in your telegram from Mrs. Yeats’ (BL Add. Ms. 57777, fol. 111).
The Macmillan, London, Dramatis Personae (Wade no. 187) was published
15 May 1936, three days after the New York edition (Wade no. 186), which
because it had been set from proofs sent from London is of only secondary
textual interest. Similarly, The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats (Wade no.
198), published 30 August 1938 only in New York and which omitted the Nobel
lecture ‘The Irish Dramatic Movement,’ carries no special textual authority.
Another New York project has a similarly limited, derivative role in the
textual history of Autobiographies. The Scribners ‘Dublin Edition,’ a limited,
subscription, collected edition that was to parallel approximately the Macmillan,
London, Edition de Luxe, had been agreed to by WBY on 3 December 1935
(Callan, Yeats on Yeats, pages 90-92, letters 1 and 2). Macmillan, London, and
Scribners reached an agreement on arrangements for the Scribners edition,
which was to be in ‘seven or eight’ volumes, on 8 October 1936 (Yeats on Yeats,
pages 92-93, letter 3). On a typewritten, eight-page list of contents, with queries,
for the Edition de Luxe, sent to WBY on 27 October 1936, Thomas Mark asked
about the Nobel lecture in The Bounty of Sweden, which, he noted, ‘was struck
out on the [12 July 1932] proofs of Vol VI by the author, but it is included in the
“Dramatis Personae” volume [and which is not struck out on the 4 February
1936 proofs]. Should it, after all, be retained for this edition?’ Yeats replied,
‘Yes’ (NLI Ms. 30,248).
WBY sent Scribners, on 14 June 1937, the copy-text for Autobiographies,

consisting of pages from Autobiographies (1926) and Dramatis Personae (1936)
(including the Nobel lecture), with a list of corrections (HRC Texas, Scribners
Archive, ‘Miscellaneous’ Case). WBY’s insistence that Scribners follow the
London text and arrangement for the Autobiographies volume is reconfirmed in
another detailed list of contents sent by Mrs. Yeats to Hansard Watt, 22 June
1937, and forwarded to Scribners (Princeton, Scribners Archive, Author files I,
box 147, folder Yeats 1).
Then for a while very little work was done on the Autobiographies volumes
in the Macmillan and the Scribners collected editions apart from arranging for
illustrations and, at Scribners, counting the number of words. Late in 1938,
Macmillan made tentative plans to append the On the Boiler essays to
Autobiographies. WBY’s death in January 1939 re-ignited both publishers’
interest in their collected editions, and the plans for the Macmillan edition
expanded to eleven volumes (BL Add. Ms. 55890, fol. 1). A printed ‘Preliminary
Notice’ of the Macmillan Edition de Luxe listed Autobiographies as volumes VI
and VII, with contents the same as they would eventually be in the Macmillan,
London, 1955 Autobiographies and in this edition, but in a two-volume format
that divided The Trembling of the Veil between ‘Hodos Chameliontos’ and ‘The
Tragic Generation,’ and with notes at the end of each volume. The Nobel lecture,
‘The Irish Dramatic Movement’, was specifically included. (Princeton, Scribners
Archive, Author Files I, box 174, folder Yeats 2 [2 copies]).
In April 1939, Mrs. Yeats suggested to Harold Macmillan that On the Boiler,
which still had not yet been published, be assigned to an additional volume ‘to
be added to this edition at a later date’, and which would be called Essays and
Autobiographical Fragments. She proposed including the uncollected essays ‘If
I were Four-and-Twenty’ (published 23 and 30 August 1919 and eventually
collected in the Cuala Press If I were Four-and-Twenty in 1940) and ‘Ireland,
1921-1931’ (published 30 January 1932 and in Spectator’s Gallery: Essays,
Sketches, Short Stories & Prose from the Spectator 1932, edited by Peter
Fleming and Derek Verschoyle, London: Cape, 1933) (BL Add. Mss. 54904, fol.
171 and 55822, fols. 342-44). By 19 June 1939, Macmillan had decided not to
add On the Boiler to the two volumes of Autobiographies, and on 21 June,
Thomas Mark sent Mrs. Yeats ‘the complete marked proofs of Volumes VI and
VII “Autobiographies” with the original marked proofs’ (BL Add. Mss. 55824,
fols. 501-2 and 55825, fol. 554). On 20 June, he had sent her the proofs of
volumes III and IV (Plays) and on 26 June, he sent proofs of volumes VIII
(Mythologies), IX (Discoveries), and X (Essays). She returned the proofs of
volumes III and IV (Plays) before 1 July, and on 5 July 1939 she returned the
proofs of volumes VI and VII (Autobiographies) (BL Add. Ms. 55826, fol. 196;

Mrs. Yeats letter to Thomas Mark, 5 July 1939, Macmillan Archives,
Basingstoke). Thomas Mark acknowledged receipt of the Autobiographies
proofs on 7 July (BL Add. Ms. 55826, fol. 374). Those proofs are not extant.
Britain declared war on 3 September 1939 and the Macmillan Edition de
Luxe, also known as the ‘Coole Edition’, soon ground to a stop, awaiting, as
Thomas Mark told Mrs. Yeats, ‘better times’ (19 October 1939, BL Add. Ms.
55830, fol. 334). Concurrently in New York the plans for Scribners’s ‘Dublin
Edition’ had expanded to eleven volumes. A handwritten list of contents in 1939
shows volumes VI and VII as ‘“Autobiographies” (including pages from On the
Boiler)’ (HRC Texas, Scribners Archive, Case X). But then it too was postponed
Because the Macmillan, London, office files for the 1950s are not extant, we
are left with only sketchy evidence for reconstructing the preparation of the
Macmillan, London, Autobiographies, published 11 March 1955 (Wade no.
211L), except that it used the Edition de Luxe volume VI page proofs (NLI Ms.
30,140) that are comprised of the 12 July 1932 page proofs marked by Thomas
Mark and WBY, which include Estrangement, The Death of Synge, and The
Bounty of Sweden (with the Nobel lecture, ‘The Irish Dramatic Movement’,
cancelled by WBY), plus a subsequent set of page proofs of Dramatis Personae
(1936) with the printed page numbers associated with that edition rather than the
volume VI page numbers printed in the 12 July 1932 proofs. The reprintings of
Autobiographies (1955) from the 1970s onwards are marred by the fairly
frequent vignetting of part of a letter at a page margin; earlier issues are free of
those production problems.
Macmillan, New York, re-issued its 1938 volume The Autobiography of
William Butler Yeats in 1953 and then in 1958 published a reset paperback
edition, still titled The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats, but with the Nobel
lecture, ‘The Irish Dramatic Movement’, restored.


