Special Collections Department
Eleanor and Frederick Reid
Manuscript Collection Number: 309
Accessioned: Purchase, August 1994.
Extent: .1 linear ft. (29 items, 78 pp.)
Content: Letters, photograph, and clippings.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1994 by Anita A. Wellner.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
Following his discharge from military service, MacGreevy was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, receiving a degree in history and political science. After completing his formal education, he worked with Lennox Robinson and Miss Christina Keogh to organize several libraries, including the Irish Central Library for Students.
In 1926 Thomas MacGreevy moved to Paris, where he taught English at the Ecole Normale Superieure of the University of Paris, wrote literary criticism, and developed friendships with a number of Irish writers, including Samuel Beckett, Denis Devlin, Brian Coffey, and James Joyce. During the seven years MacGreevy lived on the Continent, he also traveled throughout Italy with William Butler Yeats, worked on the staff of the art review Formes, and was executor of James Joyce's estate, following Joyce's death in 1941.
Although MacGreevy was best known for his literary criticism, his first published work was a translation of Paul Valery's Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci (1929). His two critical studies - Richard Aldington, an Englishman (1931) and Thomas Stearns Eliot: a study (1931) - were followed by his first book of poetry, Poems, published in 1934. He also contributed articles to The Criterion, transition, and Dial.
Following Paris, MacGreevy moved to London, where he lectured on art history at the British National Gallery and served as chief critic for The Studio, as well as contributing articles to Connoisseur and The Times Literary Supplement.
In 1941 Thomas MacGreevy returned to Dublin and in 1950 was appointed Director of the National Gallery, a post which he held until his retirement in 1964. As its Director, MacGreevy diligently sought to establish the National Gallery as a cultural center for the Irish nation. He devoted himself to procuring works of art for the Gallery, introducing the work of Irish artists, and creating an appreciation for the visual arts in Ireland.
Prior to his tenure as Director, MacGreevy had developed a friendship with Jack B. Yeats and had written a tribute to the artist titled Jack B. Yeats: an appreciation and an interpretation (1945). Their friendship was marked by Yeats's increasing reliance on MacGreevy until his death in 1957. MacGreevy's relationship with Eleanor and Frederick Reid developed because of MacGreevy's service as an informal guardian to Yeats. MacGreevy was also executor of Yeats's will and the organizer of an exhibition devoted to Jack B. Yeats in 1962.
MacGreevy continued to write and serve as a consultant for the National Gallery until his death on March 16, 1967. His Collected Poems was published posthumously in 1971.
Sources:Hickey, D. J. and J. E. Doherty. A Dictionary of Irish History Since 1800. Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981. p. 339.
Hogan, Robert (ed.) Dictionary of Irish Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979. p. 403.
Note: Biographical information also derived from obituaries found in Brian Coffey's "Self books" (Brian Coffey Papers).
Scope and Content Note
Thomas MacGreevy became acquainted with the Reids through Jack B. Yeats. In November of 1954 MacGreevy made the arrangements for Frederick B. Reid to visit Yeats and to view paintings by Yeats at local galleries. MacGreevy's hospitality was deeply appreciated by the Reids and a friendship grew from that experience, as well as their shared appreciation for the work of Jack B. Yeats.
Although Thomas MacGreevy's early (1954) letters were dominated by his responses to the Reids's questions about Jack B. Yeats, as the correspondence continued, MacGreevy began to widen the scope of his discussions to include details about his family, his personal health, his strong religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic, his work at the National Gallery, his activities following his retirement, and reminiscences about his friendships with James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Wallace Stevens, and particularly, Jack B. Yeats.
The letters, which are arranged in chronological order, are filled with numerous details concerning Jack B. Yeats, such as his devotion to his wife, his "mystical" feeling about roses, his refusal to allow reproductions of his painting for print, and his religious faith.
Enclosures in MacGreevy's letters consist of one letter from his niece, Cliona Farrington; a photograph of Cliona and her mother; a business card; and two clippings. The clippings are from a local Dublin newspaper. One is a letter to the editor, in which MacGreevy - signing as "Kerry Catholic" - presented his opinion on "racialism," and an article describing the opening of the 1962 exhibition of work by Jack B. Yeats, which was organized by MacGreevy and at which he provided remarks.
Located with the November 2, 1956 letter from MacGreevy is a letter written to Frederick Reid by Harry A. Bigelow, in which Bigelow refers to Jack B. Yeats. It is unclear whether this letter had been sent to MacGreevy, and was being returned, or whether it was simply placed among the MacGreevy letters by Reid.
This small collection of letters provides insights into the life and work of Thomas MacGreevy and his friendship with Jack B. Yeats.
Related collections:Ms 310 Eleanor and Frederick Reid Collection Related to Jack B. Yeats
Ms 313 Proscenium Press Archive
Brian Coffey Papers
F1 Letters, 1954-1956 1954 Apr 27 ALS 2p Aug 4 ALS 2p Nov 2 ALS 2p Nov 10 ALS 2p 1956 Nov 2 ALS 1p Note: Includes a letter from Harry A. Bigelow to Frederick Reid. F2 Letters, 1957-1961 Nov 1957 Good Friday ALS 1p Sep 15 ALS 4p Dec 12 ALS 4p 1958 Mar 18 ALS 4p Note: Includes a business card and a photograph of MacGreevy's great niece Cliona Farrington with her mother.  Jan 3 ALS 4p 1961 Feb 6 ALS 4p Nov 20 ALS 3p F3 Letters, 1961 Dec-1962 1961 Dec 31-1962 Jan 1 ALS 4p 1962 Dec 8 ALS 4p Note: Includes a clipping of an exhibition opening of work by Jack B. Yeats, at which MacGreevy provided opening remarks. Dec 26 ALS 6p F4 Letters, 1963 1963 Mar 14 ALS 6p Note: Includes a letter from Cliona Farrington to Eleanor Reid. May 11 ALS 5p Note: Includes a clipping of MacGreevy's letter to an editor on "racialism," which he signed "Kerry Catholic." Jul 23 ALS 4p Sep 29-Oct 2 ALS 8p Dec 14 ALS 2p F5 Letters, 1964-1966 and [n.d.] 1964 Dec 14 ALS 1p 1966 Jan 7 ALS 3p [n.d.] ALS 2p Note: This is an incomplete letter, comprised of the final two pages of a letter. [n.d.] TC 1p
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