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On the white strand

Denis Donoghue

4 April 1991
The Selected Writings of Jack B.​ Yeats 
edited byRobin Skelton.
Deutsch, 246 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 233 98646 4
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... JackYeats’s paintings are much admired and, it appears, universally loved. I recall a large show of them a few years ago at the National Gallery in Dublin. I have rarely seen people looking at paintings with ...

Who to Be

Colm Tóibín: Beckett’s Letters

6 August 2009
The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-40 
edited byMartha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 782 pp., £30, February 2009, 978 0 521 86793 1
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... In his essay on the painter JackYeats, which he sent to Beckett in 1938, Thomas McGreevy wrote: ‘During the 20-odd years preceding 1916, JackYeats filled a need that had become immediate in Ireland for the first time in 300 years, the need of the people to feel that their own life was being expressed in art.’* Beckett was in Paris when he ...

Paint Run Amuck

Frank Kermode: Jack Yeats

12 November 1998
Jack​ Yeats 
byBruce Arnold.
Yale, 418 pp., £29.95, September 1998, 0 300 07549 9
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... We attach the epithet ‘great’ rather loosely to artists, but there is probably some tacit agreement about which ones deserve it. It doesn’t seem wrong to call W.B.Yeats a great poet, and in certain contexts he may be called a great Irish poet, though most of the time it might seem odd to insist that Dante was a great Italian, or Shakespeare a great English, poet ...

Language Writing

Jerome McGann

15 October 1987
In the American Tree: Language, Poetry, Realism 
byRon Silliman.
National Poetry Foundation, 628 pp., $34.50, June 1986, 0 915032 33 3
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‘Language’ Poetries: An Anthology 
byDouglas Messerli.
New Directions, 184 pp., $19.95, March 1987, 0 8112 1006 5
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... In 1918, the intensity of Yeats’s fascination with the young American phenomenon Ezra Pound had cooled enough for JackButler Yeats to supply his son with some smouldering paternal wisdom: The poets loved of Ezra Pound are tired of Beauty, since they have met it so often ... I am tired of Beauty my wife, says the poet, but here ...
18 October 1984
The Mystery Religion of W.B.​ Yeats 
byGraham Hough.
Harvester, 129 pp., £15.95, May 1984, 0 7108 0603 5
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Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry 
byCairns Craig.
Croom Helm, 323 pp., £14.95, January 1982, 9780856649974
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Yeats. Poems 1919-1935: A Selection of Critical Essays 
edited byElizabeth Cullingford.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £14, July 1984, 0 333 27422 9
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The Poet and his Audience 
byIan Jack.
Cambridge, 198 pp., £20, July 1984, 0 521 26034 5
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A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B.​ Yeats 
byA. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 543 pp., £35, May 1984, 0 333 35214 9
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Poems of W.B.​ Yeats 
byA. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 428 pp., £17, August 1984, 0 333 36213 6
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... College London in February 1983. The audience was general and the lectures were pitched accordingly. Yet all Yeatsian specialists will profit from this book and the ‘radical simplification’ of Yeats’s occult philosophy which it so lucidly achieves. Professor Hough takes Yeats’s beliefs seriously, but is neither a dévot nor sceptic. He demonstrates the ‘ancient lineage’ of the claims of ...

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby

18 July 1996
The Yeats​ Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats 
byJoan Hardwick.
Pandora, 263 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 04 440924 9
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... Shortly before he died in 1922, John Butler Yeats wrote an angry, defensive letter to his eldest son William. W.B.Yeats had published a memoir in the Dial and his father objected to the almost parenthetical mention in one episode of an ‘enraged’ Yeats family. The remark unleashed in him a long-restrained ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks

18 August 1983
Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
byDavid Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. YeatsLetters to His Son W.B. Yeats​ and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir byJoseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... insufficiently magnanimous (‘Notice how carefully Lawrence refuses to recognise virtue in anyone but himself’), and his sponsor David Pryce-Jones now finds F.R. Leavis much the same, so it may be legitimate to cite the famous excoriation of Bloomsbury that was voiced by Lawrence and amplified by Leavis: ‘they talked endlessly, but endlessly – and never, never a good thing said. They are ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett

5 April 2007
... some streets in Dublin which becomes more gnarled and layered the longer you live in the city and the greater the stray memories and associations you build up. Sometimes this sense of the city can be greatly added to by history and bybooks; sometimes, however, the past – I mean the distant past – and the books hardly matter, seem a strange irrelevance. On a busy day it is easy to go into the ...

The Playboy of West 29th Street

Colm Tóibín: Yeats’s Father in Exile

25 January 2018
... an hour earlier, I had heard one of the librarians telling someone on the phone in a half-whisper that someone called Colm Tóibn was in the library looking at the correspondence of John Butler Yeats, which had been transcribed, then typed, then donated to the library by William M. Murphy, John Butler Yeats’s biographer. And now I looked up from the Yeats letters to find a man looking at me. It ...
2 August 1984
... assume that every other member is a good fellow. In practice, of course, it is a law of club life the world over that, apart from very small clubs indeed, no member can know every other member even by sight. Dublin’s large, ancient, honourable and flourishing (well, anyway, ancient) boozing club The Wamps – writers, actors, musicians, painters, sculptors – offers one striking exception to ...

Hillside Men

Roy Foster: Ernie O’Malley

16 July 1998
Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual 
byRichard English.
Oxford, 284 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 01 982059 3
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... W.B.Yeats Liked to think (and write) that the insurrection of Easter 1916 was ignited by a generation of cultural revolutionaries; and it did indeed bear – in retrospect at least – some resemblance to a revolution of the intellectuals. But the towering figures among Irish writers ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: In Donegal

8 October 1992
... In the introduction to her excellent – indeed seminal and unprecedented – anthology of Ulster prose,* Patricia Craig remarks that for her collection Northern Ireland is to be regarded as ‘a geographical rather than a political entity; it consists of seven counties, not the partitioned six or the historic nine. Donegal seems to be inescapably part of the “North” ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride

8 August 2013
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
byEimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... does in her remarkable, harshly satisfying first novel, may not seem a particularly drastic discipline, set beside such feats as eliminating the letter ‘e’ (Perec’s La Disparition, Englished by Gilbert Adair as A Void) or telling Ophelia’s side of the story using only the words Shakespeare allots her (Paul Griffiths’s Let Me Tell You). McBride compensates by scattering full stops with a ...
8 April 1993
Dream of Fair to Middling Women 
bySamuel Beckett, edited byEoin O’Brien and Edith Fournier.
Black Cat, 241 pp., £18.99, November 1992, 0 7145 4212 1
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... to attention, closed his eyes and saluted ... The horses were farting and shitting as though they were going to the fair. This is one of Beckett’s common modes, the comic spirit which the actor Jack McGowran, for example, could seize upon and exploit with such brilliance. Our rueful narrator muses to himself, intrigued and obsessed by the rigours of things, loving lists, locked into the mind’s ...

Untouched by​ Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy

4 March 1999
Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
byJon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... knowledge, no one else has done so, and the schooling of poets seems a potentially rewarding subject.’ The longer answer is that ‘in the early chapters of their autobiographies, Coleridge, Hardy, Yeats, Sassoon, Graves, Day Lewis, Spender and MacNeice have a good deal to say about the external circumstances of their family lives, but little about their internal or “writerly” lives.’ That is ...

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