The editors are pleased to acknowledge the generous assistance of Jonathan
Allison, David R. Clark, Richard Finneran, Mary FitzGerald, John Flynn, Adrian
Frazier, Warwick Gould, George Harper, John Kelly, Christine Mahoney,
William M. Murphy, Dan Olsen, Ronald Schuchard, Michael J. Sidnell, Deirdre
Toomey, the Yeats Society of Sligo, and the library staffs of Boston College, the
British Library, University of California Los Angeles William Andrews Clark
Library, University of Chicago, Colby College, University College Cork, Cornell
University, Emory University, Harvard University, University of Texas
Humanities Research Center, the Library of Congress, the Macmillan Archive,
University of Memphis, National Library of Ireland, State University of New
York at Stony Brook Yeats Archive, New York Public Library, Princeton
University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale University. Research
travel was funded in part by an American Philosophical Society grant-in-aid to
William O’Donnell, and the editors have received support from Colby College
and the University of Memphis.


1932/1936 page proofs Marked page proofs of Autobiographies for the
never-published London: Macmillan ‘Edition de Luxe’, date-stamped 12 July
1932, 4 Feb 1936 (NLI Ms. 30,140) Autobiographies (1926) Autobiographies:
Reveries over Childhood and Youth and The Trembling of the Veil (London:
Macmillan, 1926) (Wade no. 151); also (New York: Macmillan, 1927) (Wade no.
152) Autobiographies (1955) Autobiographies (London: Macmillan, 1955)
(Wade no. 211L)
Autobiographies (New York 1938) The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats
consisting of Reveries over Childhood and Youth / The Trembling of the Veil and
Dramatis Personae (New York: Macmillan, 1938) (Wade no. 198); re-issued
1953 (Wade no. 211G) Autobiographies (New York 1958) The Autobiography
of William Butler Yeats consisting of Reveries over Childhood and Youth / The
Trembling of the Veil and Dramatis Personae, Doubleday Anchor Books
paperback (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1958) (Wade no. 211O) Berg
NYPL Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library,
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
BL British Library
Bounty of Sweden (Cuala 1925) The Bounty of Sweden: A Meditation, and a
Lecture Delivered before the Royal Swedish Academy and Certain Notes by
William Butler Yeats (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1925) (Wade no. 146)
Bradford, Yeats at Work (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1965)
Brophy Brigid Brophy, Beardsley and his World (London: Thames and Hudson,
Callan, Yeats on Yeats Edward Callan, Yeats on Yeats: The Last Introductions
and the “Dublin”’ Edition New Yeats Papers XX (Mountrath, Portlaoise:
Dolmen Press, 1981) Castiglione Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), The
Book of the Courtier (Il Cortegiano [1527]), trans. Sir Thomas Hoby (in 1561),
The Tudor Translations series. (London: Nutt, 1900) (O’Shea no. 351) CL1 The
Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, I: 1865-1895, ed. John Kelly, associate ed. Eric

Domville (Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986)
CL2 The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, II: 1896-1900, eds. Warwick Gould,
John Kelly, and Deirdre Toomey (Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford
University Press, 1997) CL3 The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, III: 19011904, eds. John Kelly and Ronald Schuchard (Oxford: Clarendon Press; New
York: Oxford University Press, 1994) CPlays W. B. Yeats, Collected Plays
(London: Macmillan, 1952)
Cuchulain of Muirthemne Lady Gregory, Cuchulain of Muirthemne: The Story
of the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster (London: Murray, 1902) (O’Shea no.
792) Death of Synge (1928) The Death of Synge, and Other Passages from an
Old Diary (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1928) (Wade no. 162) Dictionary of Art The
Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner (London: Macmillan; New York: Grove’s
Dictionaries, 1996) Dramatis Personae (1936) Dramatis Personae 1896-1902.
Estrangement. The Death of Synge. The Bounty of Sweden (London: Macmillan,
1936) (Wade no. 187); also (New York: Macmillan, 1936) (Wade no. 186)
E&I W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions (London and New York: Macmillan,
Ex W. B. Yeats, Explorations, selected by Mrs. W. B. Yeats (London:
Macmillan, 1962; New York: Macmillan, 1963) FFT W. B. Yeats, Fairy and
Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, ed. W. B. Yeats, Camelot Classics series, no. 32
(London: Scott, 1888) Foster 1 Roy F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, I: The
Apprentice Mage 1865-1914 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press,
1997) Gods and Fighting Men Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men: The
Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland (London: Murray,
1904), (O’Shea no. 795); reprint. (Gerrards Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe, 1970)
Hail and Farewell! I: Ave George Moore, Hail and Farewell! I: Ave (London:
Heinemann, 1911), (O’Shea no. 1353) Harper, Making of A Vision George M.
Harper, The Making of Yeats’s A Vision: A Study of the Automatic Script, 2 vols.
(London: Macmillan, 1987) Harper, Yeats’s Golden Dawn George M. Harper,
Yeats’s Golden Dawn (London: Macmillan, 1974)
Hone, JBY Letters Letters to His Son W. B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922, ed.
Joseph Hone (London: Faber and Faber, 1944; New York: E. P. Dutton, 1946)
Hone, Yeats Joseph Hone, W. B. Yeats 1865-1939 (London: Macmillan, 1942)
HRC Texas Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at
Images of a Poet W B. Yeats: Images of a Poet, ed. D. J. Gordon (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1961)
JBY John Butler Yeats (1839-1922)
Keynes The Complete Writings of William Blake with Variant Readings, ed.

