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

By Margaret Mills Harper | Go to book overview

Introduction: 'She finds the words'

WBY's personal library, as anyone might expect, contains a number of items that are 'his' in two senses: books he wrote as well as those he owned. Quite a few of the books by WBY in his library are the actual property of his wife.1 Some of her volumes are sprinkled with editorial annotations from the ongoing processes of republishing and correcting his poetry and prose, tasks that GY undertook for many years before and, more controversially, after her husband's death.2 Her name is written in his handwriting in a number of the flyleaves, sometimes with injunctions to himself: 'George Yeats her book not to be taken by me. WB Yeats'; 'George Yeats' copy not to be given away or taken to cut up or for any other purpose by me WBY'; or 'George's copy. I am not to take it whatever the need'.3

1 Saddlemyer quotes from a letter from Lily Yeats to Ruth Lane-Poole, written after an 'invigorating and good' luncheon with her brother and sister-in-law, including a passage that is cautionary for an eager interpreter inclined to make too much of book-plates: 'They were playing with each other like hares in the moonlight. They were really putting book-plates into books and darting at each other to see if it was really his or her book. [Darling, that book is mine], George would say. [It's mine now], W. B. said, dabbing in his plate' (Ann Saddlemyer, Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 403).

2 For criticism of GY's editorial efforts see Richard J. Finneran, Editing Yeats's Poems (London: Macmillan, 1983), esp. ch. 3, and Connie Kelly Hood, 'The Remaking of A Vision', in YAACTS, i. 33–67.

3 I am indebted to the late Anne Yeats for permission to work in WBY's library. See Edward O'Shea, A Descriptive Catalog of W. B. Yeats's Library (New York and London: Garland, 1985), 2398a, 2430e, and 2397, among other entries. Connie Kelly Hood interprets one inscription, in A Vision, as referring to WBY's 'enthusiastic gift-giving of copies of the book' (Connie Kelly Hood, 'A Search for Authority: Prolegomena to a Definitive Critical Edition of W. B. Yeats's A Vision (1937)' (Ph.D. diss., University of Tennessee, 1983), 57).

-1-

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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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