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A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?

20 February 2003
Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... In 1979, in a preface to a new edition of Yeats: The Man and the Masks, Richard Ellmann wrote about 46 Palmerston Road in Rathmines in Dublin, where George Yeats lived between her husband’s death in 1939 and her own death almost thirty years later. Mrs Yeats lived, Ellmann wrote, among the dead poet’s papers ...

Between centuries

Frank Kermode

11 January 1990
In the Nineties 
by John Stokes.
Harvester, 199 pp., £17.50, September 1989, 0 7450 0604 3
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Olivia Shakespear and W.B. Yeats 
by John Harwood.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £35, January 1990, 0 333 42518 9
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Letters to the New Island 
by W.B. Yeats, edited by George Bornstein and Hugh Witemeyer.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £45, November 1989, 0 333 43878 7
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The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The ‘Little Review’ Correspondence 
edited by Thomas Scott, Melvin Friedman and Jackson Bryer.
Faber, 368 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 571 14099 8
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Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912 
edited by Omar Pound and Robert Spoo.
Duke, 181 pp., £20.75, January 1989, 0 8223 0862 2
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Postcards from the End of the World: An Investigation into the Mind of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna 
by Larry Wolff.
Collins, 275 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 215171 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Bantam, 396 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 593 01862 1
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Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1916-1925 
by Kenneth Silver.
Thames and Hudson, 506 pp., £32, October 1989, 0 500 23567 8
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... in a single week. The Empire closed, but not for long. It was inextricably mingled with the web of metropolitan culture, with Sickert and Symons, Yeats, Walkley and even Shaw; also with sex and drink. The peculiar character of music-hall entertainment – a mixture of singing, dancing, stand-up comics, acrobats ...
8 April 1993
Dream of Fair to Middling Women 
by Samuel Beckett, edited by Eoin O’Brien and Edith Fournier.
Black Cat, 241 pp., £18.99, November 1992, 0 7145 4212 1
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... information, analyse it, store some of it and then forget most of it, lacking all respect for what Yeats called ‘custom and ceremony’, having it in for tradition and authority, and delighted by the body’s ability to undo whatever grandeur society or the mind had constructed. Beckett’s work is at its best when he seems to forget himself, to forget his ...


Andrew O’Hagan: A City of Prose

4 August 2005
... from Tavistock Square a week later. In the days when the street was blocked off, when Upper Woburn Place became a forensic scene and a no-man’s-land, I found myself quietly hankering after the openness of Tavistock Square, and several times that week I came down to look at the barricade and puzzle over the idea that the square had gone. I wondered if ...


Frank Kermode

14 May 1992
The Gonne-Yeats Letters, 1893-1938 
edited by Anna MacBride White and A. Norman Jeffares.
Hutchinson, 544 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 09 174000 2
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... Yeats avowed it more often and more impressively, but he was not alone in his belief that Maud Gonne’s beauty was of ‘a kind not natural in an age like this’. Shaw called her ‘outrageously beautiful’ and W.T. Stead, who could no more than Yeats isolate his admiration for her looks from an appraisal of her politics, described her as ‘one of the most beautiful women in the world’, going on to point out that ‘she is for the Irish Republic and total separation, peacefully if possible, but if necessary by the sword, that of France and Russia not excepted ...

Hillside Men

Roy Foster: Ernie O’Malley

16 July 1998
Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual 
by Richard 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 during the long upheaval from the Fin de Siècle to the Thirties lived aside from the world of the insurrectionists ...

The Sacred Cause of Idiom

Frank Kermode: Lady Gregory

22 January 2004
Lady Gregory's Toothbrush 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 127 pp., £7.99, September 2003, 0 330 41993 5
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... is no place for anger in his elegant little study of the great lady. Her close association with W.B. Yeats, with nationalist aspirations, and with certain stormy evenings at the Abbey Theatre, made her famous in her day, but it seems that her day has passed. The twenty-odd volumes of her works – dramas, folklore collections, journals – are not ...
22 May 1986
... year. His own prose versions of some of his poems, entitled Gitanjali, with a prefatory essay by W.B. Yeats, had met with instant acclaim, and Macmillan were hurrying out successor volumes, including The Gardener. Scholars and critics continue to argue how far these ‘translations’ established his reputation or led to misrecognitions. Mary Lago’s ...


David Trotter

4 February 1988
Argufying: Essays on Literature and Culture 
by William Empson, edited by John Haffenden.
Chatto, 657 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 7011 3083 0
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... though evasively so, against the authorities of both Church and State’, was now being reclaimed for orthodoxy. Donne, T.S. Eliot maintained, was no sceptic. Empson saw the techniques of close reading he had pioneered turned to new and deplorable uses. His secularism seemed out-of-date, bufferish. And yet it was precisely this sense of ...
21 September 2000
May Sinclair: A Modern Victorian 
by Suzanne Raitt.
Oxford, 307 pp., £19.99, April 2001, 0 19 812298 5
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... tapping, séance-gatherings and spirit-photographing were part freak-show, part parlour-game. W.B. Yeats experimented with symbols and trance-states, and for much of the 1920s was in close communication with his personal spirit-guide. Conan Doyle publicly endorsed those infamous snapshots of pathetically fey (and tragically ...
5 September 1985
Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... one point we catch the author of Ascendancy and Tradition considering the way in which Joyce and Yeats ‘as a binary and mutually dependent cultural production confront the totality of history’. There the two unfortunate literary figures stand, symbiosis thrust upon them. At another moment, the history of Ireland is called ‘bifurcated’, which makes it ...


D.A.N. Jones

4 March 1982
The Works of Witter Bynner: Selected Letters 
edited by James Kraft.
Faber, 275 pp., £11, January 1982, 0 374 18504 2
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A Memoir of D.H. Lawrence: The Betrayal 
by G.H. Neville, edited by Carl Baron.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £18, January 1982, 0 521 24097 2
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... with the young Cecil B. DeMille and camped out with him in Maine, meanwhile corresponding with W.B. Yeats. He knew both Henry James and Tennessee Williams, patronised Masefield and Ezra Pound. Mark Twain wrote a poem about him ... Altogether, Witter Bynner seems too large a person to be discussed merely as an ...

On Hera Lindsay Bird

Stephanie Burt: Hera Lindsay Bird

30 November 2017
... the expected ‘fall’ would. If there is a Sarah Silverman in here, and a Bill Manhire, and a W.B. Yeats (‘What can I but enumerate old themes?’), there is also a Wes Anderson: Bird writes to be loved, to fold what is embarrassing about her temperament into what is winsome, what’s cool or cold into what’s intimate and warm. ‘What’s the ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner

26 September 2019
Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... An Historical Comedy which had delightful illustrations by Davenport of Buster Keaton, W.B. Yeats, Abraham Cowley, a ‘Franco-Cantabrian Muralist’, Andy Warhol and Charles Babbage, among others. Davenport published his first book of short fiction (or ‘assemblages’ as he called it), Tatlin! Six Stories, as well as translations of the ...
6 February 2020
A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... but must involve fate or providence, which may in turn require the presence of numinous powers. W.B. Yeats could see nothing tragic about a car crash. Pure contingency – falling drunkenly from a fifth-floor window, for example – lacks the grandeur of the tragic. The protagonist must be of high social rank, partly because the lives of ordinary ...

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