Geoffrey Keynes (London: Oxford University Press, 1966) L The Letters of W.
B. Yeats, ed. Allan Wade (London: Hart-Davis, 1954; New York: Macmillan,
LE W. B. Yeats, Later Essays, ed. W. H. O’Donnell (New York: Scribner, 1994;
London: Macmillan)
LM The London Mercury
LY note Lily Yeats marginalia, in 1936, in a copy of Reveries over Childhood
and Youth (New York: Macmillan, 1916) (Wade no. 112; O’Shea no. 2414),
Collection of ABY
LY scrapbook Lily Yeats’s scrapbooks (collection of Michael Yeats); quoted in
William M. Murphy, Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (1839-1922)
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978) and in William M. Murphy, The Yeats
Family and the Pollexfens of Sligo (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1971)
MBY Collection of Michael Yeats, Dalkey, Co. Dublin
McGarry James P. McGarry, Place names in the Writings of William Butler
Yeats, ed. Edward Malins (Gerrards Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe, 1976)
Mem W. B. Yeats, Memoirs, ed. Denis Donoghue (London: Macmillan, 1972;
New York: Macmillan, 1973)
Murphy, Family Secrets William M. Murphy, Family Secrets: William Butler
Yeats and His Relatives (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995) Murphy,
Prodigal Father William M. Murphy, Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler
Yeats (1839-1922) (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978) Murphy, Yeats
Family William M. Murphy, The Yeats Family and the Pollexfens of Sligo
(Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1971) Myth W. B. Yeats, Mythologies (London and
New York: Macmillan, 1959)
NLI National Library of Ireland
O’Shea Edward O’Shea, A Descriptive Catalog of W. B. Yeats’s Library (New
York: Garland, 1985) and ‘The 1920s Catalogue of W. B. Yeats’s Library’, Yeats
Annual No. 4, ed. Warwick Gould (London: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 279-90
P W. B. Yeats, The Poems, revised edition, ed. Richard J. Finneran (New York:
Macmillan, 1989; London: Macmillan, 1991) P&I W. B. Yeats, Prefaces and
Introductions: Uncollected Prefaces and Introductions by Yeats to Works of
Other Authors and to Anthologies Edited by Yeats, ed. W. H. O’Donnell
(London: Macmillan, 1989; New York: Macmillan, 1990) Poets and
Dreamers Lady Gregory, Poets and Dreamers: Studies and Translations from
the Irish (Dublin: Hodges, Figges; London: John Murray, 1903)
Prix Nobel en 1923 (Wade no. 316) Les Prix Nobel en 1923 (Stockholm:
Nordstet & Söner, 1924) (Wade no. 316) Prix Nobel en 1923: The Irish
Dramatic Movement Stockholm 1924 (Wade no. 144) Les Prix Nobel en 1923.

The Irish Dramatic Movement (Stockholm: Norstedt & Fils, 1924) (Wade no.
144) Reade Brian Reade, Beardsley (London: Studio Vista, 1967)
Reveries 1916 Reveries over Childhood and Youth (London: Macmillan, 1916)
(Wade no. 113) and (New York: Macmillan, 1916) (Wade no. 112) Reveries
Cuala 1916 Reveries over Childhood and Youth (Churchtown, Dundrum: Cuala
Press, 1915) (Wade no. 111) SB W. B. Yeats, The Speckled Bird, ed. W. H.
O’Donnell (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, title page 1976 [1977])
SIU Special Collections, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at
Trembling (1922) The Trembling of the Veil (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1922)
(Wade no. 133)
UP1 Uncollected Prose by W. B. Yeats, vol. 1, ed. John P. Frayne (New York:
Columbia University Press; London: Macmillan, 1970) UP2 Uncollected Prose
by W. B. Yeats, vol. 2, eds. John P. Frayne and Colton Johnson (London:
Macmillan, 1975; New York: Columbia University Press, 1976) V(1925) W. B.
Yeats, A Vision (London: Werner Laurie, title page 1925 [January 1926])
V W. B. Yeats, A Vision, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1937)
V(1925)CE A Critical Edition of Yeats’s A Vision (1925), eds. George Mills
Harper and Walter Kelly Hood (London: Macmillan, 1978) VP The Variorum
Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats, eds. Peter Allt and Russell K. Alspach (New
York: Macmillan, 1957; cited from the corrected 3rd printing, 1966, or later
printings) VPlays The Variorum Edition of the Plays of W. B. Yeats, ed. Russell
K. Alspach (London and New York: Macmillan, 1966; cited from the corrected
2nd printing, 1966, or later printings) Wade Allan Wade, A Bibliography of the
Writings of W. B. Yeats, 3rd ed., rev. Russell K. Alspach (London: Hart-Davis,
1968) WBY William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Weintraub Stanley Weintraub, Aubrey Beardsley: Imp of the Perverse
(University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976) WWB The Works
of William Blake: Poetic, Symbolic, and Critical, eds. Edwin J. Ellis and W. B.
Yeats, 3 vols. (London: Quaritch, 1893) Yeats the European Yeats the
European, ed. A. Norman Jeffares, Princess Grace Irish Library series 3
(Gerrards Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe, 1989)




Sometimes when I remember a relative that I have been fond of, or a strange
incident of the past, I wander here and there till I have somebody to talk to.
Presently I notice that my listener is bored; but now that I have written it out, I
may even begin to forget it all. In any case, because one can always close a
book, my friend need not be bored.
I have changed nothing to my knowledge; and yet it must be that I have
changed many things without my knowledge; for I am writing after many years
and have consulted neither friend, nor letter, nor old newspaper, and describe
what comes oftenest into my memory.
I say this fearing that some surviving friend of my youth may remember
something in a different shape and be offended with my book.
Christmas Day, 1914


My first memories are fragmentary and isolated and contemporaneous, as
though one remembered some first moments of the Seven Days. It seems as if
time had not yet been created, for all thoughts are connected with emotion and
place without sequence.
I remember sitting upon somebody’s knee, looking out of an Irish window at
a wall covered with cracked and falling plaster, but what wall I do not remember,
and being told that some relation once lived there. I am looking out of a window
in London. It is in Fitzroy Road.1 Some boys are playing in the road and among
them a boy in uniform, a telegraph-boy perhaps. When I ask who the boy is, a
servant tells me that he is going to blow the town up, and I go to sleep in terror.
After that come memories of Sligo, where I live with my grandparents.2 I am
sitting on the ground looking at a mastless toy boat with the paint rubbed and
scratched, and I say to myself in great melancholy, ‘It is further away than it
used to be’, and while I am saying it I am looking at a long scratch in the stern,
for it is especially the scratch which is further away. Then one day at dinner my
greatuncle, William Middleton,3 says, ‘We should not make light of the troubles
of children. They are worse than ours, because we can see the end of our trouble
and they can never see any end’, and I feel grateful, for I know that I am very
unhappy and have often said to myself, ‘When you grow up, never talk as
grown-up people do of the happiness of childhood’. I may have already had the
night of misery when, having prayed for several days that I might die, I began to
be afraid that I was dying and prayed that I might live. There was no reason for
my unhappiness. Nobody was unkind, and my grandmother has still after so
many years my gratitude and my reverence. The house was so big that there was
always a room to hide in, and I had a red pony and a garden where I could
wander, and there were two dogs to follow at my heels, one white with some
lack spots on his head and the other with long black hair all over him. I used to
think about God and fancy that I was very wicked, and one day when I threw a
stone and hit a duck in the yard by mischance and broke its wing, I was full of
wonder when I was told that the duck would be cooked for dinner and that I

