YEATS, William Butler (1865-1939). Five autograph letters signed (one with typewritten continuation) and 2 letters signed (one in autograph of Ezra Pound) to Ernest Boyd, London, Sussex, Oxford, Co. Galway and Dublin, n.d. [20 January 1915] - 24 January 1918 (most incompletely dated); and one autograph letter signed to John O'Leary, Oxford, [August 1889], one letter signed to J.I.C. Clarke, New York, 13 November 1903 and a memorandum signed, together approximately 11 pages, 8vo, in autograph, 8 pages, 8vo, in other hands, 2½ pages, 4to, typewritten, 2 autograph envelopes, integral blank leaves. The lot also includes: YEATS, Elizabeth (1867-1940), autograph letter signed to Elkin Mathews, Co. Dublin, 12 October 1904 and O'LEARY, John (1830-1907), autograph letter signed to J.I.C. Clarke, Dublin, 26 October 1903, together 6 pages, 8vo.
A series of frank and informative letters mostly on literary affairs: Yeats discusses Boyd's idea for a play - 'Everything depends on the form of action into which you throw your thought. You have to express the thought by action of course' - and criticizes Dublin intellectual society - 'The difference between the Dublin talkers & any real workers is that the talkers value anything which they call a principle more than any possible achievement'; he answers a series of questions about his literary career, his earliest literary associates, his interest in mysticism and his development as a writer ('I have never consciously abandoned the wish to write out of the scenery of my country'); he explains the delayed appearance of Reveries over Childhood and Youth - 'A hand press prints very slowly ... I revise in proof a great deal and hate, even if I had a spare copy of the script, which I have not, to let anybody see it before it has come to its final form' - and discusses the difficulties of the Abbey Theatre during the war - 'The anxiety of the war and the many deaths reduced our audience both in Dublin (where we could play only the more popular pieces and those at a loss) and in England till we were losing heavily' (the hand press Yeats refers to is the Dun Emer Press, run by his sisters; the lot also includes a letter by Elizabeth Yeats referring to the problems the Press constantly faced - 'it is extremely difficult to make fine hand printing pay at all'); in other letters Yeats answers a request for a book, discusses arrangements for a lecture tour, comments on The Player Queen, 'a prose play, and more for the stage than the reader' and suggests proposing Boyd as an associate member of the Irish Academy of Letters - 'I think you will be elected, though there is of course no certainty in such things, especially in this argumentative country' (the lot also includes a memorandum by Yeats about the financial affairs of the Irish Academy of Letters).
The letter to O'Leary is a very whimsical one, complaining humorously of the hack work in which he is engaged in the Bodleian Library: 'I am copying out for Nutt the publisher who like all his race is in a hurry a dull old aligory (sic) about love written by an Italian, who deserved to have been forgotten long ago, and translated into fairly good English and published in a book full of misprints, by an Elizabethan who wrote well enough to have known better .... Covering so much paper gives one a fellow feeling for the wandering Jew. Certainly he covered miles and years and I but foolscap sheets but then he walked fast and the years did not matter to him'; and also mentioning the writing of his play The Countess Kathleen.
Both Ernest Boyd and John O'Leary were important figures with Yeats in the movement for the Irish literary revival. Several of the letters to Boyd relate to his book Ireland's Literary Renaissance (1916). O'Leary was a Fenian journalist and leader; the lot also includes a letter of introduction he wrote for Yeats to a friend in New York ('I can guarantee, that he is a very good Irishman, in every acceptation of the word'), together with Yeats' covering letter for it. (12)