Wisdom of Two: The Spiritual and Literary Collaboration of George and W.B. Yeats

By Margaret Mills Harper | Go to book overview

Preface

The library of W. B. and George Yeats was housed for many years at the home of their daughter, the painter Anne Yeats, in Dalkey, a quiet suburb of Dublin that is now famous for its celebrity-studded exclusivity. Books and papers lined three walls of the room, and a picture window looked into a garden lit with bright flowers and the island's continually changing sky. The collection no longer has this setting; it has been bequeathed to the National Library of Ireland. Scholars cannot learn now what I studied there, while I was ostensibly on scholarly missions but in fact, I now think, conducting research into a sense of wonder, forgetting various doubts in the presence of Anne Yeats's delight in the world and how it might be expressed. I hope that this study retains some of that wonder.

I have wondered about the woman whose handwriting dominates the automatic script from my childhood. My father and mother spent most of the years I was growing up working with the Yeatses' occult papers, composing and compiling various books and articles along the way, and I tagged along, and then gradually helped with the Vision papers as the mass of folders and notebooks in the house of Michael and Gráinne Yeats in Dalkey became filing cabinets full of photocopies, typed transcriptions, the dissertations of four graduate students, computer files, and finally the four volumes of a scholarly edition. My progress through high school, college, graduate school, and the years since has had as a backdrop many hours sitting in my father's study, with its own three walls of books and one of plate glass looking out at a lush patch of north Florida woods, squinting through a magnifying glass at some indecipherable word or other, copying a diagram on to a page of typing paper (or, later, into a graphics file), noticing how 'automatic' one script or even one response seemed as opposed to another, reproducing the straight lines that indicated refusal to answer a question, and matching up pages of numbered

-vii-

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Wisdom of Two: The Spiritual and Literary Collaboration of George and W.B. Yeats
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Contents xiii
  • List of Illustrations xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction: 'She Finds the Words' 1
  • 1 - 'A Philosophy…Created from Search': Preliminary Issues 28
  • First Interlude - Double Visions: Two Manuscripts and Two Books 72
  • 2 - Nemo the Interpreter 94
  • Second Interlude - Automatic Performance: Technology and Occultism 151
  • 3 - 'To Give You New Images': Published Results 183
  • 4 - Demon the Medium 238
  • 5 - All the Others: Dramatis Personae 294
  • Conclusion: 'This Other Aquinas' 337
  • Bibliography 344
  • Index 365
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