should not be punished.
Some of my misery was loneliness and some of it fear of old William
Pollexfen, my grandfather.4 He was never unkind, and I cannot remember that he
ever spoke harshly to me, but it was the custom to fear and admire him. He had
won the freedom of some Spanish city, for saving life perhaps, but was so silent
that his wife never knew it till he was near eighty, and then from the chance visit
of an old sailor. She asked him if it was true and he said it was true, but she
knew him too well to question and his old shipmate had left the town. She too
had the habit of fear. We knew that he had been in many parts of the world, for
there was a great scar on his hand made by a whaling-hook, and in the diningroom was a cabinet with bits of coral in it and a jar of water from the Jordan for
the baptizing of his children and Chinese pictures upon rice-paper and an ivory
walking-stick from India that came to me after his death. He had great physical
strength and had the reputation of never ordering a man to do anything he would
not do himself. He owned many sailing-ships and once, when a captain just
come to anchor at Rosses Point reported something wrong with the rudder, had
sent a messenger to say, ‘Send a man down to find out what’s wrong’. ‘The crew
all refuse’ was the answer, and to that my grandfather answered, ‘Go down
yourself’, and not being obeyed, he dived from the main deck, all the
neighbourhood lined along the pebbles of the shore. He came up with his skin
torn but well informed about the rudder. He had a violent temper and kept a
hatchet at his bedside for burglars and would knock a man down instead of going
to law, and I once saw him hunt a party of men with a horsewhip. He had no
relation, for he was an only child, and, being solitary and silent, he had few
friends. He corresponded with Campbell of Islay who had befriended him and
his crew after a shipwreck, and Captain Webb, the first man who had swum the
Channel and who was drowned swimming the Niagara Rapids, had been a mate
in his employ and a close friend. That is all the friends I can remember, and yet
he was so looked up to and admired that when he returned from taking the
waters of Bath his men would light bonfires along the railway line for miles;
while his partner, William Middleton, whose father5 after the great famine6 had
attended the sick for weeks, and taken cholera from a man he carried in his arms
into his own house and died of it, and was himself civil to everybody and a
cleverer man than my grandfather, came and went without notice. I think I
confused my grandfather with God, for I remember in one of my attacks of
melancholy praying that he might punish me for my sins, and I was shocked and
astonished when a daring little girl—a cousin, I think—having waited under a
group of trees in the avenue, where she knew he would pass near four o’clock on
the way to his dinner, said to him, ‘If I were you and you were a little girl, I

would give you a doll’.
Yet for all my admiration and alarm, neither I nor any one else thought it
wrong to outwit his violence or his rigour; and his lack of suspicion and
something helpless about him made that easy while it stirred our affection. When
I must have been still a very little boy, seven or eight years old perhaps, an
uncle7 called me out of bed one night, to ride the five or six miles to Rosses
Point to borrow a railway-pass from a cousin.8 My grandfather had one, but
thought it dishonest to let another use it, but the cousin was not so particular. I
was let out through a gate that opened upon a little lane beside the garden away
from earshot of the house, and rode delighted through the moonlight, and awoke
my cousin in the small hours by tapping on his window with a whip. I was home
again by two or three in the morning and found the coachman waiting in the
little lane. My grandfather would not have thought such an adventure possible,
for every night at eight he believed that the stableyard was locked, and he knew
that he was brought the key. Some servant had once got into trouble at night and
so he had arranged that they should all be locked in. He never knew, what
everybody else in the house knew, that for all the ceremonious bringing of the
key the gate was never locked.
Even to-day when I read King Lear his image is always before me, and I
often wonder if the delight in passionate men in my plays and in my poetry is
more than his memory. He must have been ignorant, though I could not judge
him in my childhood, for he had run away to sea when a boy, ‘gone to sea
through the hawse-hole’ as he phrased it, and I can but remember him with two
books—his Bible and Falconer’s Shipwreck, a little green-covered book that lay
always upon his table; he belonged to some younger branch of an old Cornish
family.9 His father had been in the Army,10 had retired to become an owner of
sailing-ships, and an engraving of some old family place11 my grandfather
thought should have been his hung next a painted coat of arms in the little back
parlour. His mother had been a Wexford woman,12 and there was a tradition that
his family had been linked with Ireland for generations and once had their share
in the old Spanish trade with Galway. He had a good deal of pride and disliked
his neighbours, whereas his wife, a Middleton,13 was gentle and patient and did
many charities in the little back parlour among frieze coats and shawled heads,
and every night when she saw him asleep went the round of the house alone with
a candle to make certain there was no burglar in danger of the hatchet. She was a
true lover of her garden, and before the care of her house had grown upon her,
would choose some favourite among her flowers and copy it upon rice-paper. I
saw some of her handiwork the other day and I wondered at the delicacy of form
and colour and at a handling that may have needed a magnifying-glass it was so

minute. I can remember no other pictures but the Chinese paintings, and some
coloured prints of battles in the Crimea upon the wall of a passage, and the
painting of a ship at the passage end darkened by time.
My grown-up uncles and aunts, my grandfather’s many sons and daughters,
came and went, and almost all they said or did has faded from my memory,
except a few harsh words that convince me by a vividness out of proportion to
their harshness that all were habitually kind and considerate. The youngest of my
uncles14 was stout and humorous and had a tongue of leather over the keyhole of
his door to keep the draught out, and another whose bedroom was at the end of a
long stone passage had a model turret-ship in a glass case. He was a clever man15
and had designed the Sligo quays, but was now going mad and inventing a
vessel of war that could not be sunk, his pamphlet explained, because of a hull of
solid wood. Only six months ago my sister16 awoke dreaming that she held a
wingless sea-bird in her arms and presently she heard that he had died in his
madhouse, for a sea-bird is the omen that announces the death or danger of a
Pollexfen. An uncle, George Pollexfen,17 afterwards astrologer and mystic, and
my dear friend, came but seldom from Ballina, once to a race-meeting with two
postilions dressed in green; and there was that younger uncle18 who had sent me
for the railway-pass. He was my grandmother’s favourite, and had, the servants
told me, been sent away from school for taking a crowbar to a bully.
I can only remember my grandmother punishing me once. I was playing in
the kitchen and a servant in horseplay pulled my shirt out of my trousers in front
just as my grandmother came in, and I, accused of I knew not what childish
indecency, was given my dinner in a room by myself. But I was always afraid of
my uncles and aunts, and once the uncle who had taken the crowbar to the bully
found me eating lunch which my grandmother had given me and reproved me
for it and made me ashamed. We breakfasted at nine and dined at four and it was
considered self-indulgent to eat anything between meals; and once an aunt told
me that I had reined in my pony and struck it at the same moment that I might
show it off as I rode through the town, and I, because I had been accused of what
I thought a very dark crime, had a night of misery. Indeed I remember little of
childhood but its pain. I have grown happier with every year of life as though
gradually conquering something in myself, for certainly my miseries were not
made by others but were a part of my own mind.

One day some one spoke to me of the voice of the conscience, and as I

brooded over the phrase I came to think that my soul, because I did not hear an
articulate voice, was lost. I had some wretched days until being alone with one
of my aunts19 I heard a whisper in my ear, ‘What a tease you are!’ At first I
thought my aunt must have spoken, but when I found she had not, I concluded it
was the voice of my conscience and was happy again. From that day the voice
has come to me at moments of crisis, but now it is a voice in my head that is
sudden and startling. It does not tell me what to do, but often reproves me. It will
say perhaps, ‘That is unjust’ of some thought; and once when I complained that a
prayer had not been heard, it said, ‘You have been helped’. I had a little flagstaff
in front of the house and a red flag with the Union Jack in the corner. Every
night I pulled my flag down and folded it up and laid it on a shelf in my
bedroom, and one morning before breakfast I found it, though I knew I had
folded it up the night before, knotted round the bottom of the flagstaff so that it
was touching the grass. I must have heard the servants talking of the faeries, for I
concluded at once that a faery had tied those four knots and from that on
believed that one had whispered in my ear. I have been told, though I do not
remember it myself, that I saw, whether once or many times I do not know, a
supernatural bird in the corner of the room. Once, too, I was driving with my
grandmother a little after dark close to the Channel that runs for some five miles
from Sligo to the sea, and my grandmother showed me the red light of an
outward-bound steamer and told me that my grandfather was on board, and that
night in my sleep I screamed out and described the steamer’s wreck. The next
morning my grandfather arrived on a blind horse found for him by grateful
passengers. He had, as I remember the story, been asleep when the captain
aroused him to say they were going on the rocks. He said, ‘Have you tried sail
on her?’ and judging from some answer that the captain was demoralized took
over the command and, when the ship could not be saved, got the crew and
passengers into the boats. His own boat was upset and he saved himself and
some others by swimming; some women had drifted ashore, buoyed up by their
crinolines. ‘I was not so much afraid of the sea as of that terrible man with his
oar’, was the comment of a schoolmaster who was among the survivors. Eight
men, were, however, drowned and my grandfather suffered from that memory at
intervals all his life, and if asked to read family prayers never read anything but
the shipwreck of Saint Paul.20
I remember the dogs more clearly than any one except my grandfather and
grandmother. The black hairy one had no tail because it had been sliced off, if I
was told the truth, by a railway train. I think I followed at their heels more than
they did at mine, and that their journeys ended at a rabbit-warren behind the
garden; and sometimes they had savage fights, the black hairy dog, being well

protected by its hair, suffering least. I can remember one so savage that the white
dog would not take his teeth out of the black dog’s hair till the coachman hung
them over the side of a water-butt, one outside and one in the water. My
grandmother once told the coachman to cut the hair like a lion’s hair and, after a
long consultation with the stableboy,21 he cut it all over the head and shoulders
and left it on the lower part of the body. The dog disappeared for a few days and
I did not doubt that its heart was broken.
There was a large garden behind the house full of apple-trees, with flowerbeds and grass-plots in the centre, and two figure-heads of ships, one among the
strawberry plants under a wall covered with fruit-trees and one among the
flowers. The one among the flowers was a white lady in flowing robes, while the
other, a stalwart man in uniform, had been taken from a three-masted ship of my
grandfather’s called the Russia, and there was a belief among the servants that
the stalwart man represented the Tsar and had been presented by the Tsar
himself. The avenue, or as they say in England the drive, that went from the hall
door through a clump of big trees to an insignificant gate and a road bordered by
broken and dirty cottages, was but two or three hundred yards, and I often
thought it should have been made to wind more, for I judged people’s social
importance mainly by the length of their avenues. This idea may have come
from the stableboy, for he was my principal friend. He had a book of Orange
rhymes,22 and the days when we read them together in the hayloft gave me the
pleasure of rhyme for the first time. Later on I can remember being told, when
there was a rumour of a Fenian23 rising, that rifles had been served out to the
Orangemen; and presently, when I had begun to dream of my future life, I
thought I would like to die fighting the Fenians. I was to build a very fast and
beautiful ship and to have under my command a company of young men who
were always to be in training like athletes and so become as brave and handsome
as the young men in the story-books, and there was to be a big battle on the seashore near Rosses and I was to be killed. I collected little pieces of wood and
piled them up in a corner of the yard, and there was an old rotten log in a distant
field I often went to look at because I thought it would go a long way in the
making of the ship. All my dreams were of ships; and one day a sea-captain who
had come to dine with my grandfather put a hand on each side of my head and
lifted me up to show me Africa, and another day a sea-captain pointed to the
smoke from the pern-mill on the quays24 rising up beyond the trees of the lawn,
as though it came from the mountain, and asked me if Ben Bulben25 was a
burning mountain.
Once every few months I used to go to Rosses Point or Ballisodare to see
another little boy, who had a piebald pony that had once been in a circus and

sometimes forgot where it was and went round and round. He was George
Middleton,26 son of my greatuncle William Middleton. Old Middleton had
bought land, then believed a safe investment, at Ballisodare and at Rosses, and
spent the winter at Ballisodare and the summer at Rosses. The Middleton and
Pollexfen flour mills were at Ballisodare, and a great salmon weir, rapids, and a
waterfall, but it was more often at Rosses that I saw my cousin. We rowed in the
river-mouth or were taken sailing in a heavy slow schooner yacht or in a big
ship’s boat that had been rigged and decked. There were great cellars under the
house, for it had been a smuggler’s house a hundred years before, and sometimes
three loud raps would come upon the drawing-room window at sundown, setting
all the dogs barking: some dead smuggler giving his accustomed signal. One
night I heard them very distinctly and my cousins often heard them, and later on
my sister.27 A pilot had told me that, after dreaming three times of a treasure
buried in my uncle’s garden, he had climbed the wall in the middle of the night
and begun to dig but grew disheartened ‘because there was so much earth’. I told
somebody what he had said and was told that it was well he did not find it, for it
was guarded by a spirit that looked like a flat-iron. At Ballisodare there was a
cleft among the rocks that I passed with terror because I believed that a
murderous monster lived there that made a buzzing sound like a bee.
It was through the Middletons perhaps that I got my interest in country
stories, and certainly the first faery-stories that I heard were in the cottages about
their houses. The Middletons took the nearest for friends and were always in and
out of the cottages of pilots and of tenants. They were practical, always doing
something with their hands, making boats, feeding chickens, and without
ambition. One of them28 had designed a steamer many years before my birth and,
long after I had grown to manhood, one could hear it—it had some sort of
obsolete engine—many miles off wheezing in the Channel like an asthmatic
person. It had been built on the lake and dragged through the town by many
horses, stopping before the windows where my mother29 was learning her
lessons, and plunging the whole school into candlelight for five days, and was
still patched and repatched mainly because it was believed to be a bringer of
good luck. It had been called after the betrothed of its builder Janet, long
corrupted into the more familiar Jennet, and the betrothed died in my youth
having passed her eightieth year and been her husband’s plague because of the
violence of her temper. Another Middleton30 who was but a year or two older
than myself used to shock me by running after hens to know by their feel if they
were on the point of dropping an egg. They let their houses decay and the glass
fall from the windows of their greenhouses, but one among them at any rate had
the second sight.31 They were liked but had not the pride and reserve, the sense

of decorum and order, the instinctive playing before themselves that belongs to
those who strike the popular imagination.
Sometimes my grandmother would bring me to see some old Sligo
gentlewoman whose garden ran down to the river, ending there in a low wall full
of wallflowers, and I would sit up upon my chair, very bored, while my elders
ate their seed-cake and drank their sherry. My walks with the servants were more
interesting; sometimes we would pass a little fat girl, and a servant persuaded me
to write her a love-letter, and the next time she passed she put her tongue out.
But it was the servants’ stories that interested me. At such-and-such a corner a
man had got a shilling from a recruiting sergeant by standing in a barrel and had
then rolled out of it and shown his crippled legs. And in such-and-such a house
an old woman had hid herself under the bed of her guests, an officer and his
wife, and on hearing them abuse her beaten them with a broomstick. All the
well-known families had their grotesque or tragic or romantic legends, and I
often said to myself how terrible it would be to go away and die where nobody
would know my story. Years afterwards, when I was ten or twelve years old and
in London, I would remember Sligo with tears, and when I began to write, it was
there I hoped to find my audience. Next to Merville where I lived was another
tree-surrounded house where I sometimes went to see a little boy who stayed
there occasionally with his grandmother, whose name I forget and who seemed
to me kind and friendly, though when I went to see her in my thirteenth or
fourteenth year I discovered that she only cared for very little boys. When the
visitors called I hid in the hayloft and lay hidden behind the great heap of hay
while a servant was calling my name in the yard.
I do not know how old I was (for all these events seem at the same distance)
when I was made drunk. I had been out yachting with an uncle and my cousins
and it had come on very rough. I had lain on deck between the mast and the
bowsprit and a wave had burst over me and I had seen green water over my
head. I was very proud and very wet. When we got into Rosses again, I was
dressed up in an older boy’s clothes so that the trousers came down below my
boots, and a pilot gave me a little raw whiskey. I drove home on an outside car
and was so pleased with the strange state in which I found myself that for all my
uncle could do I cried to every passerby that I was drunk, and went on crying it
through the town and everywhere until I was put to bed by my grandmother and
given something to drink that tasted of blackcurrants and so fell asleep.


Some six miles off towards Ben Bulben and beyond the Channel, as we call
the tidal river between Sligo and the Rosses, and on top of a hill there was a little
square two-storeyed house covered with creepers and looking out upon a garden
where the box borders were larger than any I had ever seen, and where I saw for
the first time the crimson streak of the gladiolus and awaited its blossom with
excitement. Under one gable a dark thicket of small trees made a shut-in
mysterious place, where one played and believed that something was going to
happen. My great-aunt Micky lived there. Micky was not her right name, for she
was Mary Yeats,32 and her father had been my great-grandfather, John Yeats,33
who had been Rector of Drumcliff, a few miles further off, and died in 1847. She
was a spare, high-coloured, elderly woman and had the oldest-looking cat I had
ever seen, for its hair had grown into matted locks of yellowy white. She farmed
and had one old man-servant, but could not have farmed at all, had not
neighbouring farmers helped to gather in the crops, in return for the loan of her
farm implements and ‘out of respect for the family’, for as Johnny MacGurk, the
Sligo barber, said to me, ‘The Yeats’s were always very respectable’. She was
full of family history; all her dinner-knives were pointed like daggers through
much cleaning, and there was a little James I. cream-jug with the Yeats motto
and crest, and on her dining-room mantelpiece a beautiful silver cup that had
belonged to my great-great-grandfather,34 who had married a certain Mary
Butler.35 It had upon it the Butler crest and had been already old at the date 1534,
when the initials of some bride and bridegroom were engraved under the lip. All
its history for generations was rolled up inside it upon a piece of paper yellow
with age, until some caller took the paper to light his pipe.
Another family36 of Yeats, a widow and her two children on whom I called
sometimes with my grandmother, lived near in a long low cottage, and owned a
very fierce turkey-cock that did battle with their visitors; and some miles away
lived the secretary to the Grand Jury and land agent, my greatuncle, Mat Yeats,37
and his big family of boys and girls; but I think it was only in later years that I
came to know them well. I do not think any of these liked the Pollexfens, who
were well off and seemed to them purse-proud, whereas they themselves had
come down in the world. I remember them as very well-bred and very religious
in the Evangelical way and thinking a good deal of Aunt Micky’s old histories.
There had been among our ancestors a King’s County soldier,38 one of
Marlborough’s generals, and when his nephew39 came to dine he gave him boiled
pork, and when the nephew said he disliked boiled pork he had asked him to
dine again and promised him something he would like better. However, he gave
him boiled pork again and the nephew took the hint in silence. The other day as I
was coming home from America,40 I met one of his descendants whose family

has not another discoverable link with ours, and he too knew the boiled pork
story and nothing else. We have the General’s portrait,41 and he looks very fine
in his armour and his long curly wig, and underneath it, after his name, are many
honours that have left no tradition among us. Were we countrypeople, we could
have summarized his life in a legend. Other ancestors or greatuncles bore a part
in Irish history; one saved the life of Sarsfield42 at the battle of Sedgemoor;
another, taken prisoner43 by King James’s army, owed his to Sarsfield’s
gratitude;44 another, a century later,45 roused the gentlemen of Meath against
some local Jacquerie,46 and was shot dead upon a county road, and yet another47
‘chased the United Irishmen48 for a fortnight, fell into their hands and was
hanged’. The notorious Major Sirr, who arrested Lord Edward Fitzgerald and
gave him the bullet-wound he died of in the jail, was godfather to several of my
great-great-grandfather’s children; while, to make a balance, my greatgrandfather had been Robert Emmet’s friend49 and was suspected and
imprisoned though but for a few hours. One greatuncle50 fell at New Orleans in
1813, while another, who became Governor of Penang,51 led the forlorn hope at
the taking of Rangoon, and even in the last generation of all there had been lives
of some power and pleasure. An old man52 who had entertained many famous
people in his eighteenth-century house, where battlement and tower showed the
influence of Horace Walpole,53 had but lately, after losing all his money,
drowned himself, first taking off his rings and chain and watch as became a
collector of many beautiful things; and once, to remind us of more passionate
life, a gunboat put into Rosses, commanded by the illegitimate son54 of some
greatuncle or other. Now that I can look at their miniatures, turning them over to
find the name of soldier, or lawyer, or Castle55 official, and wondering if they
cared for good books or good music, I am delighted with all that joins my life to
those who had power in Ireland or with those anywhere that were good servants
and poor bargainers, but I cared nothing as a child for Micky’s tales. I could see
my grandfather’s ships come up the bay or the river, and his sailors treated me
with deference, and a ship’s carpenter made and mended my toy boats and I
thought that nobody could be so important as my grandfather. Perhaps, too, it is
only now that I can value those more gentle natures so unlike his passion and
violence. An old Sligo priest has told me how my great-grandfather, John Yeats,
always went into his kitchen rattling the keys, so much did he fear finding some
one doing wrong, and of a speech of his when the agent of the great landowner
of his parish brought him from cottage to cottage to bid the women send their
children to the Protestant school. All promised till they came to one who cried,
‘Child of mine will never darken your door’. ‘Thank you, my woman’, he said,
‘you are the first honest woman I have met to-day.’ My uncle, Mat Yeats,56 the

land agent, had once waited up every night for a week to catch some boys who
stole his apples and when he caught them had given them sixpence and told them
not to do it again. Perhaps it is only fancy or the softening touch of the
miniaturist that makes me discover in their faces some courtesy and much
gentleness. Two eighteenth-century faces57 interest me the most, one that of a
great-great-grandfather,58 for both have under their powdered curling wigs a
half-feminine charm, and as I look at them I discover a something clumsy and
heavy in myself. Yet it was a Yeats who spoke the only eulogy that turns my
head: ‘We have ideas and no passions, but by marriage with a Pollexfen we have
given a tongue to the sea cliffs’.59
Among the miniatures there is a larger picture, an admirable drawing by I
know not what master, that is too harsh and merry for its company. He was a
connection and close friend of my greatgrandmother Corbet, and though we
spoke of him as ‘Uncle Beattie’60 in our childhood, no blood relation. My
greatgrandmother who died at ninety-three had many memories of him. He was
the friend of Goldsmith61 and was accustomed to boast, clergyman though he
was, that he belonged to a hunt-club of which every member but himself had
been hanged or transported for treason, and that it was not possible to ask him a
question he could not reply to with a perfectly appropriate blasphemy or

Because I had found it hard to attend to anything less interesting than my
thoughts, I was difficult to teach. Several of my uncles and aunts had tried to
teach me to read, and because they could not, and because I was much older than
children who read easily, had come to think, as I have learnt since, that I had not
all my faculties.62 But for an accident they might have thought it for a long time.
My father63 was staying in the house and never went to church, and that gave me
the courage to refuse to set out one Sunday morning. I was often devout, my
eyes filling with tears at the thought of God and of my own sins, but I hated
church. My grandmother tried to teach me to put my toes first to the ground
because I suppose I stumped on my heels, and that took my pleasure out of the
way there. Later on when I had learnt to read I took pleasure in the words of the
hymn, but never understood why the choir took three times as long as I did in
getting to the end; and the part of the service I liked, the sermon and passages of
the Apocalypse and Ecclesiastes, were no compensation for all the repetitions
and for the fatigue of so much standing. My father said if I would not go to

church he would teach me to read. I think now that he wanted to make me go for
my grandmother’s sake and could think of no other way. He was an angry and
impatient teacher64 and flung the reading-book at my head, and next Sunday I
decided to go to church. My father had, however, got interested in teaching me,
and only shifted the lesson to a week-day till he had conquered my wandering
mind. My first clear image of him was fixed on my imagination, I believe, but a
few days before the first lesson. He had just arrived from London and was
walking up and down the nursery floor. He had a very black beard and hair, and
one cheek bulged out with a fig that was there to draw the pain out of a bad
tooth. One of the nurses (a nurse had come from London with my brothers and
sisters) said to the other that a live frog, she had heard, was best of all. Then I
was sent to a dame-school kept by an old woman65 who stood us in rows and had
a long stick like a billiard cue to get at the back rows. My father was still at Sligo
when I came back from my first lesson and asked me what I had been taught. I
said I had been taught to sing, and he said, ‘Sing then’, and I sang— Little drops
of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land high up in my head. So my father wrote to the old woman
that I was never to be taught to sing again, and afterwards other teachers were
told the same thing. Presently my elder sister66 came on a long visit and she and I
went to a little two-storeyed house in a poor street where an old gentle taught us
spelling and grammar. When we had learned our lesson well, we were allowed to
look at a sword presented to her father who had led troops in India or China and
to spell out a long complimentary inscription on the silver scabbard. As we
walked to her house or home again we held a large umbrella before us, both
gripping the handle and guiding ourselves by looking out of a round hole
gnawed in the cover by a mouse. When I had got beyond books of one syllable, I
began to spend my time in a room called the library, though there were no books
in it that I can remember except some old novels I never opened and a manyvolumed encyclopaedia67 published towards the end of the eighteenth century. I
read this encyclopaedia a great deal and can remember a long passage
considering whether fossil wood despite its appearance might not be only a
curiously shaped stone.
My father’s unbelief had set me thinking about the evidences of religion and I
weighed the matter perpetually with great anxiety, for I did not think I could live
without religion. All my religious emotions were, I think, connected with clouds
and cloudy glimpses of luminous sky, perhaps because of some Bible picture of
God’s speaking to Abraham or the like. At least I can remember the sight

moving me to tears. One day I got a decisive argument for belief. A cow was
about to calve, and I went to the field where the cow was with some farm-hands
who carried a lantern, and next day I heard that the cow had calved in the early
morning. I asked everybody how calves were born, and because nobody would
tell me, made up my mind that nobody knew. They were the gift of God, that
much was certain, but it was plain that nobody had ever dared to see them come,
and children must come in the same way. I made up my mind that when I was a
man I would wait up till calf or child had come. I was certain there would be a
cloud and a burst of light and God would bring the calf in the cloud out of the
light. That thought made me content until a boy of twelve or thirteen, who had
come on a visit for the day, sat beside me in a hayloft and explained all the
mechanism of sex. He had learnt all about it from an elder boy whose pathic68 he
was (to use a term he would not have understood) and his description, given, as I
can see now, as if he were telling of any other fact of physical life, made me
miserable for weeks. After the first impression wore off, I began to doubt if he
had spoken truth, but one day I discovered a passage in the encyclopaedia that,
though I only partly understood its long words, confirmed what he had said. I did
not know enough to be shocked at his relation to the elder boy, but it was the
first breaking of the dream of childhood.
My realization of death came when my father and mother and my two
brothers and my two sisters were on a visit. I was in the library when I heard feet
running past and heard somebody say in the passage that my younger brother,
Robert,69 had died. He had been ill for some days. A little later my sister and I sat
at the table, very happy, drawing ships with their flags half-mast high. We must
have heard or seen that the ships in the harbour had their flags at half-mast. Next
day at breakfast I heard people telling how my mother and the servant had heard
the banshee70 crying the night before he died. It must have been after this that I
told my grandmother I did not want to go with her when she went to see old
bedridden people because they would soon die.

At length when I was eight or nine an aunt71 said to me, ‘You are going to
London. Here you are somebody. There you will be nobody at all.’ I knew at the
time that her words were a blow at my father, not at me, but it was some years
before I knew her reason. She thought so able a man as my father could have
found out some way of painting more popular pictures if he had set his mind to it
and that it was wrong of him ‘to spend every evening at his club’. She had

mistaken, for what she would have considered a place of wantonness,
Heatherley’s Art School.
My mother and brother and sister were at Sligo perhaps when I was sent to
England, for my father and I and a group of landscape-painters lodged at
Burnham Beeches with an old Mr. and Mrs. Earle.72 My father was painting the
first big pond you come to if you have driven from Slough through Farnham
Royal. He began it in spring and painted all through the year, the picture
changing with the seasons, and gave it up unfinished when he had painted the
snow upon the heath-covered banks. He is never satisfied and can never make
himself say that any picture is finished. In the evening he heard me my lessons
or read me some novel of Fenimore Cooper’s. I found delightful adventures in
the woods—one day a blindworm and an adder fighting in a green hollow—and
sometimes Mrs. Earle would be afraid to tidy the room because I had put a bottle
full of newts on the mantelpiece. Now and then a boy from a farm on the other
side of the road threw a pebble at my window at daybreak, and he and I went
fishing in the big second pond. Now and then another farmer’s boy and I shot
sparrows with an old pepper-box revolver and the boy would roast them on a
string. There was an old horse one of the painters called The Scaffolding, and
sometimes a son of old Earle’s drove with me to Slough and once to Windsor,
and at Windsor we made our lunch of cold sausages bought from a public-house.
I did not know what it was to be alone, for I could wander in pleasant alarm
through the enclosed parts of the Beeches, then very large, or round some pond
imagining ships going in and out among the reeds and thinking of Sligo or of
strange seafaring adventures in the fine ship I should launch when I grew up. I
had always a lesson to learn before night and that was a continual misery, for I
could very rarely, with so much to remember, set my thoughts upon it and then
only in fear. One day my father told me that a painter had said I was very thickskinned and did not mind what was said to me, and I could not understand how
anybody could be so unjust. It made me wretched to be idle, but one could not
help it. I was once surprised and shocked. All but my father and myself had been
to London, and Kennedy and Farrar and Page, I remember the names vaguely,
arrived laughing and talking. One of them had carried off a card of texts from the
waiting-room of the station and hung it up on the wall. I thought, ‘He has stolen
it’, but my father and all made it a theme of merry conversation.
Then I returned to Sligo for a few weeks as I was to do once or twice in every
year for years, and after that we settled in London. Perhaps my mother and the
other children had been there all the time, for I remember my father now and
again going to London. The first house we lived in was close to Burne-Jones’s
house at North End,73 but we moved after a year or two to Bedford Park.74 At

North End we had a pear-tree in the garden and plenty of pears, but the pears
used to be full of maggots, and almost opposite lived a schoolmaster called
O’Neill, and when a little boy told me that the schoolmaster’s great-grandfather
had been a king I did not doubt it. I was sitting against the hedge and iron railing
of some villa-garden there, when I heard one boy say to another it was
something wrong with my liver that gave me such a dark complexion and that I
could not live more than a year. I said to myself, ‘A year is a very long time, one
can do such a lot of things in a year’, and put it out of my head. When my father
gave me a holiday and later when I had a holiday from school I took my
schooner boat to the Round Pond, sailing it very commonly against the two
cutter yachts of an old naval officer. He would sometimes look at the ducks and
say, ‘would like to take that fellow home for my dinner’, and he sang me a
sailor’s song about a ‘coffin ship’75 which left Sligo after the great famine, that
made me feel very important. The servants at Sligo had told me the story. When
she was moved from the berth she had lain in, an unknown dead man’s body had
floated up, a very evil omen; and my grandfather, who was Lloyd’s agent,76 had
condemned her, but she slipped out in the night. The pond had its own legends;
and a boy who had seen a certain model steamer ‘burned to the water’s edge’
was greatly valued as a friend. There was a little boy I was kind to because I
knew his father had done something disgraceful though I did not know what. It
was years before I discovered that his father was but the maker of certain
popular statues, many of which are now in public places. I had heard my father’s
friends speak of him. Sometimes my sister77 came with me, and we would look
into all the sweet-shops and toy-shops on our way home, especially into one
opposite Holland House because there was a cutter yacht made of sugar in the
window, and we drank at all the fountains. Once a stranger spoke to us and
bought us sweets and came with us almost to our door. We asked him to come in
and told him our father’s name. He would not come in, but laughed and said, ‘O,
that is the painter who scrapes out every day what he painted the day before’. A
poignant memory came upon me the other day while I was passing the drinkingfountain near Holland Park, for there I and my sister had spoken together of our
longing for Sligo and our hatred of London. I know we were both very close to
tears and remember with wonder, for I had never known any one that cared for
such mementoes, that I longed for a sod of earth from some field I knew,
something of Sligo to hold in my hand. It was some old race instinct like that of
a savage, for we had been brought up to laugh at all display of emotion. Yet it
was our mother, who would have thought its display a vulgarity, who kept alive
that love. She would spend hours listening to stories or telling stories of the
pilots and fishing-people of Rosses Point, or of her own Sligo girlhood, and it

was always assumed between her and us that Sligo was more beautiful than
other places. I can see now that she had great depth of feeling, that she was her
father’s daughter. My memory of what she was like in those days has grown very
dim, but I think her sense of personality, her desire of any life of her own, had
disappeared in her care for us and in much anxiety about money. I always see her
sewing or knitting in spectacles and wearing some plain dress. Yet ten years ago
when I was in San Francisco,78 an old cripple came to see me who had left Sligo
before her marriage; he came to tell me, he said, that my mother ‘had been the
most beautiful girl in Sligo’.
The only lessons I had ever learned were those my father taught me, for he
terrified me by descriptions of my moral degradation and he humiliated me by
my likeness to disagreeable people; but presently I was sent to school at
Hammersmith.79 It was a Gothic building of yellow brick: a large hall full of
desks, some small classrooms, and a separate house for boarders, all built
perhaps in 1860 or 1870. I thought it an ancient building and that it had belonged
to the founder of the school, Lord Godolphin, who was romantic to me because
there was a novel about him. I never read the novel,80 but I thought only
romantic people were put in books. On one side, there was a piano factory of
yellow brick, upon two sides half-finished rows of little shops and villas all
yellow brick, and on the fourth side, out